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Pay hike for Anti-Poaching Watchers

The Hindu, Chennai, 11th April, 2013

State Forest Minister K.T. Patchaimal on Wednesday announced enhanced monthly wages of Rs 6,750 to Anti-Poaching Watchers (APWs).

Tabling the demands of grants for his department, Mr Patchaimal said that at present, 908 APWs were working across the State. They were involved in the prevention of poaching or felling of trees inside the interior, inaccessible forest areas. At present they are being paid a consolidated wages of Rs 4,000 a month. Mr Patchaimal said considering the amount of wages they were drawing and the hard work they have put in, their monthly wages had been increased from the current financial year.

Members of the Tamil Nadu Green Movement on Wednesday welcomed the announcement of enhanced wages for the APWs.

In a statement, its co-ordinator K. Mohan Raj said the APWs were the field staff patrolling the remote corners and protects the forests which are the sources for many rivers and life supporting system. However, it was unfortunate that in a few districts in the State, the APWs have not been paid their salaries of Rs 4,000 per month for the past 10 months.

They received specific information that APWs in Theni and a few other districts were not paid their wages during the past 10 months. The statement said the APWs were working without any specific timing, definition of work, inadequate and irregular pay with poor working conditions. This situation would lead to lack of motivation among the APWs.

The anti-social elements such as poachers and timber mafia would try to cash in on the situation, Mr Raj warned.

Mr Raj said the environmentalists in the State appealed to the Chief Minister to recruit forest staff in order to protect the natural resources in the State on a war footing and to direct the Forest department to release the salary for APWs without any further delay and regularise their payment structure.

Risk allowance for animal keepers

Mr Patchaimal said a total of 175 animal keepers, risking their lives, handle the captive-bred wildlife every day. So, the government decided to provide them risk allowance of Rs 270 per animal keeper per month.

Apart from this 257 employees in the Vandalur Zoo would get basic pay plus 10 per cent of the grade pay put together as incentive allowance, which would work out to Rs 32 crore, he announced.

Wildlife Museum at Vandalur zoo

In an attempt to increase the awareness among visitors, a natural history museum would be created at a cost of Rs 20 crore.

The museum would display products of science, art, culture and historically important nature collections, the Minister said.

The Minister also announced that smaller zoos in the State such as Amirthi in Vellore and Tiruchi would be improved at a cost of Rs 5 crore.