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Biz unfazed by bandh

Doing business as usual is what the city is gearing up for, as bandhs go into hat-trick gear.

The countdown to the shutdown has entered its last lap and defying disruption seems to be the dominant mood ' from tech township to tinsel town.

Political forces enforcing the bandh ' SUCI on November 17, CPI(M-L) on November 22 and Trinamul Congress on December 3 ' are pushing up their pitch to bring the city to a standstill thrice in less than three weeks.

But an opinion poll conducted by MODE for Metro says over 75 per cent of respondents do not support this form of protest.

While over 92 per cent of the 206 respondents are aware that spiralling prices of petroleum products have triggered the bandhs and 42 per cent support political parties protesting such issues, the overwhelming majority is convinced that bandhs offer no solution to such problems.

'It is easy to call a bandh, but none of the political parties has come forward with alternatives to the price hike,' observes Nazeeb Arif, secretary-general, Indian Chamber of Commerce.

The city's business community and diplomatic corps are convinced that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's brand Bengal will take a beating for three disruptive days in a row.

'It will send wrong signals about the image and the reality of the state,' says George Sibley, US consul-general in Calcutta.

And those who have for decades advocated stall-work as a symbol of struggle are now singing a different tune.

'We are confident that the bandhs will have no impact on the information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services industry,' affirms IT minister Manab Mukherjee.

Turning a threat into an opportunity, Mukherjee (who will be sharing the Saltlec dais with Wipro's Azim Premji two days after bandh no. 1), set out to claim that smooth functioning of the IT industry on the three days will boost the image of Bengal.

The 24x7 IT bug has bitten the film production units and apex chambers, too.

On November 17, the show will go on ' both on and off the screen -' with the high-profile conclusion of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's pet programme, the 10th Calcutta film festival, leading the way.

'There is no question of changing the schedule and inconveniencing foreign delegates and film-lovers,' say the organisers, blind to the bandh with the blessings of Bhattacharjee.

Far from the security cover of Nandan, Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Vidya Balan plan to shoot for Parineeta, as usual.

'We'll try and shoot on November 17 and 22, even though it will finally depend on the conditions,' announces Panchali Sarkar, executive producer of the film, unwilling to disclose the location for fear of being targeted.

Director Buddhadeb Dasgupta's Kaalpurush team will spend Wednesday at a Prince Anwar Shah Road studio.

From box-office to business, continuity is the mantra.

For neither the organisers of Infocom 2004, a mega IT exposition organised by Nasscom and Businessworld on December 3, nor the Indo-Japanese business meet by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on November 22, is slamming the brakes an option.

Kiran Karnik, president, Nasscom, terms the bandh an 'irritant' to the proceedings. Ravi Poddar, deputy chairman, CII eastern region, says: 'We will go ahead with the programme.'

But if the streets still remain deserted, blame it on the fear factor.

According to the MODE survey, 68 per cent of respondents stay indoors on bandh days to steer clear of the threat of violence.

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