Saturday, December 4, 2021

Crime or Industry?: Bengal made its choice decades ago

Bengal would have its assembly polls beginning March 27 in eight phases for 294 seats. One would remember a state as big as Uttar Pradesh, with 403 seats in its assembly, still had no more than seven phases in its 2017 polls. It should tell you the trepidation, mayhem and violence that the Election Commission is wary of in Bengal. It’s not just conjecture: Every election, from cooperative to Lok Sabha, sees bombs and bullets ahead of ballots in Bengal. 

Why Elections in West Bengal mean violence and bloodshed?

A simple answer is: For control of the parallel economy of black money. The state shares a border as large as 2216 km with Bangladesh. Thus there are pockets from where not just infiltrators, Islamists or refugees, but smugglers too pour in with all kinds of wares. You could steal from cattle to coal and float it across to the other side. Something as basic as Hilsa (fish), banned in Bangladesh, is sold for Rs 3,000/kg in Kolkata markets and online, delicacy as it is to the Bhadraloks. Carcasses of cattle is floated across, stuffed with fish eggs. Live cattle and fake currency alone are worth $4 billion to smugglers. Did I say human trafficking? Narcotics? Militants? All this has various layers of defence: not just through rivers, lands, mountains. You need patronage of power too: Who in turn let goons run rampant and rivers of blood flow in Bengal. 

It would be easy for readers to connect why industries are not wanted in Bengal. Industries would mean competition, a direct threat to blood economy. A State which was the industrial hub of India at the time of independence, was wiped clean of it in the last 70 years. Communists, of which its Jyoti Basu was chief minister for 23 years, and now Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, have brought the State to such a sorry pass. 

How could one back the claim that West Bengal economy of today is controlled by crime and criminals?

Baduria, Basirhat. July 2017. Many outside Bengal won’t recall its occurrence. Many in Bengal won’t forget it. A dreadful riot was unleashed under the public pretence of an offending Facebook post by a 17-year-old boy, named Shouvik Sarkar. The real cause was decline in cattle smuggling business volume across Basirhat border once Modi government assumed command in Centre in 2014. Some 30,000 criminals were flourishing on the back of cattle smuggling. Remember the riots in Kaliachak, Maldah in January 2016? The public pretence was: Kamlesh Tiwari had commented on Nabi Muhammad. The real reason was those who did fake currency and drug trafficking were facing the heat once NDA came to power in 2014. Maldah, incidentally, is a Mecca for cattle smugglers. Who do you think should be held accountable for such lapse in governance? On law and order? But such inconvenient questions are better not asked in Bengal. 

Why Left’s exit didn’t mean exit of crime under Trinamool Congress?

You could call it lack of will, if you are generous. If you prefer to be brutal, you would say the train is too groovy to be put off course. It chugs along to the benefit of people in power. West Bengal doesn’t lack wealth. Only, it’s largely black. Or why this economy remains predominantly informal and cash-based? Or why most MSMEs in Bengal wouldn’t be registered? 

How to eliminate violence in Bengal? 

The buck stops at governance. Bengal needs a Rajarshi like Raja Janak. All these years, all these decades, the people of Bengal have suffered to the extent that fatalism is accepted without murmur. The State of Bengal, known for its revolutionary heroes and intellectuals, has sadly submitted to the yoke of tyranny. 

 What did Home Minister Amit Shah promise to people of Bengal? 

Along with plans of sustainable financial development, Home Minister Amit Shah declared in unambiguous terms in his Cooch Behar rally on February 11 that if the Saffron party came to power, no one, not even an insect, would be able to cross West Bengal’s border. It’s time for people of West Bengal to drop scepticism and trust the promise. They have wasted decades, either on promise or fear of the ruling dispensation of West Bengal. BJP can’t do worse than witnessed thus far. 

Gujarat would serve as a good example. It was a State of yearly communal riots till things were turned on its head by a leader named Narendra Modi. Vibrant Gujarat catapulted him to the seat of governance in Delhi. When would West Bengal have its own “Narendra Modi”?

Debjani Bhattacharyya is a columnist who’s a keen observer of politics and social changes.. A communication-strategist by profession having special aptitude for analytical jackknifing of information, Debjani is a Pharmaceutical Engineer & a Management Professional by her credentials.

Analysis of data & information for generating insights for policy planning is a passion while her other significant area of interest is the Constitution of India and its interpretations thereof. She’s a voracious reader with enormous affinity towards Classics of Bengali Literature. She is an opinion-maker on social media through her  blog, twitter and facebook. 


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