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..what angry flood victims told the touring ministerial duo:
Asim Dasgupta
Buddhadeb Bhatta-
Answer: 'MINISTERS!'
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Today, especially in Bengal, there are many things going wrong. Many people believe it is because of the moribund bureaucracy - government, institutional, private ... whatever - that is responsible for the unacceptable state of affairs ...

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01 Kiran's tip for good managers: The Statesman, Aug. 10, 1998; page 4
Ms Kiran Bedi advised IIM students that a manager must be well-informed about office matters, but should refrain from forming coteries.
02 Dunlop plans to retrench 2,065 workers at Sahagunj: The Statesman, August 11, 1998; page unknown
Dunlop plans to retrench 2,065 of the 4,400 workers at its Sahagunj factory. Contract labour will be introduced in all non-maintenance and non-production jobs.The company requires around Rs 450 million for a voluntary retirement scheme; a sum of Rs 600 million would be realized through the sale of assets, and another Rs 450 million through rights issues ...
03 Facilities can't woo postal customers: The Statesman, October 13, 1998; page 5
Although the postal department now has many ways to carry mail speedily, there aren't enough takers.
04 Kankinara unit of TCI faces closure: The Telegraph, October 11, 1998; page unknown
The ailing Tyre Corporation of India (TCI) may be forced to shut down its Kankinara unit becuase of a shortage of working capital. The plant, which employs about 1200 workers has a capacity utilization of only 12.5 percent. Its agreement with Ceat (to convert raw materials at the rate of Rs 800 per piece, which yielded a capacity utilization of 25%) broke down in February. Since then they are failing to pay creditors, while its accumulated losses totalled Rs 2.6 billion.
05 Power: State needn't be proud: The Statesman, October 17, 1998; front page
The power situation in West Bengal was not something to be proud of - considering the state government's tall claim on "self-sufficiency".
06 So long, Monico: The Statesman "Calcutta Notebook", October 26, 1998; page 16
One of the landmark restaurants in the city, Cafe De Monico, closed down following labour trouble. As old faithfuls prayed for its reopening, they soon realized that it had been converted into a garment selling centre. The sofas had been removed; cabins knocked down. Even the signboard has been obliterated by posters of the union which forced its closure. Only the framed pictures on the walls of the restaurant (turned showroom) remain silent reminders of this once graceful eatery.
07 Outrage at Garden Reach: Tolerating indiscipline will do nothing for Bengal:: Editorial in The Statesman, October 30, 1998; page 8
Reviews the unprecedented violence and disruption at Garden Reach Workshops in Calcutta on 28 October...
08 Consultancy service from CGCRI soon: The Statesman, November 10, 1998; page 12
The Central Glass Ceramic Research Institute (CGCRI) would provide consultancy services to private industries to improve the quality of their products, for which the private firms would have to pay consultancy charges.
09 Export body asks states to rationalize levies: The Statesman, November 10, 1998; page 12
The state governments has been asked by India's apex export organization to rationalize levies
10 Exit Maharaja: Air India is hard to reform; so kill it: Editorial in The Statesman; November 10, 1998; page 8
Reviews the dire straits that government run companies inevitably find themselves in India.
11 Work stopped in Kanoria jute mill: The Statesman, December 13, 1998.
The Kanoria Jute Mill authorities today suspended work at Phuleswar. About 1,000 workers saw the suspension-of-work notice while going to join duty at 6 am. The mill employs about 4,000 workers and was reopened in 1994 after a lock-out. The notice was put up last night when no workers were inside the mill premises because of the 24-hour industrial strike on Friday. Mr Prafulla Chakraborty, a Sangrami Shramik Union office bearer, said after the mill was reopened, the authorities have not shown enough interest in running it properly. They have not even deposited the ESI contributions for past many months, nor paid additional DA. Even wages have not been paid on time. The union and workers will analyse the possibility of running the mill by another management, in a meeting called tomorrow.
12 Caveat: Buddhadev crosses the Laxmanrekha! by C R Irani; The Statesman, December 12, 1998; front page.
A satirical analysis of the bloopers and blunders made by the state home (police) minister, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharyya.
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Our Objectives:
The objective of 'Stop'n Look!' is simply to throw the searchlight on the problems created by those people who are thriving in an obsolete bureacratic system - at our expense. We will compile information from the media, as well as first-hand reports from our correspondents, that show how callous our elders have become.
You will be the ultimate judge of our succes.
Viva la vox populi!
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Business & Industrial News Reports: Vol 1

01.  Kiran's tip for good managers: The Statesman, Aug. 10, 1998; page 4.

CALCUTTA, Aug.10. - A manager must be well-informed about office matters, but should refrain from forming coteries, Ms Kiran Bedi said today. Speaking at the Indian Institute of Management here, the joint commissioner of police (training) told students how she managed Tihar Jail when she was the Inspector General of police.

