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Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary YOU would come to think that, all of a sudden, conscientiousness has begun to run rlot, and a new association has come into being; Society for the Prevention of Overtime Payments to Low-Grade Employees, Members of Parliament, racketeering university pro- lessors, retired civil servants installed in sinecure positions in private companies presumably for faithful services rendered in the past, newspaper editors whose salaries 'and perquisites together would certainly exceed ten thousand rupees per month, have banded themselves together in an informal concordat. All other national problems can wait, hut the problem of what is being quainty described as 'the rising spiral of labour-hours' must be tackled at all costs, otherwise the economy will lie in ruins. The malingering industrial worker, the trant bank clerk, the discontented technician in the Indian Airlines, the wretch that is the class IV employee in a government office, and the rest of the species must he put down with a firm hand: the quantum of public money they are filching under the excuse of working beyond stipulated hours must be cut back drastically, morality must he restored in the public domain. In some of the nationalised undertakings, it is being pointed out in an emotion-laden voice, the canker of overtime allowances has reached scandalous proportions: the aggregate payments under this particular head have risen by as much as 150 to 200 per cent in the course of the past half-a-dozen years. The employers of the world, in the public as well as the private sector, must therefore unite. They have suffered long, the nation has suffered long, and enough is enough. This far and no further, is the message that must now be handed down to the work-shirking, money- grabbing employees. A remarkable solidarity of sentiment is discernible on the issue; there is a closing of ranks among the Swatantra MPs and the committed civil servants, the pontificating newspaper editors and the responsible- sounding academic: on to the barricade, down with overtime bills.

Calcutta Diary

November 17, 1973 Calcutta Diary A M THESE are uncertain times to flaunt the avocation of a soothsayer will be the sheerest of folly. This state may or may not be shut down on November 17, the bandh announced for the day by the nine Left parties, protesting against the government's policies which have fed the price spiral and demanding the release of political prisoners, may or may not be a roaring success. Even if there be deep welled-up discontent about the government's waywardness among the people, they may have for the present lost their faith in the efficacy of collective action. They may have, again for the present, lost their faith in modalities of the traditional Left movement. It could also be that the bulk of those who in the past used to man the barricades for the Left parlies are still dominated by the psychosis of fear. This is a new phenomenon. Political workers, who have been a part of what is known around these parts as the mass movement for the last thirty or forty years, who, till a few years ago, could command the respect of people from different strata of society for their sacrifices and integrity

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M INTIMATIONS of Henry the Eighth, or so it would seem, have overtaken the incumbent resident of the White House. Whichever Cardinal demurred at annulling the Tudor's current marriage

Calcutta Diary

November 3, 1973 LAST MONTH, the court dancer took the final bow. It was a Sunday morning, rain was lashing the streets and lanes; Sadhona Bose, that heart-throb of the Indian screen in the distant 1930s, passed away in a run-down Calcutta apartment building. For most of the recent years, it was a wretched existence for her; the death was equally wretched. She died a pauper, uncared for, a lonely, prematurely old woman whom the world had forgotten. There was a small funeral procession; few cared to join, fewer even enquired who it was who was dead. No flowers for the court dancer of yester-year: she did not belong any more.

Calcutta Diary

October 20, 1973 Calcutta Diary A M THE Defence of India Rules have their uses, perhaps to make fools of men. Ever since the rains set in, garbage has piled high in Calcutta's lanes, roads, streets and pavements. Mountains of rubbish and refuse, mountains of stench and pollution, mountains of germ-carriers

