GTA seeks 5 names to pick secy – Hill body cites agreement clause

The Telegraph

VIVEK CHHETRI

Darjeeling, April 1: The GTA Sabha has asked the state government to provide names of at least five IAS officers to choose from the next principal secretary of the autonomous body.

The hill body has made this request keeping in mind a clause in the GTA memorandum of agreement that says the principal secretary “shall be selected by the Chief Executive from the panel sent by the State Government.”

The suggestion was given in a reply to the state government’s letter proposing Jalpaiguri divisional commissioner A.K. Singh’s name to discharge duties of the GTA principal secretary.

Jyoti Kumar Rai, an executive Sabha member of the GTA, said: “We received the letter yesterday (Sunday), which was sent to us through a special messenger. The state government wants us to confirm their proposal to give A.K. Singh, the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri, the additional charge as principal secretary of the GTA.”

Rai, however, said the GTA wanted the government to provide more choices to the autonomous body.

“It is not a question of rejecting A.K. Singh’s name. We want the state government to provide us with a list of at least five IAS officers to choose the next principal secretary. We are not making an unreasonable demand as this has been agreed upon in the memorandum of agreement (signed by the Centre, state and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha),” said Rai.

Section 13 of the agreement states: “There shall be a Principal Secretary of the GTA, who shall be of the rank of the Principal Secretary/Secretary to the State Government and who shall be selected by the Chief Executive from the panel sent by the State Government and shall be paid from the GTA Fund such salaries and allowances as may be fixed by the State Government. The Principal Secretary once deputed to the GTA shall not be transferred for a period of at least two years without the consent of the GTA.”

The letter proposing Singh’s name was sent by the state chief secretary and the GTA’s reply was given by the joint director of the personnel department.

“The post of the principal secretary is very important with regard to the functioning of the GTA. The principal secretary has to liaise not only with the state government but also with the Centre. We also want to go through all the options so that the official and the GTA members can work with better understanding,” said Rai.

“We would want a senior officer whose request or decision carries weight in the state’s bureaucracy,” he added.

The state government had proposed the name of Singh, after the Morcha had started opposing the continuance of Saumitra Mohan as the principal secretary of the GTA. Mohan had been appointed as the secretary of the GTA and directed to exercise powers and functions of the principal secretary. His name had been approved by GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung when the autonomous body was formed in August last year.

The administrative hierarchy of the GTA consists of the principal secretary, secretary and executive director.

Technically, the Morcha is demanding the replacement of Mohan on the grounds that he has the rank of additional secretary only and the party wants officers in the rank of principal secretary to hold the top bureaucratic post at the GTA.

Bengal’s administrative hierarchy in ascending order starts from joint secretary, additional secretary, secretary and principal secretary, additional chief secretary and chief secretary. Singh is of the rank of additional chief secretary.

Even though the GTA received the letter sent by the chief secretary yesterday it is not yet clear when the state government had decided to propose Singh’s name. “From the envelope we get the impression that the letter was sent on March 28. But the letter had been signed on March 19. We, too, are not sure when the letter was written,” said Rai.

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