Tag Archives: Kolkata

Work starts in Kolkata for India’s first under-river Metro tunnel

BY BAPPADITYA PAUL

IT was in 1984 that Kolkata had gifted India the country’s first Metro railway. Now, 33 years down the line, the City of Joy has added another first to India’s urban transportation landscape.

The public sector Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd today, 14 April 2017, commenced work on digging up under river Metro rail tunnels that will connect Howrah to Salt Lake via north Kolkata.

The 520 metre long twin river tunnels, passing under the Hooghly river, are part of East-West Metro Corridor that KMRCL is constructing since 2009. The 16.55 km Metro corridor is to run from Salt Lake Sector-V to Howrah Maidan.

Today morning, KMRCL organised a puja at Ramkrishnapur Ghat located opposite to Howrah railway station on Hooghly river bank, seeking blessings of the river God. Following this, a tunnel boring machine ceremoniously began the tunnelling work.

“This is happening for the first time in the country. We have made all necessary arrangements to ensure safety of our workers and complete the task smoothly,” project manager Virendra Kaul said.

The proposed tunnels will be dug about 90 feet or 18 metres below the Hooghly river. They will run from below Howrah station post office at Howrah station-end, to Armenian Ghat, at Kolkata-end, about a 1-km away from the business hub Burrabazar.

Of the two underwater tunnels, one is for Howrah-bound Metro trains; the other is for Salt Lake-bound trains. KMRCL officials said that 250 workers will be working on the tunnels on a daily basis.

The target is to place 10 concrete rings a day, each of which measures 1.5 metres. Project engineers said that at this rate they should be able to complete the 520 metre twin tunnels in the next three months, that is, by end June.

Once this happens, Kolkata would have added yet another feather to its glory. People, however, shall have to wait at least until 2020 to ride a Metro train passing below the Hooghly river.

KMRCL has plans to throw open a near 7 km stretch from Salt Lake to Phoolbagan, off Sealdah station, by end 2018. The stretch between Phoolbagan to Howrah Maidan via Sealdah shall have to wait for the work to get completed.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 14 April 2017.)

 

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Rare scene in Bengal: RSS frontal organisations hold armed rallies on Ram Navami

By Bappaditya Paul

WEST Bengal today (05 April 2017) remained witness to something that it has rarely seen before and which might be an indication to the days that are in store for the state, so far widely believed to be liberal in nature!

Various frontal organisations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP today took out armed processions in different parts of the state to commemorate Ram Navami that celebrates the birthday of Hindu god Lord Ram.

Not only adult men, teenage boys and girls also took part in such processions, unfurling saffron flags in one hand and brandishing swords or similar weapons in the other. They shouted slogans like Jai Shri Ram, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, etc glorifying Lord Ram and the country.

Until now, such armed rallies could only be witnessed in Bengal during the annual Muharram processions by the Muslims. Albeit for the past few years, instead of brandishing actual weapons, participants in Muharram processions have been gradually switching over to wooden or plastic replicas of the same.

The armed Ram Navami processions that RSS and BJP frontal organisations today took out included one at Paddapukur (Bhowanipore) in the heart of Kolkata, at Kada Road in Durgapur, and Karidhya in Birbhum district.

Bhowanipore happens to be the home constituency of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Participants in the procession there included several BJP leaders and many of them moved at the front in motorbikes, wielding swords in hand.

Participants in the Durgapur procession were mainly teenage and college-going girls, sporting white salwar and saffron dhupatta, and had swords in their hand. Asansol, which is a neighbouring town of Durgapur, has a BJP MP and Union minister in Babul Supriyo.

But of all the processions taken out today, the one at Karidhya in Birbhum was the largest one comprising a few hundred youths and teenage boys. Almost all of them were brandishing swords or similar weapons. Birbhum has a sizeable number of Adivasi tribal population and has been witnessing occasional communal flareups for the past two years.

Upbeat by the turnout in the processions, Bengal BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said that it was “a good sign that Hindu population in Bengal has gained courage and was trying to unite by taking up arms.” Only such weapons that were used by Lord Ram have been brandished in the processions today, he added.

