Bengal plans hidden button camera for Kolkata traffic cops

By bappaditya paul

Button Camera

WEST Bengal government is planning to equip the traffic cops in Kolkata with hidden cameras to deal with incidents of misbehaviour by traffic violators and vice-versa.

The plan, recently mooted by Kolkata Police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha, is now under active consideration of the Bengal home department, which is headed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Going by the proposal, while out on the road on duty, each of the traffic constables and the sergeants of Kolkata Police will carry a button camera hidden in their uniform. Such cameras will wirelessly stay connected to the central traffic control at police headquarters Lalbazar and stream both video and audio.

Traffic cops will not be able to switch off the cameras as per their wish, because the feed will be under constant monitoring at the control room. Thus, whenever there is an allegation of undue action or misbehaviour by a traffic cop, the video will be reviewed to verify the allegation.

Likewise, police will be able to expose traffic violators, who misbehave with traffic personnel and then cry foul instead. This is particularly true as regards the affluent class and those having links with the politicians in power. An incident like this had taken place in May this year at Jadavpur involving the niece of Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee.

Asked about this, Bengal home secretary Basudev Banerjee said: “Kolkata CP had recently visited London with the Chief Minister and there he saw the effective use of hidden cameras by traffic police. The police in the USA and several other European countries also use such cameras. Thus, he has recently sent a formal proposal to us on this.”

But how soon the plan can be implemented? “We are now actively considering the proposal and are examining the various aspects of it. The plan will then be placed before the Chief Minister for her to take a final call,” Banerjee said.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN, West Bengal, India. This report first appeared on on 30 October 2015.) 

Kolkata airport’s runway to be closed for 6 months for repair, but airlines put a condition

Airport Runway

By bappaditya paul

KOLKATA airport management has decided to close down the airport’s main runway for a six month long repair exercise beginning 1 November, but the airlines have put a condition for this.

The Airlines Operators’ Committee (AOC) at Kolkata airport says that the authorities shall first have to waive the restriction from the A-Taxi Track located next to the secondary runway, before undertaking the repair exercise.

The restriction now in place, bars aircraft movements on the A-Taxi Track when another flight is landing on or taking off from the secondary runway. AOC maintains that unless the rule is relaxed, the flight schedule in Kolkata will suffer and this is the last thing the airlines can afford.

Kolkata airport is owned by the public sector firm Airports Authority of India.

According to Ashoke Srivastava, the deputy director of Kolkata airport, they are all geared up to start the resurfacing work for the 3,800 meter long main runway from 1 November and the work will take at least six months to complete.

Resurfacing primarily involves laying a fresh coat of bituminous over the entire runway and the exercise is overdue for Kolkata’s main runway by over four years now. Together with the installation of a CAT-III-B approach lighting system, the exercise is estimated to cost around Rs 86 crore.

“As a result of the resurfacing work, we will completely close down the main runway from 1 November – 20 November. After this, the runway will remain closed for 11 hours daily during daytime for the remaining of the six months,” Srivastava said.

“But this 11 hour closure that we have planned from 20 November might be extended to 24 hours a day if need arises. A decision will be taken on this on 17 November when we will review the work progress,” he added.

Flight operations to and from Kolkata airport will be maintained during this six month period on the secondary runway, which is a little shorter in length. But if a flight faces an emergency mid-air, it will be redirected to Bhubaneswar (if it is a domestic flight) and to Lucknow or Dhaka (if it is an international flight).

Maintaining that there would be no major flight disruptions due to the closure of the main runway, Srivastava said, at best there might be some rescheduling. “But this rescheduling will depend on the individual airlines and not us.”

But AOC chairman Sarvesh Gupta said that there was no question of them tweaking the flight timings.

“The winter schedule is already published and the airlines have sold tickets. Hence, there is no question of us making any changes to the flight timings. Instead, we have made it clear that the runway resurfacing work can begin only if the restriction on A-Taxi Track is waived during the period.”

