Somewhere in Jalpaiguri....

An adult female elephant was run over by a Guwahati-bound goods train at Buxa tiger reserve forest early on Saturday.The train hit the pachyderm around 3.30 am at Rajabhatkhawa and dragged the carcass for about 300 feet before tearing it into several pieces. Following the accident, three bogies of the train were derailed as well. With this, the number of elephants run over by trains in this area over the past four years has risen to 13. The track from New Jalpaiguri to Alipurduar junction, on which the accident took place, passes through the Mahananda sanctuary, Chapramari sanctuary, Jaldapara sanctuary and Buxa Tiger Reserve and such accidents have become quite common here. Besides elephants, the track has taken toll of 30 other animals over the same period as well. In fact, when the railways had decided to upgrade the tracks into a broad gauge one from meter gauge in 2002, WWF had filed a petition at Calcutta High Court against it. But the HC had granted the conversion after a special committee instructed the railways to maintain minimum speed through the forests and the railways had agreed to it. The fact that the guidelines are not being followed can be proved by the number of animal deaths over the years. Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation activists had staged a rail-roko at Siliguri Town station against the carelessness of the railways after a similar accident at Buxa reserve about a year ago. But the railways paid no heed. “We have initiated a probe into the incident,” said L G Lepcha, the field director of Buxa reserve. Similar promises have been made after every animal death, but nothing has ever come out of these ‘probes’. The nature-lovers’ organizations have, for some time, started raising their voice against train movement on this track. They say the railways should immediately stop running goods trains on this track. There is another parallel track from New Jalpaiguri to New Cooch Behar and environmentalists feel goods trains should use that line.

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