THE four-yearly national tiger census work in Maharashtra is in a bad state with forest guards and foresters returning gadgets like the GPS system, trap cameras and personal data assistant saying they won’t use it unless they are assigned to a technical category and given a corresponding pay-scale.
The census, preparation for which was started in December last year, is to be held between January 20 and 25.
“We have already recommended higher pay for them. But, they are making this irrational demand of being put in the technical category. This amounts to misconduct. We have warned them of action if they don’t get back to work,” a senior Forest official said.
Another official said, “The problem with some forest guards and foresters is that the GPS locates their position in the field and if they remain away from duty it can be detected.”
The Maharashtra Forest Guard and Foresters Union, which is heading protest, is one of the three major unions of the ground staff. President of the Union, Vijay Meher, said, “Our basic demand is pay parity with corresponding posts in departments like Revenue and Police. Despite a High Court directive in 2004 our seniors are not settling the issue. On the contrary, they are putting pressure on us to fall in line. So, we have told them that we won’t use gadgets like GPS, PDA, camera traps. We will do census work by manual methods. We will work strictly according to what has been listed in the work manual. Let the government include the new work with help of gadgets in the manual. It will help us plead our case for pay hike.”
He refuted the allegation that the forest guards and foresters don’t want to use gadgets like GPS to avoid getting caught off duty. “We have always attended the call of duty with sincerity,” he said.
Talking to The Indian Express, Ajay Patil, President of Maharashtra State Forest Guards and Promoted Foresters Union, said, “Use of gadgets has been an issue raised by a few members of the ground staff. The basic issue, however, is not that. Our union is demanding that the forest staff must get pay parity with Revenue staffers at equivalent positions.”