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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Lal Singh harnesses a dead horse to kill a dying horse

Not a single Forestry graduate allowed to enter SFC; no recruitment of technical staff in 28-30 years

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Nov 25: In a radical decision, Jammu and Kashmir’s ebullient Forest Minister Choudhary Lal Singh has taken away the charm from Territorial Forest Department and added some sheen to the nearly defunct Jammu and Kashmir State Forest Corporation (SFC). Earlier this year, entire job of extraction of timber and distribution of timber among the people on concessional rates was shifted from Forest Department to SFC “in order to streamline” the functioning of the twin organisations.

In the current month, SFC has begun the task though it is only scantily resourceful to operate. Not a single cubic foot of timber was distributed in Kashmir valley this year, mainly due to the over four-month-long street turbulence after July 8. But that is not the only reason as SFC has no sufficient technical staff because of total freeze of recruitment in the Corporation in the last 28-30 years.

Interestingly, even as around 800 candidates with graduation, post-graduation and doctorate in Forestry have been running from pillar to post in search of an inferior job of a Forest Guard, clerk or Rehbar-e-Taleem teacher, not a single person with B SC Forestry has been ever appointed against a technical post in SFC.

SFC is a statutory Corporation established under the J&K State Forest Corporation Act, 1978. The erstwhile Government Lumbering Undertaking (GLU), which used to carry out extraction and sale of timber in the State, was merged into the State Forest Corporation. The objectives of the Corporation are “better preservation, supervision and development of forests and better exploitation of forest produce”.

The functions of the Corporation are defined in the J & K SFC Act, as undertaking removal and disposal of trees and exploitation of forest resources entrusted to it by the Government; undertaking research programmes relating to forest and forest products and render technical advice to Government on matters relating to forestry; managing, maintaining and developing such forests as are transferred and entrusted to it by the Government till these are handed back to the Government.

The deficiency of technical staff in SFC can be imagined from the fact that out of the sanctioned strength of 21 Divisional Managers (DMs), it is left with just 5 incumbents. Two more of them are retiring in the next two years. The last appointment of DMs has taken place 30 years back in 1985-86. None of the incumbents has a superior technical qualification over B.A. and B. SC (with DDR) but all of them are posted on superior positions of ‘incharge’ Deputy General Managers (DGMs).

Out of the sanctioned strength of 40 posts of Assistant Divisional Managers, SFC is now left with just 11 incumbents. Even as 29 posts are lying vacant, no recruitment has taken place in the last 30 years. All the incumbents are posted on stop gap arrangement against superior positions.

Out of the sanctioned strength of 50 Range Managers (RMs), SFC is now left with just 19 incumbents as no recruitment has been carried out after 1988. Four more are due to retire in the next one year. In brazen violation of Supreme Court of India’s special directions to J&K Government, all the 19 RMs are functioning as “incharge DMs” since long. The highest qualification of these incumbents is Matriculation to B.A. with in-service DDR.

Out of the sanctioned strength of 500 Block Managers, SFC has currently a total of 325 incumbents. Successive state governments have not allowed even a single of the 800 unemployed Forestry graduates and post-graduates to enter the SFC as Block Managers, a post equivalent to Forester in Forest Department.

All the 9 incumbent Assistant General Managers (AGMs) are operating on superior positions of “incharge Divisional Managers”. Seven of them are due to reach superannuation in the next 6 years. Their highest qualification is 12th pass to MA, with one incumbent being BA LLB. During service, these incumbents have also done SFC or KFC training course.

Currently, SFC has only 5 Deputy General Managers (DGMs) who are all functioning against superior positions of “incharge GMs” in violation of the Supreme Court of India directions against continuation of stop-gap arrangement beyond six months. Of the 5 incumbents, 4 are retiring in the next one year and the last one in 2020. These incumbents are simple B Sc or B Sc Agriculture with in-service training course DDR. As the last of them has been appointed in 1985, SFC has not made any recruitment in the last 31 years.

As regards the top most position of General Managers, next only to Managing Director, SFC has only 6 incumbents. While as some of the GM posts are often left vacant, some are borrowed from the already deficient Forest Department. Out of 6 of the SFC’s own GMs, 5 are retiring in the next four years. Here again the last incumbent’s recruitment has taken place in 1986. Of the 6 incumbents, two are M Sc in Zoology and Botany, three are B Sc Agriculture and one is simple B Sc. During their service career, they have done SFS or DDR course.

“Clearly, SFC has to be shut permanently in the next five years as no Government has carried out fresh recruitment of technical staff in the last 28 to 30 years. It appears that the vested interests of politicians and bureaucrats are mainly responsible for drying out of the technical staff in SFC”, said a retired MD of SFC.

Chairman SFC and Minister incharge Forest Lal Singh could not be reached for his comment.

[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

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