Hamlet’s dilemma would have haunted members of Mamata Banerjee’s culture clan — to be or not (continue) to be on various railway committees following Trinamul’s exit from the UPA.
The pro-Mamata personalities from Bengal’s cultural world were inducted into the panels in advisory roles after she became railway minister post-2009 general elections.
“As Trinamul is no longer part of the government, we had expected the members to resign from the committees. But none has so far put in their papers,” said a railway official.
Mamata had set up committees on passenger amenities, services, and heritage and culture after taking up the reins of the ministry.
The committees had been packed with prominent members of the culture clan that supported Mamata in her fight against the Left. The list included painters Shuvaprasanna, Jogen Chowdhury and Samir Aich; theatre actors and directors Saoli Mitra, Bibhas Chakraborty and Arpita Ghosh; singer Pallab Kirtaniya and film-maker Haranath Chakraborty, among others.
Shuvaprasanna broke his silence amidst the controversy over whether Mamata’s handpicked men and women should continue taking honorariums and other benefits from railways.
“There is no need to send any resignation letter. The rule says a committee appointed during the tenure of a railway minister is naturally dissolved once that minister resigns. I have spoken to a member of the railway board and he told me about the rule,” the chairman of the passenger amenities committee told Metro.
Some of the other members of the committees, including Haranath Chakraborty and Samir Aich, echoed the painter.
But theatre director and actor Arpita Ghosh, a member of the heritage and culture committee, came up with a different explanation. Ghosh said she hadn’t resigned because her tenure would anyway end on October 5.
“We enquired with the railway ministry. Since there are only a few days left, there is no need to resign. Had our tenure been longer, we definitely would have moved out,” she said.
Saoli Mitra, chairperson of the committee, was unavailable for comment.
Shuvaprasanna said after Mamata handed the railway reins to Dinesh Trivedi, he requested all the members to continue in their posts. Mukul Roy did the same after the ministry was wrested from Trivedi and given to him.
Sources in the railways told Metro the rule suggested that although the committees were allowed to complete their tenures, members generally resigned when the minister left office.
“The two committees — passenger services and amenities — had existed earlier but the heritage and culture committee was set up by Mamata… The committees are allowed to complete their tenure but the members usually resign when the minister who chose them quits office,” said a senior official of the railway ministry.
According to him, such resignations are “natural” as “propriety” demands the political appointees relinquish office.
It is like an unwritten norm in diplomatic circles, where ambassadors who are not career diplomats quit when the political establishment changes.
Metro spoke to several members of the committee afflicted with the to-be-or-not-to-be dilemma, but almost all of them tried to put up a brave face and offer bold arguments for sticking to their posts, which they got as prizes for supporting Mamata’s change chant.
“Mamata had called me from Delhi to say she wanted to induct me into the activities of the Indian Railways. She wanted me to explore more ways in which journeys can be made more secure,” said Shuvaprasanna, who held a news conference at his Salt Lake home to defend his stand.
The veteran painter, however, did not elaborate on how he contributed to making rail journeys safer during his stint as the chairman of the passenger amenities committee.