The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Beat bandh, work on Sunday

Manish Kumar has had enough of man days in Calcutta being lost to bandhs and of Calcuttans being ridiculed for their lack of work culture. So, this Sunday will be a full working day for this 36-year-old entrepreneur to make up for the loss of Bandh Monday. A silent statement for fast forward over go-slow.

“With the bandh culture in Bengal back with a bang, it is up to us to make up for lost time or be left behind. If we don’t defy bandhs now and put in an extra effort, Calcutta will once again be labelled a dying city,” warns the die-hard Calcuttan.

Manish is not alone. The city’s downbeat mood is, indeed, changing, with a set of young entrepreneurs taking the lead. “Welcome to the new work culture of Calcutta. We will all be working this Sunday to compensate for Monday,” stresses Ajay Laddha, a 37-year-old who runs a chain of Nokia stores.

Political parties have failed the city and the court ban on bandhs has been flouted with impunity, threatening to undo all the good work done over the past few years. So, working through weekends is a practical way out.

The writing is on the wall — every working day lost to a bandh sets the state back by no less than Rs 800 crore and causes a serious loss of face.

The new face of youthful enterprise in Calcutta is now seeking solutions rather than dwelling on problems.

Rajesh Damani works on Sundays to compensate for bandh-hit man hours. “I saw this model in China where government departments and private companies work on Sundays to make up for extra holidays,” says the director of Prashray Overseas.

Others are exercising simpler options. “We have half-days on Saturdays. We make up for a day lost to bandhs by working full days on the next two Saturdays. We have entered into an agreement with the union at our factory. A bandh in which no work is possible becomes the weekly off-day for workers,” explains Saurabh Khemani of National Moulding Company Limited.

The turning point, feel many, was the rise of Sector V. “The information technology (IT) sector has played a pro-active role in making the city realise that one can counter a bandh by taking extra measures but treating it like a normal working day,” says Santanu Ray, the director of ICFAI Business School (Calcutta).

The ICFAI campus cancels its “second Saturdays” and other off-days to make up for bandh disruptions.

The IT sector has all but perfected the art of dodging the disruption. Coral Soff’wares invites its employees to put up at the company guest house near its New Alipore office from the evening before a bandh. “We have found this to be the most effective measure. We had 60 per cent attendance on Monday,” claims CEO Prem Chand Kankaria.

Pockets of enterprise to make up for bandhs can only be a small solution to a colossal problem.

“There is still no mechanism in place to safeguard the interests of those worst affected by bandhs — the daily wage-earner,” points out Anindya Sen, the dean of programme initiatives at IIM Calcutta.

Despite the enormity of the cause this time, a quiet resolve not to let bandhs slow the city down is spreading.

“Enough is enough. We will not succumb to bandhs. We must protest constructively without stopping work. Bandhs become just an excuse for the lazy to enjoy a holiday and gives us all a bad name,” says Satarupa, 36, whose anti-bandh letter published in The Telegraph on October 31 had touched a chord.

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