Talking about the programs she introduced for human resources development inside the prison, Ms Bedi said there was a petition box in which prisoners could anonymously put letters. "I received about 50 letters every day and came to know various problems the prisoners faced - from drug abuse to other illegal activities. The very next day I would start thinking of ways to address the problems."

Mrs Bedi said: "Remote controlling from an air-conditioned room will not improve production." She said it was important to allow the media to share transparency. One didn't always get a proper tool for work. "I had to conduct an education program at Tihar without any qualified teacher, but I still managed." Initially, she received no help from any quarters. "The governement, IG, DIG, jail superintendent and deputy superintendent are usually very remote from the prison circles." Ms Bedi called it the "vulture culture" where the government (symbolized as the killer bird) only waited for a prisoner to die so that it could begin a juducial probe.

"My job was to involve all them. I identified the hostility and changed it to acceptability." Ms Bedi will release a book, "It's always possible", about her experiences at Tihar Jail next month.

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03. Facilities can't woo postal customers: The Statesman, October 13, 1998; page unknown.

CALCUTTA, Oct. 10. - The postal department now has many ways to carry mail speedily; there just aren't enough takers for them, says the chief postmaster-general, West Bengal circle, Mr A K Chakraborty. "From time to time, we have been introducing a number of facilities for fast delivery of letters. Unfortunately none of the schemes has really picked up," Mr Chakraborty said at a customers' meet on premium postal products today.

"The hybrid mail service, for instance, is not used by too many people. Neither is the express parcel service." Hybrid mail combines satellite communications with Speed Post.

Mr P K Chatterjee, PMG (Mail), blamed it on the lack of infrastructure in post offices. "We have the potential to catch up with the courier market. But we do not have a string network. Most of our post-offices are segregated from each other." He felt that the "very appearence of a post office without infrastructure is a handicap." Work atmosphere and technology needed to be improved, he felt.

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05. Power: state needn't be proud: The Statesman, October 17, 1998; front page.

CALCUTTA, Oct. 16. - It's been six days since NTPC stopped supplying power to the state from the Farakka unit. But even when the plant was operating, the power situation in West Bengal was not something to be proud of - considering the state government's tall claim on "self-sufficiency". In North Bengal, the crisis is acute, even with the Ramman Hydel Project, Jaldhaka Hydel Project, Teesta Canal Fall at Liusipukhuria and the gas turbine facility in Sliguri and power from Chukha in Bhutan. 

The state power minister during a recent visit to Siliguri had said that the crisis had more to do with the distribution system than the availability of power. SEB officials, however, have a different version. According to them, the power supply runs on an integrated system and load management is controlled from Howrah. Power generated from different sources are clubbed and distributed according to demand through the power grid. Power from North Bengal comes the same way too.

The problems here are essentially local in nature for which the distribution system could not be blamed, they said. By that logic, the SEB offices, set up at huge costs throughout North Bengal, have little to do as maintenance has always been negligible. However, arguments have not helped to remove the power shortage in North Bengal, which continues through the year and worsen during the monsoon. According to Mr Biswajit Das, secretary of the Federation of Commerce and Industries, North Bengal, the power situation is getting from bad to worse.

Citing the pre-Puja crisis as an example, Mr Das said it had dealt a severe blow to the businessmen and industrial units in North Bengal. Siliguri and other places were plunged into darkness round the clock, while the stock reply from the SEB was: "We are on the job." There was tension at Islampur during the World Cup soccer tournament when footbal fans blocked the National Highway 31 to protest against prologed power cuts. Attacks on SEB offices and staff have become more frequent in recent times ... SEB officials say that as consumers in Calcutta pay more per unit than their counterparts in villages, there is an "unwritten rule" ...

