The Dread of Didi
Mamata insists state cadre officers maintain an arm’s length relationship with the Centre
IAS officer Puneet Yadav’s fervent Facebook posts last month about his inability to attend to his 80-plus ailing parents in Agra have put the Mamata Banerjee government in a bit of a spot. The evidently harassed West Bengal cadre officer’s emotional outburst has exposed an embarrassing truth—the pall of fear shadowing the state’s civil bureaucracy, more specifically officers of the central administrative and police services.
Believe it or not, under ‘Didi’s rule’, state cadre officers seeking central deputations are frowned upon. IAS and IPS officers are also actively discouraged from putting such requests in writing. At best, they can make verbal requests to the chief secretary.
Nearly a dozen such requests have been pending for over a year despite the DoPT (the central government’s department of personnel and training) repeatedly asking the state to fill its portion of the central reserve. At present, against the sanctioned 78, there are just seven West Bengal officers on central deputation. “The MoS in charge of DoPT, Jitendra Singh, had also written a letter on this. In 2011, we had 37-38 officers of the West Bengal cadre at the Centre. Now it’s down to seven,” says the commissioner of home P&AR (personnel and administrative reforms) department, Mezhba-ul Haque. A senior state government officer says
Didi is reluctant to send officers, fearing they would be influenced by the Centre. “It’s also in line with her decision not to cooperate with Delhi,” he says.
Officially, though, Mamata points to the shortage of officers in the state: “We have 276 IAS officers against a sanctioned strength of 359, and 274 IPS officers against 347,” she says. And she’s just as fiercely ‘possessive’ about state cadre officers. Addressing the WB Civil Service officers last December, Mamata did not mince her words: “Your career begins in the state and will end here.”
Even training programmes outside the state for IAS and IPS probationers are viewed as an attempt to ‘brainwash’ young officers. Dubbing this as contrary to the spirit of ‘cooperative federalism’, the CM refused to give postings for eight months to eight officers
who had returned from a threemonth training in Delhi. The 2013 IAS cadre from West Bengal—including the eight officers whose postings were put on hold—had returned from training in November 2015. They were put on ‘waiting’ for eight months and given SDO postings only after the 2016 assembly elections. Sources say the CM felt that officers trained in Delhi might be used to upset her in the polls. “The SDO of Contai (South), where the BJP increased its vote share by 22 per cent in the byelections, was immediately removed after the poll results,” says an officer on condition of anonymity.
Not only this, the CM has asked officers not to share any documents with the Centre, unless she specifically clears them. Even the visits of state officers to Delhi for meetings have been restricted.
Meanwhile, Yadav has been reprimanded by the chief secretary for going public with his problems. But the young officer isn’t backing down. Last week, after the Darjeeling municipal election results were announced, he congratulated the people for “free and fair polls”. Incidentally, in the May 17 election, 31 of the 32 municipality seats in Darjeeling municipality went to the BJP-Gorkha Janamukti Morcha alliance. The TMC got just one seat.