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Dooars protests train speed control

Siliguri, Nov. 26: Around 100 residents of the Dooars today blocked a local train in New Mal station, protesting the railways’ move to regulate services in the region to prevent elephant deaths on tracks.

The protesters from six-seven organisations of the Dooars submitted a memorandum to the station manager in Mal addressed to the divisional railway manager of Alipurduar. The memorandum asked the railways not to bow down before any demand for regulation of train movement between Siliguri Junction and Alipurduar, which they alleged, aimed to cripple the communication system in the foothills.

“In the name of wildlife conservation, a number of people, including the government, are trying to stall the progress of the Dooars,” said Prabhat Dey, the secretary of the Dooars East West Corridor Movement Committee. “Earlier, we were deprived of the four-lane expressway in the name of conservation and now a deep-rooted conspiracy has been hatched to paralyse the railway network which is the lifeline of the Dooars today. It is unfortunate that a person like Sabyasachi Chakraborty (the actor) has also blamed the railways without asking the forest department to take steps so that elephants do not come out of forests.”

The running of trains at a slower speed on the Dooars route has posed huge problems to the people of the area, he said. “We have blocked the New Jalpaiguri-bound passenger train for 10-15 minutes today to make the passengers aware of the consequences.”

Kalyan Kanti Roy, the secretary of Mal Nature Club, blamed the forest department for its failure to grow elephant fodder in the jungle. “Although the jumbo population has increased over the years, the foresters had opened new tourist spots and planted only sal and teak saplings from the commercial point of view, ignoring the need for fodder. The animals raided human habitations for food,” he said.

The forest department said it was yet to receive any communication from the railways on the regulation of train movement. “We have learnt through the media that the railways are regulating the speed but we have not received any paper. The proposal of the Union minister to construct watch towers in elephant corridors has been sent to the Centre,” said S.B. Patel, chief conservator of forests (wildlife), north Bengal.

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