Around 60 contractual workers of the state forest department, posted in different forest ranges of the Gorumara wildlife division in Jalpaiguri, have resorted to an indefinite demonstration and relay hunger strike from Tuesday over a series of demands, including immediate payment of their due salaries.
According to sources in the department, these contractual workers serve in different posts which include mahouts, rhino protection workers, camp protection workers, gatemen of check-posts, night guards and drivers.
“We have not received our salaries for the past four months. It is tough to arrange two square meals for our families. Also, many of us have been working for over 10 years but till date, the department has not taken any initiative to induct us as permanent employees. That is why we have resorted to the movement,” said Dulal Roy, a “patawala” (mahout’s assistant) who had joined the protests.
According to the protesters, earlier, the department used to disburse their salaries but for the past few years, they are paid through a private agency.
“We want the department to pay our salaries. Ever since the agency has been engaged, there is irregularities in payment. Our protests will continue unless the demands are met,” said Akash Mangar, another contractual worker.
Jyotipriyo Mallick, the state forest minister, said the workers should refrain from protests. “Our department has already paid the money to the agency that disburses their salaries. We will check out why there has been a delay. So far as permanency is concerned, recruitment in the department is done through a proper process,” said the minister over phone from Calcutta.