Railways not responsible for elephant deaths: Mamata

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

KOLKATA - Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee Tuesday said her department was not responsible for the increasing incidents of elephant deaths after being hit by trains in north Bengal.

“It’s unfortunate that elephants have got killed. But the railways is not responsible. We had no prior information from the West Bengal Forest Department about the movement of elephants in what we called ‘denotified’ area - between Binnaguri and Banarhat stations of Alipurduar division in Jalpaiguri - where seven elephants were killed Sept 22,” Banerjee said while commencing work for the Dedicated Eastern Freight Corridor at Dankuni in Hooghly.

“In a notified forested area, known as an elephant corridor, railway drivers drive very slowly, at a maximum speed of 50 km an hour, and they blow the whistle constantly to warn the animals,” she said.

“But if the state forest officials do not inform us properly about the ‘denotified’ elephant corridors, then how can the driver be blamed for the accident,” Banerjee asked.

As many as 33 elephants have been killed and several others have been injured on the tracks over the last 10 years. The latest death was reported Monday night, when a tusker was hit by Mahananda Link Express in the Dalgao area of Jalpaiguri.

Referring to the same incidence, the minister said the driver was not alerted even though the state forest department alleged they did.

Banerjee also criticised the Minister of State for Environment and Wildlife Jairam Ramesh for overstepping his mandate and blaming her for the death of the elephants on railway tracks.

After the seven elephants were killed, Ramesh visited the accident site and said he would take up the matter with the Indian Railways so that such incidents could be avoided in future. He also talked about the railways’ “poor track record” in taking steps to ensure safe passage to the jumbos crossing the rail lines.

“Everyone should know his limit. I know mine. There are different departments for looking after various subjects and everyone has his boundaries. I would not like it if somebody crosses over to my boundary,” added Banerjee.

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