Tea board IAS tussle

The Mamata Banerjee government has decided against releasing Arnab Roy, a 19991-batch IAS officer of the Bengal cadre, for the post of deputy chairman of the Tea Board.

By Pranesh Sarkar and Abhranila Das in Calcutta
  • Published 30.12.16
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Calcutta, Dec. 29: The Mamata Banerjee government has decided against releasing Arnab Roy, a 19991-batch IAS officer of the Bengal cadre, for the post of deputy chairman of the Tea Board.

A source in Nabanna said the Centre has hinted that in the near future officers from the Bengal cadre may not be considered for the post.

Nabanna sources said the decision could hurt the state's interest in the tea industry.

The post of deputy chairman is considered important in terms of promoting the tea industry as he is the executive head of the body.

Earlier, the chairman used to be the executive head of the Tea Board, but the Centre amended the Tea Rules, 1954, on October 26 this year, making the deputy chairman the executive head.

"The Centre has already informed the state government that if Roy is not released to take up the responsibility after the appointment committee of the cabinet selected him for the post, officers from the Bengal cadre might not be considered for the post in the near future. If this happens, it would affect the tea industry in Bengal," a source said.

According to some officials, the chief minister decided against releasing the officer after the Centre made the chairman's post non-executive to appoint a political person.

"The state government had recommended the officer for the post of chairman before it was made non-executive. Now, the officer would not be released to take up the post of deputy chairman," said a senior government official.

Sources in Nabanna said the chief minister would not want an officer of the state cadre to work with a BJP leader at the helm.

"It is clear the ruling party at the Centre would put one of its party leaders at the helm of the body to get a strong foothold in tea gardens spread across north Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The chief minister does not want any of her officers to work with a BJP leader," said a source.

The chief minister's reluctance to release Bengal cadre officers for central deputation has been seen in several sectors earlier.

Now, nine IAS officers from the Bengal cadre are in central deputation, though the state government can send 48 officers.

"The chief minister did not allow officers to go for central deputation, citing shortage of IAS officers. But this is causing trouble because more state cadre officers in Delhi means more people to lobby for the state," said a senior bureaucrat.

If Roy is not allowed to join the new posting it would have an immediate effect, Nabanna sources said.

The appointment of an IAS officer from the Bengal cadre as the Tea Board deputy chairman is always an advantage for the industry as they are familiar with issues faced by the industry to a great extent, according to industry veterans.

A tea exporter said it was important for the state to realise the importance to allow an IAS officer from the Bengal cadre to lead the Tea Board as it would help address problems plaguing the industry at the moment.

"Calcutta is the headquarters of the tea industry. It is crucial to have someone from the state as the Tea Board deputy chairman as that would make it easier for us to share our grievances," he said.