ISLAMABAD: About 200 people hired by the KP government to look after saplings planted under the Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project in Upper Chitral have not been paid salaries since May 2019, their representatives said in a statement.

Israrullah, Wali Khan and Hakim Ali said that 214 Nigahbans (caretaker) were hired by the forest and wildlife departments in 2016.

They were tasked with looking after the newly-planted saplings and checking poaching in specific mountain blocks declared as enclosures.

The government had initially entered into an agreement with the Nigahbans that their salaries (Rs15,000 per month) would be paid upon verification of their work every three months. But the pays were not released to the workers regularly as promised.

In April 2019, the Nigahbans were paid their stuck-up salaries of 14 months after they launched a hunger strike in Booni.

“The forest and wildlife departments after clearing our dues in 2019 told us to continue working till 2023,” the statement said. However, the representatives added, for the last over two years the Nigahbans had not been paid salaries.

The representatives appealed to the authorities concerned to release their dues otherwise they would be compelled to launch a protest once again.

When contacted, the district heads of the forest and wildlife departments, Farhad Ali and Altaf Ali Shah, said the Nigahbans had been hired by the government for three years under an agreement that expired in 2019.

They said the workers were paid their salaries in 2019 after which they were no longer on the government payroll.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2021

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