Kolkata: For the
first time in over 10 years, the nameplate outside the high
profile chamber in the historic Writers' Buildings - the seat of
power in West Bengal - has given way to a new one.
Since early November 2000, the nameplate outside the first floor
high security zone read "Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee". But not any
more. It now reads "Mamata Banerjee".
Bhattacharjee had taken over from Jyoti Basu, the first left Front
chief minister who took oath in 1977.
With freshly plastered walls, panels and furniture, the most
coveted chamber in the state secretariat looks spanking new for
the new occupant - the first woman chief minister of the state.
"We have redone the walls, constructed a ladies' toilet and
earmarked three chairs - one revolving and two wooden. One of the
wooden chairs is low, and the other one high. She can sit on
whichever she wants to," a PWD official told IANS.
Banerjee, who was sworn in Friday, has also made it clear that she
will not sit on her predecessor's chair, which has now been kept
in a small room adjacent to her chamber.
The new chief minister, who spent some time in her chamber Friday
itself, has expressed her unhappiness with the dim lighting
arrangements in the room and directed that the walls have a touch
of green, the colour of Trinamool Congress which now leads the
ruling alliance in Bengal.
She has also asked for a change of the old carpet.
Banerjee, fond of songs and poems of Noble laureate poet
Rabindranath Tagore, has ordered that a portrait of Tagore should
adorn the wall.
The corridors of the state secretariat had been witness to hectic
activities over the last few days as a large number of carpenters,
plumbers, painters and masons worked almost round the clock to
spruce up the interiors of the 44 ministers' rooms before the new
set of ministers moved in.
So far, 38 ministers have been sworn in and took charge Saturday.
For about 24 years, the finance minister's room was occupied by
Asim Dasgupta. Now the nameplate reads "Amit Mitra", another
economist, three years junior to Dasgupta in the Presidency
Mitra has set up base in what was Dasgupta's room for about a
quarter century after handing a big defeat to his predecessor in
the assembly polls at Khardah constituency.
All along the VIP corridors on the first and second floors, the
portraits are adorned with flowers.
The four-storey red building on the northern shore of a water body
- locally called Lal Dighi - in the city's commercial area of
Dalhousie (now christened BBD Bag), was designed by Thomas Lyon in
It is called "Lal Bari" for the red hue of its exterior walls and
still retains its original colour façade.
The ministers' chambers have been redone with new sets of
furniture, and fresh coats of paint, while old wall panels and
plywood cabinets are being dismantled and replaced with new ones.
Some of the doors have also been pasted anew with plywood.
A bank in the visitors' enclosure opposite the chief minister's
chamber, which was used for collecting donations to the Chief
Minister's Relief Fund, has been demolished.
"Now the enclosure can seat more guests who come in large numbers
to meet the chief minister daily," said the official.
Writers' Buildings, with its impressive Corinthian façade, is a
cluster of 13 four-storeyed buildings, standing on 10 acres of
Several thousand employees work in the structure, which got its
name for having served as the dwelling place for the junior
"writers" or clerks of the British East India Company.
It is popularly called "Mahakaran".
The building was also the scene of the daring attack by three
freedom fighters - Benoy Basu, Badal Gupta and Dinesh Gupta - who
shot dead then inspector general of prisons N.S. Simpson in the
corridor of the building Dec 8, 1930.
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)