The Gift (Continued)…..

It was not the watch or the cost of it, which made Pragya uncomfortable. She was contemplating to break a news to Saptajit. A news which was good, but she was not sure of how Saptajit would react to it. Would he accept it gracefully? Would he react? Would he sulk further? Whatever, be the reaction, she wanted to break it on her birthday.

Pragya was undergoing a tough time to keep up with the sulking Saptajit. Saptajit had always been cheerful and joyous. He used to keep the home alive. But off-late, that optimism and bustling energy level had been missing in Saptajit. She used to pray to the almighty that he gets a handsome job as early as possible. But, praying without consequent action has never yielded any result. Had it been so, the world would then have become only a happy place to live in, with no sorrows and miseries. After considering various options, she had approached the principal of the college where she used to be a professor. Pragya was a professor of economics at an institute with a descent reputation. She had requested her principal, to take an interview of Saptajit for the post of a faculty of the Business Administration department. The institute was a private one, where recommendations mattered more than the weightage of CVs. The principal, Mrs. Shelly Mukherjee, jumped at the offer. If Saptajit, a candidate with such academic brilliance and career record joins her institute, it would certainly add some value. She asked Pragya to request Saptajit to come for an interview the next Monday, which Pragya knew would be more of a formality than judging the abilities of the candidate. There were very few in the institute who had the caliber to judge the qualities of Saptajit.

It was tough news to break. But, she had to break it. 19th October, was the Monday when the interview had been fixed for Saptajit. Pragya had promised the principal that Saptajit would be there before the interview panel by 11:00 A.M. and it was already 8:00 clock in the morning.

‘Baby, I want to tell you something. But, you have to promise me that you will not say no to me. It’s my birthday after all’.

‘Have I ever said no to you darling?’

She knew that, he was a man of extremely high male ego, but would often submit to his wife and mother. But, this was a news, which would not be easy on him. She rearticulated sentences in her mind.

‘Baby, you know Mrs. Mukherjee, our principal. That fat lady who was convent educated, but opens her lunch box much before the lunch period and then again have a full meal from our teacher’s canteen during the lunch hours!’

‘Yeah I know her. She was here at our last marriage anniversary.’

‘Baby she wants to meet you.’

‘Meet me? But why?’

‘Just the other day, she was lamenting at a teacher’s meeting that we lack good professors in the MBA department and you know Mr. Bose, the HoD of Business Administrations, he sighed saying only if we had a gem like Mr. Patranabish and looked at me. I was utterly shocked. I said, Mr. Patranabish? By any chance do you refer to my husband? Yes Mrs. Patranabish, he is a gem of a person. I have this friend of mine, who had been working with your husband at some company and he had always been in awe of your husband. Such a multi-talented person. I asked, but why would he join us? He has been working in the corporate and he has no experience of teaching. To this Mrs. Mukherjee said that you know why he suites best in this team? It’s because he brings to the table that corporate experience with an excellent academic record. Then she almost pledged me to fix an appointment with you as early as possible. I was not sure, but owing to their constant pursuance I finally gave in and said okay he would be here the next Monday, but I cannot guarantee you that he will consider what you guys want. Baby, I am sorry, but can you please keep my words?’ she fabricated the entire story and tried to make it as real as possible.

Saptajit was bewildered to say the least. He was an extremely intelligent person and could understand the happenings. He knew how much Pragya loved him and cared for him. Any other person and he would not even pause a moment to say No straight on the face. He hated to be referred and had immense belief on his own capabilities. But, he did not want to dishearten Pragya.

Smilingly he said, ‘So the queen of my heart, what exactly do I need to do? Put on that white shirt, gray jacket, take the briefcase and appear for an interview at your college?’

‘Are you kidding me? They have been almost begging me to have you on board. Put on that black tee shirt, the pair of denim and the flipflop and oblige our principal by meeting her.’

He shaved, took a good 10 minutes shower, put on the white shirt, gray blazer, the black watch and with a charming smile embraced Pragya, exactly 30 minutes later. He was handsome and when he dressed well, Pragya could not take her eyes off. He loved the charming Saptajit. It was her day. She took out the car, sat at the driver’s seat and drove Saptajit to the college.

Two days later….

‘Thank you baby, for giving me my life back’, Saptajit said.

Saptajit and Pragya were undressed and under the quilt. They just had a warm love making and were sleeping next to each other.

‘Why are you thanking me? You had the abilities and you deserved the job.’

‘You know why? If it had not been you, I would not have ever taken up a job where someone had referred my name. But, I understood how badly I needed this job. And to tell you the truth I might not make as much money as I used to make in the corporate, but I will have the flexibility and will also try to pursue a higher degree. This will also help me to get back to my academic days through the eyes of the students and I will try my best to teach them about the methodologies to deal with the most stressful days of life. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.’

Tears rolled down Pragya’s cheek. She could not utter a single word. She tightly embraced Saptajit, put her head on his chest and cried like a new born baby. Saptajit put his arms around her and kissed her on the forehead.

‘You know how I missed you. I could not bear seeing you sulking. I could not take your doomed face. I have never seen you getting rejected by companies. You have always been the performer. Seeing you in such a state of mind, I would often cry at the bathroom. I so prayed to God that you be happy. I always wanted you to be happy’, Pragya almost whispered, still trembling with the after effects of the whimper.

‘I knew and I wanted to be normal, but could not. Even I was not used to rejections. It was hard to take those. But, now it’s over and let’s celebrate the moment. The bad days are over and good days are about to begin. Let’s not cry and make this evening dull, honey’, he said with a wink in his eyes!

Now we need to give some THEM-SPACE to the happy couple and shift our eyes elsewhere!

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The Gift

Saptajit silently opened the door of his bedroom and took a glance at Pragya. ‘The sleeping beauty’, he whispered to himself! He put the glass of Orange Juice on the bed-side table, opened the drawer and took out a rectangular box, wrapped with a handmade gift paper. He leaned forward, kissed her on the forehead and gently called her. As she opened her eyes; Saptajit with utmost sweetness in his voice, whispered in her ears, ‘Happy fifth Anniversary baby!’

Pragya put her hands around his shoulder and wished him back, ‘A very happy anniversary my Honey!’ Saptajit put the gift box on her tummy.

‘What’s this?’, she wondered.

‘Something for you, my sweet heart!’

