A State Gasping for Breath

This Sunday afternoon as I read the newspaper I got totally frustrated, every single page was a space dedicated to the hopelessness and the helplessness of the situation in my state, West Bengal , the national issues too, were not any better. The frustration was not at the problems they presented but at the complete helplessness of the common man to do anything.


On Saturday 3rd January, 3 state buses were burnt. People were forced out of taxis, harassed on roads. Bricks were thrown randomly at buses, in short total chaos prevailed as the police watched the war helplessly the war that was political parties versus the high court! In July 2008 the court gave the final verdict that 31st December was the last date for banning all two stroke autos (read smoke belching fatal machines) from the roads of Kolkata, the court refused a plea for extension, well we heard and waited while the government did what it does best …ignored and now that the bell has rung well they have woken up to create chaos. Out of the approximately 66,000 autos that should have been removed from the roads, less than 20 were banned and that sparked the reaction on Saturday. The arguments of short time falls flat against the inaction of 5 months, the government in the time given did nothing to boost the LPG infrastructure of the state, lethargy and willful negligence is so obvious this time. The fact is the transport minister cannot afford to displease the auto drivers, they pay the CITU Rs 5 to Rs 10 every day, that is more than 35 lakhs per day, and they also form the man power for the numerous rallies that cripple the state half the year. The situation is worse because all political parties are for the cause this time, the cause against people, and the cause against court. The fact is they care too much about the vote banks to take any stern steps. The auto system has been allowed to mushroom regardless of laws, more and more routes created, they with the blessing laden hand of their leaders above their heads flouted laws in broad daylight fearlessly as policemen watched, most of them plied without license, used illegal fuel, these were not unknown facts and yet the government did what it does best…. ignored.


Even in the TATA case the only one to blame was the system, the land acquisition policies of the government was not transparent to say the least and well the opposition snatched this opportunity to lash out a battle while the government made an urgent plea for industrialization and the development of Bengal playing on public emotions. Though we know that industry is required and the tata plant would have worked wonders, we also know that the government began with a wrong step. The very recent Maradona fiasco was also another exposure of the transport minister’s high handed attitude, he lives in a world where he is the king and his “cadres” are the knights in shining armour. Traveling in his air-conditioned car he has no problems if the city chokes to death.


A state where the germ of industrial development is still to happen and is resisted, a state where utter lawlessness rules the day, a state which is crippled by strikes and rallies every other day leaves no options to its people other than to bear it out or leave! Vote! Did anyone say? To whom I ask? The opposition is equally bad if not worse, a whimsical leader who blares out noise from her throat everyday. Yes noise I call it, not because I do not understand but because I cannot understand …neither her arguments nor her methods. In the midst of political clashes the only one that suffers is Bengal, its people and its image.


Lakhs of students leave the city every year for higher education because of the dismal situation here but the tardiness of the Calcutta University in declaring results even cripples students in that direction. When will the Bengal at least have a good choice to side with?? A ray of hope? The state does not lack talent, neither does it lack intelligence but when will that be put to good use? Today I ask because I care about this city but as I wait, I can see others who have waited, hoped and lost faith and moved on. They have a right to move on, leave the sinking ship but I am sure one glances back even if it is to heave a sad sigh. People are defying the bandhs and going out, they are voicing their opinions, the media is exposing (of course by “media” who still have not been “bought” or “threatened” by the parties) and yet ….the wait continues.


Shiny Das



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