On May 28, at Kalaikunda, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, the then Chief Secretary of West Bengal, found himself in an uneasy position as he had to choose between the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister. He did not try a balancing act, and sided blatantly with the Chief Minister. He has been served show-cause notice thereafter, and it was served under Disaster Management Act that can land a bureaucrat even to jail for up to a year.
And since then he is embracing one after another controversy.
Just after opting out of the extension given to him, he was rewarded by Mamata Banerjee who made him Chief Adviser to the CM, reportedly with a salary of Rs 30 lakhs per annum. This however is a Chief Minister’s prerogative. But Mamata Banerjee extended her prerogative also to appoint Aditi Bandyopadhyay as an advisor to State Tourism Development Corporation. Incidentally, she is Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s brother Anjan Bandyopadhyay’s wife.
A statement from the State Tourism Development Corporation said Aditi would hold the post for the next three years. The salary is one lakh ten thousand rupees per month. Her husband Anjan Bandyopadhyay was the editor of a Bengali TV channel, and he passed off recently at the age of 55 after being infected with Covid-19. Aditi had not served in any government department or board earlier.
For the records, Alapan Bandyopadhyay‘s wife Sonali was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta in 2017. Prior to that, she was the Registrar of the same university. Eyebrows were raised why the registrar was promoted to the post instead of awarding it to some eminent academician.
While these are just incidental in the anthology of personal proximity of the former chief secretary with the chief minister, what has put Alapan Bandyopadhyay in a tight spot is his absence in the review meeting convened by the Prime Minister to assess the damages done by Cyclone Yaas. Along with the Chief Minister, the then chief secretary went to the venue, met Prime Minister, and then excused himself from the meeting.
According to informed sources, Bandyopadhyay could have avoided the problem had he deputed another senior officer for the meeting. He’s not doing so may be treated as dereliction of duty, as it is the job of the Chief Secretary to ensure the smooth running of daily administrative work.
The sources claim that this duty is given to the Chief Secretary keeping in mind that if two different parties ruled the centre and the state, political confrontation might damage the smooth running of the administration.
The families of the bureaucrats and govt doctors of the state who have fallen victim to covid19 are upset as many of them didn’t get a preferential treatment like this
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)