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Modi govt recalls Bengal chief secretary hours after he skips meeting with PM

CM Mamata and Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay didn’t receive the PM at the Kalaikunda airbase Friday, and then skipped his review meeting on Cyclone Yaas.

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Kolkata: The Union government Friday issued an order to recall the West Bengal government’s most senior civil servant, hours after a row broke out between the Narendra Modi government and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over a review meeting on Cyclone Yaas.

The Modi government had given Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who was earlier set to retire on 31 May, a three-month extension on the request of the Banerjee government, four days ago.

Now, in an order dated 28 May, the Centre asked the Bengal government to relieve Bandyopadhyay, and directed him to report to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) in the national capital on 31 May.

The move came hours after the Centre-state conflict between the Modi government and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee resurfaced, with the CM and the chief secretary choosing to not receive the PM at the Kalaikunda airbase in West Midnapore district, and then skipping his review meeting to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Yaas.

Union ministers and BJP leaders accused Banerjee and her government of “violating propriety”.

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The order

In its letter, the DoPT’s Appointments Committee of the Cabinet “approved placement of the services of Alapan Bandyopadhyay, an IAS officer of 1987 batch, with the government of India, as per provisions of Rule 6(1) of the Indian Administrative Service (cadre) rules, 1954 with immediate effect”.

Rule 6(1) says that a cadre officer may, with the ‘concurrence’ of the state government concerned and the central government, be deputed for service at either the central government, any other state government or a government entity.

The Banerjee government has been “requested” to relieve the officer, according to the order, which requires Bandyopadhyay to report to DoPT’s office in New Delhi by 10 am on 31 May.

Banerjee had written to the PM on 10 May, requesting a three-month extension for Bandyopadhyay. On 24 May, the DoPT had granted him a three-month extension, from 1 June to 31 August.

The latest conflict Friday

Bandyopadhyay, who was accompanying the CM for her aerial surveys and administrative meetings, remained absent at the airbase when the PM arrived Friday. The state government didn’t send any representative to receive the PM and to attend his meeting later.

According to a senior state government official, it is a tradition and government protocol for the most senior civil servant of the state to receive the PM and attend all his meetings in the state.

The Bengal government kept the PM waiting for over 30 minutes as there had been no official communication about the CM’s decision to skip the meeting, said a senior official of the Union home ministry who didn’t wish to be named.

During a televised meeting later, CM Mamata Banerjee said she was not “informed” about the meeting properly and she had pre-scheduled programmes of conducting an aerial survey and holding review meetings across districts affected by the cyclone.

However, she added that along with the chief secretary, she met the PM and handed over the damage related reports.

Blow to Mamata’s administration

The removal of the state’s chief secretary could be a major setback for Mamata Banerjee.

“The chief minister depends on Alapan Bandyopadhyay a lot. That is why she requested the PM to grant him an extension of three months,” a second official of the state government said on condition of anonymity.

“She made several committees for monitoring and managing Covid crisis and some committees to supervise the relief and rehabilitation work after Cyclone Yaas. The chief secretary heads all these committees,” said a second official of the state government,” he added.

Bandyopadhyay is the second chief secretary in Mamata Banerjee’s government to have been granted an extension. The first was Samar Ghosh, who retired in 2012.

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