State sees acute shortage of IFS officers

Sep 24, 2023 12:38 AM IST

Maharashtra is facing a shortage of Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers at senior levels, with three tiger reserves and three territorial ranges lacking directors and chief officers respectively. Forest officials attribute the scarcity to low IFS officer intake in the 1990s. The current sanctioned strength of IFS officers is 206, but there are only around 150 officers in the state. This shortage is affecting the functioning of the forest department and the management of tiger reserves.

Mumbai: Maharashtra is facing an acute shortage of Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers at senior levels as three tiger reserves are without a field director, and three territorial ranges do not have a chief officer. Forest officials have blamed the scarcity on the low intake of IFS officers in the 1990s.

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Currently, the sanctioned strength of IFS officers is 206, but there are approximately 150 IFS officers in the state.

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A senior officer from the forest department said, “We are having a paucity of officers at many levels. We don’t have field directors at Pench Tiger Reserve, Bor Tiger Reserve and Sahyadri Tiger Reserve. The territorial ranges of Amravati, and Chandrapur are vacant as we don’t have enough officers of chief conservator of forest rank. The post of additional principal chief conservator of forest (eastern Maharashtra) is vacant. In Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve, the post of field director is downgraded to the deputy conservator rank from conservator rank.”

In places like Dhule, Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, and Yavatmal territorial ranges, the rank of chief conservator of the forest has been downgraded to conservator of forest.

Ravikiran Govekar, the joint secretary in the forest department, said, “The intake of IFS in the 1990s was less, and there is a shortage of IFS officers at senior level now.”

An officer is promoted to conservator after 16 years of service and chief conservator after 18 years. An IFS officer becomes the additional principal chief conservator of forest after 25 years of service and principal chief conservator of forest after 30 years. Because of these criteria, according to forest officials, promoting juniors becomes difficult.

Anish Andheria, president of Wildlife Conservation Trust, said, “There has been less recruitment of IFS officers since 20 years, which has led to severe a deficit in the entire country. It has impacted the functioning of the forest department even as problems faced by the natural ecosystem have escalated. As a result, several non-wildlife-trained IFS officers are in charge of important tiger reserves, national parks and sanctuaries. This adds to management woes of biodiversity-rich India.”

Kishor Rithe, interim director of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), said, “There are National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines that an IFS officer who is a field director must be there for four years. It was introduced to strengthen the administration of tiger reserves. This will definitely hamper the administration and management of tigers.”

Praveen Pardeshi, president of BNHS, said, “As a temporary measure, the government can downgrade posts and find a temporary solution.”

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