Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has created a committee and loaded it heavily with nominations from her home state, seemingly unfazed by media criticism of her pro-West Bengal bias in nominating panel members.
In her 15 months as rail minister, Banerjee set up six committees and reconstituted two. On an average, she set up a committee every two months.
The latest committee — called the Culture Promotion Board — was set up on August 31 and has lyricist Javed Akhtar as the only non-Bengali on board.
Other members include singer Dwijen Mukhopadhyay, dancer Amala Shankar, actress Supriya Devi, painter Jogen Chaudhary and theatre personalities Bratyabrata Basu and Saoli Mitra. All of them are Kolkata-based.
By coincidence or design, most of the committee members are Trinamool Congress supporters as well.
These nominations indicate another trend: the same set of people is enjoying government largesse.
For example, Bratyabrata Basu and Arpita Ghosh were yanked out of the Passenger Services Committee (PSC) and adjusted as members of the Culture and Heritage committees.
Amala Shankar, Supriya Devi and Jogen Chowdhary were pulled out of the Passenger Amenities Committee (PAC) and appointed members of the new culture committee.
Playwright Saoli Mitra, classical singer Ustad Rashid Khan and Joy Goswami — all members of the heritage committee — had staged several programmes during the course of Banerjee's movements in Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh.
"Banerjee has every right to pursue political goals and reward her favourites, but this should not be done at the cost of the public exchequer," Hindi writer Rajendra Yadav said.
"The committee members are at sea with technical and commercial aspects, but are today calling the shots. This is causing demoralisation and confusion among the railway cadres," a ministry official said.