Mamata’s committees: Too many cooks?

July 30th, 2011 - 12:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, July 30 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s penchant for setting up expert committees on a range of issues has triggered a debate, with questions being raised about their motive and effectiveness.

Soon after assuming power in May, Banerjee has been constituting panels comprising luminaries from diverse fields to guide her in policymaking in areas like industry, land and education.

“She desperately needs the advice of experts. The success of the committees depends on the members. They must not only be experts but must think beyond party lines and political affiliations,” political analyst Samir Kumar Das told IANS.

Das, a Calcutta University professor, however, said it can be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. “It is difficult to assume that all the committee members will have similar opinions. Problems can multiply when the recommendations of some members are accepted while others aren’t,” added Das.

Among the committees is the high-profile Presidency Mentor Group, chaired by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s grandnephew Sugata Bose, formed to revive the lost glory of Presidency University. The group includes a host of luminaries from diverse fields.

Debabrata Bandopadhyay, of the two-member expert committee to draft land policy, said: “I have completed my report and given it in 15 days. There is no reason why others will not do it.”

Asked if the committees will turn out to be the proverbial case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, Bandopadhyay said: “I cannot say about other cooks spoiling the broth but this cook has finished his cooking.”

“Of course, the committees will come good for what they have been set up. They have not been set up for fun,” he added.

However, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) parliamentarian Basudeb Acharia dismissed the utility of these committees.

“They are mere eyewash. Before the elections she sought support from the Maoists and the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM). She has to now set up a committee for freeing the Maoists and a committee for the GJM,” he said.

Banerjee has also set up a 13-member committee consisting of former judge Moloy Sengupta and right activist Sujato Bhadro, among others, to review the status of detainees and those jailed in political cases.

Echoing Acharia, rights activist Choton Das also questioned the fate of the committees.

“It is a kind of legacy that we have got from different governments. Many a committee is formed but nothing fruitful happens. Committees are a way of diverting the attention of people. Only time will tell whether she (Banerjee) carries forward that legacy or is an exception,” said Das, general secretary of the Bandi Mukti Committee, a rights organisation.

However, Banerjee found support in social activist Anuradha Talwar, who was her comrade-in-arms in many protests.

“I don’t think the committees are non-functional. In fact, the committees on land reforms and political prisoners have already submitted their recommendations. Committees are a good way for the government to communicate with various experts and get their opinions,” she said.

Samir Das was also apprehensive of the 23-member core committee on industry that the chief minister had set up in the midst of an interaction with industrialists and business bodies.

Das voiced concern that the members who belong to business houses will push for their own interests.

However, Bharat Chamber of Commerce president and core group member Pavan Poddar denied the charge.

“The issues discussed are broad and apply to the whole of the state. So I don’t think there is any chance of people serving personal welfare. It is also too early to say if the committee will be successful or not,” he said.

She has also set up a 15-member house committee comprising members of the ruling coalition as well as the opposition to discuss the proposed legislative council for West Bengal.

Another committee that has been recently announced will monitor the movement of commodity prices and prevent black marketing.

Banerjee, during her stint as railway minister, had set up as many as six committees and reconstituted two of them.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at deyvil@gmail.com)

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