GUWAHATI, Feb 27 - Adequate budget provision to meet the wages of home guards, casual workers and fixed-pay staff of the Forest department; less dependency on funds from outside the State; time-bound completion of projects related to wildlife protection and afforestation; enhancement of the compensation given to victims of man-animal conflict; magisterial powers to forest officials and modernisation of the forest protection force � these are some of the recommendations made by an Assembly committee which reviewed the functioning of the State�s forest department.
The Departmentally Related Standing Committee of Development (A) Departments headed by legislator Prasanta Phukan observed that officials of the forest department dealing with wildlife crime need more powers under the CrPC and Arms Act and other such provisions so that poaching and crime against wildlife and forests can be curbed effectively and the miscreants punished promptly.
In its observation and recommendations, the committee asked the forest department to initiate steps to provide adequate magisterial powers to the forest officials.
The committee also noted that the department was ill equipped in terms of vehicles, equipment, devices and technology to counter well-equipped and well-armed poachers and timber smugglers. It sought adequate provision in the budget for modernisation of the forest force and procurement of vehicles, arms and ammunition, search lights and other important equipment for wildlife and forest protection.
Moreover, the 25-member committee also noted that there was no provision in the budget for wages of home guards, casual workers and fixed-pay workers of the department, due to which the personnel, most of whom are engaged in frontline duties in parks and sanctuaries, were not getting their salaries on time.
It also expressed concern regarding lack of promotional prospects of the frontline staff who are serving in the department without promotion for more than 20 to 30 years. The committee advocated for a comprehensive plan of assured career progression as well as filling up of all vacant posts.
In Kaziranga, the committee strongly recommended construction of raised platforms or highlands with adequate vegetation so that animals can take shelter in these patches during floods.
Also, the compensation given to victims of man-animal conflict is very less, the committee felt and sought its enhancement.
Observing that there was a need for public awareness and participation to make Assam green and carbon negative, the committee recommended that the department should come up with a scheme for creation of small forest areas of suitable size.