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Rumble in the jungle

education Updated: Nov 03, 2009 14:50 IST
Ayesha Banerjee

The confidence rings loud in Capt. Anil Khare’s voice. The ex-Army man-turned-Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer says he is now doing the world’s best job. “You have power, authority… you are in command of people in uniforms — from forest guards to rangers,” says Khare, conservator of forests, MP Cadre.

As a forester, you get to explore the jungles and live in some of the most beautiful places (here, he holds forth eloquently on the charms of a certain forest property in Madhya Pradesh near the river Narmada “with its own private bathing ghat”).

It has a philanthropic element to it as well. “You get to do some social development work — look after some of the neediest communities living in abject poverty, protect wildlife,” Khare says. “Most importantly, you help conserve forests, critical for controlling global warming.”

The IFS training includes working with forest rangers and also police officers so that one knows what do in case of an encounter with poachers.

And at the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), students are groomed to be forest managers, who would care for and utilise the jungles like the precious resource they are.

“Forest management today doesn’t have to essentially be about growing trees,” says PK Biswas, senior professor in the Sociology and Community Development Department, IIFM.

“It’s about people management, too. It means interacting with tribals and villagers who live in and around forests and derive their sustenance from it. These communities have to get actively involved in protecting the forests, helping in regeneration and conservation practices.

The government by itself cannot manage this wealth, which is vulnerable to poachers because of the great value of its timber and wildlife. One needs more than forest guards to look after this wealth.”

Forests do need care and protection. In their report on ‘Population pressure and deforestation in India’, SC Gulati and Suresh Sharma of the Population Research Centre,

Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, state: “The enormity of forest stock scarcity in India can be judged from India’s position in the world in terms of population and forest resources.

India possesses around 16 per cent of the world’s population and 15 per cent of world’s livestock, with only 2.4 per cent of the world’s land area and 1.7 per cent of the world’s forest stock.”

Ask Prof. Biswas the adventures and the romance of a life in a jungle, and he is likely to laugh it off and change the topic to the business of managing forests, the need for expertise on carbon finance, NGO management, rural development, microfinance... This, of course, does not mean that subjects like forestry, social skills, climate change, as well as silviculture (controlling the growth of the forest and to ensure that it meets the needs of the inhabitants), forest mensuration (taking tree measurements), etc are not important. The IIFM today provides consultancy to government departments, MNCs and other agencies on agro-forestry, marketing, non-timber forest produce, grassland management, silviculture systems, eco-development, forestry planning and management, etc. “It’s about forest development and the management sector...” says Biswas.

Sharing his experiences in the IFS, Khare tells you how satisfying it is to do something for the villagers and tribals in the forested areas. Small things matter: “Sometimes you may find you have some whitewash to spare and you do up all the homes in a small hamlet. Sometimes you find that a village lacks fresh water supply and decide to dig up some wells… There are often run-ins with poachers and the forest mafia, but I wouldn’t give this job up for anything.”

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Managing a forest means treating it as an organisation, managing its flora and fauna, administering it, protecting it and taking care of people dependent on it. To do this, you have to have scientific and technical knowledge related to growth and preservation of forests. You’ have to learn about silviculture (forest development), protection (legal and other regulations related to forests), forest mensuration (measuring trees), managing natural and other resources

Clock Work
For an IIFM graduate working as a private consultant
7.30 am: Read new research/check websites
9.30 am: Reach office
10 am: Meet industrialist to discuss control of effluents from his factory
1.30 pm: Lunch
2.30 pm: Work on project with NGO to help villagers
6.30 pm: Leave for home

For a deputy conservator of forest
4.30 am: Leave home early for site of reported forest fire
10.30 am: Return and breakfast
Noon: Leave for site to check on teak plantation
2 pm: Lunch with villagers at site, give them inputs on microfinance
5 pm: Go to office, check files
6.30 pm: Leave for home

The Payoff
After the implementation of 6th Central Pay Commission recommendations, the pay scales of posts in the Indian Forest Service are as under:
. Principal chief conservator of forests (head of forestry) Rs. 80,000
. Principal chief conservator of forests, Rs. 75,500-80,000
. Additional principal chief conservator of forests, chief conservator of forests and
conservator of forests Rs. 37,400-67,000
. Deputy conservator of forests Rs. 37,400-67,000.

