The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Just another bandh' Not really
- Writers’ Buildings to Sector V, the shutdown breeze blows in favour of Nandigram

Wednesday’s tragedy in Nandigram has changed the bandh blather in Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Bengal. Not only was the standard ‘beat the bandh’ chant muffled, the usual flurry of activity to ensure a normal working day — from Writers’ Buildings to Sector V — was missing ahead of Friday’s state-wide shutdown.

“I don’t support bandhs because they cause a lot of disruption… But this time, it is different because of the reasons that triggered the strike,” said a 20-something employee of a global IT major, stressing that the loss of lives in Nandigram “must be condemned”.

Though he was not sure whether a bandh was the right form of protest, he was sure that he would make no extra effort — as he had done during the six bandhs in the past six months — to reach his workstation in Sector V, from his home in Jadavpur.

The biggest opponents of bandhs till yesterday — industry associations — echoed this view, with the sting in the bandh criticism tail missing.

“The turn of events in Nandigram is, indeed, unfortunate. But will a bandh solve the problem'” asked Biswadip Gupta, vice-chairman, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), eastern region.

From saying a firm “no” to bandhs to questioning its relevance — the shift is substantial for a city learning to defy the disruption diktat.

A majority of Calcuttans gave a thumbs down to disruption in the past six months, but the mood on Thursday was a clear indication of a total shutdown, normally associated with bandhs called by the ruling coalition.

“This is the first time we have declared a holiday due to a bandh because we are worried about the safety and security of our employees,” said Siddhartha Mukherjee, vice-president, Cognizant Technology Solutions.

From making provisions for escort vehicles to distributing essential service stickers for vehicles of IT and IT-enabled services (ITES) companies, the state IT department and Webel, the government’s nodal IT agency, make a slew of arrangements to keep the 24x7 sector ticking.

But the Webel headquarters in Sector V wore a deserted look on Thursday afternoon and no one was willing to come clean on the measures to be taken on Friday.

At Writers’ Buildings, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty rattled off his routine pre-bandh promise to keep things normal. But not many took him seriously.

Like all other Opposition-called bandhs, the coordination committee urged all government employees to attend office on Friday.

“The Nandigram incident was sad, but we cannot accept a bandh,” said Jyoti Prasad Basu, general secretary of the government employees’ body.

But the message did not trickle down to a Class IV employee, who said: “I come to work on other bandh days, but this time, it is different...”

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