Controversy has erupted between the West Bengal Housing Board and the Federation of Associations of Engineers and Technical Officers over appointments to the top ranks of the Board.
The Federation, consisting primarily of Public Works Department (PWD) engineers, had raised objections to the extension of service of housing commissioner C.R. Goswami, who was due to retire but received a six-month extension from housing minister Gautam Deb, who directly deals with the Board. The minister also apparently rejected the candidate recommended by the PWD.
Housing Board officials are accusing the Federation of launching a “slander campaign” to protect its interests. Officials claim the power tussle between the two groups has emerged in view of the increasing number of top appointments from within the Board, rather than accepting PWD personnel, as has been the norm traditionally.
“Earlier, PWD representatives held all senior positions in the Board,” said a Board spokesperson. “But once our officers gained experience and became eligible for the posts, we started promoting them.”
Though the PWD deputation may have been customary, they have never been compulsory, add Board officials, citing a 1985 Calcutta High Court ruling, which clarifies that appointments to the post of housing commissioner can go to anyone with over 18 years’ experience in an allied field. In addition, the success of the Board under Goswami’s leadership has made them reluctant at this juncture (with their scale of operations having expanded rapidly) to change guard.
But Federation secretary-general S.K. Banerjee maintains that the organisation’s objection lay with the fact that the Housing Board is “violating” government regulations, compounded by the fact that fresh recruitment has been frozen. “The law says no re-employments are allowed,” said Banerjee. Whoever is senior-most, he said, should be promoted to the post. “No minister can take the law into his own hands,” Banerjee stressed. “We will go to the chief minister if they continue on this path.”