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Jumbo safety plan in bin

New Delhi, April 14: The Centre has turned down suggestions for planting chillies and tea crops around railway tracks to curb the mowing down of elephants by trains, saying it would hamper the migration of the animals in search of food, water and breeding.

In its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Union railway ministry has turned down the suggestions of animal conservationists, saying it had already taken steps like reducing the speed of trains in traditional elephant belts.

“Various methods had been propounded by animal conservationists for combating the problem of elephant mortalities due to train hits. Some of these are cutting trenches, erecting electrically wired fences, planting crops that elephant does not like (chillies, tea), creating sound of bee buzz etc.

“However, these methods are understood to hamper any traditional migration routes of these animals in search of food, water and for the purpose of breeding etc,” the affidavit stated.

The affidavit was filed following a directive from the apex court to the Centre and 11 states to file their response on a plea seeking guidelines to prevent the increasing number of elephant deaths at railway crossings across the country.

A bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra had earlier issued notices to the Union ministry for environment and forests, the Railway Board and the states of Odisha, Bengal, Assam, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Jharkhand for their replies.

The petition, filed by Shakti Prasad Nayak, an Odisha-based journalist, complained about the “inaction” of the environment ministry, rail authorities and various state governments in containing elephant deaths — because of train hits and electrocution — on tracks.

The petition said the deaths violated Article 48A and 51A(g) of the Constitution (protection of wildlife) and provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1986 and various other rules.

According to the petition, India was home to 50 to 60 per cent of Asia’s wild elephants but their survival was becoming increasingly difficult because of train accidents. On an average, such accidents claim about eight to 10 elephants annually, the petition claimed.

The rail authorities said that in consultation with the environment ministry, they had issued a general advisory prescribing clearance of vegetation on the sides of the railway tracks, provision of signage boards to warn the drivers and keeping tracks free from food waste that attract elephants.