Friday, June 30, 2017

Forest department staffers call off strike

| Updated: Jun 17, 2017, 10.49 AM IST
AHMEDABAD: The forest department staff at Gir, who had struck work since Thursday, called off their strike after being assured that the suspension of forester M M Bharwad would be revoked in a week. The department on Wednesday had suspended a range forest officer, P T Kaneria, and a forester, M M Bharwad. The duo had a complaint lodged against them at Talala police station after a man they had detained, Bharat Kalsaria, attempted suicide. Kalsaria had been arrested for his alleged involvement in organizing illegal lion shows.

The department was silent on Kaneria's suspension. Forest staff including rescue teams had struck work and gone on a fast, demanding that the suspensions be revoked. Senior officers from Gandhinagar, including principal chief conservator of forests and head of the forest force Kuldeep Goel, had rushed to Junagadh. The officials held closed-door meetings with the staffers and the strike was called off late on Friday evening.

Mahavir Sodha, vice president of Gujarat State Forest Protection Staff, said officials had assured them that they would revoke the suspension in a week and the strike was hence called off. He said that the range forest officers' association had also supported them with many of them taking mass casual leave and reaching Junagadh to protest.

Goel said "We accepted the demand of the staff and they, in the interest of conservation of the Asiatic lion, called off the strike."

Meanwhile, senior officials said the forest department was forced to act as Kalsaria, who attempted suicide, belongs to the Patel community. Officials said that the government didn't want to take any chances and face another agitation. It hence decided to immediately suspend the staffers. The government usually first conducts a departmental inquiry.

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