As Uttarakhand forests burn, all its guards go on indefinite strike
Forest guards are protesting against the change in the norms for recruitment to the post of forestersdehradun Updated: Mar 27, 2018 22:34 IST
Protesting against the change in the norms for recruitment to the post of forester, the forest guards in Uttarakhand Tuesday launched an indefinite strike. The strike comes at a time when the department is battling intermittent forest fires.
The head of forest forces (HoFF) held a meeting with the agitating forest guards, under the aegis of Uttarakhand forest beat association, but a breakthrough could not be achieved.
In a cabinet meeting on March 12, the government approved the changes in the service rules for guards and foresters. As per the decision, a person who has done intermediate in any stream is eligible for the post of the guard.
The cabinet also approved to fill 33% posts of the foresters through direct recruitment. Only those who have done intermediate with science stream or agriculture as a subject are eligible for the post. The remaining 67% seats, as per the amended rules, would be filled promotion basis. Only those forest guards who have completed 10 years of service are eligible for promotion.
These changes are being opposed by the forest guards.
Earlier, 100 per cent positions of foresters were filled on promotion basis. Currently, 2,600 guards are working against sanctioned strength of 3,650.
“It is tyrannical on part of the government to minimize our chances of promotion. People who have been serving the department for years feel cheated,” Virendra Pandey, state president of the Uttarakhand forest beat association said.
During the meeting with the association members, HoFF Jai Raj explained that a decision approved by the cabinet cannot be rolled back.
“I have explained to them that the direct recruitment would help in providing employment opportunities to their children. It would also help the department recruit a young force. We have already kept 67% seats reserved for promotion,” Jai Raj said.
The HoFF said that 20% of the staff was of the age 50 years or above. For them, working in the tough terrain and high altitude areas is a difficult task. As a result, the conservation activities are compromised.
“The field staff has to work in most challenging conditions and we need young blood to patrol and conserve our forests and wildlife. We can’t accept what they are demanding,” he added.
The indefinite strike is likely to aggravate the problems for the department as it has come during the forest fire season, which began on February 15. Till date, 283 hectare forest land including plantation has been gutted in wildfires resulting in an estimated revenue loss of over Rs 50 lakh.
“We are making alternate arrangements. We are deploying contractual staff at all divisions starting from high risk districts like Almora and Pauri,” BP Gupta, nodal officer forest fire said.
Pandey said that the strike will continue unless the government revises the rules.