Didi takes on 'non-performing' ministers

Kolkata, Aug 24 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has delivered a stern message to her team - "perform or perish". In a review meeting of all the departments earlier this week, Banerjee pulled up the "non-performing" ministers and bureaucrats, asking them to deliver or face the music.

The Trinamool supremo, who earlier in the month rubbed shoulders with top business honchos in a summit in Mumbai, made clear her displeasure over the handling of departments related to industry, information technology and infrastructure.

Ever since coming to power in the state, Banerjee has been keen to shed the tag of anti-industry she earned after leading sustained and violent peasant movements against "forcible land acquisition" for industrial projects during the previous Left Front rule.

Despite some high-profile business meets, the Banerjee regime has often been ridiculed by rival political parties for its "failure to attract big ticket investment".

At the "successful" Mumbai meet, Banerjee had assured the Who's Who of the business world about the "advantages of investing in Bengal". But she was livid at the slow progress both in the IT as well as urban development fronts back home.

"If you can't do it you are free to quit," Banerjee reportedly told one of the ministers concerned.

Banerjee is said to have told two other ministers that if they could not do their work in time, she would herself "do the work".

Among the departments which faced the chief minister's ire were information technology, PWD, environment, urban development, animal resources development, Paschimanchal Unnayan (West Zone Development) and law.

The ministers and babus were hauled up for failing to coordinate properly with other departments and not managing to spend the allotted funds.

Banerjee also ticked off the tourism department for non-implementation of some of her pet projects and for its inability to rope in private players. At the same time, departments like finance, housing and transport drew the chief minister's praise.

The ministers and the bureaucrats, though, would be thanking their stars that the censure came behind closed doors. Banerjee has often reprimanded her administrative or personal staff during public functions.

Not known for keeping her composure, Banerjee once publicly had said "you should be whipped" to her security guards who made her wait for her car to

arrive.

With a ministerial reshuffle said to be on the cards, Banerjee's ministers now seem to be on tenterhooks.

In the past, there were instances when an "irked" chief minister shunted people out from key portfolios - be it former city police commissioner R K Pachnanda who was removed for his department's failure to "timely" nab the killers of a cop or Damayanti Sen who was shifted out the city police for going out of the way to solve the "fabricated" Park Street rape case.

Sen, as the then joint commissioner, had cracked the rape of an Anglo-Indian lady which Banerjee had dubbed as "fabricated". Soon Sen was given the marching orders to take up her responsibility as the new DIG, (Training), and later DIG (Darjeeling Range).

Even as Banerjee was busy confronting the "non-performers" a senior IPS officer has taken on the chief minister herself as well as other senior officials, accusing them of denying him promotion and launching a "criminal conspiracy" to humiliate and defame him.

Additional Director General of Police (Provisioning) Nazrul Islam, who earlier had alleged "corrupt practices" during Banerjee's tenure as railways minister, has filed a police complaint against Banerjee, Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra, Home Secretary Basudeb Bannerjee, Director General of Police Naparajit Mukherjee and a few other senior officials.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at anurag.d@ians.in)

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