As she opened the box, she was perplexed to find an exquisite diamond studded luxury watch inside. It was a Hyper Chrome watch, a rare collection from one of the extremely costly luxury brand watches.

Her eyes sparkled for a few seconds. She took the watch closer to her eyes and then suddenly she jumped up to sit straight infront of Saptajit.

‘Are you completely out of your mind?’

‘Me? Why? What Happened? Didn’t you like it?’, he said in an extremely soft voice.

‘Are you nuts? This is an excellent gift. Probably the best gift that I have ever received; but these are freaking diamonds’.

‘Yes, they are. But, this has been your dream watch and what better an occasion than to gift it to my beloved on our Anniversary?’, exclaimed Saptajit.

‘Are you in your senses? Do you even know what you are saying? This is one of the rare collections and probably costs more than what many people earn in a year.’

Yes, she was partially correct. The watch was an extremely costly one and had robbed Saptajit a lot of his savings. He sighed in pain. She should not have reminded him of his situation on such an auspicious day.

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PC: Google Images

Saptajit was working as a General Manager with one of the leading Multi Nationals in India. He experienced a meteoric rise in his career. After completing his Engineering, he cracked CAT to get admitted to one of the most prestigious Business Schools in India. Thereafter he never had to look back, except that horrendous day eight months ago. He switched jobs, like one would change clothes and in his ten years of professional career he had already worked with four leading MNCs. He had worked for three years in his last company and had generated business to the tune of what many could not even think of. But yet, the worst of nightmares, which can send a chill down one’s spine, had happened in his life.

It was 3rd June, 2013. India was still trying to recuperate from one of the toughest economic slow downs it had faced in the last five years. Big organizations had fallen back to the age old theory of layoffs to cope up with the huge financial crisis. Worse, even many firms had to shut down. The situation was catastrophic. India had survived many hiccups earlier, but this time it had hit her bad. Angshuman, Saptajit’s boss, had called him to his chamber. As he entered, he was surprised to see a pale Angshuman, staring blankly at his laptop screen. This was an extremely rare situation. His boss had been an extremely jolly person and always used to be on high spirits. Even during the toughest periods, he would maintain a smile on his face. He was extremely workaholic and used to take a lot of work load. He had never yelled at the non-performing actors. He used to handhold them through difficult phases and shielded them from all the adversities of the higher up hierarchies.

Seeing his boss in such a pensive mood, Saptajit was worried. He thought something must have gone wrong at Angshu Da’s home. They all used to call him Angshu Da or simply dada. From the peons to the liftmen to the managers of the organization, he was everyone’s dada in the Kolkata office. He hated when someone would call him sir.

Saptajit asked, ‘Something wrong Angshu Da?’

Angshu Da said nothing. He handed over a sealed envelope to Saptajit. The envelope bore his name. Saptajit quickly tore open the envelope and took out the letter. He could not believe what he was reading. The letter was his termination letter, signed by the VP HR. Saptajit, who out of his three years tenure in the firm, had won the best employee’s award two times and was loved and respected by all for his sheer capability to bring in business and build network with the toughest clients, was asked to leave the company within 45 days. The company, in the mean time, would settle his bills and would also give him a bonus, equivalent to three months of his salary, owing to his good performance.

‘Is this a joke? I do not like such stupid jokes, Angshu Da’, Saptajit thundered. The ever cheerful Angshuman wilted and hung his head even lower. Saptajit was on fire. He thundered Angshuman for a good twenty minutes, and then stormed into the VP Hr’s chamber, yelled at him for another thirty minutes, but all in vain. Everyone knew that Saptajit was one of the best of the resources for the organization and throwing him out might backfire. However, they all were helpless. It was an order that everyone had to execute, at had come in from one of the partners of the organization. The reason was simple. The company wanted to do a cost cutting and hence was trying to trim down and get rid of some of the highest paid.

Just after the incident, everyone, who knew Saptajit, would say that it was only a matter of time before he would get himself an even better job with a more handsome pay package. His parents, Pragya and his in-laws all were very supportive of him. They started to take extra care of him. He used to apply for new jobs, appear for interviews, but could not bag them. It was so unusual of Saptajit. There was a time when several rival companies wanted Saptajit to join them and now despite trying hard and using almost all his contacts he could not even land a descent job. Gradually frustration took a dig at him. He would stay put in his room, grew beard and would even skip meals. Even the best of dishes cooked by his mother or the most passionate love makings with Pragya could not bring a glee on his face. He though wanted to become normal.

It was 19th October, Pragya’s 30th birthday. After several weeks, Saptajit had shaved, put on some charming cologne and a nice pair of clothes. They had gone out to dine together, after many days. He gifted a golden ring studded with a small diamond. He knew her fetish for diamonds.

After having a sumptuous dinner, they took a long walk. While their way back, Saptajit noticed a newly opened Rado store. He almost dragged Pragya to enter the shop. He had an obsession with time pieces and loved to wear different watches matched up with his dresses. He boasted of a huge collection of luxury watches. While looking at the new collections, he suddenly noticed Pragya to be gazing at a rare and an extremely elegant piece of watch. What caught his attention was that the watch was studded with several tiny pieces of diamonds throughout its dial.

‘Baby, do you like it?’

‘Are you crazy? I was just looking at it. You know, I am not a fanatic, like you are, about watches’, she pulled his leg!

But, Saptajit could never forget that glee on her face. He knew the watch was extremely costly. Moreover, he was jobless and could not afford the luxury. But, Saptajit had always been a man of emotions and always valued instinct more than logic. He stopped almost all his unnecessary expenses, and even gave up his long habit of smoking. After losing his job, he sulked a lot and started to booze. He would take a couple of pegs before dinner. He never drank anything less than exquisite scotches. But, after that day, he gave up boozing. He saved every penny, which he could.

On 12th February, two days before their marriage anniversary, he had gone to that luxury watch store and purchased the watch which had brought a glee in Pragya’s face. Saptajit had saved a lot, but the watch was extremely costly and robbed him a handsome amount of his savings. He got the watch box wrapped with a special handmade paper that he had sourced from another shop and kept it inside his personal vault of the wardrobe.

                                 (……………………To Be Continued……………………..)

