The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Forget image, reality lures

Calcutta, Dec. 8: Bengal may not have arrived yet, but looks to be on its way.

A member of a German delegation said at Infocom, the country’s largest information technology show organised by Nasscom and Businessworld, an ABP group publication, that they came to Calcutta, liked it and chose to do business here.

If sitting on the dais Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee blushed, it was not evident from the back rows of the audience.

“We have to change the image of Bengal,” Bhattacharjee said for the countless time in a public forum, repenting for “certain mistakes” of the past.

It might seem from the comment of the German guest that the state government’s campaign against Bengal’s negative “image” may be reaching the stage when it becomes self-sustaining through word of mouth.

Still, that day may not be near yet when Bhattacharjee would not have to answer at an industry forum questions about trade unions.

After Nasscom president Kiran Karnik raised it at Infocom yesterday, the question of unionisation in IT reared its head at the interactive session almost inevitably.

Bhattacharjee iterated, as he has several times in the recent past, that he would not allow agitation-inflicted disruptions. “I have been telling the trade unions that the IT sector is different from others.”

Next week, the CPM’s central committee is meeting to discuss a document that is expected to settle the issue of which part of infotech would be insulated from strikes and agitation.

The chief minister’s firm promise to protect IT from disruptions drew wide applause, and not for the only time either, possibly as evidence of a changing image.

Opening the session, Bhattacharjee listed the government’s IT plans, the key of which was allocation of land. He said almost 750 acres had been notified and acquired, or were in the process of being acquired. “Social infrastructure such as housing, schools and hospitals will be made available as well.”

Industry sources, however, said: “Providing social infrastructure is a great idea, but more important is basic infrastructure, such as security, transport, roads and lighting.”

“Land prices should be a little more competitive as well,” said D.K. Chaudhuri, CEO of Skytech Solutions.

The chief minister revealed that Lufthansa had finalised a direct Calcutta-Frankfurt flight. An airline official later said: “We are expecting operations to start by October next year.”

Bhattacharjee also spoke of a Calcutta-Mumbai-New York flight, but the travel industry was not aware of any such move. Air Sahara, which has a tie-up with American Airlines, now transfers Calcutta passengers on to a Chicago-bound flight in Delhi.

John Hotard, a spokesman for American Airlines, said from Dallas: “As far as Calcutta is concerned, there are no plans even on the horizon.”

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