BENGALURU : The death of Nagarahole National Park (NNP) director S Manikandan has highlighted the lack of adequate personnel to man Karnataka’s national parks. Data shows at Nagarahole, 34 per cent of the 386 sanctioned posts were vacant — a majority of those being ground level staff. A similar pattern was seen in Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR).Experts say the sanctioned strength is inadequate. NNP (642 sqkm) and BTR (874 sqkm) have a combined area of 1,516 sqkm. However, the number of sanctioned ground-level staffers was a mere 455. In terms of area — assuming all the posts are filled — each ground staff member has to monitor roughly three-and-a-half sqkm of reserve forest.
At Nagarahole, of the 168 sanctioned forest watcher posts, 89 (53 per cent) remained vacant. In NNP, 49 of the 78 watcher posts were vacant and at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, 40 of the 90 watcher posts were vacant.In total, 148 of the 455 posts of ground-level staffers were vacant - a larger portion of it in Nagarahole. It can be noted that a lack of perambulation by ground staffers at D B Kuppe Forest Range was blamed as one of the causes for Manikandan’s death.
H C Kantharaju, former director of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, told The New Indian Express that the issue of staff for reserve forests was addressed by the Deepak Sharma Committee. The committee, he said, had submitted a report recommending the reorganisation of the forest department. Following the report, new forest divisions and ranges were added to improve administration.
It is yet to be implemented completely,” he said.According to the state government, steps are being taken to hire 15 forest guards in Bandipur, 20 in Nagarahole and 20 watchers each for both the reserves. Sources said a notification will be issued soon to fill the posts under direct recruitment.“Apart from it, the state government has approved the creation of 3,085 additional posts in the forest department between the years 2019-20 and 2023-24,” the source added.