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Save India’s heritage animal

Elephants are dying because the Railways do not care. Particularly, they are insensitive to protecting elephant corridors

Early on Sunday, December 10 morning, the speeding Dekargaon-Naharlagun Express killed six elephants in Assam when it ran into a herd of about 30 of them trying to cross the tracks in search of food. Coming in the wake of another on November 19, in which another speeding train had killed two of the behemoths near Guwahati, the accident is a shocking indictment of the Indian Railways’ indifference to the lives of elephants. The statement by officials of the Northern Frontier Railways that Sunday’s accident did not occur at place identified as an elephant crossing corridor — where trains have to travel at reduced speeds — reflects the utterly uncaring and bureaucratic attitude that the railways have consistently brought to bear on the subject, and their refusal to accept the fact that trains have to slow down not only at the corridors but while passing through all elephant habitats. The point needs to be made especially forcefully here because Sunday’s accident occurred at a point identified as kilometer 135 between Balipara and Dhalaibeel stations, which was between kilometers 131 and 144 designated respectively as elephant crossing corridors. With two corridors at such close proximity to each other, it is clearly elephant country through which trains ought to be travelling slowly, and certainly not at 100 kmph, which the Dekargaon-Naharlagun Express was doing.

Given the railways’ attitude, it is not surprising that train accidents have taken a heavy toll of elephant lives. According to the report of the Elephant Task Force, Gajah: Securing the Future for Elephants in India, submitted on August 31, 2010, train accidents had killed as many as 150 of these behemoths since 1987. Thirty-six per cent of these occurred in Assam, and 26, 14 and 10 in West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand respectively. Tamil Nadu accounted for six per cent, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala three each, and Odisha two.

The Elephant Task Force had recommended a number of measures to prevent road and rail accidents killing elephants. Implementation, however, has been half-hearted, with the railways being particularly insensitive to the task of protecting elephant corridors. Speeding continues. The Chennai-bound Coromondal Express, for example, hit a herd of elephants in Odisha’s Ganjam district on December 30, 2012. It was, according to Bijoy Kumar Hota, Khallikote forest range officer, travelling at a speed of between 115 to 120 kilometers per hour considering the impact, which scattered the bodies of the elephants hit, here and there around the track, and pieces of carcasses over a distance of half a kilometer! Besides, it occurred in an area where elephants crossed the railway line regularly. There were as many as 10 signboards, warning that it was an “elephant crossing zone” between Rambha and Huma stations where the accident occurred.

In another instance, the Jaipur-Kamakhya Kabiguru Express ran into a herd of 40 elephants at Jaldhaka bridge in North Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, killings seven of them, including two calves, and seriously injuring at least 10 on November 13, 2013. Hiten Burman, then West Bengal’s Forest Minister, had said after the accident that the railways had repeatedly ignored requests from his department to reduce the speed of the trains in areas where there were elephant crossings.

The killings have continued with 17 elephants dying in the last six months of 2016. There are doubtless occasions when forest departments personnel of State Governments are at fault. Stern action needs to be taken against them as coordination between them and railways personnel is central to the prevention of accidents. The railways, however, have to bear the main burden of the blame as long as they refuse to reduce the speed of trains not just at elephant corridors but all areas where large numbers of elephants are found.

As recommended by Animal Equality, an animal rights organisation in Britain, trains should be equipped with automatic speed governors which would be activated once these enter forests where the maximum speed should be 20-25 kmph on even tracks and 40-45 kmph on steep tracts. Other suggestions include installing in trains scintillating head lamps with halogen/LED bulbs which would help to illuminate much longer stretches of tracks, and installing in them radar sensors to detect animals on tracks, determine the train’s distance from these, and act as instant auto-brakes for preventing collisions. All this will cost money but this is an expenditure we owe to our national heritage animals for colonising and exploiting their habitats for our benefit.

(The writer is Consultant Editor, The Pioneer, and an author)

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http://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/punjab-man-kills-his-pet-dog-with-rifle-booked/story-tFF7bD60naeiq4C7M26BNO.html

 

A video of the act, showing the killing of dog with a rifle, was widely shared on social media platforms.

Hours after a video showing a man killing a dog with a gunshot went viral online, police arrested the pet’s owner and his friend in Badbar village of Dhanaula area of Barnala district. The pit bull’s owner Satbir Singh, 32, said the dog was “unstable and imbalanced for the past two days” and thus had to be killed. Both were released on bail later, confirmed sub-inspector Darshan Singh; and the dog’s post-mortem was ordered.

The matter escalated and was traced after an email by an animal rights organisation, named Fauna Police, to Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi, the Punjab director general of police (DGP), and the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). Contents of that email are part of the FIR.

Managing trustee of Fauna Police, Abhinav Srihan of Delhi, said over the phone, “We submitted the complaint to the AWBI with ample proofs.” Puneet Banga of Patiala had contacted the NGO. He said, “I had taken up the matter with the office of Maneka Gandhi. A dog cannot be exterminated on petty grounds. Such animals should be sterilised, or be kept in a kennel.”

 

Owner Satbir argued, “The dog was fiercely biting for the last two days. It had attacked my buffalo. It had become extremely dangerous to kids. Remember, it was my pet dog! Why will I kill my own dog?” Asked if he consulted a vet, he said, “I did not know if that was to be done.”

About the video shot two days ago, in which Satbir and his friend Ajit Singh, purportedly in his 60s, can be seen, Satbir said, “I do not know who uploaded the video on social media sites.”

Meanwhile, deputy director of the animal husbandry department, Dr Vinay Jindal, said it is the first case of post-mortem of a dog at the veterinary hospital in Barnala. A board of three doctors was constituted for the post-mortem. Dr Krishan Kumar, a member of the board, said, “We have taken samples of liver, kidney, spleen and heart of the dog. We will send its brain sample to Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU), Ludhiana.”

Police said it is the first such FIR in the jurisdiction of Dhanaula station. Senior superintendent of police Harjeet Singh said, “The accused have stated that the dog was harmful for the inhabitants. We have registered a case under section 429 (killing an animal) of the Indian Penal Code and section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.”

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A group of ladies in Gurgaon have been facing constant harassment for looking after strays in their locality and the police have been turning a blind eye. My friend who is also a lawyer decided to take up their cause. It finally came in the papers as to how the police has been turning a blind eye towards it.