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By Our Correspondent

Agartala, April 26: Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has assured 638 discontinued personnel of a forest management project funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to ‘look into’ the issue of termination and do the needful. The assurance comes at a time when the project staff nearly gave up hope, failing to meet any official since the notification discontinuing service was issued on March 31.

It was only on March 31 this year that the Biplab Deb government cleared a proposal to extend service of 638 contractual personnel engaged with Tripura Forest Environmental Improvement and Poverty Alleviation Project (TFEIPAP) by six months. Three weeks later, a notification discontinued their services claiming the government did not approve service extension proposal.

The project funded by JICA was engaged with Joint forest management and poverty alleviation work since 2007-08. Many of personnel engaged with it are serving since ten years and have exceeded upper age for government jobs.

Speaking to this correspondent, Joybindu Saha – a leader of personnel engaged with Tripura JICA Project said they were in charge of facilitating and monitoring poverty alleviation and forest management activities done by 453 Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMC) and nearly 1,500 Self Help Groups (SHG). Forty seven Livelihood Coordinators, Community Organizer, 447 Field Facilitators, 136 documentation and office assistants served under the project. Only four regular employees were hired.

“The extension of services of Livelihood Coordinators (LCs), Community Organizers (Cos) and Field Facilitators (FFs) has not been approved by the government till now. They need not attend the office with immediate effect”, Chief Executive Officer and Project Director of Tripura JICA project GS Raju said in a notification on April 20.

After all routes were shut, a group of sacked project staff members today joined ‘Janatar Durbar’ – an initiative of Chief Minister Biplab Deb to connect with the masses twice a week.

“We were heavily tensed after the notification was issued and tried to meet everyone including Chief Secretary, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF). Finally, the CM met us at Janatar Durbar”, Joybindu said and claimed he felt ‘relieved’.

CM listened to our problem and assured us that he would go through an ongoing review of activities conducted by the Tripura JICA Project and do the needful, he said.

GS Raju, outgoing director and CEO of the state JICA Project, could not be reached for his comments on the notification. In the notification which discontinued service of the contractual and outsourced personnel, Raju also instructed all Joint Forest management Committee (JFMC) records should be kept in safe custody of respective Sub-Divisional Forest Officers.

Meanwhile, a personnel was arrested two days back for allegedly lifting few files of the Tripura JICA Project. On a subsequent controversy, a senior representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) informed that none of the employees working in the project were their employees.

“JICA provides financial assistance to projects requested by the Government of India. The said project (Tripura Forest Environmental Improvement and Poverty Alleviation Project) has been successfully implemented and the loan agreement of the project completed on 11 July, 2017”, senior representative of JICA Toru Uemachi informed.

While the first phase of TFEIPAP was completed last year, the second installment is expected to start by September this year. The erstwhile Left Front government extended service tenure of the engaged personnel for two terms with six months each, hoping to compensate their salaries from project funds after the second installment would be sanctioned.

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