Alapan replies to Centre, says he had to go to survey cyclone-hit Digha
Former chief secretary of Bengal Alapan Bandyopdhayay on Thursday replied to the Centre's show-cause notice served to him under the Disaster Management Act to explain his absence from the cyclone review meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28, an official said.
In his reply, Bandyopadhyay said that "as per the directive of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee," he left the meeting for a review of Cyclone Yaas-ravaged Digha, a popular sea resort town in Purba Medinipur district, according to the highly-placed official in the secretariat.
Bandyopadhyay was set to retire as the chief secretary on May 31, but the state recently sought and received permission for an extension of his tenure for three months as he played a crucial role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
He was, however, handed over a transfer directive by the Centre, shortly after a row broke out over the prime minister's post-cyclone review meeting at Kalaikunda airbase, which the CM and state chief secretary did not attend. The bureaucrat, instead of reporting to Delhi, chose to retire and was subsequently appointed as the CM's chief adviser for the next three years.
Mamata, along with the chief secretary, met the prime minister for around 15 minutes at Kalaikunda and left after handing over a report on the devastation caused by the cyclone in the state. Her decision to not stay and attend the meeting was partly linked to the presence of her former aide-turned-BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari at the meeting as Leader of Opposition. The CM has since reiterated that she had other meetings to attend and left only with the Prime Minister's permission.
The Union Home Ministry then served the show-cause notice to Bandyopadhyay on May 31 under a stringent provision of the Disaster Management Act that entails imprisonment up to two years.
The notice accused him of making PM Modi and other members of his entourage wait for nearly 15 minutes.
"In view of the absence, the Chief Secretary (Mr Bandyopadhay) was called by an official as to whether they wanted to participate in the review meeting or not. Thereafter, Chief Secretary arrived along with Chief Minister of West Bengal inside the meeting room and left thereafter immediately," the Centre noted.
Government sources defended its actions on Tuesday, saying the Chief Secretary, as an All India Services officer, "chose to ignore his constitutional duties", NDTV reported.
Government sources said his retirement showed that Mamata was on the backfoot. "She knows that facts of the matter are against the Chief Secretary and his behaviour was such that it will invite strict disciplinary action... All India officers are not expected to be part of politics. Mamata knows all this and his retirement is a last bid to save him," they said.