Thursday, December 30, 2010

Loharinag Pala

I attended the first meeting of the NGRBA (Ganga Authority) Steering Committee meeting at North Block Delhi yesterday. I found, for the first time, that Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee who was chairing the meeting, a bit annoyed at Uttarakhand, and even lose his cool for a brief while. The issue was Loharinag Pala.
At Loharinag Pala of Uttarakhand, NTPC was constructing a Hydroelectric Project. There was agitation that this would disturb the environment and the would adversely affect the Ganga river. But work had already started. Govt of Uttarakhand demanded compensation for the stopped project from Govt of India. To this, Pranab Mukherjee reacted sharply. He argued that this would open floodgate where future projects might start without environment clearance and then demand compensation for stopping it due to non-receipt of environmental clearances. He argued that both development and environment should go in parallel and both were joint responsibility of central and state governments and question of compensation cannot arise. A group of secretaries were formed to see if additional electrical power could be made available to Uttarakhand.
There was a rare faux pas at the beginning of the meeting. Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde complained that though he was present in the previous meeting of NGRBA presided over by PM, the minutes circulated did not mention his attendance. Shri Jairam Ramesh apologised and promised that revised minutes would be circulated immediately.
At 9.30 pm, we met Union FM at his office. He will go to Fulbari in Jalpaiguri district to inaugurate a land custom station.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Meeting of Task Force on PPP for Affordable Housing

The first meeting of the National Task Force on PPP for Affordable Housing was held today in Delhi. I came out of the PPP seminar at ITC Maurya at 11 am and went to Nirman Bhavan to attend the meet as its member. I outlined the West Bengal experience including JVC/Assisted Sector initiated projects where 50% of the housing stock must be for EWS/LIG. I told of on-line plan sanction in New Town, which basically works on a system of self certification by professionals like registered architects.
I was assigned the task of doing an in-depth study as to how Development Authorities can help PPP ventures in getting projects cleared quickly for Affordable Houses to take place in the PPP / Private Mode. The self-certification route is also to be explored more fully. As suggested by Secretary Ms Kiran Dhingra, I think I'll do a case study in ADDA (Asansol Durgapur Development Authority.
.I have a month to do so. 
(Posted at T3 Airport Terminal Delhi: flight to Kolkata delayed by one and a half hour. It will leave at 9.25 pm it seems)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PPP Conclave at Delhi....2

Today was the first of the two-day seminar on PPP at Delhi. It is happening in ITC Maurya. It started at 9.30am and eneded at 7.20 pm: a long but useul day. Pranab Mukherjee and Montek Singh Ahluwalia were there in the inaugural session.
In the panel discussion at the Water Exchange, I made the following points:
(1) Capacity building is a step in right direction. But manpower shortage at ULB levels is also a real problem.
(2) Correct DPR and clear assessment of UfW (Unaccounted-for-Water) is necessary for PPP
(3) Chairpersons of ULBs must be sensitised. Political 'race to the bottom' (water user charges are being made free) must be stopped.
(4) For equity reasons (how will the poor pay water user charges?), PPP for water may succeed better for supplementary quality water supply system coexisting with municipal water system (think of the co-existence of bottled/mineral water and municipal tap water or co-existence of unleaded 'normal' petrol and 'speed' fuel).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Green Modules for New Urban Spaces - Workshop

I attended the workshop at Sonnet today, after being exempted from the High Court where I had to appear first thing in the morning.
 I learnt a lot. Some things that stuck:

(1) We must follow an alternate path for development. We must recognise that the city system is a living organism, and planning must aim to re-inforce the natural fluxes (water, sun, wind etc). For example, streets must be laid keeping wind direction in view.
(2) Walk to work: socially acceptable compact city form must be developed.
(3) Energy efficient, climate resilient city design
(4) Comfort of public space (no rushing from one air conditioned zone to another ac zone in an ac vehicle). Linear green and blue open spaces (I also thought of Shantiniketan's Chhatimtala).
(5) Behaviour change (cycle for poor, car for rich: change mindset)
(6) Freight transport management
(7) RRR (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), PPPP (Public Private people Partnership)
(8) French drain (perforated drainage pipes to allow groundwater recharging) & permeable pavements
(9) Congestion tax to subsidise cycles

I also made a few remarks.
It was a pleasure meeting Jeffry again: I thought what he said made sense. It was gratifying to note that even Dr Johannes Flacke  was in the audience: I knew he'd be flying back to Germany today. Interacting and hearing Prof Misra and other speakers were also great.
* * *
In the evening, I was in a lively panel discussion at the Palladium Lounge. It was organised by Young Indians / CII. I remembered that I attended one event of CII/Yi last year too, when I was in the Election Commission. It was great meeting Dr Kedia once again.
This time we talked on Innovations in Urbanisation. I thought it went off well. At the end (after saying a lot of other things including citizen behaviour change, I suggested that we should launch a campaign "Amaar Kolkata" (My Calcutta). I thought it struck a chord with the audience

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Planning Seminar in Haldia on Monday

I stayed through the day in the Planning Meet at Haldia on Monday (13th Dec). This was about adoption of scientific methodology for urban land planning (LUDCP).
I liked how Prof TNMajumdar of IIT analysed Haldia's transportation goof-ups. The presentation was clear, logical and concise. Over lunch, I discussed if he could suggest a new road alignment that will open up industrial possibilities and if Durgachak-Haldia can be developed as a bipolar township through a rapid transport (metro rail / Bus rapid transport) link.
 I also became acquainted with Dr Johannes Flacke of ITC University, Netherlands and his work. He told us how ITC is making complex GIS applications fit for citizen consultation through large touch tables ("giant i-phone-like screens"). We agreed over lunch that it'd be a good idea to visit his university if and when I ever visit Netherlands (I'd been to Amsterdam in 2004 on a 2-day visit when I was studying in ENA, France).
Ms Anandita Sengupta, who is doing a research project with Dr Flacke, also made a presentation. The basic idea of mapping vulnerability by judging the hazardousness of an industry (think of Bhopal) and the susceptibility of houses (think of mud houses vs concrete houses) was quite innovative, I thought.
All in all, it was a day very well spent (I left Kolkata at 6.30 am and returned at 8 pm) where I learnt a lot and also presented my views from a macro level, during the inaugural session.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

PPP Conclave on Dec 22-23

The Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs, Govt of India is organising a one day India PPP Conclave followed by an international PPP X-change on 22-23 Dec at Delhi. I've been invited to attend it. I went to the North Block today (in between two meetings at Delhi) and ascertained the details.I'm also likely to be a panel speaker since I'd been the co-ordinator for the report on urban PPP by MoUD earlier.
The event is being organised by DEA in collaboration with Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank. I quote below the objective of the conclave:

"The objective of the conclave is to take stock of developments in the PPP space so far and set course for the future, so that the target of private participation for the XII Plan period, which has tentatively been fixed at US$ 500 billion can be achieved".
* * *
I attended a meeting at the Planning Commission in the morning. Among other things, I told that a Rs. 1,500 cr World Bank project preparation on development of secondary cities is being held up because of the conditionality imposed by World Bank that they would first like legislative action for withdrawal of the Urban Land Ceiling Act.