The Good Samaritan Prevails (Last Part)

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Pc: Google Image

12th May, 9:05 A.M

I was rushing towards the Sealdah South section from the main section to catch a train and head towards my office. My phone, which I had kept inside my bag, was ringing relentlessly. But, I did not take it out and answer the call. Instead I headed towards the GRP to enquire about any proceedings on the case. The OC, who was in charge of the Police Station at the morning, disappointed me by saying that, although the previous night they had seized a few theft items, my belongings could not be traced.

After boarding the train, I checked my mobile, to find around eight to nine miscalls from an unknown number. I ringed back.

‘Hello! Who’s this? I got several calls from this number. Sorry, couldn’t answer them.’

‘Hello. Am I speaking to Mr. Sayantan Sengupta?’

‘Yes Speaking.’

‘Mr. Sengupta, have you lost your wallet by any chance?’

‘Yes, I did. But, who’s this?’

‘I have a brown wallet with me, which contains a couple of ATM cards, a few Privilege cards, A PAN card and a DL. From the ID cards, I could make out that the belongings are that of a certain Sayantan Sengupta. However, this contains no cash. Are you willing to collect the same?’

‘Are you sure? I had lost it last night. But, how did you get it and may I know your name please and from where you are calling?’

‘I am Proshun Karmakar (Name changed to hide his identity). I am calling from Belghoria. My roomies found this wallet desolated beside the Sealdah taxi Stand, today in the morning. They picked it up and after finding the valuables frantically searched for the owner. Luckily you had written down your number on a small piece of paper and kept it in the wallet. ’

‘If you could please say, from which place of Belghoria you are making this call.’

‘I stay as a Paying Guest (PG) in a mess near Belghoria station. Can you come to my place and collect the same?’

I thought for a while. This call could be a trap as well. I decided to buy in some time and give a thought to it.

‘Proshun, will you be there at your place in the afternoon? I am going to office now and if it doesn’t bother you much I would like to collect it sometime in the afternoon.’

‘Fine! I will be at my PG. Just give me a call before coming.’

‘Perfect. Thank You so much Proshun. I will inform you before going to your place.’

My mind went on to a dubious state. While I wanted to believe this guy as innocent and immediately rush to Belghoria and pick up the wallet from him, my logical mind warned me. Apparently over phone, the voice of the boy seemed to be that of an innocent kid, however, going by many of the recent incidents I thought it wise to think twice before taking a hasty decision. I decided to discuss the same with a few.

I called up my dad, a couple of my train co-passengers and also discussed the same with my office colleagues. While my office colleagues were confident that the guy was genuine and was trying to help me, my father and my co-passengers were of the opinion that I should not go to the place alone and should take the help of someone else. My father proposed going to the place along with me and although I protested vehemently, he was hell bound on accompanying me. He requested me several times to refrain travelling to the place alone and made me swear to inform him prior to going to Belghoria.

12th May, 3:00 P.M

Despite so many suggestions, I kept my calm and remained poised. I decided to visit Proshun, at his place in the afternoon. In the meanwhile, I searched for Proshun Karmakar on Facebook and found out one residing at Belghoria, who is a first year student in Surendranath College near Sealdah, Kolkata. I called Proshun only to be informed that he was at his college. I waited patiently till the clock struck 3 P.M. I had a word with my boss and informed him that I need to get this wallet back from the chap. He was kind enough to understand the situation and grant me the special permission to leave office early.

When I called my dad to inform about my decision to visit the place, I was surprised to find that he was already waiting at the nearby station. I felt bemused. Perhaps a dad can never believe that his son has grown up to become a man. To him his son is still a kid, whom he tries to protect from whatever he can!

12th May, 4:00 P.M

I reached Belghoria around 4 P.M. and called Proshun after reaching the station. I found my father had already informed the GRP and he pointed out to me the couple of police officers in plain clothes. He assured me that the police would not even touch the boy, if he seemed to be genuine and harmless. However, in case of any untoward incident they will pick him up.

While I grew impatient waiting for him I called him a couple of times, only to be informed that either he was having his lunch or was on his way to the station. He made the last call at 4:20 P.M and requested me to come near to a temple, not far off from the station. However, the police had already warned us about leaving the station area saying that they could do nothing if we leave their jurisdiction and instead asked us to lure him to the station. After three more phone calls he finally agreed to come to the station area. In the meanwhile he had requested me to either come to the auto stand or to the bus stop. Finally, he asked me to wait infront of the ticket counter of platform No. 4. My father and the civil dressed police personnel followed me, keeping a distance but also a close watch on my movement. They signaled me not to cross the ticket counter. I nodded.

The railway department has been making an underpass and probably certain other constructions in the area and thus the place is clogged with several construction workers, pedestrians, passengers, hawkers and beggars. A perfect place to camouflage for the rogues, keep a close watch and walk back, in case they feel all is not well, I thought. The wait had made me believe that the guy was trying to play with my mind.

12th May, 4:25 P.M

After keeping us wait for five more minutes, I got a call from the same number. As I tried to keep an eye on all those who were approaching the ticket counter, I saw a young boy speaking over the phone and walking towards me. His face looked quite similar to the one whom I had searched and found out on Facebook. He was lean, dark and tall. He was accompanied by a friend of his. After exchanging pleasantries, he handed me over the wallet. I checked it at once. Everything was in place, except the money. I nodded to my dad, who in turn signaled to the policemen, who walked back.

I was startled. This was not only about getting back my wallet, which was no doubt of much value to me, due to the belongings that it contained, but also about whether we could still put on our faith and believe an unknown person. At some point of time, it seemed to me that my faith on human race could either get restored or completely shattered depending upon the turn out of the incident.

The kids were anxious, which reflected on their eyes. I could sense that they had several times discussed amongst themselves, whether meeting me in public, would be safe. However, their honest, dignity and the power to overcome fear touched me immensely. I hugged Proshun and his friend. I offered to treat them, which they shyly kept on denying. However, I took them to a nearby Biriyani shop, purchased two plates of Mutton Biriyani and tried getting them some sweets, which I could not as all sweet shops in the locality, due to some unknown reason were not selling sweets at that point of time. Then I introduced them to my dad. They still had not overcome the fear. However, with extreme generosity, they requested me and my dad to visit their PG. We followed them to their PG. These kids were from two different suburban towns, far off from Kolkata. Like many others who stay in PGs, they strived on very little and slept on damp beds and in dingy, dark rooms. I will never forget their humbleness, generosity and the immense help that they did to me, by handing over the wallet containing the valuable documents. But, more than that, I thanked them from the bottom of my heart just because they helped me to restore the faith on the human race and assured me that there are still many in this world who help selflessly. Thank you champs! I wish you to go miles ahead in your life. We need people like you, just to make sure that this earth remains a good place to live in. And sorry for my dubious mind guys, which at times had forced me not to believe you completely. I sincerely apologize for that.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN STILL PREVAILS.

