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The world of Indian Forest Services

Anu P James

If you enjoy the outdoors, draw inspiration from the simple everyday wonders of nature and have the fire in you to persistently work for the forests and environment against all odds, this can be your call as well.

It is a multifaceted journey of challenges and experiences when reaching for the goal to be a civil servant. And if there is a passion and willingness to protect the environment, nature and the biodiversity around us, being an Indian Forest service officer would make efforts joyful and purposeful even more.

The Indian Forest Service was constituted in 1966 under the All-India Services Act, 1951, as one of the three All India Services, by the Government of India alongside the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS).

The mandate of the forest service is the implementation of the National Forest Policy that covers the scientific management of forests and enforcement of the various acts like the Indian Forest Act 1927, the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, The Forest Conservation Act 1980, along with climate change.

India being a signatory to the various international conventions, our national laws and guidelines are framed covering the roles of securing biodiversity, wetlands, and pollution control, among others, and are also handled by these officers. An IFS officer in a gist is a natural resource manager with a bigger role of protecting and preserving the natural heritage, managing them sustainably while securing the ecological security of the Nation.

To get into the service one must have a bachelor’s degree with science or engineering background and appear in the all-India level competitive examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) every year. There are four successive stages in the selection process starting with the prelims, mains, interview and the test of physical fitness. After passing through all these steps successfully, a qualified candidate starts the training phase.

Training to be a Forest Officer is also an intensive two-year programme comprising the foundation course at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie, followed by the Professional Training phase at Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA), Dehradun and thereafter on-the-job Training (OJT) at the respective State cadres.

After the training, the officer takes charge as the Assistant Conservator of Forest. Later, upon promotion as Deputy Conservator of Forest more commonly referred to as the Divisional Forest Officers (DFO) they would be the administrative heads of the divisions defined in the state. Apart from this 33.33 per cent of the cadre strength of the service, as per the regulations, is filled by appointing eligible officers of the State Forest Service to IFS.

Why Civil Services?

The motivation for the civil services aspirants can be many. For some it may be a secure career path or for some the associated social respect and perks of being a civil servant. Of course, these entitlements are just ancillary benefits helping to facilitate the performance of our duty as an officer.

The money earned as a civil servant as compared to corporate jobs would be still less but the passion to do good and help people and nature towards a sustainable future trump everything else. Once selected, he or she is going to be play a crucial role in nation building conserving and developing the resources wisely and responsibly for a sustained tomorrow the upcoming generations will thrive in, enjoy and cherish. This is no simple responsibility that comes with the power. The real power of a civil servant including the forest service officer, lie in its transformative ability, improving and empowering the lives of common people for good while steering the nation ahead securing and managing its richness.

Towards a greater calling

As forest officers, it is indeed a big and serious responsibility to be the guardians of our rich nature and its resources and keep in trusteeship for the future generations. It is not a secret that there are a lot who knowingly and unknowingly exploits the resources and disrupts the rich biodiversity of our forest and natural resources thoughtlessly. As we educate the citizens and empower them to be safekeepers of our rich biodiversity and resources, it’s critical that unauthorized access and exploitation are strictly controlled not just for the sake of law and order but for our own good and future generations.

It is important to maintain intra-generational and inter-generational equity while ensuring that we thrive with the rich biodiversity and resources of nature. For the state of Meghalaya, which is richly endowed with vast forests, flowing rivers, varied wildlife, natural resources and rich biodiversity it is indeed a treasure trove that is worth sustaining.

For the people of Meghalaya, conservation is nothing new as people here have been doing this since ages in their indigenous ways. The sacred groves are an evident example for this. Meghalaya is also the state having the largest number of the community reserves, which are protected areas in the whole of India.

At present, we have only two serving direct officers who are locals from the state, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest & the Head of the Forest Force Shri B. K. Lyngwa who is an IFS Officer of 1985 batch and the other being Terakchi K Marak who is an IFS Officer of 2013 batch. Along with them several IFS officers from across India work in Meghalaya in close collaboration with the local communities and foresters and the frontline field staff who brave their days to go to lengths saving and protecting our nature, wildlife and heritage.

Hopefully in the days to come more and more youngsters from the state clears the exam and join the ranks of IFS to keep going on this tireless and purposeful mission. Unlike mainland India, where most of the forest are under the control of the respective Forest Departments here in Meghalaya, most of the forests are under community ownership. Hence the way we manage and conserve the forest and natural resources must be unique keeping into account the deep-rooted traditions combined with the modern scientific management techniques. This is indeed a unique opportunity for youngsters of the state to steer Meghalaya, India towards an ecologically resilient and sustainable future.

 (The author is an officer of the 2015 Batch of Indian Forest Service and is presently working as Divisional Forest Officer, Forest Utilisation Division, Shillong. Views are personal)

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