Apprehensive that BJP will gain political mileage by organising Ram Navami processions, Trinamool took out counter rallies in some parts of the state such as Howrah, Siliguri, and Birbhum. In Birbhum, Trinamool workers organised pujas of Lord Ram’s disciple Hanuman all over the district.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who addressed an administrative public meeting at Bankura today, hit out at the BJP accusing them of misusing Ram Navami. “This is a solemn festival celebrated in Bengal for ages. Don’t hijack Ram Navami and do not try to incite communal tension,” she cautioned the saffron party.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 5 April 2017.)

 

KALIKA PRASAD: MUSIC FROM THE PERIPHERY FALLS SILENT

By Bappaditya Paul

“When the news rang in, it felt like the earth beneath my feet had vanished, and I was falling into a bottomless abyss of darkness,” says Mon, from the ancestral house of noted folk singer Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya at Silchar in Barak Valley.

Mon, in her mid-20’s, is the cousin sister of Kalika, who passed away today morning in a terrible road accident at Gurap in Hooghly in West Bengal. They grew up under the same roof of the illustrious Bhattacharya family located at Silchar’s Central Road: albeit when Kalika was in college, Mon was barely a toddler.

Like Mon, no member of the large joint family could at first believe that Prasad (family and friends called him by this name) was actually no more.

“How could one come to terms with a crude reality like this? He was only 47, and yet had to take leave in such a terrible way,” wailed Prasad’s octogenarian uncle Madhusudhan Bhattacharya.

“He has been the brightest star of our family,” he adds. The statement could not have been more apt, given that the Bhattacharya family has a legacy to boast of. Silchar Sangeet Vidyalaya, one of the oldest institutes of Barak Valley, was set up by this family before Independence.

Kalika’s father Ram Bhattacharya was a known cultural organiser of Silchar; his uncle Mukundadas Bhattacharya was a famous danseur mostly known for his rendering of Sukanta Bhattacharya’s Ranar, and another uncle Ananta Bhattacharya had dedicated his entire life to collect and preserve the folk music of Barak Valley.

Kalika was born in Silchar in 1970, and just about the time he had started to drift away from breast milk to solid food, his mother gave birth to a daughter. This robbed him of the care that a kid is entitled to get from his mother as she was now engrossed in taking care of the new-born.

“But this, turned out to be a blessing for Prasad. His spinster paternal aunt, Anandamoyee Bhattacharya, took charge of him. She has all along been a very good singer (has been the principal of Silchar Sangeet Vidyalaya) and thus, started imparting music lessons to Prasad from a very tender age,” recalls Madhusudhan.

By the time, Kalika enrolled at Narsing Higher Secondary School in the town, his uncle Mukundadas Bhattacharya, had earned kudos as a danseur. Kalika would often play tabla as his uncle performed in Silchar and elsewhere.

Mukundadas was also an activist of the Communist Party’s Indian People’s Theatre Association, and this made several Communist leaders visit the family quite often. This introduced Kalika to the Left politics.

It did not take long for him to become an active member of CPI-M’s student wing SFI and in due course, its unit secretary in Silchar. At Guru Charan College, where Kalika studied BA, he was elected the general secretary of the SFI-led student union in 1989.

Just as Kalika was finishing college, his folk music collector uncle, Ananta Bhattacharya, passed away, leaving behind a treasure trove that he had accumulated over two decades. Kalika eventually took charge of the collection and started dusting them off. Until then, he was hardly into singing.

In 1996, Kalika came over to Kolkata to study master’s in Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University. He found accommodation at his elder cousin sister Bhabhani Chakraborty’s house at Santoshpur in south Kolkata.

By 1999, when Kalika completed his master’s by securing a gold medal, the popular music in Bengal had been taken over by music bands. With music in his blood, how could he not become a party to this? He did, but with a difference.

“Prasad decided to form a group to take the Bengali folk music from the periphery like Barak Valley to the centre stage in Bengal. He gathered a few others hailing from Barak Valley who lived in Kolkata due to professional obligations, and then went to a teacher of his at Jadavpur University requesting him to suggest a name for the group. Thus was born Dohar in 1999,” Madhusudhan tells.

Over the next few years, Kalika went on performing folk music in different parts of Bengal, many a times in fusion with other singing forms. In this, he largely benefited from the collection he had inherited from uncle Ananta Bhattacharya.

Dohar was yet to click the way it did a few years later, that in 2006, Kalika married Ritacheta Goswami, a JU junior from the Bengali department. Ritacheta, a native of Raiganj in north Bengal, is a school teacher by profession.

