Officials told TOI that at present over 160 posts of frontline staff are vacant in western Assam’s Manas National Park, which is home to tigers, while the famous Kaziranga National Park has around 300 vacancies. Conservationists pointed out that the shortage of manpower has impacted both forest development and administration in most of the ranges which may harm wildlife and forest conservation.
“There is a staff crunch across departments. But we are keeping the Manas and Kaziranga in a better position than the other protected areas,” senior forest official Satyendra Singh told TOI.
The officials are pinning hope on the committee constituted to appoint 1 lakh youths as promised in the elections. As many as 3,000 vacancies for the posts of forest watchers, guards, foresters and other frontline staff are waiting to be filled up through direct recruitment across the state, officials said.
The vacancies in the wildlife divisions are an ACF each in Eastern Assam and Western Assam, four forest rangers in Biswanath, one forest ranger in Guwahati, four forest rangers in Manas and one forest ranger in Bura Chapori among others.
The activists said lack of manpower has hampered the monitoring of the movement of animals in the critical wildlife habitat protected areas.
“It is the duty of the Chief Wildlife Warden to place the serious issues of wildlife before the government, however the wildlife wing of the Assam forest department is least concerned about the safety of wildlife areas. Powerful politicians have done constructions on the Kanchanjuri animal corridor of KNP and the wildlife wing, along with the park authority, has looked the other way,” said RTI and environment activist Rohit Choudhury.
Assam chief minister announced a hike of ration allowance from Rs1,200 to Rs 2,000 in the last floods for the frontline staff and this was possible only because of the personal intervention of the chief minister in the last meeting held in Kaziranga on May 27, 2021.
“Most unfortunate is that after placing the demand of more staff in KNP before the CM, a conservator of forest was called back from Kaziranga to Aranya Bhawan within 10 days of his posting in Kaziranga,” said Choudhury.