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)