The members of Mamata Banerjee’s culture clan who had once sounded the change chant in unison are now singing differently on whether or not to resign from the various railway advisory committees.
On Tuesday, theatre actors-directors Saoli Mitra and Arpita Ghosh confirmed reports that they had resigned from the culture and heritage committee but theatre veteran Bibhash Chakraborty ruled out quitting the panel.
Singer Pallab Kirtaniya and painter Samir Aich, members of the passenger amenities committee, said they were yet to take a decision.
All of them, and several others from Bengal’s art and culture field, were appointed members of the three advisory committees after Mamata Banerjee became railway minister in 2009. Many saw in the appointments an attempt to reward the men and women for backing Mamata in her fight against the Left Front.
As chairpersons and members of the committees, they were/are entitled to a host of benefits, including monthly honorariums ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 8,000.
“The convention says political appointees, such as the ones on the railway advisory panels, should quit with the minister or the party that had inducted them. Till now only two persons whom Trinamul had got into the railway committees have resigned,” a railway official said from Delhi.
Mitra said she had wanted to quit as chairperson of the culture and heritage committee immediately after Trinamul’s withdrawal of support but decided to wait till October 1 as some work was unfinished.
“Work on the Geetanjali museum at Bolpur held me back. I and Arpita put in our papers day before yesterday, after work on the museum was wrapped up,” Mitra told Metro.
The culture and heritage committee’s term ends on October 5.
Mitra was getting a monthly honorarium of Rs 50,000 as chairperson of the committee and Ghosh, Rs 25,000 as a member. “We worked hard and there is nothing wrong in taking an honorarium,” Mitra said.
Apart from setting up the museum at Bolpur, the panel had supervised the running of two exhibition trains — one on Rabindranath Tagore (Sanskriti Express) and the other on Mother Teresa (Mother Teresa Express).
Theatre actor-director Bibhas Chakraborty, however, said he would not resign from the culture and heritage committee. “I returned to Calcutta today and found out that they (Mitra and Ghosh) have resigned. But I will not.... The railway ministry gave me the assignment and I will stay the full term,” Chakraborty said.
Painter Shuvaprasanna, the chairman of the passenger amenities committee, had last week told Metro: “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 painter was not available for comment on Tuesday. A family member said he was abroad.
Singer Kirtaniya, a member of the amenities committee, said they would take a call on Wednesday. “Our chairman (Shuvaprasanna) will return from abroad late tonight and we’ll decide on the issue at a meeting tomorrow,” said Kirtaniya. Painter Aich said he had wanted to quit the amenities committee but was waiting for a “collective” decision. “I personally want to quit but am waiting for tomorrow’s meeting,” he said.
According to railway officials, the passenger services and the passenger amenities committees existed even before Mamata had taken up the railway ministry reins but the heritage committee was her brainchild.