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Analogue Didi has a digital box

Amar bari-te to nei, tomar bari-te achhe? Dekha jak ki hoy (I don’t have one at home. Do you have it?

Let’s see what happens),” Mamata Banerjee said on her way out of Writers’ on Wednesday when reporters asked her about the digitisation deadline. On the eve of the transition that the Centre has decided to go ahead with and Mamata has vowed to resist, Metro tracked the activity across the city. Ironically, the busiest seemed to be those who should not be and idle sat the man of the moment, the local cable operator

Mamata’s TV at Writers’. And yes, it has a set-top box

Writers’ Buildings

Mamata Banerjee may have vowed to resist the transition to digital TV but the set-top box has quietly entered her office at Writers’ Buildings.

The chief minister’s 360sq ft office has a 52-inch LED TV set and she has ensured that it does not go blank from November 1.

Sources said the government had ordered set-top boxes for the 85-odd television sets at Writers’ a few days ago.

The local cable operator could not supply so many within such a short time. But he managed one especially for the CM and, unlike many in the city, she got it for the marked price of Rs 799.

Some of the personnel in the chief minister’s office also have been lucky.

“The cable operator was told to install the box in the chief minister’s chamber on an emergency basis. That is logical because she watches news all the time. The cable connection in her office cannot be snapped even for a few minutes,” said a senior bureaucrat.

The chief minister is known to follow news channels very closely but she also has a penchant for Bengali soaps. “She tunes in after she is done with most of her day’s work,” said a source.

The chief minister had once laid bare her love for the small-screen family drama. “Some news channels make business by showing all kinds of unhappy things like rape, murder and molestation through the day. Nobody likes to watch these. I like to watch shows highlighting family values and ties, love for parents and siblings. I suggest you people also watch these. You will feel good,” she had told a meeting to protest FDI in retail.

A Trinamul banner at Maniktala says ‘No’ to the set-top box

Party Office

Trinamul Congress activists armed with party flags and banners went door to door on Wednesday trying to assure people that their television sets would not go blank, courtesy Mamata Banerjee.

In places like Maniktala in the north and Anandapur in the south, local leaders told residents to lodge complaints with the party office if their sets went blank.

“Didi has already had a talk with the cable operators and assured us that we can still watch TV without the set-top box. But in case the cable operators stop transmission, we will hit the streets,” Subir Saha, a block Trinamul leader, said in Maniktala.

In his area, along Vivekananda Road, large banners have been put up opposing the transition from analogue to digital signals.

At Anandapur, the party cadres were mobilising support anticipating a possible black-out. “If transmission stops tomorrow, people irrespective of party colours will come out and force the Centre to roll back its decision,” said Sushanta Das, another block-level leader.

According to party sources, workers in some areas have been asked to prepare a database of households without set-top boxes.

“Didi has said nothing will happen to our TV. Hence I did not try for a set-top box at my home or the party office,” said Sabir Ali, a Trinamul worker at Bhowanipore.

At the MSO office in central Calcutta, the phone kept ringing

Multi-System Operator

To switch off, or not to switch off, that was the question for the multi-system operator.

While the Centre refused to blink, Mamata responded with a diktat to the MSOs to ensure homes without set-top boxes continued to watch TV as usual from November 1.

At an MSO’s office in central Calcutta, the tension was apparent. Across offices, senior personnel were in super-active mode, holding meetings and trying to decide which way to sway. By evening, they started pleading with the broadcasters not to switch off the analogue signals for some more time so that some more homes could be digitised. “We are waiting for a word from them,” said the director of a leading multi-system operator.

A team from the ministry of information and broadcasting visited the offices of several multi-system operators to check their preparedness.

Many of the MSOs in the city serve Calcutta as well as the districts, which means they will continue to receive analogue signals along with the digital signals. One source said some of the MSOs did not have the technology to switch off the analogue signals for Calcutta while continuing to distribute them in the districts.

At the local cable den at Santoshpur, it was a lazy Wednesday

Local cable operator

Wednesday was just another day at work for the para cable-wallah.

Sukanta Satellite Service in Santoshpur, which caters to the upscale housing estates along the EM Bypass and Santoshpur and Selimpur, claimed that it had installed boxes at 90 per cent of the cable homes. But there were many operators who had not catered to even half their subscribers. Since Mamata’s pledge to stand by the defaulters, they were in no hurry to install set-top boxes.