|GRAND OPENING TO — NOT OLYMPICS — MAMATA’s BANDH
| ORCHESTRATED CHAOS: Trinamul Congress MLA Sonali Guha led 350 women to squat, lie down and block the Esplanade crossing for more than an hour on Tuesday afternoon. Picture by Amit Datta
Over 250 flights will take off from the airport, hundreds of buses will ply on the city streets, the universities will stick to their examination rosters, CEOs will honour their appointments and employees will log in to work — the city is ready to defy the 48-hour bandh diktat.
Tuesday saw Mamata Banerjee hardening her stand to inflict another round of disruption on December 21 and 22 and her supporters holding the heart of the city to ransom. But the day also saw Calcutta resolving to battle the two-day bandh.
As the views of the public and private sectors converged, ministers spoke the language of industrialists.
“This bandh has no logic and will only harm our economy,” said state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, promising that the city will be on the move on Thursday and Friday. On December 14, Chakraborty had slammed the brakes on the transport machinery to make the Citu bandh a success.
Though economists are yet to work out the cost of a Bengal bandh, numbers collated by specific industry segments indicate that the losses can run into hundreds of crores.
According to S.K. Khullar, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Eastern India, five days of bandhs in the peak festive month will cost the local food and beverage industry close to Rs 15 crore.
“We will be open on both days… It is up to the people to come in,” said a representative of Sourav’s: the Food Pavilion.
Industry houses are also drawing up plans for a business-as-usual week. On Tuesday evening, eight city-based chambers of commerce issued a joint statement on how such a spate of bandhs/strikes had not taken place even in the “darkest days of West Bengal’s economic and commercial history”. The chambers urged people to demonstrate the “changing work culture”.
“We will all come to work and hope others do the same,” said Aloke Mookherjea, president, Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The fact that few seem ready to compromise on plans drawn up for the Christmas eve weekend indicates that the festive spirit will flow.
“For Christians, it is a time for sharing, being together... A bandh like this is preposterous and I do not support it,” said Barry O’Brien, adding that various social service programmes must stick to their schedule.
With the civic body making provisions to keep all 23 civic markets open, December 21 and 22 could well see a new culture — bandh, what bandh'