| A Microsoft employee displays a product at CeBIT 2003. (Reuters)
Calcutta, March 12: The world’s top information, communication and technology companies started gathering today at Hannover in Germany. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government intends to turn Bengal into a centre of knowledge-based industry. So, who does it send to CeBIT (that’s what the seven-day fair is called)'
Moloy Pal Choudhuri.
Moloy who' He’s a junior officer of Webel, the focal point of the government’s information technology initiative.
And why Pal Choudhuri, a junior officer'
Because Webel’s managing director S.K. Mitra could not go as the state finance department did not clear his trip.
The reason could be the government’s austerity drive under which almost all expenses — from travel within the city to flying abroad — has come under the department’s scanner. Departments have been directed to cut all “unproductive” expenditure.
If the austerity axe falls on Mitra, how can Pal Choudhuri escape — the trip costs Rs 4 lakh' “He (Pal Choudhuri) is the vice-president of the Left-backed employees’ union in Webel,” a senior official of the company said.
Webel comes under the infotech ministry headed by the CPM’s Manab Mukherjee.
Besides Pal Choudhuri, the team from the state consists of representatives from three fledgling IT companies, Alumnus Software, Web Development Company and Convergence Contact Centre. The team is supposed to showcase IT opportunities in the state at the stall in the fair.
“This is the first time someone below the rank of a general manager will represent the state in an international forum. The government didn’t participate in the fair in the past two years because of the slowdown in the IT industry. Now when the industry is recovering, the government should have sent a proper team. Instead, it is rewarding party activists,” the Webel official added.
Webel Bhavan in Salt Lake is abuzz with questions about the selection. “It seems there was desperation to send him. To make way for a CPM functionary, the managing director was grounded. While permission from the finance department was sought for Mitra’s trip, Pal Choudhuri’s case was not even put before the Webel board for approval,” he said.
Mitra defended the decision to send Pal Choudhuri. He was well within his rights to send someone from Webel to the fair and get the decision approved by the board later, he said.
But he dodged questions about why his trip was shot down and about the competence of the representative.
“We were asked by the IT department to get a few companies to participate in the fair and subsidise a part of the expenses in setting up the stall. We are doing our duty as a promotional agency and have sent our representative, who will escort the companies and help them in setting up the stalls,” Mitra said.