Kendrapara, Feb 12 (LocalWire) Around 175 contractual forest guards, forest watchers, boatmen and others gheroed the divisional forest office of Bhitarkanika National Park at Rajnagar in Kendrapara district on Tuesday, demanding permanent jobs with proper salaries and other benefits.
Bhitarkanika Contractual Workers’ Union president Himanshu Rout, while addressing agitated contractual workers, hauled up officials of the forest department for their indifferent attitude towards temporary staff.
He held forest officials responsible for misery of the workers.
A strong sense of resentment is now brewing among contractual workers of the national park, who feel that injustice was meted out to them by the forest officials as far as employment opportunities are concerned.
“Most temporary guards, even those who worked at the national park for decades, earn as little as Rs 7500 a month,” said Rout.
One should find it hard to imagine that a motor-launch driver of the forest department gets salary of Rs 300 per day though he had been working for more than 12 years at Bhitarkanika National Park . But this is the reality for Bhanucharana Jena ( 35) of Rajnagar village.
Like Bhanucharana, around 175 boatmen, forest guards, forest watchers, turtle guards and others get a meagre amount of Rs 250 to Rs 300 per day since ages, claim the agitators.
“The authorities have been paying only lip service towards our problems as a result our wait to get regular salary since long refuses to end,” said Bhanucharana.
“It is getting impossible to manage without proper salary. One can imagine the difficulty faced by a boatman who has been working since 12 years and still getting around Rs 9000 a month,” he said.
“The forest department appointed me as a boatman in 12 years back with an assurance that my post will be approved by the authorities within five years. But the authority is yet to approve my post for which I have been running from pillar to post to get justice,” he said.
Like Bhanucharana, forest guards Sahadev Pradhan (46 ) and Bibhu Tarei (42) get a paltry salary of Rs. 7500 each per month.
“The state government should provide them permanent jobs with proper salaries,” said Hemant Rout, an environmentalist and secretary of Gahiramatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society (GMTMCS) .
“Around 175 persons work as daily wage workers at Bhitarkanika National Park and its nearby areas. The services of many forest guards, forest watchers , boatmen and others have been regularized. The rest continue to serve as daily wage workers,” said Bhitarkanika Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Bimal Prasan Acharya.
“Lack of proper educational qualification is the main hindrance for many to get permanent jobs,” he said.