Bengal babus doing away with Mamata Banerjee’s photo in official invitation cards

MOVE AIMED AT AVOIDING DELAY IN GETTING MAMATA’S CLEARANCE

By bappaditya paul
Sycophancy of sarkari babus notwithstanding, various departments of West Bengal government are gradually doing away with the practice of carrying Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s photograph in invitation cards for official events.

Mamata BanerjeeThis is in departure from the trend that had set in since the Trinamul Congress assumed power in the state in May 2011; placing a photograph of the Chief Minister in government invitation cards had become a de facto norm. In the month of December alone so far, at least four departments have printed invitation cards for official events that did not carry a smiling face of Miss Banerjee.

These include the invitation cards for a felicitation-cum-assistance distribution programme of the Tribal Welfare Department at Netaji Indoor Stadium on 3 December, an award distribution ceremony for outstanding government medical professional at Town Hall on 5 December (the event was cancelled at the last moment due to Nelson Mandela’s death), Sunderban Divas celebration by the Sunderban Affairs Department at Minakha in North 24-Parganas on 11 December and the inauguration of the West Bengal Forest and Biodiversity Conservation Project, which is being organised by the state Forest Department at Science City on 16 December.

A 2012 West Bengal government invitation card with Mamata Banerjee's photo
A 2012 West Bengal government invitation card with Mamata Banerjee’s photo

Interestingly, barring the Sunderban Divas event, Miss Banerjee was/is the chief guest in all the remaining three programmes.

But how could the babus become so daring, especially in this regime? Explains a senior bureaucrat. “It’s been an unwritten norm since May 2011 that to carry a photograph of the CM on a government invitation card or advertisement, the draft version will have to be cleared by none other than the CM herself. For this, the draft card/ advertisement is submitted to the Chief Minister’s Office in advance by the department which is organising an event; CMO returns the same with necessary modifications, if any,” he said.

Mamata Banerjee cartoon courtesy Deccan Chorinical“Initially this used to take barely a day from the time a department approached the CMO. But ever since Mr Santanu Basu, a joint secretary in the CMO, was moved out as the DM Howrah in May 2012, the time requirement got prolonged. Now it takes even up to five-seven days to get a clearance and hence the organising department is left with no time to distribute the cards and this in turn runs the risk of drawing the CM’s ire. Hence, the departments are getting smarter and are now only carrying the CM’s name in the invitation cards.”

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 15 December 2013.)

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