With over 60% of frontline posts lying vacant, how can one expect the Forest Department to effectively handle forest fires, said an impassioned B.J. Hosmath, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), in reference to the recent death of a forest officer while trying to put out a blaze in Bandipur National Park.
Speaking at the inauguration of a 24-unit forest quarters in Malleswaram here on Wednesday, Mr. Hosmath said the posts have remained vacant in the key tiger reserves as recruitment had been stalled over the decades over bureaucratic rules. “We had made it compulsory for those recruited to spend at least five years in these reserves. The moment this period is over, they all take transfers. Over ₹500 crore is needed to set up group housing in these reserves to ensure people stay,” he said, at the function where Forest Minister B. Ramanath Rai was present.
The comments had come after Murigeppa Tammangol (28) died of burns and asphyxiation when he was stomping out fire in Kalkere range of Bandipur National Park on Sunday. Over 750 acres of forests is estimated to have been destroyed in the fire, which also injured four personnel.
Mr. Rai said the incident was an “eye-opener” and needed “serious thinking” over the conditions in which forest personnel worked. “When we went to the spot, forest watchers and guards submitted a memorandum saying their renumeration should be on a par with that of the Police Department, while their beat — area covered by frontline staff — should be reduced. We will ensure this happens,” he said.
Apart from this, 2,000 personnel were being hired on all levels, while workshops will be held to address the problem of forest fires.
After paying tribute to the forest employee at the monument for forest martyrs in Bengaluru, Mr. Rai announced a compensation of ₹25 lakh and a job for Mr. Tammangol’s wife, while Karnataka State Forest Industries Corporation Ltd. said that they would also pay a compensation of ₹2 lakh to the family.