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Tug of war over transfer hurts election work

April 8: Poll-related work was affected today as there was confusion in the districts over the Bengal government’s initial reluctance to comply with the Election Commission’s directive of transferring eight officers.

At the end of the day, during which some of the eight officers turned up for work while the others stayed away, Mamata Banerjee announced at a news conference that she would accept the commission’s directive but would lodge her protest with the poll panel tomorrow.

Sources in the state government said no matching order was issued by the administration after the Election Commission directed yesterday that a district magistrate, two additional district magistrates and five police superintendents be transferred.

“According to the norm, the state government has to issue an order matching the EC’s directive. Many officials at Nabanna and in the districts felt that the eight officers stood transferred the moment the EC order was issued,” a senior government official said. Till late tonight, the state’s matching order had not been issued.

Another official said DMs and ADMs played a key role in poll preparations.

“These officers are responsible for issuing directives to their subordinates on requisitioning of vehicles for polls and drawing up training rosters. DMs and ADMs also inspect electronic voting machines,” the official said.

He said the police superintendents drew up details of deployment of security forces in consultation with district officials and made arrangements for their accommodation.

“Such work was affected because some of the eight officers did not attend office today,” the official said.

North 24-Parganas district magistrate Sanjay Bansal was one of the officers who stayed away.

“The DM is the district election officer and he looks after all poll-related affairs in a district. Election-related work came to halt today because of the DM’s absence,” an official in North 24-Parganas said.

Repeated calls to Bansal’s cellphone went unanswered.

The ADM (zilla parishad) of South 24-Parganas, Alokesh Prasad Roy, also did not attend office at the zilla parishad building in Alipore today. His mobile phone remained switched off.

The absence of Roy, who is the returning officer for the Mathurapur Lok Sabha constituency, hampered election work such as requisitioning of vehicles, sources said.

Murshidabad police chief Humayun Kabir, another officer whose transfer has been ordered by the EC, attended office. He arrived at 11am and left at 5pm. Kabir held a media conference announcing that the police had seized 4.5kg of heroin from two persons in Lalgola.

Asked about the transfer order, Kabir said: “I don’t know how the transfer came about. However, I am yet to receive any transfer order. But I am ready.”

Kabir, who like most of the other officers whose transfer has been ordered is accused of bias towards the ruling party and inaction on complaints of model code violation, said he was “not aware on the basis of whose complaint” he was being transferred.

Burdwan police chief S.M.H. Meerza was in office today from 10am to 4.15pm. He visited the venues of the chief minister’s meetings in Mangalkot and Memari tomorrow. “I worked today as I do on any other day. I don’t want to comment on the transfer,” he said.

A source in Nabanna said he thought the police chiefs of Burdwan and Murshidabad had been asked by top officials to attend office. “Otherwise, it would have been tough for an officer to attend office after the EC ordered his transfer,” the source said.

Mamata Banerjee today said the transferred officers would be reinstated to their posts after the poll process ended.

West Midnapore police superintendent Bharati Ghosh, who has additional charge of the Jhargram police district, did not come to her offices in Midnapore and Jhargram today. Police sources said she was in her bungalow in Jhargram town. Repeated calls to her phone went unanswered.

Malda police chief Rajesh Yadav had left office soon after the EC’s announcement yesterday and he “did not turn up for work this morning”, a source said.

“I have not yet received any written instruction. I will leave as soon as it comes,” Yadav said.

Birbhum superintendent of police Alok Rajoria, who has been transferred to Jhargram, attended his office in Birbhum’s Suri today. He worked from 11am to 7.30pm. “I was busy throughout the day with my usual work,” Rajoria said.

Officials said Rajoria was not worried as there were no complaints against him.

Arindam Dutta, the West Midnapore ADM, also attended office today.

‘I AM GIVING YOU THE NAME’

Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday tore into deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi, the poll panel official in charge of electioneering in Bengal.

“He is a tainted officer, caught in a land scam of 100-odd acres. He has been placed in charge of Bengal. Zutshi — I am giving you the name. You find out about the 100 acres. He was absconding for some time and has obtained a stay order from the Supreme Court. Why should such a tainted officer be in charge of this glorious state?” the chief minister said at a media conference in Durgapur.

“He is from Rajasthan. May be the BJP has asked him to do it, who knows?” she said, referring to a “conspiracy”.

The 1982-batch IAS officer of the Rajasthan cadre has been the nodal officer in charge of Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Bengal since 2009.