Ranks below:

Rs. 15,600 to Rs 39,100. Plus allowances ranging from Rs 5,400 to Rs 12,000

The highest compensation package to an IIFM student offered this year was Rs 7.2 lakh per annum. The average salary offered this year stood at Rs 4.6 lakh per annum

Skills
.
Scientific temperament
. Good knowledge of finances
. Great communication skills for teaching and reaching out to tribals / village people
. Quick decision-making abilities
. Authoritative, able and effective leadership
. Love of the outdoors

How do i get there?
Take up science at Plus Two level (preferably botany and zoology). The IIFM and IFS both can lead to great careers. Entrance to the IIFM’s PG diploma in forest management and fellow programme in management is through the Indian Institute of Management’s Common Admission Test. Recruitment to the IFS is through an annual civil service exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. Applicants should hold a BSc degree in maths, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, geology, statistics, veterinary science or hold a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, forestry or agriculture or be a Bachelor of medicine and surgery

Institutes & urls
.
Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal
www.iifm.ac.in
. Aligarh Musilm University , Aligarh
www.amu.ac.in
. Dr YS Parmer University of Agriculture, & Forestry, Solan
www.yspuniversity.ac.in
. Forestry Research Institute, Dehradun
www.icfre.org
. Postgraduate School, Indian Agriculture Research Institute, New Delhi
www.iari.res.in

Pros & Cons
.
A great deal of satisfaction doing meaningful work
. The best workplace environment in the world
. Too much of travelling involved
. Dealing with forest mafia can be dangerous


Forestry Curricula Combine natural and Social Sciences

New concepts of sustainable ecosystems are emerging

As the Indian Council for Forestry, Research and Education (ICFRE) aids, promotes and co-ordinates forestry education, research, etc, are you going in for any major changes (in the way education is imparted) given today’s environmental concerns?

The forestry sector is evolving and adapting to new demands. The increasing role of local communities, amongst others, have changed the forestry institutional setting and new concepts of sustainable ecosystems are emerging. Increased attention is now being paid to multiple functions of forests. There’s more emphasis on social and ecological forest systems, building partnerships in forestry research, increasing the outreach through the Van Vigyan Kendras (VVKs), enhancing automation in the forestry research sector to address the needs of various stakeholders.

The curricula of forest universities are designed to integrate natural, social and applied sciences. Investigations to reduce the long gestation period of forestry research and support of quality planting material have become focal points of forestry research, addressing adaptability to climate change.

Where forestry is concerned, is India lagging in terms of more manpower?
There is an urgent need to bring new scientific, administrative and technical infusion by establishing additional manpower and subject-specific theme based institutes and bureaus to better address the national mandate of ICFRE. At present, because of scarcity of resources and manpower no such dispensation is available in the Council.

There is a need to upgrade functional set-up of ICFRE to be at par with that of ICAR, expanding reach and coverage of ICFRE by creating more institutes, bureaus, project directorates, national research centres and substations/ field stations of institutes alongwith establishment of Van Vigyan Kendras in each district of the country besides strengthening networking of forest universities.

What would your message be to Class XI and XII students who want to enter this arena?
Forestry is for those who have a passion for forest and wildlife conservation. One must enjoy working with nature. Earlier, growth opportunities for scientists were fewer but now forestry science is a rewarding profession. It might not be at par with the corporate world, but scientists’ salaries are almost at par with the civil servants.

Dr GS Rawat Interviewed by Ayesha Banerjee

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