K.S. Sudhi

KOCHI: Nearly one-third of the frontline forest personnel posts are lying vacant in the State. There are 936 posts to be filled up against the sanctioned strength of 3,594 in Kerala.

Kerala is in the 11 {+t} {+h} position regarding the number of vacancies in the country. The maximum number of vacancies was reported in Orissa — 2,942 against the sanctioned strength of 8,187. Nagaland topped the national list with just one vacancy to be filled against the sanctioned strength of 705.

Forest officials working at grassroots level are considered the frontline staff. Designation-wise, Assistant Conservator of Forests and those below in the hierarchy are frontline staff. They play a crucial role in the conservation, management and enforcement of wildlife and natural resources.

The issue of vacancies and other challenges in conservation were highlighted by Jairam Ramesh, the Union Minister of Environment and Forest, in letters to the Chief Ministers recently. Mr. Ramesh sought the intervention of Chief Ministers “to ensure that the vacant posts of frontline staff are filled immediately.” He also urged that these personnel should be provided “adequate promotional avenues and opportunities to upgrade skills to enable them to meet the new challenges in management and enforcement at the grassroots level.”

The Minister observed that officials at grassroots levels need to be recruited for “protecting the flora and fauna, increasing the forest cover, taking on wildlife crime and using forests to mitigate the impact of climate change.”

Rank list

T.M. Manoharan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, said that vacancies in the State would be filled in three months. The Public Service Commission has started publishing the district-wise rank list of forest guards, the exam for which was held in September. He claimed that shortage of staff had not affected conservation efforts as temporary recruitments were done from the list provided by Employment Exchanges. The Divisional Forest Officers were empowered to take staff on temporary basis. They were posted at areas where their service was required, he said. As a management measure, staff strength had to be reduced in some areas after assessing workload, Mr. Manoharan said.

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