S. Manikandan
S. Manikandan, CF&Director of Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, who was killed in a tusker attack while on duty | MoEFCC twitter handle
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Indian Forest Service officers claim they aren’t recognised for their work unlike IAS & IPS cadre.

New Delhi: It is the other IFS in the pantheon of India’s civil services, with the ‘F’ standing for the unglamourous ‘forest’ as opposed to the high profile ‘foreign’ service.

And the death of senior Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer S. Manikandan, who was killed by a wild elephant in a forest in Karnataka, has brought to the fore the silent, incessant ordeals faced by this lesser-known category of civil servants in their line of duty.

The tragedy, ironically, took place on World Wildlife Day (3 March). However, while condolences for Manikandan came from politicians, including the Prime Minister, IFS officers claim that unlike IAS and IPS officers, forest officers are often neglected by the political class.

They also say that incidents like Saturday’s are “routine” for the officers of the cadre, who have to work amid uncertainties and hazards of wildlife.

“When we enter the profession, we know we will encounter hazardous situations, so one cannot complain,” said Jitendra Sharma, principal chief conservator of forests and head of forest force, Punjab.

“Saying our job is unsafe is like a soldier saying fighting a war is unsafe,” he added.

The forest soldiers

The broad mandate of the IFS entails “the implementation of the National Forest Policy which envisages scientific management of forests and to exploit them on a sustained basis for primary timber products, among other things.” Constituted in 1966 under the All India Services Act, 1951, the IFS has a cadre strength of 3,152 officers.

The perils involved in the line of duty do not pinch as hard as other pressures IFS officers have to navigate. “Dealing with the land mafia, mining mafia, Naxal problems and above all, political pressures makes their job much harder,” he said.

Given that unlike the IAS and IPS officers, the work done by IFS officers is not “an immediate concern” for either citizens or politicians, the political class takes no interest in their workings, he said.

Dipika Bajpai, deputy conservator of forests, who was verbally assaulted by an MLA in 2016, agrees. “Politicians and people at large see us as ‘obstructions to development’,” she said.

“Every other profession is glamourised. If soldiers make sacrifices, everyone talks and knows about it. But because the work we do does not have immediate tangible benefits, nobody talks about it,” she rued.

Institutional neglect

Technically, IFS officers are eligible to be deputed to the central government. But in reality, it is much harder for them to make it to the government in comparison to their IAS and IPS counterparts. An evidence of this trend is the fact that even the joint secretary heading the IFS division in the ministry of environment and forests is an IAS officer, said a senior IFS officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Within the ministry, forests are completely neglected,” the officer added. That IFS officers often operate in remote areas, far away from the power centres and state capitals, is only part of the reason, the officer argues.

“There is an unsaid consensus among the political class and the IAS lobby to not let IFS officers rise to the secretary level…Forget about other ministries, why are there so few IFS officers in the environment ministry itself?”

Salaries and rewards

While there may be rationale behind dominating ministries with IAS officers, who are “direct agents of development”, there is discrimination even in salary structures and rewards, argues Bajpai.

“Who will talk about our salaries when the bodies meant to deliberate these issues are dominated by IAS officers,” she asked as she pointed out that IFS has the most stringent eligibility criteria among the all-India services, with only those with science backgrounds eligible to apply.

While IPS officers, who too encounter hazardous situations, are routinely rewarded for their duties through President’s Medals and other awards, there are no such awards for IFS officers, Bajpai says.

“Is there no award for someone like Manikandan who died in the line of duty only because he was not catering to a vote-bank,” she asked.

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27 Comments Share Your Views

27 COMMENTS

  1. The govt. should provide sophisticated tranquilizer guns to control the wild animals.
    Also, more sophisticated useful guns/ pistols/ revolvers are necessary by the forest department to deal with the poachers and other forest criminals.
    And yes, these IAS people and the politicians should not be allowed to intervene or head the forest works. The govt. should work in this regard and make some rules and the Forest department may be provided with more power and security to save the forests more efficiently.

  2. Really It is fact that the product produce by the team of an IFS Officer is avaiable to everyone free of cost i. e oxygen from plants protected by forest official.
    Secondly FCA 1980 is main hurdle to each & every department to achieve their goal They all want to breach it but forest team wants to implement the law on ground.
    Beyond all of these RIP for an IFS who passed away untimely.

