Can you tell us a little bit about your previous postings before your current role?
As a trainee I was attached to the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve where I was exposed mainly to ecotourism and tribal welfare activities.
My first independent posting was as DFO, Chalakudy, Thrissur district. There I was exposed to leased land cases, rescue operations of animals, wildlife offense cases, etc. Memorable moments in the division included securing the first organic certification for my vanashree with the help of Prakriti Srivastava IFS, bringing in an intervention with the help of VSS to remove plastic waste along the Athirapally route— a tourism spot, introducing interventions like storage sheds for honey collected by tribals, a vehicle so they could be taken to school, PSC coaching classes for tribals, planting interventions in schools, public places and tribal colonies under the Green India Mission, creating water storage structures in forest areas for animals, and development of infrastructure in the central nursery.
Photo courtesy: Keerthi Jathish via Facebook
My next posting was as DFO, North Wayanad. The posting was full of challenges, of which facing human-wildlife conflict was the most important one. My posting coincided with the 2018 floods. We actively participated in rescue operations, especially in tribal areas. We provided our buildings as rehabilitation centers for tribals, visited all the rehabilitation centers to enquire about their needs, visited tribal colonies and provided them with rations, our staff helped to rescue people from landslide areas. I also brought in a few steps to revive FDA of North Wayanad.
Another experience was leading an elephant back to the forest. The elephant had come to a township and was stuck in the middle of the road. Coordinated work by the revenue authorities, police and Forest Department helped to drive the elephant back to the forest.
It was a great learning experience. Camping and trekking inside forests was memorable. I also had the opportunity to conduct interdivision patrolling and night patrolling with the adjoining division to strengthen protection activities. It was a very challenging posting, but a good learning experience.
What were your biggest learnings as Divisional Forest Officer, North Wayanad?
Wayand was a very challenging posting, as I mentioned earlier. Human-wildlife conflict management, and staff management were part of our everyday work. Protecting nature is a very challenging task and we should all stand united for future generations.
As an officer, we have to follow the rules, have integrity and honesty so every challenge becomes a sweet learning experience.
How is your current role as Director, State Forest Training Institute different from previous postings? What do you enjoy most about it?
A training institute is the place where we mould the human resource of the department. The way training is given determines to a great extent the work culture, efficiency and discipline in the department. Better the training, better efficiency of the department and its work culture. A well-trained staff is always an asset for the department. This posting gave me an opportunity to make a big difference in the training methods at the institute. I could bring in a lot of innovation, modernization and changes in the training methodology. A lot of infrastructural developments are also in the pipeline. One of the greatest achievements of the SFTI was the development of an indoor sports court of international standards. The best part of this posting is the abundance of opportunities to implement new things and train human resources of the department. With immense support from the department and my conservator, we are planning a lot of new developments at SFTI. It is one of my best postings and I enjoy it the most.
Photo courtesy: Keerthi Jathish via Facebook
You have called the balance between development and conservation one of the biggest challenges in forestry today. How have your views on this issue changed over the years? How do you approach this balance?
My views have not changed – it’s the biggest challenge till date. We need both development and conservation. But development has to respect nature, it has to be environmentally friendly. Conservation should not be seen as the mandate of a single department, we have to stand as a team and work for conservation, every single individual. Conservation is a great fight and everyone should stand as a team. We should understand that nature is needed for the survival of the human race, our survival is closely linked with nature and its protection.
Photo courtesy: Keerthi Jathish
Have you had any mentors or role models who have inspired you? If yes, how has their guidance changed your perspective?
My present mentor Khyati Mathur IFS has had a great influence on me. She is a very bold officer with a strong stand. Her practical approach in dealing with things and getting them done is great to learn from. She constantly motivates us to improve and give our best, whatever we do. She is a good officer and a great nature lover.
All the interventions I could bring into the training institute were with great support from her. She believes in my potential and fully supports all the new ideas and innovations we bring in for the development of the institute. The indoor sports court in the institute was made a reality with her support. I am inspired by her cool and calm attitude, her integrity and her strong decision-making.
Finally, do you have any advice as a mentor for forest officers who are starting out?
Protecting forests and wilderness is a great, noble cause. Protecting nature is protecting life for generations to come. Be true to yourselves – honesty, integrity and sincerity should be in everything we do. Be humane too. Follow the rules and regulations in all the work you do as forest officers. We are all doing a great job and securing the earth for future generations. We are in one of the best and most prestigious services, which is serving humankind by protecting water security, fresh air and better life for many many generations to come. If we all want good water to drink, good air to breathe and good food to eat, we have to have good forests.