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Ma, mati and AC manush

Calcutta, June 27: Bengal has many mysteries — and committees and committees and committees that rack brains to solve them.

The latest to join the club is a two-member committee that will try to crack the Didi of all mysteries: how on earth did the air-conditioner in the chief minister’s room in a forest bungalow malfunction on Wednesday?

The question has been asked with such incredulity and gravity because it now emerges that such malfunctioning had been banished through an edict since a fire scare in a Malda hotel Mamata Banerjee had stayed at in April during the election campaign.

“The directive asked all divisional engineers to run periodic checks on electrical installations at guesthouses and bungalows where the chief minister could possibly stay,” a senior PWD official said. “If this was followed, the air-conditioner malfunctioning at the Mongpong forest bungalow could have been averted.”

Mongpong is near Siliguri. Two PWD engineers have already been suspended.

But the matter has not ended there. The two-member panel will now try to get to the bottom of the AC malfunctioning. The members of the committee will be the PWD’s chief electrical engineer of north zone and the assistant chief engineer of the Siliguri division.

Already a shiver has run up the bureaucratic spine of Bengal because the room for the “ma-mati-manush” chief minister was not cool enough.

When the air-conditioner packed up on the night of June 25, the chief minister was taking rest in her room after attending a programme in Alipurduar, sources said.

The first complaint went to district magistrate Puneet Yadav. Yadav spoke to chief secretary Sanjay Mitra. Instructions were then passed on and an assistant engineer (electrical) and a sub-assistant engineer were suspended yesterday.

The chief minister appeared to remain hot under the collar even after returning to Calcutta. “Aamar samay jokhon hobe, tokhoni aasbo, bolbo (When I get time, I will come and speak),” Mamata said in response to Opposition complaints about her absence from the House. ( )

By all accounts, the air-conditioning in the Assembly is excellent — the testimony to which lies in the serene manner in which some MLAs catch up on sleep some days, although the jury is out whether the credit should go to some speeches or the cooling system.

Back in Mongpong, sources said that an initial probe — hopefully carried out without contaminating the crime scene and destroying material evidence that the committee would be gathering — revealed that since the forest bungalow was sparingly used, no one had hygiene-checked all the electrical installations.

“Since north Bengal suffers from high-voltage fluctuations, a voltage stabiliser remains connected to an air-conditioner,” said a senior PWD official from the electrical wing. “In this case, the stabiliser malfunctioned and cut off power supply to the air-conditioner. The committee will find out when maintenance was carried out the last time in the bungalow’s ACs and where senior engineers were when the chief minister was camping at Mongpong.”

Such a course of action should certainly win the chief minister more admirers among tourists who can now hope that the same attention will be showered on the installations when they stay in forest bungalows.

But hapless bureaucrats are breaking into cold sweat. “When the chief minister visits a district, more often than not the decision on where she will put up is taken at the last moment. This means the district administration has to keep several accommodations ready,” said an official.

On a tour of the Dooars, two bungalows that were shortlisted and kept ready were not given the final approval. Some senior officials still have not forgotten the roasting they received then.

According to a district magistrate, he turns “tense the moment word trickles down that the chief minister is visiting”.

“All other administration-related work takes a backseat as we have to prepare for her visit. The most difficult task is picking the night halt.”

Moral of the story, ladies and gentlemen of the steel frame of India: don’t leave home without the electrician’s tester.