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M SEPTEMBER has been a cruel month, Audeu's death has followed Neruda's. Between the two, a spectrum of memories is covered, a spectrum of excitements, controversies, challenges ac- copied and refused. It has been an unending debate through history, one which the Greeks had started way back, and, perhaps even before them, \et others had dabbled in. At every age, man's rationality coalesces as well as conflicts with man's passion, the need to re-mould society is acutely felt; an inner core of malaise casts its spell, a disenchantment over things as they are grips the senses, an emotion, which keeps asserting that life is not worth living without a thoroughgoing structural engineering of the social base, benumbs the mind. The debate however goes beyond: even if, on the intellectual and emotional planes, one agrees with the proposition that society must he overhauled, what role are the philosophers and the poets supposed to play in the ensuing holocaust ? Do they join the fray, fling away the pen and pick a sword, or, having contributed their mite through their discourses and their theses and counter-theses, do they then withdraw into their shell, watch, with a detached objectivity, the progress of the battle from the side-lines, listen to the nine o'clock news broadcast, dress for dinner, leisurely prepare the manuscript of their next philosophical tract, bring out the next edition of their poetry ? Do they turn into combatants, or do they don the cloak of innocuous seconds whom the duel does not touch?

Calcutta Diary

September 22. 1973 Calcutta Diary A M SUCCESS shakes hands with the also- rans? Calcutta's international airport has little custom these days, hut Fidel Castro's plane, returning from Hanoi. stops for a while. Despite the short notice, a sizeable crowd gathers to greet him. It contains the usual sprinkling of what in the United States will he described as bobby-soxers. That was bound to happen. What is of greater relevance, in this city which cannot quite get rid of its, if you will, revolutionary pretensions, there is still magic in Cuba's name. Che, no doubt, would have been a bigger draw, but, in this lean season, Fidel will do.

Amazon Diary

Wholesalers and retailers have been blaming the poor quality of foodstuffs on each other. Neither party is prepared to guarantee the purity of the commodities it sells. The retailers and ration- shop owners have threatened to close their business unless the authorities intervene.

Calcutta Diary

August 25, 1973 IT is not absolutely necessary to invoke Bertolt Brecht for imbibing the Song of Mother Courage. If one is looking for grit, one can still find plenty of it even in this neighbourhood. The umpteen frustrations not- withstanding, little islets of fortitude, patience, courage, spring up almost every day. It could be an interesting interlude to hop around, on a spare morning or afternoon, the suburbs of Calcutta, and visit these vast congregations of humanity

Calcutta Diary

 Calcutta Diary A M CALL it a waiting of quality. One meets hundreds of young boys and girls who were supposed to sit for the university's final examinations in 1972. It is, the calendar says, July 1973, but the 1972 examinations are yet to take place. With luck, the university may be able to organise the ritual toward the whining end of the year; the results, again with luck, may be announced some time around the middle of 1974. This has gone on, year after year, with each year's examinations; and it will, bless you, continue to go on. There is, in consequence, a certain elongation of the allegedly academic process, to which each of the parties concerned

Calcutta Diary

 Calcutta Diary A M INDIA, the Prime Minister is reported to have informed an audience in Canada, has no ideology to export. Nothing could be more true, We have not only no ideology to export, but have none for home consumption either. It is usually when there is a spillover of what is produced that the question of exports can be seriously considered. In our case, that possibility has to be ruled out, since we have tackled the problem at its source. We have no ideology: as the Americans say, period.

Calcutta Diary

paper mill first commissioning its paper machine and operating it on purchased pulp till its pulp unit is erected. However, for NEPA, imported pulp or even domestically available pulp proved to be far too expensive. In part at least this was due to rise in costs, but in the main it was due to the price control on newsprint. In fact, newsprint prices remained stagnant for almost a decade, till mid-1968. An ad hoc increase of Rs 50 was granted in 1968 which brought the selling price of NEPA's newsprint to Rs 1,100 per tonne, even as the cost of imported newsprint at that time was Rs 1,243 per tonne. In September 1971, government raised the selling price to Rs 1,362 per tonne, bringing it on par with imported newsprint prices. By then even this increase could not neutralise the rise in costs. NEPA incurred operating losses of Rs 92 lakhs in 1969-70 and Rs 52 lakhs in 1970-71; 1971-72 witnessed considerable improvement and NEPA showed a marginal profit of Rs 4 lakhs.

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