Calcutta, Aug. 13: Mahanayak, Mahanayika, Maha-IAS, Maha-IPS….
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has extended her penchant for conferring awards from filmdom to the civil services — an uncommon decision that brings under strain the ideal of a bureaucracy immune to changes in the elected leadership in government.
The government is planning to acknowledge “excellent” services rendered by senior IAS and IPS officers by introducing three awards that will be given away on Independence Day.
The government finalised the names of the recipients late this evening, sources said.
According to the sources, four IAS officers will be given the chief minister’s award for excellence in public service and three IPS officers will be given the chief minister’s medal for outstanding service. Three more IPS officers will be given the chief minister’s award for commendable service.
“As far as I know, IAS officers are not given any award anywhere in the country. IPS officers get awards but they are gallantry awards, not an award like this,” said a senior official.
The choice of the IAS officers for the awards reflects their public praise by the chief minister. The shortlisted officers head the four departments — MSME, power, panchayat and women and child welfare — that have been drawing the maximum accolades from Mamata at public meetings.
“Rajiva Sinha contributed to the MSME department as the secretary while Roshni Sen has been selected for delivering on the chief minister’s pet project, Kanyashree. Moloy De has been chosen for his contribution to the power department during his stint as secretary there and Saurabh Das has been selected for his performance in the 100-day job scheme,” said an official.
But the list of IPS officers has raised several eyebrows.
“S.N. Gupta (the IGP, western range) may be appreciated for his work in Jungle Mahal…. But why Rajiv Kumar?” an official asked.
He pointed out that under Rajiv Kumar’s watch, the Saradha probe did not make much headway on the key questions of the larger conspiracy and political patronage. Eventually, the Supreme Court handed over the probe to the CBI.
The choice of two other awardees has also drawn much attention. “Bharati Ghosh (the West Midnapore SP) and S.M.H. Meerza (the Burdwan SP) were temporarily removed from their posts by the Election Commission after allegations were levelled that they were favouring the ruling party. This will inevitably bring up the question whether loyalty is being rewarded now,” an official said.
Another official was more blunt. “This is an effort to politicise the administration. Remember how she protected the officials who were removed by the Election Commission?” the official said.
The chief minister had openly lauded the performances of Ghosh and Meerza and criticised the Election Commission before backing off and agreeing to transfer them.
Mamata had brought the two IPS officers back to their earlier posts immediately after the Lok Sabha polls.
Another official said such awards might create an impression that those who follow the instructions of the ruling party would be rewarded.
The bureaucracy was already feeling demoralised, having had to share the stage with controversial politicians like Manirul Islam and Anubrata Mondal. The officials will now have to live with the realisation that those who are considered loyal will be feted like stars, too, an official said.