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Of DM transfers in Darjeeling; Bista slams state govt

Mr Dhankar had come down heavily on the DM and the Superintendent of Police, Darjeeling, for not following protocol and not receiving him whenever he was around here. Social media is also abuzz with talk that a small district like Darjeeling, which is always in the news headlines, has seen five DMs in the past one-andahalf years, while netizens have claimed that the ruling party is changing the top official only because it failed to control the area politically.

MANAS R BANNERJEE | Siliguri |

Amid speculations that the Trinamul Congress state government removed Darjeeling District Magistrate Ponnambalam S just because he met Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar in Darjeeling yesterday, a debate rages on among two groups-one that feels that the transfer was routine and the other that says the DM had to go because he dared to see the Governor.

As he reached Siliguri to head for his office at Raj Bhawan in Darjeeling, Mr Dhankar had come down heavily on the DM and the Superintendent of Police, Darjeeling, for not following protocol and not receiving him whenever he was around here. Social media is also abuzz with talk that a small district like Darjeeling, which is always in the news headlines, has seen five DMs in the past one-andahalf years, while netizens have claimed that the ruling party is changing the top official only because it failed to control the area politically.

The DM’s transfer also comes amid political developments in the Hills when there are possibilities of Morcha leader Bimal Gurung’s return after three years in hiding and the Governor camping in his office in Darjeeling for a month. The government order issued yesterday by Additional Chief Secretary BP Gopalika said: “The Governor is pleased to appoint Shashank Sethi, IAS, (West Bengal 2010), Managing Director, Paschim Banga Agri Marketing Corporation Ltd, with additional charge of Chairman in Charge, West Bengal State Agricultural Marketing Board and Project Director, ADB Project PHE Department, as District Magistrate Darjeeling until further order.”

Darjeeling’s BJP MP Raju Bista also reacted to the state government’s decision to transfer the Darjeeling DM.

“Testifying to the utter mismanagement and arbitrariness of the way Trinamul Congressled government has run the administration in the state, Darjeeling became the only district in India, which has earned the unenviable distinction of seeing five District Magistrates move in and out in a matter of less than 1.5 years,” Mr Bista said.

“The ‘Game of Musical Chairs’, produced by TMC and directed by the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerrjee started with Joyoshi Dasgupta being moved out on 29 June 2019, to be replaced by Sanjay Bansal. Bansal was in the chair for merely two days before being replaced by Deepap Priya P. After a short tenure of just 11 months, she too was moved out in April 2019. She was replaced by Poonambalam S, who was posted out after a mere six months in the chair, and he has now been replaced by Shashank Sethi,” Mr Bista added.

“It is well accepted that bureaucrats who are often the edge of public administration sphere, must have an assured tenure of three years, except in the rarest of cases, to render to the general public the services the constitution guarantees them. An officer must be assured of reasonable tenures to be able to do justice to the post he occupies. Every officer needs time to learn the sphere and scope of his post, before being able to discharge their duties in a befitting manner and serve the people as they are sworn to. Short tenures, ranging from a few days to a few months would damage the quality of administration beyond repair,” the MP added. According to him, this pernicious practice of truncated tenures for not fulfilling the TMC’s narrow political objectives needs to be opposed by all, and must stop.

Notably, the Governor has been critical about how top administrative officials had been “working as activists” of the ruling political party and paying no heed to their duties by maintaining neutrality. Sources said that the earlier DM, Deepap Priya P, was transferred as she needed rest and maternity leave. Similarly, another DM Mohan Gandhi was transferred to Cooch Behar as the climate in the Hills did not suit his son.

“The state government appoints trusted IAS officials as DM in more than one and two districts, and after Mr Gandhi, Soumitra Mohan was posted as the DM from Darjeeling to Bardhaman. Such a traditional practice continues since the Left Front tenure,” a source said.

“TMC’s blatant attempt at politicizing bureaucracy and administrative machinery needs to be decried in the harshest of terms by every democracy loving citizen. The autocratic and tyrannical manner in which TMC has continued to function against the rule of law is a threat to our democracy, and goes against the founding principles of our Constitution. In TMC subverting administrative officials and turning them into political stooges, it is the nation and the people who lose the most. This practice needs to end immediately, Mr Bista said.

PM Modi talked to DM more: Minister Deb

Meanwhile, state tourism minister Gautam Deb said that he noticed that PM Narendra Modi talked to the Darjeeling DM and Siliguri Commissioner of Police more than he did with others today. Mr Modi was at the Bagdogra Airport for a brief while as he headed for Bihar today.

“I was present at Bagdogra to welcome the PM as government representative. I introduced myself. He then talked to BJP leaders as well as MPs and then the Darjeeling DM and others. I noticed he talked more with the DM and the CP,” Mr Deb said.