Resigned to bandhs, industry rues choice of date

Written by Aveek Datta | Kolkata, Oct 30 | Updated: Oct 31 2007, 07:44am hrs
Though the industry in West Bengal has always criticised the bandh culture in the state, the Trinamool Congress call to paralyse life on Wednesday has come in for especially heavy flak, mainly because of the date.

For corporates, October 31 happens to be the last day for holding board meetings to review and pass their financial results for the second quarter (July-September) of the financial year. Also, for exporters, the last day of every month is important.

"The 31st is a very crucial date, especially for export-oriented companies as they have to take stock of the situation on this date and check whether the monthly targets have been met. It does not matter who calls the bandh, it is damaging for one and all, especially for the daily wage earners, to protect whose interests these bandhs are usually called," said Sanjay Budhia, managing director of Patton, a major exporter.

Another eminent businessman said that since his office is situated in a building that also houses the offices of some government undertakings, protestors often come and stall work during bandhs.

Businessmen did not mince words in criticising this move by political parties to bring the city to a grinding halt, especially at a time when the economy is growing and the state is leaving behind its image of a laggard.

"It's a terrible idea. Up to a few a years back, Bengal's image was one of a state that had a relatively slow rate of economic growth and so people used to tolerate bandhs. But that perception has changed in the past two years. People across the country, the international investor community and the people of Kolkata itself have very high expectations and a bandh is just regrettable," said Sumit Dabriwala, managing director of real estate major, Riverbank Holdings Pvt Ltd.

Industry veterans rued their wasted words --- all their statements against such anti-development measures over the years do not seem to have reached the right ears.

"We have said enough but there seems to have been no impact. Now we would ensure that offices are kept open and remain functional," said the president of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI), S Radhakrishnan.

The opposition-led bandh is also ill-timed as several high-level delegates from abroad have been visiting the city in the last few days and many more are scheduled to visit in days to come. While US treasury secretary, Henry M Paulson was here on October 28,

Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and the former US secretary of state, Dr Henry Kissinger, are scheduled to attend events in the city on November 2 and November 3 respectively.

"We are not presenting a good image of the state to the visitors like this. We are signifying that the state is not willing to change for the better. It is time for a total bandh on bandh," said Budhia.