Friday, September 28, 2012

Celebrating International Tourism Day at Digha

Here is a picture from the stage in the morning of International Tourism Day at Digha:
We flagged off the day-long celebrations at 9 am from this venue. I lit the lamp and released a dove. On the stage on my left (not in picture) was a German tourist, Veronica, who'd come to Digha the previous evening. Music competition and sit-and-draw competition drew huge crowds, beyond expectation.

The first train from Kolkata came at 10 am. All passengers coming to Digha on that train were offered rose-buds by local school girls. Here is a photo taken minutes before the train came in:
In the afternoon, we tried a new adventure sports in the sea. A group had got water rafts and asked us to try it. Riding on top of waves on flexible rubber raft felt like we were surfing on the wave crests. But we - that is, Soumen Pal EO DSDA, Tejen Som Special Engineer UD and me - got completely drenched in sea water. This was an unscheduled sea-bath, reminiscent of our rainy days in childhood. It was fun and I encouraged the organisers to make it a tourist attraction.
* * *
And here is a clipping from Sakalbela:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

World Tourism Day : Digha

Just reached Digha this evening. Preparations are going on if full swing for celebrating World Tourism Day at Digha. There are many events planned for tomorrow. This includes a surprise for tourists visiting Digha in the first train into Digha tomorrow morning.
Here is a photo:
Foreshore Road, Digha

Sculpture Workshop

The Sculpture Workshop at New Kolkata ended yesterday with a great deal of success, hope and optimism. When I visited the workshop area at around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, I was struck by the faces of the participants lit by a sense of satisfaction (-quite an impossibly short time, many told -) and achievement.

 I met Bimal Kundu, who'd designed a reclining lady in fibre glass. He recounted how in the early days of Salt Lake Township the then Irrigation Secretary had remarked that the Government didn't have any funds for statues but as a special favour he could only arrange a bit of raw material. We are thinking of installing one of his works on Tagore in the traffic island near Rabindra Tirtha.

I found Hidco's team of engineers led by Chief Engineers discussing deeply with worried faces. An artist had built such a tall steel sculpture that now a crane needed to be mobilised to put it out of the workshop area into the final location.

 Shyamal Roy introduced me to his wife whom he had invited to show his handiwork. "It is Natore's Banalata Sen", he explained to my query on his creation at the workshop. I took a photo on my blackberry:
Sculpture Workshop Product and Artist

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Monorail and Mumbai Roadshow

We had the Mumbai Roadshow on Financial Hub in Kolkata today evening. This was at the Taj Lands End, Mumbai. The following institutions were present: - Infrastructure Advisors - Edelweiss Tokyo - IndusInd Bank - Yes Bank - Citibank - L&T Infra - LIC HFL - DBS - IDBI Mutual - Dena Bank - SBI Capital - ICICI - Stock Holding Corporation - Kotak Mahindra - Asset Reconstruction Company - Future Capital - Dena Bank - Corporate Storytellers - ILF&S etc Minister Firhad Hakim delivered the keynote address. Mr Arun Saha, MD ILF&S gave a special address. I made a presentation; here is a photo:
* * * Earlier, we went to see the monorail project now being implemented in Mumbai. We even rode into a monorail for a short distance. We debated the pros and cons of a monorail vis-a-vis light rail in New Town. Here are two pics:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mumbai Meet & Urban Museum

I'm going to Mumbai today to meet investors and bankers at Navi Mumbai's BKC about our Financial Hub in Kolkata. Minister F Hakim is also going to address them. I will make a presentation. ILF&S are helping us.
* * *
I had a long discussion with the assigned architect of Hidco who will make the concept for an Urban Museum. In my tour to Italy, I'd asked Arthur Molella, Director, Lemelson Center, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, USA, to suggest ways to take it forward. I'd given an email on return too. Today I got his reply and am thinking about it. I'm sharing it with our architect too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sculpture Workshop Inaugurated

