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Make up your mind

Sir — Why does the National Democratic Alliance suddenly feel so vulnerable to America’s proposition that it send troops to Iraq' For that feeling alone explains the government’s lying prostrate at the feet of the Congress, awaiting its agreement in the matter (“Atal waits for Iraq consensus”, June 16). Did the NDA ask the Congress before going ahead with its nuclear programme' Much like the decision to go nuclear, the deployment of troops outside the country is a part of realpolitik and a government which takes the decision has to bear the responsibility for it. The Congress did not ask for a national consensus before sending the Indian peacekeeping force to Sri Lanka. The IPKF was a blunder and the opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party was part of it, never allowed the Congress to forget it. The BJP and its allies should see the decision on Iraq as part of its foreign policy. And the Congress should also steer clear of getting involved in the decision-making.

Yours faithfully,
S. Tarafdar, Calcutta


Tall order

Sir — The controversy kicked up over the construction of the city’s largest and most expensive condominium could have been avoided had all the parties to the dispute put their heads together and sorted out the issue (“Squabble on building project halt”, June 14). The environment minister, Manab Mukherjee, seems to have gone overboard by declaring that the promoters have filled up waterbodies on the bypass plot without seeking the permission of his ministry. The minister for fisheries, not to be outwitted, has pitched in, declaring that if water bodies were involved, then technically, it was his department, and not Mukherjee’s, which should have ordered the suspension of work.

What is worse is the intervention of the former chief minister, Jyoti Basu, who had inaugurated the project and seems to have taken the suspension as a slap on his face. He has the support of his disciple Subhas Chakraborty. Perhaps, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, fresh from his foreign tour would favour the project and give the go-ahead since, just as Basu claimed, Silver Spring would “impress” those passing through Calcutta.

Since when did Basu start feeling that “outsiders” also needed to be “impressed” by the city' During his tenure, he had been interested in doing everything but improving the city. Calcutta would have been one of the front-ranking cities had its rulers shown the slightest effort to develop it. Calcutta’s decrepit state even prompted a former prime minister to comment that it was a “dying city”. It is heartening that the Marxists are at least waking up to their responsibility.

Yours faithfully,
S. Ram, Calcutta


Sir — The report, “Brake on project blessed by Basu” (June 13), raises a lot of unanswered questions on the functioning of our city fathers. Originally, the huge plot in question on the E.M. Bypass was earmarked for a “public purpose”, namely, to promote tourism. Hence, the plot was allotted to Taj Bengal for developing a hotel-cum-recreational spot. When Taj wanted to opt out, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation floated a tender for granting a 33-year lease, predominantly to develop a tourist spot. How the 33-year offer was turned into a 99-year lease and that too for developing a housing complex by flouting all tender norms is questionable. The original tenderer “assigned” the tender to Bengal Spring. The contention of unsuccessful bidders is that had the change from the 33-year lease to 99-year lease been made public, they would have bid thrice the amount than contracted by the CMC. Despite a third of the plot being a water body, the CMC has proceeded to sanction the housing complex as if on solid land. Not only the guidelines of the central vigilance commission on post-tender negotiations, but also the Calcutta Municipal Act itself under Section 539(d) has been violated.

Yours faithfully,
Somendra Nath Mallik, Calcutta


Sir — The Silver Spring project drew attention since the time its advertisements started appearing in newspapers. What puzzles however is the involvement of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation as a partner in the project. Several questions arise about this partnership. Does the corporation have a equity in the project or does it have any monetary involvement' What will be the basis of the profit-sharing between the promoters and CMC' Does the participation of the CMC in such projects have any advantage for the common man'

By roping in the CMC, the promoters of Silver Spring have made a shrewd move. Usually, sanctioning of the plan, adding extra floors, the procuring of water and sewerage connection, getting a completion certificate, and last but not the least assessment, property tax and mutation are supremely difficult jobs to get done by the CMC. One has to bribe one’s way and sometimes even that is not enough. Time is a key factor in the construction business. If one could save one or two years in completing the construction, it could give one enormous profit in the form of interest-savings on the loan taken from financial institutions. The CMC will certainly ensure this for the promoter. If reports of illegal filling of water bodies prove to be true, then it could be considered as an extra bonus and generosity on the part of the CMC. If Silver Spring turns out to be a success, there will be other promoters queueing up before the CMC for partnership.

The CMC should understand that it is a public service body, which has all the powers needed to regulate construction within its jurisdiction. Partnerships such as these are bound to raise questions in people’s minds about the honesty of such alliances, about CMC selling its services at a premium. By getting engaged in the real estate business itself, the CMC will not be able to maintain the level-playing field it is required to keep for other dealers in the business.

Yours faithfully,
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta


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