The sad demise of a forest guard, Murugappa Gouda Thammannanavar, who was deployed during the Bandipur forest fire, has brought to the fore the difficulties faced by the forest department.
A senior official said that the forest fire has highlighted the need to improve housing facilities for the forest staff.
“There are inadequate housing facilities for forest staff and their families to reside around the reserve forests, so that the officers continue to work here rather than apply for transfers. This initiative will need at least Rs 500 crore for setting up these facilities,” a senior officer said.
According to the recruitment norms, newly recruited officers must spend at least five years in tiger reserves. However, after the completion of this term, most of the officers apply for transfers.
Over 60% of the frontline posts have been lying vacant in the forest department, said the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) BJ Hosmath, while adding that the perpetual staff shortage has made it difficult for the Karnataka Forest Department to handle forest fires effectively.
Forest, Environment and Ecology Minister Ramanath Rai told media persons that serious thought will be given to improve the conditions of forest staff with respect to work and also housing.
A memorandum has been submitted to the minister on Tuesday in which forest staff have demanded that their pay be at par with that of other police personnel.
They also demanded that the vacancies be filled as soon as possible and that adequate staff be appointed for every beat.
The minister assured that their demands would be met. He also said that over 2,000 additional staff will be hired for the entire state and workshops will be conducted on how to handle forest fires in the future, keeping in mind the difficulties faced during the Bandipur incident.
A compensation of Rs 25 lakh has been announced to the family of the deceased officer and an additional Rs 2 lakh compensation from the Karnataka State Forest Industries Corporation Limited.
The minister told media persons that Murugappa’s wife will be offered a government job.