IN JUST nine days, the first-ever helpline set up in the country by the state Forest department has received as many as 2,000 calls. The ‘Hello Forest’ helpline number 1926 was officially launched on January 5 with an aim to make forest governance transparent and credible. Pravin Shrivastava, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (IT), told The Indian Express that so far, there was no single point public interface with the forest department. The call centre facility has been set up at Goregaon in Mumbai and work has been outsourced to SAAR IT solutions. Experts from Pune and Nagpur will oversee the operations.
Shrivastava, however, who coordinates the overall operations from Nagpur said that this call centre facility with a dedicated 24×7 helpline was a first in the country. A majority of the calls pertain to forest fires and illicit tree felling, said Sunil Limaye, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife- Pune division).
Within just five minutes of receiving a call, an SMS and email is sent to the concerned forest officer to act on the complaint. “We have also received compliance reports of action taken in several cases,” Shrivastava said. While a minimum of 48 hours and maximum of four days has been set aside to work on various complaints, the helpline will also try to get back to the caller and inform them about the action taken.
Calls can be made under emergency and general categories. Residents can enquire about plantations, conservation strategies, wildlife information, timber trade, eco tourism and others.
The maximum calls that have been received pertain to forest fires, illicit tree felling, encroachment on forest land and wildlife animal sightings. All the forest officers have been mapped on the database and subject experts have also been selected to provide information on topics related to the forest issues like conservation, plantation, social forestry among others. “We did have call waiting with so many people calling us, but despite the technical hiccups, efforts are being made to attend various complaints,” officials said.