Monday, 30th October 2017

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The signage syndrome

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By TALAT SALAHUDDIN
  • Published 17.02.09
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Park Circus Market has an Urdu inscription but no sign of Bengali on the signboard, (below) while Gariahat Market has a CMC board only in English. Pictures by Talat Salahuddin
Metro Cash & Carry has a glowsign in Bengali

Shopkeepers in Calcutta are giving mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya the slip. Bhattacharyya’s much-hyped campaign of having shop signboards in Bengali has turned out to be a damp squib.

Two years ago, the mayor — along with members of the city’s literati like Sunil Gangopadhyay — went from shop to shop, persuading traders to write the names of their shops on the signboards in Bengali, along with other languages. Following the request came a direct order.

The trade licence issued by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) mentions that it is mandatory to have the signboard in Bengali and inspectors of the licence department have been entrusted with the task of ensuring that traders comply with this at the time of renewal of trade licence. The document states that there is no bar on writing signboards in any language but it is mandatory to mention the name of a shop in Bengali on the same signboard.

But two years after the directive, the traders have paid little heed to the mayor’s order. Hardly 30 per cent of the over 5 lakh signboards in city shops bear the name in Bengali. Out of this 30 per cent, about 20 per cent have had Bengali signboards all along. Hence, hardly 10 per cent of the traders have complied with the mayor’s order and the civic regulation.

Most interestingly, even the CMC itself has not followed the mayor’s diktat. CMC-owned markets like Gariahat Market, Lansdowne Market and Park Circus Market in south Calcutta still don’t have Bengali signboards. The CMC owns 19 big markets in Calcutta and hardly seven of them have Bengali signboards. Similarly, cinemas like Roxy and Society, owned by the civic body, do not bear their names in Bengali on the signboards either.

CMCspeak: “Civic markets are directly under the supervision of their respective superintendents. If some civic markets don’t have a signboard in Bengali, it is a dereliction of duty on the part of the market superintendents and they should be showcaused for it,” said joint municipal commissioner Sahidul Islam.

However, the superintendent of Park Circus Market, Pranballav Sarkar, begs to differ. “Having the name of our market written in Bengali on the signboard is not our duty. There are other departments to look after this. I don’t know why it has not been done so far. We are responsible only for collecting rent and maintaining the market.”

“We have made it mandatory for the names of the new shops to be written in Bengali on the signboards. For existing shops and establishments, we remind the owners that they must include the name in Bengali on their signboards. We have printed this new directive on the trade licence too. It is a continuous process and a number of traders have already complied. However, we have no legal power to enforce this directive,” said chief manager (licence and markets) Bhaskar Ghosh.

Traderspeak: “We welcome the decision to have the names of shops written in Bengali. But I am shocked to see that most shops opposite the civic headquarters do not have Bengali on their signboards,” said a trader on Lindsay Street.

Even the shops at a stone’s throw from the civic headquarters — on Corporation Place, Bertram Street, Grant Street, Moti Seal Street, Lindsay Street and Free School Street — do not their names in Bengali script on their signboards. Though the Metro Cash & Carry has a huge glowsign in Bengali, most of the new shopping malls are without a board in Bengali.

Traders’ association: “Calcutta is a cosmopolitan city and English is the most popular language here. Hence, traders prefer to write the signboards in English. I think this pressure on traders to have their shops’ names in Bengali script is nothing but a cheap publicity gimmick,” said the president of Federation of Traders’ Organisation, Tarak Nath Trivedi.

Mayorspeak: “Many shops are yet to comply with the order of having a signboard in Bengali but we will implement it, though it will take time. As regards the markets, I will enquire why they have not followed the order,” said Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya.