As assumed, the centre is not going to let go of the issue of Alapan Bandyopadhyay, former Chief Secretary of Bengal who did not attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s review meeting on Cyclone Yaas.
In a fresh letter sent to Bandyopadhyay, presently Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s chief advisor, the personnel ministry has asked him to explain his position further either in a written form or by presenting himself before the concerned officers in Delhi within a month.
The letter further states that his earlier answer was not satisfactory, and if he fails to explain his position within a month ‘major penalty proceedings’ against him will commence. It is clear from the tone and the tenor of the letter that the centre is contemplating major action against the former bureaucrat. According to sources, the time given to him is just a technical step. Meanwhile, senior TMC leader Saugata Roy said the matter will finally be settled in the court.
Mr Bandyopadhyay has been show-caused under the National Disaster Management Act, the use of which against a highly placed official in itself is rare. The law entails, in an extreme case, an official’s jail up to one year in case of dereliction of duty. It is believed that this clause has been used to send a message to the IAS and IPS community of Bengal about who is their real boss.
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 Mamata Banerjee, the then chief secretary went to the venue, met Prime Minister, and then excused himself from the meeting. In his defence, it is learnt, he had said he was looking after disaster management and has acted as instructed by the Chief Minister.
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 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)