The Trinamul Congress government convened its first administrative meeting on Friday to ensure the switch to digital cable by October 31, a move that suggests it is not confident of pushing back the deadline after the party quit UPA II.
At the meeting, chief secretary Sanjay Mitra told the district magistrates of North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah, commissioner of Calcutta police and the commissioner of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation to “keep things in order” so that the deadline could be met.
Urban development minister Firhad Hakim, who had played a major role in pushing back the last digitisation deadline, met MSO representatives later in the day.
Sources said the minister showed them a copy of the letter that the government had sent to the Centre on Friday, repeating the demand it had made in a letter on Tuesday that the deadline be pushed back to June 30, 2013.
Obviously, none of the letters mention that the government had done little to meet the deadline after the last one, June 30, 2012, was pushed back on its request.
Last time, the government had warned of law-and-order problems if the deadline was not postponed.
This time, festive frenzy is the reason the deadline needs to be pushed back.
Writers’ sources said a senior official would be sent to Delhi with a pushback plea “at the earliest”.
An official who attended the meeting with the chief secretary told Metro: “We were asked to keep things in order so that the deadline could be met if the Centre did not postpone it. The Centre has possibly not responded to the state’s demand for a pushback.”
In the other meeting, most MSOs were okay with the current deadline but Hakim said his sources had told him that Calcutta as a whole was not ready for the transition.
He, however, could not assure the MSOs that the deadline would be pushed back like last time.
Industry experts said less than 40 per cent of the city homes have been digitised so far. “Set-top boxes are now available and that is why the state had to change its strategy. It has to try to complete the switch within the deadline and at the same time, it will try to buy some time by sending letters to the Centre,” said an official.
Sources said the latest letter to the Centre seeks a pushback of the deadline till June 30 next year, the state might agree to a March 31, 2013, or even December 31, 2012, deadline.
Trinamul is continuing to mobilise public opinion against digitisation, calling it an “anti-poor” policy.
“We are not against digitisation but this should not be carried out forcibly. From where would poor people get money to buy set-top boxes? Even watching television will become difficult for them,” said Partha Chatterjee, state industries and commerce minister and Trinamul secretary-general, at a meeting on Wednesday.
LPG seized: Eighteen domestic LPG cylinders were seized in a raid on a shanty on VIP Road on Thursday evening. These cylinders were allegedly used for CNG autos, said police.