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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Aging foresters to be withdrawn from tiger force

ByVijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Feb 23, 2013, 03.00 AM IST Tadoba Special Tiger Protection Force to get 33 jawans, INSAS riflesOutsourcing should reduce expenses: Finance DepartmentIssues will be addressed : CM Prithviraj ChavanComplete infrastructure projects by December: Prithviraj ChavanSoon, law to deter attacks on scribes: Prithviraj Chavan NAGPUR: After finance department raising objections over staff structure of Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF), the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has slightly modified the composition of the force paving way for release of funds. Two STPF platoons have been constituted in Maharashtra in Pench and Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserves. As per the new guidelines issued last month by the NTCA, a statutory body monitoring the tiger reserves, posts of foresters will have to be completely withdrawn from STPF and will be replaced with local van majoors or forest watchers. Earlier, the each STPF platoon consisted of 112 personnel including 90 forest guards, 18 foresters and 3 RFOs, to be headed by an assistant conservator of forests (ACF). However, now there will be no foresters, but 81 special tiger guards (forest guards) and 27 local forest watchers/van majoors. Finance department had raised objections that the condition of recruited staff being below 40 years of age was not being followed in case of foresters. "As there is ban on direct recruitment of foresters in state, it was difficult to get foresters below 40. We had appointed 18 foresters in STPF. Baring four who fulfil the age condition, others will be brought back to their parent cadre phase-wise," said Virendra Tiwari, chief conservator of forests (CCF) and field director, TATR. "The NTCA decided to do away with foresters after it was convinced that young forest guards can be effective. In Pench, we could control illegal fishing with the help of STPF," said MS Reddy, CCF & field director of Pench. Although Maharashtra is the second state after Karnataka to constitute STPF, it has not received any funds despite the state signing tripartite agreement with NTCA. The Centre has to provide 100% support for raising, arming and deploying STPF for protection of tigers in both the reserves. Tiwari said the STPF in Pench and Tadoba needed Rs 1.92 crore towards salaries. Considering the full strength of 224 personnel, the two platoons will need Rs 4.25 crore annually for salary alone. "We have intimated our funds requirement to the NTCA and expect to get them before March. We have also forwarded the recruitment notification sought by the authority last week. Now ball is in the NTCA court," Tiwari said. "Anticipating that the NTCA would release money, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and forest secretary Praveen Pardeshi intervened and released Rs 1.50 crore towards salaries of the personnel. Money is also needed to procure weapons, vehicles, equipment and infrastructure for STPF. If funds are not received, STPF will have to be scrapped," said an official. State principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) SWH Naqvi said the issues had been resolved and NTCA had agreed to release the money.

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