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07. Outrage at Garden Reach: Tolerating indiscipline will do nothing for Bengal: Editorial in The Statesman, October 30, 1998; page 8.
The violence and disruption at Garden Reach Workshops in Calcutta, on 28 October, was an outrage waiting to happen. From Admiral R B Vora, the Managing Director, downwards - officers and loyal employees of the troubled shipyard were physically prevented from entering the docks, abused and injured by gangsters masquerading as trade union leaders. Senior officers were forced out of their cars, beaten up, threatened at gun-point and told not to try and enter GRSI office in future. The grievance or more correctly the excuse was that a gangleader owing allegiance to the Intuc of Subrata Mukherjee had acquired a stranglehold on the recruitment of contract labour and objected to the management making arrangements which suited them and the Shipyard better. The gangleader presumed to decide which gates would be used by which section of employees and organized a rampage when he did not get his way. It is absurd that some gates are in areas controlled by Intuc and others are to be found in areas controlled by the CPI-M. Another malpractice is to levy toll, entirely unjustified of course, on goods moving in and out of the Shipyard for the benefit of the goons who act as if they are above the law. The police are either cowed into submission or have become part of the problem. Not to put too fine a point to it, the Shipyard have on hand precious orders worth Rs 10 billion and the troublemakers care not a fig if the yard is closed down and work shifted elsewhere.

The question is do the Government of West Bengal care? The authorities of the Shipyard informed the police at 8:30 am; it took all of three hours for them to put in an appearence and 48 hours after the first complaint was lodged. It took a number of faxed messages and a personal phone call from Gurudas Dasgupta, the public-spirited member of Parliament, to Jyoti Basu to shake the government into action, by which time most of the damage had been done. The chief minister told this newspaper that he had asked the chief secretary to take steps and ensure adequate protection at Garden Reach. He did not say the culprits must be traced and punished. There is the Bata precedent to dash any such hopes. Initially, he did not know about the incident, he said. The short point is that it is not necessary for the chief minister to be informed; in a well-organized administration, action should be instantaneous and effective. It is not.

Important questions arise. What has been going on at GRSE is not something new; the problem has been allowed to grow over the years. It is not an answer to say that the police came as soon as they could and now police pickets have been mounted. As soon as they are withdrawn, the miscreants will be back and continue where they left off. That employees can do no wrong informs every nook and corner of this government and unless it is understood that breaches of law will be punished, the mischief will continue. This has an impact and a serious one on investor confidence. If the chief minister will do nothing else but ensure that good managements are supported when the law requires it and prevent cosy deals between bad managements and corrupt union leaders to the detriment of innocent workers, he will have done better than any number of visits abroad by himself and Somnath Chatterjee. But he will not and thereby hangs the tale.

Admiral Vora has said that he will close down the company if vandalism continues. Instead of questioning his right to do any such thing in this paradise for politicised workers, if all concerned take him seriously as he deserves, a blow will have been struck not only for what is right but for improving the climate for investment in the state. Thundering away at central government for neglecting the state is not a substitute for the action required.

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09. Export body asks states to rationalize levies: The Statesman, November 10, 1998; page 12.

NEW DELHI, Nov. 9.: India's apex export organization has aked state governements to rationalize levies hindering the industry's efforts to achieve the set targets for export growth. The Federation of Indian Export Organization said in a statement here today that state governments of the country would have to come forward and contribute to the export movement of the country while extending full cooperation with the center in order to promote exports.

Though a partial recovery shown during the months of August and September was a relieving factor to the exporters, the trade figures for the first half of the current fiscal year had anguished exporters, the Fieo president, Mr Ramu Deora, said. "Till octroi, ground level implementation problems and archaic rules of sales and excise are attuned to facilitate exporters' efforts, sluggish trends in exports can not be arrested," the Fieo president said today.

The trade deficit in the country had doubled to $5 billion during the cirrent fiscal year compared to the same period last year, despite well-intentioned new policies announced by the government, Mr Deora said. According to him, exports had declined by 3.28 percent during April-September this year in comparison to last year's growth.

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10. Exit Maharaja: Air India is hard to reform; so kill it; Editorial in The Statesman; November 10, 1998; page 8.
Air India chief Michael Mascarenhas needn't have held a press conference to announce that the airline is bankrupt. AI's troubles are no secret. Which is why it is probable that the meeting was arranged to put pressure on New Delhi to come up with the requsite cash. But here, too, Mr Mascarenhas probably overplayed his hand. He should have tried a quiet word in then right quarters. Politicians and bureaucrats and Sonia Gandhi need Air-India to cough up large numbers of free but confirmed first class tickets and unions are in thrall of an organization that has the invidious distinction of of being the world's most overstaffed airline. These are powerful persuasive factors in Delhi's decision making. Much more powerful than, say, the argument that to keep Air India flying is against India's interest. AI has for long been selling many prized routes - on which it cannot fly on account of its troubled fleet - to foreign airlines. This shores up its balance sheet to some extent and makes losses look less horrible. But what it also does is to barter future income streams for one shot payments and, more importantly, to cede market share with no hope of retrieval.The implication is that if India is ever to get a domestically based private airline with the muscle to service global destinations, a substantial portion of the market would be unavailable, thanks to AI's distress sales.

