The Maharashtra forest department has relaxed the physical test criterion for aspiring forest guards. Applicants will now have to run only 5 km and walk 20 km: until last year, male applicants had to run 25 km and women candidates, 14 km.
In 2011, an aspiring forest guard died while participating in the 25-km run.
“After the incident that took place last year we have decided to relax qualifying norms. This year, we have more than 1,260 vacant posts for forest guards that we want to fill in,” said forests minister Patangrao Kadam on Tuesday.
Apart from the run, the aspirants will need to have passed Class 12. Forest guards will be recruited in two phases, with 523 to be hired in the first phase and 450 in the second.
Last year, the department recruited 1,175 guards, who went through the 25-km run. In early September 2011, a candidate, Balaji Narshingrao Tirmanwar from Yavatmal, who took the test, died soon after after he collapsed while running to qualify for the post. It allegedly took officials more than an hour to find him and take him to hospital.
Following this incident, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) took suo motu cognisance of the matter and asked the state forest department to submit a report on why this system was used for assessment.
Following the intervention of the SHRC, top forest officials including principal secretary (forests) Pravin Pardeshi and chief conservator of forests, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) Sunil Limaye along with 42 others walked 25 km through the Tansa wildlife forest in Thane district in 4 hours in 2011.
This was part of their ‘encouragement drive’ to show that the 25-km run for forest guards was not ‘insensitive’.