Tuesday May 24, 2022

Upgrading denial: Foresters and guards suspend activities

January 04, 2022

PESHAWAR: ­Concerned by the long delay in implementation of government’s promises and announcement about awarding them upgradation and other perks, the foresters and forest guards have suspended activities to press the government to accept their demands.

The formal protest was launched on December 13 and the employees had pledged that they would not take part in the afforestation campaign until the government implement all the promises made with them on the completion of the Billion Tree Project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and commencement of the Ten Billion Tree Project across the country.

The foresters and forest guards have formed an action committee for the protest, which threatened to stage a sit-in outside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly if the government failed to accept their demands.

Among the key demands are that all the forest officials should be provided with the benefits of the Forest Force in line with other law-enforcement organizations like police and army. The forest officials, who have got martyred in the line with their duty while protecting the precious ‘Green Gold’ should be offered a Martyr Package equal to the police force.

They want technical allowance equivalent to one-fifth of the basic salary as of secretariat and planning group of the province.The promise already made by the KP government about the upgrading of the forest officials should be realized with effect from the date of announcement and all the benefits be awarded as well.Talking to The News, President, Union of Foresters and Forest Guards, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Department and chairman of the action committee, Mumtaz Ali, said the Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP) was excellently implemented owing to the hard work of the KP Forest Department.

“The contribution of KP Forest Department’s officials earned much applause and the completion of the one-billion target of plants under BTAP was officially announced. On the occasion, the then chief minister Pervez Khattak and Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced the upgradation of all the staff of KP Forest in the function organized at the Convention Hall in Islamabad,” he recalled.

On the successful experience of the KP Forest Department and forming the central government, the PTI Government replicated the model of BTAP into the 10-Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project (10-BTTP) simultaneously in four provinces and two federating units of the country, he said.

The success of the BTAP was the result of the efforts of the KP Forest Department’s officials and the martyrdom of a number of staff members, he said. Now the 10-Billion Tree Tsunami Project is in the middle of its completion and KP Forest Department has again made the achievement of almost 500 million - half of billion plants again, he claimed.

The provincial government in 2018, in recognition of their efforts, promised upgrading to them but to no avail, he said. Most importantly, the Forest staff was declared as ‘Forest Force’ through Forest Force Rules 2013 Under KP Forest Ordinance 2002, but unfortunately, they were neither given the benefits of force nor the privileges of the civil servants, he said.

He stressed the government to take urgent steps for acceptance of their demands, otherwise, their activities would remain suspended under 10-BTTP and other projects besides the protection of forests, which would cause a huge loss to the environment in the province.