Invisible Heroes - Justice for Forest Guards from Harsh and Unsafe Working Conditions

Invisible Heroes - Justice for Forest Guards from Harsh and Unsafe Working Conditions

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Petition to
Shri Bhupender Yadav (Union Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change of India)

Why this petition matters

Started by Diya Faruque

In a world where we fight for the protection of plants and animals alongside human rights, there are a group of people who deserve much more recognition. We've started bringing initiatives for the betterment of forests and their inhabitants but it is very disappointing that the link between human and forest have been ignored to a great extend. The forest guards are those who give up the comfortability and safety of their houses and risk their lives for the protection of the unspoken living world.

According to the statistics released by the International Ranger Federation, between 2012 and 2017, India accounted for nearly 31% of all forest ranger deaths in the world.On 20 November 2021, a tigress attacked forest guard Swati Dumane as she collected data for India’s tiger census and estimation exercise in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, in eastern Maharashtra. The state government was quick to announce compensation to Dumane’s family.The amount is substantial – yet it also belies the conditions in which frontline forest personnel like Dumane work, and the government’s failure to improve them.This recent death while on the job has brought the spotlight back on these issues.

Every day, they risk their lives working in difficult terrains and braving myriad hostile elements – poachers, encroachers, smugglers, mafias, human-wildlife conflict, health hazards in the form of water-borne diseases, forest fires and of course, accidental deaths by wild animals.Sometimes, even storage facilities are lacking, and rats and other pests can get to their food supplies.And apart from the physical demands that these jobs extract, psychological health is a worry too.Apart from these factors, some of the places they are posted are unbelievable. Take the Sundarbans for example. The floating camps in the middle of the core area of the forest are suffocating small, dark, dank boats that are shared by 4-5 forest guards. It’s frightening. There’s no easy access to freshwater, limited rations, no phone network, no source of entertainment, not even land to step on. Some are posted in these camps for years, on a single boat in the middle of nowhere.A three-year-survey by the Mumbai-based Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) in 14 tiger reserves in five states found that the median distance forest guards have to travel to seek definitive care for major health emergencies, including attacks by poacher attacks, was 30 km. A startling 82 per cent of forest guards revealed that they have no access to medical first-aid in the field.

Vacancies, on an average, stand at around 50% during the peak season. So one forest guard has to do the work of two, each guard covering anywhere between 500 to 1,000 hectares.So risky and high workload whereas low wages are a matter of concern for these forest guards.Women guards also face mental harassment while placed with misbehaved male colleagues in remote locations.

These men and women protect the country’s natural wealth, on which our food, water, climate and health security relies heavily on. We need to invest commitment and resources towards improving their health, safety and work conditions, not to mention making quality education accessible and affordable fortheir children, to secure our shared future.

120 have signed. Let’s get to 200!