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North secretariat opens today

- Uttar Kanya expected to speed up development work in six districts

Jan. 19: Mamata Banerjee will inaugurate the mini-state secretariat for north Bengal in Siliguri tomorrow in a bid to expedite development in the region and remove bottlenecks in governance.

Nineteen departments would function from Uttar Kanya, as the secretariat has been christened. Officials in the ranks of joint secretary and director would be in charge of 19 state departments that would have branches here. There will also be separate offices for the six north Bengal districts.

“The move to set up the secretariat in Siliguri will help the government prepare project proposals for north Bengal districts on time. The offices there will be able to monitor the progress of the projects more effectively,” a senior official said at Nabanna, the state secretariat in Howrah.

The chief minister will open Uttar Kanya at Kamrangaguri, on Siliguri’s outskirts, at 1pm tomorrow.

The building has been constructed by the north Bengal development department in association with other state government departments at a cost of Rs 60 crore.

Work on the two-storied structure with a floor space of 80,000sqft had begun in November 2012.

Deb said: “The new secretariat will have around 20 departments, including the chief minister’s office. Senior officers would be posted in each department and would work with dedication for six north Bengal districts. An exclusive secretariat for north Bengal was a policy decision of the Trinamul Congress before we came to power in 2011.”

The minister said the building was supposed to be completed in June this year and the work had been completed ahead of the schedule.

There had been a long-standing demand in several quarters for a separate secretariat for north Bengal. The main thrust of their argument was the time it took to travel to Calcutta to get work done at Writers’ and now at Nabanna in Howrah, which is close to Calcutta.

“We are happy to see that infrastructure for the new secretariat has been put in place. We appreciate the state government’s initiative and hope that officials in higher ranks with adequate powers will be posted and will be backed by a considerable size of workforce in the lower tiers,” said Jayanta Dutta, a businessman based in Siliguri.

“If there are no adequate employees and officers lack necessary authority, such shortcomings will go against the very purpose of the north Bengal secretariat,” he added.

Deb sought to assuage such fears. “Officers in the ranks of joint secretary and director will be posted at Uttar Kanya. There would be adequate number of employees to see that the government’s work is expedited across north Bengal. The secretariat will remove bottlenecks that hinder the process of development. The officers will have appropriate powers to act and decide. Further, ministers, including the chief minister, will keep visiting Uttar Kanya at regular intervals,” he said.

The senior official at Nabanna has said the branch secretariat could be manned by surplus employees in the district magistrate offices in north Bengal and the office of the divisional commissioner in Jalpaiguri.

“The joint secretary can moot proposals for projects in the Siliguri office more effectively with the help of district magistrates in north Bengal. He will send the proposals to the state secretariat, where it will be vetted only,” said an official.

The official explained that as the entire process of initiating development projects was done at the state secretariat, it was often time consuming.

According to the officials, as the branch office will monitor projects from Siliguri, the district authorities will be under pressure to deliver on time.

“As projects have been monitored from Calcutta so far, they got no proper attention. As the branch office will focus on north Bengal districts only, it will keep the district magistrates under pressure to deliver on time,” explained another official.

Which departments will have branches

  • The chief minister’s office
  • North Bengal development
  • Hill affairs
  • Commerce and industries
  • Agriculture
  • Cooperation
  • Backward classes welfare
  • School education
  • PWD
  • Women and child welfare
  • Housing
  • Labour
  • Health and family welfare
  • Animal resources development
  • Municipal affairs
  • Finance
  • Transport
  • Minorities affairs and madrasah education
  • Micro and small-scale enterprises
  • and textiles

Amenities

  • Guest house and suites for chief minister, ministers and officials
  • 400-seat auditorium
  • Canteen
  • Parking lot
  • Press corner
  • Helipad (proposed)