  3. In India, IAS are like a dog in a manger. It will start barking if any cow starts eating her legitimate food! ( However, they will actively help “Laloos ) to eat the fodder. — — Now it is high time to cut these baboos , wrapped in red tapes to the size they deserve !!

  4. First of all it is IFoS and not IFS. IFoS is underappreciated and less glamorous in comparison with some other all India services.
    Every job has its own challenges and hardships. We will be horrified once we come to know about the working hours of the IPS officers. Their job is one of the toughest in the country. Yet, how many officers has resigned due to the above said problems? The challenge is terrible when an officer is serving in law and order . I understand, the situation is little bit relaxed when it comes to traffic or some other departments.
    Indian Revenue Service is another service which is underappreciated by our society .
    In our nation , even the judges are overloaded with cases . Currently, there are 55K cases in Supreme Court for 31 judges ( really ,believe it or not ). How about the soldiers serving at Siachen? Mr Sharma said it right.

    However , I think once the pro environment politics start to play an important role in India , the scenario of IFoS will change for sure and, sooner we will have Sharukh Khan or Amir Khan playing the roles of IFoS officers ?????
    Thanks for reading .

      • Further, I understand your point. But, why the hell an IAS officer need to head a Forest Department in which field he/she barely have any experience. Is it because the IAS are more closer to the politicians or what ?

        And, yes, sorry for the typo. I have written “Hear” instead of “Here”.
        Thanks.

  5. Why we can not plead that even the entry level examination is tougher (higher cut-off marks in preliminary examination ando 2 compulsory papers in main examination unlike only one paper in civil services) and hence the Indian Forest Service must have better pay and perks than the other all India services/civil services.
    Presently, probationers of IFS are quitting only due to neglect of the service by the government.

  6. Dear Mr. Ashok Sharma, yes it is about power for the IFS officers because with power comes change, the necessary changes that is required to implement the mandate of the National Forest Policy in letter and spirit, which in turn is vital for the survival and well being of not only ourselves but yourself, our country and the rest of world in fact. I do not believe Mr. Sharma, if you were to fall ill you will not go to a car mechanic to diagnose your illness and treat you for your full recovery. Likewise forestry is a very technical service and therefore science background is an eligibility criteria for entry into IFS and the service members are trained for two years excluding the six months probation in diverse fields of forestry before they are given responsibility in their cadres. So how do you expect a person who do not have any training in the field to understand the needs of the service? Its akin to you getting your treatment from a car mechanic for your illness.

  7. It is because of the selfless service of IFS officers green cover in india is increasing in spite of population explosion, poverty and illegal elements in the society like mining mafia, timber mafia, land mafia etc. IFS members can be proud of the fact that 24% of land under forest department has been kept in tact from encroachment and degradation by using only .5% of government spending while other departments have squandered public lands. But the argument that JS and above above posts are meant for IAS/IPS have no merit. Members of IFS are much more qualified academically and have more field experience implementing the things in field. They will be highly useful in formulating realistic policies and it’s efficient implementation.

  8. It has to be noted that those officers who do development of rural areas live there? Those who work in defence ministry live in the boarders of the country? Those officers who are in science and technology ministry live in universities or institutions? Every officer has a career progression and and in the initial periods they will be attached to the field duties more and office and policy planning int heir later duties. similarly IFS offices have to be involved in policy planning and international affairs connected to forestry and environment related subjects. All the three AIS services are formed by the provisions of the same Constitution of India and discrimination based on belonging to a particular service should not be there. The meritorious services rendered by the forest officers should get the due recognition and the society should feel proud that relentless efforts to protect and preserve the forests and environment are being made by the IFS officers and the other officers under their command. In every ministry there is regular recruitment but for in forest and environment departments leading to work overload at every level of officers and staff. Sacrifices are made by forest officers in a routine manner as we chose this department but it does not mean that the rest of the society keeps on doing activities against the interests of forests and wild life and poor people living in and around forests and forest officers keep facing the brunt of it. There has to be judicious distribution of duties and responsibilities and rewards and awards to all service officers and staff to maintain a good work and service environment. If defence personnel and their genuine needs are not taken care of, there will be frustration and desperation in them leading to situations uncomfortable to the nation as such. Generally Government responds to such needs on an urgent basis. Priority treatment is required to forestry and environment sectors also to mitigate the impending threat of climate change, which will impact all without exception if unattended. Therefore the society has to understand the needs of forests and environmental conservation ( which includes rational utilisation also) pay more attention to these issues sympathetically instead of judging the forest officers and personnel without knowing fully the efforts and contributions made by them. The dedicated services of selfless officers have to be recognised and the bereaved families like that of Manikandan need all the support for living without the main breadwinner.

