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Caution! Men at work

Mamata Banerjee

Calcutta, Jan. 10: The chief minister yesterday assigned the task of ensuring speedy implementation of projects to parliamentary secretaries, who had been unhappy with lack of work since the government appointed them apparently to give pre-eminence to MLAs sulking for not getting ministerial berths.

Mamata Banerjee held a meeting with the 26 parliamentary secretaries, who have the official task of co-ordinating between ministers and departmental secretaries, at Nabanna yesterday.

“Mamatadi wants us to spend more time in the districts. She has instructed the district magistrates to work in close co-ordination with us on pending projects. She wants to ensure that the projects are completed before the Lok Sabha poll dates are announced,” a parliamentary secretary said.

The parliamentary secretaries The Telegraph spoke to said they were happy that the chief minister had met them but added they were not clear about their assignment.

The first batch of 13 parliamentary secretaries was appointed a year ago while the remaining 13 were sworn in last week. Some of the secretaries appointed earlier had expressed unhappiness with the lack of work and office space, and irregular payment of salary.

A parliamentary secretary’s rank is equivalent to that of a minister of state. The compensation package of a parliamentary secretary includes a monthly salary of Rs 7,500 and a daily allowance of Rs 1,000. Their perks include a beacon-fitted official car, reimbursement of telephone bills and two free LPG cylinders a month, besides a personal security officer and attendants.

The salary and perks are over and above what the parliamentary secretaries get as MLAs.

“We hope the payment issue will be sorted out soon. After spending so many years in politics, it does not make sense pursuing government officials for petty matters like salary,” said a parliamentary secretary, adding officials took their bank account details at today’s meeting.

“There is nothing much to do for any of us…. The ministers and the secretaries clear all files. No files come to us. We have no say in any department-related matter,” he said.

Parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee said the parliamentary secretaries had been given cars “so that they can visit the districts”. “They do not need to sit in offices,” he added.

At yesterday’s meeting, the parliamentary secretaries were informed that they would be given workplaces in Calcutta and their home districts.