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The Good Samaritan Prevails

11th May, 2016. 6:35 P.M.

Sealdah station was bustling with passengers, vendors, hawkers, beggars, TTEs, policemen and pick-pocketers! Yeah, you read it correct, pick pocketers! Hundreds of these rogues camouflage themselves with the passengers during the wee hours and with extreme skill pick up what they intend to pick. I was rushing towards the main section of the station from the south section with my office backpack. After dribbling past several commuters and dodging many incidents of head on collision, I reached platform No. 2 and was about to board the Up Krishnanagar local scheduled to leave at 6.42 P.M. We, the daily commuters, are really good at pacing within the jam packed station and heading towards our destination. As I intended to take my backpack to my front, a common practice while boarding a train to avoid commotion, I noticed that the small front pocket of my bag was unzipped. By intuition, I knew what had happened. Still I checked my bag and found my wallet to be missing. All other belongings like my business card holder, phone charger and the pen-drive where in place. I checked the other pockets and found both my mobiles to be safe in an inner pocket of my bag, where the felon could not reach out to.

My usual practice is to keep the mobiles and my wallet within an inner pocket of my backpack and take the same in my front while boarding up and down a train. However, while walking through the station, I take it to my back to navigate easily. On that evening, I had kept the mobile phones as usual in the inner pocket of the bag, but put the wallet in the front pocket. And as luck betrayed me, all the valuables were lost at one go.

 

guy picking up a lost a lost purse/wallet

Pc: Google Images

11th May, 6:45 P.M

I kept my cool and headed straight towards the GRP station near the south section of the platform. Seated in front of the Officer in Charge (OC), I called a friend who is also a DP (Daily Passenger). He at that time was fortunately at the station, waiting to board a train. The OC asked me to file a General Diary (GD), narrating the incident, on a white A4 Paper. Interestingly the GRP station does not provide the papers to file down GDs and one need to purchase the papers from outside. However, understanding my situation, that I did not even possess the minimum amount to purchase papers, the OC was kind enough to give me a couple of pages for filing the GD. As I mentioned to him that I had lost my PAN Card, Driving License (DL), two Debit Cards, a few other privilege cards along with some cash, which were inside the wallet, he said that he can only register a GD for all the belongings but not for the DL. He shared with me that there have been several instances when many had filed cases of missing DLs and applied for a lost DL with the Transport Department with a copy of the GD, when actually their DLs had been seized due to various reasons. He shared that for registering a case of lost DL, I need to first visit the Lal Bazar Traffic Control Department and obtain a NOC against my DL number and then register a GD with the GRP station. With a copy of the GD, I then need to visit the Motor Vehicles Department for re-issuing my DL. I could sense that I was in a complete mess, as this process would require a lot of leg work and patience. In the meanwhile Sabir Da, the co-passenger, whom I had called, had reached the GRP and provided me a moral boost and shared that he knew someone at the Lal Bazar Traffic Control and I need not worry about it.

11th May, 7:00 P.M

In the meanwhile a pick-pocketer was being caught red handed by some passengers & vendors and was being dragged to the police station. Being brought to the police station he was asked by the OC to hold his ears and do 100 numbers of sit ups! The thug, after doing 20 sit ups, said that he had done nothing and was being wrongly harassed by the commuters! One police personnel got irritated by the way he was constantly denying his misdeed and started to beat him up. The rogue was so used to such beatings that nothing happened to him and despite being beaten so hard was constantly mentioning that he did nothing! Alas, the OC took it upon himself and started to beat him black and blue. The thief somehow managed to escape the clutches of the policemen surrounding him and tried to flee away, but was caught near the gate. He was then put behind the bars of the police station. It was only after he was being put behind the bars, that he accepted committing the sin. It was a one off incident where I visualized how desperate these thugs are and how not even the worst of beatings from the police men could make them commit to their sins. My expectations of getting back the valuables decreased further.

After registering the GD we caught a train back home. While returning I discussed the issue with a few co-passengers and Sabir Da introduced me to a Police Personnel, who also commutes back in the same train along with Sabir Da. He assured me that he would guide me and it won’t be much of a hassle to get the NOC from the Lal Bazar Traffic Control.

I was quite disturbed that night and could not sleep well. In the meanwhile, I had got my Debit cards blocked. I knew, I was in a complete mess, with my PAN card, DL and ATM cards being lost.

To be continued………..

Travelling, Outing and Dating!

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I love to travel and have been extremely fortunate to travel to many places in the country. I have travelled to a lot of tourist hotspots within the country. But, it has always been the offbeat travel destinations that have lured me. Thanks to my job profile as well, as that too provides me with an ample of opportunity to do what I love the most – travel.

However, though travelling with colleagues and friends are exciting and alluring, but nothing can quite match the pleasure of travelling with one’s own family. Fortunately my family, though not a travel buff, but yet loves to go out once in a while, away from the ruckus of the city life and spend some quality time together.

But, this article is not about sharing my experience of travelling to distant places with my family or with my friends! This is all about how an outing can become all the more enthralling with your soulmate, even when it is within the periphery of the city or to a widely explored destination.

I thanked my stars when I came to know that she, the love of my life, too loves to explore places. My idea of a perfect date has always been about travelling, exploring places and enjoying mouthwatering dishes together.

Though, we have not travelled far off from the city together, but we have had hung out in quite a few places within the periphery of the city. I wanted to share with you all, a few of my favourite dates, which I have experienced, till date.

The Post-Christmas Date:

It was a Sunday; a couple of days after the Christmas and the chill was there. This time of the year has always been my favourite and we were looking forward to rejuvenate ourselves. And what better than trying out some adventure sports? We discussed many options and finally zeroed in on Eco Park, the latest tourist hotspot in Kolkata. The place is located in New Town on the eastern fringes of the Kolkata city. It has now become extremely popular with kids, teenagers, the middle aged and also with the elderly generation.