To run the family, Kalika took job with an FM radio channel in Kolkata in 2007. He quit the job in 2010, as this was affecting his music. Subsequently, he dedicated himself completely for Dohar, not only ending up earning the legendary status as a proponent of Bengali folk music in the recent times, but also got some commercial success.

He bought a flat at Santoshpur and lived there with wife and five-year-old daughter Ashabhari until today morning. Around 07 this morning, he went out in a hired Innova car  with his team to perform at a college in Birbhum’s Suri.

Around 08.50 am, the speeding car hit the railing of Durgapur Expressway at Gurap in Hooghly and then onto a culvert. The car was then flung into the air several feet below into a ditch and got almost twisted. Apart from Kalika, his team members Rajib Das, Sudipto Chakraborty (Kalika’s nephew), Niladri Roy, Sandipan Pal, and driver Arnab Rao were in the car.

Residents of the area rescued them and with the help of cops from Gurap police station, rushed to the Burdwan Medical College and Hospital. Kalika was declared brought dead; others are still under treatment.

Kalika’s demise has brought down a pall of gloom over Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee paid her last tribute at Nabanna when his mortal remains were transported to Kolkata from Burdwan around 4 pm.

The mortal remains were then kept at Rabindra Sadan, where, who’s who of Bengal’s music fraternity, offered their tribute. From there, the body has been taken to Keoratola Crematorium in the city for cremation with full state honours this evening.

Kalika’s younger singer Indrani Bhattacharya has flown down from Silchar to attend the cremation far away from his place of birth ~ a land that has given blood for Bengali language, more than once.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 7 March 2017.)

Grab one last copy as Hindustan Times shuts Kolkata edition from Monday

By Bappaditya Paul

COME Monday, 09 January, India’s leading English daily, Hindustan Times, would discontinue its edition from Kolkata after a stint of about 16 years in the City of Joy.

Employees at the Kolkata office of the second most widely read English news daily in India received an e-mail from their Delhi headquarters on 04 January informing about management’s decision to stop publishing from the city.

This, the management wrote, was being done with the aim of investing into “Digital Future” which the company thinks would be more rewarding. Independent web portal Newslaundry reports that the company would also stop publishing the editions from Ranchi, Bhopal, and Indore from the same day.

The move comes about a year since the company started imparting training to its Kolkata editorial staff into producing and publishing news on digital platforms. For the past near two months or so, Hindustan Times Kolkata edition began to publish more news online and made reporters and copy editors to publicise the same on social media.

An editorial staff with the Kolkata edition said that ever since getting the e-mail, the 120-odd employees here were in utter anxiety, fearing that they might be sacked.

“We hear that the company would barely retain three to five reporters in Kolkata,” he said on conditions of anonymity. On Monday, an executive editor of the newspaper from Mumbai is scheduled to visit Kolkata to announce the downsizing and the next course of action.

The strength of the editorial team of Kolkata edition ~ including reporters and copy editors ~ is around 40. Some of them have already started approaching other English dailies published from the city for opportunities.

This is the first instance in India of any major newspaper stopping to publish print editions as the media world marches into a digital era where news is consumed more on the Internet.

Hindustan Times had started its edition from Kolkata in early 2000 and this was followed by a satellite edition from Siliguri the next year. The Siliguri edition, however, was discontinued within a year or so, but the Kolkata edition continued despite making losses year after year.

Until the announcement on 04 January, everyone associated with Hindustan Times in Kolkata used to believe that the company would never stop publishing from here as the city was once the base of the Birlas, who own the newspaper.

The unforeseen move probably also indicates at the dying ad revenue market in Bengal due to the absence of major industries in the state.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 7 January 2017.)

‘Let’s wait for court judgement before commenting on JNU row’

By bappaditya paul

NOTWITHSTANDING the debate over police crackdown at JNU raging through the country, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has said that he would rather wait for the court judgment on the issue before giving his opinion.

“I am not an expert on this and am not aware of all the details. Many experts from both the political and apolitical spectrums are there to speak on the issue,” Satyarthi said when asked about his take on the nationalist versus anti-national debate that has cropped up centring the JNU episode. Satyarthi was interacting with media persons at Kolkata Press Club this afternoon.

Next, asked specifically about his views on the arrest of JNU Student Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, the Nobel laureate steered away from taking a stand. “The matter is already in court. Let us wait for the court judgement,” he said.

