Calcutta, Dec. 20: The grades of Team Mamata are out but the sole criterion has been who has played the best Santa with the money allocated to each department.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today categorised state government departments according to funds use, praising toppers, pulling up laggards and warning of changes unless socks are pulled up.
The “very good” have been graded green, which will mean they have spent more than 90 per cent of the funds allocated. (Some have clocked more than 100 per cent because they have issued work orders beyond the funds available.)
Next comes yellow or “not bad”, followed by red that flags “the poor”. The chief minister has raised the bar by laying down that “satisfactory” means 75 per cent.
The classification was unveiled at a closed-door meeting in Town Hall where the chief minister reviewed the performances of ministers and top officials, including those of the ministries under her. The use of funds allotted under the plan head has been taken as the solitary criterion.
The session is being seen as part of efforts to shake up the administration and finish as many projects as possible before next year’s general election.
Mamata told reporters later that all departments had performed well. Officials present at the session said she had warned at least four departments and had “threatened to change their set-up”.
The information and cultural affairs department, which reports to Mamata, was the first to face the music. “Sudhu utsav ar utsav, kaj kichhu hochchhe na. Sudhu rajniti hochchhe (Only festivals are being held, no work is being done. The entire focus is on politics),” an official quoted the chief minister as saying.
Mamata asked Atri Bhattacharya, the secretary of the department, why funds were not being released to give assistance to bauls, a source said.
Query to Partha
Next in line was Partha Chatterjee. Two of his departments — industrial reconstruction and IT — were among the poor performers.
“No money has been spent by the industrial reconstruction department. What is going on? Parthada, you should look after it,” the official quoted Mamata as saying.
Mamata expressed her dissatisfaction with the performance of the IT department. “Very bad. Only 15.64 per cent of the funds have been used. You have scope to do so many things. You should develop a software park in Darjeeling,” she was quoted as saying.
Chatterjee was not available for comment. Sources said the IT department’s proposals for setting up hubs were awaiting the nod of the finance department. “When the IT department’s performance was being reviewed, IT secretary Satish Tiwary informed the chief minister of the delay,” a source said.
The chief minister said she was “shocked” at the performance of the women and social welfare department, headed by Sabitri Mitra.
“I will change the entire set-up of the department. It is shocking that you have spent only 14.04 per cent,” Mamata was quoted as saying.
The chief minister instructed the department to procure winter garments and distribute them among jail inmates and welfare homes run by the department. She suggested that the social welfare department coordinate with the home department to finalise the plan.
The tourism department was pulled up for poor utilisation of funds. Mamata told department secretary A.R. Bardhan to visit different places and personally monitor projects. She suggested that the department should not depend on advisers and it should implement projects on time.
The refugee rehabilitation and statistics and programme implementation departments were also hauled up. According to the report from which Mamata read out, the statistics department has spent only 1.33 per cent of the funds allotted to it by the state government.
Rabindranath Bhattacharya, the minister who was shifted to the department from agriculture, said later: “We have spent more than 50 per cent of the funds we received from the Centre. We have started work on funds provided by the state government and will utilise them by February. Our department is not directly linked with the people. We don’t have a role to play in development projects.”
The performance of some departments, including finance, agriculture and higher education, were not discussed at today’s meeting. Officials could not say why the departments were not graded.
“Departments such as public health engineering and north Bengal affairs have performed really well. I will consider a department’s performance satisfactory if it spends 75 per cent of the allotted funds,” a minister quoted Mamata as saying.
Subrata Mukherjee, whose public health engineering department has emerged as the best performer, attributed the good showing to teamwork.
“The chief minister has made the ratings. I have nothing to say on this. I can only say that this is a result of teamwork,” said Mukherjee.