March 21, 2013

Letter to civil aviation minister; Poor services at new Kolkata airport terminal.

March 21, 2013

Mr Ajit Singh
Minister for Civil Aviation
Government of India
New Delhi

Dear Mr Singh,

I am writing to you as a concerned citizen of Kolkata, appalled and disgusted by the state of the new terminal at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. After years and decades of waiting your Ministry and the Airports Authority of India, a body that comes under your superintendence, deigned to give Kolkata the modern airport terminal it deserved. Alas, the AAI and your Ministry have far from delivered on your promises.

The airport terminal that is now functional is a stigma on the fair name of Kolkata. It is an insult to the city, its people and frequent users of airlines, and to the memory of Netaji, for whom the airport is named. Does one ascribe this to the UPA government’s legendary incompetence or to its long-standing policy of neglect and hostility to West Bengal?

I would request answers to those questions, and also to the questions below:

Why has the terminal been thrown open despite being only half-ready? Does your Ministry also
        allow airlines to fly planes that are half-ready?

Why are the toilets so filthy and many parts of the terminal so dirty that these would challenge
        normal human dignity?

Why are garbage bins spilling over, just like in the old terminal I may add?

Why are cleaners almost invisible in the washrooms?

Why is there hardly any signage?

Why is there simply no signage at the conveyor belts? Are passengers meant to intuit where
        their bags may appear?

Why must passengers take buses to board a domestic flight despite so many aerobridges?
        Are these aerobridges showpieces or are they meant for actual use?

Why is there hardly any food and beverages counter?

Why is there no convenience shop to browse and buy goods or memorabilia?

Why are trolleys scattered outside the terminal and in the parking area, rather than neatly
        stacked in a line?

Sir, I apologise if my letter and questions sound rude and angry. However, you will appreciate that the people of Kolkata have waited years for this new airport terminal.

At the end of their patience and their wait, is this all they deserve?

Yours sincerely,

Derek O’Brien
Member of Parliament

March 09, 2013

World Bank report praises Panchayati Raj system in Bengal

Summary of the World Bank report on Panchayati Raj Institutions in Bengal

Project West Bengal Panchayati Raj Institutions

Objective To develop institutionally strengthened Gram Panchayats (GPs)

Project commenced in June 2010

Revised Closing date of project December 2015

4 Components to the project
  • Grants to Gram Panchayats
  • Capacity Building for GPs
  • State government oversight and monitoring of PRIs
  • Program Management and Implementation

Implementation Status
  • Overall the project has made significant progress during the past 2 years 3 months of implementation.
  • Performance of GPs have improved substantially on annual plan preparation, financial management including audit, accounting and financial reporting, absorption capacity of untied grants, project execution and service delivery and ensuring participation, transparency and disclosure of information.
  • Out of 1000 GPs from 9 project districts, 792 GPs have qualified for receiving the block grant of FY13-14 based on an independent Annual Performance Assessment undertaken for 1000 GPs between May - September 2012.
  • The project is providing full support to the Computerization Cell of the Panchayats and Rural Development Department (PRDD) for statewide roll out the Gram Panchayats Management System (GPMS) and upgradation of the GPMS system.
  • The PRDD has made the grant announcement of the block grants to the eligible GPs to enable their annual budget and plan preparation for FY13-14.
  • The priority for the project is to continue to provide on-site focused hand holding support to GPs on well-designed and customized training for GP functionaries on institutional performance and service delivery.
  • The mentoring support including the formal training is provided towards improving their service delivery function.

Locations of the implementation of the project
West Dinajpur, Nadia, Medinipur, Koch Bihar, Haora, Birbhum, Barddhman, Bankura

The detailed World Bank report on Panchayati Raj Institutions in Bengal is available here.

March 08, 2013

On International Women’s Day

Here's what I shared in Parliament today on behalf of Trinamool

Mr. Chairman, Sir, I am doubly delighted to be speaking on this occasion because not only am I speaking to this august house on International Women’s Day, I am the first man to express myself after eight ladies have spoken this morning.

Let me begin by asking: when is International Men’s Day?
Few people know the answer. It is on November 19. International Women’s Day, we all know, is on March 8, but the reason we don’t know of International Men’s Day is because men dominate the other 364 days.

Before we get to bigger and important issues like legislation and administrative solutions to the many issues faced by the women of this country, I appeal to all male members of Parliament to start making a change in small ways – let us be better husbands to our wives, let us be better fathers to our daughters, let us be better children to our mothers, let us be better brothers to our sisters.

So many political parties, including mine, have women as their leaders. Maybe, women make better leaders.

Today is a historic day in Bengal. The Mamata Banerjee government introduces the historic Kanyashree bill, which will promote education, health and the overall well-being of the women in the State. I would urge other States to examine its contents and consider bringing such a legislation in their States too.

The people of Bengal are indeed inspired by MA MAti MAnush – yes, MA (mother) is part of every aspect of life in our State.

Let me end with this rhyme: Let’s still give her flowers on Women’s Day
                                           And make sure she never needs that pepper spray.