The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Assembly ready for show again

Calcutta, March 7: When the Assembly reconvenes for the budget session tomorrow, little would seem amiss. The furniture would be in place, the glass windowpanes would glisten and the microphones would be back in their stands.

There would be few reminders of the mayhem that had taken place on November 30 last year, when Trinamul Congress legislators went on the rampage, breaking tables and benches, uprooting and twisting microphones and leaving the Assembly covered with shards of glass. All in protest against Mamata Banerjee being prevented from entering Singur, where prohibitory orders had been clamped.

But it has taken 60 workers labouring from dawn to dusk for over three months to bring the semblance of order to the House. And the cost to the government exchequer, so far, has been Rs 15 lakh — an amount that the government hopes to recoup from the salaries of the vandal MLAs.

But even at the end of this exercise, the guardians of the Assembly feel that the House has “just about been made ready” for the budget session.

Ruing the damage done, Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim said: “How can the furniture of the 1940s be repaired so easily' They have antique value and an assessment of the damage is still not complete. But PWD and Assembly employees did well to ensure that the budget session could begin on time.”

The Assembly was thrown open to the public to witness the aftermath of the mayhem for four days from December 1. After that, PWD officials did a detailed survey of the damage and got down to restoring order on “a war footing”.

Some 60 carpenters and overseers were pressed into work from the first week of December itself.

“The damage was extensive and we knew it would be a Herculean task to repair everything and put the House in order by the beginning of March. But we have somehow managed it,” said Sukdeb Maiti, an Assembly employee.

“Everything has been put back into place but somehow it does not look the same,” he added.

Assembly secretary J.L. Chakraborty said: “Basically, the broken pieces of the furniture have been put back together. There is no question of replacing the furniture as that would have been too expensive. They are all made of teak wood.”

According to those over- seeing the repairs, the front benches, meant for ministers, the leader of Opposition, the Opposition chief whip and senior MLAs, were the most badly damaged and took the longest to repair.

“The benches for the ministers were the prime targets of the rampaging MLAs,” said another Assembly employee. “They took the worst beating.”

As the carpenters fixed the seats and tables, electricians went ahead replacing microphones and sound boxes. Some of the chandeliers in the lobby, too, underwent repairs.

Broken windowpanes had to be replaced, both inside the House and in the lobby.

Chakraborty said the PWD employees and electricians had done a “stupendous” job, completing five months’ work in three months flat. “We had our fingers crossed but now we can breathe easy.”

When the Assembly reconvenes tomorrow, the MLAs will again troop in and most likely raise a storm over Singur.

But as one Assembly staff member said: “Let us hope they restrict it to a verbal duel.”

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