Satyarthi later qualified the response saying that he had returned from Latin America only three days ago and could gather little insights to form an opinion on the JNU issue. “In fact, I spoke to a friend to learn the details.”  

The 62-year rights activist was conferred the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his near four decade fight against child labour and child slavery.

Interestingly, the very next of the JNUSU president’s arrest on 12 February over alleged “anti-national” slogans, another Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, had remarked in Delhi that India as a nation had become too tolerant of intolerance. Sen made the comment while delivering a lecture about the right to dissent.

Satyarthi today said that according to him, there were three serious dangers to society and those were ~ apathy, fear, and intolerance. “But these are global phenomenon and not peculiar to India,” he said.

The foundation named after Satyarthi would launch a “100 million for 100 million campaign” later this year to ustilise youths across the globe to reach out to their deprived counter parts. “I see frustration, violence, and intolerance increasing among the young people. On the other hand, they are full of enthusiasm but their strengths are not being harnessed. To change this, I am planning the biggest campaign in human history wherein 100 million empowered youths would reach out to 100 million of their counterparts who are not empowered,” the Nobel laureate said.

The campaign would run both online and offline over the social and traditional media. Satyarthi has plans to rope in the universities in India to further the campaign.

Referring to the upcoming Union Budget, the Nobel laureate demanded an increase in allocation of funds for programmes related to children.

“In India, over 41 per cent of the population is below 18 years. But the budget spending on children education and healthcare combined is less than 4 per cent. If India wants to do justice to her children, the government must have to spend more on children,” Satyarthi said.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor NEWSMEN. This report first appeared in NEWSMEN on 20 February 2016.)

Kolkata Metro increases weekend trains from today

A Kolkata Metro train. File photo.
A Kolkata Metro train. File photo.

By bappaditya paul

BEGINNING TODAY (Saturday, 4 March) Metro Railway, Kolkata has increased the number of trains on weekends.

Now on, Metro Railway will operate 224 trains every Saturday instead of the previous 206 trains. On Sundays, the number of trains will be 110 as against the previous 94.

The minimum and maximum frequency of trains on Saturdays will be 7 minutes and 15 minutes, respectively; on  Sundays it will be 10 minutes and 20 minutes. Prior to this, the train frequency on Saturday ranged between 7 to 20 minutes and on Sunday it was between 15 to 30 minutes.

The increase in number of trains on weekends comes as a great relief for commuters who had been compelled to travel in crammed Metro coaches with the ever swelling crowd.

Metro Railway carries an average of 4.83-lakh passengers on Saturdays; on Sundays, it transports around 2.53 lakh passengers. As against this, the number of people travelling by Metro on weekdays is around 5.72 lakh when the number of trains operated is 274 a day.

Redundancy link to avert ATC downtime

BSNL MOVE COMES AFTER OFC LINK FAILURE AT KOLKATA AIRPORT ON 18 OCTOBER

By bappaditya paul
State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is setting up a redundancy microwave link to Kolkata airport to ensure uninterrupted feed from various air surveillance apparatus and radars from different locations in eastern India in the event of a snap in the existing primary optical fibre cable (OFC) link.BSNL LogoThe redundancy link is expected to become operational next week.
The move comes close on the heels of a BSNL OFC link failure on 18 October that had blacked out automated flight data transmission to the Kolkata Air Traffic Control (ATC) for nearly 10 hours; the controllers had salvaged the situation by falling back on an old mechanism that uses Very High Frequency (VHF) radio communication to locate and guide flights in the sky.

“Taking lessons from the incident, we have taken up two remedial measures. First, we are setting up a redundancy microwave link to the ATC building that will provide direct connectivity from our Dum Dum main exchange. Secondly, we are laying an OFC line interlinking the old and new terminals at Kolkata airport,” said Mr Asim Kumar Sinha, the spokesperson for BSNL’s Calcutta Telephones that serves the city airport.Mircrowave linkElaborating on the matter, Mr Sinha said that the existing OFC link to Kolkata ATC has “two circuits” for transmitting feeds from eight automatic dependant surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) units and nine radar stations located at different places in eastern India (including one inside Kolkata airport). “We will provide two more circuits on the redundancy microwave link so that in the event of a failure in the primary OFC link, feeds to the ATC remains uninterrupted,” he said.

