Hyderabad

Outsourced workers in Forest Dept. to lose jobs

Stipulation against paying salaries from CAMPA funds

The Telangana State has got its share of CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) funds at a cost. Several employees working for decades in the Forest Department on outsourcing basis, are on the verge of losing their jobs now, owing to a stipulation against paying them salaries from CAMPA funds.

In the last week of June this year, the department has got communication from the National CAMPA Authority, New Delhi, where it was specifically directed not to use CAMPA funds for maintenance of striking forces, check-posts, and dog squads.

Subsequently, instructions were issued by the then PCCF P.K.Jha to all the officials, not to incur any expenditure from CAMPA funds under the three heads.

Incidentally, all the three wings had been mostly filled with outsourced employees. In Agency areas, the base camp watchers, strike force members and check-post watchers were being mostly recruited from the local tribal populations. They had to be paid salaries from the State funds if CAMPA funds were not to be exploited.

Instead, an exercise to “rationalise” the staff has been initiated, with the department coming up with revised criteria for selection of protection watchers.

As per a circular issued by Mr. Jha just before he retired, a circle-level committee led by Conservator of Forests should be constituted for screening and rationalising the use of services of outsourced protection watchers, on annual basis. A few basic qualifications have been stipulated for filtering the candidates, which, if followed, will sieve out several employees who have put in 20 to 30 years of service in the department.

Among them is the stipulation that accords preference to unmarried youth between 20 and 40 years of age, who can pass the walking test of 25 kilometres.

Demonstrations

As soon as the circulars were issued at the field-level, the existing watchers have gone into agitation mode. Demonstrations by outsourcing employees have been reported from Adilabad, and other places. “About 400-1,000 workers may lose their jobs owing to the screening process. Many of them have spent their life in the department for meagre salaries, in the hope of getting regularised. Where will they go now?” questions Shiva Kumar, president of the Forest Employees & Workers Union.

Recruitments

While unwilling to share numbers, officials from the department have admitted that rationalisation process is on, in view of the recent recruitments to fill permanent posts.

A total of 1,860 FDO posts have been notified, and 1,000 have already been filled up, while 500 are in the processing stage, they informed.

‘Blow to forest protection’

Wildlife activists express fears that the decision may deal a blow to forest protection too.

“Since the advent of Maoism, officers have stopped visiting forests. It is owing to the services of the protection watchers that forests are still being preserved. Whether the newly recruited FDOs could withstand the tough task is yet to be seen,” says an activist under the condition of anonymity.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 10:10:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/outsourced-workers-in-forest-dept-to-lose-jobs/article29310976.ece

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