GUWAHATI, Dec 11 - With frequent deaths of elephants over railway tracks continuing unabated, the Indian Railways believes that the lethargic attitude of the State Forest Departments, including that in Assam, are mainly responsible for such incidents.
Senior officials at the Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) told The Assam Tribune that while 29 notified elephant corridors exist in the zone, most of the elephant deaths during recent years have occurred in areas which have not been notified as corridors.
�It is the State Forest Department which identifies a particular stretch as an elephant corridor and then issues notification in this regard. Then, the department of the concerned State informs us and accordingly we take measures like issuing instruction to loco pilots to reduce speed of trains while passing through such notified corridors.
�But ironically, most of the elephant deaths in recent times have taken place in areas which have not been notified as corridors,� said an official on condition of anonymity.
He added, �The Forest Department of Assam is not even aware how many such non-notified stretches exist which have been increasingly used by elephants in recent times. We do not want to absolve ourselves of all responsibility with regard to cases of elephant deaths. But when we are not informed about such non-notified places by the Forest Department, how are we expected to take precautionary measures. Are we expected to drive all trains at reduced speed of 10 or 20 km per hour across the length and breadth of Assam?�
With the death of five pachyderms at Balipara in Sonitpur district due to a train-hit on Sunday, the total number of elephant fatalities on railway tracks in the North East Frontier Railway zone has gone up to 10 so far this year. Nine elephants each were killed in 2015 and 2016 in the zone due to train hits.
NFR sources accused the State Forest Department of not being serious on the issue of preventing elephant deaths and of always trying to shift the blame to the railway authorities whenever any such incidents take place.