The Railway Obsession
While everyone was speculating about what Mamata could possibly have meant when she blurted out earlier this week that General Elections would take place in just under three months and that TMC would get the Railways back again, I was wondering why on earth she would even want it back? Hasn’t she had enough? Why is she so obsessed with the Railways? In fact, she’s so possessive about it, each time she makes it to the Central government, it is assumed that she would get that portfolio. Only when she became Chief Minister of Bengal did she think of relinquishing that post, that too after much dilemma.
Even then she remote-controlled it—much like kids do to those toy trains—from Calcutta, unceremoniously removing Dinesh Trivedi, her own party member whom she herself had instituted after she resigned, for thinking for himself. During her own tenures she seemed to flag off new rail routes everyday prompting people to wonder where all these trains were coming from and where they were going and most importantly, carrying whom?
Instead of dreaming about getting the Railways back, why doesn’t Mamata just concentrate on being a Chief Minister and get Bengal back on track?
London Bridge is Falling Down
Speaking of Mamata’s dreams, at least one of them has turned into a nightmare - her dream to turn Calcutta into a London. After a huge chunk of a flyover which connects Calcutta’s busy Ultadanga area to the International Airport collapsed killing at least two people and injuring others, the local press went to town with headlines inspired by the nursery rhyme “London bridge is falling down,” clearly spoofing on Mamata’s London dreams.
The roshogolla is not completely Bengali. It is also part Portuguese. This bittersweet piece of news was broken to us at a discussion on Bengali mishtis held this week in the city which launched a website dedicated to the roshogolla. Apparently before the Portuguese arrived and told us so, we didn’t really know how to turn curdled milk into something so delicious as chhana (cottage cheese), the main ingredient of roshogolla. In fact, the Bengalis were rather snooty about their sweets and preferred the ‘sandesh’ made of kheer.
But before a Portuguese rushes to call it their own, Bengalis aver that it was indeed a Bengali who dipped the first set of chhana balls—which the British called snowballs—into a boiling cauldron of sugar syrup to get the most famous sweet in the history of Bengali sweets.
The Panchayat Polls that are supposed to take place in Bengal late next month couldn’t come at a worst time for Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra. He had to choose between a rock and a hard place: a populist budget keeping the rural voter in mind and one that would rake in some much needed revenue in to revive the barely breathing economy of this cash-strapped state. After some pondering, he seemed to have managed to strike a balance. Instead of either taxing the rich or the poor and thereby incurring the wrath of one group he increased the VAT on non-essential commodities like tobacco products.
Inspiration for the Italian Marines?
A graffiti behind an auto read: Jaabe jodi jaao, phirey eshonaa (Go if you want to but please don't come back)
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
The reason why Bengal is special today to me is, the idea there has always been, there doesn't need to be anything to be back on track. People speak about the problems of other states, who has thought about Bengal's problems? It appears that the Bengali does not want to mention them, or discuss them, among themselves. The whole idea is, what is interesting, not a problem. The reason why Bengal was not an 'industrious' state, was because no one wanted factories, and the CPI(M) appreciated that the Bengali society is agrarian, and didn't want to unsettle the poor and marginalised. This is notable. The CPI(M) is a party associated with heavy industry. Their workers are seen as such, perhaps. How their members accepted that new industry is no priority, is really intriguing.
But, what is heartening is that the previous C. M., had an idea, and people generally liked him, or at least, did not, refrain from opinion. What was really unfortunate about Mr. Basu's tenure as C. M., was that at one time, there was eight hours of load shedding, and no one opined anything. It's not as if Mr. Basu did not know, he was the C. M. of the 'common man', but now it dawns, the man in the village was pretty happy. The idea is, that a small village gets power, because the needs are very less, while, in Kolkata, one has to see, it might have been no priority.
Metropolises have a major problem, because manufacturing started there. Today, mega cities should have no manufacturing units in their precincts. The metropolis is supposed to be a dwelling place, and when, practically, machines are installed in dwelling regions, there are hazardous situations. China, has many coastal metropolises, but they do not manufacture anything within the city limits. The areas where manufacturing happens, were actually SEZ's earlier, and they were outside the city limits. I could be wrong, about the Chinese scenario, but I feel, this might be so. In Kolkata, the city might become an academic, and commercial hub.
Good job Dola. I enjoy reading your Calcutta Corner- (your predecessor on this column was a disaster.)
Hitler Didi is not kind to her critics. Several journalists and newspapers have been blacklisted ( you can be included to the list), her own cabinet ministers have been punished for deviating from the party line, police officers have been transferred for not voicing Didi's opinion. Her populist policies however have kept the political opposition at bay.
Hoped to read from your column the reaction of Calcutta to Ganesh Payne's death. ( Outlook blog covered the obituary but not Calcutta's reaction).
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT