The decks have finally been cleared to provide 36 forest guards to the Delhi forest department.
The Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB) has agreed to recruit new guards. The forest department had repeatedly requested the board to speed up the recruitment process as it was facing a severe shortage of frontline staff to protect and conserve forests and wildlife.
Since April 2013, Hindustan Times has published a series of reports on how the vacant posts were taking a toll on plans to protect and augment greenery. The latest report, "Govt sits over pleas to fill vacant posts in forest depts", appeared on July 9.
Delhi forest department head GN Sinha told HT on Tuesday: "We have received a letter of approval from DSSSB. They will now advertise the vacancy."
The north division had 99 vacant posts. The number for the west division stood at 73. The south division had similar vacancies.
"We're reviewing vacancies in all sections. Based on the assessment made, we will ask for more recruitments," Sinha said.
Tree activist Aditya N Prasad, who had filed an RTI application with the forest department, said: "The reply furnished shows the department has all the senior officials, but a lot of vacancies need to be filled at the middle and lower-level."
Following HT reports, the national green tribunal has sought a report from the forest department, explaining whether a sufficient number of forest guards, wildlife inspectors and other relevant posts are available to protect forest areas. The report will be submitted by August 29, when the matter is heard next.
In the RTI reply, the department admitted that no frontline staff was ever available for night duty.
The west division has five wireless sets - all of them non-functional. The guards have no weapons.
The last time the forest staff were issued uniforms was in the 1990s. An official as senior as the deputy range officer of the forest department does not have a four-wheeler.