LAHORE: The basic pay scale (BPS) of wildlife watchers and inspectors, under the Punjab wildlife department, is likely to increase while proposals regarding arming field staff, to discourage illegal hunting, have also been prepared.
In this regard, honorary game warden of the Punjab wildlife department will forward the recommendations to the Punjab chief minister and the Punjab chief secretary in the coming days.
On paper, there are 1,400 posts for wildlife watchers, 243 for wildlife inspectors and 30 for head game wardens. In reality, more than half the posts are lying vacant. Reportedly, 16 of the 30 posts for head game warden are currently vacant.
Since 2007, the BPS of wildlife watchers and inspectors has been grade five and nine, respectively. The Punjab Wildlife Field Staff Association has been trying to upgrade the BPS for field staff for the past several years. The Lahore High Court has also issued directions for upgrading the department. However, now the matter lies with the chief secretary.
A delegation from the Punjab Wildlife Field Staff Association met Honorary Game Warden Badar Munir and informed him about the difficulties they are facing and the demands they have put forward.
During the meeting, the honorary game warden was informed that wildlife watchers have been working at BPS-5. In comparison, an individual working at the same post in the forest department has a BPS-9.
Similarly, wildlife inspectors are at BPS-9 and range officers in the forest department are at BPS-14. After hearing the grievances of the delegation, the honorary game warden said that he would speak to the Punjab chief minister and the chief secretary in this regard so that posts in the wildlife department can be made equivalent to those in the forest department.
It should be noted that field staff are also not equipped with motorcycles, which impedes the process of catching individuals illegally hunting birds and animals. Poachers have been known to physically abuse and open fire on departmental employees, because of which two have died in the past.
Munir promised that delegation that not only will the BPS of field staff be upgraded but they will also be provided fuel, arms and motorcycles.
Under the recommendations, the post of head game warden will be merged with the wildlife inspector. In addition, the reimbursement method for field staff and the method for obtaining compensation from illegal hunters will be made transparent.
Meanwhile, the wildlife department has issued a final warning to hunters and poachers who continue to kill animals and birds. According to the new directives, if a person with a record for illegal hunting is caught, he will be sent to jail.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2019.