“Indian Forest Service is one of the three All India Services constituted under the All India Service Act, 1951. It is indeed a matter of great pleasure for me to be amongst you. I have recently attended the convocation of Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA), Dehradun where you are now undergoing professional training. I am told that around 24 technical subjects related to forestry, wildlife, environment, management, administration, law and social sciences are being exposed to you at your Dehradun Academy.
I am told that there are only 8 lady probationers out of total 97 and the average age of the batch is 28 years. You have come from 18 states of the Country.
You have entered this noble profession at a critical juncture, when the very survival of the mankind is threatened due to imbalances in the global life support systems caused by depleting forest cover, environmental degradation, global warming, pollution of air and water, etc.
I used to stress upon to youngsters that Nature and Culture are to be protected for Better Future. Environment education should be part of our education curriculum.
With an area of around 32,87,263 Sq. Km, India’s total forest and tree cover at present is around 23% only. The National Forest Policy aims at 33% of the entire landmass of the country under forest and tree cover.
Our Habitat ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats and North-East India to the coniferous forest of the Himalaya; between these extremes lie, the moist deciduous sal forest of eastern India; the dry deciduous teak forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain.
Thus, India is a mega Bio-Diverse Country and this is our treasure and we should pass on this treasure to next generation perpetually duly protecting and developing it. I draw your attention to the words of Mahatma Gandhiji – “the earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs but not every man’s greed”.
It is widely recognized that forests play a significant role in maintaining the health and stability of the earth’s environment besides their timber and fuel wood values. Scientific forestry management in India is more than a century old; yet we are passing through a critical period due to the scarcity of natural resources and ever increasing demands of the growing population of the country. Even the existing forests are greatly damaged and over exploited without commensurate regeneration.
As a consequence, the country is becoming poorer not only in terms of its natural resources but also its germ-plasm.
Forest Management is no longer limited to the management of forests and wildlife alone but is also an activity for maintaining the health of land, water and air. The shift of Forest Management from man-made forests to natural forest has caught the foresters unawares. This shift has come at a time when the art and science of managing natural forests has almost been forgotten. This is perhaps the greatest challenge ever faced by foresters.
Thus, we now need to depart from the age old concepts of commercial management, governmental control, exotic species, exclusion of people, protection etc., and appreciate forestry from a more open, cooperative, ecological functional and environmental angle.
This change over is not going to be easy. It would need input from the best brains form diverse disciplines; need free and frank discussions & debates; need strong political will; and above all, would need a multi-disciplinary committee/commissions to get to the bottom of all the complex issues involved.
The specter of Climate Change and our capacity to cope with its concomitant effects is also something that would require our utmost effort. I hope that you are up to the task.
After your training at IGNFA, you will be enriched with the knowledge of yester years, equipped with not only the skills of today but also the technology of tomorrow. What is more important is that you have to apply this knowledge and skill with a human face. You are going to be the custodians of the vast forest wealth of this country.
Though you may be armed with legal weapons in your fight against the organized forest offences, you may find yourself disarmed before the hungry and deprived people living in the around forest areas. Therefore, you will have to carefully address the problems of forest protection and human sustenance.
There are a variety of forces in action, trying to influence the system in which you are functioning. Therefore, you have to adequately understand the functioning of the system and the forces at play.
I would like you to act as facilitator in providing the benefits of the forests to the community and nation, besides providing leadership to the men under your command for channelizing their energies in the right direction. In this context, I wish to mention another quote - “What we are doing to the Forests of the World is but the mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and one another”.
As a forester, you have to always bear in mind that our forests are national community resources with social, economic and cultural ramifications and their management have to be seen in these contexts.
Your role in this context is not so simple. You have, therefore, to take up concrete action plans of ecological restoration and conservation by garnering wide spread grass-root support from the masses by creating additional opportunities for employment for them through forestry-based programs.
In end, I would like to say, Love and live with nature. Nature and culture ensure the better future. My good wishes are with you.