BENGALURU: The Forest Department has recommended enhanced pay scales and rise in allowances on par with the police force for its frontline staff. The foot soldiers of the department are responsible for habitat protection and conservation of wildlife, including the highest population of elephants, tigers and leopards in Karnataka.
The frontline staff for which it has recommended enhanced pay scales includes the deputy range forest officers and forest guards and also mahouts and kavadis working in elephant camps.
Presently, the strength of the frontline staff is 8,670 in both wildlife and territorial areas and the working hours stretches round the clock. Apart from this, seven elephant camps in the state have a staff of 262 comprising kavadis (122), mahouts (132) and jamedars (8). Nearly 45 forest personnel (most of them forest guards) have lost their lives while on duty in the last five decades.
According to the Forest Department, the demands of the forest staff to grant them parity in pay scales and allowances with equivalent cadres to that of Police Department is justified. So, the state government has been requested to consider and approve it. “This will go a long way in boosting the morale of the frontline personnel and motivate them to work with renewed zeal and enthusiasm. Unlike the Police Department, the forest staff has no shift duties and they have to work round the clock. The duties of the frontline staff are similar to the police as they are into detecting offences, booking cases, investigating forest offence cases and filing of chargesheet among others,” an official said.
Further, adequate allowances have to be paid for uniforms and uniform maintenance as their posting is in difficult terrains and inaccessible forest locations. The department has recommended a uniform allowance of Rs 500 per month on par with police while Rs 600 for weekly-off allowance, Rs 1,000 as hardship allowance, special allowances of Rs 2,000 in forest areas and Rs 4,000 in wildlife areas and many more.
Expressing happiness, serving DRFOs say they too face the same risk as the police, in fact more as they have to deal with both people and wildlife and also tackle criminals within and outside to protect tigers and elephants.
They said, “It is now up to the state government to give us our due. It has come up for discussion in the CM’s office last week.”
State cabinet to build rail barricade in forest areas
Bengaluru: The state cabinet on Thursday approved a plan to construct rail barricades along 118-km of forest areas. The BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government has estimated a cost of Rs 120 lakh per km for the project which is aimed at reducing man-animal conflict in forest regions. Images of a tusker losing his life while attempting to cross over a rail barricade in Nagarhole in December last year had elicited anger from environmentalists and conservationists.
Despite all the outrage, the government has chosen 118 km across the state to construct similar barricades, especially in regions that witness elephant movement. “The 118 km includes 24 km in Nagarhole, 17 km in Bandipur, 189 km in Madikeri, 3 km in Virajpet, 13 km in Male Mahadeshwara forest range, 15 km in Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, 6 km in Ramanagara, 15 km in Bannerghatta and 6 km in Hassan at a cost of Rs 120 lakh per km. We have approved Rs 100 crore for the project,” said
JC Madhuswamy, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs.