The forest workers in Gujarat have opposed the state Forest Departments move to bring them under the National Rural Employment Generation Act (NREGA) fearing it will cut down their daily wages.
On Saturday,forest workers in Narmada submitted a memorandum to District Forest Officer Dr Sashi
Kumar,demanding that the decision of bringing them under NREGA be immediately scrapped.
Bagabhai Tadvi,a wireless operator with the Forest Department from Narmada told The Indian Express he was shocked to receive a letter last week stating that he will be brought under NREGA.
Why should we be a part of NREGA? It is a scheme for villagers. The average wage of a forest worker is about Rs 140 to 150 a day. I understand that payments do not come on time and there are discrepancies,but if it we are brought under NREGA,our wage will decrease to Rs 100 a day, said Tadvi,who has served the department for 15 years now.
On Saturday,Tadvi and 10 others met Kumar and submitted a memorandum voicing their concerns.
He added: After Banaskantha,it has now been started in Narmada district. Workers in Banaskantha have already approached the Gujarat High Court over the decision to bring forest workers under NREGA. The judgement is still pending. How can they do this to us?
The authorities have,however,assured the workers that some average wage will be fixed for those whose services will be brought under NREGA.
Elsewhere,Kumar told The Indian Express that these orders were for forest workers across Gujarat.
There are about 450 workers here. We have told the workers that something will be worked out for the time being. We will consider the monetary compensation as well. In Gandhinagar,senior forest officers are already working out the modalities of this scheme, he said.
He added that annually about Rs 18 lakh come for the daily wage earners in nine forest ranges across the densely-forested Narmada district.
Mangubhai Tadvi,the leader of the delegation that met Kumar,said though farmers are also involved in forest development and conservation efforts,placing drivers and wireless operators under the scheme is really unfortunate,and the state forest officers must do something about it.