IFS officer completes Ph.D under ‘mysterious circumstances’, violates rules; govt lets her go


Syed Junaid Hashmi

Having spent nearly 19 years of her service in Dehradun, 1987 batch Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Neelu Gera is in serious trouble as she has been accused of having helped herself to a Ph.D under dubious circumstances.

Gera, a 1987 batch IFS officer of the Jammu and Kashmir cadre awarded doctorate in December 2013 for her dissertation on “Carbon mitigation potential of forests in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand” by the Forest Research Institute (FRI) Dehradun where she is serving as Dean since her third deputation to Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) from September 1, 2011. FRI function under ICFRE.

According to documents available with Jammu Kashmir Newspoint, Neelu Gera was awarded Ph.D in 2013. Rules governing IFS officers stipulate that any IFS officer desirous of pursuing higher studies or intending to participate in a training programme has to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from head of the department of the institute or the department where he/she is working. In the case of Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), Director General (DG) is head of the department and competent to issue the No Objection Certificate (NOC).

Documents clearly indicate that Gera took the other route. She did not obtain her mandatory NOC from the Director General (DG) ICFRE. Instead, she took the other route. She managed to get two NOCs instead of one, which she should have obtained from the designated Director General (DG), who was only competent officer to issue her No-Objection Certificate. Gera was issued an NOC by Director FRI and another by Secretary ICFRE.

Act governing IFS services does not allow a junior officer to issue NOC. Apart from NOC, documents indicate that Gera has committed another irregularity by not taking study leave for completing the Ph.D. IFS rules make it mandatory for the officers to apply for study leave in the department where they are working and the same is granted by the department after taking due permission from the Department of Personnel Training under Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.

Gera cared a little to fulfil these mandatory requirements. Instead, she continued pursuing Ph.D in FRI while keeping both the state government and the ICFRE in dark. Apart from this, Neelu Gera received here PHD after 10 years of her registration, even though the PHD programme ordinance of the FRI University says a scholar admitted to a PHD course has to complete her doctorate within a maximum period of five years from the date of her registration. Every scholar is allowed one year extension in completing Ph.D and that too under exceptional circumstances.

Gera took 10 years for completing Ph.D and throughout this tenure; she remained with ICFRE which gave her one posting after the other for the last more than 19 years. Neelu is a J&K cadre officer but with her Husband, Dr. Mohit Gera, the couple has preferred Dehradun over J&K. They have spent more than half of their service in Dehradun. Neelu Gera has completed 10 training courses and published more than 51 research papers. She was also awarded ICFRE award for excellence in Forestry and Research for the year 2002-03.

But with questions being raised over her illegal Ph.D, Neelu is likely to face trouble at home in J&K since she had chosen J&K cadre after having qualified IFS. Neelu has not served the state forests despite claiming of having exceptional talent and ability. Her career statistics clearly show that after joining the state government in 1989, Neelu has served the state for just 10 years and more importantly, for just two years during the last 20 years.

Neelu and Mohit have both preferred sitting in Dehradun then returning to the state and contributing in the preservation of the state forests. Now, this Ph.D issue has raised serious question on the foresight of the officers who allowed Neelu to spend more than 19 years outside the state on the pretext of completing her research. CAG had also in its report pointed out that state government’s should free and frequent deputation opportunities for IFS officers who seemed to have gone astray from their mandated and primary objectives of protection, conservation of forest and maintaining ecological environment and unrestrictedly rushing towards research fields.