Calcutta Telephones has already started work on the microwave link that includes installation of a microwave system and antenna at the ATC and another dedicated antenna at Dum Dum exchange. “The work will be over in next two-three days and the redundancy link will hopefully to become operational latest by early next week,” the officer maintained. Kolkata AirportAs regards interlinking Kolkata airport’s new and old terminal with an OFC line, the idea is to provide one more backup for the crucial flight operations and control services.

“We already have a microwave link to the new terminal and we are going to have a redundancy microwave link in the old terminal by next week. Now the idea is to interlink the two terminals with OFC so that in the event of a link failure in one terminal, the link from the other terminal will automatically shoulder the load and everything will run uninterrupted,” Mr Sinha explained.     Kolkata ATC consoleKolkata ATC carries out very important functions vis-à-vis flight services over entire eastern India and parts of the north-west India. Besides handling the near 300 flights that fly in and out of the Kolkata airport every day, it also
monitors around 700-800 aircraft that over-fly the Kolkata Flight Information Region (FIR) daily.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 30 October 2014.)

Reel and reality of Kolkata Metro help-lines

LACK OF MOBILE CONNECTIVITY IN METRO TUNNELS MAKES MOCKERY OF SECURITY HELPLINES

By bappaditya paul
A young woman travelling in a crowded Metro train is being constantly shoved by a man; she feels uncomfortable and moves away. The man repositions himself and continues to harass the woman, compelling her to directly ask him to behave. But this warning too going in vain, the woman rings up the Metro Help Line from her mobile phone. Officials manning the help line acts promptly and the man is arrested by Railway Protection Force the moment he steps of out of the train at a next Metro station.No Signal 1This is a promotional video that Metro Railway airs day in and day out on TV sets installed on platforms of all its stations. Now cut to the reality:

Last Monday, Antara Kanungo (24) boarded a Metro from Netaji (Kudghat) station for Central and got a corner seat in the ladies’ section. A flock of young men boarded the train from Rabindra Sarobar and stood huddling together beside the door; one of them rested his back on the handrail of Antara’s seat. She requested the youth to stand straight; instead of obliging, he gave her a dirty look and asked her to travel by taxi if she was averse to such touch. A co-traveller voiced a protest only to be booed down by the loutish youths.

Outraged, Antara dialed the Metro Help Line from her mobile but alas there is no signal on her Vodafone connection! The co-passenger with Airtel connection offers help but the signal fails her as well.No signal woman“I felt so helpless. The man got down at Esplanade much before I stepped out on the Central station platform and my phone’s signal became live again,” Antara said in a frustrated tone.

It is, however, not an issue with Vodafone or Airtel signal alone; mobile signal of no operator is available in Metro trains when they pass through tunnels. Signals are partially available only on Kolkata Metro ticketing areas and platforms where the operators have installed “repeaters or micro BTS” for which they pay an annual license fee to Metro Railway. These repeaters or micro BTS have a low coverage area.

But as if oblivious of this, Metro Railway in January this year introduced two help lines ~ a Women Help Line and Security Help Line ~ to enable passengers to contact from moving train should there be a need.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), whose members include almost all big private mobile operators, are not willing to shoulder the blame.
“There is no (mobile) signal as the tunnels are not wired with network,” said Mr V K Cherian, COAI’s director corporate communications, without clarifying whether their members would take initiative to address the issue.No SignalAsked about the modalities on which private operators were charged for installing micro BTSs at Metro stations and why they were failing to ensure connectivity inside the tunnels, Metro Railway’s Chief Traffic Manager (CTM) Mr K V Rao, refused to respond. “This is not linked to public interest and hence I will not respond,” Mr Rao said in a rude tone unbecoming of a senior railway officer. In Metro it is the CTM who looks after all commercial aspects such as renting out a space or facility to a private entity.

Metro Railway spokesperson, Mr R N Mahaptra, however, said that they were “working closely with all operators to ensure mobile connectivity inside the tunnels.”

In December 2013, at a cost of Rs 18-crore, Metro had introduced in its trains and tunnels a dedicated internal mobile telecommunications facility called GSM-R for the use of its train drivers. Metro sources said that the plan now was to lease out a bandwidth from GSM-R to the private mobile operators so that they could provide connectivity to the subscribers.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 3 August 2014.)

