Frolicking in the name of IFS
For the last 30 years or so, the abbreviation ‘IFS’ is being used in Government correspondences for both, Indian Forest Service and Indian Foreign Service. The forest service is an all-India service like the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS), whereas foreign service is Group B of the Central civil services of the executive branch of the Government of India, like the Indian Revenue Service etc.
Recently, however, an amusing correspondence has been going on among the External Affairs Ministry, the Department of Personnel and Training and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change as the Indian Foreign Service considers itself older than the Indian Forest Service and hence had objected to the latter using the abbreviation IFS. It wants to have the sole use of the abbreviation .
In this regards it will be interesting to remember an incident that happened with one of my batchmates while we were in probation at the Indian Forest College now known as the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA). Once former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, while meeting this probationer from his constituency in the month of June asked him how many forests he had seen so far in his training and what is their condition. The probationer was surprised and gathered the courage to question how the Prime Minister asked him straight about the forests as soon as he entered his room. He gathered the courage and asked him how he knew that he is in the forest service.
The Prime Minister said, “After seeing your visiting card and after noticing your dress I could guess that you are an Indian Forest Service officer because a foreign service officer would have come to meet me in full suit-tie with sweating in his face in this scorching summer.”
This story can be linked in a humorous manner with the way two cadres position themselves before the civil society. Recently, the officers of the foreign service have raised a hornet’s nest by writing to the department of personnel that the abbreviation IFS should only be written for the Indian Foreign Service as the service is older than the Indian Forest Service who are also using the same abbreviation. The department of personnel had in turn written to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for their views.
Indian diplomats are known for ‘fuddy-duddy’ style of language and have created a funny situation for the Government to appropriate the name IFS for their service. There is a big difference between the natures of both these services. The Indian Forest Service is an all-India service whereas the Indian Foreign Service is a central Group ‘A’ service. As such, there is no need for the diplomats to usurp the abbreviation IFS as their clientele are different.
The abbreviation IFS is in use for both the services since a long time by the Union Government as well as various State Governments and it can be easily deciphered by seeing the context of the use for which service it is being used. The fact is that Indian Foreign Service, most of the time, is communicating with foreign Governments and with other Ministries at the Centre and States and while corresponding with other offices the need for use of this abbreviation is not common.
On the other hand, this abbreviation for the Indian Forest Service is used mostly by the State Governments and largely by the common people in the districts, sub-divisional towns and in about 170,000 villages near the forests. The department of personnel of late has been writing IFoS for the forest service in its communications and some time IFS also. Now consider the funny picture of phonetics it will generate all over the country with different style of pronunciations.
What the majority of people in India in districts and sub-divisional towns/villages will pronounce this word IFoS. It will be very funny phonetic of “Ifoosh” officer such and such did such thing to another “Ifoosh” officer. The whole character of the service will change in the funny abbreviation.
Now let us examine this from the perspective of correct historical view and of course common sense. The Indian Foreign Service was created in 1946 by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by largely handpicking officers without any competitive examination and many of the people of princely States were rehabilitated in the service. A few years later it was made part of the IAS examination and for many years it was the preferred service of the top rankers.