Assam jumbo tragedy: Blame game over elephant deaths continue
GUWAHATI, December 13, 2017: Assam forest department and the Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) are embroiled in a blame game over frequent deaths of elephants on tracks as a solution still continues to be a distant dream.
The state forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma on Sunday said the railway gate man did not inform the nearby station even as he had seen the herd of elephants breaking the gate and venturing into the tracks.
The NFR officials, while replying to the statement, said forest department did not provide information about movement of elephants on a WhatsApp group which was created a few months ago for timely action and prevent elephant deaths by trains. "By the time the gate man saw the herd, the train had already reached the section and it was not possible to stop the train as the same would have resulted a derailment. The driver and co-driver had reduced the speed keeping in mind the safety of the passengers but it was not possible to stop the train abruptly. The train hit the herd in which five elephants died. Had the information about movement of the elephants been shared on the WhatsApp group on time, our control room could have tried step to prevent the mishap. Similar mishaps were averted based on timely information," a statement issued by NFR said.
The five elephants were mowed down around 2 am on Sunday by the train between Rangapara and Dhalaibeel stations in central Assam.
Experts says habitat destruction due to encroachment of forest areas resulting shortage of food and water leaving the jumbos to venture out in search of food and water. This often results in human-elephant conflicts including deaths in railway tracks. They called for a concerted action plan involving all agencies instead of blaming each other.
Many villages, meanwhile continue to face attacks by elephants in which houses and crops are damaged and farmers are spending sleepless nights as the harvesting season is nearing.
More than 100 elephants have died since 2005 after being hit by trains between Kamrup and Tinsukia districts. Deaths of five elephants by Guwahati-Naharlagun Donyi Polo Express on Sunday morning in Sonitpur district not only shocked many but also triggered the fresh blame game.
(TNT-The Northeast Today news)
Featured image(courtesy): Representational from PTI