    • Truly said sir,
      I would like to bring this verdict of yours’ in my magazine titled as ME & MY EARTH, need your consent in this regard. It’s a RNI registered bilingual quarterly Magazine is published from Bhopal.
      Visit:www.meandmyearth.com
      Write: jkc153@gmail.com

  9. Seriously there is a need for reform in forest department. And concern should be given for forestry graduates. Which is also least concerned like IFS. Very few people know about this coarse. Indian medical service can be written by medical graduates only. Engineering service by engineering graduates etc. This should be applied for forestry graduates also. Who are trained for 4 years and after that also they have to compete with other graduates. Where prelims for IAS and IFS is same. IFS cutoff is high. Where syllabus is not at all relevant to us. So there is a need for an reform.

  10. IFS serves a silent constituency. It should take pleasure in that selfless service. If they wanted to be in the power games, they should have tried and joined IAS/IPS. It’s ironical that they want to serve forest and wildlife and at the same time want to be a Babu in the secretariats as Jt Secy/Secy!

    • You are right.but a officer sacrificing his life on duty has a price.we should not forget.that is their greatness to be silent,similarly it will be our greatness to honour them and give them their right place.after all we all are children of mother earth??

    • Take a look at this in a different angle. IFS officers, who work for nature and forests, being ruled or headed by IAS secretary. How does that help!?

    • What a dumb analogy by this Ashok Sharma guy; probably another bureaucrat who has has his head stuck in the clouds.

    • That is not the point.. in moef, ifs officers should be there who knows the real time situation. Why ias is heading moef…?? So that there is no obstruction in clearing developmental projects on large scale.. al the point put here are valid
      Nobody joins any cadre for medals or appraisal… But recognition just gives a boost to all. That’s it.

    • ?सर,
      बिल्कुल सही और शत प्रतिशत वाज़िब लिखा है, बाजपेई ने।
      अब हम सभी रिटायर्ड ऑफिसर्स की बारी है, कम से कम इस खबर को आधार बनाकर क्यों नही हम एकजुट होते???

      हम थोड़े से प्रोमोटी अधिकारियों की देश भर में ज्यादा पहिचान नहीं है । और बिरले ही प्रोमोटेड अफसरों को केंद्र (दिल्ली), में जाने का मौका मिल पाता है….. अर्थात हम लोगों का पहिचान का स्रोत सीधी भर्ती के IFS से कई गुना कम होता है। कहने के भाव ये है कि , जब संख्य्या बल आपका ज्यादा, देश भर में पहिचान स्त्रोत में भी आप आगे हैं तो क्यों नहीं ‘हम सब’ मिलकर ऐसे न्याय/कारणों के लिए एकरूपता की लड़ाई लड़ें ??? और अपनी (वन), सेवा सम्मान तथा वन/वन-विभाग की रक्षा के लिये हमें निरंतर प्रयास/अभ्य्यास भी हमें करते रहना चाहिए…. मेरी ऐसी दृढ़ मान्यता है।
      और इस दिशा में मेरी मैगजीन “ME & MY EARTH” का प्रकाशन सतत रूप में जारी है। बाजपेयी जी की भावनाओं को में अप्रेल के अंक में जरूर प्रकाशित कुंरुगा।
      Please visit: http://www.meandmyearth.com
      Write to: jkc153@gmail.com

    • That’s why it’s still a craze among 4 lakh civil services aspirants. They might not get medals and due recognition but they are no less inferior to the other Services, mainly IAS and IPS.

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