The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Work vow on shut eve

With Bengal finally meaning business, bandhs, by business consensus, are out of fashion.

The fear-of-damage factor can still ensure that stores remain more shut than open on Friday, but the mood on the eve of the Trinamul Congress bandh was one of defiance, with the city counting possible daily losses.

And the fear of business taking a bashing is borne out by figures. The Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI) findings peg the state's losses at a staggering Rs 750 crore on a single workday lost, with 60 per cent of the hit being taken by Calcutta.

Buoyed by two flop-show bandhs, Friday's big one could see big retail stores taking tentative steps to turn the shutdown tide. Pantaloons, that has made it a habit not to down shutters for bandhs, will open 'sharp at 10.30', promised R.S. Rekhi, head, operations, east.

Shoppers' Stop, in Forum, and Crossword will join the fray in the afternoon, according to their respective unit heads, Naveen Misra and Sidharth Pansari.

'Bandh is the manifestation of a mindset that refuses to align with the world order,' B-school professor Santanu Ray observed on Thursday evening. Ray was speaking at a panel discussion ' Is bandh an aberration' ' at Crossword bookstore, attended by representatives from real estate, retail, literature, academia and politics.

'It is an abrogation of our rights,' felt Sumit Dabriwal, managing director of Calcutta Metropolitan Group, developers of Hiland Park. 'There's no spontaneity in any bandh. It's only the intimidation factor working,' he said, stressing that not a single workday has been lost at the Hiland Park construction site because of bandhs.

Ravi Todi, managing director, Shrachi Group of Companies, added: 'Every individual must take a step to change that.'

The hospitality trade hopes to do just that on Friday. The Hotel and Restaurants Association of Eastern India has adopted a resolution to oppose all political bandhs.

'We are tired of bandhs and are no longer in a position to hurt our business for the sake of somebody's political interest. We have advised all hotels, restaurants and bars to stay open,' said S.S. Kothari, association president.

Cinema halls in central and north Calcutta should function normally, but for those in the south, the morning could show the day, felt Arijit Dutta, president, Eastern Motion Pictures Association. The same holds true for INOX, the multiplex.

The goods transport sector is also keen to keep the wheels turning. 'We will work as usual and try to ensure normal movement,' said Raja Roy, secretary of Calcutta Goods Transport Association.

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