Sabyasachi Chakraborty speaks on elephant conservation at the entrance to Siliguri Junction station on Tuesday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Siliguri, Nov. 23: Feluda today joined the bandwagon of protesters and raised his voice against alleged nonchalance of the railways and the state forest department in stopping elephant deaths on tracks passing through forests in the Dooars.
Sabyasachi Chakraborty, who inaugurated the Siliguri International Film Festival yesterday, joined representatives of seven-eight NGOs and demanded halt to the running of goods trains between Siliguri Junction and Alipurduar at night.
“We plan to carry out the movement jointly and raise voice against the railways’ negligence in checking such incidents. We have also learnt that the state forest department has not done much in this regard even after the death of so many elephants and demand effective steps from that end as well,” Chakraborty told journalists outside Siliguri Junction station.
“There is a need to have a more intense and consistent movement to ensure that both the railways and the forest department take steps to protect the precious wildlife.”
The movement against the railways and the forest department gathered momentum after a goods train had mowed down seven elephants near Banarhat on September 22. Even when wildlife activists were putting the heat on the railways to take measures to save animals in the Dooars forests, a makna was run over by Mahananda Express near Binnaguri on November 15.
Chakraborty — who played the character of detective Feluda, one of Satyajit Ray’s creations — took long and confident strides with wildlife activists and reached the office of the station manager of Siliguri Junction. He sat down and talked to railway officials about the measures needed to be taken to protect animals crossing the tracks in the Dooars. He asked the officials to regulate the speed of trains and make drivers aware of the need to drive slowly on forest stretches.
“We are not against development but want a complete halt to the movement of goods trains through the Dooars forests at night. Also, passenger trains, which do not have any stops in the Dooars and are not directly serving the residents of the region, should be diverted through another route,” said the actor, who is also a wildlife photographer.
“We also want the railways to limit the speed of all trains to 30kmph. Otherwise, it will take more time for drivers to stop trains when they spot animals on tracks.”
“Most of the train drivers are cautious and keep this fact in mind, but some don’t. We want the railways to keep a check on the drivers,” said Chakraborty, who is also the member of the state wildlife board.
After the deaths of seven elephants on September 22, the railways have been keeping train speed below 50kmph at night.
The state forest department has identified 10 spots where elephants cross the tracks. “The department has sent details to the Union ministry of environment and forests, seeking funds to build watchtowers in these zones,” said an officer.
Debapratim Saha, an environmentalist who co-ordinated today’s event, said a memorandum had been submitted to the state forest department also, seeking measures for animal protection.