Mamata’s 13 parliamentary secys a drain on exchequer

Kolkata

For the debt-burdened Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, austerity, it seems, doesn't begin at home.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been clamouring for a central package ever since she took charge, is letting 13 parliamentary secretaries, she appointed in January this year, drain the already cash-strapped exchequer in the form of their salaries, offices and other perks.

The parliamentary secretaries, appointed after an Act to that effect was was passed in the state Assembly in December last year, have been assigned portfolios and enjoy the status of minister of state (MoS).

But a reality check revealed that they do jobs of very little significance as the ministers in charge of the respective departments hardly ever send any files to them.

Both the opposition parties, the CPM and the Congress had boycotted the swearing-in ceremony of the Parliamentary Secretaries alleging that it was a move to accommodate those TMC MLAs who were aggrieved at not getting a cabinet berth.

Fourteen parliamentary secretaries were appointed —One of them, Shashi Panja, was elevated to the post of MoS in the last week's cabinet reshuffle — according to a government order, to do whatever duties the chief minister assigns to them.

They get a salary of Rs 12,000 per month and a daily allowance of Rs 1,000. Besides, they are entitled to other perks including an official car, telephone and unlimited medical expenses. They were recently allotted sprawling, swank office rooms on the fifth floor at Nabanna —- the relocated secretariat building. They have each been assigned three staff members comprising an executive assistant, a clerk and a peon. As the secretaries themselves seldom come to office, their staff just idle away the time.

The secretaries themselves admit they hardly have any work to do.

"My minister gives me jobs periodically. For example, he tells me to visit a college where some problem is going on and I go there. He had asked me to look at the grievances of some college teachers and I did that. What do I do if I am not given any work," Ashish Banerjee, PS in-charge of higher education and technical education, told The Indian Express.

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