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Ecologically Sustainable, Economically Productive and Socially Equitable"

I am in the gleaming T3 Delhi Airport now, waiting to board the 8.50pm Jet Airways flight to Kolkata. I drove straight from the venue of the National Conference.
FM Pranab Mukherjee said that our urban strategy should be ecologically sustainable, economically productive and socially equitable. I thought he expressed it quite well.
* * *
Mayor of Kanpur described how the State CM was denuding all Mayors of UP of all authority and role, thus making a mockery of the 74th Constitutional Amendment. This was a little while after someone commented on the dais that capacity building was not a prerequisite for devolution of powers to the Urban Local Bodies: after all, Churchill did not insist on training up India's leaders before granting her independence !
* * *
Many states and cities received awards. I felt a little sad that West Bengal didn't get any. I sort of connected with the Mayor of Raipur who said that she was new but would 'snatch' an award next year. ...But can we?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

National Conference on JnNRUM tomorrow

I am in Delhi today. A National Conference on JnNRUM will be inaugurated by Shri Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow. I'll attend. I collected the passes etc. Learnt that they don't allow laptops, mobiles (not surprising) but not even pendrives (rather surprising) inside the auditorium.
* * *
I went to the Planning Commission today. I was told that they had not agreed to the diversion of money from UIG to UIDSSMT. This was proposed earlier by the State Govt.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I went to Durgapur yesterday. After the review meeting on JnNRUM, I sat with officers and planners of ADDA who are involved in the project for resettlement of subsidence-prone villages. I learnt that a possible site is located at Bomjemari, close to Maithon dam (pic on left) near Jharkhand border. About 2-3 lakh people will be rehabilited at this and other locations. Although it is a long-term project, calling for huge resources over the years, I talked about things that we may take into consideration while making plans for the new town.
It is not often that one gets a greenfield town project, especially in a densely populated state like West Bengal. I urged the planners to think 'out of the box'. I indicated that our focus now may centre around more green spaces for the children and citizens to move around, taller buildings, more underground utilities and transport hubs (I told them about the Masdar City project in Abu Dhabi), energy and carbon neutrality, optimising wind use and generally looking two or three decades into the future.
I plan to visit the spots next month or so.
On my way to Durgapur,  I stopped by to visit the housing project called Rennaissance in Burdwan. The project is a joint venture of BDA (Burdwan Development Authority). I saw two model houses (pic at right) and quite liked them. I advised them to built in some environment friendly features into the project if possible.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

National Aquatic Animal of India.

Photo taken today by me at Chandannagar
I saw the National Aquatic Animal today.
This was in Bansberia.
I was in course of a day-long tour of inspection of ongoing works under the NGRBA (National Ganga River Basin Authority). We will have a formal review meeting on Monday in Kolkata. Before this, I thought I'll see a few projects myself. I set out with my officers (Mr Chunar De and others) in the morning. Around noon, as I was in the developed riverfront at Bansberia, I spotted a Dolphin. Government of India has recently declared Ganga Dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal. The Ganga Dolphin is greatly under threat from extinction. I quote below some relevant information (the link follows):
In India, the Ganges River Dolphin is threatened by river water pollution and
siltation, accidental entanglement in fishing nets, and poaching for their oil. In
addition, alterations to the rivers in the form of barrages and dams are separating

Just as the Tiger represents the health of the forest, just as the Snow Leopard
represents the health of the mountainous regions, and the Cheetah, the health of
grasslands, the presence of the Dolphin in a river system signals its good health and

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Regional Seminar on Habitat

I attended the Regional Seminar on Housing and Habitat Policy yesterday. 18 states were invited but not many could make it. The Andhra experience seemed interesting: they had been making pucca houses in slums even though land ownership did not vest with the occupier.

Secretary (MA) Andhra Pradesh stated that South Africa and Australia had done great work in controlling street vendors. I supported his suggestion to GoI that a study tour with representatives from states may be organised to these countries.

Joint Secretary GoI MoHUPA Mr Singh requested that like Rajasthan and few other states, others may also frame a State Policy on Habitat and Housing. I think I'll initiate a note soon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Interview with Michaef Scharff of Princeton University

Michael Scharff is a Senior Research Specialist of the Princeton University, USA. He is doing a project called "Innovations for Successful Societies". He met me at my office yesterday and we talked at length about how we did Vulnerability Mapping of polling stations in the General Elections in 2009. The audio interview was recorded on a hard disc and I signed a form saying that I didn't have any objection to the interview being used by Michael's work.
We are scheduled to meet again on Friday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Draft Outdoor Advertising Policy

I held a meeting today with the Planning Unit of KMDA and others including police, HIDCO, PWD etc to frame a policy for regulating outdoor advertisements in Kolkata.
A detailed draft was presented by the planners. I remarked that this should conform to KMC Act, Municipal Act, NHAI Act, KoPT Act etc which may have overlapping jurisdictions. But we all agreed that visula pollution should be contained in a fair manner.
 It was gratifying to note that a beginning has been made.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Singapore Visit

I'm writing this from the Singapore Airport lounge of Singapore Airlines. It is 7.40pm now and the boarding will start within an hour. Should reach Kolkata by 10.40 pm today.

The visit sponsored by the World Bank was very useful. I was amazed how a city-country only 700 sq km (max 43 km one way) can develop so well. In course of our interaction with their agencies, I saw in photos and presentations how things were just as bad as in India in the 70s - Singapore was independent in 1965 - and it is amazing to see how they are now. My last fortnight's memory of Boston / New York is almost merging with that of Singapore.

What are the take-aways from this visit? To my mind, it is this: there is no short cut, but if there is a will to undertake a longish journey, then we can too.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Minor headway in planning commission

In Delhi today. Visited Planning Commission (Yojana Bhavan) thrice. Couldn't meet Member-Secretary. Emails didnt work. Telephones didnt establish contact. But she herself had asked me to contact her on 2nd Nov morning after me and minister met her with prior appointment on 1st Nov. Earlier, even the minister had to once return without meeting her despite appointment.

At 6 pm, met Joint Secretay. Took long to convince him to take a look at our proposal of augmenting funds to UIDSSMT. Let's wait further

Monday, November 1, 2010

National Meet on Ganga by PM

Just back from meeting that took place at 7 Race Course Road, New Delhi - the Prime Minister's
residence. The meeting was chaired by Dr Manmohan Singh, PM who is also the Chairman of NGRBA (National Ganga River Basin Authority). It started at 6 pm and ended at around 7.30 pm today. Security is immense and despite my name being given to them, I was asked to get down from the Banga Bhavan official car, frisked and taken by another car to the venue, counterchecks at all transits by security. .The hall was quite big: I think there were 40 or more seated in a rectangular formation. PM was hearing athe blue turban and black half jacket and white shirt. He also had a pencil in hand and made occasional notes. To his right sat Pranab Mukherjee, and to his left Union Power Minister and Union Urban Dev Minister. Dy Chairman Planning Commission and Jairam Ramesh were also there. On behalf of CM West Bengal, Shri Asok Bhattacharya spoke. CM / Ministers of other states also spoke and so did the non-official members.
PM extended the meeting by about half an hour to allow the non-official members to have their say.
This was my first face to face meeting with PM. I, however, did not speak.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Leadership, according to Harvard

"Leadership is the activity of mobilising people to confront and productively address problematic realities for the purpose of improving the human conditions"
-Harvard Business School's Defifinition in "leadership for the 21st Century", Harvard, USA 17-22 Oct 2010
Changing colours in Maple Trees, Harvard

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Ten Angry Men"

Yesterday at Harvard, there was this amazing session on how to deal with a group and how even one person can reverse the majority opinion by adopting suitable strategy. The movie was interrupted frequently with comments and discussions and analyses with expert and pecise handling by the Professor.
 A great way to learn.

(Pic shows Harvard Law School Campus where I'm staying)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

World Habitat Day

The first Monday of every October is celebrated as the World Habitat Day by the UN. That day was yesterday. The event was held in Sisir Mancha. The Vice Chancellor of BESU delivered the key address.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Nomination for Two Week Training at JFK School, Harvard University

Today morning I got a formal communication from Department of Personnel and Training, Govt of India that I have been nominated to attend the following courses at JFK School, Harvard University, USA:
(1)  Mastering Negotiation: Building Agreement across Boundaries (10-15 Oct 2010)
(2) Leadership for the 21st Century; Chaos, Conflict (17-22 Oct 2010)
Along with me, 3 others have also been nominated including Vandana Krishna, my batch-mate in Maharashtra.
There are now the innumerable procedures of Visa, ticketing, state govt clearance, MEA political clearance etc.
* * *
Deepak has been helping me a lot. Alapan also helped me.  So did Atanu Palodhi. Thanks to all of you.  I hope I am able to make it. I would dearly wish so.
Yesterday, I got myself photographed for visa: since application is done on-line, I didn't take any print-out but took the photo in my pen-drive. Here it is:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ayodhya Verdict & CS Farewell

Yesterday, the proceedings of MA Department at Sisir Mancha were terminated prematurely (by lunchtime) as the Ayodhya verdict was to be delivered later in the afternoon.
* * *
The IAS Association gave farewell to outgoing Chief Secretary. I joined the contributory lunch at the Palladium.
 * * *
I got this telephonic information yesterday afternoon from the Director DoPT, GoI about a possible 2-week training at Harvard University from 10th October. My office kept in touch with them today - but no communication was received till evening.
* * *

