Blame game continues between forest-rlys over jumbo deaths

A day after 6 elephants were crushed under a train in Odisha's Ganjam district, a blame game broke out today between forest and railway authorities with the state government accusing the railways of being responsible for the death of the jumbos.

"Railway is fully responsible for the death of the elephants after being run over by Coromandel Express at Subalaya in Ganjam district. The train was running at a very high speed despite prior warning by forest officials," state Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshri Routray said.

After holding a meeting with senior rail and forest officials, Routray said railways failed to take any safety measure though the forest range officer of Khalikote Range had written a letter to the Divisional Railway Manager, Khurda Road, on December 18 about movement of elephant herd in the area.

The letter sought instructions to concerned railway staff, train drivers and to the control room for movement of trains from railway post 557/21-22 to 568/78 at slow speed and due precautions from Rambha to Humma stations, he said.

"Despite the timely alert sounded by the forest ranger, no step was taken by railways to ensure that trains pass through the particular elephant corridor at slow speed," the minister said adding an FIR has been filed against the motorman of Coromandel involved in the mishap by Khalikote forest range officer.

Dismissing the allegation, Khurda Road DRM, S Mohanty, said though a letter from the forest range officer had been received, the communique had not specified any particular route for possible passage of pachyderms.

A forest official, however, claimed the name of Subalaya, where the elephants came under the train, had been mentioned in the letter. "The letter also requested early action for protection of the elephants,” he said.

Moreover, a sign-board also came up in the spot to inform the train driver about frequent movements of elephants, he said.

Railway officials maintained they received information about movement of the elephant herd from forest officials too late.

“We got the information from forest officials at 12.43 am about the movement of elephants while the accident took place at the same time,” said a senior railway official.

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