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Forest workers to go on leave

Cuttack, Feb. 21: About 8,000 forest guards, rangers and deputy forest rangers under the aegis of the Odisha Non-Gazetted Forest Service Association have threatened to launch an indefinite cease work from Friday.

The association has decided to boycott their work demanding immediate action on their three-point charter of demands, which includes wages as per the Sixth Central Pay Commission’s recommendation.

The cease work is likely to affect various ongoing programmes, including the kendu leaf operations, wildlife protection and plantation in different parts of the state.

Addressing a press conference here today, members of the association said that they had been forced to launch the agitation as the authorities did not ever bother to address their grievances.

“We will go on a mass leave from tomorrow. We will also stage demonstrations in front of the offices of the divisional forest officers,” said association president Jagabandhu Patra. He said that a forest guard got a meagre salary of Rs 8,000 per month in the grade pay of Rs 1,750, while a forester got Rs 9,500 per month in the grade pay of Rs 2,000.

“We are demanding a pay parity with the state police force as recommended by the pay commission,” said Patra.

Among the other demands of the association are job regularisation of 467 forester and forest guards, who are working as contractual workers and upgrade and merger of the posts of forest guards and deputy rangers.

Members of the association claimed that it had requested the state government to fulfil their demands by February 8.

As the government had failed to take measures, the association has no option but to adopt the course of agitation, they said. “We have already placed our demands before higher officials and the state government. We will continue our cease work till our demands are met,” said association vice-president Gaurishankar Sahu.