Assam Forest Dept Seizes Rail Engine Killing Elephants

Assam Forest Department officials on Wednesday seized the engine of a freight train that was part of an accident that killed a mother elephant and a calf. The incident happened between Patharkhula and Lamsakhang Railway Station on September 27. According to reports, the train engine has been seized from the Bamunimaidan yard in Guwahati. The Locomotive pilot and assistant locomotive pilot have been suspended by the Railways and an internal inquiry has been ordered.

Speaking on the seizure of the engine, Mahendra Kumar Yadava, chief wildlife warden of Assam has said that it is probably the first such instance in the country, when a railway locomotive has been seized in connection with death on train tracks. He further said that the several decisions have already been taken to run trains at 30km/pm through the elephant corridor in Lumding Elephant Reserve. However the train which hit the elephants had surpassed the speed limit and the elephant calf was dragged to about one kilometer from the hit point. 

Assam Environment and Forest Minister, Parimal Suklabaidya said that the department shall not fail to take the toughest stand against the railway. He added that killing of elephants on the railway tracks must stop forthwith. 

It should be noted that Assam has nearly 29 earmarked corridors where Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) trains are supposed to operate at set speed limits. Yet, accidents on these tracks due to overspending is not uncommon. If we look at the data provided by the Assam government from the year 2019, 54 elephants have died in train accidents since 2010.

According to Padma Shri Kushal Konwar Sarma, who is popularly known as Assam’s ‘elephant doctor’, says that unchecked construction and increase in human habitation have blurred boundaries of designated elephant corridors across Assam. And, as a result elephants are crossing all over. The forest department had sent warnings that elephants might be crossing, yet the drivers ignored them. Hopefully, this incident will serve as a deterrent in the future, he added.