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meeting with Jaipal Reddy, Union Minister of UD

Today morning, I met Shri Jaipal Reddy at his residence at Delhi. I found visitors waiting outside the house even early in the morning when we arrived. We took tea and home made namkeen. I found him remarkable articulate and knowledgeable. He described himself as a 'free intellectual' who has chosen to be in a political party ! On the whole, I found him stimulating and we even talked of CWG and Ayodhya Verdict.
This was my first face-to-face meeting with him.
* * *
Went to Election Commission. My name, along with others, has been recommended to UNDP Delhi as a Voter Registration (IT) expert for supporting Nigeria's Independent Election Commission by the Election Commission of India. Let us see now how it proceeds.
* * *
Met Mr Dilip Chenoy, MD NSDC at the Coffee Shop in Le Meridien, Delhi. Had a fruitful discussion with him and Prabhat over lunch. This was about my Skill Development Institute proposal.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review Meeting at ITC Sonar Banga

Yesterday there was the eastern region review meeting on BSUP (Basic Services for the Urban Poor) and RAY (Rajiv Awasan Yojana) at ITC Sonar Bangla. This was taken by Ms Kiran Dhingra, Secretary to GoI (MoHUPA): her exposition on RAY was very useful. There was this small avoidable incident over a comment by xxx (.."you are lying"...) when Mayor Asansol Municipal Corporation was speaking at the podium; Mayor was saying that his sanction under BSUP was reduced unilaterally by KMDA without asking them.
The evening before, I joined Ms Dhingra and the GoI team at dinner at ITC (Pan asia). Food was very good.
Yesterday evening, Star Ananda took a "byte" our decision to waive off fees for unemployed youths to use residential land at Salt Lake for non-residential purposes. Today's papers also carried a story quoting the minister.
Today evening we had an interaction with Louis Berger group on their study "Designing Green Urban Spaces for West Bengal". DFID was also there.

(Posted at Kolkata Airport)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tara News and EVM

On Saturday, I had an interaction with the Election Commissioner of Bangladesh Brigadier General M. Shakhawat Hussain (retd) at theTara News studio. It was moderated by anchor Mr Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal, MP of Bangladesh. It was not a live recording: it will be telecast on Saturdays (9.30 pm I guess - they'll let me know later) and repeated on Sundays at 2.30 pm. There will be 3 episodes, 30 mintes each.
We compared the Bangladesh electoral system with Indian one.We talked of electoral reforms. We talked of ways in which role of money and muscle power could be reduced during elections.
..I was back to my old days !

Here is the link:
* * *
On Sunday I completed the article "Vote jantra janar adhikar" (Right to know the Voting Machine). I sent it to my friend Dipakbabu who'll publish it in his new tabloid.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sector 5 (Salt Lake) Water

In Salt Lake sector 5, there is the IT township. Water is now taken from underground: this is non-sustainable. So a PPP project is being commissioned. It is expected to be commissioned later this year. But water supply from surface water has still some rough edges to smooth. Talks are on with KMC (Kolkata Municipal Corporation). Today's Times of India has published a story. Here is the link:
* * *
Yesterday we had this meeting on EM By Pass land. Chief Secretary Chaired. Pr Secretary Land. RRR and me were there. Decision was postponed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Two important things about the National Ganga River Basin Authority happened today:

1. I got the Government's approval for the Implementation structure of NGRBA. There will be a Core Committee headed by Minister of UD, a State Unit Headed by me and a full time Project Director and a set of Implementing Agencies such as a 51:49 JVCo (to be formed) and others such as KMC etc

2. I got a letter from Govt of India stating that I, along with other States' Secretaries, may have to go to Singapore for a couple of days in third week of October 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Alliance Francaise and State Govt in Partnership?

Yesterday M. Martinez, Director of Alliance Francaise, Kolkata came to see me. We've given AF some land at 12 Ballygunj Circular Road some time ago. To get a win-win situation, we talked of ways in which we could make a joint venture, ie, build up a new building together in the whole plot of land (only a part of which has been given to AF) so that we get maximum floor area together.
But that will need a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) first.
* * *
I found that my French has been growing increasingly rusty. I gave up trying it with Monsiuer Martinez after a while!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mixed Residential Zones in Salt Lake, Kolkata

I have been arguing that the concept that residential, commercial and industrial zones in a town should be separate and distinct is a faulty one. This only creates unnecessary commuting between home and office, leading to extra carbon emissions. In fact in Salt Lake we are now breaking the residential and non-residential "silos" and permitting mixed use. That is, residential plot owners can now use up to 40% of their floor space as non-polluting non-residential purposes on payment of a fee (Rs. 80 per sq ft)
Yesterday we even reduced this fee.
For non-profit making institutions, there will be a waiver of 50%. For unemployed youths there will be a full 100% waiver: they only have to pay an application fee of Rs. 500.
In all cases, there will be a rebate of 10% if existing users pay up by December 31, 2010.
The link is at:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

East West Metro Rail

Yesterday I went to Pouro Bhabhan, Salt Lake and had a meeting with KMRC, Chairperson Bidhannagar Municipality and our officers.
I am hopeful of a solution.
Here are two links to Anandabazar and Bartaman that reported on this:
* * *
Yesterday I also spoke at a seminar on Urban Design at Town Hall, in the morning, before going to the Salt Lake meeting. I hope to uplink the transcript on the web and provide a link.*
Yesterday evening,I had a detailed discussion with the CEO Of Saffron Consulting Firm, Avik Chattpoadhaya, and had an engaging discussion on branding West Bengal
* The link is:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

PPP Report Submission at Delhi

Handed over the PPP report today at Delhi to Shri Navin Kumar, Secretary to Govt of India, Ministry of Urban Development. He asked me about the major problem of PPP in urban sector. I mentioned some of the points included in the executive summary.

I also handed over copies to Sm Sudha Krishna (JS & FA MoUD), Govind Mohan (JS DEA), L.P.Sonkar (Advisor,Planning Commission) and left copies for others in MoUD/DEA/MoEF.

* * *
Met Jairam Ramesh, UnMoS MoEF again at his office at Delhi while I accompanied Asoke Bhattacharya, MIC UD WB. I mentioned to him that India Today had observed on his "homespun khadi whiter than the orchids of Niyamgiri" !
* * *
After a long time, went to Nirvachan Sadan. Felt like was in home territory again ! I met DG IEC Mr Akshay Raut who'd rung me in the morning. It seems they might forward my name for a UN assignment at Nigeria for 3 months as an election expert. Will be a great thing if it matures.

Vendor Policy & State Statistical Cell

I attended a rather hilarious meeting today on street vendor policy. There was this very vocal spokesman who wanted fullest rights and autonomy to vendors all over the cities and wouldn't even agree to any security restrictions if required, not to speak of rights of pedestrians or convenience of traffic. And there was the one who demanded pension and payment of insurance premia by the state. Someone would not agree to any no-vending zone while someone talked about exchange of money between vendors and police to settle or evict vendors (and this led to heated exchange of words).Somebody talked about the right to occupy one-third of every footpath by a vendor while someone said that vendors corroborated to Copenhagen Summit resolutions as they emit least carbon emissions. NGOs were not to be trusted but Central Trade Unions; police and municipalities are not to be trusted ("think of Operation Sunshine") and all decisions were to be taken by Town Vendor Committees of which 40% (why 40%? I wondered?) I briefly commented about the possible difficulty in dealing with succession (death/ old age) and induction of new vendors.

The meeting took place in Writers' Buildings, in the office chamber of Minister of Urban Development. Minister announced that there would be a survey of street vendors but that all would ensure that no additional vendors occupied the streets to be counted.
* * *
Before that I attended the first meeting of the committee on State Statistical Bureau. I seems that (finally) the govt of India would give support for setting up dedicated statistical units in the states. A Consultant who seemed to be in love with his own voice wanted to embark on a very long lecture on the reliability of statistical data. I intervened and made my quick points (use PMU consultants and share data) and excused myself.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kolkata Metro & Dattabad

I was in the review meeting yesterday by Chief Minister. This was my second meeting with CM as UD Secretary. Five concrete pillars at Dattabad in Salt Lake cannot be constructed due to unauthorised settlements. Dattabad is at the crossing of EMByPass and the road-that-passes-in-front-of-City-Centre. Co-operation with Bidhannagar Municipality would be required to settle the problem. CM asked me to take it up with Chairman Bidhannagar Municipality.

