NATIONAL

Wanted: safety net for forest watchers

Their plight comes to the fore after animal attack on two persons

The plight of forest watchers, who traverse long distances on foot through uninhabited areas, came to the fore after a recent incident in Bhadra Tiger Reserve.

On August 21, forest watchers Nagesh and Manu were attacked by two sloth bears while they were on foot patrol in Hebbe range.

Serious injuries

Nagesh suffered severe injuries on his face, including a mangled nose, and several deep wounds on his body. Manu has a fractured left hand and also bears deep bite wounds all over his torso.

Officials said despite the serious injuries, the duo managed to return to their camp about 3 km away. The staff of Bhadra Tiger Reserve took them to Chikkamagaluru from where they were shifted to a private hospital in Mangaluru.

Like Nagesh and Manu, many forest watchers in the State work on daily wages, earning Rs. 5,000 a month. Their duty is to patrol up to 15.35 sq km daily.

“The pay is meagre, as agricultural labourers in the region earn nearly double this amount. A long-pending suggestion to raise their basic allowance by 50 per cent — as hardship allowance, which is given to police in Naxal-affected areas — has been rejected by three successive governments,” says Sanjay Gubbi, conservationist.

His proposal for introduction of hardship allowance, which would cost Rs. 3.3 crore annually, was approved by the State Wildlife Board in 2009. In November 2014, the Forest Department also recommended the allowance, but the State government is yet to issue a notification.

Ajai Mishra, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), said, “The department pays for the entire treatment of attacked watchers. Though the compensation for general injuries is just Rs. 20,000, NGOs in protected areas tend to raise money to ensure the family is taken care of.”



A long-pending suggestion to raise their basic allowance by 50 per cent — as hardship allowance, which is given to police in Naxal-affected areas — has been rejected by three successive governments






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