Mehbooba wants them as Range Officers, her Govt wants them as Forest Guards
Lal Singh’s ‘Rehbar-e-Janglaat’ scheme is a shot in the leg for Forestry graduates as a woman with Ph D will be paid Rs 5,000/month for 5 years and thereafter regularised as Forest Guard
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, Feb 8: Forest Minister Choudhary Lal Singh seemed to be doing a great favour to both, his departments as well as the 500-odd unemployed Forestry graduates, on January 30 as he was seen insisting Chief Minister announce in her speech in the Assembly the much-hyped ‘Rehbar-e-Janglaat’ scheme. “I am coming to that. I am coming to Rehbar-e-Janglaat”, Chief Minister retorted and committed on the floor of the House that her Government would soon engage “all the highly educated Forestry graduates against the vacancies in the Forest Department”.
Even as Ms Mufti’s Ministers later assured the unemployed Forestry graduates that the PDP-BJP coalition was going to end their decade-long trauma and they would be absorbed in the Forest Department (Territorial) and 10 related departments as Range Officers (ROs), STATE TIMES has learned that the ‘Rehbar-e-Janglaat’ scheme is nothing but death without poison for the unemployed Forestry graduates.
Chief Minister is perceived to be reasonably compassionate and in favour of recruiting all the unemployed youths with B. Sc Forestry, M. Sc Forestry and Ph. D Forestry on the positions commensurate with their high qualification and technical training. Knowing that there have been no technical recruitments, with just a few exceptions, in Forest sector in the last 32 years in Jammu and Kashmir and all the qualified officers recruited before 1990 are going to retire in the next few years, Chief Minister reportedly wants the unemployed Forestry graduates appointed as Range Officers, Assistant Directors in Forest Protection Force and equivalent posts in State Forest Corporation, Wildlife Protection and other related departments.
However, enquiries by this newspaper revealed that Forest Minister Lal Singh actually wants to engage an army of Forest Guards with qualifications ranging from Matriculation to Doctorate in Forestry against paltry remuneration of Rs 5,000 a month for 5 years. Thereafter, they will be ‘regularised’ as Forest Guards [Rs 5200 —Rs 20,200; Grade Pay Rs 1900]. This is equal to a junior assistant and just a minor level above the class 4th Orderly and Chowkidar. Range Officers’ pay scale is Rs 9,300—Rs 34,800; Grade Pay Rs 4280.
Officials in the office of Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), A.K. Singh, disclosed to this newspaper that Forest Minister has recently requisitioned compilation of a list of all Forest Guard vacancies.
“As of now, Minister wants to engage 500 or 600 people with qualification of Matriculation, 12th Pass and Graduation/PG in Forestry as need-based Forest Guards who would be subsequently regularised as Forest Guards after 5 years. There’s no plan of recruiting anybody as Range Officer or ACF for which the Forestry graduates are qualified and trained. They are just misleading these people with their lies”, said a senior officer on condition of anonymity. He said that no vacancy was referred to PSC and no steps were afoot to fill up vacancies of Assistant Directors in Forest Protection Force or Managers in State Forest Corporation. These have been lying in limbo for decades.
Commissioner-Secretary Forest Mohammad Afzal Bhat has no hesitation to put himself on record. “No, the Government, as of now, has no plans of appointing any of the Forestry graduates as Range Officer, ACF or equivalent. We are just working on so-called Rehbar-e-Janglaat scheme that has been in fact submitted by PCCF some years ago. We have further submitted it to Finance Department. The only vacancies available with us are of Forest Guards. We have worked out that after 5 years, we will be having 1000 to 1200 vacancies of Forest Guards. Under Rehbar-e-Janglaat scheme, we are planning to engage Forestry graduates and above as ‘Rehbar’ and they will be regularised as Forest Guards after 5 years. For 5 years, they will be paid Rs 5,000 per month”, Mr Bhat told STATE TIMES.
“This is Mehbooba Government’s shot in our leg. It would be less cruel if she sprays bullets and shoots us dead. This is the death without poison”, said a 39-year-old unemployed youth who has completed B. Sc Forestry, M. Sc Forestry and Ph. D in Forestry from the year 2000 to 2010. “How can we work at a place where our illiterate Orderlies and Chowkidars will take Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 a month and we will be paid Rs 5,000? Besides, people like me will have to be in regular service for just 15 years”, he added.
Commissioner-Secretary Forest Mr Bhat maintained that under the existing recruitment scheme only Forest Guards and Foresters in non-gazetted and ROs Grade-I and Assistant Conservators of Forest (ACFs) in gazetted are directly appointed by Services Selection Board and J&K Public Service Commission respectively. RO Grade-II vacancies are fully reserved for promotion of in-service Foresters. “We have inadequate number of vacancies of Foresters and RO Grade-I. So we have decided to engage them as Forest Guards. Right now the ball is in the court of Finance Department. If there’s a direction from the top, Finance Department in coordination with Planning Department can formulate an innovative scheme”, Mr Bhat asserted.
One of the retired bureaucrats said that the Government could re-organise Forest and Forest-related departments at ACF and RO level. “They can create fresh posts as per the latest requirement. There has been a reorganisation for the comfort of PCCFs, additional PCCFs, CCFs and CFs but in the last 60 years there has been no reorganisation in these departments at ACF or RO level”, he explained. “It is a totally man-made crisis. J&K is a Forest state and currently we need technically trained and highly qualified staff. Currently we have ROs, DFOs and CFs who are totally illiterate in Forestry. Some of them are matriculates. Some have graduation in Arts. And, they too are all retiring in next three years”, he added.
The ‘beneficiaries’ of Mehbooba Government’s largesse will pathetically include Massarat Aziz who has a graduation, post-graduation, a PG diploma and Doctorate in Forestry. Born and brought up in Habbakadal, Srinagar, Massarat is married and settled in Jammu. Currently she works on a temporary arrangement as Technical Assistant in the Government of India-regulated Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) in Forest Department for remuneration of Rs 13,500 a month. Under Lal Singh’s scheme, she will be engaged as temporary Forest Guard, paid peanuts of Rs 5,000 a month for 5 years and thereafter regularised as Forest Guard. Her classmates of different Indian states by then would become Professors in Agriculture universities.
“I had a passion for Forestry. My brother is also a Forestry graduate. Out of my four sisters, one has Ph. D in Horticulture and is now working as Gazetted officer in Agriculture Department. Another sister has M. Sc in microbiology and works in Saudi Arabia. Another sister is a doctor at SMHS Hospital in Srinagar and yet another sister is an advocate. Among them all, I am the least earning”, Massarat told STATE TIMES.
“We had high hopes from a lady Chief Minister. But her Minister and bureaucracy have been extremely cruel to us. We can only curse them and our bad luck”, said another female with post-graduation in Forestry.