Rajahmundry: Foresters have floated a joint forum to fight for their rights. Forest officials — from the rank of assistant conservator of forests to assistant beat officer — formed a Joint Action Committee with their associations, including Assistant Conservators of Forests Association, Forest Range Officers Association and Junior Forest Officers Association recently, alleging that they were being subjected to intense pressure while discharging their duties since there were nearly 45 per cent posts that had been lying vacant for a long time.
Senior officers at the circle, divisional and range levels are being entrusted with additional charge, which was causing a huge burden on them in the discharge of their duties. AP Range Officers’ Association Rajahmundry Circle secretary P.B.N. Kumar said, “We have formed a joint action committee to protect our interests and also to conserve and protect the forests and wildlife.”
A proposal to provide pistols to forest officials at range level for self-defence and for protection of wildlife, has been pending with the state government for a long time.
Forest officials allege that their personnel were becoming easy prey to smugglers, involved in felling trees, including red sanders, and smuggling them out of the forests, poachers who killed animals for their skin, claws, bones and elephant ivory, and also those who were encroaching upon forest land and availing of forest wealth.The foresters, being unarmed, could hardly put up a resistance to smugglers and poachers who usually carried deadly weapons.
The foresters are also unhappy over the way they were being subjected to pressure from a section of political leaders and senior officials who were urging them to deviate from the straight and narrow and allow some illegal activity.
For instance, some forest officials are unwilling to be posted at Eluru in West Godavari to look after the Kolleru wildlife sanctuary as the fish mafia has cast a nefarious net over the place, encroaching upon it with the active connivance of local political leaders to dig fish tanks and carry out pisciculture for commercial purposes while destroying the ecology of the area by discharging effluents from the tanks into the water bodies.
The forest officials are expected to turn a blind eye to such activities; if they make any effort to stop such acts and have them comply with the norms, they invariably invite the wrath of political leaders and the state government.
When an assistant conservator of forests Subhadra Devi resisted the illegal activity being carried out at the behest of local politicians, she was not only transferred from her post, but was sent away to Telangana state though she hails from Andhra Pradesh.
Recently, divisional forest officer in-charge (wildlife) Siva Sankar Reddy went on leave for three weeks ostensibly for medical reasons: he had been subjected to pressure by the local politicians when he tried to do his job of protecting the sanctuary.