Chairman Centre for Resource Management and Environment Dr VK Bahuguna has drawn the attention of Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav towards the long-term perspective Plan for the cadre management of the Indian Forest Service that is being prepared by MOEF and Climate Change and offered concrete suggestions for implementation based on his wide-ranging experience as an administrator and a forestry expert.
Dr Bahuguna was Director-General of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education and Chancellor of Forest Research Institute (Deemed) University governed by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. He superannuated from the Government of Tripura in April 2015 as Principal Secretary. Presently he is Chairman of Centre for Resource Management and Environment. He has written to the Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change to offer suggestions “to meet the emerging challenges and aspirations of the people in the forestry sector”.
Hailing the timely decision to revisit the management principles of the forest service cadres, Dr Bahuguna has underscored that the decision to prepare a long-term perspective Plan will help in grooming the officers and other category of forestry professionals to meet the emerging challenges and aspirations of the people in the sector.
We reproduce below the operative portion of Dr Bahuguna’s letter to the Union Minister:
“The Indian Forest Service is one of the oldest civil service which was revived in 1966. Today the service is in the midst of a big challenge to meet the growing aspiration of the changing society in view of rising population, shrinking resources base, dependency of tribal and rural poor on the forests as also of agriculture and water availability in the country. The threat of climate change and meeting the millennium development goals and the role played by forest in Environmental conservation, climate change mitigation and adaption have assumed international dimensions and hence there is a need to revamp the cadre management of various levels of posts. We would therefore, like you to consider far reaching changes in the scope of this service and hence its cadre management.
- First of all, it need to be accepted that the job profile of service have changes a lot since its organizational structure was created in British period. Though the number of posts increased significantly yet haphazardly but the organizational structure remains truncated at the point of delivery i.e. the forest beat level which is headed by the forest guards who have no in depth knowledge of policy issues and spreading dimensions of forest management. In Tripura, the government in 2015created the functional territorial forest sub-division headed by the State Forest Service (SFS) officers. The Ranges were made co-terminus with blocks and the District set up made co-terminus with civil administration. The concept of District Forest Officers co-terminus with district was created for better coordination and fine tuning the set up to integrate with other departments and better supervision. There may be more officers at the district level for other line functions but territorial administration becomes unified and focused. The undersigned had piloted this proposal and is monitoring it frequently. The experience is it is working in an excellent manner and the image of department and its efficiency at delivery point has improved with the use of state forest officers gainfully rather than as superficial attached officers. This exercise should be done all over India by review of SFS, range officers and other subordinate cadres. The forest beats should be headed by the foresters. All ranks in subordinate forest officials should be at par with police in rank and pay. Like police personnel the forest field staff must be paid 13 months’ salary and other facilities. Forest field staff needs to be provided with better weapons, vehicles and other infrastructure to protect the forests from smugglers. However, in many big forested districts like Saranda and Chaisbasa etc it may be possible to do it by posting more Additional DFOs in senior scale. While making changes we need to fist create more sub-divisions and post the young IFS officers as in charge of subdivisions for at least two years including one year in senior scale. After this the IFS officer shall be posted as Additional DFO before promoted as District Forest officer.
- One of the weakest links in Environmental management in the country is lack of an organized set up at the field and district level. A few years ago there was a proposal to enlarge the scope of Forest Service and rename it as Indian Forest and Environment Service. Today it is considered essential to do that and the pollution control boards be subsumed in this service and a wing be created at the state and district level. One officer should be posted as District Environment officer to solely look after the work of Environment at the district level. The training of officers shall have to be revised to broaden the course contents at the IGNFA. At the headquarters there should be different independent wings to give focus to emerging challenges.
- There is also a need to focus on the task of technology development at the state level. We need to create Forest Research and Environment sub-cadre who will work both at the government of India level as well as at state levels. A Forest Research Service sub- cadre should manage the research and extension both in the state as well as at the centre.
- The Director IGNFA should be designated as DG Training and all SFS and other cadre’s training institutions should be placed under him to streamline the training and bring uniformity in forestry training of all categories of forestry personnel.
- Agro-forestry must be given a prominent focus now and is presently looked after by Agriculture Ministry. It needs to be brought back to Environment Ministry by creating a National Agro-Forestry Board to be headed by a DG Forest level officer.
- A few months ago National Commission of Schedule Tribes recommended renaming the IFS as Indian Forest and Tribal Development Service. The proposed forest and environment service can actually be assigned the tribal development work which will promote harmony in forests conservation and tribal development.
- Eco-development has tremendous potential to garner revenue for the government as well as local people and farmers. Eco-development work has to be made central activity of forest management. It has tremendous scope. National and State level independent Eco-development wings or corporations need to be set up to harness the potential.
- The state forest corporations’ profile and name must be redefined to make them support/include management of the Non Timber Forest Product (NTFP) Sector for better conservation of NTFPs.
There are several posts created at the senior levels all over India and these should be reallocated by rationalizing the man power to man the changed cadre structure which will not require more creation of posts at the senior levels except at the centre. However, SFS cadre will needs to be increased. In nutshell, these are some of the suggestion we would like your Ministry to consider while preparing a perspective plan for IFS and other cadres. It should be a futuristic set up that we should try to create so that public interests are better secured. It would be necessary to set up a study group outside the Ministry to propose changes and then discuss it extensively with states.”