Gupta added that he had made this very clear to the airport management during the last meeting with the AOC. “I had had asked them the write to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) seeking the relaxation, but they have been very tardy to do so till now.”

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN, West Bengal, India. This report first appeared on on 17 October 2015.) 

One year 75 days turbulent tenure that Sushanta Ranjan Upadhaya had as Bengal election commissioner

S R Upadhyay

By bappaditya paul

SUSHANTA Ranjan Upadhaya, the 62-year old frail man, who stepped down as Bengal state election commissioner on Tuesday evening, have had a turbulent tenure during the 1 year 2 months 15 days that he remained in the chair.

Upadhaya, a 1980 batch West Bengal Civil Service (Executive) officer, had taken over as the state election commissioner on 21 July 2014, a day after firebrand Mira Pande had exhausted her term.

Upadhaya, was the first WBCS cadre to be made the poll commissioner, a post that had all along been occupied by IAS officers ever since the West Bengal State Election Commission came into being in 1994. He had served in the Raj Bhavan secretariat from 2001 to 2014, till he was appointed the poll panel chief.

On the first day in office, Upadhaya had told journalists that he does not “want to fight with anybody” and “would like to sort out all issues with the state government amicably.”

This was in marked departure from the stand that his predecessor Pande had taken in order to hold timely elections and ensure deployment of Central forces for panchayat polls against the wish of the Mamata Banerjee government.

As a result, Upadhaya has from day one been accused for surrendering to the state government and lacking the mettle that is expected of a person holding a Constitutional position of the poll commissioner.

In fact as if in verification of the accusation, he had withdrawn the litigation that Pande had filed in the Calcutta High Court for the conduct of elections to 17 civic bodies that Banerjee wanted to delay.

Subsequently, the election to Kolkata Municipal Corporation was held this year on 18 April and in another 91 civic bodies (including 10 out of the 17)  on 25 April, as per the wish of the state government.

Widespread rigging had marked that poll as well and on the face of severe criticisms from the Opposition and the media, Upadhaya was so upset that he had actually decided to step down immediately after the vote counting on 28 April.

On that occasion, he backed off following the persuasion by a very senior officer of the state government, who had advised him to ignore such criticisms.

But after what happened on Monday, Upadhaya, who is a native of Chandannagore in Hooghly, could not take it anymore.

On Monday, a delegation of the ruling Trinamool Congress leaders led by party secretary general Partha Chatterjee was in his chamber for about four hours till afternoon, pressing for a new counting date for the Bidhannagar (Salt Lake), Bally and Asansol civic polls which Upadhaya had put off so to probe all allegations of rigging.

Chatterjee had told reporters that the party would hold a protest march to the SEC office on Tuesday if the poll panel did not announce a new counting date by then. Barely three hours after this, Upadhaya told a news conference that the civic polls counting would be held on Friday 09 October, which was a dramatic U-turn from his previous stand.

Asked about the reason for his resignation, Upadhaya said tonight: “I had to announce the new counting date after a Trinamool delegation came to me for the second time around 8 pm on Monday and demanded that we announce a new date at once. No political party or for that matter anybody, should compel a Constitutional body to take a decision under pressure.”

In close circles, Upadhaya has said that he could not withstand the “humiliation and pressure” that he had to face on Monday and made up his mind to step down in the night itself.

A thorough gentleman, he communicated this to a senior officer on Tuesday morning so to allow the state government prepare to tackle the exigency. He walked out from his official quarter at the Raj Bhavan complex in the afternoon and submitted his resignation to Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi.

Upadhaya now plans to lead a leisure life at his native place, since whoever becomes the poll commissioner, is deemed to be have retired from active civil service even if the person had not turned 60 years.

Moreover, Upadhaya had exhausted his service tenure in 2013 itself and was serving Raj Bhavan on extension as an officer on special duty.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN, West Bengal, India. This article first appeared on on 06 October 2015.) 

