The sad plight of Forestry graduates in Jammu and Kashmir

The sad plight of Forestry graduates in Jammu and Kashmir

In the recent recruitment notification of the JK Forest Department, Forestry graduates/post-graduates are not even eligible for a single post advertised

Jammu and Kashmir’s natural beauty due to mountains and lush green forests is its prime attraction. For developing specialised technical manpower to manage the forest sector in India, BSc Forestry degree was approved by ICAR and notified by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) as a professional degree. The J&K Government gave consent to SKUAST-Kashmir to start this degree programme from 1995, much before it was introduced elsewhere in the country. Admission to BSc Forestry degree programme was done through JKBOPEE and from 2013 onwards SKUAST-Kashmir itself began to conduct open competitive University Entrance Test exam (UET) wherein all J&K domiciles (Kashmir Division, Jammu Division) and Ladakh UT Domiciles were eligible to get admission. Furthermore, J&K domiciles also pursue BSc Forestry degree across the country offered through at least 71 ICAR/UGC universities and more than 150 associated colleges and even from foreign universities.
Despite holding degrees (BSc, MSc, PhD, PDF) in Forestry, and despite J&K being largely dependent on tourism sector only because of lush evergreen forests, Forestry graduates still stand unemployed. The forest department has shown surprising apathy towards the recruitment process as for about a decade not a single non-gazetted (Forester/ Field Inspector) or ADF/ACF posts have been advertised by the department for Forestry degree holders. Despite this grave negligence, most of the forestry professionals are eagerly waiting to appear and qualify in the examination of the said department.
The revision of eligibility of the Forestry posts (Gazetted and non-Gazetted) is a long pending issue, which needs to be resolved as soon as possible to smoothen the recruitment process which is on halt for more than a decade now. The authorities are requested to make BSc Forestry as sole eligibility for all gazetted posts, such s Assistant Conservator Forest, Assistant Director Forest, Range Officer (Wildlife/ Soil Conservation) and non-gazetted posts, such as Forester, Forest Inspector, Field Assistant, so that deserving candidates get their due at the earliest.
The average area under forest as well as tree cover has increased enormously and is growing rapidly for the past few years due to Forestry professionals working as Conservators/ Divisional Forest Officers and Range Officers in the forest department. The Forestry graduates possess the required skills and knowledge to serve the department. Their work will benefit our UT and also the country by increasing forest cover (green gold), boosting the economy, and tackling the climate change issue. Therefore we demand an increase in the professional strength of forest staff by reorganising and creating new vacancies in the forest department.
During the past one decade not even a single non-gazetted post has been advertised by JKSSB for Forestry graduates, and for the past 4 years no gazetted post has been advertised in JK Forest Department. And even in the ongoing fast recruitment process, as promised by the Central Govt and Honourable LG, more than 20,000 posts have been advertised under different notifications but unfortunately not a single post has been reserved for Forestry graduates even in the recent Forest Department advertisement notification No. 03 of 2021.
It is worth mentioning here that in the recently advertised posts of Field Assistant and Field Inspector by JKSSB (Advertisement No. 03 of 2021, Dated: 04-06-2021), degree/diploma in civil/ mechanical/ electrical engineering, Master’s degree in zoology/ chemistry/ environmental science is the eligibility criteria for the said posts. Unfortunately, in the said notification of JK Forest Department, we Forestry graduates/post-graduates are not even eligible for a single post advertised. Such apathy in eligibility criteria is adding to the frustration of already distressed unemployed Forestry professionals. In this regard we demand amendments in the eligibility criteria on priority basis as we have been waiting for the vacancies in Forest Department for more than a decade.
We also demand:
Introducing Forestry as an optional subject in JKPSC civil services examination (KAS/KPS).
Filling up of vacant posts in the Forest and allied departments on priority basis with BSc Forestry/MSc Forestry degree holders by direct recruitment.
Lastly, every year more than 70 students complete their graduation/post-graduation in the field of Forestry from both SKUAST-K & SKUAST-J. In pursuance to Cabinet Decision No. 96/6/2017 Dated 10.06.2017, policy for engagement of 534 registered unemployed Forestry Graduate/ Post Graduate/ DDR Trainee as Rehbar-e-Janglat was formulated vide Govt Order 155-Fst of 2017 dated 20-6-2017. The policy provided that the scheme shall cease to exist automatically after engagement of the last registered candidate as Rehbar-e-Janglat covered under the scheme. The students who had completed their graduation in Forestry after 2014 were not eligible for Rehbar-e-Janglat scheme. Now more than 600 Forestry graduates/post-graduates are unemployed since completing their degrees after 2014, and only 34 out of 600 students eligible for the scheme were appointed in JK Forest Department as Range Offciers. It is therefore requested that the above policy be reviewed again as many posts are still lying vacant and the unemployed graduates may be recruited in the department on these posts immediately.
It is time we rethink why forest graduates are being sidelined by policy makers and administrators and why the degree course in Forestry is not suitable for a good job. The more we ignore Forestry professionals, the more we will compromise with on our forest resources as well as the environment.

The writers are pursuing PhD degree at Faculty of Forestry, SKUAST-K

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