No service safeguards for these forest guards

Many serve as daily wage workers for decades and retire without benefits

People who protect wild animals from poachers in the Bhadra Tiger Reserve lead an insecure life. Forest guards, who suffer disabilities in the line of duty, work for a paltry sum as salary and are deprived of service security.

A herd of deer at the Bhadra Reserve Forests. Guards who man the protected area get a pittance as salary. DH Photo

As many as 192 workers serve on ‘petty cash payment basis’ while 300 work on the daily wage basis in the four forest ranges of the district. The services of only 100 personnel have been regularised so far and the rest continue to serve as daily wage workers.
Kariya (60), a worker belonging to the Scheduled Caste, was relieved from service on June 30, 2011.

He had served as a daily wage worker at the Hebbe range of the Tiger Reserve for 25 years. Kariya got a salary of Rs 6,000 a month for the last six months of his service.

Earlier, he was paid Rs 270 a month (during 1985-86), which was increased to Rs 700 in the 1990s. The salary went up to Rs 4,000 during 1996-97 and to Rs 6,000 from January 2011.

“After retirement, the Forest Department reappointed me for half the salary - Rs 3,000 a month - from June last. I used to maintain my family with this sum. Now, the Range Forest Officer has told me not to come for work from May. I am yet to clear the loan I borrowed to marry off my two daughters. I have another daughter to take care of,” Kariyappa said.

He said he had toiled all these years and the department should provide an employment to his daughter as a daily wage worker.

This is not the case of Kariyappa alone. Several of his colleagues, who served on a daily wage basis for decades, have returned home without retirement benefits.

“The Forest Department should do away with the practice of relieving daily wage employees citing technical reasons. They should be extended assistance through the Tiger Conservation Foundation on humanitarian grounds,” says D V Girish, a trustee of Bhadra Widlife Conservation Trust.

Unfair deal

Girish said workers of unorganised sectors were being paid provident fund and gratuity and it was unfair that those who work for the Forest Department were being denied the benefits. The daily wage workers were not considered while recruiting employees on a permanent basis.  

“They were rejected on the ground of not possessing the required educational qualification, physical standard and age factor. But the authorities did not consider these criteria while extracting work from daily wager employees,” Girish said. Awatar Singh, Chief Conservator of Forests, Chikmagalur Circle, told Deccan Herald that the Department had been finding it difficult to extend any help to daily wage workers in the absence of a clear policy.

He said the question of providing retirement benefits to long-term daily wage workers was being discussed by the government and a decision would be taken shortly.

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