I'd planned it long back. Had mentioned it in this blog too. It was a feel good mood that swept me yesterday as the Sculpture Workshop actually got moving. Minister Firhad Hakim inaugurated it. Two parks in New Town - named Nazrul Shshu Tirtha & Vivek Shisu Tirtha were also inaugurated by him. Two bus passenger shelter were also inaugurated. Few pictures / clippings:
A Sculpture being carved out at Finance Centre
Workshop, New Town, Kolkata on 19 Sep
Pratidin dt 20 Sep
Sakalbla dt 20 Sep

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rabindra Tirtha Festival Week: Day 2

Yesterday I returned from Italy. I saw two events.  Both were great.
Today evening I was able to go to the venue after Sraboni Sen gave a great performance. But I was able to sit through an amazing recital by Saoli Mitra. She did Dakghar so well that I went backstage to congratulate her. I told her that I recalled her solo performance a decade ago on Nath Bati Anath Badh.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tomorrow's Cities Today: Conference Ends

Today afternoon, the Bellagio Conference ended. The formal recommendations were made after day-long deliberations. Yesterday, the MD of Rockfeller Foundation Bellagio invited us to a formal dinner at the hilltop villa where we were not allowed to take photos.
Today's recommendation articulated, inter-alia, that independent certification of cities for Urban Sustainability   (with its all three components viz. economical, social and environmental), should be done by research/ academic institutions or otherwise.
* * *
Key takeaways for me:
* Indicators are necessary to monitor progress
* Political, Community and Business entities must be involved to ensure eco cities
* Recognition of Consumption of Urban space for development
* Germany's indicators by a self-imposed group of developers were a model to observe
* China's progress in creating eco-cities and indicators is astonishing
* Ho Chi Minh City is also creating a New Town with Holland association
I developed the following additional gains:
* Detailed interaction with World Bank's Lead Urban Specialist Mr Suzuki about LRT in New Town
* Interactions with China's consultant for leading me to international consultant on intelligent city
* * *
Here is a photo taken today afternoon after lunch within Bellagio campus:
14th Sep, Bellagio Rockefeller Foundation Campus

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Tomorrow's City Today"

The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre is arranging the conference "Tomorrow's City Today: Developing Standards and Policy for Eco-Cities". This is in Bellagio, a small hilly town 55 km away from Milan, Italy. I reached the centre today morning. It is situated in a large compound on the brink of a huge lake where yachts sail. The Swiss Alps can be seen on the horizon. This is in North Italy. I even saw few olive trees with olives already forming:these ripe by November or so.
Many participants - 23 in all - will participate. They are from South Africa, UK, Brazil, Australia, Vietnam, Germany, USA, Philippines, Canada, China etc. From India, other than me, a Scientist from MNRE, GoI is supposed to come but I haven't met him yet.
I am being reminded of the France days (2003-4).

[Camp: Sfondrata, Bellagio]
Bellagio Lake: from the institute

Saturday, September 8, 2012

ILF&S Selected Transaction Advisor for Financial Hub

Yesterday, the tender bids of Financial Hub were opened. ILFS got the bid on the basis of quote, beating other bids. I held a kick-off meeting with them at 8pm yesterday.
* * *
In the meeting by CM on Dengue control yesterday, I requested Health Secretary Sanjay Mitra to set up medical camps in New Town. The one-day camp functioned yesterday; the next camp will be there on 14th Sep.
One-day medical camp in AA-II
Next camp on 14th Sep
* * *
Here in a cutting from the page 1 story in yesterday's Anandabazar:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Anti Dengue Drive in New Town

After the meeting by CM on Tuesday, flexes and handouts were printed and distribution/ display started. Yesterday I held a detailed meeting at NKDA. The following flex was displayed at entrance to NKDA office:
Two separate teams have started spraying anti-mosquito oil and bleaching powde: the schedule is given in NKDA's website. Eight squads out of existing staff / officers have been formed to contact people and generate awareness and get feedback. We have kept contact with Swasthya Bhavan. I spoke to DM North 24-Paraganas and requested him to speak to CMOH to set up a temporary medical camp in New Town : it will be set up on MAR Road in AA-II, near the new showroom for motorbikes. The Ambulance will be kept on alert. A dedicated management group will supervise.
* * *
Here is a clipping from today's Anandabazar:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Week-long celebrations at Rabindra Tirtha from 16th Sep

