The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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RSP resents Buddha policy
- PWD minister opposes mandarin panel on private contractors

Calcutta, May 21: A fresh tiff seems to be brewing between the CPM and the RSP over the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s move to empower a committee headed by the chief secretary to decide on involving private parties in execution of development projects.

Officials today said the RSP, which controls the public works department — one of the major executors of high-value projects, opposed the move as it perceived in it a CPM attempt to marginalise the RSP in the decision-making process.

By late evening, the buzz in Left circles was that the RSP, unhappy at the development, has decided to take it out on the CPM leadership at the bilateral peace talks now under way, necessitated by the violence in the panchayat elections.

In the eye of the brewing storm was the government’s recent decision to engage private entrepreneurs in different sectors to implement development projects either individually or jointly with the departments concerned.

According to the new policy, neither a minister nor his department will have any say in the engagement of private parties. A committee headed by the chief secretary and including the secretary of the department concerned, an engineer and an expert will handle the matter. If any department wants to engage a private party for its project, it will have to submit the proposal to the committee for a final decision.

Opposing the move is PWD minister and RSP leader Amar Chowdhury — with his predecessor Kshiti Goswami active in the background — who feels the minister controlling the department should have the final say.

“A minister is the head of the department concerned and should have full control over matters relating to his department. Besides, it is not proper for a minister to depend on bureaucrats to get the work done,” Chowdhury said.

Planning and development minister Nirupam Sen, however, defended the policy, saying it has been framed after taking all aspects into consideration and in the interest of the state’s development.

“There must be a defined system for the sake of clarity and transparency of the decisions that have to be taken to guide the execution of such projects. Where is the harm if any proposal is cleared by a committee led by the chief secretary' It is not meant for any particular minister, all the ministers will have to follow it including myself,” Sen said.

Chowdhury raised the issue at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, arguing that a minister should head the proposed committee and oversee the engagement of private parties. A final decision could not be taken as urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, who framed the draft policy, was not present.

Bhattacharya rejected Chowdhury’s objections, saying there was a consensus among the other ministers and the chief minister had given the go-ahead. Moreover, a minister should take a policy decision and leave it to the bureaucrats to implement it, he told The Telegraph.

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