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We play ball, you pay all
- Traders being pestered to sponsor Sergeants’ Institute snooker gala

From chasing traffic-rule violators on the street, sergeants are now chasing businessmen for advertisements for a brochure and coaxing them to sponsor banners for an event they are hosting.

The Calcutta Police Sergeants’ Institute (CPSI) is planning to hold a national snooker and billiards championship, comprising ‘national and international players’, from July 25, and the sergeants are in a race against time to collect funds for the ‘Commissioner of Police Challenge Cup’.

That’s what’s robbing the city’s traders of their sleep. The businessmen allege that the cops are “forcing them to fork out huge subscriptions by way of advertisements” to make the “tournament a grand success”.

A few businessmen alleged that organising committee members are “pestering” them to donate money for banners, to be displayed during the tournament at the Crooked Lane Institute, as well as for the brochure to be published on the occasion.

“In the beginning, I received a polite letter from the organisers, asking for sponsorship. Then came the brochure for advertisements, whose rates were very steep. When I refused to pay, I was told I could run into trouble,” said a south Calcutta-based dealer of electronic goods.

The advertisement rates are Rs 2 lakh for title sponsor, Rs 1.5 lakh for main sponsor, Rs 1 lakh for co-sponsor, Rs 50,000 for putting the company’s name on the main gate of the venue, Rs 60,000 for the “honour” of providing the prize money for the winner and the runner up, and Rs 10,000 for a banner at the venue.

The “request” letter bears the name of former deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) K.L. Tamta as president of the Sergeants’ Institute (a decorative post for all DC HQs). It says: “Since organising costs skyrocketed it helps, if it is sponsored by any institution like yours.”

Institute general secretary Pronab Ghosh, also inspector-in-charge of Lalbazar’s central armoury, admits that the modest-budget tournament (around Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000, according to him) needs “some help from outsiders” since players from other states have been invited. “I will personally find out whether sergeants are harassing businessmen. If required, we will call off the collection drive.” Ghosh said the Institute was organising such an event after 10 years, and some sergeants might have got carried away while making requests. “I will ensure that the guilty are punished,” he added.

When apprised about the allegations, newly-promoted deputy inspector-general (Murshidabad range) K.L. Tamta, said he was in the dark about the collection drive. “As far as I am concerned, they (the Institute) have been strictly barred from collecting money in any form, subscription or advertisement, from businessmen. They have their own funds for organising such meets. While informing me about their plans for the snooker tournament, they never told me about their advertisement collection plans,” Tamta told Metro.

Present deputy commissioner (headquarters) Kuldip Singh, as Institute president, says he gave no permission for a collection campaign. Commissioner of police Sujoy Chakraborty sent word that he was “unaware about the tournament itself and would find out the details later”.

C. Kapoor, secretary of the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India, said since the event was low key and “local” in nature, the federation was not involved.

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