THIRUVANANTHAUPRAM: The forest department will soon launch a tribal recruitment drive as part of measures to uproot the incipient shoots of insurgency that seems to have sprouted in the deeps of Kerala. The department will recruit 700 tribals as ‘tribal watchers’ from tribal settlements scattered all over forests in the state. The most number of jobs will be created in Idukki (220) and Palakkad (110), districts where the number of forest-dwelling tribals are the highest.
These newly recruited ‘tribal watchers’ will be posted in the last grade category, with all the perks and emoluments that go with a government job. A top source said they could get a pay of nearly Rs 20,000 a month. As of now, forest-dwelling tribals are working as daily-wage watchers and protection staff for less than half or a fraction of the last-grade scale. “Deprivation could stoke deep resentment. An official study has identified loss of entitlements as the major reason for the flare up of insurgency along the Red Corridor," a top government official said citing the Planning Commission’s study "Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas".
Qualifications have been relaxed to a great degree. For instance, the age limit for tribal watchers has been raised from 35 to 50 years. Children of unwed mothers will be given preference. And 90-odd tribals who had been rendered jobless with the winding up of the AHADS programme will also be given employment under the scheme. Financially-empowered tribals are expected to work wonders for security.
“They can be used gather intelligence on anti-national and terrorist activities inside the forest areas," a top forest official said. What’s more, they can be used along with foresters and forest guards to man the protection camp set up in the interiors of the forests to tackle ganja cultivation, poaching and sandalwood smuggling. There are about 700 tribal settlements in the forests in the state. The total number of families is about 17,000 and the population is about 75,000....