Uttarakhand: Corbett, Rajaji reserves suffer acute staff shortage
Rishikesh: Despite being reputed all over the world as the natural habitats of the Royal Bengal tigers and Asiatic elephants, both Corbett and Rajaji Tiger Reserves in Uttarakhand suffer from an acute shortage of frontline staff like forest guards and rangers who are considered crucial to wildlife conservation and management.
Located in Nainital and Haridwar districts of Uttarakhand, respectively, the two reserves are battling a shortage of around 40 per cent of staff, including forest guards, forest rangers and forest section officers, authorities at the two reserves said.
At least 13 posts of forest rangers have long been lying vacant in the 33 forest ranges of the reserves, they said.
"We suffer from around 40 per cent shortage of frontline staff. Against a sanctioned strength of 149 forest guards we have only 86. The sanctioned strength for forest rangers in Rajaji is 14 against which we have only 10," Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR) Director Sanatan Sonkar told PTI.
Out of 16 sanctioned posts of deputy forest rangers there are only nine at Rajaji, he said.
"When considered in the light of the fact that RTR is entrusted with the task of conserving and managing 34 tigers and 360 elephants besides a variety of other wildlife in an area spread over 854 KM, we must overcome the shortage at the earliest," Sonkar said.
Seventeen years after the creation of Uttarakhand, recruitment bylaws for forest guards were cleared by the state government last year and an estimate of the requirements accordingly were sent by the reserve authorities but a response is awaited, he said.
"As the process is underway we hope sooner or later the shortage of staff will be overcome but the sooner it is done the better as we are entrusted with a huge responsibility," Sonkar said, adding that the RTR is taking the services of 200 daily wage labourers to keep the show going on in the absence of enough forest guards.
Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) Field Director Rahul, who does not use a surname, admitted that the reserve suffers from a shortage of around 40 per cent frontline staff.
"The shortage of frontline staff who are out in the field and play a pivotal role in wildlife conservation is definitely acute as it stands at around 40 per cent but we are somehow managing things as conservation is our top priority," he said.
There are around 300 daily wage labourers working for the CTR at present to help compensate for the shortage of forest guards, he said.
"There are 16 forest ranges in Corbett spread over an area of 1288.3 square km out of which 12 are territorial forests. We have to take care of 204 tigers and 1,080 elephants (as per 2017 wildlife census), but still there is a shortage of nine rangers," he said.