The state government and railways have decided to form a joint action committee to find ways to prevent elephants from being hit by speeding trains.
“It is our joint responsibility. Both the railways and state forest department need to coordinate and work together to prevent such mishaps. I sincerely hope that the experiment works…,” said state Forest Minister Binay Krishna Burman.
“Every time there is an elephant death, the state forest department and railways pass on the responsibility…a joint action committee will be formed with representatives from both departments to formulate a ‘joint action plan’, a blueprint on how unfortunate deaths of elephants can be avoided,” said a forest department official.
The decision was taken at a meeting in West Midnapore district between officials of both departments at the office of the divisional railway manager of Kharagpur division, South Eastern Railways zone, on August 21.
“Modalities are being worked out and we are hopeful of putting the system in place within the next couple of months,” the forest official said.
The primary responsibility of the proposed committee will be coordination and the first assignment will be to identify railway track zones that are transit points for elephants. Various railway lines in North and South Bengal cut cross forest land and paths frequented by elephant herds.
The state forest department will alert railways about the movement of elephants near tracks so that the railways can alert guards and train drivers to slow down.
“Similarly, if guards or drivers notice movement of tuskers in a particular zone, they will alert the state forest department so attempts can be made to keep elephants away from the tracks while there is a train on the move,” said an official.
According to a report placed in Rajya Sabha in January this year, as many as 30 elephants died in Bengal after being hit by speeding trains during the last five years till December 2017.
The latest such incident was on August 7 this year, when three elephants were killed after a speeding train knocked them down in Jhargram district.