The ambit of the Indian Forest Service (IFS), the only national cadre dedicated for managing forests and wildlife, will be widened to include graduates from the Indian Institute of Forestry and that of science and technology.
The environment ministry has decided to expand the eligibility criteria for IFS, started by British in 1864, as part of an exercise to restructure the forest bureaucracy with an aim to make it modern and competitive.
In the recent years, the role of forest officials have widened with increasing interface with local communities and inclusion of scientific tools in managing forests. And, therefore the eligibility criteria has been widened. However, a committee on restructuring of IFS said the issue of emerging challenges for IFS officers can be dealt by widening the training at Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy, where they are trained.
In a bid to get better quality candidates for IFS, the committee has recommended an aptitude test to be conducted by the UPSC in English language and general study. The environment ministry has been asked to work out the modalities for the test.
But more candidates would be able to apply as the environment ministry has decided that the IFS will be conducted in all languages as applicable for other all Indian service examinations. The decision was taken by environment minister Jairam Ramesh even though the committee was not in its favour. "If IIT-JEE examination can be conducted in all Indian languages why not the IFS?" the minister asked.
India has 3,034 IFS officers with 66% of them being direct recruits and remaining promoted from state government forest cadres. But in the last 14 years more number of officers than required were hired resulting in reducing promotion avenues, resulting in frustration in the cadre, the committee said.
To overcome the problem, the committee had recommended that on average 71 IFS officers should be hired every year keeping in view the retirement of IFS officers in the next 20 years.
The committee also recommends restructuring of the state forest departments to reduce the number of vacancies in the frontline staff. There is about 20% vacancy in frontline staff which needs to be filled for better management of forests.