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Adhir axe on Mamata band

- Railway to replace panel members handpicked by Didi

The railway ministry will disband the committees on passenger amenities and passenger services, set up by Mamata Banerjee when she was the Rail Bhavan boss, and reconstitute them with “more competent people”, junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury said on Tuesday.

“We have decided to disband the passenger services and passenger amenities committees. These panels will be reconstituted with more competent people. I am not saying the committee members are incompetent but everyone knows how they were chosen. All were political appointments,” Chowdhury said.

Soon after taking up the reins of the railway ministry, Mamata had appointed a host of pro-Trinamul cultural personalities from Bengal to the two committees, as well as the railway heritage and culture committee.

According to railway officials, the committees on passenger services and passenger amenities had existed earlier, while the one on heritage and culture was set up by Mamata.

“The heritage and culture committee’s tenure is over and it is unlikely to be revived,” said a railway board official. “The process of choosing new members of the services and amenities committees, whose term will end shortly, would soon start.”

Officials said the decision to recast the committees was taken after Trinamul withdrew support to the UPA II government and the railway ministry went back to the Congress.

The amenities committee is headed by painter Shuvaprasanna. Among the other members are painter Samir Aich, singer Pallab Kirtaniya and film directors Goutam Ghose and Haranath Chakraborty.

The services committee is headed by former Trinamul MP Joachim Buxla. Trinamul Derek O’Brien had earlier headed the panel.

Theatre actor-directors Shaoli Mitra and Arpita Ghosh were on the hertage panel.

Maintaining such large number of committee strains the financial resources of the Railways as a number of benefits are attached with the posts.

The financial benefits attached with posts in these committees include a monthly honorarium of Rs. 50,000 to the head of the committee and Rs. 25,000 to other members. Added to it are other perks including free travel, food and lodging facilities while on official tours.

Railway ministry officials said although the members were allowed to complete their tenure, normally they resigned when the minister who had appointed them, quit office. “This is the convention followed over the years,” he said.

The railways has spent around Rs five crore in last three years on the three committees including paying honorariums ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 8,000 and perquisites.

“The railways has so many internal committees and hiring resources can be need based for technical reasons,” said minister Chowdhury.

After taking over as the minister of state a couple of months back, Chowdhury has been speaking about cutting down unnecessary costs.