Yesterday evening itself I discussed the matter with Executive Officer of Bidhannagar Municipality and Kolkata Metro Engineers. Our Land Manager indicated few possible locations where the settlers of Dattabad could be shifted. I hope to have the meeting on Saturday, after I come back from Delhi on Friday, if it is suitable to Chairman of Bidhannagar Municipality. Executive Officer will let me know through SMS.
* * *
Yesterday, the PPP Sub-Group's Report was printed and spiral bounded and handed over to me in 15 copies. BUIDL helped me in this. Thanks Chandana. I'll carry the copies for MoUD, DEA and Planning Commission to Delhi today.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nayachar Chemical Hub

I attended the first meeting of the Nayachar Chemical Hub body yesterday. Chief Secretary presided. Environment Impact Assessment is expected to be completed by Dec 2010 and submitted to GoI.
* * *
I met Mr Prasoon Mukhejee in the meeting. He is the chief promoter. Away from the formal meeting, I was quite awed by his rags to riches life story. I told him that he could write a bestseller from his life story !
* * *
I saw yesterday how Minister UD helped a poor person from Siliguri. The person'd lost a family member and had to transport the dead body in a coffin from Kolkata to Siliguri. He even asked KMDA to give Rs. 10,000 to him as personal loan to enable him to buy coffin etc

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Urban Health Mission

Last Wednesday I attended my first official meeting as Urban Development Secretary under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. (I'd joined UD on 1st April 2010). The subject was review of Rural Health Mission. CM said that while the health indicators were good, the challenge would be to hold on to it. He seemed concerned about the pollution issues in the stone crusher sites in Birbhum.

After CM left, I told that I'd just seen how in Andhra Pradesh and 10 other states free ambulance services (dial 108) were introduced: the Ambulance would respond to any call on 108 within an average of 22 minutes or so. We were informed that the Health Department was trying for a dial 102 system, which would be free only to BPL and SC/ST families. October 2010 would be a starting date.

Next Friday there will be a focussed meeting on Urban Health Mission project. This will be chaired by Health Minister. We've been invited to participate.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Centre for Good Governance

Last Friday, just before I took the afternoon flight to Kolkata at Hyderabad, I paid a visit to the Centre of Good Governance. They are doing a study on the Urban Scenario in West Bengal and I thought that since I was in Hyderabad anyway, I might see what they were doing.
I had an introductory overview with their Director General Dr Rajiv Sharma. I was taken through an elaborate presentation by its e-Governance Cell. The whole visit was co-ordinated by their Urban Management Group, headed by Shri B. Shorey and Ms Naganika Sanga.

I think they are doing a great job - not only in the field of e-governance and urban management but also in areas such as RTI (Right to Information) and Civil Services Reform. I was given a copy of their recent publication Civil Services Survey - A Report. Quite a few startling revelations have been made therein. All civil servants and policy makers should find it very informative and illuminating.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

ESCO : Energy Saving Company

At ASCI (Administrative Staff College of India), I learnt of a new kind of PPP project that reduces carbon emissions. Bangalore and Vijaywada have done interesting work on these. It basically deals with forming an Energy saving Company (ESCO) through a transparent process. All street lights would be replaced by ESCO with energy efficient lights, timers etc so as to yield an estimated 30-40% energy savings. The ESCO would share the savings to finance itself and cover capital and O&M costs.

How this is done? It uses state-of-the art technology. Lighting lux levels are controlled by a microprocessor based on the time of the night. Its light intensity can be programmed to adjust itself according to the traffic pattern in the street. Switching on and off is done automatically as per in-built database of sunrise and sunset times of the city.
Further details about the Vijaywada project is available at

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

5 day training on PPP

Today was the third day of my one-week training at the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) at Hyderabad. The topic is Public Private Partnerships.

(Picture of ASCI at right)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

National Consultation Workshop at IIT Kanpur

Just came out of the workshop at IIT Kanpur after it ended. All 7 IITs have come together to do a Ganga River Plan under NGRBA. They have uploaded a website where there will soon be a free registration for all to contribute. The plan will build upon the failures of the old Ganga Action Plan and prescribe a new one that will not only look at pollution but also ensure involvement of the Civil Society, integrate Water Resource Management so that less water is taken out from Ganga by efficient agriculture, ensure recycling of river water and also look at socio-cultural livelihood issues.

I, on my part, highlighted 6 issues: (1) Solid Waste Management should also be looked into as some municipalities are dumping solid waste to the river (2) Funds for O&M (Operation & Maintenance) of capital structures should be provided in the plan as municipalities don't have necessary funds for this (3) Along with Civil Society, Panchayats and Municipalities should also be involved (4) Economic aspects of people staying at the banks or dependent on the river may be taken into account (5) School syllabus of EvS should contain a component of Clean Ganga and (6) the issue of water sharing with Bangladesh in lean season may be revisited.
* * *
Mr Rajiv Gauba was there throughout (except last 40 minutes). Minister Mr Jairam Ramesh was there till lunchtime. I told him that the recent India Today story was quite flattering to him. He appeared happy and said that West Bengal was doing a good job too !   

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Victimless Crime"?

We had a stakeholders' meeting yesterday to further refine the ongoing work of defining a new urban strategy in West Bengal. In course of the presentation, the question of unauthorised constructions in the cities came up. The consultants making the presentation remarked that this was perhaps more prevalent in India because we had a 'soft' attitude to violations of Town laws and Building Rules because their violations did not harm anyone, because they were "victimless crimes".

This led me to think of a recent parliament question on this. It asked why authorities allowed unauthorised constructions to come up in the first place.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Cycle Lane in New Town to Save Energy"

This was published in "Sakalbela" newspaper of 19th August 2010. Mitali Mitra gave me a copy today. Thanks Mitali & Sakalbela.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Electrons and H2O

We had our sub committee meeting at Delhi today. We argued that in the power sector, electrons are driven by generators and distributed to homes, and inn the water sector, H2O molecules are purified by massive WTPs (Water Treatment Plants) and distributed through pipes to homes. So, if private players invest thousands of crores of rupees in the power sector, why shouldn't they do so if the water charges were regulated / subsidised by the government.
So we are going to recommend setting up of Regulatory Commissions in the water sector too.

(-Posted at Delhi Banga Bhavan)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Clean Rabindra Sarobar

The Times of India carries this picture today about an awareness campaign for keeping Rabindra Sarobar clean. You can see at the following link:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Uluberia Water Supply

I went to see how the Uluberia Water Project was going on. This is being done by KMWSA. It will supply 10 MGD (million gallons per day). Project cost is Rs. 15 crore.
I set a target that it should be completed before November 2010.

I had an interesting discussion on whether vertical pumps or horizontal pumps were better. Technical opinion is sharply divided on this, I found. I'll try and get the opinion of the experts in Delhi on Monday when I'll be there on the 23rd.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Road near Book Fair Ground at Milan Mela

I took the Works and Tender Committee meeting yesterday at KMDA. Among other works, we gave the go-ahead signal for inviting tender for the widening of road near Milan Mela / ITC Sonar Bangla / Opp Science Centre that is used for Book Fair these days. The cost would be above Rs. 3 crores. We asked the Chief Engineer to see that it could be completed before the Book Fair began early next year.

* * *
I went to meet the Commissioner of Police Gautam Mohan Chakraborty at Lalbazar yesterday. OSD KIT was also with me. We requested CP to spare a few flats of KIT rented out to KP at Jhorobasti near Ultadanga so that slum improvement works could be done - for which 45 families had to be shifted. CP was very positive and understanding. We decided that KIT and Estate Officer of KP would jointly work out whatever was feasible... The slum improvement would be done under the BSUP (Basic Services for the Urban Poor) component of JnNRUM.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kolkata partners with Tokyo

Today I sent a formal proposal to Govt of India suggesting that Kolkata and Tokyo may be partners in respect of water supply. This was in response to a message from Tokyo exploring the possibility of improving water supply in one or two major cities in India to Tokyo standards in collaboration with Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
I stated that in Kolkata, a large amount of water is wasted during transmission. I said that the water supply system needed technology, resources and management inputs to reach a high standard of Tokyo Waterworks.

