Human society is making the mistake of forgetting the importance of forests. Forests are life givers. The reality is that forests have preserved life on earth, said the President of India, Smt Droupadi Murmu while addressing the officer trainees of Indian Forest Service (2022 batch) at their convocation ceremony at the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy, Dehradun today (April 24, 2024).

The President said that today we talk about the Anthropocene Age, which is the period of human-centric development. During this period, disastrous results have emerged along with development. Unsustainable exploitation of resources has brought humanity to a point where the standards of development have to be re-evaluated. She stressed on the importance of understanding that we are not the owners of the earth’s resources, but we are trustees. Our priorities should be ecocentric along with anthropocentric. In fact, only by being ecocentric we will be able to be truly anthropocentric, she stated.

The President said that in many parts of the world the loss of forest resources has occurred very rapidly. Destruction of forests is in a way – destruction of humanity. It is a well known fact that conservation of earth’s biodiversity and natural beauty is a very important task which we have to do very quickly.

The President said that human life can be saved from the crisis through conservation and promotion of forests and wildlife. We can repair the damage at a faster pace with the help of Science and Technology. For example, the Miyawaki Method is being adopted in many places. Artificial Intelligence can help in identifying suitable areas for afforestation and area specific tree species. She stated that there is a need to assess various such options and develop solutions suitable to the geographical conditions of India.

The President said that the chariot of development has two wheels – tradition and modernity. Today human society is bearing the brunt of many environmental problems. One of the main reasons for this is a special type of modernity, the root of which is the exploitation of nature. Traditional knowledge is neglected in this process.

The President said that tribal society has made the eternal laws of nature the basis of their life. People of this society conserve nature. But, under the impulse of unbalanced modernity, some people consider the tribal community and their collective wisdom primitive. Tribal society has no role in climate change but the burden of its ill effects is disproportionately more on them.

The President said that it is very important to understand the importance of the knowledge accumulated by tribal society over centuries and use it to improve the environment. She stated that their collective wisdom can help us move forward on an ecologically sustainable, ethically desirable and socially justifiable path. She stressed that we will have to unlearn many misconceptions and relearn from the ideals of a balanced lifestyle of the tribal society. We have to move forward with the spirit of climate justice.

The President said that the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries increased the demand for timber and other forest products. New rules, regulations and methods of forest use were adopted to cope with the demand. To implement such rules and regulations, the Imperial Forest Service, the predecessor service of the Indian Forest Service, was formed. The mandate of that service was not to protect the tribal society and forest wealth. Their mandate was to promote the objectives of the British Raj by exploiting India’s forest resources to the maximum.

Referring to the mass hunting of wild animals during the British period, the President said that when she visits museums where animal skins or severed heads adorn the walls, she feels that those exhibits are telling the story of the decline of human civilization.

The President said that she was confident that the officers of the Indian Forest Service had become completely free from the colonial mentality and outlook of the former Imperial Forest Service. She stated that IFS officers not only have to conserve and augment India’s natural resources but also use the traditional knowledge in the interest of humanity. They have to protect the forest wealth by synchronizing modernity and tradition and advancing the interests of the people whose life is based on forests. By doing this, they will be able to make a contribution that is truly inclusive and congenial to the environment.

The President said that the Indian Forest Service has given many officers to the country who have done unparalleled work for the environment. IFS officers such as Shri P. Srinivas, Shri Sanjay Kumar Singh, Shri S. Manikandan have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. She urged the officer trainees to make such officers their role models and mentors and move forward on the ideals shown by them.

The President urged IFS officers to spend time among the tribal people in the field and earn their affection and trust. She said that they should learn from the good practices of the tribal society. She also urged them to take ownership of their responsibilities and become a role model.