Five ex-servicemen at the MP’s Bandhavgarh tiger reserve who had been engaged for protection duties at the reserve have said that they have been laid off by the park management due to the shortage of funds and that civilians have been employed as guards in the reserve instead for lower wages.
The state government had earlier mandated that only ex-servicemen could perform protection duties.
The state government had decided to employ ex-servicemen for protection duty in the aftermath of losing all the tigers in the Sariska national park to poachers in 2005.
These men were engaged through the local district ex-servicemen welfare boards and were drafted in the newly set up tiger protection force in all the five tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh.
However, in the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve, five ex-servicemen, including a gunman, have been laid off since October 1 by the park management who cited a shortage of budget for the task.
The ex-servicemen were drafted in August 2005 and till October 2009, their salaries were paid through the district ex-servicemen welfare board.
After that, the park management stopped paying the salaries through the board and instead contracted the ‘bhootpoorva sainik audyogik suraksha sahkari samiti’, a co-operative of ex-servicemen, for the task.
Consequently, Bhartendra Tiwari, an ex-serviceman from the Corps of Signals, obtained a copy of the voucher of his salary through RTI and found that he was being paid far less than what was being charged to the exchequer.
“The voucher shows a salary of `11,350 while I receive only Rs 7,300 as wages,” he said, alleging that after the ex-servicemen were laid off, the co-operative body had engaged civilians to work as guards for lower wages.
Commenting on the issue, field director, Bandhavgarh national park, B Raman said, “We really want to retain the ex-servicemen as threat from poachers is still present but financial constraints have forced us to take this action.”