BHUBANESWAR: After a gap of 38 years, the State Government is busy giving an overhaul to the Odisha Forest Department (OFD) Code to keep the administrative and financial functioning in sync with the modern times. Last revised in 1979, the OFD Code has largely outlived itself but the Government has persisted with the provisions.
The Forest Department convened a meeting of all its Divisional Forest Officers (DFO) and Regional Conservator of Forests (RCCFs) on Saturday to pool in suggestions about various chapters. Those include working, delegation of administrative and financial powers, duties in management of forest and wildlife, service matters among others. There are 26 chapters in the existing manual.
As per the code, the financial limits of DFOs stand at Rs 10,000 whereas they are allowed to sanction works to the extent of `2 lakh as per the Odisha Government Financial Rules (OGFR) which though attracts audit objections. It was felt by the officers that the financial powers should be on par with other departments as per the existing norms applicable.
In the absence of it, a number of approvals are sent to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) office whereas field officers go ahead with the works so as not to delay programme implementation on the grounds.
The base work for overhauling OFD manual also included discussion on power transfers of field staff given to certain senior positions, which apparently is inconsistent as compared to other services like police.Similarly, RCCFs have virtually very little financial power as per the 1979 OFD Code because the position did not exist 38 years back though each one is the supervisory authority of at least seven to eight forest divisions.
There was a consensus at the meeting that RCCFs be accorded powers on par with Revenue Divisional Commissioners.
There were a lot of chapters in the 1979 Code which have now become redundant in the current scenario and there was unanimity about doing away with those. “The 1979 Code had provisions for tenting facilities during senior officers’ field visits. Now, there are full-fledged accommodations available in the divisions which call for deleting such norms and certain special allowances that were in existence,” said sources.
With amendment in Wildlife Protection Act over the decades, the Code also needed fresh provisions that can remain in sync with the changes. Back then, the manual defined how post-mortem of tigers and other major species has to be conducted but by now, the schedules of species have undergone rapid changes and general norms needed change which have been codified.
Matters related to civil works undertaken by DFOs was also up for discussion. “Apart from sensitive areas, it was felt that contract works should be given in other areas with the inclusion of tendering process with a codified framework,” sources added.
However, actual revision of the Code will still take more time to be a reality as the draft would be presented to the Forest Department on Monday. After changes, it would be circulated to other departments after which it will be placed before the State Cabinet.
Financial powers of the DFOs should be on par with other departments as per the existing norms applicable
RCCFs be accorded with financial power on par with Revenue Divisional Commissioners as each
one is supervisory authority
of at least seven to eight forest divisions
Unanimity in doing away with the old norms which have become redundant in the current scenario