By Vivek Ghatani
Picturesque tea gardens enthral passengers, the view of the mountains forces them to click all through the journey while glimpses of the Adivashis – the long living tribes of the region – plucking tea leaves is a regular phenomenon. Yes, this is the 168 kilometre long stretch railway route between New Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar, popularly called the ‘Dooars’ in Northern West Bengal.
Beauty of the tea gardens along with picturesque view all through the journey is what makes the Dooars an amazing region. However, the area these days is much in news for all the wrong reasons.
Six pachyderms were mowed down in the wee hours recently, by a speeding train that ramped into a herd of at least 40 elephants near Jaldhaka River Bridge under Nagarkata Police station. The incident left six dead and one injured. Many other elephants are believed to have suffered grievous injuries, thus increasing the fear that more deaths are in the offing. The area is an elephant corridor, near the Chapramari Forest.
The incident is not a new one though. On October 11 this year, one elephant was mowed down by speeding train at Mongpong under Malbazar sub division. The incidents are reminiscent of September 22 2010, May 30 2013 and January 5 2013 incidents when seven, three and five elephants were killed respectively, by speeding trains along the route. The total number of elephants killed by a speeding train has now reached to 17 this year alone.
The killing of elephants by trains has already become a national issue as it was also mentioned in this year’s railway budget presented in the parliament by the then railway minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal.
“Several measures have been initiated in consultation with Ministry of Environment & Forests, which I am confident, will substantially reduce such accidents and safeguard the lives of these gentle giants,” Bansal had said in his budget speech.
However, the rate of elephants mowed down in North Bengal by speeding trains has been increasing alarmingly, and the railways haven’t been able to put in place the measures to save the elephants.
Every time elephants are mowed down by trains, the state forest department and the railways sit for emergency meetings, agree to make joint efforts while forgetting to take follow up actions. More....