Bengal’s Civic Army

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After sweeping the Left out of power in municipal polls in many parts of West Bengal, Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee has constituted jumbo committees to advise and oversee the functioning of the civic boards in the municipal bodies it has won. She announced a 19-member advisory committee for Salt Lake, while a 76-member committee will advise the Mayor-in-Council in Kolkata. The advisors are mostly singers, painters, academics, ex-bureaucrats, industrialists, lawyers, doctors and journalists, most of whom didn’t have a clue they would be named. 

However, many have lost no time in announcing their pet schemes. Like renowned danseuse Amala Shankar, who has said that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) will set up dance schools for orphans. And actress and animal lover Debashree Roy, who wants the civic body to stop harassing street dogs, and a singer who’d have music taught to street children in KMC-run schools. Then, a painter wants all pavements cleared of encroachers before he raises an army of amateur painters to beautify the walls! Prominent among the persons in the panels for Salt Lake and Kolkata are singers Nachiketa and Anup Ghoshal, artists Suvaprasanna and Jogen Choudhury, filmmaker Sandip Ray, theatre directors Bibhas Chakraborty and Bratya Basu, quizmaster Derek O’Brien and cricket administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya. 

Realising that such a large body of advisors is unwieldy, Mamata has formed a core committee of advisors for the KMC, headed by ex-Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, to liaise between the main body of advisors and Mayor-in-Council members. Trinamool councillors aren’t amused. With so many advisors breathing down their necks, they would be virtually powerless to do anything on their own.