Centre issues show-cause notice to Alapan Bandyopadhyay
Kolkata: The Union Home ministry has served a show-cause notice to former Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay under a stringent provision of the Disaster Management Act, amid a tug-of-war between the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee government over him.
This comes despite the Chief Minister clearly stating in her letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that she, along with Bandyopadhyay, had proceeded to attend the review meeting on Cyclone Yaas at Digha only after taking his permission.
The war of words between the Centre and the ruling Trinamool Congress continued even a day after when Bandyopadhyay retired as the Chief Secretary on Monday and became the Chief Adviser to the Chief Minister for three years.
Claiming that Banerjee has given "entirely false statements" and she "boycotted" the meeting with the Prime Minister on May 28 at Kalaikunda after agreeing to attend it, the Central government sources have come up with a nine-point rejoinder against the Chief Minister's account of what went down on Friday, when she met him to handover the assessment report of the damages caused in the state due to the cyclone.
Criticising both the Centre's show-cause notice to Bandyopadhyay and nine-point rejoinder to the Chief Minister's claim, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said they (the Centre) basically laid a trap to divert people's attention by making all this an issue out of nothing when they cannot address crucial matters like the country's distressed economy.
Directing Bandyopadhyay to give reply to the show cause notice – that has been served under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005 — within three days, the letter from Under Secretary of the Government of India Ashish Kumar Singh read: "...by this act of abstaining himself from the review meeting taken by the Prime Minister who is also the chairman of National Disaster Management Authority in the aftermath of cyclone Yaas as part of his visit to the cyclone affected areas in the state of West Bengal, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, chief secretary, government of West Bengal, has acted in a manner tantamount to refusing to comply with lawful directives of the central government and is thus violative of section 51 (b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005."
The notice has been served under Section 51 of the Act stating that "whoever without reasonable cause refused to comply with any direction given by or on behalf of the Central government or the state government or the National Executive Committee or the State Executive committee, shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and a fine or with both".
In this connection, Roy added that Bandyopadhyay may give his reply within the stipulated time. "But my question is on what basis have they show-caused him? Had they given him any direction that he had not complied with? No, there was no such instruction for him that he had violated. Again, he was not show-caused when twice he received the Centre's letters recalling him to Delhi. Then, why has he been show-caused on the night of the date of his retirement?" Roy said adding that moreover a Chief Secretary works following the directions of the Chief Minister.
In a nine-point rejoinder, Central government sources claimed that the Prime Minister never gave permission to the Chief Minister to leave the review meeting as she had later claimed. Negating her claim about being informed belatedly about the Prime Minister's schedule, the sources have stated the meeting was convened by providing proper information as a meeting to assess the damage caused by the cyclone can be finalised before the incident takes place. Her claim of being forced to wait to meet the Prime Minister was also rejected by government sources, stating that she should have come in advance, which is the normal practice when the Prime Minister is supposed to land at any airport.
The sources also added that Banerjee had changed her mind about attending the review meeting only after learning that BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari, who is the state's Leader of Opposition, would be present in the meeting.
Raising his voice against the same, Roy said: "Presence of a Central minister in a meeting is acceptable. But why will an MLA be present in the PM-CM meeting? Even if they wanted to keep the Leader of the Opposition, they should have discussed it with the state before finalising the list." Senior TMC leader and state minister Chandrima Bhattacharya said there was no logic in the Central government's move to recall Bandyopadhyay only five days after extending his term by three months.
"A Union minister today alleged that the Chief Secretary [CS] had walked out of the meeting. This is totally false. The Chief Secretary was with the Chief Minister and he is supposed to report to her. Both the CM and the CS were made to wait for half an hour to meet the PM. Is that fair?" Bhattacharya asked.
When Banerjee called the recall order of Bandyopadhyay to be unconstitutional and alleged that the Centre was behaving like "Hitler and Stalin", sources in the Central government also defended its moves against the former Chief Secretary stating that the "the order is perfectly constitutional since Chief Secretary is an All India Services officer. He chose to ignore his constitutional duties, as a result of which no presentation was given to the Prime Minister and no officer of the Bengal government attended the Prime Minister's review meeting."