Not Digha, make Siliguri the Goa of Bengal

Opinion Honda Activa ad 2

By bappaditya paul

IN JULY Honda Motorcycle released a television commercial for its Activa 3G scooter. The still is from the one minute ad, filmed by the Indian arm of international Japanese advertising company Dentsu Marcom.

The ad kicks off with a group of people singing the retro hit Jhum jhum kauwa bhi dholak bajayacheel cheel chillaake…arey wah wah wah in a moving train that is passing through a picturesque hill terrain.

It is then that a singer spots the new Activa 3G passing by with a father-daughter duo on ride and the jingle is instantly twisted to Activah Vaah Vaah. The Activa and the train move together for a while amidst greenery and then bid adieu while crossing another Activa with a couple waving with joy.

Now, you must be thinking why the hell this article is spoiling your leisure by narrating a TV commercial! More so when many have seen the advertisement umpteen times.

For those who don’t know yet, the advertisement has been shot at the Siliguri end of Kurseong hill and the train is heritage Toy Train of Darjeeling. The places it shows include Garidhura, Dudhia, Tindharia and Sukna, which is barely 11 km from Siliguri town.

But then that’s not a big deal! Several Hindi movies have been shot in the past in Darjeeling. The last famous one was Barfi in 2012.

Those of you who have been to Goa, every now and then discover in TV ads and Hindi movies that several of them have been shot in Goa, in places like Fontainhas, Calangute beach, Fort Aguada and so on.

Compare the scale of ad or film shoots in Goa vis-à-vis Siliguri-Darjeeling and you will figure out, the beach capital of India is far ahead.

One simple reason for this is Goa’s proximity to Mumbai (Bollywood) ~ it is 609 km by road and an hour by flight. Siliguri on the other hand is located 2,246 km away. Going by the economy of film production, a film crew thus is unlikely to choose Siliguri over Mumbai.

There is another reason though. The pro-film shoot infrastructure and environment that Goa offers is unparalleled in India. Be it the large number of hotels, resorts, all-weather roads, a clean city and above all, a friendly people and political culture.

Compare this to the grater Siliguri. Despite a few star-rated hotels coming up off late, it till date will not be able to host high-class accommodation to 500 people at a time.

Most of the arterial roads such as Hill Cart Road, Bidhan Road and Sevoke Road remain chock-a-block for most of the times. Last week’s addition to this was massive water-logging ~ at least 20 per cent of which was the result of poor conservancy service.

Then, there are political rallies and protests every now and then that make commuting in Siliguri a real hazard. Sometimes, the Siliguri plains also compete with the ever restive Darjeeling Hills in calling snap bandhs.

Now the obvious question is: should Siliguri give up its political consciousness, bury the voice of dissent, throw away small-time vendors and transport operators from its streets so to make way for film shoots or song and dance, as many would love to call it?

The reply is: no. Just regulate all of them to make Siliguri a better place to live in and visit.

To begin with, in the short-run, earmark fixed stoppages for city-autos which are a major cause for traffic snarl and the noise they generate make one feel running away from Siliguri.

For the long-run, phase out the city-autos by placing an embargo on new permits. Do not wait for a Calcutta High Court to do this as it had been in the case of pushing out diesel-petro auto-rickshaws from Kolkata.

More small buses for city service, similar to the ones introduced with JnNURM funds in the past two-three years, will be a good replacement for city-autos.

A blanket ban on manual rickshaws from entering S F Road, Kachari Road, Hill Cart Road, Bidhan Road and Sevoke Road is another step needed to decongest Siliguri. Believe you me, people in developed cities will find it absurd on seeing that Siligurians want a rickshaw to commute within a half km radius of Bidhan Markat and Seth Srilal Market!

To compensate the rickshaws, reassign them to internal and para routes where people struggle to get one now. There will be hiccups initially, but one can stay assured by looking at the example in Kolkata that poor rickshaw pullers will not be robbed of livelihood

Next, earmark a centralised venue in the town for all sorts of protests, instead of hitting the Hill Cart Road and Hashmi Chowk that are a hot favourite for such manifestations in Siliguri as is Esplanade in Kolkata.

