What Damage Control?
After having received a lot of flak from all quarters, including its allies and the Left-leaning ‘intellectuals’, the CPI(M) has gone into a damage control mode, mainly by holding public meetings to explain the need for industrialisation to the people. But, truth be told, the exercise is bound to be an eminently futile one. The reason being that our Marxists, especially CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, have no genuine regrets for the mayhem at Nadigram and won’t shed their arrogance or won’t approach the problem with an open mind. This became amply evident from recent statements made by top CPI(M) leaders. Earlier this week, Bhattacharjee told a gathering of student activists belonging to his party’s affiliates that he’s owning moral responsibility for the massacre. But his body language, the words he chose, the tone of his delivery and his gestures showed he was far from being contrite. And then, he exposed himself by castigating the people of Nandigram for continuing to wallow in ignorance and not realizing that had they handed over their lands, their lives would have changed dramatically for the better. Bhattacharjee mocked them and thundered that the chemical hub that was to have come up at Nandigram would definitely be set up elsewhere. Bhattacharjee’s senior colleagues have also been speaking in the same vein, mocking and insulting all those opposed to the CPI(M)’s arbitrariness. That is why the damage control launched by the party is bound to fail.
Just Another Incident
This is how filmmaker Raja Sen, drafted by the CPI(M) to counter the anti-CPI(M) outbursts of prominent artistes, actors, litterateurs and other prominent personas, described the Nandigram bloodbath. Sen, a prominent player in the newly floated Shanti-o-Sanghati Mancha (Peace & Unity Forum) along with writer Sunil Gangopadhyay and others known for their proximity to the CPI(M), said the Nandigram killings were "condemnable", but "deaths resulting from police firing were not extraordinary and could not be a reason for Left-leaning ‘intellectuals’ to lambast the CPI(M). Gangopadhyay blasted author and activist Mahasweta Devi and others for using "provocative and irresponsible" language and condemned those demanding CM’s resignation. And West Bengal, he added, would slip into anarchy if Buddhadeb steps down! Wonder who Gangopadhyay is kidding. His, and Sen’s utterances, provide more proof that the CPI(M) hasn’t learnt any lessons from Nandigram. If it had, it would have shown remorse and not deployed its henchmen to justify the massacre or pour scorn on critics.
We’re very often told that Bengal needs to catch up with other states and, hence, the hurry to attract capital for industries. Land acquisition for industrial, commercial or housing projects takes a long time and, in the normal course, this process would have taken more than six months at Singur (for the Tata small car factory). But since time could not be wasted, what with many other states wooing the Tatas as well, the process was put on fast-track and completed in a little under two months. And this haste caused the problems at Singur, we’re told by the Bengal government. But then, why has Bengal slipped compared to other states? Who’s responsible for the decline spanning the three decades of Left rule in Bengal? For all these years, the CPI(M) and its Left allies allowed Bengal to slide into decline. They, in fact, were singularly responsible for the downslide and did their best to hasten the southward movement. And now that some among them have realised how disastrous the Left’s policies have been, they’ve slammed the brakes and reversed gears. And what has just happened to Bengal is just what would happen if the driver of a car speeding downhill slams the brakes and tries to do a U-turn—the car would skid or overturn or careen or crash into the side rails. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in the driver’s seat, would’ve been well advised to apply the brakes gently, bring the downslide to halt gradually and only then reverse gears to make a U-turn and climb uphill. Now that his car has crashed, he would be well advised to allow time for a complete repair job instead of a patchwork that would only lead to a disastrous breakdown during the far tougher journey uphill.
Who’s To Blame?
A drive down the eastern metropolitan bypass always reveals the criminal damage being caused to the fragile ecology and bio-diversity of the East Kolkata Wetlands by its side. The wetlands, a Ramsar site, should have been a fiercely protected area. Instead, there have been encroachments galore and, over the past few years, giant hoardings have been erected in complete contravention of environment laws and rules. In fact, the hoardings—advertising mostly upscale products—stand as a mockery of the country’s environment protection laws and international covenants guarding Ramsar sites. The hoardings stand on concrete platforms constructed by illegally filling up waterbodies. They’re illuminated for more than 12 hours a day by powerful lamps powered by generators that not only spew smoke, but also fuel and other wastes into the waterbodies. The lights keep migratory birds away and have been causing irreversible harm to nocturnal life forms in the wetlands. The air and water pollution has also been causing incalculable damage. It is only now that the East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority has woken up to this and issued notices to those who put up the hoardings, asking them to dismantle these structures within a fortnight. But bodies like the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority and the Bidhannagar Municipality (a part of the wetlands falls under its jurisdiction) had given permission for these hoardings. How did that happen? It’s impossible to believe that the officers manning these bodies were unaware of the laws and rules governing the wetlands and waterbodies. They must have issued these permissions for some consideration. It is thus not enough for the wetlands management authority to issue notices to the advertising agencies that had put up these offending hoardings. The people who allowed them to come up have to be penalized, and penalized in an exemplary manner. And what about the wetlands management authority itself? Was it unaware all these years that the hoardings were causing a lot of damage to the wetlands and were illegal? Heads have to roll, and some should belong to this authority as well. And it shouldn’t be enough for the agencies to just dismantle the hoardings—they have to be penalized heavily for the damage they caused and for violating the law by obtaining permission (definitely by crooked means) for an illegal act.
An oft-repeated claim of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government is that Bengal is a power-surplus state. This is touted as one of the advantages of setting up industries in Bengal during the frequent interactions Bhattacharjee and his ministers and babus hold with the moneybags. It now transpires that this claim, like many others made by Marxists, is a hollow one. Come summers, the power department has warned, West Bengal will witness extensive power cuts due to a crippling power shortage. The expected shortfall will be about 400 megawatts during the peak evening hours. The peak hour deficit in Kolkata has already crossed 100 megawatts. The state electricity board’s mainstay, a 210 megawatt generating thermal power unit at Bandel, suffered damages last year when its turbo-generator caught fire last year. It is yet to be repaired! Thus, long power cuts will be the flavour of Kolkata over the next few months. But trust the Marxists to put a spin to this embarrassing lie—power cuts, they now say, are a worldwide phenomenon and even cities in the US of A suffer power cuts.
March has not even ended yet, but the mercury has been shooting up wildly. The weatherman says it’s because of hot and dry winds blowing in from the west. Since no moisture-laden wind is blowing in from the Bay of Bengal, the westerly wind is having a free run. Temperatures are already a couple of degrees above normal and there’s no respite in sight in the immediate future. Some met officers predict that the summers this time will be long and hot. And with the prospect of power cuts looming large, Kolkata would be one uninhabitable place very soon.