The child of a Forward Bloc supporter crawls away from a meeting at Esplanade held to protest the Cooch Behar killings on Tuesday. Picture by Pabitra Das
The weather is pleasant, the winter sales are on and Saraswati puja is round the corner. In this feel-good February comes the first bandh of 2008.
Besides robbing the city of a near-festive spirit, the threat of 24-hour disruption — inflicted by Left Front partner Forward Bloc following the death of four supporters in Dinhata, Cooch Behar — has caused a lot of confusion.
The state transport department has promised to roll out more buses and the airlines and railways have announced they would stick to their schedules, but passengers and commuters are wary.
“We have received hundreds of queries from passengers about possible flight disruptions. All our flights will operate according to schedule,” stressed an Air India spokesperson.
Not sure how the bandh would unfold — the Congress, Trinamul Congress and the SUCI have extended support to the shutdown call — most are adopting a wait-and-watch policy, adding to the confusion.
“My daughter’s school is open tomorrow but I am not sure whether to send her or not,” said a worried mother, whose daughter is a student of Class V in La Martiniere.
“Had it been a CPM or Trinamul bandh, I would surely not have sent her as things come to a standstill. But this time, I am yet to decide,” she added.
The school authorities, too, are not sure what Wednesday will bring. So, most institutions — including La Martiniere for Boys, La Martiniere for Girls, MP Birla, Modern High and Birla High — have not declared a holiday. “Classes will be held if there is enough attendance,” said Herbert George, the principal of MP Birla.
But some schools, like Mahadevi Birla Girls’ Higher Secondary School and South Point School, have decided to play it safe and shut down for the day.
Calcutta University will hold all 12 exams — both theoretical and practical — that are scheduled for Wednesday. Jadavpur University will hold classes as usual.
“Since we do not support bandhs, we will treat tomorrow as a normal working day,” said Rajat Mukherjee, the registrar of Jadavpur University.
Also gearing up for a normal working day is the 24x7 IT sector, which has been making all arrangements to ferry employees to offices before 6am.
“We have been assured of tight security in Sector V, but we are still giving the employees the numbers of our control room and police so that they can call for help in an emergency,” said Gautam Mukherjee, of Capgemini. Most firms in the IT hub are taking similar measures.
Consulting major PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) will take a hit for the bandh. A delegation of around 15 “global heads” of PwC from countries like Australia, UK, France and USA were scheduled to arrive in Calcutta on Wednesday. But in view of the sudden bandh call, the team has decided to bypass the city.
“Just two weeks ago, officials from our US office had met the chief minister and praised Calcutta… This bandh, right after such a meeting, may have a negative impact on our expansion plans,” admitted a PwC official.
The bandh has also grounded the unveiling of the first Kingfisher Training Academy, slated for Wednesday. “We have been planning this for a long time but the bandh has upset our plans. This is why people have a bad impression of Calcutta,” said Ayan Chatterjee, partner, Kingfisher Training Academy, eastern India.
Like most schools, entertainment hubs like malls and multiplexes have decided to wait and watch how things shape up on Wednesday.
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