For example, Bagha Jatin ground can serve as the central venue for all demonstrations and protest gatherings. Given the spurt in media and the corresponding need for news, politicians and civil society groups can rest assured that reporters and cameras will hunt them even there.  

Next comes the issue of improving and creating infrastructure that can en-cash on Siliguri’s superb geographic position. It is such a lovely place where, if you are apprehensive of being booked for traffic violation now; a 10-minute drive later to the northeast direction, you should be careful of bumping on wild elephants!

Bengal government has taken two key steps towards this: the Gazaldoba Tourism Hub (about 20 km from Siliguri) and the Animal Safari Park at Shorea on the outskirts of Siliguri at an estimated cost of Rs 225 crore.

These two projects, if implemented as planned, will offer high-class accommodation to visitors and open up a new window for wildlife and leisure tourism in Siliguri.

They have the potential to draw ad and film shoots from Tollygunge film industry in a more organised and frequent manner. This is possible only if all stake holders, especially the local politicians, administration and hospitality industry work hand-in-hand.

From this point of view, instead of Digha as Mamata Banerjee desires, Siliguri has all the potential to become the Goa of Bengal. Surely, this is not too much to wish for on World Tourism Day!

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN, West Bengal, India. This article first appeared on on 27 September 2015.) 

No NOTA for 3 Oct civic polls in Bengal but EVMs first time for rural elections

Featured Image: The official NOTA symbol designed by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and released on 18 September 2015. Photo courtesy: Nizil Shah on wikipedia
Featured Image: The official NOTA symbol designed by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and released on 18 September 2015. Photo courtesy: Nizil Shah on wikipedia

By bappaditya paul

Kolkata, 23 September: VOTERS in Bengal will once again miss out on the option to press the None of the Above (NOTA) button during the 3 October civic polls in three urban bodies and the Siliguri rural polls.

This is because Mamata Banerjee-led state government has not amended the related legislations to allow the state election commission (SEC) to introduce NOTA for local body polls. This is despite a brief session of the Bengal Assembly presently being underway since 18 September.

The SEC will however, for the first time, put to use electronic voting machines (EVM) for rural polls in the state during Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad elections and the panchayat by-polls elsewhere. Till now, the use of EVM was limited to Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

“In response to our latest reminder, state panchayat department wrote to us about 20 days ago saying, the government was unable to amend the Panchayat Election Rules and hence NOTA option would not be available for the coming polls,” said Bengal state election commissioner Sushanta Ranjan Upadhyay.

“We had sent a similar reminder to the municipal affairs department but are yet to get a reply.”

Upadhayay added that in response to a query, Election Commission of India has replied that it had introduced NOTA from the 2014 Lok Sabha polls following a Supreme Court order in 2013 and it did not require an amendment to Central election laws because of the SC ruling.

“But we cannot do so without the panchayat and municipal election rules being amended. Not only Bengal, several other states have failed to do this so far,” he said.

To bring in NOTA option, amendments are necessary to the West Bengal Municipalities (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 1995, and the West Bengal Panchayat Elections Rules, 2006.

Thus, the civic polls voters at Bidhannagar-Rajarhat, Bally, Asansol and the rural poll voters in Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad on 3 October will either have to choose a candidate or abstain from voting altogether.

Notwithstanding the upset over NOTA, SEC’s move to use EVMs for rural polls will be a big relief for voters in 520 booths in Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad elections and in another 1,111 booths for the panchayat by-polls elsewhere in the state. This will reducing the time taken in casting a vote and also expedite the vote counting scheduled for 7 October.

SEC has around 25,000 EVMs and a part of them will be used for the 3 October polls.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN, West Bengal, India. This article first appeared on on 23 September 2015.) 

Ladies Corner

Vidya Balan Collage

By bappaditya paul

MANY of you, who even have the remotest connection to Bengal and are active on social sharing media such as WhatsApp and Facebook, must have come across the image featured above, several times in the recent past.

