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Over 27,000 cattle deaths on tracks in Covid year

A little over 38,000 cows were run over in the “normal” year before the pandemic, April 2019 to March 2020.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
October 18, 2021 3:36:34 am
Even during the peak of the second Covid-19 wave in April-May this year, around 2,600 cows died on the tracks each month. Around 4,200, the highest in a month, died this August, as per data. (File)

Cows continued to die by the thousands on India’s railway tracks even during the peak of the pandemic last year when the country ran trains sparingly.
The Railways recorded more than 27,000 cases of cattle being run over between April 2020 and March 2021. The numbers climbed up month after month as more trains started returning to service.

A little over 38,000 cows were run over in the “normal” year before the pandemic, April 2019 to March 2020.

Now, with almost all trains back in service, the number has started rising again, clocking close to 3,000 per month since April this year. Between April and September, over 20,000 cows have been run over by trains.

In 2020, Railways shut down all passenger train services on March 22. Data show only 440 cows were run over by trains in April 2020, at the height of the first nationwide lockdown. Goods trains continued to run as per demand in an effort to keep essential supplies going.
Thereafter, regulated train services started with Shramik Specials for the stranded migrants from May 1. In May that year, the number of cattle deaths rose to 1,000.

The Railways began a graded resumption of services across India from June 1, 2020, bringing back 100 special trains at select routes. By the end of July, the number of cattle deaths on the tracks rose to 2,000 a month.

It has been returning to pre-Covid levels ever since.

Even during the peak of the second Covid-19 wave in April-May this year, around 2,600 cows died on the tracks each month. Around 4,200, the highest in a month, died this August, as per data.

Since April, more than 24,000 train trips have been delayed because of cases of cattle being run over. With six months for the financial year to end, zonal railways are planning new strategies to tackle what is a growing headache.

In Uttar Pradesh, which witnesses most of these cases, authorities are identifying stretches where such accidents are most commonly seen.

Stretches like Firozabd-Makhhanpur, Etawah-Phaphund in Tundla-Kanpur sections; between Chanderi-Chakeri, near Kanpur; Pora-Jalesar near Hathras; Delwara- Jhakhaura in Jhansi-Lalitpur section; in the Mathura-Kosikalaan section and in the Agra-Dholpur section, are zeroed in as “vulnerable spots”.

Railway Protection Force teams and other officials have asked village heads in these places to stop livestock from coming close to railway tracks.

“Counselling them and enlisting the help of the village pradhan and others is one of the strategies.They are being told that when a case like this happens it is a loss of life and also when the train is forced to be delayed because of a cattle run-over case, the delay may be costly for someone… Besides, it is a loss of a life,” said Shivam Sharma, the spokesperson for Allahabad-based North Central Railway.

A perennial problem

Cattle being run over by trains has been a perennial problem for Indian Railways. Each such case damages assets, delays trains and poses a safety challenge. Since fencing of tracks is not always possible everywhere, authorities face a challenge of coming up with lasting solutions.

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