13 parliamentary secretaries sworn in amid opposition boycott
Kolkata: Amidst a boycott by the entire opposition in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday administered the oath of office and secrecy to 13 parliamentary secretaries, all Trinamool Congress MLAs, in the state.
The appointment of parliamentary secretaries was resented by the opposition parties, including CPI-M and Congress, on the ground that it would impose a further burden on the state government already stressed by an acute financial crisis.
Government Chief Whip Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay regretting the opposition boycott, told reporters, "It is very unfortunate that none of the opposition members turned up in today's oath-taking ceremony in the Assembly premises, although we invited all members of all political parties having representation in the House."
The parliamentary secretaries were formally appointed on January 21.
Chattopadhyay said that the parliamentary secretaries would enjoy the status, privileges and perks similar to that of a minister of state or deputy minister as the Chief Minister prefers.
Areas of their responsibility would be determined by Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra in an official notification soon, he said.
Chattopadhyay said that different committees in the state Assembly would be reconstituted with the new members replacing those who have been sworn in as parliamentary secretaries.
To a question, the Chief Minister said there was scope for extension of the number of parliamentary secretaries, though for the current year the number would be restricted to 13.
The West Bengal Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous) Bill, 2012 was passed in the Assembly last month.
Speaking on the boycott of the oath-taking ceremony, Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra earlier said, "What shall we do in the swearing-in ceremony which we do not accept in principle".
As per the bill, the parliamentary secretary meant a member of the West Bengal Assembly appointed to the post under the proposed act by the Chief Minister.
However, the number of the parliamentary secretaries was not specified.
The strength of the state's Council of Ministers is 44.
The parliamentary secretaries, appointed from among the sitting MLAs, would function as an intermediary between the departmental secretaries and the minister concerned and liaison with leaders of other parties and groups.
The bill prohibits a parliamentary secretary from practising any profession or being involved in trade or commerce or accept remuneration from any other source.
The parliamentary secretaries would also advise ministers on procedure and other assembly matters, besides maintaining coordination of action by ministers on recommendations of general application made by assembly committees.
The 13 members included Amal Acharya, Biplab Mitra, Rabindra Nath Ghosh, Arup Kumar Khan, Sandhyarani Tudu, Sasi Panja, Asima Patra, Ashis Banerjee, Radhakanta Maiti, Tapas Roy, Asoke Kumar Deb, Nasiruddin Ahmed and A T M Abdullah.