The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Suspender Som tamed in tug-of-war

When Pradip Ghosh tugged at Debasis Som’s suspenders and, wagging a finger at him, told the municipal commissioner that he had shown “many a ‘Haridas Pal’ IAS and IPS officer” his place, he was wrong. For mayoral council member Ghosh had never encountered an IAS officer like Som in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

Som, during his three-year stint at the red building on SN Banerjee Road, has notched up several firsts. From calling a subordinate officer’s wife to ask why her husband had switched off his CMC-provided mobile phone, to having his day’s share of puffs inside the no-smoking CMC building — because his home was a far stricter no-smoking territory — this 1984-batch IAS man has kept the CMC agog.

And then there is his penchant for galluses (suspenders), that earned him the sobriquet of “gallish babu” and offered an elastic target to the heckler seven on Monday.

The final tug to the anti-Som saga can be traced back to when mayor-in-council (health) member Javed Ahmed Khan asked the commissioner in a note why officer on special duty (health) Atanu Mukherjee had been given many of his responsibilities.

“Usually, we give such notes a quiet burial,” said a senior bureaucrat, who had a stint in the municipal affairs department a few years ago. Som, however, immediately shot off a note to mayor Subrata Mukherjee, pointing to the CMC Act that made him answerable only to the mayor and not to any member of his council. The mayor agreed, responding with another note.

But then Som committed the cardinal civic sin of issuing a circular to every department, attaching the written correspondences for effect, telling them where he stood in the CMC pecking order.

The sequence of events brought seven members of Mukherjee’s council to Som’s chamber, a room where no councillor or official could enter without permission. And it was during a heated exchange of words that Som was assaulted.

But then, Som has been like that only — hogging the attention in school as a meritorious student, graduating to a no-nonsense IAS officer and sticking out in the civic corridors with his power play, refined English (and Bengali) and, of course, his suspenders.

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