In three months, the ‘hello forest’ helpline number — 1926 — has received over 8,500 calls, with poaching, illegal tree felling and encroachment being the major complaints.
The helpline, launched on January 5, is aimed at making forest governance transparent and credible. According to state forest officials, 945 emergency calls were made to the call centre with the dedicated 24X7 helpline facility. This was a first-of-its-kind single-point public interface with the forest department.
The call centre facility has been set up at Goregaon in Mumbai and work has been outsourced to SAAR IT solutions, while experts from Pune and Nagpur oversee the operations. In the last three months, the maximum number of emergency calls pertained to Aurangabad, Pune, Kolhapur and Thane circles. “The intervention has helped… while January saw the highest number of emergency calls, the number of complaints were fewer by March,”
Pravin Shrivastava, additional principal chief conservator of forest, told The Indian Express.
“For instance, in January, the number of calls received for complaints about poaching were 189, which fell to 48 in March. Similarly, the number of calls on illegal tree felling were 174 in January, which came down to 54 in March,” said Shrivastava.
However, he said the number of calls about forest fires increased from 34 in January to 122 in March. Kolhapur , Pune and Thane circles had received the highest number of emergency calls on forest fires. There were 60 calls regarding forest fires at Kolhapur circle, while 40 calls pertained to Pune circle and 41 to Thane circle.
“…There were 67 calls regarding illegal tree felling pertaining to Aurangabad circle, 36 in Pune circle, 40 at Kolhapur and 41 at Thane,” said Shrivastava. There were 77 calls regarding complaints about poaching at Aurangabad, 26 calls regarding poaching complaints at Kolhapur and 24 at Pune.
There were 158 calls pertaining to eco-tourism while 1,200 calls were made from the green army, an initiative of the forest department to encourage the planting of trees and protect the tree cover in the state. The green army comprises volunteers who look after newly-planted trees.
Within just five minutes of receiving a call, an SMS and e-mail is sent to the forest officer concerned to act on the complaint. “We have also received compliance reports about the action taken in several cases,” said Shrivastava.
While a minimum of 48 hours and a maximum of four days has been set aside to work on various complaints, the helpline also tries to get back in touch with the caller and inform them about the action taken. The forest department is now planning a survey on the satisfaction rate among callers.