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Forest dept yet to pay dues of firefighters engaged last year

Uttarakhand forest department has not paid ₹17 lakh dues of 7,000 firefighters engaged last year for four months

dehradun Updated: Feb 07, 2018 21:38 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times, Deharadun
firefighters,Forest dept,₹17 lakh
Not paid for almost a year, the daily-wage workers may not like to join the firefighting force. (HT Photo)

Uttarakhand forest department is yet to pay the dues amounting to ₹17 lakh to 7,000 firefighters engaged last year for four months. This year, the department has received only 50% of the budget required for the forest firefighting preparations.

The department started engaging daily-wage workers for combating forest fires, breaking out in the hills between February-June, four years ago. In the first year, the department engaged 2,000 daily wagers for the cause. Over the years their number increased and last year the department engaged 7,000 daily wagers. Each daily wager was promised a remuneration of ₹6,500 per month. But the department has not paid the dues of daily-wage workers engaged last year “due to delay in fund release”.

“We are yet to pay the dues of daily-wage fire fighters engaged last year. But they are in our top priority and we will try to provide them the due latest by this financial year,” said Jai Raj, head of forest fire and principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF).

The non-payment of dues to the daily wagers is likely to pose problems for the department in the coming forest fire season, which officially begins from February 15. Not paid for almost a year, the daily-wage workers may not like to join the firefighting force.

“Delay in release of funds has been a problem every year. The government needs to understand the seriousness of the situation and should at least release funds for preparations and other necessary activities timely,” a forest officer familiar with the issue said.

The department had sought ₹34 lakh from the government for forest firefighting preparations, which mainly includes rejuvenating fire lines. Of the total amount sought, only ₹17 lakh was received by the department, which has been distributed to the forest divisions for the activity.

Meanwhile, a dry spell and low humidity has increased the tension of the department officials. The year 2016 was a nightmare for the state, as forests in 4,434 hectare and plantations in 104 hectare were gutted. In 2017, however, the loss was comparatively less, as forests in only 1,245 hectare were lost to fires.

First Published: Feb 07, 2018 21:38 IST