Thursday 26 May 2011

Bengal's Tryst with Destiny

Marxist rule in Bengal has been a long and uninterrupted one for over three and  a half decades. It has unleashed many impulses and synergies.  The good one being the collective bargaining process-that ushered in a heap of essential benefits for the workers and marginalised. That ensured a populist mandate that kept them in power.This was a much needed conduit to dismantle the archaic colonial hierarchial management systems , steeped to the core of all industries, whether plantation or mechanical. A new management structure was the desperate need of the hour- and attacking them systematically ensured the might and power  of the  collective force.With power comes responsibility. Unfortunately, though all workers and marginalised became aware of their rights- there was no checks and balances for executing their responsibilities. The failure to create awareness and build its attendant capacity , witnessed the flight of economical, intellectual and entrepreniual capital of Sonar Bangla-turning her to a skeletal dowager. Trade and traders moved in to fill the void. Bereft of any creative synergy  the economic decline was swift, as the best fled to greener pastures across the border.
   The mandate accorded to Mamata Banerjee and Trinamul is a classic support of the historical adage-  Where Theres Life Theres Hope. She is a living example of this adage. Her credentials are a manifestation of her complete belief to her values. She has singlehandedly challenged the formidable Marxist bastion , fearlessly against all odds. She is incorruptible and she cares. THESE INNATE QUALITIES COUPLED WITH HER TOTAL BELIEF IN HERSELF  have prompted the people to give her an unequivocal mandate to rule.
      It is a huge ask, and if anyone can surmount the mountains , its her.
       Our administration, judiciary and constabulary are all mannned by excellent officers. They need to function apolitically and independently, without any interference from political circles. The three arms are the essential extensions for a healthy, vibrant and progressive community. External  political influences are carcinogen that ultimately leads to chaos and collapse. The million dollar question is will the Trinamul , give them full rein to reinstate law and order , the fundaments for usheing peace and thence investment?
We firmly believe that she will do so. Its a monumental challenge, fraught with the possibilities of  multi-faceted downspirals. This is the critical decision that will usher in the beginning of a new dawn, a renaissance.   The credo of the hour should be - What can we do for the government and not what the government can do for us- hence we have forged alliances with like-minded people to initiate a slew of green projects on that historic day- May13, as an unequivocal supporter. Action speak louder than words- and we are confident that this will prove that we put our money where are mouth is. Thank you the great Gang.

(The Author is one of the most respected Tea planters of the state and is known to have successfully introduced sustainable planting trechniques with a holistic view creating in the process an eco system where the people, the environment and the economic activies co exist in harmony.)   

Friday 20 May 2011

Maa-Mati-Manush and Mamata – Shoibayon Ganguly

“The world’s longest serving, democratically elected communist government” – the title used to be an intimidating, almost monolithic, awe inspirer. The party had successfully mustered the art of “winning elections and influencing outcomes”, making Bengal a Red Bastion where the term “anti-incumbency” made no sense, leave alone making a dent. Every institution was infiltrated, every family watched upon, every decision another mere excuse for the cadres to increase their sphere of influence.

Those mentally and spiritually in the opposition either did not dare to air their views or were coerced to turn their coats, surreptitiously selling their souls for a ticket to live. Like the sun that shone perennially on the Empire that had subjugated us to slavery, the sun, it seemed, was destined shine for ever on the communist crown.

Only one woman dared. They first tried to literally bludgeon her to submission. She did not wilt. They plotted to throw her out of the party, isolating her politically. The mass followed her like the rats of Hamlyn. They then proceeded to unleash the political coup de grace, reducing her to her lone seat in South Calcutta. Only to bolster her resolve, strengthen her grit.

Then two things happened that first planted the seeds that would one day become giant Sequoias and bear the fruits of change. The firing in Nandigram and the land grab in Singur. She incurred the wrath of hell, which showered on her fire and brimstone and yet she held firm in her belief, not leaving the sides of the oppressed and the down trodden. They painted her as one who is bent on pushing the state back into the morass of underdevelopment and industrial degeneration – conveniently forgetting the fact that it was they that had systematically turned the state into a quagmire of lost hope in the first place.

