The Covid 19 (SARS CoV-2) pandemic, that struck last year has after a phase of abatement in India has resurged in a more menacing second wave in 2021 unleashing disruptions and distresses with calamitous tendencies.
I had joined the Academy in the midst of the first pandemic wave in August 2020, and the training and other activities here having suffered setbacks and disruptions were limping back with contingent measures and arrangements of online mode and rescheduling of the activities in the expectation of situation improving in 2021. With visible improvements since December 2020 till mid-March 2021, the academy had taken the pathway in the first quarter of 2021 to recompense some of the adverse impacts on the training activities of 2020-21 in the current year 2021-22. But this new wave has put spokes in our wheel. The recuperative and other progressive plans, and the functioning of the academy are being adversely affected and facing unexpected disruptions again. The unfolding adverse situations with attendant imponderables demand organized endeavors with restraints, patience and optimism from all of us. We at the Academy, are positive that the we shall meet the challenges with improvisation and adaptations and carry on the tasks in hand with resolve and fortitude, as we had accomplished on the previous occasion.
For the last eight decades, initially as the Indian Forest College (1938 to 1987) and later as I.G. National Forest Academy (1987 onwards), this institute has been responsible for professional capacity building at the top levels of the forestry cadre of the civil services in India. It has been imparting the core professional trainings to the probationers of the Indian Forest Service in the embryonic phase. The academy has also been organizing shared learning engagements for the IFS officers at various maturity levels co-timed with transitions in their career - from field execution responsibilities to supervisory functions and later at policy & planning roles at the state and national levels in the strategic, programmatic and governance areas.
The academy also contributes to assisting a few neighborhood countries in meeting apex-level training requirement of their forestry cadres.
The initial training of the IFS officers and also the induction training of the state service foresters graduating to the IFS provide the professional competency grounding with the specialized knowledge and skill sets in forestry and allied areas. Their periodic in-service trainings intermittently nurture them with renewal and enrichment of acumen and insights. These engagements ensure the flourishing of the service to foster the best team of capable and competent administrators, managers and agents and leaders of change entrusted with the task of conservation and sustainable management of the forest resources and the forestry sector in tune with the contemporary national and international agenda.
In the current times, the biophysical environment comprising of the forests and wildlife and the conjoined resources and systems together with the socio-economic components behold substantive and critical ramifications for the governance and administration in the country. As such, the objectives and tasks of this national academy - the staff training college of the members of the Indian Forest Service, are also expanding in scope and significance.
This is the age of unprecedented accelerations induced and catalyzed by population growth and dynamics, globalization and disruptive transformations spurred by technological, economic and market factors and innovations. The scenarios and contexts are also confounded by human aggravated denudations and impairments in the natural systems of balance and resilience and related to environmental degradation and their impacts, land desertification and degradation, ecological stresses, biodiversity loss and biological invasion etc. including anthropogenic climate change phenomena. The current Covid-19 pandemic appears to be one of the episodic and intractable manifestation of the adverse environmental-ecological conditions on global scale. The associated challenges are multifaceted and the options and opportunities are inviting for the abiding human instinct of strife and survival and spirit of ingenuity and creativity for tackling and resolving the adversities and hardships. Exploring and navigating pathways and solutions for sustainable development with consensual sagacity and humane approaches have become essential shared concerns at all levels and scales – global, regional, national and local.
The responsibilities and roles of the foresters in general and the Indian Forest Service cadre in particular, in steering functions have changed from forest estate and asset administration to their conservation, restoration, rehabilitation, sustainable wise use reckoning the multiple functions of the forests and wildlife. The forests and wildlife are subject to diverse contexts and dynamic scenarios, on many occasions beset with competing and conflicting perceptions and demands. The management and exploitation of natural resources including forests are also determined in the given contexts of the growth of population, the past and future trajectory of social, economic and other developments in the country, in which the foresters and IFS are also key stakeholders and influential partners. The dilemmas and conundrum of development-conservation dual have to be comprehended and resolved in the best feasible manner in coherence with now established operational framework of sustainable development. In this regard, a robust and yet sensitive and responsive cadre of the forestry services have to play the crucial and transformative roles for effective sharing of wisdom, advocacy, communication and facilitation for other key or major stakeholders – community, state organs, the capital and corporate sector, the media and the civil society. Such roles are in addition to the conventional regulating, enforcing and conservationist functions. The human equity and inclusiveness components of sustainable development have also to be accorded substantial rightful space in the governance and administrative functions dealing with forests and wildlife and their attendant human dimensions.
To meet these challenges with competence and ingenuity, the IFS fraternity have to be abreast in the mode of continuous learning and renewal, with the latest revealed wisdom, knowledge and skill resources, and innovation potentials within forestry and wildlife management arena. These are also the time for transcending into other sectors and professional specializations to chart out convergent working identifying and leveraging complementarities. The inter-disciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches have become essential mainstay for effective governance and efficient, economic and fast paced administration involving forests and forestry.
The massive growth of population in the country that would stabilize only over another three decades and the inevitable widespread geographical expansion with the attendant ramifications of the necessary infrastructure development and growth of economic activities entail in many instances intense human induced adverse environmental and ecological footprints affecting land resources and forest landscapes therein. As such the profound appreciation, knowledge and insights about forests and forestry and the enmeshed scientific and technological aspects thereof have become necessary for other key influential stakeholders in the country. Towards this end, the academy has to undertake activities for mainstreaming the contemporary knowledge and understanding about forests and forestry in governance and administration in other services and sectors – civil, defense, industry and commerce, and also other constitutional organs of the state.
The academy strives to continuously improve and update the training inputs and methodologies and generation, pooling and dissemination of knowledge and skill resources. It keeps on investing in development of infrastructure, facilities and services to facilitate efficient and gainful delivery of the trainings and knowledge sharing.
With compact core faculty of forest officers of varied experiences and specializations, we maintain network of faculty resource pool from other institutions, academia, expert professionals besides those from sister organizations within MoEF& CC, GoI. This ensures quality and value addition in the training programmes and engagements transcending the boundaries of conventional forestry profession. This fosters infusion and exchange of ideas and knowledge from other fields and specializations, and also enhances the competence and capability of the academy.
The academy has always been bestowed with guidance and support of Government of India – MoEF&CC, its other institutes and organizations, and other ministries and organizations in successful performance of its mandated tasks and rendering progressive accomplishments. Cooperation and support of the State Forest Departments have always been forthcoming in all spheres - participation of the trainees, training field tours, on-job trainings and the enlightening feedback and assessments.
I welcome critiques and suggestions that may be of utility in improvement and betterment of the academy’s performance in the furtherance of our objectives in the national interests.