Haryana government’s decision to hand over Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks to the ‘Wildlife Wing’ of the Forest Department from the ‘Territorial wing’ is being seen as a “de facto” bifurcation of the department, with concerns that it may hit forestry projects in the state. However, Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) Sunil Gulati has stressed that the latest decision has been taken to improve the functioning of the department and balancing the work.
An order issued by the ACS on May 25 and accessed by The Indian Express makes a reference to transfer of Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks from the Territorial Wing. The Territorial Wing is considered the spine of the Forest Department and is responsible for protection as well as increase of the forest areas. This wing is headed by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), who is considered boss of the Forest Department.
The Wildlife Wing, is also headed by a PCCF-rank official, but it is a comparatively smaller unit in the department. “The entire work of Forestry and Wildlife in the Protected Areas (Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks) of the Forest Deptt. in the State is hereby transferred to Wildlife Wing. All forestry works and other ancillary activities will henceforth be carried out by Wildlife Wing only in the Protected Areas. The budget allocation for these activities will, however, be routed through the office of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests as per the current practice,” mentioned the ACS order.
A section of IFS officers, however, term it as an attempt “to downsize the dominance of Territorial Wing”. “Research, publicity, monitoring, working plan are essentially for support to Territorial Wing. To put them under Wildlife is illogical. In the 165-year history of the Forest Department, such system has been introduced first time. No other state has such system,” said an IFS officer of the Forest Department requesting anonymity.
“Now, the budgets will be approved by the PCCF (Main), but execution and monitoring of the works will be done by the PCCF (Wildlife). The field officers will have to report to both heads: PCCF (Main) and PCCF (Wildlife). It will create bitterness among the senior forest officers because of two power centres. Under these circumstances, the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) will be de facto Head of the Department in place of the PCCF (main). This is causing heartburn among the forest officers,” said another officer.
“Each of the technical department has Head of Department (HOD) from their own cadre like an IPS in Police and an engineer in Engineering Department. But in forest department, an IAS will enjoy most of the powers,” he added.
In a press release, Haryana Van Karamchari Sangh president Jiwan Singh, general secretary Vineet Kumar and senior vice president Jogender Singh Karontha said, “This decision will completely mismanage functioning of the department. It has put a question mark on achieving targets of plantation this year.”
Gulati strongly refuted the apprehensions dismissing allegations of “two power centres and de-facto head”.
“Latest decision will affect only 12 per cent area of the total forest area in the state. Now, the Wildlife Wing will be able to approve its projects by itself and it will smoothen their work system,” said Gulati. According to Gulati, a proposal in this connection was prepared by current PCCF (Main) himself when he was holding the post of PCCF (Wildlife).
“When, PCCF (Wildlife) gets full salary then why we won’t give him full work. He will have to do monitoring and evaluation of the works. Earlier also, some of the works were handed over to PCCF (Wildlife),” said Gulati.
But a section of IFS officers and employees see the latest decision as followup of another decision taken in March when financial powers of the forest officers, including top IFS officers, were curtailed drastically. Gulati appointed ACS (Forests) on April 12.