Contract workers, who look after elephants and barking deer in Dalma, at Makulakocha on Tuesday. They have not received salaries for the last six months. Telegraph picture
Jamshedpur, Sept. 11: Contract workers at Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary have threatened to go on a strike in protest against outstanding salary of six months from next week.
As many as 36 daily wage earners, who look after the dietary needs of elephants and barking deer, were keen to launch a strike this afternoon, but decided to postpone it by a week after Dalma range officer Mangal Kachyap promised to arrange for early payments.
The contractual workers have also decided to approach National Human Rights Commission and file a writ petition against the forest department with Jharkhand High Court seeking regularisation of jobs.
Rabi Singh, a daily wage earner at the sanctuary, said that most contract workers had been working since 1982 or a couple of years later, adding they were ignored by the forest department despite playing a critical role in ensuring the safety of animals.
“We look after the upkeep and feeding of the elephants and barking deer and also maintain forest guesthouses at Makulakocha and Pindrabera. We even look after visitors at the guesthouses. But two of our contract workers who died after being attacked by elephants did not even get compensation due to a forest staff. Several workers have also died for want of medical treatment, as wages are meagre. To add to our misery, we haven’t got a penny since April,” said Singh.
In 1982, contract workers were appointed on a daily wage of Rs 63. Now, they are earning Rs 133 per day.
There is one forest range officer and two forest guards as the department’s permanent employees at Dalma.
Kachyap refused comment, adding he would abide by instructions from his higher-ups. Seraikela DFO Kamal Pandey also expressed helplessness over the payment issue.
“I am yet to get any information on the contract workers threatening to go on strike. However, it is true that they have not been getting their wages for the last six months. The forest department has not sanctioned any funds for wildlife schemes (from which their payments are made). We have held talks with the higher authorities and are hopeful of getting the funds sanctioned within a week or so,” he said.
There are seven workers in Kankadutta, 13 in Makulakocha and eight each in Pindrabera and Mango villages.