CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu forest department, crippled by 40 per cent vacancies, has begun a major capacity building exercise. About 158 rangers, 900 guards and foresters will be recruited in the next four months for which the process has already begun. This gains significance in the wake of the Kurangani forest fire inquiry report wherein the ineptness of the department was exposed in its handling of the crisis.
Sources said the State government has released Rs 5 crore for the process. Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu Limited (ELCOT) will finalise who will conduct the examination. Tendering process is underway.
“For 900 posts of guards and foresters, we are expecting one lakh applicants. Since it’s an online examination, computer centres have to be set up in four to five districts. So, ELCOT will decide the vendor and a board of forest department officials will do the recruitment,” a senior forest official told Express.
Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission has advertised conducting of examinations for forest rangers. Forest guards are the foot soldiers of the department and are an integral part of forest protection. The Kurangani report was critical on how ill-equipped and unprepared the department was in terms of manpower and equipment. Lack of staff has also derailed conservation efforts, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s report for the year ending March 2017 said.
According to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), lack of forest department staff had derailed conservation efforts.
The report had stated that the department’s flagship Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project (TBGP), for one, had suffered immensely because of manpower shortage.
“The project envisaged that 532 government staff was required to ensure smooth and timely implementation, monitoring works and reporting of the progress of works during the project period. But, 30 out of 68 posts (56 per cent) of forest range officers and 148 out of 226 posts of foresters (65 per cent) created exclusively for the implementation of the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project remained vacant resulting in absence of adequate manpower for implementation of the scheme in the State besides non-utilisation of the State share of the project cost,” the Comptroller and Auditor General of India report said.
Forest officials say the State government should fill the vacancies on an annual basis, which would ensure the right mix of seniors and juniors.
Otherwise, the 900 guards and foresters would be of same age group and would retire in the same period, which would trigger a crisis. “The government should not pile up the vacancies,” an official said.
The Kurangani fire incident had revealed how staff crunch could hamper rescue operations during crisis.