‘Employ women guards in joint forest management works’

Setting aside the common refrain by Forest Department officials vis-a-vis female ground-level staff, Forest Secretary Pravin Pardeshi has directed them to utilise the "gender balance" in the department in critical areas like joint forest management.

In a letter to Indian Forest Service (IFS) officials, Pardeshi said the Forest Department has 33 per cent women staffers and their potential must be appropriately tapped rather than complaining that "they can't patrol, be called for late night registration of offence and that they go on long leave".

Pardeshi has asked senior officers of the rank of Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) and Deputy CF that women guards and RFOs must be employed in Joint Forest Management (JFM) works to develop rapport with women members of the committee. "They should be assigned the duty to hold weekly meetings with women JFM members to advocate shift from fire-wood to bio-gas, improved smokeless chulha (stove) and LPG," he has said. "Women staffers should also ensure a shift from grazing cattle in the forest to stall-feeding," he said.

"The villages where these objectives are achieved be given special funds," the letter states.

Pardeshi has also advocated that women guards adopt villages having women sarpanch. "We will have forest protection by women, for women, not by policing with a stick, but by changing the hearts and minds of women in the villages," he said.

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