Mass transfers in poll-debacle zone

Calcutta: All eight block development officers of Jhargram were shunted out on Monday to less important posts in north Bengal amid murmurs that they had paid the price for the ruling Trinamul's poor show in the rural polls.

"The transfers are unusual as all BDOs in a district are rarely shunted out in one day. It appears to have some links with the ruling party's performance in the recent panchayat polls," said a senior official.

The Trinamul could win only 373 out of the 779 gram panchayat seats. The BJP sprung a surprise by bagging 329 seats.

The transfers are considered punishment postings in administrative circles as the shifted BDOs will be posted as deputy magistrates in the offices of district magistrates or sub-divisional officers in north Bengal.

"Usually, WBCS (executive) officers start their career as BDOs and spend at least six years in the post. It helps them getting acquainted with development projects and the process of running the administration at the grassroot level. But none of these (Jhargram) officers had completed six years. Their premature withdrawal from field duty is a punishment," said a senior WBCS officer.

Sources in the administration said the BDOs were removed because chief minister Mamata Banerjee was unhappy with the way development projects were undertaken in Jungle Mahal, a region that includes Jhargram. "She took reports from various sources after the ruling party suffered the setback in Jhargram," said an officer.

Earlier, former DGP Surajit Kar Purakayastha had visited Jhargram soon after the panchayat results. Later, Trinamul heavyweights Subrata Bakshi and Partha Chatterjee travelled to the district several times to find out the reasons behind the debacle.

"All of them reported that corruption at the grassroot level cost the ruling party dear. As the BDOs carry out government projects at the lowest level, they cannot avoid accountability. The chief minister wanted fresh faces to run development projects," said a minister.

Senior Trinamul leaders declined comment on the transfers.

The action has caused heartburn among WBCS officers. "Why are the BDOs being made scapegoats? This will not send a good message to the officers. If the government claims development has taken place in Jhargram, it was due to the officers," said an officer.

A Trinamul insider said a change in the party's local leadership was also likely soon. "The chief minister is serious about complaints from Jhargram. The stern action won't stop with the BDOs' transfers," said a Trinamul leader.


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