Post closure, 400 employees of IWDP-Hills caught in a fix

Assets transferred, staff nobody’s baby

Irfan Tramboo
SRINAGAR, July 29: The official apathy and sheer indifference of the Government has rendered hundreds of employees of erstwhile Integrated Watershed Development Project (IWDP)-Hills helpless as there are no takers to their various issues confronting them.
More than 400 employees who were engaged under the project in 1990 have got nothing substantial in their hand to be called as Government employees. Though, the Government took care of the assets linked to the project after closing it down, it, however, left the employees in the lurch.
The employees allege injustice by the Government owing to the fact that there has been no promotion given them for last 29 years. “Moreover, there is no question of seniority as it all has been left midway without formulating any roadmap for the welfare of the employees after the project was shutdown”, they said.
“They took care of assets soon after the closure of the project, there has been no promotion, there are court cases that are pending, DPC are pending; nobody is bothered about that,” the employees said.
IWDP-a World Bank Project-was implemented in J&K along with 4 other Himalayan States between 1990 and 2005. In the state, the project was established in the year 1991. Later in 2005, to carry on, the phase third of the project known as Participatory Watershed Management Project (PWMP) was not sanctioned by the World Bank due to the callous and the non-participatory attitude of the Government, leading to its subsequent closure.
The Government order was issued vide number: 53 FST of 2019 issued in February 2019 for the closure of the project. It read: “The issue remained under correspondence for a long time and finally when the third phase could not get a nod, the issue of the employees borne on the establishment of IWDP-Hills and also deputation of staff came to fore as they are drawing the salary without any assigned work.”
It was earlier decided in 2015, that the project shall be wound up in a phased manner as there were no integrated watersheds under the implementation of IWPD-Hills for the last 10 years. The phase-wise closure saw its end with the order that was issued in February this year.
The closure order directed the Project Chief, IWDP-Hills to furnish the list of employees who can be suitably adjusted in other departments of the forest sector.
However, during the adjustment of the employees, the seniority was not taken into consideration as the same is yet to be fixed. The employees have been adjusted in the departments of Soil Conservation, Social Forestry, Wildlife, Territorial Forest and Wular Conservation & Management Authority.
While these employees have given nearly 29 years in IWDP, they were kept last in the line of the employees in the department where they were adjusted-in a way while being seniors, they are officially juniors.
They added that that some of the employees are set to retire soon but if the same continues, “they will have nothing in hand, their entire service is mere waste of time.”
With regard to the promotion, the last DPC was held in 1998, the project chief IWDP Jammu in 2017 in reply to the court said that his office was convening a meeting of the DPC at the earliest as and when constituted by the Administrative Department and cases of all the eligible candidates will be placed before the members. However, till date nothing of that sort has been done.
By virtue of the closure order, Government had also formed a grievance cell tasked to take care of issues such as seniority, promotion matters, court cases, and resolution of grievances of the IWDP employees, but the cell is lying defunct without any signing authority.
“The cell is a superfluous body without a signing authority which was created to take up the matters, it enjoys either zero or least power with respect to bulk concerns,” the employees said, while demanding that term of the cell be extended to one year.
“Recently a pension case of an employee named Girdhari Lal was sent back as there was no official available to sign the documents-the job which the cell had to take care of, but due to the non-functionality of it, such matters are delayed without reasons, particularly the absence of the signing authority,” they added.
Interestingly, the cell that has been formed does not have any senior official onboard to take care of official matters. The members range from a stenographer to that of computer operator; to helper to that of a sweeper and a driver. While the cell has been formed, no proper accommodation has been provided to it. The cell is functional in makeshift accommodation at Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) office, Srinagar.