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Sign cloud on Kharagpur civic pay

- Chairman refuses to resign; confusion over who should sign cheques stalls salaries of over 550
Seat of confusion

Kharagpur, Sept. 3: Salaries and pensions of over 550 serving and retired employees of the Kharagpur municipality have been delayed as officials are confused over who should sign the cheques with the chairman refusing to step down despite losing a no-trust vote a week ago.

“It is a stalemate situation. No one knows who is the authorised person to sign the cheques for the payment of the salaries,” a senior civic official said.

Quoting rules, the official added that the vice-chairman is authorised to sign the cheques. “Since the chairman is yet to resign, the vice-chairman is not entitled to sign the cheques,” he said, adding that the cloud of uncertainty was over the salaries and pensions of 380 employees and 192 retired workers.

The employees today observed a pen-down strike to protest the delay in the payment of their salaries for August. They, however, withdrew the strike after two hours when vice-chairman Tushar Chowdhury assured of “an early solution”. The workers are usually paid on the first of every month.

Jawaharlal Pal had on August 27 lost a no-confidence motion tabled by the Congress against him when Trinamul councillors abstained from voting.

Pal refused to resign, questioning “the way the voting was conducted”.

The executive officer of the municipality, Basudeb Pal, today said he had written to the municipal affairs department on Thursday seeking its advice to overcome the crisis. “But, the department is yet to write to me. I shall act according to the directive I receive,” he said.

Vice-chairman Chowdhury said that the directive from the municipal affairs department would reach them within “a day or two” and that the “confusion” would be over “soon”.

Congress councillor and Opposition leader in the municipality Ravi Shankar Pande said Jawaharlal Pal had lost the authority to sign cheques the moment he was defeated in the no-trust vote.

“He knows that the moment he will sign a cheque, we shall lodge an FIR against him. At the same time, he is not ready to accept that he is no longer the chairman,” Pande said.

Pande threatened to move high court if Chowdhury failed to convene a board meeting within a day or two to elect the chairman.

Asked why was not stepping down, Jawaharlal Pal said: “The no-trust vote itself was illegal. I sought a clarification from the executive officer, questioning the process he had followed to conduct the voting. He has failed to give any satisfactory reply. So, I continue to remain the chairman. There is no question of my resignation.”