Foresters ask Andhra Pradesh government to permit licenced arms

Rajahmundry: In the aftermath of a tribal man being gunned down by a gang of poachers in the forest near Nagulapalli village of Devipatnam mandal in East Godavari on Sunday, forest officials have appealed to the state government to permit them to use weapons, fill up all vacant posts and downsize the forest beat area. The forest officials said that they need weapons to tackle red sanders and teak smugglers and poachers in the state.

With Sunday's killing of a tribal who accompanied the local woman forest beat officer (FBO) S. Varalakshmi into the woods on routine vigil, foresters reiterated urged the state government to take an urgent decision on their requests for sophisticated weapons. Foresters are upset at the state government for failing pay customs duty and get released the imported weapons and ammunition stuck at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport for a long time.

They point out that the forest wing is functioning with less than half of the manpower required since a very long time as no recruitment drive has been taken up since the 1960s and 1970s. With a large number of officers and staff reaching the age of superannuation, the number of vacancies is increasing, resulting in enhanced workload on the forest officers and field staff. The foresters also want reorganisation of forest beats and downsizing so that they do their duties effectively.

At present, each FBO is supposed to take care of the forest spread over in about thousands of acres. In the recent attack, Ms Vara Lakshmi, looking after Dandangi South forest area, had availed the services of tribal Posi Ratnam who earlier worked as forest fire watcher on ad-hoc basis, while taking up routine check in the forest area as the present assistant FBO was ill.

AP Forest Range Officers Association Rajahmundry circle secretary P.B.N Kumar said, “We condemn such attack on forest personnel. We appeal to state government to allow us to carry arms, strengthen the department by taking up recruitment of personnel and reorganise forest beat area to reduce its size to help us work effectively.”

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