A Calcutta Gateway, that got grounded before inception. A gallery of wax models at the Town Hall, that raised scoffs and eyebrows. The third time round, mayor Subrata Mukherjee proposes to institute an annual civic award of Rs 1 lakh. His ‘Calcutta Ratna’, to be presented each December, threatens to be stillborn.
The mayor’s proposal for a five-member jury, comprising four editors of vernacular newspapers and one from a Hindi daily, has already run into a barrage of criticism — the Urdu newspapers and the electronic media are peeved about not finding a place on the panel.
“I plan to honour celebrities in the fields of art, culture, dance, music, literature and sports by conferring on them the Calcutta Ratna,” explained Mukherjee. “I prefer to form the jury with the editors of newspapers as they are abreast with the modern,” he elaborated.
Leader of the Opposition in the civic House Nirmal Mukherjee fired his salvo, accusing the mayor of seeking to “curry favour” with the editors.
CPM chief whip Amal Mitra called Mukherjee “a copycat”, because the Calcutta Ratna was an obvious takeoff on the Bharat Ratna. The Calcutta Gateway had been “inspired” by Delhi’s India Gate and the Town Hall gallery by Madame Tussaud’s in London, Mitra pointed out.
Dissident mayor-in-council members like Anup Chatterjee, Javed Ahmed Khan, Mala Roy and Samsuzzaman Ansari criticising mayor Mukherjee’s proposal for the award. “It’s childish,” they averred, while wondering how he could even think of instituting an award without discussing it first with his council members. “He dreams pipedreams,” complained Javed Ahmed Khan. “The mayor thinks he’s a sultan out of the Arabian Nights,” Khan added.
Anup Chatterjee said it was extravagant on the mayor’s part to think of instituting an award of Rs 1 lakh when the city’s roads needed repair and contractors were not getting their dues.
The dissident members also questioned the mayor’s authority in handing over a plot of about seven cottahs to Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly and ornaments to his wife during a civic reception. He had not got the expenditure cleared from the mayoral council, they claimed.
Comparing the reception hosted for Sourav Ganguly by the mayor with the fete accorded to Rabindranath Tagore by then mayor B.C. Roy, mayoral council member Mala Roy pointed out that “Gurudev had been given only a shawl and a certificate”.