In 32 years, J&K Forest Department appointed just 59 Range Officers, 84 ACFs
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
J&K PSC took 9 years to select 35 ROs, 7 years to select 15 ROs, 7 years to select 40 ACFs
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, March 1: In a bizarre contrast to their tall claims on conservation and management of the State’s rich, yet diminishing, sylvan cover, neither the politicians nor the bureaucracy in Jammu and Kashmir has discharged its duty to protect the supposedly top-priority Forest sector. Believe it or not, it is a fact that a total of 59 Range Officers Grade-I and just 84 Assistant Conservators of Forest (ACFs) have been directly appointed in the Territorial Forest Department in the last 32 years.
Most of the ACFs appointed in 1984 have either retired from service or are now close to their superannuation as Conservators of Forest (CF). Similar is the case with the ROs-I appointed in early 1980s.
Since there has been no re-organisation of the department’s lower and middle technical levels for the Kashmir Forest Service (KFS) officers like ROs, ACFs, DCFs/DFOs in the last over 50 years and most of the incumbents have already retired, the number of directly recruited and technically qualified officers has drastically reduced. On the other hand, not even 3% of the 800 unemployed Forestry graduates and post-graduates have been able to get a job in Forest Department.
IAS-IFS commune has taken due care of the promotional prospects of the IFS regular recruits, who are mostly from non-J&K States. With the re-organisation being restricted to only the senior IFS positions, the sanctioned strength of Principal Chief Conservators of Forest (PCCFs) has risen to 3, Additional PCCFs to 7, CCFs to 16 and CFs to 21. On the other hand, the sanctioned strength of ROs-I has been static at 220 and ACFs at 64 in the last 50 years. Under rules, re-organisation of cadres is supposed to be executed once in 10 years.
According to the Forest Department’s official website, there are a total of 66 ROs-I (out of whom 35 have been placed as “incharge ACFs/DCFs” in violation of the Supreme Court of India guidelines and without the approval of Public Service Commission (PSC) and Departmental Promotion Committees (DPCs). Total number of ROs-II is just 34. Even some ROs-II have been posted as “incharge ACFs”. Blue-eyed “incharge ACFs”, who are substantively either RO-I or RO-II, have been conveniently functioning as Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) as the successive governments have not appointed any DCFs in their divisions.
Politically well-connected of the “incharge ACFs” have been simultaneously holding charge of two or even three divisions.
An application, filed under Right To Information Act by Jammu-based activist Prof S.K. Bhalla, has revealed how Ministers and bureaucrats of successive governments have been insensitive and irresponsible in replenishment of technical human resource in Forest Department.
According to the Government’s reply, after the 1985 direct recruitments, it was on 1-3-1994 and 5-7-1994 that Forest Department referred 21 posts of ROs-I for making selection to J&K PSC. Later, 16 more posts of RO-I were referred to PSC on 24-11-1995 and 15-12-1995. PSC took around 9 years to complete the process. On 23-12-2003, it issued the selection list in favour of 35 candidates who were subsequently appointed as RO-I by Forest Department in 2004.
The second direct recruitment process started in 2004. On 19-8-2004 and 22-3-2005, Forest Department referred 23 vacancies of RO-I for selection of candidates to PSC. Again working at snail’s pace, PSC took 7 long years to complete the process. It issued the selection list of 15 candidates on 22-7-2011 and Forest Department issued the formal appointment orders in favour of the 15 candidates on 4-8-2011.
Subsequently appointment of one candidate in Open Merit category and 8 more in other reserved categories was made 11-6-2012, 18-9-2013 and 24-12-2013.
With this a total of 59 ROs-I were appointed by Forest Department from 1984 to 2016. While as 30% of the RO-I vacancies are supposed to be filled up through direct recruitment by PSC, 70% of the vacancies stand reserved for promotion of ROs-II and Foresters having DDR training.
As regards the ACFs, after 1984, the first direct recruitment through PSC took place in 2004. On 24-5-2004, after years of sluggish exercise by PSC, Forest Department appointed 42 candidates as ACFs.
The second and the last process of direct recruitment of ACFs started in 2004. On 18-6-2004 and 25-1-2006, Forest Department referred 40 vacancies of ACFs for selection of candidates to PSC. After 7 long years, PSC issued selection list in favour of 40 candidates on 16-5-2011 who were subsequently appointed as ACFs by Forest Department on 18-5-2011. Later 2 more ACFs were appointed on 1-12-2011.
Thus a total of only 84 ACFs have been recruited through PSC by Forest Department of J&K Government from 1984 to 2016.