The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Day-old IT baby talks crèche
- Citu leaders hint at respite from December 14 strike

Calcutta, Nov. 15: After yesterday’s birth of the country’s first association for information technology professionals, babies were what its organisers had in mind.

Contrary to apprehensions in the industry that a dragon had been unleashed on them, the West Bengal IT Services Association’s first act since formal unveiling at a rally on Tuesday was submitting a proposal to Nabadiganta, the nodal development agency for Salt Lake’s technology hub, to set up a crèche.

“We will take the lead in the project, an absolute necessity in the area for working mothers. We have asked the civic body to give us land for a crèche for 100 to 150 babies,” said Somnath Bhattacharya, the association secretary.

Bhattacharya and his colleagues met S.A. Ahmed, chairman of Nabadiganta, this morning to hand over a detailed project report.

If that was the first baby-step, the association’s father figure, Shyamal Chakraborty, who’s also the state Citu president, said: “A child born yesterday can’t be expected to run tomorrow. Everybody is not Budhia Singh.”

Baby talk it wasn’t; Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would see a lot of sense in it. Chakraborty was talking in the context of shutting Bengal’s IT industry down on the day of the nationwide strike called on December 14 by trade unions, given that an association to carry out such a step has been launched.

“We are not concerned with what will happen in IT and IT-enabled services in other parts of the country. We will decide our stand on the strike in the state IT sector based on the ground reality here,” he said.

It is as clear a hint as a Citu leader can give that IT is likely to be spared, as the chief minister wants.

Chakraborty, who wears the hat of the chief adviser to the association, made it clear that this wasn’t the time for the just-born entity to talk of strikes. “The association needs a favourable atmosphere to grow. Our explanations at yesterday’s rally have already dispelled misgivings of a large number of IT employers who were initially apprehensive about the association,” he said.

Although it was a tongue-in-cheek comment, some employers were not shutting the door on the possibility of cooperation.

Bikram Dasgupta, chairman of Globsyn, said: “If the loopholes get plugged because of the unions, it will be a win-win situation. But we will always have to keep in mind that Brand Bengal should not suffer.”

The word “loopholes” alluded to charges levelled at yesterday’s launch rally about some companies not following the laws.

Chakraborty had named Vishnu Solutions, Papyrus, Oxygen, Pecon Infotech and Octagon, alleging that they had sacked 30 employees without notice.

Even these companies are willing to talk to the association. “There might be some mistakes at our end and we can discuss that with the association. We are willing to change if the association can point out the problem areas,” said the owner of one of the five.

He added: “It is not right to blame us without giving us a chance to explain our position.”

The state Citu leadership was also clear about not taking any “irresponsible decision” to spread fear in the industry and discourage employees from becoming members of the association.

Chakraborty declined to speak on the comment and counter-comment involving Citu president M.K. Pandhe and the chief minister on the sidelines of the CPM’s politburo meeting in Delhi yesterday. Pandhe said there was no question of treating IT as an essential service and keeping it out of the December 14 strike, to which Bhattacharjee had reacted angrily.

Chakraborty said the controversy was largely irrelevant in Bengal. “Even jute mills and paper mills are listed among essential services in the state. Second, the law permits strikes (with a 42-day notice) even in essential services.”

Prasanta Nandi Choudhury, Citu vice-president who is also an office-bearer of the IT association, said no decision had been taken to serve a strike notice in IT, which is a public utility in the state. He said the statutory 42-day notice had been given in other public utility services like the state electricity board.

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