This a collage of two different photographs of Bollywood actress Vidya Balan ~ the first one from a photo-shoot and the second one a still from her 2007 box office hit Bhool Bhulaiya.

While the image is going round in social media for fun, it aptly makes a pointed comment on the dire state of rail travel in passenger trains that connect Kolkata to the suburbs.

Scores of people travel every day in local trains over the Sealdah and Howrah rail divisions, to commute to office and work and then return home. But the dearth of sufficient number of trains, make them commute like hordes of lesser mortals packed in a box.

Over time, this has become a common scene on all trains plying to and from Kolkata, especially during the morning office hours and the evening home return hours. The scene in the trains on Sealdah-Bongaon, Sealdah-Dankuni, Sealdah-Barasat and Sealdah-Ranaghat is worst, to say the least.

Late running of trains, which has become a routine in the past few months, is only worsening the situation. Men literally struggle to get a toe hold on the trains; women find it no less than being molested when they travel in a general compartment.

In such a dismal state, the ladies special trains ~ Matribhoomi Local ~ introduced by Mamata Banerjee when she was railway minister, has been a relief of sort for thousands of women who need to travel daily for office and education.

Thus, it is no wonder that they reacted sharply by resorting to rail blockades at several stations in North 24-Parganas district when the railway threw open some compartments of ladies special trains for men. The decision has now been repealed with effect from 24 August on the face of the vehement opposition.

The opposition was such that violent retaliation by male commuters had failed to make the women backtrack, be it from their demand or from the rail tracks, quite literally. And mind you! This is without the presence of a political banner over their head, in a state where politics is a part of every aspect of life.

True, the women have reclaimed their exclusive claim to the ladies special trains, but male passengers are now accusing them of demanding too much of comfort in public transport.

But does the accusation hold merit?

To examine this, we need to have a relook at Eastern Railway’s recent move vis-à-vis allowing men to travel in ladies special trains.

Going by this, in case of 12-coach ladies special trains, 6 middle coaches were opened to men. This is in addition to the two coaches that have all through been reserved for vendors.

In case of 10-coach trains, four middle coaches were made available to male commuters, beside the two more coaches that were marked for vendors. Likewise, in case of 9-coach trains, men were allowed to board three middle coaches and here too, two coaches have all along been reserved for vendors.

Thus, the move effectively left women passengers with only four coaches reserved for them in the ladies special trains, thus screwing up the very purpose of running a ladies special. When the women realised that they would now have to jostle for a space in trains run in their name; they took to the tracks on justified grounds.

But here’s a counter to this explanation! Why it is then that there was no fuss from the women passengers when the railway had permitted men to travel in ladies special trains in the Sealdah south section and in Howrah division, almost a year ago?

There are two answers to this.

In Howrah division, the number of local trains is higher than Sealdah. Besides, passengers in Howrah have the additional option to travel in general compartments of long distance trains that halt at most stations along the Howrah chord and main line.

As to why the women commuters in Sealdah south section did not protest the dilution of ladies special trains, one would need to study the class character of the women in South 24-Parganas.

A major chunk of women passengers in Sealdah south, whose main arteries run across the South 24-Pargans district, belong to economically and educationally weaker strata of the society. Most of them travel to Kolkata to sell agriculture produce. While they are used to the hardships of life, lack of education limit their capacity to protest.

This is not to suggest that there are no educated and office-going women in South 24-Pargans or that they do not travel by trains. But the number is much less.

In comparison, North 24-Pargans district has many industrial belts dotting around the railway network and the women who take the trains from there are mostly educated, at least a vast majority of them are.

They travel to go to office ~ both public and private, or for education. These women are aware of their rights and have the voice to protest. This is exactly what they recently did to oppose the dilution of ladies special trains.

It is true that the men in Bengal travel in trains in more difficult situation than the women and to reduce their plight, there is a need to increase the number of trains and run them punctually.

