BENGALURU: Despite the Centre’s advisory not to remove any hired or contractual staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, Bhadra Tiger Reserve will be sending home some 40 field-level forest warriors who work in the forefront of tiger protection. From each of the anti-poaching camps (APC), one daily wage watcher will be removed.
Bhadra TR is considered one of the best tiger reserves in the country with a tiger population of 40 and an elephant population ranging from 155-160 as also a healthy prey population. While its varied habitat ranges from rolling grasslands to deciduous moist to evergreen, it is considered the best as it has also received the utmost protection. Presently, it has 40 anti-poaching camps to protect and secure an area of 492 sqkm. The decision to remove one watcher from each camp has upset the environmentalists in this region.
According to Chikkamagaluru honorary wildlife warden G Veeresh, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a direct effect on the forest warriors. “Why should the poor watchers be removed? During the pandemic period, the Centre has clearly stated that no worker should be removed from his post. The APC watchers hailing from poor families will lose their livelihood and the forest department should re-think on their decision.
Each watcher earns just Rs 9,000 per month while staying away from their families for many days.” Speaking to TNIE, Bhadra Tiger Reserve Field Director Dhananjaya S said, “Compared to other tiger reserves in the State, we have more APC and more number of watchers. Therefore, we are removing one watcher per camp. Last year, we had 39 camps and we added one more camp this year, taking the total number to 40.
From four watchers per camp, we are reducing it to three.” APC watchers play a very crucial role at the field level in tackling and curbing hunting activities as also in the conservation of tiger habitat, said Veeresh. “There should be no compromise in APC activities and in fact, civil works can be stopped in tiger reserves this year. They can divert these funds for providing salary to these poor watchers.” However, the director added that with huge deficit in the availability of local labour for plantation work, the watchers will not face much problems.