West Bengal: Politics Playing Havoc With the Economy

Very Recently, the West Bengal state Information and Technology department announced the scrapping of the joint sector IT park project in Rajarhat, Newtown with Infosys, Wipro and other leading firms. The Department headed by Debashis Das, said that it cannot stick to its assurance of providing land to Infosys and Wipro, for the West Bengal’s proposed IT Software Hub, at Rajarhat. The important point to note in this latest development is the fact that , this is the second major industrial project scrapped in West Bengal, in a time span of less than one year.

Last year, West Bengal lost in Singur, the TATA Motors Project of worth more than 20 billion Rupees. The recent loss by the scrapping of IT park project is estimated to cost the State Economy about hundred billion Rupees and more importantly about 3 Lakh IT or ITeS jobs. Also, it is feared that it can lead to the further alienation of the industrial sector from West Bengal. This incident can act as a major blow to the West Bengal’s prospects in IT sector.

But to the mind of a common man comes the question, what is going wrong with Bengal?? Why the state that once was famous for dazzling riches, is now having a 18th rank among the Indian states as far as the GDP is concerned?? Why 14 out of 18 districts of West Bengal , are among the poorest 100 districts of India??
To consider the solution, the real need is to consider the problem. If we objectively see the West Bengal state , then it is split in the two halves ,stretching it to the extent of tearing. On one hand is a part, where the basic occupation is farming , people are excessively poor, illiterate and are incapable of even accumulating the basic needs. To these people, the essence of an IT Park is nothing. For them industrialisation just brings a scare, a scare of losing their lands, their houses, their employment etc. On the other hand is a Pool of Educated Unemployed, who have 2 options, either to leave their parents, their homelands and go to other states in search of job or to settle for an unskilled labour job. To them, an IT Park or a Singur TATA Projects, brings a ray of better tomorrow, a hope of sunshine. Combined together , it makes a problem of bridging the gap between these two Bengal’s. Ironically, this is a problem in a state that has had a rule of 30 years of the socialist party, CPI(M), which stands for an equality in society.

This calls for a review of the Government’s role in various activities that aimed at providing jobs and also bringing stability. NREGA i.e National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was enacted to offer sure shot employment to all rural unemployed. This in itself was a novel concept, which came in the tenure of CPI(M) supported UPA Government. The Left may claim that NREGA was its idea which it forced the UPA Government to implement but the ground reality in West Bengal suggests that the Left Government has been among the worst performers. The government’s failure is most apparent in those backward areas of West Bengal where it focus should have been the most. Other such measures also have had the same implementations, leaving only despair and hopelessness.

Also, the reasons given by the Government for closing the projects have been the huge outcry over the illegal land acquisitions by promoters and Private enterprises. This was an irresponsible step, setting a wrong precedent for future cases.

What is required for the remedy of this current problem is a mixture of political will, economic intelligence and proper and transparent procedure for setting up new infrastructures that leave no scope for such chaotic situation. Political will is required to properly carry out various policies for providing employment to scores of unemployed people. There should be a growth of industries but with legal land as the plant layout.
To bring the Bengal Economy back on track, some immediate steps are required. Starting from, the reduction of land cost for the industries, which in Bengal is about 3 times that in any other part of the country. The second step should be the launching of a small scale industries set-up drive, which will offer both revenue and jobs. The government must also loosen up some of their anti-capitalist laws, to bring higher investments into the state.

With this start and a similar follow-up on Economic reforms, Bengal will be soon able to see the future of past’s glory!

Aman Mittal

[Image courtesy: http://www.instablogsimages.com/images/2008/02/13/cpm-west-bengal-us-aid-bird-flu_26.jpg]