The railways are “devoid of compassion” that they violate the law and ignore specific information, resulting in elephants being run over by speeding trains, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan has said.
In a strongly-worded letter to her counterpart at the Ministry of Railways Pawan Kumar Bansal on Monday, Ms. Natarajan pointed out that in the December 30 mowing down of five elephants — including a pregnant female — by the Coromandel Express in Odisha, specific information was given to railway personnel about the movement of elephant herds in the area.
“It is significant to note that this is probably the third incident in two years to occur in the very same place,” she said. “In this case all that is required is that the trains coming in that route should slow their speed for a stretch of track, amounting to approximately 11 kilometres. In the interests of protection of our national heritage animal, I do believe that this is a reasonable request.”
The Coromandel Express was travelling at a speed of 110 km per hour and hit the elephants with such force that the foetus of the pregnant female was found quite a distance away from the accident spot.
Ms. Natarajan noted that ironically enough, “this particular gory accident happened between two sign posts cautioning railway personnel of elephant movement and requiring trains to go slow.”
According to Ministry officials, the Environment Minister’s letter said “they did not receive much cooperation from railway officials on the spot.”
After a coordination meeting between officials of both Ministries, the Environment Ministry announced a pilot scheme to electronically tag elephants in high-traffic areas so that wildlife officials can track their movement and warn their counterparts in the railways to help prevent such accidents.
Forest officials will also be appointed to railway control rooms in vulnerable and wildlife-rich areas.