I would wish that Kolkata will be a partner with Tokyo in the field of water supply.

Let's wait and see !

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

PPP Sub Group Meet at Delhi on 23 Aug

I incorporated the comments received so far from he members on the draft paper that I'd circulated last week. As convener of the Sub-Group, I've called the meeting on 23rd Aug at Delhi at Nirman Bhavan, Ministry of Urban Development, Govt of India.
* * *
This week's India Today carries an article called "The Odd Couple: The State Learns to Love the Private Sector". I read it with interest as it is directly relevant to the paper that we are preparing. It has a nice, if simplistic, way of defining PPP Projects:
"... Loosely defined, it means a delivery model where the assets belong to the government and the services are provided by the private sector... "
 * * *
 Last Saturday, I had a meeting with Prof Biswanath Chakrabarty of Rabindra Bharati University. We discussed about the possibility of jointly writing a book on  "Urbanism in India". I also wanted to do papers on (i) Electronic Voting in India and (ii) Role of Political Continuity in Urban Development. Somnath De of CEO's office has already lent me the book "How India Votes" and I've started thinking. I also recalled my earlier paper at

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Energy Audit

Mr Brijesh Manan of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency informed me today that the BEE would  start an energy audit soon in our satellite town at New Town, Rajarhat. I told him that the energy audit could start at Rabi Rashmi Abasan and the DLF Building.

This is in connection with 'ZEST'

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"No reservation of flats for minority communities"

Yesterday I saw the judgment of the High Court on the matter mentioned above.

KMDA had proposed that 26% of the flats constructed by it would be reserved for minority communities like Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsees etc. It had also published a brochure. The matter was taken to Court. It was contested that such type of reservation was not contemplated in the Constitution.

The clause was deleted subsequently and the Court was informed. The Court observed as follows:

"We make it clear that the authorities can only carve out the reservation which is provided under the Constitution, such as, for socially and economically weaker section of the Society bereft of religions".

(WP No. 7445(W) of 2010)

Monday, August 9, 2010

'Growing up and being counted are no easy tasks'

I went to the Institute of Engineering and Management in Salt Lake today morning. Their new academic session started today. It was good seeing the eager faces of the new students. I was reminded of Abdul Kalam's inspiring book India 2020. In my brief address, I quoted from it and said: "Growing up and being counted are no easy tasks". I advised them to also take an interest in the functioning of India's democracy by networking in cyberspace through facebook, blog and other social networking sites for taking up social causes - in addition to their studies.
* * *
CEO HDA met me at my office. I was told that Ms. Aditi Dass of Climate Group had been to Haldia last Friday to talk about LED streetlights. Despite the higher initial cost, I think it needs to be taken forward.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

"Emerging Science & Culture; Connecting People"

I was invited at the Bose Institute, Kolkata yesterday. The book "Emerging Science and Culture: Connecting People" (edited by Prof S.C.Roy) was released as a Platinum Jubilee Commemorative Volume of the Indian Science News Association. The first article titled "Energy Security: Role of Science and Technology" is by Shri M.K.Narayanan, Governor of West Bengal. It also contains an article called "Thermal Power Generation in West Bengal" by me.

I was persuaded to write the article by my friend Dr Barun Chatterjee of the Bose Institute when I was MD, WBPDCL. Yesterday, the book launch was a sort of re-union of our Presidency batch with Barun, Swapan, Rajat, Somnath and Sarbarish - (I met Sarbarish after 27 years, after we did our post MSc from the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics). The then Director of Saha Institute, Dr Manoj Pal, was also present with us in the panel discussion yesterday and he has also contributed an article.
* * *
As promised in my earlier post "The Light", I give below the link to the video in the You Tube:
(Thanks, Atanu, for helping me upload the video).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"The Light"

As I was walking down the corridors of Writers' Buildings yesterday, Santanu Sawaswati leaped up from his bench in the verandah and asked:"Did you see today's Sokalbela?" Of course I hadn't (I'd barely heard about its launch).
Saraswati explained that he'd published a story on a documentary video film by WBPDCL (West Bengal Power Development Corporation) called "The Light". It was a project that I'd initiated when I was in WBPDCL. I was happy to know that the docu-film was finally published. I decided to buy a copy of the newspaer Sokalbela.
I found Sokalbela quite well-printed and neat. Santanu's story had the heading "Tathyachitrer madhyamey mon joi korte udyogi PDCL". The story referred to my efforts in creating a docu-film around Anandababu when I was Chief Electoral Officer and also my initiative of flagging off the present docu-film.
Ashim of PR Wing of WBPDCL gave me a copy of the DVD. I wish to upload it in the You Tube today.

Thanks Ashim and Santanu :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Land for Urban Poor...2

I did the following today:
(a) Advised our Planners to draft a notification under T & CP Act / Rules (T&CP=Town and Country Planning) that will make it compulsory for any new residential township to dedicate 25% of the housing for the EWS/ LIG
(b) Requested Housing Department to consider amending the Promoter's Act so that all developers dedicate 25% for EWS/LIG.
(c) Advised a probable investor who had come to meet me to know the rules for setting up townships under the T&CP Act to earmark 25% housing units for the EWS/LIG and also emphasised on the need to adopt green & environment friendly techniques (I was thinking of ZEST)

 Times of India has continued its "Clean Kolkata Campaign" even today (Great). I spoke to the Project Director SWM for thinking of some citizen-centric clean initiative in Hoogly.
He will revert to me shortly.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Urban Reforms: Land for the Poor

I had a meeting with the CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory Team headed by Mr Kaustabh Basu. They are assessing how well the states are doing Urban Reforms. They will visit various Municipalities including the Kolkata Municipal Corporation from tomorrow onwards.

One of the areas in which we discussed a lot was the manner in which at least 25% of developed land in housing projects could be earmarked for the urban poor. We mentioned that in West Bengal, for the public sector or joint venture housing projects, 25% of apartments/ flats were being earmarked for the urban poor in the EWS (Economically Weaker Section) / LIG (Lower Income Group). However, to make it mandatory for the private developers as well, it is necessary to have a law. We requested Crisil to consider making a recommendation that a model law may be enacted by the Central Government.
* * *
I liked the Times of India (Kolkata Edition) campaign on "Clean Kolkata" started today. The central idea is that besides the KMC, citizens also have a role in it. I posted the link in my facebook wall this morning and already I'm having a few comments and 'like's.
I've asked the Executive Engineer of our Department to consider installing energy efficient LED outdoor lamps in the housing estates of my department. Ms Aditi Dass of Climate Change has agreed to help. She's coming to Kolkata on 5th Aug and may look at this.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Round Table Meet on PPP at Delhi

Huge amount of money is required to upgrade our cities. Govt funds are not enough. So Private investment is required to supplement public investment. But why will the private investor invest unless he has confidence that he will have a reasonable return on investment. To guarantee this, we need a new law and a Regulatory Authority.

This was one of the decisions reached in the roundtable conference that we had in Delhi. Representatives of Planning Commission, Ministry of Finance (Department of Economic Affairs), Municipal Commission and State Govt met today morning at Nirman Bhavan. I am the convenor of the group.