One such privately-owned India-based airline that could have flown international destinations was the TATA-SIA venture. That was killed in the name of national security but really political convenience. AI has been kept flying, and will probably will receive another parachute, under the same justification. In this policy, the consistent losers are fare-paying Indian travellers and Indian private sector companies. The gainers, apart from the unions and a few favoured "entrepreneurs", are politicians and bureaucrats who will not dream of letting go the privilege that comes from lording over state-owned airlines. The last perquisite is the biggest obstacle to any disinvestment in AI removing all government controls over operational matters, including staffing and aircraft purchase decisions. But even if the government agrees to being a minority shareholder in AI, such is the lure of these perquisites that behind-the-door arrangements may be worked out to keep things as they are. Thus the best solution for the AI mess is creative destruction. Give the national carrier a fond farewell, and privatize international air travel. Time for the maharja to abdicate.

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12. Caveat: Buddhadev crosses the Laxmanrekha! by C R Irani ; The Statesman, December 12, 1998; front page.
I UNDERSTAND on good authority that Buddhadev Bhattacharyya is a poet and a playwright of considerable merit. As a politician he has the reputation of being incorruptible, a considerable achievement in our time. The trouble is that as a politician he also wears about his ears something closely resembling blinkers. Our Home (Police) Minister has given a disturbing demonstration of this in his reactions to the yet another bandh imposed upon us on Friday. "If people have the right to take out their vehicles during a bandh" says Bhattacharyya, "demonstrators have the right to stop them". Then again, "If people have the right to move freely on a bandh day, demonstrators have every right to stop them." Will Buddhadev care to answer a simple question? In the instances he cites who is to prevail, the man who takes out his vehicle and the man who moves about freely or the demonstrators. More important, how exactly does the Minister propose that the matter be settled. Surely, he does not think that the disagreement will instantly be the subject of a learned and free debate on street corners with both sides putting their cases to a non-existent audience. It will, necessarily, be settled on the basis of who has the required brute force on his side. I make bold to say that the Minister's equidistance between the law-abiding citizen and the ruffian clothed in party colours is founded on the certainty that the ruffian will prevail. Conclusion: Bhattacharyya and his party can then graduate to the claim that the bandh was successful. End of debate!

SO far it is only Buddhadev's myopic vision that is being examined. Much worse is to follow. The Minister allowed himself to be insulting and abusive of the law he is sworn to uphold and was clearly in contempt of the Calcutta High Court. Reminded of the fact that the Kerala High Court judgment on the subject has been upheld by the Supreme Court and that Calcutta High Court has issued similar orders, he forgot himself. "What order are you talking about?" he asked. Perhaps his political associate who happens to be the State's Advocate-General will enlighten him. For Bhattacharyya's edification and to stick to simple language so that even ministers may understand, the law of the land is that those who call bandhs are liable for loss or damage caused by actions directly related to it. The principle is that while no one can be compelled to come to work against his wishes, by the same logic no one can be prevented from doing so by force. What is wrong with this? In dismissing the loss of production and wages inflicted by the bandh, Bhattacharyya made a Freudian slip. He said what was more important was the "spontaneous response" of the workers and the people in general. Here you are all square with the courts, Minister! The courts have not stopped spontaneous responses. It is when you justify the use of force and call it spontaneous that the courts will stop you.

BLINKERS are bad enough, confused thinking is worse. Argument from the conclusion to the premise is the worst of all. "Can the court's verdict stop starvation, unemployment and price rise"? - he asks. There are two answers to the Minister. The courts set out to do no such thing. This is not their function. The Minister must next remind himself that these desirable objectives are in the domain of elective politics and he and his party have gone to the people repeatedly promising to do just that. And they are supposed to have been at it these past twenty years. You talk of price rise, Minister! What did you and your Government do when your colleague, Kalimuddin Shams was organising a shortage of potatoes and overlooking the interests of consumers who include your precious workers in whose name you called the bandh? No one is justifying the current alarming rise in prices - call it onions, cooking oil or other essentials. But when you expect the courts to do the work for which you were elected, you are in fact admitting that you have failed. As you admitted failure in administering jails, in providing an honest police force and much else besides.

"LET the court give an order fixing the price of essential goods", invites the Minister, "then there will be no need for strikes and bandhs". Such an inane comment does not do anything for the Minister's reputation. He should be able to see, despite the blinkers that if the courts succeed, he and his colleagues will be unemployed. I have two submissions for the Minister. One, to hide your failures under a plea that the courts are interfering is unworthy. The other is that you must stop behaving as though you are heading the agitprop department of the Comintern. To persist is beneath you and beneath contempt.

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