Close to 4,500 vacancies in Forest Dept.
According to annual report for 2020-21, the total staff strength in the department is 13,244
The State Government has admitted that there are close to 4,500 vacancies in the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD), leading to questions about the functioning of the department at a time, when there are huge concerns over forest cover and threats to such areas.
During the recently concluded session, Forest Minister Umesh V. Katti, responding to a question, said the KFD had 4,444 vacant posts. Of these, 2,743 were in Group C, 1,455 in Group D, 145 in Group B, and 101 in Group A. According to the annual report of the KFD for 2020-21, in addition to the territorial, wildlife and social forestry units, the department has functional units such as Working Plan, Research, Training, Evaluation, Vigilance, ICT cell, and Mobile Squads.
“The total staff strength in the department is 13,244, of which 8,948 are filled and 4,296 are vacant. The number of daily wage staff working under Karnataka Daily Wage Employees Welfare Rules -2013 is 3,285,” the report said.
Forest areas and duties
According to the report, the total recorded forest area in the State is 41,590.16 sqkm. The State has a network of protected areas with five national parks, 33 wildlife sanctuaries (including five tiger reserves), 14 conservation reserves, and one community reserve.
The work carried out by the department can be broadly classified into the following categories: regulatory, protection, conservation, and sustainable management, the report added. While regulatory functions include enforcing provisions of various legislations such as the Karnataka Forest Act 1963, the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act 1976, protection functions include boundary consolidation, protection of forest areas from encroachment, illicit-felling, mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, undertaking fire prevention, and control measures.
Conservation functions include taking up plantation works, soil-moisture conservation, and watershed development works for water security, conservation of
rare, endangered and threatened species and conducting awareness activities.
Conservationists point out to the dangers of having such a large number of vacancies.
“The functioning of the department is affected. They are crucial for so many activities: fire prevention, anti poaching, protection, tiger census, etc. Forest guards should not be doubling up and doing other duties and focus on protection alone. It is high time that the KFD writes to the finance department and fills up vacancies,” said a conservationist.
Forest Department officials were unavailable for comment.
However, Mr. Katti, in his response, had said that for every 500 to 1,500 hectares, there is one forest guard. There is no proposal to increase this number, instead the focus will be on filling existing vacancies, he had said. He had also said that the recruitment process for appointing 339 forest guards began in March 2020 and the process was on.