Guwahati, Feb. 26: Elephants of the Northeast had a bad day in office today with one of them being shot and the railway budget cold-shouldering the region in its move to reduce elephant-related accidents.
The railway budget presented today bypassed the Northeast in its move to reduce elephant-related accidents despite the region accounting for numerous cases of elephants dying from train hits.
On measures initiated to deal with elephant-related accidents, railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal announced a bypass in Uttarakhand to avoid a track alignment passing through a reserve forest with a large elephant population.
The CAG report on Indian Railways for 2012-13, which was placed in December last year, had itself stated that the NFR accounts for the highest casualties in the country between 2006-11. Altogether 63 elephants were killed of which NFR accounted for 43.
“It is good that the ministry of railways has starting showing concern at the accidental train-hit cases leading to death of wild elephants in many parts of the country. The Northeast houses about one-third of the elephant population in the country. The train-hit cases of elephants in Assam has also been recorded in at least seven sites of the state of which the Deepor Beel and Panikhaiti areas near Guwahati, the Diphu-Lumding area, and the Gibbon wildlife sanctuary in Jorhat district are the conflict sites where many elephants have been knocked down by trains in the past 10 years. As such, precautionary steps are also needed in Assam to reduce such accidental deaths. The railways should include Assam in their effort to reduce train-hit cases,” Bibhab Talukdar, secretary general of Aaranyak, said.
In 2010, the ministries of railways and environment and forests had jointly issued general advisories to prevent train accidents involving elephants. These included measures like clearance of vegetation alongside the tracks, sensitising programmes for train drivers/guards, keeping the tracks free of food wastes and engagement of elephant trackers.
“There have been a number of cases of trains mowing down elephants here in Assam and it should have the top priority on measures initiated to deal with elephant-related accidents,” Rathin Barman, a senior official of the Wildlife Trust of India said.
The CAG report had stated that despite implementation of a number of preventive measures, animal mortality in train hits had not declined and had called for adequate efforts to implement long-term measures to prevent animal mortality.
The Wildlife Trust of India has been collaborating with NFR and Assam forest department in joint patrolling in crucial sections, installing signs, generating awareness and training for train drivers.
The Arunachal forest department shot dead a domestic makhna elephant this morning in East Siang district after it killed several persons in Dhemaji district in Assam near the Arunachal Pradesh border. It killed six persons in the last 24 hours at Semen Chapori in Dhemaji. It had killed mahout Raju Hajong, 45, near Deepa nolah, along with a woman, Piperani Lembo, 55, and her seven-month-old grand child, Kiran Magar, on Monday.
It later came to Seman Chapori and killed Birson Gayari, 75, and Saroi Gayari, 12. This morning it killed another woman, Jasmola Rai, 50.
Tension prevailed in East Siang and Dhemaji districts. Three persons were killed in Arunachal Pradesh and three in Assam. The elephant’s owner Tai Reaba hails from Likabali in Arunachal Pradesh.