Trackers at Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary are working without pay for the past seven months, thanks to the forest department’s delay in sanctioning funds.
The 40-odd trackers — village youths hired as daily wagers for keeping tabs on movement of elephants and other animals — are angry over the delay in payment and have threatened to adopt a “no-pay no work” policy.
Sources revealed that the trackers had not been paid since January this year. The daily wage was increased from Rs 145 to Rs 161 in April. However, despite the hike, the amount did not arrive.
“I am having difficulties in running my household. I am not being able to even recharge my cellphone through which I keep in touch with foresters,” said Budhu Soy from Nutandih, a tracker at the sanctuary.
Dalma range officer Mangal Kacchap, when asked about the delay, passed the buck. “We are helpless. The ball is in the forest department's court. We will disburse the wages as soon as we receive the funds,” he added.
Trackers are important components of the short-staffed sanctuary. They operate throughout the year and are handy on occasions like Vishu Shikar and Shivaratri. They spread out in groups across the sanctuary, spanning an area of 192sqkm.
“The trackers also join us in spreading awareness about the futility of killing animals. We are short-staffed and trackers are of immense help to us,” a forester said.