CAMPA staff on verge of starvation for want of wages

Despite working hard for the nationwide afforestation project even during the tough pandemic times, the contractual and need-based persons engaged under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) in J&K Forest Department have not received wages for last six months.

The ‘denial’ of wages to them constitutes breach of the Disaster Management Act 2005, guidelines

issued by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), besides the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 and a host of other labour laws.

Officials in the Forest Department confirmed to Greater Kashmir that none of the 51 contractual or need-based persons under CAMPA had been paid wages since March 2020.

Family of a female Technical Assistant, who has been engaged eight years back said that her monthly wages were not even 50 percent of the salary of a class IV employee in the Forest Department.

“She being Ph D in Forestry is one of the highest technically qualified staff who have given their sweat and blood to the Forest Department and kept the CAMPA running in J&K. Still, neither their services have been regularised nor have they been paid any wages since April,” the family complained.

An aggrieved employee said that they have been left to fend for themselves. “Being without wages for last six months, we are on the verge of starvation.”

Sources said that the Executive Committee of the National Authority of CAMPA approved an outlay of Rs 184.83 crore and released the funds to the J&K Forest Department in April and June 2020. “Out of Rs 184.83 crore, the monthly wage bill of the CAMPA contractual staff is just Rs 4,66,750,” sources said.

Rule-6 of SRO 354 of 2009 dated 11.11.2009 provides for utilisation of a minor part of the CAMPA fund for disbursement of wages of the ‘need-based persons’ engaged for the purpose of CAMPA works in order to make it operational.

Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (APCCF) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), CAMPA, Sarvesh Rai told Greater Kashmir that they were hopeful that the wages will be released. “Till March, they have been paid.”

Rai said that the Finance Department had sent them some queries regarding engagement of these contractual and need based employees. “We have replied them. They were checking genuineness. These were routine questions like how many have been engaged with whose approval.”

He said: “This year the mode (of disbursal) has been changed. Earlier, we used to operate from banks and now we have to operate through treasury. To operate through treasury, there is a need of allotment in budget head.”