Keonjhar Elephant Deaths: Blame Game Begins Between Forest & Railway
Pragativadi News Service
May 20, 2022
Rather than seeking a solution to avert elephant deaths in train mishaps,
the Railways and Forest Department have indulged in a pointless blame game
accusing each other of incoordination that resulted in the tragic death of
a female elephant and two baby jumbos.
On Thursday evening, a tragic mishap took place near Bansapani Behera
hutting within the Champua Range of Joda Forest Division in Keonjhar
district. At around 7 pm, a herd of 22 elephants was crossing the South
Eastern Railway’s Jurudi-Bansapani railway line when an iron ore-laden
train hit them resulting in the death of a baby elephant and leaving
another baby jumbo and a female elephant battling for life.
Though on intimation, Forest officials and a Railway rescue team reached
the spot the rescue operation could not be initiated as the elephant herd
had become aggressive after the mishap and were seen standing guard near
the injured ones lying on the railway tracks. Following this, the movement
of other trains was temporarily halted on the said route.
Sources say, the elephant herd remained at the mishap site for long hours
and left into the forest past midnight after which the rescue teams moved
in. However, the injured bay elephant succumbed to death at around 1 pm and
the female jumbo breathed her last at around 5 am, sources added.
On intimation, PCCF Shashi Paul, Rourkela RCCF Arun Kumar Mishra, Keonjhar
DFO Dhanraj Hanumant and senior railway officials arrived at the mishap
spot to investigate. In the meanwhile, locals of the area have demanded a
high-level investigation into the incident.
However, now the authorities concerned from the Forest dept and the
Railways have now indulged in mudslinging accusing one another of being
responsible for the accident.
On being asked, PCCF Shashi Paul said: “The Forest department had informed
Railways that it is an elephant corridor. We guess railway dept did not
take necessary steps even after they were intimated at around 4 pm about
the movement of elephants.” A report has been sought from them and
stringent action will be taken against those responsible for the incident,
the PCCF added.
On the other hand, the Forest department has refuted the allegations. RK
Gupta, ADRM (Infra), Chakradharpur Division, South Eastern Railway, said,
“All the procedures were followed and the speed of the freight train was
also slow at the time of the accident.” The investigation into the mishap
is still underway, he added.
Activists have expressed serious concern over the frequent elephant deaths
due to train accidents in Keonjhar district. As many as 11 elephants were
killed due to train accidents and four others due to road mishaps, while 13
jumbos died of electrocution in the last eight years, they said.