NEW DELHI, July 5 � Disregarding Assam�s claim, the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry has selected senior IAS officer of West Bengal cadre, Subesh Kumar Das, for the post of Chairman of the Tea Board.
Highly placed sources told this newspaper that the name of the former Principal Secretary to West Bengal Chief Minister was shortlisted and forwarded to the Prime Minister�s Office (PMO) last week. His was the only name selected from a panel of two other officers, handpicked by the Commerce and Industry Ministry, said sources confirming the development.
Das� name is now likely to be forwarded to the Cabinet Committee for final clearance. Das was shunted out by West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee after she assumed office.
As reported earlier, an abortive attempt was made to have him installed in the post during the recent Assembly polls. But the move was abandoned after the PMO sought a panel of names and Minister for DoNER, Bijoy Krishna Handique also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister pressing for appointment of an Assam cadre officer.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Handique had said that an officer from Assam cadre may be posted as the Chairman of Tea Board in the best interest of Assam and the North-east.
As more than 50 per cent of tea produced in the country comes from Assam, it has been the convention so far that officers from Assam-Meghalaya cadre and West Bengal cadre are posted alternatively every five years. This arrangement, in fact, has been appreciated by all concerned stakeholders related to tea industry and has immensely helped the growth and development of the industry.
Assam and West Bengal takes turn in nominating the officer to the post of Chairman of Tea Board. And according to the convention, it was Assam�s turn this time because the outgoing Chairman, Basudev Banerjee belongs to West Bengal cadre.
The convention was worked out as a compromise formula, when the demand to shift the Tea Board headquarters from Kolkata to Assam, which had gained momentum during the Assam Agitation, was struck down by Centre. But the Commerce Ministry a couple of months back suddenly nominated Das for the post, even as the Department of Personnel and Training was in the process of selecting the next chairman from a panel of names.
The issue of appointment of the next chairman had become a tossing game between the PMO and Commerce and Industry Ministry after Das was backed by a powerful tea lobby and Assam lobbied hard for election of its candidate.
On April 18, Civil Services Board (CSB) had sent a note to the Department of Personnel and Training, proposing the names of MGVK Bhanu and Maninder Singh, both empanelled joint secretaries. There were five applicants for the post of Chairman of Tea Board including two officers of the Indian Forest Service (IFS). All belonged to the Assam-Meghalaya cadre.
Interestingly, Tea Board yet again might become an all West Bengal team as the post of Deputy chairman is held by a West Bengal cadre officer, Roshini Sen.