The allegations started becoming shriller, the name calling blatant and the accusations bereft of the least modicum of decency. They bared their fangs, exhaled their toxic fumes and forced politics to a nadir not seen anywhere before. Throwing the basic minimum courtesies to air, they went in for what they thought the juggler, calling her such vulgar names that even the most uncouth lowered their heads in shame. The more vitriolic their banters became, the greater became their distance from the reality of the ground. In their haste to divide the population between “us” and “them”, they succeeded in alienating themselves from a large section,  that increasingly identified with the lady in the receiving end, choosing to hitch their wagons with the crusader for better or for worse.

In duress she never lost her cool and when she sensed the tides turning, when she could understand the pulse of the people, when she could see that the overwhelming majority had fallen in line – behind her – she did not show her ecstasy. On the contrary, she became increasingly mellowed, matured, even headed. Then the deluge began sweeping the past and the anachronisms into oblivion. She was visibly happy, some even ventured to say, relieved, but controlled and composed -  as she showed a remarkable restraint. The “stormy petrel” had, almost as if unseen and unheard, transformed herself into a leader befitting her stature. The collective aspiration of her people had, it seemed, made her into what they dreamt her to be – molding her in the shape of their desired deity.

So the David versus Goliath story has come to a predictable end. The all mighty, seemingly invincible giant has fallen.  Goodness has triumphed over evil. The people’s will has prevailed against odds that at first sight seemed insurmountable. Life has indeed imitated the fairy tale. But unlike the tales of yore, this one will not end with the little princess and her people “living happily forever and after”. For, the end of one fairy tale will blend into the beginning of another.

Yes, it is time we cut frame and enter into the adventures of Hercules - the cleaning of the legendary Augean stables. The task of providing good governance with a corruption free, efficient and effective bureaucracy that will live up to the huge, sometimes unrealistic, expectation will be a task, nothing less than Herculean.

Look at the odds staked against her – she will inherit a treasury that is bankrupt to put things mildly along with a huge burden of debt. The bureaucracy and the police – faces of the state that are most visible to the people have long been corroded and maligned to an extent that they are beyond repair. Educational institutions has systematically been infiltrated and destroyed. Agriculture is in a pathetic state having faced the apathy of the past and industry, the less talked about the better.

Militant unionism and a host of negative factors had ensured the flight of capital from the state about which successive governments had done precious little ensuring a total industrial stagnation. No industry worth its capital has come towards the state and today, Bengal is perhaps the most undesirable of destinations as far as industries go. Even the best brains of the state, sons of the soil, had taken to the wings choosing better chimes leaving only the desperate and the destitute behind.

But most of all, the last three and half decades have seen the image of Bengal being hit for a six. Not only is she labeled as a place where nothing works, but is also sneered at as a place that is corrupt to boot. Work Culture, or the lack of it, is widely pointed out as a bane that will hold back the state for years to come and no amount of argument against is capable of swaying the public opinion.

It is this mindset that has to be changed. The people of Bengal will need help to restore their belief in          the self, in their ability to perform, and then excel. And with the faith firmly in place, the task of cleaning, of purging will have to be taken up in real earnest.

Is will be only through these steps that the case of Bengal can be presented before the world at large – asking them to come and be a part of the growth story that we all want her to chart.

The road ahead is by no means an easy one, for the people of Bengal have only their dreams. Dreams, that they have laid on their beloved “didi’s” feet. She has to tread softly, for she treads on their dreams!

At the end of the day, it is not the defeat of the regimented, but the victory of one single woman who dared. One who stood, head held firmly up against all the odds. The change that we are talking about, is in fact, the victory of this lone crusader. She has triumphed. She has won the battle. And there is no reason to believe that she will not emerge victorious in the war to regain Bengal her rightful place in the economic sun.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Please ask interested friends to give suggestions as to how we can work towards a resurgent Bengal, proposals for good governance and or specific areas where individuals/ entities wish to contribute.

We will compile and send all inputs to the relevant authorities and highlight the same in our magazine the Core Sector Communiqué (


Monday 16 May 2011

The Union Minister for Railways, Kumari Mamata Banerjee calling on the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on May 16, 2011.

