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OKSS protests disengagement of 1,500 seasonal workers by Odisha Forest dept

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Press Trust of India Sambalpur (Odisha)
A leading employees

body has protested disengagement of over 1,500 seasonal workers by Kendu leaf wing of the Forest department even though the Odisha government has asked private organisations not to retrench staff during the COVID-induced lockdown.
Odisha Kendupatra Karmachari Sangha (OKKS) has termed the move to disengage over 1,500 seasonal workers by the Forest department as "inhuman and insensitive".
The OKKS has submitted a memorandum to state Forest and Environment Minister Bikram Arukh in this regard demanding immediate steps by the government to re-engage the seasonal workers who are in a state of despair in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When contacted the Forest and Environment minister told PTI that the government is sympathetically considering the demand and a decision will be taken soon.
President of OKKS, Bijaya Mohanty said the Kendu leaf season begins from March and continues till October every year. Many seasonal workers including chaprasi, section watcher, checker, circle checker are employed for certain periods during the season, he said.
Their employment period varies from two months to eight months, Mohanty said, adding around 18,000 seasonal workers get employment for certain periods during the kendu leaf season every year in the state.
However, the Kendu leaf department has stopped the re-engagement of around 1,500 seasonal workers this year, though the country is passing through a tough phase in view of the COVID-19 outbreak, he said.
"The seasonal work in the kendu leaf organisation is a major source of livelihood for many people. But the decision of the kendu leaf organisation not to re-engage around 1,500 seasonal workers in this hour of crisis is inhuman and insensitive. They have been doing the seasonal work for many years but now the department has suddenly stopped engaging them," said Mohanty.
The decision to disengage the seasonal workers has been taken by the office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests. "Therefore, we have requested the government and the Forest minister to intervene and take appropriate decision so that the seasonal workers are not deprived of earning their livelihood during this period of crisis," he said.
Senior BJP leader and former MLA Pradip Purohit has also strongly opposed the kendu leaf wings move saying the "unfortunate" decision has denied livelihood to so many hapless people at a time when they are hit hard due to the nationwide lockdown.

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First Published: Apr 28 2020 | 12:21 PM IST

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