Wooden feet

Published: Saturday 15 November 2008

Wooden feet

Down to Earth
IFS trainees at the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy
The forest service has not changed its training in step with the times

After recruitment, ifs probationers train for two years at the I G National Forest Academy in Dehradun and the L B S National Academy of Adminstration in Mussoorie. This includes four months of field work and travel to various parts of the country. By the end of training, the Ministry of Environment and Forests assigns officers to various state cadres, where they serve their entire career except for when they take up deputation assignments. The cadre allotment was based on performance during training; the top two probationers chose their cadre.

In recent years, the ministry has assigned officers to cadres early during training. While the probationer is asked if s/he would opt for the home state, the decision is up to the ministry. "Like others, I had asked for my home state, Uttar Pradesh, but was given Tamil Nadu.Before 1986, probationers were given a choice [apart from the home state] but not now," said Yogesh Dwivedi, conservator of forests of the 1988 batch.

Officers of the state forest services train at the three State Forest Service Colleges in Dehradun, Coimbatore and Burnighat. The training is similar to that of ifs.

Down to EarthCentralized government forestry's role needs to be drastically reduced. Activities outside reserved forests should be entrusted to local bodies. All wildlife areas should come under a new, specialized, professional wildlife service
Conservation Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society
Down to EarthThere is no rational balance between forests and development. And plantations are not the answer. They can never be the same as a forest. If you want to spend money on afforestation, just call it a welfare scheme to meet fuelwood needs
Retired IFS officer, headed Project Tiger
The national forest academy claimed its syllabus reflects the change in the service's mandate. "In recent years, the training has moved from a revenue-oriented outlook to one of biodiversity conservation and people participation," said R K Goel, the academy's additional director. "We also keep up with recent trends at the global level. The syllabus was revised in 2005 keeping all this in mind." But a casual look at the syllabus is enough to reveal that while topics like conservation, joint forest management and ecology are covered, the emphasis is on silviculture and timber, which get the most amount of training time. In comparison, wildlife barely gets a mention.

Even in the training of forest guards, silviculture and engineering training takes almost half the total training time in Himachal Pradesh while biodiversity conservation gets less than a fourth of the total time. "Our main emphasis is on silviculture as this is the backbone of forestry," said Devinder Chauhan, range officer at the forest training college in Chail.

The structure of Indian forestry still has not factored in biodivrsity and wildlife conservation. "Research and training are separate departments in Himachal. There is no specific training on research methodology," said Gulab S Verma.

The syllabi give the impression that the forests are still looked at as a timber source to be managed and harvested and 'regenerated through plantations'. "Revenue generation is still considered a major goal though the forest policy has moved away from this to conservation and people's participation. The social and communication skills needed for this are not taught. The service is unaware of its impact on the people. This does not bode well," said N C Saxena, former secretary of the planning commission of India. "There has been a revision of the syllabus for the frontline staff. But here at Chail, we are yet to implement it because of a lack of infrastructure. The new syllabus calls for more field visits which is not feasible yet. It also makes major changes such as completely dropping the soil conservation module," said Verma.

The National Forest Commission said training is extremely classroom-oriented and wastes a lot of time on basic, school-level biology. The report also says that the Advanced Forest Management courses, which are refresher courses conducted for serving officers, are underutilized by the officers. And that there is not enough participation in these classes by the officers even though they are requisite for promotion.

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