Born to be guardians of the forest

The passing out parade of tribal forest watchers held at Thekkady in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Idukki district on Thursday.

The passing out parade of tribal forest watchers held at Thekkady in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Idukki district on Thursday.  

700 tribespeople officially inducted as forest watchers in special recruitment drive

For tribespeople, forest is home and hearth. And they are naturally qualified to guard it and hence the question of school or college qualification does not arise.

So no strict qualification criteria were fixed when 700 tribespeople were inducted into the Forest Department as forest watchers four years ago in a special recruitment drive. Their age also did not become a hurdle, as some of them have been serving the government utility since their young age on a daily wage basis.

On Thursday, at the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), one of the 10 training centres, the tribal forest watchers were officially inducted into the department post their training for three months in the modalities of departmental functioning and after a first-of-its kind passing-out parade.

“Nearly 350 tribal forest watchers passed out in the first batch,” Joji John, coordinator, Research Range Forest Officer, Periyar Tiger Reserve, told The Hindu. The passing-out parade at Thekkady saw 79 forest watchers from the PTR and the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary, including women, taking part. Georgi P. Mathachen, Field Director, PTR, inspected the parade. Silpa V. Kumar, deputy director, PTR, P.U. Saju, wildlife warden, Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary, among others, attended the function.

The passing out of the second batch is scheduled on September 24.

First among the 40 pass-outs from the PTR centre, Sibalmon E.B. has been serving as a forest watcher for 20 years after he completed the SSLC. A resident of the Mozhikal forest settlement in the PTR, he feels the special recruitment will make his service permanent and its facilities and duties more organised.

For Rajeni R., who was among the pass-outs at the PTR, it is sheer love for the forests that prompted her into the job. She claims to belong to the forests and loves living there. Her husband too is a forest watcher. She is a mother of three — her eldest has finished postgraduation and is preparing for Civil Services.

The second one completed graduation and and the third is a second-year degree student.

The recruits were given training in territorial area, depot, and forest stations and taken to a study tour to different areas including, Konni, Thattekaduu and Peechi. There were also classes and practical lessons before the trainees appeared for a test and viva. For the tribespeople, these sessions would just be an add-on. They have been trained since birth to care for forests, the home of their forefathers.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 1:59:18 AM |

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