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                               The Water Roller Ride

While we tried three rides, the water roller ride, the kayaking and the water capsule; it was the kayaking which mesmerized me the most. We took to Kayaking just before dusk, at around 4 P.M. The blushing horizon and the cool breeze from north had set the tempo for a perfect romantic kayak ride with my partner. She opted for the front seat of the Kayak and I took the rear one. It was fun controlling the Kayak with the pair of oars and rowing it to the direction we wanted to! There were multiple other boats out there in the middle and often we were competing with them. As she was struggling to keep up with the wind speed and the flow of the water current, I negotiated with the stream. I kept on gazing at her from behind and the effort she was putting in to control the Kayak wooed me.

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                                Get Set Go: Kayaking

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                                Kayaking

It was a very special day for me and my partner. Such endearing romantic outings can ignite the flame within a relationship and keep it special between the couple.

The New Year Date:

The Celsius was dropping and the weather was cool and pleasant. It was the perfect time of the year, when one would not feel fatigued and would love to flaunt their colorful winter outfits. It was the time when new resolutions were being made, only to be broken later on!

I was planning for a special New Year Date, which we could treasure in our memory for long. Amongst the few options that crisscrossed my mind, about how to spend the day, the one which appealed to me the most was to take her out for a road trip. After dwelling upon several options of where we could go, I finally opted for Kolaghat, a one and half hours drive from the Kolkata city. One major factor which instigated me to opt for Kolaghat was the delicious North Indian cuisine on offering at the Sher-E-Punjab Dhaba!

She was ecstatic, to say the least, when I revealed my plan. However, due to certain reasons, I could not take my car out and instead had to hire a cab. Although, driving through the smooth NH6 would have been much more alluring, but unfortunately we had to settle down for some less! But, she being there besides me, even a bumpy ride would have been enjoyable.

The place apart from being famous for stationing one of the major Thermal Power Plants of the state is also a popular picnic spot. One will have to really sweat it out to spot an empty space on the bank of the river Rupnarayan, besides the township during this time of the year.

We started our journey at around 10 AM from Kolkata. The day was sunny and bright. We put on some foot tapping numbers during our journey and started enjoying our first outing outside the city. By the time we reached Kolaghat it was noon and we were hungry like wolves. We headed straight towards the Dhaba and had some of their best delicacies. Thereafter, we hung around the place and took a few snaps of ourselves at different locations.

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                                 The Journey

We spoke to a few locals and came to know that Deulti, the village which was home to legendary Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay was less than 15 minutes’ drive from the Sher-E-Punjab. Also, very close by to Sarat Chandra’s erstwhile house is the Rupnarayan river. Boating in the river during the peak season is another attraction of this tourist spot.

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                                     The Food

On the way to Sarat Chandra’s house is the Nirala Resort, where, one can have their food and also spend some time in the beautiful flower garden. We strolled around the flower garden, sat on the banks of the swimming pool and spoke our hearts content to each other. And we could not stop complementing each other!

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Next we headed towards Sarat Chandra’s home. The house has been transformed into a museum. But it was so heavily crowded that we decided not to enter it and spoil the mood.

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                        At Deulti, Near Sarat Chandra's house

Burping with memoirs from the day we had to start for our return journey. She was dead tired on our way back and within a few minutes let her head down on my chest and slept like a puppy! I caressed her hair and she slept in peace. I will preserve this moment in my memory stack till my last breath.

The Valentine’s Day Date:

I wanted to gift her a special and new experience on this special day, which commemorates love. I had never driven her out in our car and it was perhaps the best day to take her out for a drive. I reached the station, well in advance of the time, when she was about to come. I bought a red rose, the eternal symbol of love and a travel magazine and kept it on the dashboard of my car. As she reached, I opened the door for her. I wanted her to feel like a princess and she was overwhelmed with joy and happiness she saw me at the wheels. She rejoiced like a kid when she got her gifts, the flower and the magazine. She couldn’t stop clicking photos of us! She was wearing a blue polka dotted blue tee shirt and denim jeans. I took her to my first school, to the lake that adds to the beauty of our town, to the football ground and to the cricket stadium. She went nostalgic when I took her to the place where she had once come for an exam, long before she knew me and my town. She whispered to me, that, it was, a dream come true for her, as I drove her within the lengths and breadths of the city.  When she had to return to her place at the end of the day, she hugged me and thanked me a lot for the day. My joy knew no bound. All these small but sweet memories help me keep going during tougher phases.

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                                   The Drive

There are many other memorable dates that we have celebrated together. I cherish all of them. I cannot and I do not want to rank and distinguish between my dates. All of them are too special and close to my heart.

Tania, you have been the person whom I have always admired, sometimes even secretly without letting you know. You have been my strength and my courage. Last but not the least, yes it is you who have inspired me to start this blog! Thanks a lot!

 

Dear Media, You definitely don’t have a brother or a son who can keep wickets!

