The dust on the West Bengal School Service Commission irregularity scam is yet to settle, but meanwhile, another controversy regarding a government committee has dealt a blow to the state government. The Mamata Banerjee government has appointed Kolkata-based businessman Kaustav Roy as the chairman of a committee for planning and monitoring welfare and development schemes. This appointment has invited flak as Roy had been arrested in 2018 by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with a bank fraud scam of Rs 515 crore.
On May 8, 2022, the State Programming and Monitoring Committee headed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee published a notification. According to the notification, a new committee has been formed for the purpose of planning and monitoring the welfare and development schemes of the state government and Kaustav Roy has been appointed the chairman. The role of the committee will not only be limited to planning and monitoring the welfare and development schemes, but it will also look after state issues related to the enforcement of laws and order. The notification also says that the committee will meet at least once a month.
Although the official statement did not identify Kaustav Roy properly, his name is familiar to many. Roy is not only the owner of a private news channel, but also owns several other businesses along with a computer software business. In March 2018, he was arrested by the CBI in connection with a bank fraud scam involving multiple national banks including the Punjab National Bank. He has been granted bail since, but his case is still in the court. Later, in September 2021, his news channel had received a caution for possible cancellation of license from the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, citing refusal to grant a 'security clearance'.
In the wake of the controversy surrounding him, Roy, on the other hand, has denied having knowledge of his appointment as the chairman of the new government committee. In this regard, senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] leader Sujan Chakraborty attacked the ruling party by claiming that the government system is “gradually degrading”. He said, “The government system is getting corrupt during the tenure of the present ruling party. IAS officers are there to oversee government's development projects. Now, these IAS officers have to listen to one accused who was in jail on charges of financial corruption! What could be more embarrassing for government officials?”
Kallol Majumder, CPI(M)’s secretary for Kolkata district, also attacked the state government and said, “Where the state government itself is drowning in the deep sea of corruption, it makes sense that they are appointing someone with a tainted background as a head of a government committee. What else can one expect from this state government?”
Congress leader Abdul Mannan said, “The chief minister, being continuously criticised by people, controls the media to stay in power. She has ended up appointing a corrupt criminal private news channel owner as a chairman of a government committee in order to maintain the control easily.”
An IAS officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NewsClick: “The most dangerous angle in this is that all the information and files of the police will be in the hands of a fraudulent bank scammer. Till now, the information which was kept protected in the hands of the Home Secretary is going to be handed over to Kaustav Roy. Nothing is in our control.”
Roy, refusing to comment on the matter, said, “You might have got a copy of this notification. But I do not have any knowledge about being appointed to a state government committee. Until and unless I receive any formal copy of the government notification, I have nothing to comment on this matter.”
Trinamool Congress (TMC) spokesperson Kunal Ghosh also refused to comment on the development.