Sixteen software and management professionals who have been chosen to execute watershed projects in Saranda may now claim peace of mind as part of their job package, with the forest department promising them insurance cover during their stint in the former Maoist bastion.
Though the amount of the insurance cover has not yet been finalised, it is likely to be between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 30 lakh as part of a five-year policy, sources said.
Divisional forest officer of Saranda K.K. Tiwary said the department had taken a decision to this effect recently.
“The insurance cover for the 16 professionals is not a carrot we are holding out for them to work in an area that was under Naxalites until recently, but it is in the interest of their family members,” Tiwary told The Telegraph.
Starting today, the forest department has begun mailing appointment letters to the 16 recruits, who are the only hired professionals under the Centre’s Saranda Development Plan.
They will report for duty a fortnight later after their documents are verified.
Tiwary said there was no provision of insurance cover for forest officials posted anywhere in Jharkhand, including areas marked as Naxalite-prone.
But the 16 professionals would get insurance cover, as they were on contract for five years and their job involved the risk factor, he added.
When asked, the DFO said the professionals would regularly tread in the sal reserve forest in West Singhbhum along with foresters and, like the latter, would not be accompanied by armed guards.
They will be involved in six watershed projects at the micro-level in Saranda — part of the Centre’s action plan designed by Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh — with focus on Manoharpur block.
The projects will be carried out at six zones spread across the 850sqkm forest.
The tech force is expected to undertake field visits for gathering scientific data and study the topography of Saranda.
A senior forest officer pointed out that during field trips, the recruits would be under the Naxalite radar, adding the rebels were given to suspecting every new face as a potential police informer.
“Though Saranda has been purged of rebels, thanks to the joint operation by CRPF and state police last year and continuing vigil by paramilitary personnel, the Maoists continue to make their presence felt in the periphery of the forest. They assert themselves by killing villagers who they suspect to be informers,” said the officer, on condition of anonymity.