Miles to go ...
“The times, they are a-changing”. Even before the exit polls had shown the unmistakable trends, the writing on the wall was clear. The people of West Bengal were ready to give the ruling CPI(M) the boot. The party that had, by hooks or by crook, proved all notions of anti-incumbency wrong, finally had destiny catch up with it.
Even more than a victory for the nation’s stormy petrel Ms. Mamata Banerjee, the mandate will be an overwhelming negative one against the ruling Marxists, who have been blamed for everything – from non performance to nepotism, to unleashing terror on opponents through armed cadres, to systematically destroying the states institutions – be that in the field of education or that in the field of industry. In the end, it was more a slap on the false pride and high handed ways of the CPI(M) than an acceptance of  positive promises of change as put forward by the opposition.
And this is exactly what is scaring many a lover of the state – especially in its industrial circles. Since the blood stained days of the seventies, the state has witnessed only the negative. Capital has taken the flight. The best brains have migrated. Once throbbing industrial sectors have withered and died. No new investment worth its name has come to the state, and the lack of industrial activity has added to the multiplier – of unemployment, poverty, economic stagnation and desperation.
Another thing happened over the last three decades and half – a class of businessmen, close to the ruling elite emerged. A class of traders, who became “self styled” industrialists. One group for example, started by trading in scrap and went on to become sponge iron manufacturers, making supernormal profits under political patronage. The illicit coal trade, controlled by the party provided them with the fuel at a fraction of the market price and the political cover sheltered them from the pollution control officials allowing them to wreck havoc to the environment as they laughed all the way to the bank. The same status quo also gave rise to the dreaded land Mafia who minted millions by bending and breaking laws with impunity.
But these are the small fries. In order to usher in an era of economic progress that will see Bengal wrest its lost glory as an economically advanced state in the forefront of development, she will have to attract the industry back. And for doing this, there can be no better time than now.
The iron and steel industry as we all know is quietly ambling back to its natural habitat. And West Bengal, with its rich legacy in steel making, abundantly available raw material from the neighboring states, skilled manpower, port and its vast hinterland is going to be the ideal location, bang at the heart of the steel belt. The only contentious issue, as I see it, will be the availability of land. Something ,that can be addressed, only by a willing Government, with a popular mandate – and as indications are, Mamata Banerjee is going to fit the bill as a duck takes to water.
One has to keep in mind that fact that the issue of land acquisition is a very sensitive one and the view that we normally take, ensconced in our air-conditioned city comforts, is often far removed from the ground realities. The biggest example is Singur – while we in the city lamented the flight of the Nano, successive elections have shown that an overwhelming part of Bengal thought otherwise. This feeling of the masses will have to be honored as the government goes about acquiring land for the industry. One also has to keep in mind the fact that Bengal is not Gujarat, where barren, fallow land is in abundance for the industry to move in as opposed to almost all available land being of the multiple crop type. Thus, the “right” compensation package has to be worked out and those surrendering their lands will have to be included in the process of development so that its fruits may trickle down to the lowest wrungs.
Speaking of Gujarat, there is another point that needs a mention. One of the biggest problems of the industrial sector here is the abject lack of son of soil entrepreneurs. The cadre raj has systematically destroyed the backbone of the local industrialists, save and except those up country mavericks and mercenaries who owed allegiance to it. We do not have an Adani, leave alone an Ambani who will also bear the state’s interest in mind while stepping on the economic accelerator. Yes, it will not be possible to have an army of local industrialists in the fray overnight, but a beginning has to be made, steps in this direction needs to be taken immediately.
Good governance, single minded devotion to the socio-economic development of the state and a fear-free, corruption less administration. The industry asks no more to locate itself in a state and if West Bengal can offer this modicum, then with all the natural advantages she has, can become one of the most attractive states to invest in and do business.
“But, what about the work culture” asks friends from other parts of the nation? Bengal seems to be in a perpetual lethargic slumber, eternally at denial, unwilling to pick up the gauntlets that fate throws towards her. Well, I for one will not agree, given a chance, we too can burn the candle on both ends. Workers from Bengal are some of the most efficient as we have seen in other parts of the world and here too, with the proper environment and the right incentives, we can and I am sure we will, prove our skeptics wrong.
Your Move Didi. Godspeed.        

its time to join hands - to build the bengal of our dreams!

Bengal has blessed Smt. Mamata Banerjee with an overwhelming mandate - and it is time for the state ands to pick up the gauntlet. Let us shed all pessimism and join hands to build the bengal of our dreams.... this forum is not for the naysayers. this is for those who want to do their bit. come tell us what YOU propose to do. We at Core Sector Communique promise to send all your positive responses to the powers that be. Come, let us make up for the lost time.