Dr. Mallinath Mukhopadhyay, Associate Professor, Dept. of Economics, St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata, India, has been teaching since 1981. Dr. Mukhopadhyay has acted as the Head of the Department, Dean of Science, Academic Council member, Governing Body member and in several other capacities. He has also been actively involved in the syllabus designing of various universities and institutes of India.
WEST BENGAL : YESTERDAY, TODAY &TOMORROW
At the dawn of Independence, West Bengal was a vibrant state of India with an agile socio-economic foundation and a deep-rooted nationalist political environment. Socio-economic transformation to a stronger West Bengal picked up almost instantaneously. In industry and employment generation, the state had been leading the nation.However, today it is one of the most poorly performing states of India with excellence in education replaced by anarchy in the institutions of learning, industrial performance graph steadily moving from bad to worse, mass poverty persisting all over the state and rising unemploymentthreatening the lives of almost every household. A dissection of ‘Yesterday’ is in order.
- Lakhs of people started migrating from erstwhile East Pakistan and most of them were accommodated in West Bengal.
- The Government of India failed to provide the required support to the state.
- The CPI had a split and CPI(M) was formed in 1964. To quickly achieve a strong political ground, CPI(M) successfully influenced the displaced persons from East Pakistan and West Bengal became the breeding ground of aggressive , often militant, political chaos.
- The Green Revolution initiated in Indian Agriculture in the second half of the 1960s increased rural inequality between the poor and the rich farmers since the former could not afford the new technology. Left politics exploited the opportunity to make inroads into rural Bengal.
- While the rate of growth of the industrial sector had been around 7% per annum during 1956-1965, it decelerated to just about 4% per annum during 1965-1980. Off-farm employment opportunities started shrinking leading to frustration-driven extremism in the urban sector by the misguided youth power.
- Threatened by spreading political anarchy and , even extremism , private business and industrial capital started moving out of West Bengal.
- The FreightEqualisationPolicy of the Government of India adversely affected the industrial prospects of the state.
The ground was ready for West Bengal to slip into a long deep recession with rowdy politics becoming omnipresent rapidly self-poisoning the state into what it is ‘TODAY’
TOWARDS TOMORROW WITH A VISION
Since every cloud has a silver lining, there must be the feasibility of a better tomorrow. What is needed is the right vision and the psychic-determination to pursue the vision-led mission. Fortunately for West Bengal, the appropriate vision has already been objectively spelt out by the honourable Prime Minister of India – the right man in the right place at the right time. What is left to be done is a change of guard from the vested-interest driven political parties to the nationalist BJP . The people of West Bengal are eloquently ready for the paradigm shiftand the change infavour of BJP is now looming large on the horizon. Sharing of a few ideas is appropriate at this juncture.
- Growth and development are hard-earned outcomes of a disciplined work culture. The existing work culture has to be completely overhauled. Appropriate reward (for excellence) and punishment (for failure) schemes have to be designed.
- The culture of corruption shall have to be ruthlessly eliminated.
- Industrial development pre-supposes an already existing culture of ‘proto-industrialisation’ ( industrialisationpreceding industrialisation). This proto-industrial culture of undivided Bengal was meticulously destroyed by a systematic process of de-industrialisation during the colonial regime. During 1956-1965, state-sponsored heavy industrialisation was super-imposed on a weak proto-industrial culture then prevailing in the semi-urban and rural West Bengal. The top-heavy character was not sustainable and, complemented by chaotic politics, the industrial structure started collapsing since the late 1960s. The new regime expected to come to power in 2021 should take this absence of proto-industrial culture into serious considerationand formulate an appropriate MSME-based industrial culture (through conveyer-belt policy, if necessary) before initiating big industrialisation.
- Finally, the social sectors of education and public health need sea-changes for human capital formation to solve the growing problem of unemployment as well as that of unemployability.Efficiency must not be forced to compromise with never-ending extensions of privileges only to feed vote-bank politics. Article 14 of the Constitution of India – the first Fundamental Right – must be practised in letter and spirit.