Curtailing on the women’s public space, what Eastern Railway had tried to do, is certainly not the answer.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN, West Bengal, India. This article first appeared on on 22 August 2015) 

Mamata govt to have discretion over chit fund prosecution


Saradha Scam

By bappaditya paul 

The West Bengal Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Establishments (Amendment) Bill, known as the chit fund bill in popular parlance, and scheduled to be introduced in the state Assembly on 18 June, proposes to give the state government the discretion on whether to prosecute a fraudulent financial institution / person.

The principal legislation, mooted in the aftermath of Saradha scam and which the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been touting as the panacea to curb fraudulent financial institutions, was cleared by the state Assembly in 2013.

But its becoming a law has been hanging fire for want of a Presidential assent, which finally came this March on the condition that the clause in the legislation that empowered it to override all existing laws would have to be amended.

Chit fund bill

Conforming to the advice, the state government has drafted an amendment to Section 22 (1) and (2) making it clear that the legislation will be implemented “in addition to, and not in derogation of any other law for the time being in force.”

But in drafting the amended version of the legislation, the state government has inserted a sub-clause in Section 9 (2) that gives an officer appointed by the state government the discretion on whether to grant permission to law enforcing agencies to prosecute an accused individual or group.

The officer, in this case, is identified as the Competent Authority and will be designated as the Director of Economic Offices. The newly inserted sub-clause Section 9 (2) (aa) empowers him / her: “to grant or withhold previous sanction for prosecution of an offence under Section 3.”

Section 3 pertains to irregularities such as failing to re-pay deposits, bonus, profit etc that constitute an offence under the chit fund law.

Asked to comment on this, senior high court advocate Arunava Ghosh said over the phone this evening: “The sub-clause in effect means that the state government will have the discretion on whether to prosecute a fraudulent financial company or individual instead of the law enforcing agencies. Prima facie this appears to me to be against the spirit of the Constitution.”

Arunavo Ghosh
Arunavo Ghosh

Mr Ghosh added that the amended bill, if and when it is passed by the state Assembly, should again have to be sent to the President for assent.

More so because, the state government has not accepted a suggestion by the Centre’s Department of Financial Services pertaining to compounding of offences for prosecuting a fraudulent financial group or individual.

“The suggestion of inclusion of a provision for compounding of offences has however not been considered for amendment on the ground that it will severely dilute the stringent provision of the principal Act,” reads a point in the statement of objectives and reasons in the amended bill that was circulated among the MLAs earlier last week.

(This report first appeared in The Statesman, India on 15 June 2015.)

Assemblies struggle to meet minimum sittings prescription

West Bengal Assembly
West Bengal Assembly

By bappaditya paul  

WEST BENGAL ASSEMBLY, like several of its counterparts, is failing to hold the minimum number of sittings in a year as had been recommended by a parliamentary panel.

According to the West Bengal Assembly secretariat, the House sat for 48 days in 2014 as against the 70 days sitting recommended for state legislatures having more than 40 MLAs by the 16th All India Whips’ Conference. The Bengal Assembly has 294 MLAs.

The scene is not looking any better this year either: while the House

was in session for 11 days in February-March; in case of the on-going extended Budget Session that is scheduled to last until 18 June, the actual days of business would be 26 days.

Prior to this, in 2011 the West Bengal Assembly was in session for 42 days, in 2012 for 41 days and in 2013 the figure came down to 30 days. But it is not that the Bengal Assembly alone is lagging behind when it comes to holding number of sittings in accordance with the recommendation.


“Gujarat Assembly sat for 32 days in 2011, for 30 days in 2012 and 33 days in 2013. In case of Tamil Nadu Assembly it was 33, 42 and 47 days; while the Bihar Assembly was in session for 34, 38 and 39 days, respectively,” said the Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee.

The Trinamul Congress ruled Bengal could probably take solace in the fact that the Left ruled Tripura Assembly too is failing to hold sittings for 70 days a year.

