BENGALURU: The state government has increased the compensation amount for forest personnel from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 30 lakh in case of death on field duty. With this order effective from June 5 this year, it brings the forest field staff on par with police personnel whose kin are paid Rs 30 lakh as compensation on death. The compensation scheme for forest personnel was introduced in August 2018 with increasing deaths and injuries while fighting forest fires, wildlife attacks and tackling poachers and smugglers in protected areas.
Till date, Karnataka has lost almost 49-50 forest personnel on duty and in this regard, the state had promised to increase the compensation amount by Rs 10 lakh and make the ex- gratia payment on par with police. However, there is no increase in the compensation amount for permanent disabilities and serious injuries which is Rs 10 lakh and Rs 2 lakh respectively.
The compensation will be paid to on duty forest officers and personnel from the rank of Range forest officers to deputy RFO, forest guards and forest watchers. This will also apply to elephant caretakers like mahouts and kavadis employed in various elephant camps across the state. Recently, two forest employees died in Kabini backwaters of the Nagarhole-Bandipur Tiger Reserves.
Sanjay Gubbi, member, State Wildlife Board, says, “The death highlights the risk the frontline forest staff face daily. Assault by poachers, timber smugglers and encroachers has become common. One of the employees who was killed in Kabini recently was a temporary watcher. There are medical facilities but no insurance and no exgratia is paid to their families during tragic incidents like these.
Apart from bringing the accused to justice, the government should extend all the benefits to temporary and semipermanent staff as given to permanent employees.” Wildlife activists said compensation should be given to daily wage workers who are frontline forest protectors. They said, “Most of these watchers have suffered serious injuries and some died, but not received any compensation.” CM BS Yediyurappa promised that compensation to daily wage workers attached to forest department will be resolved soon but no decision has been taken yet.