BENGALURU: The Karnataka Forest Department (KFD) is facing severe shortage of district forest officers — at the level of Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) — and in the next year, their number is likely to fall below 100. Senior forest officials say protection and conservation work have been severely affected owing to shortage of DCFs. Calling upon the new government to address this issue, wildlife conservationists and activists say recruitment and promotion should be considered, otherwise, the situation may turn messy in the days to come.
Even as the Forest Department struggles to post good and committed officers at the district level in the state — which is home to several national parks, tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries — the state government has posted many IFS (Indian Forest Services) officers to other departments ranging from social welfare, university to textiles to electronics. Earlier, 3-5 IFS officers used to join service in Karnataka, but now it is just two.
To ease the burden at the district level, KFD has started the process of recruitment of staff at the field level and so have called for applications for 642 different posts such as Forest Guard, Deputy Range Forest Officer, Forest Watcher and Range Forest Officer. “In the last two years, the field level recruitment has been going on to strengthen our protection force. However, at the district level, we need a minimum of five DCFs per year for the state. But the Centre is sending only two per year. Recruitment has been a slow, especially at this level. Further, at the DCF level, more shortage is being created as many officers have been retiring and by next year, the problem may become acute,” a senior official told The New Indian Express.
“In fact, in some districts, officers from co-services have been posted and as a result, protection work has been badly affected. We are struggling to get good officers for sensitive areas like Madikeri, MM Hills, Cauvery and other protected areas. Also, when we get officers from co-services, they are casual and do not show the same interest as our forest officers. With all sorts of people landing at this level in many districts, protection of wildlife has taken a severe beating. They hardly bother to visit affected areas as it happened recently in Bidar when poachers from Hyderabad were caught with hunted blackbucks,” another official added.
On the other hand, wildlife conservationists blame the Forest Department for the mess. They say postponing decisions and delay in recruitment and promotion of officers from lower levels and deploying only IFS officers have led to such a situation. With cadre post creation, the non-cadre staff — some of them very good and committed officers who have great knowledge of the field — have not been considered.Wildlife conservationist D V Girish added, “There has been no replacement for retiring officers while they have blocked non-cadre staff from being promoted. This is a self- created mess.”