Blame game begins after jumbo tragedy

Bhubaneswar: A blame game has ensued between officials of forest department and Railways following the death of six elephants near Rambha in Ganjam district on late Saturday night.

Chennai bound Howrah-Chennai Coromandel Express hit the herd of five elephants at around 1am at Subalaya killing all on spot and leaving damage to a fetus, forest officials said.

Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) JD Sharma said, “Our range officer had informed the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) office about the movement of an elephant herd from Jhinkaria area to Khalikote about 15-20 minutes before the accident happened. When Rambha station officials were alerted by us, on being asked by the DRM office to do so, they pleaded helplessness saying they can’t do anything as Coromandel Express had already left Rambha station by that time.”

“Had the officials at Rambha acted promptly to send a wireless message to driver of train that was running at 110-120 km/hr, the accident could have been averted,” added Sharma.

On the other hand, the Railways has rubbished the allegation. “We received the alert at 12:43 am coinciding the accident. Had it been little earlier, the scenario could have been different,” said Rabinarayan Mohapatra, chief PRO, East Coast Railways.

Wildlife experts however feel that lack of co-ordination between the two departments is costing the lives of pachyderms.

Vijay Ketan Mohapatra, Retired PCCF said, “In every such alert quick reaction can avert many accidents like this. Also speed of the trains can be reduced in elephant-moving zones of the state as it is adopted in Uttrakhand and West Bengal. Besides, frequent whistling by trains while moving in jumbo passages can help reduce many such incidents.”

Meanwhile expressing a deep concern over the incident, state Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray has called an urgent meeting with senior Railway officials on Monday to discuss on the rising jumbo death issue in state. “If required we’ll bring the matter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's notice and urge him to write a letter to the Union Ministry of Railways to take immediate decision in this regard,” Routray said.