Green signal via fare hike

KOLKATA METRO CUTS DOWN LOSSES FIRST TIME IN RECENT YEARS

By bappaditya paul 
Thanks to the fare hike in November last year, Metro Railway for the first time in recent memory has cut down losses and has improved its operating ratio.   Kolkata Metro AC rakeIn the 2013-14 fiscal year that ended on 31 March, Metro reported an operating loss of Rs 110.84 crore. But the silver lining for Kolkata’s lifeline is that, the loss this time was Rs 14.16 crore less than the previous year; in 2012-13 the loss was Rs 125 crore.

Consequent to this, Metro Railway’s operating ratio has improved to Rs 286 from what was Rs 328 the previous year. This means, during 2013-14, Metro Railway spent Rs 286 to earn every Rs 100; this is an improvement of Rs 42.

This is a good sign as Metro has been in the red for over a decade now and the losses were mounting up year after year. In 2010-11 the operating loss was Rs 83.91 crore, in 2011-12 Rs 99.26 crore and in 2012-13 Rs 125 crore. Metro Bhavan Kolkata Sources in Metro Railway said that in 2013-14, Metro’s total work expenditure stood at Rs 255.89 crore and the gross earning was Rs 145.05 crore. As regards the quarter-to-quarter earnings, it registered a remarkable leap in passenger revenue in the third and fourth quarter, that is, between October and March.

“The Metro fare was hiked on 7 November. Consequent to this, we witnessed Rs 10.84 crore increase in passenger revenue during October to December and Rs 16.33 crore increase during January to March. This has largely helped us to cut down the losses,” said a senior official in Metro Railway.  Kolkata Metro trainIn November, the Metro fare was hiked by 25 to 85 per cent based on different distance slabs: Rs 5 for a journey up to five km, Rs 10 for 5-10 km, Rs 15 for 10-20 km, Rs 20 for 20-25 km and Rs 25 for 25-30 km. Prior to that, Metro used to charge Rs 4 up to five km, Rs 6 for 5-10 km, Rs 8 for 10-15 km, Rs 10 for 15-20 km, Rs 12 for 20-25 km and Rs 14 for 25-30 km.

In 2013-14 Metro Railway carried 19.52 crore passengers as compared to the 18.83 crore who traveled the previous year.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 28 May 2014.)

Election Commission procures 4,600 Secret Seals from Kolkata Mint

SECRET SEALS ARE USED TO SECURE ELECTION RESULT DOCUMENTS & EVM CONTROL UNITS AFTER COUNTING

By bappaditya paul

After a gap of several years, the Election Commission (EC) this time is coming up with new Secret Seals to secure documents containing election results and the Control Unit of Electronic Voting Machines after the counting of votes.    Kolkata MintThe EC has procured 4,600 new Secret Seals from the Kolkata Mint and those will be directly sent to the returning officers of all the Lok Sabha constituencies throughout the country a day or two before the poll. The seals will be allotted at the rate of one seal per Assembly segment.

According to an EC source, the handle of the new Secret Seal is made of PVC whereas the previous one used to have wooden handle. Besides this, a few more security features have been added to the seal that is made of brass but the official declined to divulge the changes. “All I can tell is that like its previous version, the new seal also contains the signage ‘Election Commission of India’ in English and Hindi and each of the seals comes with an unique serial number.” Election Commission of India logoIn mid last year when the EC decided to procure new Secret Seals, both the Kolkata and Mumbai Mint sent samples to fetch the order. But on evaluating the samples, the poll penal opined in favour of the one sent by Kolkata Mint and it was formally awarded the contract in August-September last year.

“Kolkata Mint completed manufacturing the 4,600 seals recently and the consignment is now being delivered to the EC headquarters in Delhi. The order was worth about Rs 50-lakh,” the EC source added.

A retired EC official said that the Secret Seal are not usually changed during every poll and rather they are put to reuse every time. “The same set of Secret Seals have been in use for the past several years before the poll panel decided to procure new ones. The move could be aimed at negating the chances of manipulation that someone might attempt by manufacturing duplicates of the seal,” he said.EVMGoing by the standard operating procedure, the Secret Seal is used to reseal the Control Unit (CU) of an EVM after the result of voting recorded in the CU has been ascertained candidate-wise and entered in Form 17C and Form 20 enlisting the result details. The resealed CU and result documents are stored in a strong room and is reopened only after a stipulated period fixed by the EC or under the order of a court.

A returning officer is required to send the Secret Seal back to the poll panel within 24-hours of the counting of votes.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 12 March 2014 under a different headline.)