Centre-state tussle: No Bengal govt nod to his Delhi transfer, Alapan unlikely to report to Centre on Monday

West Bengal government has decided not to send Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay on central deputation in response to an order from the Union government, calling him back to Delhi.

West Bengal government has decided not to send Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay on central deputation in response to an order from the Union government, calling him back to Delhi.

According to sources in the state administration, Bandyopadhyay was asked to report in Delhi on May 31, the day of his retirement. However, he is likely to ignore the central order and attend a review meeting on relief operations post cyclonic storm ‘Yaas’ along with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The Department of Personnel and Training, which comes under the central government, issued the deputation order after the CM and her chief secretary failed to attend the cyclone review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking Bandyopadhyay to report in Delhi by 10am on Monday.

After taking legal advice, the state government decided not to send Bandyopadhyay to Delhi. A 1987-batch IAS officer of West Bengal cadre, Bandyopadhyay was due to retire on Monday but got a three-month extension because of his experience in handling the Covid-19 pandemic in the state.

Sources in the government said on behalf of the chief secretary, Bhagabati Prasad Gopalika, secretary, Personnel and Administrative Reform Department, will write to the central government on Monday, explaining his inability to report in Delhi.

Even as the recall order sparked off a fresh tussle between the Centre and the Trinamool government, many of Bandyopadhyay’s former colleagues expressed solidarity to him and criticized the Union government’s decision.

Former state chief secretary Ardhendu Sen said, “The state government is busy dealing with the pandemic and the aftermath of a natural disaster. Given the situation, how could the central government issue a transfer order to the chief secretary? This will definitely hinder the functioning of the state administration. We expect the central government to help out the state at a time like this. Though the Centre has the jurisdiction (to recall the chief secretary), there is no doubt that the instructions issued by the Union government at this time are absolutely undesirable.”

Basudev Banerjee, another former chief secretary, also came down hard on the Centre’s decision, saying, “I feel this is most unfortunate. It is a misuse of Rule 6(1), the IAS Cadre rule, 1954.”

“In case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the central government and the state government or state governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the central government,” states the Indian Administrative
Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, which Banerjee referred to.

Veteran lawyer and CPI(M)’s Rajya Sabha MP Bikash Bhattacharya said, “This is absolutely erratic. The central government has the power to recall but exercise of this power should be applied in a judicious manner. He has been recalled to Delhi on the day of his retirement, and too, just four days after the Centre itself gave him three months of extension. This also shows a major lack of co-ordination between the two governments.”

A senior IAS officer in the state said, “In this case, the primary rule, which is consultation with the state government, was not exercised. So, the rule was basically violated.”

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