Chennai: Anti-poaching watchers (APWs) of Tamil Nadu have demanded that the Tamil Nadu government provide them permanent employment in the forest department as their job involves high risk.
A total of 1,129 APWs work in Tamil Nadu on a consolidated pay of Rs 12,500 per month without any benefits like Provident Fund, Health Insurance, or pension. They are employed in areas where human-animal conflicts take place and hence are worried about the insecurity the job offers as well as the risks involved.
Ten anti-poaching watchers have lost their lives while on duty.
S. Sundar (49), an anti-poaching watcher was trampled to death by a wild elephant on Wednesday at Kannivadi block range in the Dindigul forest division.
Family members of APWs requested Chief Minister M.K. Stalin and the state forest minister G. Ramachandran to provide permanent jobs to the anti-poaching watchers and their dependents.
While Tamil Nadu government has a policy of providing Rs 5 lakh as compensation but anti-poaching watchers on anonymity told IANS that this amount was provided to anyone who dies of a wild animal attack.
R. Muthuvel, an anti-poaching watcher(APW) from Dindigul forest range while speaking to IANS said: “We are getting a consolidated pay of Rs 12,500 per month which is a pittance by any standard and we are leading a risky life. Our main duty is to protect the forest wealth from being poached or encroached but the government and the department are not giving us our dues. We get killed any time by the wild animals, including elephants. Ten APWs have lost their lives in the state so far. The compensation provided is what the government pays to anyone who is killed by wild animals.”
He also said that the APWs are not given any proper gadgets to confront wild animals, including elephants, and that they just burst crackers to drive the elephants away into the forest.
Ramakrishnan said that they don’t have any safety equipment while on duty to drive away advancing wild elephants and added that the APWs and their families were expecting a positive decision from the Chief Minister and the Forest Minister G. Ramachandran.
The 1129 APWs and their family members are planning to meet the Chief Minister and to push their cause and if there are no developments, the joint council of APWs will conduct protest march to the state secretariat.