Ranjan Mukherjee

“What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow,” political leader of Indian National Congress Gopal Krishna Gokhale had once said over a century ago when the state was in the thick of things. West Bengal, home to icons such as Rabindranath Tagore, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Paramhans Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Rishi Aurobindo et al. l,  was the seat of reforms, learning, culture, and intellect.

Until the 1960s, West Bengal and Maharashtra were the two wealthiest states.

While Maharashtra, with its base in Mumbai, then Bombay was the centre for commerce, trade and finance, West Bengal boasted of manufacturing.

That was then.

Since the mid-1970s, the state has been witnessing a steady degeneration in all spheres.

As the other states of the country took to development, Industrialization & Progress never touched West Bengal.

The recent trend is that most young people search for jobs as there is little hope for employment in the state.

 Violent politics, uncertainty, and trade unionism entered into the state’s culture, which dented industrialization and the overall work culture.

Who would invest in this state if there is the fear of a ‘bandh’ or unions gathering in protest at almost every decision of the management!

In assessing the decline of West Bengal, one sees how both the CPI(M) & TMC governments have failed the people of the state, denigrating their aspirations and reversing the fundamental promises on which they had come to power to govern the state.

“Poribartan” plank on which TMC, led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, swept the state elections in 2011, didn’t fructify. It yielded in Nil result. There was no positive change. In addition, the politico-social climate in the state has degenerated to the lowest level.

Not just economy, even culture is dying

West Bengal has always taken pride in its “bhadralok” culture, showcasing an exemplary erudite approach even at a time when there was not much of economic development. Unfortunately, even that is dying today. Instead of the “bhadralok” culture, today, the state is a sad story of moral and social degeneration.

Sample this. A novel system of extortion is now the new stamp of the state. Much like the”Jizya” tax of Mughal rule under Aibek & Aurangzeb, the state today has a system of “cut money” and liquor (“mod” )tax extracted by local goons in the interior rural areas.

“Most locals pay this ‘tax’ as this is one way of ensuring their protection much like what the regressive Jizya tax of the bygone era. So, the citizens who refuse to pay the “tax” are harassed by the goons of the political parties. 

The culture of extortion permeates across and goons of all political parties.

One also wonders why in a sweet state like West Bengal, the original land of ‘rasogollas’ and ‘sandesh’, there is so much hatred and bloodshed? There can always be differences of opinion, political ideology in a democracy, but that does not have to end in cutthroat violence! 

Road ahead

As the state goes to the polls in the next few weeks, residents hope for change. The challenges for any party which forms the government in West Bengal lie in bringing back the golden era.

 Self-reliant villages, employment opportunities, social decorum, quality education, healthcare facilities are some of the areas that need immediate attention. The focus of the youth needs to be guided & shifted to games & sports, including bodybuilding as advised by Swami Vivekananda- That a healthy mind can only flourish in a healthy body. 

All these can be achieved & the fruits of progress can only be cherished when there is Peace in the state, both political and social.

Instead of focusing on inane, fruitless activities which have led to a decline in the social health and fabric of the state,it is time to get priorities right. The “wonderfully self-enhancing para (locality) club culture that existed in the yesteryears” must be revived in a positive manner with sporting & cultural activities.

Unlike today, in the 1970s, these local clubs—present almost at every nook and corner of the state were a temple of culture, with right emphasis on physical health.

It is time to resurrect the state, which in its heart loves its culture, music, food, and of course, football. The new government – irrespective of which party wins– must give back West Bengal its lost glory. Good, clean and efficient Governance, effective Law & Order to ensure a fearless social environment in the state -would be some of the key result areas for the new Government. 

The second Bengal Renaissance is eagerly awaited by the Bengalis. 

Share on social media