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Minister flip-flop on babu shunt
- In a fortnight, Jyotipriya Mullick changes version on official’s transfer from Jalpaiguri to Calcutta

Alipurduar, July 16: Several tags have been pinned to Biswajit Biswas’s transfer in the span of a fortnight — first he was “promoted”, then “punished”, now it seems the matter was “routine”.

The person to have labelled the transfer thus is state food and supplies minister Jyotipriya Mullick.

There is another remarkable aspect to the supposed “punishment transfer”. Biswas, the Jalpaiguri district controller of food, has been shunted to Calcutta. Few government officials in Bengal would sulk at such a punishment that would take them from a district town to the state’s capital.

Biswas, though, chose not to react to the July 1 transfer order.

That Biswas had been transferred is not news in itself. Minister Mullick announced the transfer on July 3. At that time he said: “He has been promoted and transferred. There is no other reason behind his transfer.”

Today, at the closed Bandapani tea estate in the new Alipurduar district — where Mullick and three other ministers had gone to meet tea workers — he mentioned the “transfer” again, but this time it was preceded by the word “punishment”.

Mullick did not name Biswas, but between July 1 and today, Biswas is the only district controller of food to have been shunted out either from Jalpaiguri or Alipurduar. As Alipurduar is a new district, it does not have a district controller of food to oversee its rationing network yet.

Biswas is now the assistant controller of the rationing department in Khadya Bhavan in Calcutta.

According to video footage available with Metro, Mullick told assembled journalists at Bandapani: “Apnara janen je shudhu matro quality of chaal er jonno ami district controller ke transfer korechhi. Punishment transfer korechhi (You must be knowing that just for the quality of rice I have transferred the district controller. It is a punishment transfer.)”

On June 29, Mullick and north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb had gone to the then closed Raipur tea estate in Alipurduar where six people had died in the span of a week in June from suspected malnutrition. Residents of the garden had complained to Mullick that they got food grain of poor quality.

When Mullick was asked about Biswas’s transfer on July 3, he dissociated it from the allegation of poor quality food grain, the opposite of which he cited today as the reason for the transfer.

Mullick did not mention today that Biswas had been moved to Calcutta.

Before he criticised the quality of rice, the minister also said today: “The allegation of distribution of poor food grain is baseless.”

Why then did Mullick shunt out the official seemed odd in the light of today’s statement.

There is no official term as “punishment transfer”.

A promotee IAS official in Calcutta, who did not want to be named, said: “Unless the relocation inconveniences him greatly, a posting to Calcutta for anyone in Bengal cannot really be considered a penal measure. It's more of a kick up. However, there is no such thing, officially, as a punishment posting in bureaucratic procedure. It's a nickname for inconvenient postings given to discipline errant officials.”

Late tonight, Mullick was again contacted and asked about Biswas’s transfer and what he had said in Bandapani.

“His (Biswas’s) transfer was due, and so he was moved to Khadya Bhavan in Calcutta. It is a routine process and not a punishment transfer,” he said over phone. “We had received an allegation about the quality of rice supplied in the closed tea gardens, but found out later that the allegations did not have any ground. This has no link with the district food controller’s transfer.”