Indian Forest Service (IFS) is one of the Civil Services of India, the other two being the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS). Created in 1966, the IFS officers are recruited and trained by the Central government but their services are placed under state cadres, and they have to serve both under the state and Central governments.
The chief purpose of IFS is the implementation of the National Forest Policy which aims to preserve the environment by maintaining strict vigil to sustain ecological balance that are critical for survival of all forms of life.
IFS officers while in field postings in their state cadres work for conservation, protection and development of forests and wildlife along with an aim to enhance livelihood opportunities of forest dependent communities of rural and tribal areas.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests is the cadre controlling authority of Indian Forest Service.
IFS officers are recruited through the IFS examination conducted annually by the Union Public Service Commission. The examination is open to graduates in any science or engineering discipline and has a three-stage selection process spanning nearly seven months.
In 2015, 4.6 lakh aspirants appeared for the combined preliminary exam, out of which 85 were finally selected for IFS; this selection percentage of less than 0.02 per cent makes it one of the toughest open competitive exams conducted in India. The number of aspirants is also on the increase every year.
Prelims exam: All the applicants will have to take an objective type exam called the Preliminary Examination that is common to other Civil Services Examination. It consists of two papers, where they are tested on areas such as economics, politics, history, geography, environment, awareness of current affairs, reading comprehension, logical reasoning, basic numeracy skills, inter-personal skills and decision making. Generally the qualifying cut-off marks of Preliminary Exam required to sit for IFS main examination is greater than that required to sit for Civil Services Main Examination. The marks of Preliminary Exam is not counted in making final overall merit.
Mains exam: Around 1,400 candidates are selected for the Main Examination which consists of six descriptive papers. Each candidate has to select two optional subjects (two papers each) from among the subjects allowed by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and has to take one General Studies paper and an English language paper.
Final interview: Around 230 candidates securing highest marks in the Main Examination are called for the interview conducted by UPSC board members.
Interview or personality assessment is followed by a medical check-up and a physical test which requires all male candidates to complete a 25 km walk/run in less than 4 hours. For ladies the distance is reduced to 14 km. The test is usually conducted at the National Zoological Park in Delhi.
After selection for the IFS, candidates are allocated state cadres. There is one cadre for each Indian state, with the exception of three joint cadres: Assam-Meghalaya, Manipur-Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territories (AGMUT).
Two-thirds of the strength of every cadre (for a state) is filled directly by IFS officers and the remaining are promoted from the respective states cadre officers.