Hyderabad: Forests are a dangerous place for those who are deployed to protect them.
According to the International Ranger Federation, India accounts for 31 per cent of ranger deaths in the world, which is the highest globally. Between 2012-17, India accounted for 162 of the 526 deaths of rangers in the world.
The staff is insufficient and they are unarmed. This makes them vulnerable, said senior forest officials. Mr B. Prabhakar, district forest officer of the thickly forested Adilabad, said, “We have around 90 staff members while we need another 107. Lack of staff is one of the major concerns.”
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests P. Raghuveer said, “In Telangana, we have a very vast area to cover and 60 per cent of staff positions are vacant. Though we are taking the services of the locals, it is not sufficient. The other main concern is not providing weapons to the staff.”
Forests are under the threat of smugglers, leading to a lot of incidents involving forest rangers. Mr Raghuveer said, “We are trying to strengthen the field level protection mechanism by having base camps and deploying strike forces.”
Mr Prabhakar said, “Especially in Adilabad district, the Multani community, who are basically criminals, smuggle teak wood which has high demand outside India. It is an easy way of earning money. They even go to an extent of killing forest staff if they obstruct the Multanis. There have been five assault cases registered in Adilabad in the past five months.”
Mr Raghuveer said a woman forest officer and her colleague in Eturuna-garam were assaulted by a mob that was cutting trees in a reserved forest area to building a road without permission. They were let acquitted by the court. The law is ineffective and army need to deployed in sensitive areas.
The last major attack on forest officials occurred in Telangana in 2013. A nine member team were attac-ked by villagers in Kama-reddy mandal, resulting in the death of a ranger, named Gangiah. The main reason for the lack of safety for rangers at work is the outdated equipment, lack of no emergency medical assistance, inadequate support or safety systems and little awareness of the hazards they face every day.
Mr A. Chiranjeevi, forest range officer, said, “Our main problem is security and if we were provided with a mobile party and weapons it would be helpful.” The government is trying to providing rang-ers by send them out with a gun man. TSPSC has also notified these jobs....