Two actors find a place in West Bengal’s reconstituted State Women’s Commission. It is not the first time Mamata Banerjee’s government has made such appointments in the women’s or other key commissions, but this time the move has come under fire from the women’s panel chief herself.
Actors Locket Chatterjee and Nayana Bandopadhyay, the wife of Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, were appointed members through a government circular last week. In 2011, the government had appointed actor June Maliah to the commission.
Commission chairperson Sunanda Mukherjee has questioned if the actors are qualified for the posts. “According to the Act on qualification of the members of the commission, they should have a background in agitations and movements for women’s rights,” she said. “I am not very sure what background the actors have in women’s activism; at least I have never seen them anywhere.”
Locket Chatterjee and Nayana Bandopadhyay did not take calls or reply to text messages seeking a response to comments about their appointment. The Indian Express sent a message to Sudip Bandopadhyay, too, but he did not respond either.
Mamata Sharma, chairperson of the National Women’s Commission, refused to comment on the appointments, “It’s absolutely the prerogative of the state government to decide who will become members of the commission,” she said.
The reconstitution of the commission has also seen a political appoitment, with Indian National Trinamool Trade Union Congress (INTTUC) leader Dola Sen made vice-chairperson. Sen had lost to the BJP’s Babul Supriyo in the Asansol Lok Sabha seat.
Chairperson Sunanda Mukherjee, incidentally, is the the wife of senior RSP leader Kshiti Mukherjee. Her appointment in June 2011 had been seen as a political move by Mamata Banerjee to accommodate the opposition in such agencies.
Dola Sen’s credentials, meanwhile, have been questioned by another politician who has been a member of the commission. Bharati Mutsuddi, a women’s activist, Fowrad Bloc leader and commission member between 2001 and 2011, said, “These days cases of atrocities against women are increasing and members should have a vast knowledge of women’s rights. What is the background of these actors and Dola Sen, who is purely a trade union leader?”
Dola Sen said, “I don’t think being a trade union leader is a disqualification for becoming a member of the women’s commission. I have been in politics for 21 years and participated in various forms of agitations. And my leader Mamata Banerjee thought I was fit for the job’” she said.
Beyond the women’s commission, the government had appointed another actor, Rudranil Ghosh, last month as president of the State Council for Vocational Education and Training.
Ghosh, a graduate, replaced Sushmit Halder, son of former Trinamool MP Sucharu Halder and son-in-law of P C Sorcar, the magician who was the BJP candidate from Barasat constituency. There are many who feel that Sushmit lost his job because of this; his father Sucharu was denied a ticket to this year’s elections.
Since she came to power, Mamata has also fielded actors such as Tapas Paul, Shatabdi Roy, Moon Moon Sen, Dev, Sandhya Roy and Debashri Roy in elections besides accommodated others in various positions. For example, she made Ranjit Mullick, veteran actor, first chairman of the Kolkata Film Festival committee and then sheriff of Kolkata.