“Tripura Assembly sat for 13 days each in 2011 and 2012, and for 11 days in 2013,” Mr Banerjee said. Tripura Assembly has 60 MLAs.

The Bengal Assembly Speaker said that they had been working on to adhere to the parliamentary panel’s recommendation and the 48 days session in 2014 as compared to the 30 days held in 2013 was a testimony to that end.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 09 June 2015.)

Bengal eyes to double foreign tourists this year


Bengal Tourism logo

By bappaditya paul

THE NUMBER OF FOREIGN TOURISTS visiting West Bengal is expected to touch 28 lakh (2.8 million) in the current fiscal year ending March 2016, state tourism minister Bratya Basu told the West Bengal Assembly last week.

This is notwithstanding the alleged gang-rape of a Japanese tourist at Digha and other places in the state by a group of touts-turned-guides in November 2014, which many feared would deter foreigners from visiting Bengal.

According to Mr Basu, 5.04 crore (50.04 million) tourists visited Bengal in 2014 as compared to 2.67 crore (20.67 million) in 2013. Apart from the overall growth, the number of foreign tourists also rose to 14 lakh (1.4 million) from 12.45 lakh (1.245 million) in 2013, registering a growth of 12.44 per cent.


“Our estimate is that the overall number of tourists, as well as the number of foreign tourists, will get doubled this fiscal year (2015-2016),” the minister said. “This has been possible because of the high budget allocation in the past four years that led to improvement in tourism infrastructure in the state. The focus now is on medical, film and religious tourism.”

To keep up with the growth pace, Bengal government will soon embark on a publicity drive emulating the Vibrant Gujarat campaign and the famed private advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather was being hired for this, he said.

In fact, of the Rs 317 crore (3,170 million) budget approved by the state legislature for tourism department this fiscal year, 70 crore (700 million) has alone been earmarked for publicity and promotion.

In 2011-12 the budget allocation for tourism was Rs 44 crore (440 million), in 2012-13 Rs 90 crore (900 million), in 2013-14 Rs 120 crore (1,200 million) and in 2014-15 it was Rs 223 crore (2,230 million).

Air India starts flight service to Bengal’s greenfield Andal airport

Bengal Youth Affairs Minister Aroop Biswas (in white panjabi) and Labour Minister Moloy Ghatak (in yellow panjabi) along with Bengali film actors in front of the inaugural flight at Kazi Narul Airport at Andal near Asansol on Monday.
Bengal Youth Affairs Minister Aroop Biswas (in white panjabi) and Labour Minister Moloy Ghatak (in yellow panjabi) along with Bengali film actors in front of the inaugural flight at Kazi Narul Islam Airport at Andal near Asansol on Monday.

AN AIR INDIA FLIGHT on Monday became the first passenger flight to touch down and take off from the Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport at Andal near Asansol, thus marking the begining of commercial flight services at the Bengal’s first-ever private greenfield airport.

Air India’s subsidiary Alliance Air operated a 48-seater ATR aircraft from Kolkata to the Andal airport with some ministers of the Bengal government and local cine stars onboard the inaugural flight. The same group was aboard the return flight from Andal.

Andal airport has been developed by Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited (BAPL) in collaboration with Singapore based Changi Airports International (CAI). The 650-acre airport is located about 170 km away from Kolkata by road.

Now on, Alliance Air will operate flights between Kolkata and Andal on all days a week barring Friday. Flight AI-9713 will leave Kolkata at 5.05 pm to reach Andal at 5.40 pm. The return flight AI-9714 will depart from Andal at 6.05 pm arriving in Kolkata at 6.40 pm. 

The flights will save passengers from Durgapur the time-consuming road journey to Kolkata and provide them onward air connectivity to Air India’s Delhi and Mumbai flights the same evening. BAPL said in a statement that for the onward connectivity, they would facilitate a through check-in. 

The flights will meet a long-standing need of the residents of Asansol-Durgapur belt boasting power-intensive industries such as mining, iron and steel, metalwork, engineering, petrochemicals, and telecommunications. 


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