KENDRAPARA: The Forest department has urged the State Election Commission (SEC) to exempt forest guards and other officials of the department from election duty citing that their engagement would hamper wildlife and forest protection works. This was stated by Principal of Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) S S Srivastava on Friday.
“We have decided not to engage any forest officials and guards of Bhitarkanika National Park and Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary, world’s largest rookery of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles, as the forest guards are deployed in protecting sea turtles in the marine sanctuary to prevent illegal fishing”, said Kanhu Charan Dhir, Sub- Collector of Kendrapara.
The Forest department is facing severe shortage of staff in 19 wildlife sanctuaries and two national parks in the State and any diversion of staff or patrolling vehicles would compromise on wildlife and forest conservation, said Sudhanshu Parida, an environmentalist and secretary of district-unit of People for Animals.
State Election Commission secretary Rabindranath Sahoo said in 2009 an in 1998, the Election Commission of India had issued a standing order directing Chief Secretaries and Chief Election Officers of all the States to exempt vehicles and staff of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries across the country from election duties. Forest officials from wildlife parks and sanctuaries will not be posted on election duty for the forthcoming rural poll in Odisha, Sahoo added.