We have just finalised the programme for Rabindra Tirtha's first week-long programme. This will start on Sunday 16th September. Every day, it will be open to the public from 2pm to 8 pm. Cultural programme starts in the auditorium from 6.30 pm each day. Entry tickets are priced at Rs 10 each. Subject to last minute changes, this is the schedule as of now:

Sunday, Sep 16
Group Song by Swati Foundation
Drama Achalayatan by Pancham Baidik

Monday, Sep 17
Dance Drama Balmiki Pratibha by Alokananda Roy

Tuesday Sep 18
Rabindrasangeet by Sourendro and Soumyojit, Sasha Ghosal
Recitation by Ratna Mitra
Rabindrasangeet by Durba Roy Choudhury, Srikanta Acharya

Wednesday Sep 19
Shillong Pahare Amit o Labonyo &
Shyama by Mayur Lalit Kala Academy

Thursday Sep 20
Rabindrasangeet by Rohini Roy Choudhury, Aditi Gupta
Recitation by Satinath Mukherji
Rabindrasangeet by Samik Pal, Sreeradha Bandyopadhyay

Friday Sep 21
Docuentary films on Rabindranath by Satyajit Ray, Arunendu Bandyopadhyay

Saturday Sep 22
Chitrangada by Nritya Upasana

[ All programmes are subject to last minute changes]
In addition, there will be further concurrent events such as music in Audio hall, films in AV hall, exhibition, designer souvenirs and food counter.
* * *
I attended two meetings by Chief Minister today. One was on Dengue Control and the other was a Standing Committee meeting.
In New Town, we have started spraying mosquito killing sprays. Tomorrow I will hold a meeting at NKDA to review and intensify awareness and preventive measures.

Monday, September 3, 2012

First Land Transfer Permission

Left Picture: First residential land transfer in Salt Lake on
payment of fees as per notification of June 2012
Lady on right: lessee; person signing: transferee;
Right Picture: The land / house that was transferred
Today I oversaw granting of permission of the first plot in Salt Lake with permission fee of Rs. 5 lakh per kottah. Both transferee and transferor appeared before me. Joint Secretary Tapan Ganguly and Land Manager Sital Mandal were also present. Later I went to see the plot and took a picture in the AE block. I expect more such cases to happen soon, now that the ice has broken and procedures getting streamlined.
* * *
I'd received some emails from residents of Salt Lake that broadband services through fixed line telephones were being delayed in some quarters. I held a meeting today with service providers (Airtel, Aircel, TTCL, TTS, Vodafone, Reliance, BSNL, Ortel and Manthan ) and NTTIDCO. I had a good insight into the problems faced by the service providers. I appealed to them to adopt the Singapore Model (Infrastructure should precede development) rather than the Gurgaon Model (islands of gated developments without basic infrastructure outside). I also sought proposals for innovative solutions to make New Town a futuristic smart city and explained that we were looking for (i) linked traffic signals (ii) thana linked burglar alarms and (iii) closed circuit TVs at strategic junctions.
Later, I had a separate discussion over a cup of coffee with CGM BSNL and Chairman NTTIDCO at my office room. Here is a picture of the main meeting today:
Meeting with Hidco Conference Room

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Street Furniture

I have been thinking of smart street furniture in New Town to give it a clean and futuristic look. Street Furniture means and includes things that you see as you travel on the road - these include footpath railings, bus stops, public toilets, information boards, benches, traffic signal systems, variable message boards, garbage bins and food / magazine kiosks. Consultants UMTC met me last Friday and gave a small presentation that would be part of the overall strategy of public transportation in New Town. Here is a photo from Delhi that was part of this presentation:
Vending Kiosk, Delhi
I have, of course, seen these kiosks in Delhi. I also liked the other street furniture installed recently in Delhi in the wake of the Commonwealth games. Above all, I liked the idea that the system is self-sustaining in the sense that a fleet of trained personnel with dedicated vehicles and machines clean all the street furniture at regular intervals. We will discuss further to see how we can adopt the methodology for New Town.
* * *
Cancelling Parkomat EOI: There have been only two bids for the Expression of Interest for setting up a Parking Plaza in New Town. We are cancelling the tender.