Did not ‘abstain’ from PM’s meet: former Bengal CS replies to govt notice

Wednesday 09th June 2021 07:32 EDT

Kolkata: Former Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay wrote to the Union home ministry last week, denying he had "abstained" from PM Narendra Modi’s May 28 cyclone review meeting in Kalaikunda. Bandyopadhyay, now CM Mamata Banerjee’s chief adviser, said he attended the meeting and then left on Mamata's instructions - to whom he used to "report" as the state chief secretary - to conduct and coordinate post-cyclone review meetings in East Midnapore.

New chief secretary HK Dwivedi also wrote a separate letter to the central department of personnel and training, stating that Bandyopadhyay retired from service on Monday last - before the central government's second letter instructing him to report to Delhi’s North Block arrived. He had chosen not to accept the three-month extension given to him on May 24 before getting the second letter, Dwivedi’s letter mentioned. "Both replies have been sent," a senior state government officer confirmed.

The Union home ministry had issued the notice to Bandyopadhyay earlier, asking him to explain why action should not be taken against him under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, for not attending the PM’s review meeting on May 28.

Mamata offers full support to Alapan

Mamata had reiterated her government’s “full support” Bandyopadhyay “on whatever was going on with him”, adding that “the case, the chapter was over now.” The state government has insisted that there was no question of skipping the PM’s review meet as both Banerjee and Bandyopadhyay had a “brief interaction” with the PM and left for an inspection of cyclone-hit areas after “seeking his permission”. The letters came a few days after the Centre gave Bandyopadhyay a three-month extension as Bengal’s chief secretary following a state government request, which said his services were needed because of the pandemic. Bandyopadhyay chose to take retirement instead of reporting to Delhi and was made the CM’s chief adviser.

Banerjee had told Modi that Bengal “cannot release and is not releasing its chief secretary at this critical hour”. Sources said the “offence” under Section 51(b) of the DM Act entails criminal action and provides for a maximum one year jail term upon conviction. The move, which is likely to escalate tensions between the Centre and Mamata, saw MHA seeking an explanation “in writing” from the ex-bureaucrat within three days, as to why action should not be taken against him for violating the DM Act.

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