Sunday, September 28, 2008

Progress viewed through the coloured glass : Archaic ideological policies are ruining Bengal

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.- Albert Einstein

Forward Bloc, a constituent of the left front government in Bengal, India articulates its backward policies in this article.
The party is against the move by organised retail chains buying agricultural goods directly from the farmers and selling them to the consumers as it feels it will "ruin the farmers and small traders".

Although its obvious that the farmers will get a higher price than before and the consumers a more economical & better-quality product ; the same can't been seen in black & white by the leaders of forward bloc.
Because they continue to wear the coloured glass.

How will progress in agriculture be achieved if farmers do not move up the value chain in satisfying consumer demand? There is consumer demand for higher yield, better quality, more nutrition , freshness ,an economical price & an efficient supply chain. To achieve such goals, somebody needs to invest in farms, R&D, supply chains, seeds etc. etc. Can numerous small traders who clog the distribution chain invest in consolidation & moving up the value chain? No, they will continue to fleece the farmers (rice in Bengal is bought for 300 rupees a quintal from the farmers and finally sold to the consumers at 2000 rupees a quintal. 1700 rupees go to the traders ) & cheat the consumers through acts of hoarding, adulteration & low quality of produce. Of course, life can go on like this while the agricultural economy of the state miss the benefits of technological innovation in seeds, mechanisation, cold chains & IT-driven supply chains.
Status-quo is a symptom of a rot that goes against the fundamentals of any economy & consumer demand.

A case in point is the opposition to Metro, a international wholesaler in retail who buy goods in bulk directly from the producers and sell them to retailers in the city they are located in. The party members of Forward Bloc should visit Bengaluru & Hyderabad (or even Germany) to see the operations of this chain with an open mind and discover the value that they provide to two fundamental pillars of any economy, producers & buisness-consumers.

The distribution chain of agricultural produce is a hegemony of small & medium traders in rural Bengal & in burrabazar locality of Kolkata. A large number of these people are alleged to be cadres ( lowest rung of members, the hands & legs) of Forward Bloc and/or funders of the party who evidently want to maintain the status-quo.

Can't the leaders of Forward Bloc see that they are actually moving the state backward by their rigid opposition ? Can economical progress be ever achieved in Bengal ?

The answers seems to be a resounding "NO" as long as these leaders continue to wear the ideologically coloured glasses and dance to the tune of their changed party anthem :

"Kadam Kadam peechey ja

Gam-ka geet gaye ja" ( March every step backward while singing the sad tune of self-destruction)

Friday, September 26, 2008

West Bengal : OutLAWs & ORDERless

Incident One : 1 a.m at night, scooter parking lot (behind the woodlands hotel, Bengaluru): Was chatting with a friend, a localite, just after dinner before taking a ride on his scooter back home. An armed cop with his trademark felt-hat walks towards us , demands to know about our activities and orders us to finish our on-the-road chatting & disperse . For a Kolkata resident that came as a rude shock. Our "rights to chat on road " have been curtailed. My friend , however, suggested we chat on the scootie & we rode off.
Incdent Two: Again Bengaluru opposite Koramangala Club. Again a post-dinner smoke-cum-chat but this time there are four of us standing infront of an ATM. Again a cop drives towards us on a bike, slows down without stopping & hollers out at us to disperse. We barely hear his retreating voice as he threatens to come back to the spot within fifteen minutes to see the spot empty. Again , my local friends decide to comply and transfer the chatting exercise inside a moving vehicle.
This is completely unthinkable in a city like Kolkata.
Firstly, you hardly see a patrolling cop walking towards you past midnight (unless of course you are a victim who can be fleeced for money like cab drivers , illegal parking attendants, street walkers & their clients etc.) .
Secondly you barely see an attempt by them to clear the roads of congregation of small crowds.
Lastly & most importantly, even if they do , for sure, there will be an argument started by the crowd on the "rightness" of the entire exercise. No one will comply with the law or attempt to leave if confronted , without an unnecessary, longwinding argument.

West Bengal (including its capital city , Kolkata ) is a place where everyone is anti-establishment & all are extremely conscious of their countless rights to an extent that no body follows authority or complies with the law.
The ruling party that runs the government organises complete shutdown (called Bandhs ) of the state at the rate of one a month in complete disregard to an existing High Court ruling. The Chairman of the ruling party publicly criticises a sitting judge & his judgement in contravention to the constitution. The opposition party blocks a National Highway for a fortnight throwing the connecting towns to disarray. All forms of political parties organise once-a-week processions protesting against some perceived injustice and throw city traffic out of gear. Citizens ransack a hospital , beat up doctors if a patient dies because of a "perceived" neglect from the hospital authorities. Any road accident is followed by a mob lynching the driver of the accused vehicle, followed by torching the vehicle, brick batting & finally staging a road-block. The staff union organises a procession inside the headquarter (Writers' Buildings) of the state administration and throws off policemen down the stairs . Film actors, actresses, directors hit the streets when their favourite sportsperson is omitted from the national squad or when the "impotent & politicised" administration is perceived to be torturous & inactive. And so on & so forth.
In the leftist land of West Bengal, every one is a rebel fighting for some cause against anybody who is perceived to be either more monied or more establishment.

Hence when the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen speaks of politics of street-activism ruling major decisions influencing the state, one can only chuckle.

For, Sen is absolutely right. West Bengal's elected legislators do not debate out major policy issues concerning socio-economic development in the assembly. Instead they always take the streets to air their grievances crying for attention like rebellious children whose toys have been snatched.In the process they hold the entire state to ransom.It would take years of updated knowledge, vision, patience & civilised articulation to debate any issue in the assembly. These are skills , our elected representatives do not seem to possess or make use of.

The modern "elected" revolutionaries of Bengal have managed to truly "revolve" her into a downward spiral of increasing lawlessness, from where it will take more than a miracle to recover.

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