The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tech township in tatters
- Field day for the 'urban hooligan'

If N.R. Narayana Murthy does decide to set up a software development centre in the city, the Infosys chief mentor better be prepared to see his team coming to work under police escort ' or not coming at all ' on a few select weekdays of the year.

For, if Narayana Murthy saw the best of Bengal ' infrastructure and talent pool ' when he was in town on Wednesday, the worst of Bengal ' a paralytic bandh, with tacit government support ' was on display on Thursday.

And nowhere more blatantly than in Sector V of Salt Lake, the hub of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's great information technology (IT) dream.

As the tech township wore a deserted look and recorded abysmal attendance, the 'public utility' tag that the government had bestowed on the IT sector ' and slapped on car windshields ' lay in tatters.

Enough to force IT secretary G.D. Gautama to admit: 'Yes, this has been the worst bandh for the IT sector, in terms of effect. We had taken various measures to try and ensure normalcy, but all this failed due to obvious reasons' The image of Bengal has, of course, been dented.'

The figures told a shameful story: at Webel, the state's nodal IT agency, the attendance roster recorded 'four to five per cent'. It was no better in some private-sector biggies, with Cognizant Technology Solutions mustering up just 'eight to nine per cent' of its 2,700-odd workforce.

Satadru Sinha, senior executive in administration, didn't mince words: 'This is nothing but urban hooliganism.'

There were reports of strike supporters 'targeting' IT vehicles bearing the 'public utility' sticker ' unlike on a few previous bandhs ' and harassing personnel. 'The stickers proved to be an absolute joke,' fumed Brigadier Suresh Menon, chief operating officer, BNK e. Solutions.

'The stickers were given to make sure our cars did not get stopped' It is extremely sad that the situation should come to this,' said a Webel official, who could not make it to office.

The IBM office at Millennium City complex was deserted and security guards outside said: 'Aaj office bandho'.

At Wipro, J. Bhattacharya, manager, administration, said: 'Our cars were stopped, but later, with the help of the administration, the situation has been somewhat salvaged.'

Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy admitted the bandh brigade had ransacked some IT company cars in Park Circus, Behala and Salt Lake.

IT minister Manab Mukherjee in the evening played down the disruption: 'There have been reports of unwanted incidents, but normalcy has returned and most IT companies are fully functional now. But there must be increased vigilance from next time.'

And the impact' 'Investors know bandhs in Bengal are a possibility, so those who want to invest will do so nevertheless,' claimed the minister.

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