The best part was that though all Planning Commission, DEA and UD are all located in Delhi and all are working in the field of PPP - there is little synergy among them. Our meeting achieved a rare co-ordination. I hope to sustain it.
* * *
Yesterday, I met Mr Lohia, JS UD and we talked at length about a new concept of having a smart card that can be used in all public transport such as buses, metros, local trains, parking fees etc. More of this later when the designated agency comes to Kolkata to give a presentation.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kolkata Metro Board Meeting at Delhi

I attended the my second Board meeting of KMRC today at Delhi. Mr Navin Kumar, the new Secretary of Urban Development Ministry chaired. We decided to cancel the single tender on 'rolling stock' as the quoted price was high. In the new tender, there will be a PVC (Price Variation Clause) so that according to a formula, cost payable will change (increase OR decrease) as per change in international market prices. The formula adopted was a 'mix-n-match' of Delhi and Chennai Metro formulas

I learnt that General Managers of Metro & Eastern Railways were also directors but were not attending any meeting since May 2009. This was presumably because the railways wanted East West Metro also while the UD Ministry wanted to retain that as in Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad.
* * *
In the UD Ministry, on way to the Board meeting, I bumped into Shri Saugata Roy, MoS,UD. I saw him for the first time as a sitting Minister, though I knew him well as  an MLA and MP candidate from my CEO days. I shared tea and coffee in his room, which is quite large and well furnished. I also met Rajesh Sinha, his PS, who had worked briefly with me in Burdwan when I wasDM there.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

ZEST (Zero Energy Satellite Town)....4

I'd earlier commented here in posts dated May 31, June 24 and July 10 about our attempts to have a pilot project at New Town, Rajarhat of developing an energy efficient town....Last Friday, while I was in Delhi, a two member team consisting of Mr V. Bhatt of BNL and Mr. A Joshi of Govt of India made a field visit to New Town and held a meeting with MD, HIDCO and others.
Today's Times of India carries a Page 1 story titled 'Rajarhat to be first zero-energy town' talking of the Friday visit as well as the presentation by Katie Bolkar of US Department of Energy at Delhi in May. Here is the link:

The story was written by Ajanta Chakraborty (Thanks Ajanta and Times of India !)
The picture above appears in the article of Times of India

Friday, July 23, 2010

Save Ganga

I attended a truncated meeting of the NGRBA (National Ganga River Basin Authority) at Delhi today. It was very interesting listening to the passionate views of the "experts" or "non-official members". I agreed wholeheartedly with one of the points borne out: that to save Ganga, only engineering or infrastructure (Sewerage Treatment Plant etc) would not do; a plan to involve community participation and civil society should go hand in hand. I talked about a special campaign on the lines of 'Incredible India'. I intend to send a special project soon.

A reference was made by the Union Minister of one activist-member protesting a project in Uttakhand. The link to a Hindu story that came up is as follows:

* * *
I met the Union Minister Mr Jairam Ramesh face to face yesterday and again today. He is one of the few ministers that I've come across who uses laptop on his office table himself. I quite admired him on the whole.

(Posted at Delhi Airport using HP Mini & Tata Photon+)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Meeting with Union Finance Minister

In Delhi, we met Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minster of India at his office today. It was 8 pm. Minister Asok Bhattacharya led our little delegation. It was my first face to face interaction with him (Union FM). It was amazing to find how meticulous he still is : he read, line by line, the whole two page note that was handed over to him. There was little explanation to be done: he got on the issue immediately.

The meeting was about using some JnNRUM funds earmarked for larger cities for the smaller ones. (The issue is more complex than it appears !)

The room was beautiful: huge (size of a tennis court), with wooden floors and bright concealed warm yellow lights. Tastefully decorated, with photos of some great persons on the walls. Book shelf, sofas and a meeting table for 15 or so.  He offered us some tea, and separately called for biscuits too.

Shri Mukherjee was wearing a grey banddhgala coat. He talked to the Minister in Bengali but to me in English. But I thought, he needed to take a break and get some rest: he looked a bit tired and weary to me.
* * *
Ms Aditi Dass of Climate Change has sent me photos of an LED street light. This is after she read my last blog post. Here is the picture:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"LED there be Light" **

** This is a copy of the title of a story in The Telegraph of 25th April 2010 (see ) about how energy efficient LED (Light Emitting Diode) streetlights are  going to be used in KMC (Kolkata Municipal Corporation) for saving energy bill, lowering CO2 emissions and providing for a longer life of street lights.

I was given this link today in an email by Ms Aditi Dass of the Climate Group who is associated with the KMC's LED Project. I also got lots of background material in the email (except any picture of how the street LEDs look!) This was a result of my meeting with Mr Nabarun Sarkar of KMC last week.

I've just written a D.O.  letter to CEO, Haldia Development Authority, advising him to take this forward.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pineapple Development Centre, Siliguri : Foundation Stone

His Excellency the Governor of West Bengal Shri M.K.Narayanan laid the foundation stone of the Pineapple Development Centre. Despite the inclement weather and incessant rain, there was a fair amount of crowd. I met the Governor for the first time and discovered that he has a sharp wit. I also met the Sabhapati of the local Panchayat Samity and learnt how the 'gaddi' business works. The local secretary of the Pineapple Growers' Association had just returned from an international conference at Kuala Lampur.
Siliguri produces, I was told, 90% of the country's pineapple production but does not have the recognition like, for example, Darjeeling Tea.It is necessary to take conscious attempts to brand the pineapple internationally. ....
Before the ceremony started, we observed a minute's silence in respect of the dead at today morning's train accident at Sainthia where 50-60 persons died.

(Posted at Bagdogra Airport,in HP mini, using Tata Photon+)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Extended Planning Area for Siliguri

I am in Siliguri now. I attended the Board meeting of Siliguri Jalpaigguri Development Authority (even though it is a Sunday). We decided to extend the jurisdiction of the Planning Area so as to include additional areas of Phansidewa and Kharibari. Subsequently I will issue a notification from Kolkata.
* * *
I took a tour of the town in the evening. Lots of huge shopping malls (Cosmos, Orbit etc) have come up, I found, and people were thronging in hundreds. It was just like the metro cities. A pity that all towns are losing their character and becoming just like the other.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Traffic Plan for Haldia

I just returned after attending a meeting of Haldia Development Authority today. It took about 3 hours to reach. Chief Secretary presided. We resolved to chalk out a comprehensive traffic management plan. DM was requested to hold a meeting with all stakeholders including SP, CEO HDA, Municipality and others.
The office building of HDA (pic above) is mindbogglingly lavish and corporarte-ish. Built of marble. Tastefully decorated inside. Reminded me of Infosys's new campus at Mysore that I visited last year.

Just had this nagging thought: was the lavishness really required? 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Creative Painting in BSUP Schemes.

Under JnNRUM's BSUP (Basic Services for the Urban Poor) scheme, housing is being built in slums. Already 32,000 such 'DUs' (Dwelling Units) have been built. Whenever I go to the BSUP sites, I advise the engineers and officers to be imaginative and creative - a bit f landscaping, a bit of vibrant painting: my favourite example being: 'Imagine all houses coloured white, and suddenly, some walls are maroon, or navy doesn't cost anything other than what has been already provided for, except a bit of personal interest"

But I was not prepared for what my friend Avik Chattopadhyay sent me from Brazil:

This is what their website says:

"In 2006, the Dutch artist duo Haas&Hahn started developing the idea of creating community-driven art interventions in Brazil. Their efforts yielded two murals which were painted in Vila Cruzeiro, Rio's most notorious slum, in collaboration with local youth. The artworks received worldwide coverage and have become points of pride in the community and throughout Rio."

Thanks, Avik for the information. I'll circulate this.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Institute of Construction and Project Management...2

Yesterday I got a response from the National Academy of Construction, Hyderabad. I'd written to them seeking help in setting up our Skill Development Institute. They've agreed and even sent me a draft MOU. I'm presently studying this.

(Pic: NAC, Hyderabad)

Few days ago, there were a few queries from the Development and Planning Department about land status etc. Since we have land at Kalyani, this wouldn't be an issue, I commented. I also spoke to the Secretary of the Department to expedite matters.

It is a long climb: but I believe in taking one step up at a time.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Teleconference With BNL, New York

I had a telephonic discussion with Mr Bhatt of BNL (Brooklyn National Laboratories, New York) on how to take the next steps in ZEST (near Zero Energy Satellite Town) at New Town and Salt Lake. I suggested that we should have a face to face interaction soon. Perhaps a tripartite meeting may be held at Delhi later this month.

