| Bhattacharjee at Infocom 2004. Picture by Pabitra Das
Calcutta, Dec. 3: Old habits die hard, old diseases die even harder.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee did not make any bones today about accepting that Bengal's bandh culture is a disease.
'We had three bandhs in the past 17 days. It is a disease and we have to find a doctor for it,' Bhattacharjee said at Infocom 2004, organised by Nasscom and the ABP group's Businessworld, the third day of which coincided with the Trinamul Congress bandh.
As the chief minister continued his discussion with delegates at the interactive session and congratulated the organisers for holding the programme even on a bandh day, the symptoms of the disease were felt in the city.
Business took a back seat in the state with low turnout at the tech town in Salt Lake ' attendance dipped to as low as 10 per cent in some organisations.
'Attendance at the offices on our premises was very low. Around 25 to 30 per cent of the normal workforce turned up,' said a spokesperson at Infinity, the first Intelligent Building of Calcutta. The scene in other offices was almost the same with most of the companies giving the employees the option of working on Saturday and skipping the bandh.
Besides dubbing bandh a disease, Bhattacharjee said: 'We have some irresponsible parties and leaders who just get up one fine morning and call a strike.'
He added that right-thinking people would not like such 'irresponsible behaviour' and the time was right to initiate a turnaround for doing 'better things' in the state.
But the chief minister made it clear that his opinion on irresponsible acts like bandhs was not a verdict against the right to protest. 'I cannot say any type of agitation or strike is not good for society. Strikes take place in advanced democratic countries as well,' Bhattacharjee said, adding that his party would always oppose issues like 'slave labour' or 'hire-and-fire policy'.
While the curtains came down on the conference today, the exhibition in Salt Lake Stadium grounds will continue till Sunday.
The organisers also announced next year's schedule for the event ' between November 23 and 27 ' with participants expected from Germany, Thailand and Bangladesh.
During his speech, the chief minister laid out the government's infotech roadmap.
'By 2010, we want to have a 15 per cent share in IT services and 20 per cent share in IT-enabled services. We have calculated that we would need 1,70,000 professionals for IT and 2,35,000 professionals for the ITES industry. We are planning in advance to meet the demand,' said Bhattacharjee. He also launched Phase I of the government's Knowledge Corridor project in Rajarhat, billed as the future infotech hub of the state.
As he talked about the future during the Q&A session, Bhattacharjee also identified the areas ' from laying down infrastructure in Rajarhat to dealing with labour unions ' where the government was keen to learn from its mistakes.
'The condition of roads is bad in Salt Lake and we are planning to pass on the responsibility of Sector V to the urban development department. Learning from the experience of Salt Lake, our approach at Rajarhat and Nonadanga is planned,' Bhattacharjee said.
He added that the Left had moved from its earlier position when it used to encourage labour unions to focus only on their charter of demands and adopt 'illegal and undemocratic' ways of protest.