Though meets have been held to improve field staff working conditions, officials still lack support.

New Delhi: According to the International Ranger Federation (IRF) data, the Ranger Roll of Honour-2021, which provides data on the “Period for Recording Line of Duty Deaths” of the forest rangers identifies more than 30 deaths, out of which 8 deaths have been recorded as “Homicide” and two deaths have been recorded as “Motor vehicle accident” and one death by “electrocuted by poachers” wires. However, as per sources, no proper data has been maintained so far by the government, and the above data is just a small grim picture of substandard facilities provided to the forest officials in India. Despite the fact that multiple meetings have been held to improve field staff working conditions, officials are still deprived of the extended social security support.
“There is a lack of adequate forest staff to patrol in the large forest areas. We have seen that in many cases, only one staff (forest guard) has to patrol around 100-1000 hectares of forest area, in such cases, the guard needs some advanced technical equipment for patrolling and controlling illegal activities in the forest. Also, I suggest that one needs to allocate at least 2-3 officials to patrol such big areas. The use of thermal cameras will be fruitful to detect the unknown faces inside the forest to keep an eye on the illegal activities,” a forest guard in Madhya Pardesh, who wished to stay anonymous, told The Sunday Guardian. “We have not been provided with any allowances for fuel or maintenance, practically, one cannot chase the offenders just on bikes; that too inside the forest in a short period, in case one gets the information,” he added.
While speaking about the compensation received by the families of the martyred forest officials, he told this paper, “The compensation happens, but it takes quite a while (about a year). In such times, the family gets depressed and desperate.” A retired IFS officer in West Bengal told this paper, “Irrespective of the post if any IFS officers or forest guards get martyred, the amount is around Rs 8 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, which takes about a year to reach the family members. Therefore, the amount also depends on the cause of the death. In some cases, the family members immediately get Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, but it takes quite a while to receive the full compensation.”
Poaching techniques in India have changed over the years as one can witness that in the central zone of India like Madhya Pradesh, poachers and people carrying on illegal activities have started using advanced weapons and vehicles. “In case we need to use the ammunition, we need to take permission two to three times before using,” Anil, another forest guard, serving in the forest of MP, said.
However, the situation in the northeast states is different. An IFS officer, on condition of anonymity, serving in Arunachal Pradesh, told this paper, “Since, Arunachal Pradesh shares borders with Myanmar and China, illegal smuggling of wildlife (endangered birds and other species) is quite often. With limited vehicles and on-ground staff, it gets difficult to track poachers; however, compared to other states, modern weapons are not often used here, and the people stick to traditional ways of hunting and poaching. Also, the usage of weapons is also strictly restricted as we aim for forest conservation.”