Mamata says Alapan Bandyopadhyay will stand as an example of ‘how a bureaucrat has been victimised’
In a day of dramatic developments, West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay on Monday opted to retire and was appointed Chief Adviser to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after the State government refused to release him to the Centre.
Earlier in the day, Ms. Banerjee wrote a five-page letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to rescind the order asking the Chief Secretary to report to Delhi on Monday. In the letter, she said the “Government of West Bengal cannot release and is not releasing its Chief Secretary”.
However, later in the day, the, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) shot off a letter asking Mr. Bandyopadhyay to comply with the May 28 order report at its North Block office at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
The letter said that in terms of the provisions of Rule 6 (I) of Indian Administrative Service (Cadre Rules, 1954), “the Central Government, by resolving the disagreement between the Central Government and the State Government of West Bengal, has decided to place the services of Alapan Bandyopadhyay, I.A.S (WB: 1987) with the Government of India with immediate effect.”
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This prompted Mr. Bandyopadhay, who had been given a three-month extension from May 31, his original date of retirement, to opt for superannuation.
Since Mr. Bandyopdhyay chose to retire on Monday and not avail the three-month extension given to him at the request of the State government, it was not immediately clear what action the Centre would initiate.
A senior government official said on condition of anonymity, “The Centre or the DoPT is not the disciplinary authority for an officer posted in the State. They cannot initiate disciplinary proceedings against him.”
The Chief Minister said, “If I had insisted, he would have continued [as Chief Secretary]. But since he requested me saying that he wanted to retire, I have accepted his request”.
Emphasising that the State needed his services badly, she said he would work as Chief Adviser to the Chief Minister for a period of three years from June 1, 2021. The extension was for three months, but he would be an adviser for three years.
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H. K. Dwivedi, who was Additional Chief Secretary ( Home) will be the new Chief Secretary and B.P. Gopalika the Additional Chief Secretary (Home).
The Chief Minister said Mr. Bandyopadhyay would stand as an example of “how a bureaucrat has been victimised”.
‘Battle for all bureaucracy’
“This is a battle of not Alapan Bandyopadhyay but the battle for all bureaucracy. This is disrespect and humiliation to the entire bureaucracy,” she alleged. No State should take such a decision lying down. “I appeal to all the State governments, all Chief Ministers, senior leaders of the country, all intellectuals to fight against the Centre,” she added.
Till Monday afternoon, the buzz in administrative circles of the State was that Mr. Bandyopadhyay will serve as Chief Secretary for another three months. In fact, he had participated in a review meeting with the Chief Minister on Cyclone ‘Yaas’ and COVID-19 situation as late as 3 p.m. It was only after the second communication from the Centre that he changed his mind.
The developments concerning Mr. Bandyopadhyay, whom the Centre had asked to report to Delhi on May 31, had brought the Centre-State ties to a new low. According to reports, the Centre had taken exception to the Chief Secretary not being present at the review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Kaliakunda air base on cyclone ‘Yaas’ on May 28. The Chief Minister and Mr. Bandyopadhyay had met the Prime Minister at the same venue on May 28 , submitted a document on the damage caused by the cyclone but did not participate in the meeting where BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari was present.
Ms. Banerjee had written to the Centre on May 10, seeking a three-month extension for Mr. Bandyopadhyay. The Centre had sent its approval for the same on May 24.
The Chief Minister used strong words to target the Prime Minister and Home Minister calling them “heartless”, adding that “one day they will have to repent”. She repeatedly pointed out that the Prime Minister had not replied to her letter and no reason was cited by the Centre as to why the services of Mr. Bandyopadhyay were required by the Centre.
She accused the Centre of “political vendetta, bulldozing the federal structure”. Such a development had not occurred in the past 74 years, she stated.
Ms. Banerjee described the development as adding “insult to injury”. “Just because you don’t like Mamata Banerjee. Just because you got defeated [in Assembly polls], you are doing all this,” she added.