with the killing of three forest officials in Orissa's Kandhar forests in Dhenkanal district triggering panic over the past fortnight, forest officials in the state are queuing up for voluntary retirement from their services.
The forest officials were reportedly killed by Naxals in the last week of January. The Naxals had also detained two field assistants of the Orissa Forest Development Corporation and threatened to target other personnel.
Immediately after the incident, 28 employees from the Dhenkanal forest division submitted their applications to the state government by January 31--the last date to apply for the voluntary retirement scheme.
The Orissa forest department, however, refuses to link the Naxalite attacks and the killing of forest officials with the growing desire among forest field employees for voluntary retirement. "There is no link.The scheme was introduced much earlier," said Priyanath Padhi, special secretary of the Orissa state forest and environment department.
More than 31 per cent of the state is covered under forests. With growing Naxal activities in Orissa, particularly districts like Koraput, Malkangiri, Gajapati, Nawrangpur, Sundergarh, Keonjhar and Deogarh, the state's forests are certainly up for an upheaval, notes the Orissa Non-gazetted Forest Service Association.
In a recent meeting, it resolved to draw the attention of the state government to the 'insecurity' faced by the field staff. "The government has done nothing to encourage us. Our morale is low...in addition to the jungle mafia, it's now the Maoists who have turned their ire on us," said J B Patnaik, chairperson of the association . Forest personnel, too, should be equipped with firearms and stationed at one place to avoid such incidents, he said.
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