Odisha Police to guard Similipal sanctuary as forest staff association still on cease work

Baripada: Police personnel are to guard Similipal sanctuary in Mayurbhanj as members of Odisha non-gazetted forest services association have completely stopped foot patrolling from June 19 over a 5-point charter of demands, following the gunshot of two of their colleagues in the national park.

This was informed today by Similipal Field Director and Regional Chief Conservator of Forests Prakash Chand Gogineni. Acting on an order of Chief Secretary Pradeep Kumar Jena it has been decided that three platoons of police force will guard the forest cover, including the animals living in it.

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However, attempts are on to engage 150 forest personnel from other divisions for surveillance.

More than 800 forest staffs are still on cease work. At least 241 forest personnel started the protest on June 23 and about 600 protection assistants (PAs) later joined them and have ceased work from July 1 till date, Gogineni further said.

On the other hand, former honorary wildlife caretaker Bhanumitra Acharya said, “Police force may not be able to effectively guard the vast sanctuary spanning over an area of 2,750 square kilometers and which has very poor road connectivity. Forest personnel are specially trained for surveillance in tough terrains. It would be better if CRPF jawans will be engaged for the purpose along with policemen.

“Resentment gradually brewed up among the forest staff across Odisha after the killing of both forester Mathi Hansda on June 16 night and forest guard Bimal Kumar Jena on May 22 evening by armed poachers in Similipal Tiger Reserve, in less than a month. Our lives are at risk because of the neglect of the State Government and Forest Department higher-ups,” a member of the association stated.

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