New Delhi: Just days ahead of his retirement, former Union Agriculture Secretary, PK Basu, had told some journalists, “I am retiring…. means retiring. I am not one of those sada-suhagans” – a reference to those bureaucrats who could easily survive with any political regime or masters.
In a recent article, he says, one should not miss the woods for the trees. “Severe action is required so that in future there are no ‘sada suhagans’ in the civil service,” he wrote in reference to the major row triggered with regard Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s role vis-a-vis the office of the Prime Minister and its position. And that too during a visit to assess damages caused by a natural disaster.
Here one may refer to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s speech on April 21, 1947 (three months before Independence): “I hope that you, who are now starting, as it were, a new generation of civil servants, will not be misled by the black sheep in the fold, but would render your service without fear or favour and without any expectation of extraneous rewards”.
These words appear very much relevant today.
The woes and roadblocks for highly controversial former West Bengal Chief Secretary, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, are far from over. The Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, Suvendu Adhikari has now brought corruption charges and suggested Trinamool leadership and the former top babu are working in tandem.
“Alapan Bandyopadhyay knew many improper acts of the Trinamool Congress government. He was privy to those acts and the chief minister is trying to shield Bandyopadhyay and both sides are also desperate to cling to the other side,” said Adhikari, who humbled Mamata Banerjee in recent polls at Nandigram.
“There were some talks about the purchase of health materials during the Covid pandemic of 2020. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who also held the Health portfolio, had spoken about certain irregularities. Alapan Bandyopadhyay was the chairman of the probe committee. As the LoP, I demand that particular report should be made public,” he said.
Adhikari further said: “I am also demanding that the matters related to the procurement of 2300 acres of land for Andal airport (at Durgapur) be looked into. The land was taken from farmers and even that panel was headed by Alapan babu. The state government’s equity share in this project was enhanced from 11 per cent to 26 and later to 47 per cent.”
In a series of tweets, the Leader of the Opposition further said: “I demand the strictest action be taken against the outgoing CS (Chief Secretary) for indiscipline, violating service rules at a time of a natural disaster and a global pandemic, irregularities, and not helping others just because of sinister political games. TMC has failed the people of West Bengal.”
Raking up of corruption charges will have the significance of its own as the central government has lately issued an order stating that Vigilance clearance is a must for the appointment of retired civil servants.
Notably, Bandyopadhyay was quickly appointed as ‘chief advisor’ to the Chief Minister the day his ‘retirement’ was announced by Mamata Banerjee. After displaying defiance initially, Alapan Bandyopadhyay has later responded to the Home Ministry’s show-cause notice. Curiously, he said he had to skip Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s review meeting on cyclone Yaas, as he was only following the instructions of the Chief Minister. Central government sources have questioned the rationale of Bandyopadhyay’s actions and also his response letter.
“Was Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s conduct and behaviour appropriate for the position he held? As the senior-most civil servant of the state, how should he have behaved?” the government sources asked.
“Did he take a rational and judicious view and decision on the spot or was he completely left to the whims of the chief minister so that his post-retirement stage could be handsomely rewarding?” they asked.
The CVC order, issued to secretaries of all central government departments and chiefs of public sector banks, among others, says that the acceptance of such an employment offer without the completion of a mandatory cooling-off period amounts to “serious misconduct”.
“It has been observed that sometimes, government organisations, in order to meet their functional requirements, use the expertise of retired government officials by hiring them on a contractual basis, in the capacity of advisor/consultant etc,” said the CVC order signed by anti-corruption Commission’s OSD, Rajiv Verma.
Former Union Agriculture Secretary, PK Basu, has analysed things well.
“When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited West Bengal on May 28, the chief secretary was supposed to receive him. That’s the rule. Obviously, the chief secretary has to reach the venue much before the PM. However, Bandyopadhyay did not. This was a clear dereliction of duty,” Basu wrote in an article.
He also wrote, Bandyopadhyay was also supposed to make a presentation to the PM on the damages caused by Cyclone Yaas. “Based on this the central team would make an assessment of the assistance required. I have been Central Relief Commissioner and this is a well-established procedure. Unfortunately, Bandyopadhyay failed here as well”.