SRINAGAR: The Department of Forests, Environment and Ecology is hounding a whistle blower for exposing nepotism. While a top official in the department said that officers “have been pressured” to appoint “ineligible candidates on gazetted positions” by politicians, special secretary of the department has asked the whistle blowing officer to explain his position.
A notice from the special secretary, Department of Forest, Environment and Ecology asks the officer “to explain your position as to why you will not be placed under suspension, pending holding of a formal departmental enquiry, into your conduct.”
The notice came after Assistant Conservator forests, Munshi Iqbal, posted on his Facebook wall a protest over the appointment of a junior level engineer as mass media officer (MMO) in the Department of Forests, Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing. Iqbal wrote: Now the trees can be constructed, engineer posted as DFO (division forest officer), taunting the appointment allegedly backed by a minister in J&K’s coalition government.
Iqbal told Kashmir Reader he was pointing out that Mir, a junior engineer, can’t be posted as mass media officer as the position should be filled by a gazetted rank officer equivalent to that of a DFO.
“Mir is not a gazetted officer. He is a junior engineer who works as in-charge assistant engineer. Now he has been bestowed with a media officer position. This position, either look out or on permanent basis, has to be granted to gazetted rank officer according to the recruitment rules,” Munshi said. “It means a joint director rank officer in the information department can fill the post. Mir is simply ineligible.”
According to Recruitment Rules (2009) of the forest department, a mass media officer to publicize the department’s activities and awareness programmes should be deputed from J&K Government’s Information Department.
But, Ghulam Hassan Mir, a technical officer with the Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing (EERS), a sister wing of the forest department, was working as “in charge assistant engineer” before being given the “look after” charge of mass media officer of the EERS.
Iqbal, when asked about the Mir’s posting as a “look after” officer, Munshi said, “It has remained the tradition to bring ineligible employees on the gazetted posts to avoid court trials.”
It means if somebody approaches court against illegal appointment, the government will put forward the argument that it was just a look after post. Why in the whole department, Mir was the only eligible ‘look after’ officer?”
“Currently a non-gazetted officer, Hakim Mukhtar, is posted as DFO urban forestry, a post that should be held by a gazetted officer. He is not confirmed by the public service commission. He was posted at the position as a ‘look after’ DFO. He continues to occupy the same position for the past four years. How does it matter now whether he is ‘look after’ or permanent?”
After his expose on the social media, government issued a show cause notice to Munshi to explain why he challenged the government decision. But higher officers in his department agree with Iqbal’s position.
“We have no idea what to do? We are being pressured to put ineligible candidates on posts which they do not deserve,” an official said. “In this case as well, since Mir is related to a minister, a position was carved out to fit him in. We cannot do anything. We are helpless,” he added disdainfully.
When asked, commissioner forests, Afzal Bhat, said the department has “done no wrong”.
“We can ask anybody to serve till we get a proper candidate. We have temporarily posted him there,” Bhat said. But why did not his department approach the information department? “They do not have officers who could come on deputation and fill the post,” he said.
Bhat said that a “look after” position was not created as an excuse to seek court immunity. “It was not the case,” he said, while also ruling out any political influence in Mir’s appointment.
Why the urban forestry DFO has continued to be a “look after” for four years? Bhat said, “I will look into the matter.”