I also got a document from WBREDA explaining what energy efficient ideas are being already implemented in New Town, Salt Lake; I've to send it to BNL shortly.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Photo Exhibition of Election Commission at Kolkata

On Wednesday last, I was invited to the inauguration of the Photo Exhibition of Election Commission of India at Kolkata's Gaganendra Hall (near Nandan). ECs Mr Qurashi & Mr Sampat opened. It is a part of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration of the ECI which started at Vigyan Bhavan Delhi on 25th Jan 2010.
It was great meeting the ECs, DEC, DG and old friends from office and media.
I was a bit nostalgic thinking of the efforts we'd put in to get old and rare photos, many of which were displayed in the official exhibition in Kolkata. In particular, I remembered how Debabrata Thakur helped me go to Anandabazar's photo library where I met the amazing librarian who brought out a host of rare and unbelievable collection of historical photographs connected with Bengal elections...It was gratifying to see "courtesy: Anandabazar" in many photographs on display. Thanks, again, Debuda.
I'll try to post here (later) Suchitra Sen's photo that drew the largest applause: she was photographed while she was being photographed for her voter-ID

Thursday, July 8, 2010

First Meet with new Chairpersons

Yesterday, a training was organised for all newly elected Chairpersons of Municipalities of Kolkata Municipal Area. It was organised by Municipal Affairs Department. About half of the Chairpersons attended.

I spoke about the need of long term planning, among other things. I told that the McKenzie Report stated that a complete renewal of towns was possible within 10 years, as experience in South Africa (think of World Cup !), China and Russia showed. I said that the present term of 5 years could thus take forward all towns to the half-way mark if there was vision, planning, convergence and will.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Urban Strategy

I attended a meeting on Urban Strategy formulation for West Bengal. This is organised by SUDA (State Urban Development Agency). ASCI & CGC are making the report.

I mentioned that we should design speciality cities. For example, the McKenzie report released recently talks about speciality cities where investments have been substantial. In the all India list, there was mention of Asansol (Mining Speciality), Haldia (Port) and Siliguri (Tourism). I said that Kalyani didn't succeed well because there was no specialty focus -or branding, if you will- and was also quite far away from Kolkata. An article has commented recently that people don't like to commute more than one hour a day and surely Kalyani isn't that close.

I also mentioned that there should be a focus on environment, energy efficiency and global warming issues.

I hope a good report will come out eventually

Sunday, July 4, 2010

JICA Sponsored Solid Waste Management

I went to several Municipalities yesterday to see how the JICA sponsored Solid Waste Management Programme was going on. I found that people were quite aware that garbage needs to be seggregated at source (at homes) into perishable and non-perishable bins. A good IEC activity is being organised and at a meeting in Serampore, I asked the volunteers how the last day went and the co-ordinators how they plan to spend the next seven days.

The main trouble is that the awareness programme is lagging behind the engineering plan. Thus Solid Waste separation has lost significance since they are dumped together in the traditional manner.

I advised the facilitators to make a convergence with BSUP programme since our department is also engaged in building new houses for slum dwellers in each of these municipal towns under BSUP (Basic Services for the Urban Poor). I suggested that they may try propagating other useful messages that will contribute to a clean environment. Tracking mass events like picnics, weddings etc and creating awareness on proper disposal of wastes would be a good idea.

I told the engineering wing to speed up work.

(Picture above is that of the volunteer-facilitators in a meeting at Serampore. Taken on my E63 mobile)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Working Women's Hostel

There are two working Women's Hostel run by KIT. I visited both yesterday. I think it is a very useful concept, providing a temporary accommodation to young women from the districts who have got a job but have no base in Kolkata.
I, however, had a feeling that these institutions are caught in a time warp: situation is as was three or four decades ago. Even the inmates are often in the same place for ten or more years. There is a need for maintenance too.

I think we need to modernise. We need to infuse life. We need to confine our loyalty to the core group of young job workers.

I've asked KIT's architect to create a modern environment. I've asked the Chief Engineer to do a proper repair. I've asked the Estate Manager to organise cultural events. I've asked OSD,KIT to make the hostels lively and make new rules.

The hostels are at Bagbazar and Christopher Lane (in Entally area). The picture above is the entrance to the Baghbazar Working Women's Hostel

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wally Olins ... 2

Olins has sent me an email:

"Dear Debashis
I very much enjoyed meeting you the other evening during the event on the branding. I hope we will have an opportunity of keeping in touch.

Thanks, Wally.

(Seen at left is a photo in yesterday's Anandabazar. From Left to Right: Victor Banerjee, Harsh Neotia, Wally Olins and me)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Directorate of Urban Planning

Unplanned urban growth has always been a concern for all. The rate at which urbanisation is going on is quite faster than the rate at which infrastructure can expand.
It is therefore that the West Bengal Town and Country Plan Act was enacted in 1979. Under the Act, Planning Authorities can make LUDCP (Land Use Development and Control Plan) and developers and others must adhere to it. But the LUDCPs are often out of date and do not take into account newly urbanising areas. Consequently, investment on urban infrastructure is often ad hoc and chaotic.
To form a repository of data, knowledge and vision for the state as a whole, we have recently decided that a State Directorate of Urban Planning will be set up in due course.
A core group has been formed.
I hope a blueprint will be ready shortly.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Branding Bengal

Yesterday, I heard Wally Olins at City Centre (He was wearing the red cotton coat shown in the picture beside: the picture appeared in today's Metro Telegraph).
After his 40-minute presentation (great), I joined him as a panelist along with Ram Ray, Victor Banerjee and Rita Bhimani.
Most questions were about how to brand Bengal or Kolkata.
There was no direct answer from him, but he made many useful comments. Some are:
(a) There has to be a synergy, a demand, an enthusiasm - as happened in Spain
(b) The 'product'must be good too.
(c) Broad generalisations don't work (no 'land of contrast' , for example, as this could apply to many countries as well)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chief Secretary Proposes for Energy Efficient Town Scheme

Yesterday, Chief Secretary wrote to the Government of India for considering taking up New Town Kolkata (Rajarhat) and Salt Lake (Bidhannagar) for a Pilot Scheme under which energy efficient measures such as geo-thermal heat sinks, solar arrays, green buildings, waste-to-energy, high density growth and efficient town planning designs can be implemented so as to make it as nearly self-sufficient in energy as possible.

I'd earlier commented on "ZEST"(Zero Energy Satellite Town) in this blog, explaining how interested I was.

There are many steps to go: but the first one has been traversed.

I also spoke to MD, WBREDA today and requested him to give me details of renewable energy projects undertaken in Salt Lake & New Town, so that I can justify our claim for the pilot project even further. Mr Gon Chowdhury has agreed to help.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Public Accountability

Yesterday we had a meeting of all nine Development Authorities including KMDA, ADDA, HDA, SJDA etc. We decided that all of them should bring out Annual Reports for 2009-2010 soon. The Annual Reports should contain a statement of accounts and application of funds for projects executed by them. Thereafter, the Reports would be presented to the public at large by organising a workshop at each Authority HQ and also giving copies to people's representatives.
It was learnt that SJDA (Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority) had already done so in a public ceremony earlier this month and it drew very positive response.
We set ourselves a target of October 2010 for this.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Meeting of Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation at Delhi.

After the meeting with Election Commission in Delhi, I rushed (..had to skip lunch !..) to attend the Board meeting of KMRC. I joined as the new Director of the Board. Mr Ardhendu Sen, Chief Secretary, also joined the KMRC Board today.
We saw few presentations on progress. We discussed few problems that needed attention. I was put in two-three Directors' Committee.
It was a great feeling being a part of the Team that will present Kokata its East West Metro by 2014.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Going to Election Commission of India for a Meeting

I was quite interested to get an invitation by the Election Commission of India to attend a meeting at Nirvachan Sadan at Delhi tomorrow. I'm in Kolkata airport now, waiting to board IT-604 which is 10 minutes late and will leave by 9.05 pm.
The meeting will be on controlling expenditure in elections. I had, when I was Chief Electoral Officer, in March this year submitted a paper to the Commission analysing the problem and outlining the way forward - both in the short term and in the medium term.I think the invitation to attend has something to do with that but the Election Commission officer who reminded me on telephone to attend and tell me that the full Commission would address the meeting didn't mention anything about it.
I am indeed quite curious to see how the meeting unfolds tomorrow at 11 am.
(At Kolkata Airport, using HP Mini & Tata Photon)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Automatic Mail Sorter in Kolkata before Pujas?

We had a meeting with the Chief Post Master General, West Bengal and Dy Director General NIC yesterday. They wanted access to our server having 1:1,000 map of Kolkata. This would be required to correlate PIN codes with street names using GIS. Then, through an automatic mail sorter programme, whenever there would be a mismatch between the PIN and address, a correction would be made. The idea is speedier post delivery. This is already launched in Delhi. In Kolkata I think it should be in operation before the Pujas.

