The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strike shield for IT industry
- Public utility status clears way for round-the-clock roster

Calcutta, Sept. 26: The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government today conferred public utility service status on information technology industry under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The tag will help the industry avoid disruption in operations, one of the main bugbears for business in Bengal.

Information technology minister Manab Mukherjee announced the new status while unveiling IT Policy 2003 on the fringes of the national council meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and IT East, a meet organised by the chamber to promote information technology and information technology enabled services (ITES) in the state.

A public utility service status would mean bandhs won’t affect the IT industry and it can operate 24 hours and seven days a week, without break. Most IT and ITES firms have clients in the West and a round-the-clock schedule is a must to service them. “It’s a very good decision. We won’t have to shut our offices any longer on bandhs,” said a city-based ITpreneur.

The new policy document, prepared with inputs from the likes of Infosys chief N.R. Narayana Murthy, is billed as a catalyst in realising Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s dream of taking Bengal to the big league of IT hot spots in the country.

“By 2010, the state will account for around 15 per cent of the country’s export revenues in IT and ITES industries,” said Mukherjee. After unveiling the policy, he announced that US company AIG would kick off its business process outsourcing operations in Salt Lake Electronics Complex from November 1. He added that IT firms like Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant Technology Solutions and IBM are scouting for more space in Calcutta. To support the expansion of existing players and new entrants, the government will help develop around 1,50,000 sq ft in the city, said Mukherjee.

He added that the new policy will give new direction to the existing plan, released in January 2000, complement the existing ITES policy and facilitate the growth of the industry. “It will be a living policy that will constantly be evaluated and revised keeping in mind investor needs and changing business environment,” promised Mukherjee.

From introducing a slew of sops to making mandatory clearances easier and incorporating accountability in the administration to setting up new committees to support investors, the document tries to address a gamut of issues raised by the industry. Besides, the 20-page policy also outlines the government’s initiatives to bridge the digital divide and empower the people of the state with the benefits of IT revolution.

“In three years, we will take the computer literacy programme to 12,500 schools across the state. As part of the e-governance programme, we will connect all districts, sub-divisional towns, blocks, municipalities and panchayats and make government-citizen interaction easier,” said Mukherjee. He, however, declined to comment on budgetary provisions and the agencies that will implement the projects.

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