Acute manpower crisis stalls board's functioning, no permanent appointments in last several years, many key posts vacant
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
Guwahati, July 16: At a time when flood and erosion are wreaking havoc on life and property in Assam, the Brahmaputra Board that was formed and tasked with tackling such natural disasters is itself on the verge of collapse due to acute shortage of manpower.
Sources told The Sentinel that if the Centre does not immediately take steps to solve the manpower crisis in Brahmaputra Board, it will be impossible before long for the board to prepare and implement plans related to flood and drainage management, erosion control and water resource development in Brahmaputra valley.
Sources said it will not be an exaggeration to say the board is currently being run on ad-hoc basis. Right from its top to bottom, there has been no permanent appointments for several years now. For instance, Sanjay Kundu, PM Scott and Dr M Ariz Ahammed, all senior bureaucrats, are in charge as Chairman, Vice Chairman and Financial Adviser of the Board respectively. The post of Deputy Financial Adviser is lying vacant. Under such circumstances, these senior IPS and IAS officers are not in a position to take up long-term schemes to tackle flood and erosion problems.
There are 628 sanctioned posts in Brahmaputra Board. In Group A category, out of 82 sanctioned posts (majority of them are engineers and technical experts), 34 are lying vacant. Similarly, 46 out of 182 posts in Group B category are vacant, while 151 out of 364 in Group C are vacant. Further, 232 posts, majority of which are very important from the point of view of preparing projects and doing research on flood and erosion management, are lying vacant. By January 2018, 17 more engineers will retire from service. Fifty other persons from different categories will retire next year.
Sources said going by the present number of vacant posts and employees who will retire next month, it will be very difficult to run the board in 2018. In fact, it will completely cease to function in case the Centre does not recruit fresh manpower, the sources feared.
Even though the management of Brahmaputra Board has already submitted a proposal to Union Ministry of Water Resources to recruit former efficient employees of the board on contract basis to overcome the present manpower crisis, the proposal is lying pending with the Ministry.
Brahmaputra Board was set up under the Ministry of Irrigation (later renamed as Ministry of Water Resources) as per the Brahmaputra Board Act 1980. The board started functioning from January 11, 1982 from its headquarters in Guwahati. The jurisdiction of the board includes both the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys and covers all the States of the North-eastern region, Sikkim and parts of West Bengal falling under the Brahmaputra river basin.
The Narendra Modi government has already dumped the UPA-sponsored proposal to set up the ambitious North East Water Resources Authority (NEWRA), which failed to take off owing to the stiff opposition from Arunachal Pradesh. The proposal was a pet project of then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who pushed hard for setting up such an authority by dissolving the Brahmaputra Board.
Sources said even though the long-awaited move to revamp the Brahmaputra Board appeared to become a reality soon after the BJP-led NDA alliance came to power at the Centre in 2014, things have not moved much in the last three years. And with no plan for modernization or recruitment of fresh manpower, Brahmaputra Board is now virtually on its deathbed.