Chink in Gir armour: 45% field staff posts lying vacant
THE TIMES OF INDIA
JUNAGADH: The state government seems to be taking protection of Gujarat's pridethe Asiatic lions very lightly. Figures obtained from the forest department show that nearly 45% of the total sanctioned post of administrative and crucial field staff in the four division of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park are lying vacant.
The field staff of Gir East, Gir West, Sasan and Special Task Force, that is essential for protection of the endangered lion, are working with nearly half its sanctioned strength. The Junagadh forest division that includes Girnar Sanctuary also faces the same problem.
A senior IFS officer said, "Currently, the major concern for us is shortage of crucial ground level staff in all four divisions. Gir forest is 10% of state's total protected area but has the least number of staff." The field staff members include assistant conservator of forest, range forest officer, forest guard and others.
"Gir East (Dhari) known for number of human-wildlife conflicts, lions venturing into private lands and illegal lion shows, is facing acute staff shortage," he added.
However, top officials of forest department claimed that they were in process of recruiting forest guards, which would ultimately ease the situation."We are in the process of recruiting around 1,500 forest guards and once they are in the field, staff shortage situation will reduce. Also, a batch of RFOs and ACFs are under training and they will soon join the department," G K Sinha, principal chief conservator of forests, (wildlife), told TOI.
"Further many posts will fall vacant as number of staff are set to retire soon.In important Dalkhaniya, Hadala, Tulshishyam, Chhodavadi and Devaliya have no RFOs'' said a forest official.
The Special Task Force, which was set up after lion poaching incident in 2007, has only four members against sanctioned post of 24. "The task force was created to solve wildlife crime and other important protection aspects in greater Gir but government made it almost `useless'. Government knew years ago that number of staff would retire, but it did not start recruitment and as a result situation is grim," said a forest officer.