The Mamata Banerjee government has claimed many times since 2011 when her party Trinamul Congress came to power in Bengal that there is an acute shortage of IAS officers in the state.
Yet, in terms of utilizing these bureaucrats, the government follows a quixotic policy. Several IAS officers have been entrusted with multiple important portfolios in different government departments and undertakings while many of their senior colleagues are either underutilized or shunted to less important departments where government hardly pays attention.
Bengal has an adequate number of around 300 IAS officers but many of them are also sitting virtually idle as officers on special duty (OSDs) or on ‘compulsory waiting’.
The system of allegedly giving ‘favour’ to this group of IAS officers enjoying more than two posts on an average has created a flutter among a section of bureaucrats hardly two months ahead of assembly polls in the state.
Some retired and serving bureaucrats belonging to the state IAS Association have also questioned the ‘rationale’ in posting and transfer of bureaucrats during Miss Banerjee’s regime.
Around 11 IAS officers including Naveen Prakash, H K Dwivedi, BP Gopalika, Manoj Pant, OS Meena, Rajesh Sinha, Vandana Yadav, P A Siddique, P B Salim and Santanu Bose are holding a minimum of two posts or more on average.
P B Salim, an IAS officer of the 2001 batch, is posted as chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) of West Bengal Power Development Corporation (WBPDCL), a fulltime responsibility. Yet, he has been entrusted with the additional responsibility of secretary in the minorities affairs department, chairman, West Bengal Minorities Commission and OSD in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO). Manoj Pant (IAS: 1991) is posted as principal secretary in the finance department with a full-time responsibility.
He also holds an additional charge of the land and land reforms and refugee, relief department. Recently, he has been given additional charge of Resident Commissioner (RC), Government of West Bengal in Delhi.
Naveen Prakash (IAS:1987), additional chief secretary (ACS), irrigation and waterways department, is also holding additional charge of PWD for more than two years.
The two departments account for almost a fourth of the state budget. Santanu Basu (IAS:2000) is simultaneously holding portfolios like principal secretary of the information & cultural affairs (I&CA) department and MD of West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Corporation Ltd. (WBSEDCL).
Both two posts are full-time jobs. Besides OSDs and officers on ‘compulsory waiting’, retired bureaucrats have also been suitably rehabilitated in important offices. R D Meena, Debashis Sen, Rajiva Sinha and Sanjay Thade are holding different posts after their retirement.
Though there is an RC of West Bengal in Delhi, Meena who retired as Land Reforms Commissioner, has been holding the post of OSD in the office of the RC for the past four years.
The health department headed by the chief minister saw five changes in oneand- a-half years since September 2019. Rajiva Sinha, Sanghamitra Ghosh, Vivek Kumar and now Narayan Swarup Nigam were made health secretary one after the other. Neither president Sunil Gupta nor secretary Santanu Basu of the IAS Association was available for comment.