Centre asks former Bengal Chief Secretary to explain absence from review meeting with Prime Minister

Published : June 01, 2021 22:14 IST

Alapan Bandyopadhyay. Photo: PTI

The day after West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay retired from service and was appointed Chief Adviser to the Chief Minister, the Centre issued him a notice under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, for “abstaining himself” from the review meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the aftermath of Cyclone Yaas on May 28. The State and the Centre have been locked in a bitter feud after the latter recalled Bandyopadhyay to the Centre three days before his retirement. The order from the Centre arrived after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bandyopadhyay skipped the review meeting with Modi. The two, however, had met Modi and had sought his “permission” to leave, as they were touring the cyclone-ravaged regions in the State. Bandyopadhyay has been asked to explain in writing within three days “as to why action should not be taken against him under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.”

In its notice to Bandyopadhyay, dated June 1, the Centre said, “Upon arrival at the meeting room, where the review meeting was scheduled to be held, Prime Minister and his entire entourage waited for nearly 15 minutes for the officers of the State government to arrive. In view of the absence, the Chief Secretary was called by an official as to whether they wanted to participate in the review meeting or not. Thereafter, Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal, arrived, along with the Chief Minister of West Bengal, inside the meeting room and left thereafter immediately.” According to the notice, Bandyopadhyay acted “in a manner tantamount to refusing to comply with lawful directions of the Central Government and is thus violative of Section 51 (b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005”.

Mamata Banerjee, in a press conference on May 29, had countered the allegations made against her and Bandyopadhyay, saying that they were made to wait for around 15 minutes before they were allowed to meet the Prime Minister on May 28. “We had requested that we please be allowed to meet the Prime Minister for just one minute, but we were told that it cannot take place before one hour… Earlier it was supposed to be a meeting between the PM and the CM, but later it was revised and there were Central Ministers, the Governor, Opposition leaders – the big BJP party, and me alone,” said Mamata. She claimed that after handing over to Modi the preliminary report of the damage caused by the cyclone, she sought his permission to resume her tour of the affected regions.

Adding fuel to the fire, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said on social media: “Constrained by false narrative to put record straight: On May 27 at 2316 hrs CM @MamataOfficial messaged “may i talk? urgent”. Thereafter on phone indicated boycott by her & officials of PM Review Meet #CycloneYaas if LOP @SuvenduWB attends it. Ego prevailed over Public service.”

Four days before recalling Bandyopadhyay, the Centre had agreed to the State’s request for a three-month extension of his term as Chief Secretary due to the pandemic situation. On May 31, before Bandyopadhyay’s decision to retire, Mamata had written to Modi categorically stating that she would not be releasing the Chief Secretary. She had written that the order recalling Bandyopadhyay was “clearly in violation of applicable laws and against public interest”, and the “unilateral order/directive” was “legally untenable, historically unprecedented and wholly unconstitutional.”