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Pc: Google
I just went through the article, ‘No, Dhoni. I don’t have a brother or a son who can keep wickets‘ published in The Times of India Blog. The blogger is a journalist with The Times of India and he defended pretty well, why the journos have the right to ask retirement questions to all legendary cricketers, including Dhoni. He shared, that it is their job and was critical of the way Dhoni mocked at the Indian journos. Yeah sure Mr. blogger, it’s your job to ask such stupid and silly questions to the man who has been a phenomenal cricketer and an outstanding captain of India, at least in the limited overs game. It’s your job that you give expert comments on when the likes of Sachin, Sourav and Dhoni should retire. It’s your job to sensitize issues, out of nothing. And you get paid for that. The more sensational news it is, the more, I guess, is the reward, in terms of recognition and acclaim. We have seen that been done a numerous times by the journos, including during the 26/11 Bombay attack or during the Kargil War. It’s your job and you can’t help it.
 It is true that we eat what you feed. We love to debate over articles published in the media.
As a lay man, who definitely has almost no knowledge of the game as compared to you, I would like to request you to let the likes of Dhoni retire when he wants to. He definitely understands his fitness level and capability to perform, better than you do. He was bang on it when he responded to that foreign journo. And he rightly mocked at you (the Indian Media). Criticize constructively. With due respect to all the past wicket keepers of India, I have never seen some one who has kept so well and batted as magnificently as Dhoni does. It’s pity that we, the Indians, never respect these legends when they are in full form. It is only after they retire, that we understand the immense contribution that they have made to Indian cricket. Let, Dhoni retire tomorrow. And then will you understand what he has given to Indian cricket and stupid Indian ‘Nationalist‘ fans like us. Truly said. Nationalism must only be your proprietary right and you have the right to define it and tweak it, as and when required.
Yes, he is a Human Being. And like many others he does commit mistake. But, to go out there and perform in front of 50,000 odd people requires some guts. And he has been doing that for years. Definitely you and me do not have it. If he and Kohli would not have been there, the Indian cricket team would have to pack their bags after the group league in the ICC WT20. But it’s not only about him. You have had asked the same question to Ganguly, when he was desperately trying to make a come back to the Indian national squad, you have asked the same to Laxman, to Dravid to Sehwag and even to Sachin. It’s not that you will retire after asking this to him. After a few years you would ask the same to the person, whom you are defining as the current Messiah of Indian cricket. Most certainly he would be taking up the reigns of Indian cricket, after Dhoni retires. And if he fails in a couple of series you would ask the same question to him as well.
But then, we do understand, as you have rightly mentioned, that, this is your job and your increment depends upon this! So keep selling news which you feel can sensationalize the Indian cricket fans and keep selling more. Good Luck!
 [The author is an ardent cricket fan and his objective is not to malign the media or mock at the journos, but to appeal to them to cater news with good content to the Indian cricket fans] 

The Border Haats: A Dream Come True For the Marginalized

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Kudos to her determination and will power. The Balat Border Haat has provided Asha Nongkhaoi an opportunity to live a better life and dream bigger. She is a vendor who sells vegetables, fruits and spices at the Haat. She and her family were facing it hard to make ends meet, before she got her vendor card and started selling goods at the Haat. Previously her family had to depend on the minuscule earnings of her husband who owns a small garage at the local Dangar bazar. Thanks to the Haat! What was previously a far-fetched dream for her has now become a reality. Of her income from the Haat, she now spends a major chunk for her child’s education. Her net income from each Haat day is around INR 1800-2000. ‘I could never think of spending much for the education of my children. But due to the Haat I am now being able to spend most of my earnings for their education. I want them to have a better life’, she shared with our research team.

They are poor and they are marginalized. They live in far flung places of North East India. They do not have access to shopping malls, neither do they dream to sit in KFCs and CCDs and spend thousand bucks in a couple of hours over endless and needless chit chats. The only time they get to hear about development, is when the Voting Bell rings. They are like the poor animals in the circus, who dance at the whims of their political masters. They live near the International borders where they are deprived of many a facilities, which we in the metros cannot even think of being deprived for a single day. All they want is a life where they would be able to have proper nutritious food, a better shelter and a secure future for their children. Lack of livelihood opportunities  have pestered many to migrate to the cities in search of a better living. Apart from a very few government services, these places lack job opportunities. Spotting an industry within kilometers would be like spotting an ocean in a desert. The only option that they have is to trade in market places. However, the extremely poor per capita income means that they do not have much to be sold and bought at their local market places. However, there are numerous items which are on high demand on the opposite side of the border. These include daily need items like local produce (including vegetables, fruits etc), cosmetics and toiletries, garments, packaged food items and many more. Similarly on the Indian side, demands of many essential commodities are exceptionally high due to lack of availability. It was long being thought that a market place which could trade off essential commodities at or near the International Border areas between the countries would be a good initiative and could lead to a socio-economic upliftment of the deprived.

A laudable initiative by the Governments of India and Bangladesh led to setting up of Border Haats in four places at the Border areas between these two countries. The first of it’s kind was inaugurated in July, 2011 at Kalaichar in West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya and the Kurigram district of Bangladesh, located just across the river Jinjiram. Since, then three more Border haats have come up, one in Meghalaya (Balaat) and two in Tripura (Srinagar and Kamlasagar). Many more such Haats have been proposed across the North Eastern states of India at the International borders between India-Bangladesh and India-Myanmar.

Culturally India has a lot in commonality with Bangladesh. There are many instances of families, relatives and friends being divided and deprived of meeting each other due to the partition and border fencing. Many are not capable of affording passport and visa to meet their kith and kin. The Border Haat provides them with a platform, where, apart from buying and selling goods, they can meet and connect with their clan.

This initiative has not only led to socio-economic upliftment of the poor and deprived but has also helped the border forces guarding both the nations. Due to unavailability of many essential commodities there were regular instances of informal cross border exchanges of commodities through the International Borders. While the Indians are now happy to get the RFL plastic containers and melamine from Bangladesh at an affordable price at these International Haats, their Bangladeshi counterparts are more than happy to purchase quality packaged food items, cosmetics and local produce from their Indian friends.

When our research team met Inspector Gulzar of the Border Security Force (BSF), manning the Kalaichar Border Haat in Meghalaya, he was all praise of the initiative. He was happy not only because the illegal exchange of essential commodities through the border has almost stopped due to the Haat, but also because it has become a platform of social exchange across the border. He has seen many families and friends meeting at the Haat after decades. Most of them had no passports and thus could not cross the border. He was happy to share that the Haat has given an opportunity to the local people to get a flavour of the essential commodities which were earlier not available via legal routes on either side of the border. Melamine and plastic goods from Bangladesh which were not available in the local markets are now available in abundance at the Haats. ‘These commodities always had a market in our country, but unfortunately these were not much available here’, he shared. On the contrary the local villagers of Bangladesh are also getting spices and seasonal fruits from India through this Haat.

Though, there are a few areas of improvement which the Joint Border Haat Management Committees (of the four Haats) need to work on to better the infrastructural facilities of the existing Haats, the initiative is definitely laudable and needs to be replicated as soon as possible in other border areas, where it is feasible.

 

[For more detailed information stay hooked to this blog. The blogger is working with an International Policy Research Organization, CUTS International. He was a part of the research team that had recently studied the four Haats. The article is a replication of his personal view and has nothing to do with the perspective of the organization.]

