- As an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, you conserve the forest by implementing Govt. policies working in conjugation with NGOs, National & International agencies, villagers etc.
- You get many traveling opportunities. The government of India takes care of your entire journey expenses.
- The work-life balance is tough as you work for developmental causes, growth and wildlife protection. Eventually, you have lesser time for your family.
- Being in a government job, the salary is handsome. There are so many perks to being a government official.
- This job requires hard physical labor.
- For entering in this profession, you need to be a science, agricultural or engineering graduate. UPSC conducts the entrance exam for Indian Forest Service.
Name – Prabhash Chandra Ray
Profession – Indian Forest Service (IFS Officer)
Age – 51 years
Gender – Male
City – Bengaluru
Industry – Government service
Where have you been born and raised?
I was born in Nainital, Uttarakhand to a farmer and raised in Gola Gokarnath in Uttar Pradesh. I did my schooling in a village with three of my siblings. My family background is agricultural middle-class. My parents are from a humble background and they insisted that I excel in studies.
After I joined the service in 1994, I was recruited as Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer in Karnataka cadre by the Government of India (GOI). My wife is a Professor in Bengaluru. I have 2 children and reside in Bengaluru.
Who had the most influence on you and how?
My parents were my biggest influences. Despite meager resources, my father provided us the best. For example, he sent me to Allahabad University after my schooling. He has always been a great support and my mother has been a great influence on me.
Please give us a summary of your career.
After I completed my intermediate, I moved to Allahabad University where I completed my Bachelor of Science in biology and Masters of Science in botany. I gave competitive examinations, qualified NET, thereafter worked as a Junior Research Fellowship (JRF).
Through UPSC, I qualified for Indian Forest Service in 1994. As an Indian Forest Service Officer, you are primarily set up in the forest department of the concerned state implementing the social forestry programs, forest laws, forest resources. We need to protect and develop the forest area, its wildlife, and work for communities living nearby forest along with involving people in forest management.
Then, I was transferred to Chikmagalur district where I worked for three long years. One of the important assignments I did there was removing encroachment and intrusion into coffee plantations. While at Bangalore, I involved myself in World Bank Project in a community-based tank management system where I implemented several link programs, monitored and guide them. It was one and a half years’ experience.
Then, I was transferred as Chief Conservator of forest in Bellari, a hub of iron & mining. The mining was supposed to be restarted and it was a challenge for the conservation of wildlife. I also worked under the MNREGA scheme of government in the rural development program.
Then GOI posted me as Commissioner of Horticulture department in Karnataka where it is all about developing, marketing and processing of flowers and plants. For example, this department was responsible to conduct a flower show that has been running for the last 100 years. Tourists from all over the world visit it to appreciate the beauty of nature.
Later, I was promoted to Commissioner of Watershed Development department, wherein I implemented various projects & programs related to water management along with the help of NGOs. We also work on animal husbandry, providing lands, checking the capacity of the land. The present key program is for drought and waste management.
Last month, I was promoted to the highest-grade officer i.e. Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Bengaluru. This is my current class of service working with 14 scientific departments.
Which institutes are best for the education/training of this profession?
For forestry education, Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM, Bhopal) offers a postgraduate diploma. There are various agricultural universities and colleges, which provide BSc and MSc courses in forestry.
Once you are selected for IFS service, then you are trained for 3 years at Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy in Dehradun. I have been trained by the same academy. After this training, you join service and you get on-job training in cadre state.
What are the costs of education/training of Indian Forest Service?
There are no costs. In fact, we are paid salaries during the training period. Also, GOI takes care of the other expenses. While my training at Dehradun, we were on tours every month viz. South India tour, Western India tour, East India tour, Hill tour. They make you travel to forests and various Forestry institutes, exposing you to the entire spectrum of Forests. We’ve been to Andaman & Nicobar Islands for field work and did trekking along several villages. It’s a phase of many opportunities so, after training, we feel ready for service without any fear.
How does one enter into Indian Forest Service?
For entering into this profession, you need to be either science or agricultural graduate or engineering graduate. Then you have to clear Civil Services Prelim exam and then clear a separate exam for IFS. Later, you need to clear personality test under Indian Service Commission.
A physical test follows this personal interview. You have to walk 25 KM in less than 4 hours. These are mostly 10 rounds on a path designed in the hills & forests. They check if you’re physically fit, contain sufficient stamina and energy for this job.
What is the range of salary one can expect in Indian Forest Service?
Salary increases with promotion and experience.
You start at a junior scale, then move to senior scale and then conservator.
These days, your starting salary is around INR 50,000 per month and it is around 3 lakhs INR per month plus incentives for the highest rank in this profession.
From the very first day of my service, I’m provided with an official vehicle by the government till the day I retire. It takes to me my office, places to inspect and different sites. Other than this, other perks include travel concession, house rent allowances and the security of my job, unlike the private sector.
Please describe your work as an IFS Officer.
On a normal day of work, I check files (system of approval) and documents. Attend meetings with subordinates, superiors, and ministers too. Also, I attend visitors and take phone calls. I am answerable to the government for conservation of forest and its wildlife.
I work from 9 am to 9 pm, holidays too. My responsibilities include:
- Monitoring Watershed development program under various government schemes.
- State and Central government program implementation
- Sending progress reports to the government
- Getting funds and releasing them.
There are watershed committee plus stakeholders and monitoring agencies which spends the money so I keep a check on them and their records.
What are some of the positives, which would encourage someone to consider IFS profession?
- “The Indian Forest Service allows you to travel instantly, provides an opportunity to explore the wilderness, and beauty of nature. I’m free to roam around forests.
- Being a government job, you are smothered in perks and benefits. You also get great respect in society for your position.
- The salary is hefty and easily enables you to live a comfortable life even without the added perks and benefits.
- You get job satisfaction, especially if you are a nature lover. You feel happy knowing that somewhere your actions are making the world a better place to live in.
What are some of the challenges that you would want someone to be aware of when considering a career in Indian Forest Service?
The main challenges are:
- The field work is in remote and interior areas where you may not enjoy the comforts that you’ve become accustomed to.
- You will have to deal with extremely dangerous cases like fire, wild animals or smugglers sometimes.
- The protection of forests is becoming increasingly difficult as there are urbanized gangs, smugglers and a political system working.
- The work-life balance is almost nonexistent as the job pressure is high. Often, you need to work in places away from your family.
What are the relevant trends/skills/technologies that are currently commanding a premium in your job profile?
The wildlife management has been specialized. With emerging technology, the satellites and GPS are widely used for the forest works. The forests are huge so it’s hard to manage without these relevant skills and great technologies.
What kind of person would be happy in your career?
A natural lover who is outgoing and can work in forests would definitely be happy in my career. Also, people who love to travel and want to work for benefit of society will be happy in my job.
Given another choice, what would you do differently as far as your professional selections are concerned?
No, I would definitely select this job regardless of the possibilities.
As an Indian Forest Service officer, I work in different environments, cultures, and sectors. So it’s enjoyable and I have a variety of assignments to do. There are so many choices to explore and you gain experience every time.
“There is no chance of getting bored, this is a wrong question”, he laughs.
It’s all about one’s interest and expertise. I am happy with my work and it doesn’t feel that I work so much.
What would be your advice to students or professionals who are just starting their journey on a path similar to yours?
My advice is work hard and enjoy what you’re doing. You will never get tired.
“I don’t feel exhausted even after long hours of my work. I feel I’ve done very little during the day”, he says. Just feel happy and do the work.
Interested in reading more government services interviews? Check out our conversation with Rajendra Singh Tevatiya (Ex-NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) in Indian Air Force (IAF))