Khulna: 11 April 2009, Sunday
Name of the Position: Forest Guard. Salary Taka 2,850 a month. Name of the Position: Boatman. Salary Taka 2,400 a month. This is the salary structure of those who guard the Sundarbans, the most beautiful and most valuable natural resources of Bangladesh.
Except it, they are not entitled to get extra benefits. The other staffs of the government have extra benefits like medical allowance, amusement allowance, house rents and other benefits which provide social security to them. Leaving the family and friends they work in the impassable forest far from the locality. They guard the most important forest with the risks of bandits and tiger on land, crocodile in water and regular cyclones.
According to the forest source, there are 200 Forest Guards and 550 Boatmen in the Sundarbans Forest Division. Their duties are: to protect wood and wildlife trafficking, napping illegal extractors, case filing, attend in court as witness, receiving revenue of pass-permits, maintaining accounts and records – all are done by 2/3 Boatmen and Forest Guards. The allocated budget from the government is finished within only 5-7 days of a month, and then they have to collect illegal money from the forest people to maintain the regular activities like petrol and guard the forest.
These are not the all, transportation to the police station or court, filing a court case, conveyance of the witnesses and the defendants – all has to be done by the Forest Guards and Boatmen.
The source said, it is taken at least 24 hours to reach in some petrol camp and station in the Sundarbans by trawler and if you have no trawler, it will take 2 or 3 days. If any Forest Guard attacked by diarrhoea due to saline water, s/he will near to die when hospitalised. Though the government pays risk allowances for other risky areas, there is no allocation for the Sundarbans staffs. Most of the camp houses were damaged by the hit of super cyclone SIDR which are yet to be repaired.
Some Forest Guards said, we live in such type of house from which the tiger can kill anyone without breaking the door. The tigers do not do it from their sympathy. It is known that, the camps of Mandarbaria, Hiron Point, Holdibunia, Adachai, Hongshoraj, Geoakhali, Andharmanik, Katheswar are very risky to live. Misfortune is, in case of unnatural death the Forest Guards’ family would not get any compensation from the Department. Two weeks before, a forest guard died by the hooligans but his family is to get any compensation yet. They said, there is no example of not getting compensation if any staffs die on duty. Other staffs said, the people blame the Forest Staffs for corruption, bribes etc. but none take any initiative to solve problems behind the corruption.
The sources said, Sundarbans West Forest Department (Khulna and Satkhira) earns revenue of Taka 32,912,180.70 in 2007-08 fiscal years. Sundarbans East Division (Bagerhat) earns more than the amount of West Division. If the government spend one-fourth of the amount for development of Forest Department, many problems may be solved.