Basking in success but TN Forest Dept battles internal issues

Sources said the problem was not shortage of officials or dearth of talent. Rather, the issue that the department is facing is one of administrative delay.
Representative image
Representative image

CHENNAI: Even as the state Forest Department has won several accolades in the recent past by getting more Ramser sites and the declaration of the Agasthyamalai as an elephant reserve, the department has been slipping in maintaining professional training, upgrading posts and focusing on research activities.

There were several problems due to lack of professional management of the cadre, said insiders and retired senior officials, cautioning that this could affect the conservation activities that Tamil Nadu has been pioneering.

“For instance, a single officer in the rank of Conservator of Forests has to manage two tiger reserves (Srivilliputhur – Megamalai Tiger Reserve and Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve) and eight territorial forest divisions from Madurai to Kanniyakumari,” said a retired official.

Sources said the problem was not shortage of officials or dearth of talent. Rather, the issue that the department is facing is one of administrative delay. The Forest Department has always been provided lesser significance when compared to other departments dealt with by IPS and IAS officers, the retired bureaucrat fumed, adding that while IAS and IPS promotions have been cleared till 1992 batch, IFS officers from 1990 batch are still running from pillar to post for cadre upgradation, he added.

Salary pending for temporary staff involved in anti-poaching patrol and bird watchers is another issue, said a department insider, adding that when top posts are vacant, such issues pop up more. Even while agreeing that the department has managed to win several recognitions in the recent past, particularly after Supriya Sahu became the department secretary, the source said the issues haunting the department for years together require top-level government attention.

Citing an example, the person said the temporary staff at Udayamarthandapuram Bird Sanctuary, which is now a Ramsar site, have not been paid for months and have now been asked to be on leave. The situation of biologists was even worse, the source added.

Even after putting in more than two decades, the biologists have not been promoted and the dept has not recruited permanent biologists on a fixed pay scale.

When contacted, Environment and Forest Department Secretary Supriya Sahu said, “The department is working on these issues and the process to address them is already on.”

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