 

 

Contribute more Criticize less

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Pc: Google

As we were growing up, most of us (at least a lot of my friends) loved to watch sports. Some loved to watch cricket matches, some loved football, a few loved tennis and many loved to watch all of them. Sachin, Sourav, Ronaldo, Zidane, Federer, Nadal were our heroes. We would not miss a single moment of the high voltage India-Pakistan cricket matches, the rivalry between Real Madrid-Barcelona or the epic battles between Federer-Nadal. None of us were least interested on having debates and discussions on the political future of the state or the country. Politics was not our cup of tea and it was only a thing to be discussed by the elders at home or at ‘Parar morer cha er dokan’. Happiness would mean reading Goutam Bhattacharya or Bobilli Vijay Kumar’s articles on India’s heroic wins against Australia or Pakistan.

Suddenly things seem to have changed a lot. Most of those who used to bunk colleges to catch India’s matches find it more intriguing discussing politics. We have grown up. Preferences have changed. Un(?)-Fortunately, the passion has remained the same.

I have always hated politics and the way the media used to present it to us. To me newspapers would only mean the last couple of pages of the Bengali dailies or the last four pages of the English papers. It’s high time that people understand that media (not all though) will continue to feed us with cooked up stories and make business out of it. I have no issues against the media, but I eagerly urge them to provide us with news and not stories. I really miss papers like, The Statesman which would circulate news and not stories. I have stopped reading newspapers and my only source of news has now become social networking sites. But, I feel a bit disturbed at the way personal attacks are being made against each other (even friends are not spared) based on political affiliations.

Unfortunately, life has become a bag full of competitions and greed. I would urge all to calm down a little bit, relax and be a bit more tolerant. It’s easy to blame others for every faults, but it’s difficult to provide solutions and a way out from these. Instead of pointing fingers at others, it’s important that we start self analyzing and contribute towards a sustainable development pathway which would help our country and the region to grow. Let us take a pledge to contribute more and criticize less.

 

A background study on Net Meter connected Roof Top Solar Photo Voltaic based systems in Kolkata & Adjoining Urban Spaces

 

Although West Bengal had installed the first MW level Grid Tied SPV plant (2 MW capacity) in the country at Jamuria, Asansol, henceforth not much has happened in the Grid Tied Roof Top Solar Photo Voltaic (RTSPV) sector in the state. While countries like Germany, Japan, USA, Belgium, Italy and many others have progressed a lot in the grid tied RTSPV sector many states in India have also either implemented or drafted a separate policy or an act or a regulation for the same. A draft on Grid Connected Solar Rooftop Scheme in Kolkata and its adjoining areas have been drafted for the state of West Bengal and it is expected to be implemented soon.

Introduction:

Access to energy is a fundamental requirement for development and also a key tool in poverty alleviation, income generation and other developmental objectives across the globe. Coal, Petroleum and Natural Gas are the three conventionally most used fuel sources for power generation. However, these natural resources are rapidly depleting, putting a serious threat on the existence of our future generations. Moreover, production of power by using these resources leads to huge Green House Gas (GHG) Emission which pollutes the environment and is one of the major contributors of the anthropological Climate Change factors. It is estimated that Global CO2 emissions/year during 2020 would reach an alarmingly high level of 42 Giga Tonnes. India also has to constantly deal with the issue of Peak Power shortage. For example, the peak shortage of power supply in West Bengal in November, 2014 had been 80%.

To sustain the rapid economic growth and to deal with the global threat of climate change, stress should be put on generating power from Renewable Energy Technology (RET) systems (like solar, wind, biomass, small hydro etc.), as they are clean and are also available in abundance. RET systems can also address the issues of meeting peak power demand apart from acting as back-up power supply systems. RE systems can be grid interactive as well as off-grid systems. Grid interactive systems can be utilized where the grid connectivity has reached and are commonly found in the urban areas where the power quality is good. The off grid systems are usually the standalone systems used to provide power to remote rural areas through micro or mini grid systems.

The major losses in the power systems are caused due to the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses as well as the Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses. The T&D losses of India in the year 2011-12 were 23.65%, while the AT&C losses during the same period had been 27% (CEA, November, 2014). One of the major advantages of having the RTSPV systems is that, it gets connected to the distribution system and the power is fed into a load centre (thus avoiding the T&D losses).  These rooftop systems also negate the enormous land required for developing SPV plants of MW capacity and also the cost incurred in setting up of T&D systems.

Thus it is more convenient to utilize the shadow free space available on roof tops of large housing societies/community buildings, hospitals, education institutes, civic bodies, trusts & societies, commercial/industrial entities and others for generating power from SPV based systems.

Solar Energy Potential of India:

India is mainly located in the equatorial sun belt of the earth. The country receives about 5,000 trillion kWh/year equivalent energy through solar radiation. In most parts of India, clear sunny weather is experienced 250 to 300 days a year. The average solar insolation incident over India is about 5.5 kWh/m2 per day. The National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) has estimated the solar power potential of India to be 748.98 MWp and that of West Bengal to be 6.26 MW.

What is Net Metering?

Net Metering is a mechanism that allows consumers to export the excess energy generated (after self-consumption) from captive renewable energy sources to the Grid. On the other hand, the consumer draws in the electrical energy from the grid, when required. Usually two meters are used in this mechanism, one to measure the amount of the captive energy generated and feed into the grid and the other to read the amount of energy imported from the grid. The consumer is charged on the basis of the following:

Net Energy Utilized = Amount of Energy imported from the grid ­- Amount of energy exported to the grid

The most commonly used captive power generating systems in such cases are the Rooftop Solar Photo-voltaic systems, biomass power generating systems, wind energy generating systems, grid connected hybrid systems such as solar-wind hybrid systems or solar-biomass hybrid systems.

International scenario:

While in Germany the Feed in Tariff scheme is more in use many other European countries like Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands use net meter connected RE systems to generate power from RE sources. In some places like in Brussels (Belgium) two different meters, a bi-directional meter and a green meter are used to measure the electricity produced from the RE system. The RE systems with a capacity of upto 5 kW are eligible for Net Metering. In the Flanders region of Belgium, all RE system installations of upto 10kW capacity are eligible for the net metering scheme. In certain cases no direct financial benefit is given for the injected electricity. If the producer feeds in more power to the grid than the amount it has imported from the grid, the financial equivalent of the injected electricity is deducted from the overall energy bill.

