Lone helpline number of forest discontinued since one year
“We were paying Rs 3 lakh annually to a private company for maintaining and handling the database of the helpline number but the response was so poor that it had to be discontinued,” said RK Mahajan, head of forest force (HoFF).dehradun Updated: Nov 11, 2017 20:16 IST
Dehradun: Uttarakhand’s lone helpline number to support local involvement in forest fire, illegal mining and wildlife crime incidents has been discontinued since last one year. This was revealed after forest staff of Almora complained of the irregularity in a recent leopard poaching incident.
Van Mitra, which was started as a first of its kind initiative in July 2014, died a sudden death owing to poor sensitisation about the helpline number.
“We were paying Rs 3 lakh annually to a private company for maintaining and handling the database of the helpline number but the response was so poor that it had to be discontinued,” said RK Mahajan, head of forest force (HoFF).
One of the key aims of the service was to combat forest fire and improve participation of public in reporting problems in the forest area. After a few months of its initiation, the contact started taking care of various allied sections for reporting complaints in wildlife crime, illegal mining and even to report discrepancies in Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), a government of India flagship programme, funding state forest for plantation, staff welfare, mitigating man-animal conflict, water conservation, soil conservation, river training and various other activities.
The contact simplified the complaints by registering them for various forest divisions and protected areas. Sources in the department claim nearly 5,000 complaints were registered during two years of the service.
The helpline number worked with the support of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). It worked on the principle of cloud telephony - when a complaint was registered at the number, it sent messages to forest officers. An automated e-mail was also generated to all the officers. Once the issue was resolved, the forest officers could upload the progress of the work which could then be easily retrieved by the complainant.
As per the old statistics of the service, 30% complaints registered were due to illegal mining, particularly in Kumaon region rivers -Sharda, Nandhaur, Gola, Kosi and Dabka, 30% were related to forest encroachment, 18% were related to wildlife crime and remaining 22% cases dealt with conflict.
“Involvement of people in reporting discrepancies could have exposed several officers which is why the service was suspended,” an activist requesting anonymity, said.