Our frontline forest face several hardships while executing their duties and deserves a lot more than they get. Here's how the efforts of one group in Karnataka helped them get their due.
The approved proposal is about the additional financial benefit that should be paid to the frontline staff working in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves and all other protected areas in the state due to the various hardships they face while on duty.
After a follow up of over seven years, a proposal initiated since March 2009 has finally borne fruits to support frontline staff of Karnataka Forest Department working in protected areas of Karnataka.
Sanjay Gubbi, Member State Board for Wildlife and scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation had proposed to the state government that an additional financial benefit should be paid to the frontline staff working in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves and all other protected areas in the state due to the various hardships they face while on duty.
Now the state government has approved an amount of Rs. 3,500/- to Range Forest Officers and Deputy Range Forest Officers, Rs. 2,700/- to Forest Guards and Rs. 2,000 to Group-D employees (watchers, MR watchers, drivers and others) as ‘wildlife allowance’.
This is in addition to the regular salaries they receive as approved in the government order no.A PA JEE 20 FAP 2010 dated 09-06-2016 that comes into immediate effect. This will possibly benefit nearly 1,500 staff of the forest department.
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After the initial proposal, the file was followed up for over seven years, convincing various political leaders and government officials which has borne results now.
“I am extremely happy about this approval and thank the Honourable Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who took a personal interest to provide this benefit by understanding the problems of the frontline staff. The forest minister and few others including retired PCCFs B.K.Singh, Dipak Sarmah and Vinay Luthra had supported this initiative” says Sanjay Gubbi.
Though the frontline staff are the cornerstones of tiger and other wildlife species conservation they are also a neglected lot.
This is a first-of-its-kind of initiative in the country. The current allowance approved by the state government helps staff especially the Group-D employees. Till date an allowance of Rs. 800/- was provided only to staff working in tiger reserves by the central government through the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The frontline staff face several hardships including living in remote areas and difficult terrain, face threats from smugglers, poachers, the risk from wildlife and other similar issues.
They also stay away from families continuously for several weeks at a stretch.
All this had necessitated that additional financial benefits to be provided. Sanjay Gubbi had previously successfully initiated an insurance program for the staff which is now implemented by the forest department in protected areas of the state where the revenue earned from tourism is used to pay the insurance premium. Hope these initiatives are implemented in other parts of the country for the staff working in protected areas and other difficult conditions.