In Italy, the RE systems of upto 200kW (which have been commissioned after 31st December of 2007) can consume as much energy as they produce for free. If more energy is produced than consumed, producers receive RECs for this positive balance, which will be available for an unlimited period of time and could be used as a compensation for a possible negative balance in the following years. If the energy produced is less than their consumption, the difference is subject to a payment.

Japan and several states in the United States, have implemented the net metering concept where the energy is self-consumed before the surplus is sold to the grid. However, the recent trend in Japan has been to progressively move towards a gross metering model with Feed in Tariff mechanism.

Germany, on the other side, is the most well-known example of having successfully implemented the gross metering concept, in which the rooftop solar projects sell electricity directly to the local grid at a declared Feed in Tariff.

Sr. No. Country Mechanism in use
1 Germany Gross Metering (Feed in Tariff)
2 United States Net Metering
3 Japan Net Metering

Gross Metering

4 Belgium Net Metering
5 Netherlands Net Metering
6 Italy Net Metering
7 Australia Net Metering

Gross Metering

Table 1: Different types of mechanisms used in different countries

Solar Power and Net Metering in India:

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), which was launched on 11th December, 2010 by the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, as a Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), had set a target of 20 GW grid connected solar capacity to be achieved by the year 2022. However, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE), the nodal agency for promotion and up-taking Renewable Energy in India has revised and upgraded the target to 100 GW of solar power to be achieved by 2022. The target will principally comprise of 40 GW through rooftop solar schemes and 60 GW through Large and Medium Scale Grid Connected Solar Power Projects. Under Phase I of JNNSM, a separate scheme called ‘Rooftop PV and Small Scale Solar Generation Program (RPSSGP)’ was implemented for developing solar PV projects with maximum capacity of 2 MW as rooftop or small scale ground mounted solar projects. A total of 100 MW capacities of projects under this program were proposed to be installed and connected at a level below 33 KV and same GBI linked tariff was provided for both the categories of project.

As per a KPMG report ‘The Rising Sun’, the Rooftop market segment in India is expected to have a potential of 4,000 MW out of the cumulative solar PV market of 12,500 MW by 2016-17.  The states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Kerala, Punjab, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand have issued guidelines for net metering of solar small scale projects. Following costs (per unit) are to be paid by the different state DISCOMs for the excess generation by the RE systems:

  • Uttarakhand – Rs 9.20 per unit
  • Tamil Nadu – 75% of solar tariff approved by TNERC
  • Andhra Pradesh – APPC rate set by APRC from time to time
  • Kerala (Draft) – APPC rate of 1.99 per unit

Various state Governments have been able to understand the importance of having grid connected solar roof top systems and thus have taken initiatives to promote the same. Many of the states have come up with policies or acts to facilitate the net metering systems. While Delhi (DERC) has drafted a ‘Proposal on net metering & connectivity in respect of Roof Top Solar PV Projects’, Tamil Nadu (TNERC) has passed an ‘Order on LT connectivity and Net-metering, in regard to Tamil Nadu Solar Energy Policy 2012’.

Policies and Regulations of West Bengal:

The Renewable Energy Policy of West Bengal provides the guidelines towards implementing the RE projects in the state. The state also has adopted the Regulation on Cogeneration and Generation of Electricity from Renewable Sources of Energy in 2013. The state government has undertaken sufficient research and background works to promote the Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Sector in Kolkata and its adjoining urban spaces. A policy towards promoting the same is expected to be adopted soon.

Why Kolkata, Salt Lake and New Town?

Kolkata is the third most populous metropolitan city in India. The adjacent urban spaces of Salt Lake and New Town are well planned and rapidly growing. New Town was declared as a Solar City by the Government of India. Also, abundant availability of quality power is an added advantage in these urban spaces. It is also imperative that having such auxiliary power generation sources would reduce the peak demand on the utilities and thereby allow them to manage the demand-supply gap more efficiently. The grid parity is expected to be achieved in the state after FY 2018-19. All these factors are expected to accelerate the initiation of commissioning several RTSPV systems across the three cities. Also, implementation of grid connected Rooftop SPV systems would mean that there would be no requirement for land acquisition, as these could be set up in the shadow free unused free rooftop space.

The average solar insolation incident on the horizontal surface of Kolkata is a moderate 4.67 kWh/m2/day.

A few factors which might accelerate the implementation of the Grid Connected Roof Top SPV (RTSPV) systems:

For consumers the following factors are expected to accelerate the implementation of Grid Connected RTSPV systems:

  • Decreasing price of PV Modules and battery less systems are expected to have much lower capital cost
  • Hassle Free systems as most of them are battery free and do not have charge controllers
  • Reduced maintenance cost (for battery less grid connected systems)
  • Reduced Energy bills
  • Expected Grid parity to be attained within next 3-4 years
  • Generation Based Incentive (If available)
  • Environment benign energy generation & zero carbon emission

For utilities the following few factors might accelerate the use of grid connected RTSPV systems:

  • Reduction in Peak Demand
  • Would facilitate towards attaining the RPO targets

Conclusion:

West Bengal, the state, which implemented the country’s first MW level Grid Connected Solar Power Plant at Jamuria, Asansol is definitely in need of a market driven self-sustaining programme which would accelerate the growth of Grid Connected RTSPV systems in the Urban Areas. Uninterrupted quality power supply in the urban spaces would facilitate adoption of a market driven scheme which would accelerate setting up of rooftop solar photo voltaic systems. Although, providing incentives and subsidies might initially excite the market, but that cannot be a practice in the long run. The city needs to have a sustainable self driven market with an excellent value chain to promote the grid connected solar power sector. A policy having a right direction towards this might facilitate the same.

 

Bibliography:

[1] http://www.mnre.gov.in/

[2] World Energy Resources: A Summary World Energy Council 2013

[3] CEA, November, 2014

[4] National Action Plan on Climate Change

[5] Letter no. 22/02/2014-15/Solar – R&D (Misc.)/GoI/MNRE (Solar R&D Division)

[6] International Journal of Energy and Environment (IJEE), Volume 4, Issue 6, 2013, pp.975-1002

[7] Draft Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Scheme for Kolkata

[8] http://www.pveducation.org/pvcdrom/properties-of-sunlight/average-solar-radiation#

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SAYANTAN SENGUPTA

(The author is a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s Degree Holder in Energy Management. He is currently working as a Programme Officer with the International Policy Research Organization, CUTS International)