We were, of course, happy to help.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Social Aspects of Solid Waste Management

I had a discussion yesterday on municipal solid waste management strategy.
I was moved by stories of daily plight of ragpickers in the chain of waste disposal system in the city that we live in. The ragpickers, who serve as human sorting agents of our garbage, are mostly children. We rob them of their childhood, of a human existence. They have no education, no health back-up. Disease, dog-bites, stinking filth, crumbling heaps of garbage on top are daily occurrences. But most devastating is that they are not free: they are virtually bonded labourers of middlemen-contractors. Reminded me somehow of 'Slumdog Millionaire'.
A Waste Disposal Strategy must take rehabilitation of ragpickers into account.
(Picture from 'Slumdog Millionaire')

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Meeting of Development Authorities on 22nd June

There will be a meeting of all nine Development Authorities on 22nd June 2010 at 12 noon. We issued the formal notice yesterday. In the meeting, NIC will make a presentation on e-Procurement software used now by another department. Thereafter we'll formally request them to tailor the software to the requirements of all authorities.

The beauty of the software is that not only tender notices are available on the web and forms can be downloaded, but bids can also be submitted online from anywhere. Issues like last time/date of bid submission, secure and transparent opening of bids etc are all taken care of through digital signatures and PKI.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

100 years of KIT

Kolkata Improvement Trust was born on 2nd January 1912. So its 100th year will start from 2nd January 2011. I went to KIT's office at Poddar Court yesterday and held a meeting there. I advised that a core committee be formed within KIT to lay down a roadmap. The events during KIT's 75 year celebrations could be a starting point.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Institute of Construction and Project Management....2

I've asked Shri  Debatosh Biswas, Executive Enginner, KMWSA to make an engineering estimate.
I've asked DM, Murshidabad to send me some background material from his district.
I met Erajul yesterday....(photo at right)
Erajul is a construction worker from a remote village in Murshidabad. He is illiterate. He began his life as a labourer and slowly picked up work of a mason. His family lost all its land in the Ganga river bank erosion All his four brothers are in the same trade. . He is idle 4-5 months of the year. Many of his co-villagers are in the same trade and several of them have to go out to distant places outside the state in search of work.
Being illiterate, he has to pay Rs 1,500 to a fellow literate who draws up informal bills on the basis of work done by him. He laments that cost of helper-labourer is rising by the day. He doesn't know how to use mechanical equipment. He depends on an informal community based network for getting new works. He is a freelancer expert mason.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Water Efficient Appliances ?

At a seminar on "Cost Effective Waste Water Management" organised yesterday on the occasion of the World Environment Day by the Institution of Engineers, I talked about our dying rivers* and the need for adopting water sensitive designs in our city planning.
If we have 'star rating' in electrical appliances, we can have ratings based on water use efficiency in appliances like Washing Machines, jacuzzi showers too.
But most important would be to usher in a mind-set that water must not be wasted or misused
- DS
*cf: my earlier blogpost of 17th May 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Transparency in Procurement

I moved a file yesterday for officially initiating an e-procurement methodology for tenders. I also made out a proposal for inducting an external expert in the Tender Committees of each Development Autority.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Near Zero Energy Towns

At today's meeting in Delhi at MoUD, we were presented with a concept of near zero energy towns by the Energy Efficiency division of the US. I volunteered that West Bengal would be willing to be considered as a pilot state. I was indeed excited with my background in the WBPDCL just eight weeks ago. I hope to present a concept note soon to MoUD.
(Posted at Delhi Airport, using HP mini & Tata Photon)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Institute of Construction and Project Management

Chief Secretary took a meeting on Skill Development on Friday. On my behalf, I proposed that we must have a State Institute of Construction.
The idea is as follows:
About 10 lakh construction workers will be needed by 2014 to cater to the construction / real estate sector. But the methods of constructions are being mechanised rapidly: one can see around the Kolkata Metro construction and see how caterpillar cranes, bull-dozers and concrete-mixers are being used. But the traditional skill in masonary etc is still in its ancient customs. As a result, more and more skilled workers are coming in to the state from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh etc. A massive social unrest will happen due to job displacements in the traditional construction industry unless we act now.
I have therefore proposed that we can set up an Institute of Construction and Project Management in Salt Lake or Kalyani, somewhat along the lines of the National Academy of Construction in Hyderabad. I'd need financial help though.
I was encouraged to take the matter forward. I hope to take it the Planning Commission through the Development and Planning Department.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Creative Slum Improvement

I went to Durgapur today to review the progress of BSUP ie Slum Improvement Programme under JnNRUM.
I mentioned that today's Anandabazar carried a story by Jogen Chowdhury on creative and imaginative improvement of Slums on a total slum approach. I added that colors, for instance, can be imaginatively applied (4-5 white blocks and one maroon, for instance) without any extra cost. There could also be a bit of  green and blue, a landscape with a lily pond.
Mayor of Durgapur (it was good to reconnect with old aquaintances of Mayors of Asansol and Durgapur, familiar since my DM Burdwan days) took me to a site where they are already implementing such a concept.
I hope others follow too.
(I hope that Jogenbabu will also notice ! The picture above is from his article- DS)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reviving Rabindra Sarobar

We had a metting of the Monitoring Committee of Rabindra Sarovar yesterday. I was happy to note that so many citizens and organisations had come forward to revive Rabindra Sadan. One spekaer said that he was happy to get the opportunity to do work in the Lake. I found few organisations doing good work. Besides KIT and PWD, even the Kolkakata Police's work were appreciated by the citizens.
I remarked that the government would network to do do what it can. I said that the Master Plan prepared by Jadavpur University should be obeyed by all. Someone commented that few elements of the Master Plan may be reviewed. I told that while we could surely revisit a few details, there should be broad conformity to its beautification scheme.
The hardware component would cost Rs 50 crores. We can implement in parts, with various voluntay contributions.
On the software side, there could be citizen groups spreading awareness on decency, environment and respect or others' sentiments. I recalled the ways of Lagey Raho Munnabhai.
I called for a website for networking, for spreading news, for registering suggestions, for pledging support. There was an immediate response: a member agreed to volunteer to host a website.
I'll write to him today to finalise details.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


At the WTC meeting yesterday, there was a great presentation on e-Procurement by NIC. How invitation of tenders AND submission of Bids can be done online was presented to all. And it is not a hypothetical model: it is actually being used in the Panchayat & Rural Development Department of our own State Government.

We'll be able to avoid many problems and make the Tender process more transparent and faster if we can also adopt it in our Department and all Development Authorities. Surely, some fine tuning would be required. But that shouldn't be a stumbling block if we want professionalism, transparency and efficiency in our procurements.

I've already spoken to SIO, NIC Mr Das. He has agreed to give a proposal.

* * *
Public perception on public procurement is not very bright. I give the following link in today's Telegraph that makes this point not too subtly: click here

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cleaning Lake Mirik

I went to Mirik on Wednesday. I was sad to compare the presnt state with my decade-old memory of the colourful blue waters with tourists thronging the Day Centre.
We had a fruitful meeting. We took a target of doing up the lake before the Pujas, ie Oct this year.
(The picture was taken on my mobile. The dirty water is masked by the reflection of light. -DS)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cleaning our rivers

We had a meeting on the National Ganga River Basin Authority. Environment Department was also there. There was a great presentation on behalf of WBPCB regarding campaign to be done to make people concsious of saving our rivers. I asked them to make a Project Report. So that I can Talk to GOI to take it forward.
(The picture is taken from today's Times of India)-DS

Friday, May 14, 2010

UD's Secretariat Library

Yesterday, I went to visit the ground floor Secretariat Library of UD. It has got a large number of rare books. But it is not well attended.
I and Shri A.K.Das, Joint Secretary discussed improvement measures on the floor of the library. I transferred my stand-by desktop computer to the library today. I also sent the numerous reports (usually in a spiral binder, 200-300 pages) to the library.
I asked for a note on actions required. These included (1) newspaper clipping activity (2) new books, especially amended Acts, and periodicals (3) monthly bulletins on New Arrivals (4) creating a warm ambience.

I met Somnath Gharami (picture at right). He would be looking after the revamping. He has a post graduate degree in library science.