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Wild squad cash cover

- State starts Rs 1-lakh insurance scheme for forest guards

Ranchi, Dec. 2: The state has once woken up to the needs of over 400 state forest guards and frontline staff by launching insurance scheme Van Rakshak Project after a gap of over seven years.

Under this project, applicable for all 11 sanctuaries in Jharkhand — Palamau (both wildlife sanctuary and tiger reserve), Dalma, Betla, Palkot, among others — if a field staff gets permanently disabled or dies in the line of duty, then he or his family stands to get Rs 1 lakh in insurance.

As most field staffers in Jharkhand work in risky conditions without proper logistics support, a dedicated insurance scheme for them is not only a morale-booster but a critical aid to survival in case something goes wrong.

The family of deceased staffer Nandu Ram of Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary — he died a couple of years ago while driving a jeep in forest terrain — will vouch for it. The bereaved kin received Rs 1 lakh of insurance money last week.

The scheme works like this. If someone or his kin is entitled to Rs 1 lakh, the state forest department will send details of the case to Dehradun-based Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), which will release the amount.

An autonomous institution under ministry of environment and forests that works for conservation and advocacy, the WTI, on its part, will put Rs 30 every year as insurance premium for every sanctuary field staff in the state. The WTI gets international and national funds, including from the Centre.

Practically speaking, as the scheme hardly makes a dent in the state government’s pocket, it has a good chance of running. The state just has to give its consent and sign a formal agreement after which the WTI pays premiums of insured employees and releases the amount in case of death or disability.

The WTI had launched the Van Rakshak Project in 2001. Jharkhand had briefly adopted the scheme in select areas in 2004-05 — all states have to make a requisition and renew the scheme every year — and given its benefits to two persons. But then, according to a senior official, “lethargy took over” as no one bothered to renew the policy every year.

“We are not concerned with the past. Now, we have insured our entire wildlife staff at ground level in all the 11 sanctuaries in Jharkhand, something which was never done,” said A.K. Malhotra, principal chief conservator of forests (state wildlife wing), who is known to have pursued the matter with WTI.

Malhotra added that frontline staff and forest guards were their main focus.

“They work under challenging conditions to secure our flora and fauna in the protected areas. The personnel need to be safeguarded to keep them motivated. We are happy that the WTI has agreed to sponsor our field staff under the insurance,” the principal chief conservator told The Telegraph.


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