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