Forest workers involved in arduous tasks paid pittance by cash-rich TTD
One feature which a pilgrim will not fail to observe in Tirumala or Tirupati is the well maintained avenue plantations, ornamental plants on the median strips and at select places on footpath, ghat roads as well the verdant thickets ‘Divyaramas’ welcoming the pilgrim at the entrance of Tirumala and the lush green forest on the holy hill, the abode of Lord Venkateswara.
Tirupati: One feature which a pilgrim will not fail to observe in Tirumala or Tirupati is the well maintained avenue plantations, ornamental plants on the median strips and at select places on footpath, ghat roads as well the verdant thickets ‘Divyaramas’ welcoming the pilgrim at the entrance of Tirumala and the lush green forest on the holy hill, the abode of Lord Venkateswara.
The sylvan environment is a feast to the eye not just for the pilgrims, but also the denizens of Tirupati too as it provides the much need breathing space amidst salubrious environment at Alipiri and many other places.
But many may not be aware of the fact that it is the sweat and blood of 370 contract workers working for a paltry Rs 6,000 monthly salary in the TTD forest wing that went into the herculean task of transforming the once barren hills into lush green forests. The metamorphosis also brought laurels to the TTD in the form of many national awards and country-wide recognition.
The workers are in TTD service for over 25 years but they continue to be paid a pittance for the tough task of maintaining the vast 2,500 hectare forests including fire prevention and the risky fire fighting whenever fire broke out, which is common during the summer months every year.
Strangely, though there is no dearth of funds for the TTD, workers are mostly left with conventional methods in the maintenance and protection of forests and fighting forest fires. There are many instances of workers fighting the fire without safety gear and with bare hands using the broom of leaves to contain fire even risking their lives.
The work load on the workers had also increased after the TTD taking up many new projects like sandalwood garden, astro-gardens etc., but their wages remain the same though they have to do most of the forest works. The less than hundred regular employees get four times more than the workers assigned other than field works.
CITU district general secretary and TTD forest workers union honorary president Kadarapu Murali told The Hans India that though the forest workers role in the protection and development of TTD forests is significant, they are ill-paid with no facilities on par with other regular employees, despite equal pay for equal work being the set norm.
The TTD trust board did approve time scale to the workers after a prolonged fight in 2010 but the decision continues to remain on paper, Murali said adding that recently also the workers were on a ten day protest forcing TTD authorities to assure them on early settlement of time scale and payment of Rs 20,000 per month along with other benefits.
It is unfortunate that the TTD accorded time scale to contract workers in some departments but deprived the same benefit to the forest workers, ignoring their hard work which is vital for forest development. Talking to the Hans, TTD forest officer Sivaram Prasad said, “There is no second thought on extending time scale to forest workers, but, we have to follow many procedures before implanting it. The TTD is keen on resolving the issue early.”
By G Sridhar