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Embarking on a Quest: A Journey of Redemption, From UPSC Setbacks to IFS Triumph

Pratiksha cracked UPSC IFS-2023 with AIR 2. She also passed Maharashtra State Forest Exam & became the girl topper. She is currently serving as ACF in Melghat Tiger Reserve.
Indian Masterminds Stories

Pratiksha Nanasaheb Kale’s journey unfolds in two distinct chapters, demarcated by her relentless pursuit of excellence. Initially drawn to the allure of the UPSC CSE she ardently pursued her dream of becoming an IAS officer. However, the tides of destiny guided her towards a different calling – the enigmatic realm of the Indian Forest Service (IFS). Despite encountering formidable obstacles, including six attempts at the UPSC exams, Pratiksha’s unwavering resolve propelled her forward. 

Her odyssey, marked by resilience and adaptability, culminated triumphantly in 2023, as she clinched the prestigious All India Rank 2 in the UPSC IFS examination, embodying the epitome of dedication and perseverance.

Speaking exclusively with Indian Masterminds, Pratiksha narrated her inspiring journey in detail. 

Pratiksha Kale, AIR 2, UPSC IFS 2023

A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

Pratiksha’s journey can be divided into two distinct phases: the period up to 2019 and the phase after that. 

She made a total of six attempts at the UPSC exams. In her first four attempts, she focused primarily on the Civil Services Examination (CSE). However, from her fourth attempt onwards, she also started focusing on the Indian Forest Service (IFS) exam.

She made her first attempt at the UPSC CSE in 2015 but could not clear even the prelims. She subsequently appeared for the UPSC CSE in 2016, 2017, and 2018 but failed to clear the prelims twice and reached the mains once, only to miss the mark by 4 points.

After these four attempts, Pratiksha began to concentrate on the IFS as well. In her fifth attempt in 2019, she took both the CSE and IFS exams. This was her most challenging UPSC attempt, as she acknowledged herself. During this attempt, she cleared the IFS prelims, but a week before the mains exam, she was diagnosed with dengue. Her condition worsened, and the doctor advised her to skip the exam. Nevertheless, Pratiksha bravely went ahead and took the exam, reaching the interview round. Despite her efforts, she did not make it to the final list.

Pratiksha believes that receiving the interview call that year was her biggest success amid numerous challenges. She stated, “That’s why I believe in no comparison. Everyone has different circumstances. So we must know what our own successes and failures are.”

During her fifth UPSC attempt, a friend suggested she try the state forest services. She then successfully cleared the Maharashtra State Forest Exam (MPSC Forest Service) in 2018 on her first attempt, emerging as the top female candidate. Following this, she underwent two years of training at the ‘Central Academy for State Forest Service in Coimbatore.’ This period marked the beginning of her enjoyment of forest life, prompting her to take a break from UPSC exams for three years until 2022.

Finally, she made a strong comeback after training and cracked the IFS-2023, securing an AIR 2 on her sixth attempt. Her dream of serving the nation as an IFS officer is now fulfilled.

FINDING DESTINY IN THE FOREST

Initially, Pratiksha focused solely on the UPSC CSE, with the aspiration of becoming an IAS officer. At that time, she never even considered the Forest Services.

However, while preparing for the CSE, she realized that she was more interested in the Forest Services than in becoming an IAS officer. She admits that it was very difficult to secure an IAS cadre, and perhaps that job did not align with her nature. Gradually, her exposure to the Forest Services increased.

During her studies, she strongly desired to work on issues ranging from global warming to climate change. She believes that securing life should take precedence over development and that improving the environment should be our priority. This interest shift led her to change her inclination from the IAS to the IFS. 

With her parents

BACKGROUND

She originally hails from Latur, Maharashtra. Her father was a lecturer, while her mother was a housewife. She has a younger sister who is an engineer.

She completed her education up to the 12th grade in her hometown, Latur. Then, she pursued a Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech) in Mechanical Engineering from the College of Engineering, Pune, graduating in 2014. After that, she began preparing for the civil services examinations.

UPSC PREPARATIONS

Her biggest challenge in UPSC preparation was time management. She managed to carve out time during travel and in between office hours to study. However, she believes that facing time constraints enhances efficiency.

Her preparation for the IFS became smoother due to her training and work experience at the Melghat Tiger Reserve. Her practical knowledge significantly improved, greatly aiding her preparations.

For her optional subjects, she chose Agriculture Engineering and Forestry. Drawing upon her two years of training for the ACF, she supplemented her forestry studies with practical experience. To prepare for Forestry, she referred to the book by S. Prabhu K. Manikandan.

She remarked, “Both of my optional subjects are science-based. Unlike subjects like Civics, where extensive writing is required, here one needs to stick to the point. Having good diagrams and formulas is essential in these subjects.”

Pratiksha opted for Agriculture Engineering due to her background in Mechanical Engineering, and she achieved the highest marks in this optional, scoring 291 out of 400.

Her strategy involved solving numerous numerical problems, utilizing diagrams, and structuring answers in a point-wise format.

INTERVIEW

During her interview, the discussion revolved around her service exposure and related experiences. She strongly believes that her practical answers played a significant role in securing good marks during the interview.

A wide range of questions were posed to her, spanning from Sustainable Forest Management to the National Bamboo Mission. 

She was also questioned about how her background in mechanical engineering would benefit her in the IFS. Additionally, factual inquiries were made, such as defining competition and intolerance, and she was prompted to discuss what she could do for tribal communities based on her current experiences.

Furthermore, she was asked about the status of gender sensitization within her current department and her approach to publicity in her job.

One board member inquired about her exposure to the tribal belt of Gadchiroli, to which she responded by elaborating on her practical work experience with the Gond tribal community there.

Another member questioned her decision to pursue the IFS exam despite already being an ACF in Maharashtra and likely to be promoted to IFS in the future. In response, she emphasized the importance of personal satisfaction, expressing that, as an ACF, she felt she was utilizing only a fraction of her potential in terms of leadership and decision-making. She believed that by joining the IFS, she could fully utilize her capabilities and have a more direct role in decision-making processes.

MESSAGE 

In her message to all aspirants, Pratiksha stated, “If you’re an outgoing person who loves fieldwork, then this path is for you. This competition is incredibly tough. The commission aims to narrow down the field, so steer clear of the elimination trap.”

“Be honest with you. Each stage requires distinct qualities, so focus on developing your individual personality. For IFS, sharpen your observational skills towards nature,” she added. 

She received significant assistance from Mahesh Bhagwat’s IFS interview social media group.


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