Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Mamata Banerjee’s trusted bureaucrat Gautam Sanyal’s promotion as principal secretary; story behind

WEST BENGAL chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s most trusted bureaucrat Gautam Sanyal was last month elevated as the principal secretary to chief minister after the state chief secretary finally issued the necessary order. It is not an ordinary promotion, at least for two reasons. First, Sanyal has become the first central secretariat service (CSS) officer (though retired) to get this coveted position. Secondly, this move is bound to create unease among IAS officers serving in West Bengal and outside. After all, principal secretary is a “cadre” post meant only for…
senior IAS officers, according to rule books. Only on February 25, 2015, IAS Association (Indian Civil and Administrative (Central) Association) took a resolution stating that the IAS officers belonging to three states in particular -- NCT Delhi, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh – are getting more "concerned" and "frustrated" because of the recent trend of posting non-cadre officers to cadre posts. The Association termed it as a “blatant violation” of the IAS (cadre) Rules, 1954 adding that it reduces efficiency of the administration. “IAS officers are specifically trained over their career-span to deal with jobs requiring specific background, experience and understanding. Posting of officers from indifferent backgrounds against en-cadred posts is not only contrary to the statutory Rules but also reduces efficiency in administration”, the resolution said.
For Sanyal, it was not an easy promotion either. The story dates back to the days when Ms Banerjee was the union railway minister under the then prime minister Manmohan Singh and Sanyal was her OSD. The 1976 batch CSS officer impressed Ms Banerjee in Rail Bhawan where there were too many technical people with expertise only in railways. And when Mamata Banerjee became the chief minister of West Bengal, Sanyal moved to Kolkata and became her secretary. Most IAS officers were not comfortable with the new poster boy of Kolkata’s babudom who wielded immense clout. According to reports, the then chief secretary Samar Ghosh stonewalled the chief minister’s idea of promoting Sanyal as the principal secretary. After retirement, Sanyal continued as secretary to CM on a contract basis but his influence only grew over the years.
But last month, present chief secretary and 1982 batch IAS Sanjay Mitra issued the order of elevating Sanyal as principal secretary. Many in the know say Mitra was not keen to give Sanyal a promotion as he feared it would clash with the views of the IAS Association and existing rules and conventions. But he yielded to CM’s wish, incidentally after he was not empanelled as Government of India secretary recently. Only on June 23, as many as 36 of his batch-mates (all 1982 batch IAS) were empanelled as secretary or secretary-equivalent at the Centre. Mitra, a Harvard Mason fellow from US who had worked in PMO for seven years could not make it to the final list. That means, he can’t move to the Centre as union secretary, at least till he is empanelled in the second or third list.
For CSS officers, however, Sanyal’s promotion is a matter of great pride. At least two CSS officers including one retired, wrote to BoI explaining the significance of this unprecedented move in the history of Bengal's babudom. But for IAS officers, it’s not a good precedent at all. It remains to be seen though whether the IAS Association would formally ask its own man -- Mitra, to clarify what forced him to break the convention and place a non-IAS in a “cadre” post!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations to the CSS cadre.

    The CSS has become the first service in India "outside of IAS"" to hold the post/rank/scale of Principal Secretary which was solely reserved for IAS.