Abhishek Mukherjee

Abhishek Mukherjee has graduated in Mass Communication and has been working as an Officer at the Life Insurance Corporation of India for the last seven years. He resides in Durgapur, and has lived in Mumbai and Western Australia. In addition, he is a freelance writer.

‘What Bengal thinks today India thinks tomorrow’, a famous phrase coined by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, is something which Bengalis take pride even today. This was an apt description of the state about a century and half ago. Bengal led the country in every sphere – be it science,technology, literature, patriotism, culture and spiritualism. When about 100 years ago, Swami Vivekananda set his foot in America and delivered his lecture at World’s first Parliament of Religions , by virtue of his knowledge and courage, he was able to explain the essence of Hinduism to people from all over the world. He won tremendous acclaim for his speech worldwide. The patriotism and heroism of selfless freedom fighters like Rishi Aurobindo, Masterda Surya Sen , Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Jatindranath Mukherjee , Khudiram Bose inspired fellow Indians to up the ante against the British . Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s song , ‘Vande Mataram’ became a slogan of revolutionaries in their quest for independence. Rabindranath Tagore gave India the first Nobel prize.

Women too weren’t left behind . Pritilata Waddedar, Jyotirmoyee Devi ,Suniti devi (to name a few),fought audaciously alongside men in the freedom struggle. Smashing patriarchy , that existed in those times , Kadambini Ganguly along with Anandiben joshi became the first female physicians of India and Chandramukhi Basu , the first female graduate of India.

But West Bengal’s cultural and intellectual heritage and potential for economic growth have suffered tremendously due to decades of directionless politics .Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the second chief minister of West Bengal laid the foundation of five eminent cities of West Bengal namely Durgapur, Bidhannagar, Kalyani , Ashoknagar and Habr. He was a visionary leader and had real plans for the state.Several heavy industries were set up in west Bengal during his tenure – DVC, Durgapur Steel Plant , Dairy industry in Kalyani to name a few. Jessop , Andrew Yule, Braithwaite , Burn Standard, Dunlop , Hind Motors , were some reputed firms employing thousands in the state. This was the Golden era of west Bengal when West Bengal matched Maharashtra in employment generation.

But things changed later with the shift of power.. The jute industry which was one of the most important industries, started declining in the 1960’s as several substitutes to it became available at much cheaper rates .In addition to this the militant trade unionism that gulped the state was also a major source of decline of industries in the state. The worst came though after the 1990’s-post liberalization. At present some 500 odd jute mills function in West Bengal. The Anti-Capitalist policies of the left , rampant strikes , lockouts proved major impediments to the growth of industries in the state. The phenomenon of ‘Gherao’ , whereby a manager is physically confined to his office with workers not him go , added a new dimension to the trade union movement of the state. Gheraos became so frequent that the word was added to the oxford dictionary in 2004. The left can’t be solely blamed for the fiasco though . the freight equalization policy of the centre introduced in 1952 and continued to be in force till 1993 proved to be detrimental to the industries of the state.

When the Trinamool Congress Government came to power ending 34 years of Left rule , promising ‘Parivartan’ , it did too little on the ground. No remarkable industry came to West Bengal and the economy further declined . Mamata spent crores in organizing business summits but no industry saw the light of the day as promised in the MoU’s . The state government increasingly became intolerant to even slightest of criticism that made people land in jail. Freedom of expression was curbed. Political violence rocked the state with the prime opposition party , the BJP, alleging murder of 130 plus of its workers in political violence.

West Bengal needs renaissance so that it can reclaim its lost glory. The Buddhijivis (intellectuals) must wake up from the slumber and for once accept the grim reality of the state. The Left and the TMC have always blamed the centre for its step motherly treatment of the centre – the brunt of which the commoners bear. As touted by PM Narendra Modi, the people of the state must give a chance to ‘Double Engine Ki Sarkaar’ ; which means same government ruling the state as well as the centre so that the state and its people aren’t deprived of any developmental schemes of the centre. Bengal now needs robust governance , rapid economic growth and a push to reclaim its lost glory as a spiritual , cultural powerhouse and economic capital of the country. The youth of West Bengal who migrate to other states for greener pastures must be brought back to the state. Negationism and politics of confrontation with the centre as the case had been , will least help the state. The future of West Bengal lies in its youth and politics of performance and service. Only then the dream of ‘Sonar Bangla’ or Golden Bengal can be accomplished.

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