KAT order on pay parity for forest field staff not yet executed

The Karnataka Administrative Tribunal (KAT) directive to the State government to revise the pay scale of Deputy Range Forest Officers (DRFOs), to bring it on a par with what their counterparts in other departments get, is yet to be implemented.

The order came in respect to a petition filed in 2016 under Section 19 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, by seven DRFOs seeking a revision of the pay scale with all consequential benefits. The crux of the issue revolved around the equal qualification prescribed for various posts for recruitment and the disparity in pay scales. The prescribed qualification for the post of DRFO was B.Sc. in Forestry from a recognised university (or B.Sc. with two or more of the following subjects — Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Botany, Zoology, Geology, Microbiology, Biotechnology, or Biochemistry).

The counsel for the petitioners had argued that the government cannot discriminate by fixing different pay scales for employees in different departments such as Police, Horticulture and Agriculture, when the appointments are based on similar academic qualifications.

The government pleader had argued that the nature of the work of DRFOs was different from that of Assistant Agricultural Officers/Assistant Horticultural Officers. Arguing that enhancement of pay scale for any particular post would only be granted on the recommendation of the pay commission, the government sought that the petition be quashed.

The tribunal ruled in favour of the petitioners. The final order was issued on January 10, 2020. It said that the pay scale fixed for DRFOs at ₹12,500 to ₹24,000 could not be justified and directed that it be enhanced to ₹20,000 to ₹36,300, besides the grant of consequential benefits accruing from it.

The State government was instructed to implement the orders within six months from the date of issue of order. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Forces (PCCF-HoFF) wrote to the Additional Chief Secretary on May 19, drawing his attention to the issue. But there are no signs of a pay scale revision as of now.

Sources said that if implemented, the pay scale would benefit nearly 2,200 DRFOs in the Forest Department posted across the State.

DRFOs are recognised as frontline staff in the conservation and preservation of forests, vested with the responsibility of taking measures to ward off forest fires, maintaining vigil in anti-poaching camps, and guarding wildlife from poachers, apart from taking stock of wildlife raiding agricultural fields and handling conflict situations.

“Though the job is as risky and strenuous as that of the police, the pay scales are below that of the likes of Assistant Horticultural Officers,” said a source, adding that pay parity would help boost the morale of the field staff.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 4:43:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/kat-order-on-pay-parity-for-forest-field-staff-not-yet-executed/article31828926.ece

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