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.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shinichi Yamanaka, Ragpickers and Stories

The Country Head of JICA, Mr Yamanaka came to my office today afternoon. There were Mr. Sarin and Ms Iwata too.
It was great talking to them, exchanging experiences. We even talked about Rabindranath.
We talked about SWM project now going on in 6 municipalities of Hoogly district. We agreed that we must monitor the project closely.
* * *
We recalled the plight of rag-pickers.
We vowed to end their ordeal through this programme.
I recalled the story of the little 8 year old girl who earns Rs 600 a day as a ragpicker but whose day starts at 5 am and ends at 4pm, without break. No school, no play, no sick leave.
What must we do?
* * *
The Worldwatch Institute in its book "State of the World 2010" talks of the powerfl role of stories in Social Marketing.
I'll talk more of it later. Must go now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Climate Change Impact and Adaptation in Kolkata

I attended a workshop by World Bank today. It focussed on the impact of Climate Change in Kolkata. Its inaugural session was chaired by Chief Secretary. I chaired one of the technical sessions.
Met Dr Subhendu Roy there who is a Consultant in this project. Dr Roy was in the IAS earlier (1977 batch, I think) but has now resigned and is settled in Boston.
It was great learning of the mathematical models and economic analysis. I was relieved that the projections don't say that Kolkata would be submerged by rising sea level! But I thought concentrating on measures to reduce CO2 emissions should also have been discussed.
In this connection, I quote a few lines from the latest report by McKinsey (April 2010) titled "√Źndia's Urban Awakening: Building Inclusive Cities, Sustaining Economic Growth":
'...Reduce vehicle emissions through greater use of public transportation, improving vehicle efficiency and use of electric vehicles.
...Reduce emissions by reducing energy consumption in buildings, appliances, lamps and street lights.
...Improve city design to develop energy efficient clusters"

I think it makes a lot of sense.

Monday, May 10, 2010

GIS for Kolkata

The NIC / Planning Commission has been driving a project with PWD, Police, KMDA, KMC and KMWSA that will share standard ISRO maps with authentic data. I held a review today and discovered that it is proving to be quite useful and, for example, the East West Metro has made extensive use of it.
Unfortunately, the project completion date expired on 31 March 2010 and we are still somewhat away from its completion.
I propose to take up the issue with NIC Delhi when I'm there next.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Transparency in Tenders: 3 responsive bidders

There was a longish Works & Tender Committee meeting at KMDA yesterday. But we introduced few innovations, some of which were as follows:
(1) Real-time recording of decisions: A powerpoint projection was on. The agenda items were listed in successive slides. Decisions were typed in as soon as they were made. Participants could even correct typing errors then and there!
(2) Standing dates were declared. Next date would be 21st May. Thus the fear of "deferred" was reduced.
(3) Certain standard norms were adopted. More would be done soon.
(4) The confusion on the number of responsive bidders was discussed and eliminated; it is as follows:
Note-1. – Subject to the special rules or order or procedure that may be prescribed by the Government in respect of a particular department, open tender shall invariably be invited for the supply of articles or stores or for execution of works and services worth Rs. 20,000=00 or more. Selection of agency should be made on the basis of at least three tenders or quotations, which shall be opened in presence of willing agents. If the number of tenders received is less than three, tender should be invited afresh.
This is an extract from the West Bengal Financial Rules.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Meeting with Kumari Selja, Union Minister

We got a taste of security arrangements at the Parliament when we went to meet Hon'ble Union Minister HUPA with our Hon'ble MIC. Secy MA was also with us. Even the MIC was photographed at the Reception and we two tagged along. His photo appeared on each TV monitor as we progressed farther.
Union Minister talked about the importance of RAY in the context of rural-urban push and pull factors. She called for sustained innovations. I ventured to suggest about dormitory for workers on a time sharing basis.
Union Minister also spoke of the importance of adopting whole-slum approaches. MIC requested for a one-time exception for our state.
* * *
We also met Union Revenue Secretary Mr Sunil Mitra in the context of the land port at Fulbari. I met, later, the MD CONCOR in the context of the perishable cargo complex at Bagdogra.
* * *
Blogging now on the new HP Mini + Tata Photon at Delhi Airport. Returning tonight to Kolkata. Flight is two hours away.
- Debashis Sen

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

High Power Group on PPP and other issues

I am in Delhi now. My morning flight took off in time at 7 am from DumDum but within minutes, there was a "technical fault" and there was an emergency landing back at DumDum. We were asked to change the aircraft. All this entailed a delay of 2 hours and I was late for the High Powered Meeting at the Urban Development Ministry. . . I was glad, however, that I could at least participate a little towards the end. I was made a member of a group on PPP, which will be headed by the Principal Secretary UD of Gujarat, Ms Gauri Kumar (IAS:1979).
The meeting of the High Powered Committe was chaired by Dr Ramachandran, Secretary, MoUD.
* * *
In the CSMC meeting at MoHUPA, GOI told yet again of their concern for not not adopting a Whole-Slum-Approach under BSUP. They also appeared concerned at reports of poor worksmanship in some of the BSUP schemes.
- DS

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How to Use the Collaborative Website?

Many nodal officers are asking how to post their messages in the collaborative website.
I plan to hold a training shortly with Nodal Officers of each Dev Authority.
Meanwhile, this Blogsite is always there.
* * *
My mobile has 3G features (BSNL) and is always updating itself with my gmail. Thus I get an intimation of an incoming email almost instantly. So all are welcome to email me to seek any clarification.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Planning for Peri-Urban Areas

We had a meeting on planning for Peri-Urban areas today. The idea is that areas just outside municipalities are often growing in an unplanned way and there must be directed efforts. A meeting with Panchayat Department and another with KUSP is on the cards. KMDA's Advance Planning Unit is doing its bit insofar as KMA is concerned.
   - I would call upon other Planning Authorities to try likewise.
* * *
Finance department has brought out a GO regarding casual, daily rated workers working for 10 years or more @240days per year (Click here ). I have referred the matter to Finance Department seeking clarification as to whether it'd apply to Development Authorities or not.
* * *
I'll go to Delhi on the 5th May to attend CSMC meeting on BSUP. On the same day, there is yet another meeting at UD Ministry.....Going by the spate of meetings at Delhi, I am wondering whether it might be a good idea to set up our own office at Delhi ! In any case, we've asked PMU to depute a permanent representative at Delhi.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

New Blog Site

I've decided to shift the blog location from the collaborative website to this google site to give easy access to all to comment. I'd maintained Blog Sites when I was CEO West Bengal (CEO's Blog) and MD, WBPDCL (MD's Blog). Primarily these are meant for officers and employees of the government.
* * *
I went to see the Baruipur Township Project yesterday. It is being planned on a 500 acre plot. Having dealt with the New Town, Rajarhat Project in 2000-2002, I was reminded of all the issues that need attention: periphery canal, storm water drainage, OMC & Proctor Density, Pre-work on grid, site office, earth availability, labour co-operatives and other issues.
I told them to erect a sign board.
* * *
Debashis Sen