Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Mamata Banerjee makes it clear she won’t release Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay as per Centre’s wish

Banerjee sees this as a sort of tit-for-tat for the incident recently when she did not attend the PM’s meeting on the flood situation, but met him outside the meeting for a short while instead.

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requested him to withdraw the order recalling Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to the Centre and said that the state will not be releasing Bandyopadhyay, as directed by the Centre.

The Chief Ministeer has said that the order of the Centre recalling the Chief Secretary on the date of his retirement (which is today, while he has been given a three-month extension to oversee the cyclone relief and Covid relief work of the state) was “legally untenable, historically unprecedented and wholly unconstitutional”.

Banerjee has been quoted as saying: “I must confess that I have been shocked and stunned by the unilateral order of May 28, sent to us by the Government of India, asking us to release Alapan Bandyopadhyay IAS, Chief Secretary, West Bengal, so that he may join the government of India on May 31, the normal date of his superannuation.”

She said the Centre had agreed to the state’s request for extension of the Bengal chief secretary’s tenure by three months to fight the pandemic in the state and this latest recall order was in “violation of applicable laws and against the public interest”.

“I am sure you will not inflict further suffering on the people of this state by taking away the services of an experienced officer, suddenly without any consultation and with no prior notice, whose continued presence in my state in these difficult times was accepted to be vital and necessary by your government four days back,” the letter reads.

Banerjee sees this as a sort of tit-for-tat for the incident recently when she did not attend the PM’s meeting on the flood situation, but met him outside the meeting for a short while instead, and gave him a full statement of what the state thinks should be done and what the relief package should be.

Immediately after, on Friday night the Centre had sought Bandyopadhyay’s services and had asked the state government to immediately release the top bureaucrat. The bureaucrat had also skipped the Prime Minister’s crucial meeting on Cyclone Yaas.

“The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the placement of the services of Alapan Bandyopadhyay, IAS (WB: 1987) with the Government of India, as per provisions of Rule 6(1) of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, with the immediate effect. Accordingly, the State Government is requested to relieve the officer with immediate effect and direct him to report to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), North Block, New Delhi, by 10 am on 31 May 2021,” the notification had said.

The Prime Minister heads the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. The three-month extension had been granted to the chief secretary by the Centre on May 24. This had allowed the highly experienced Bandopadhyay to keep working on the relief work and other crucial issues of the state.

Banerjee has said: “PM Modi to end political vendetta, withdraw order recalling Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, and allow him to work for the Covid-infected”.

As per rules (some of it could have other interpretations) the state has to be consulted in these crucial transfers and it is the state’s prerogative to release him or not. Bandopadhyay was to report in Delhi at 10 am, but the chief minister has withheld his release.

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Mamata’s letter to the PM further reads: “With unilateral and non-consultative orders being issued, the federal system is gravely endangered and severely undermined. If a Chief Secretary of a State can be recalled like this, how can the lower bureaucracy take, obey and implement orders in their letter or spirit from State Chief Minister, other Ministers, and officers?” the letter asks. 

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