January 25, 2021
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Kolkata Korner

Guess who's Oishorjyo Roy? Obhishek Bochchon's wife, of course. Birendra Sahabog, by the way, plays for the Indian cricket team. And Monmohon Singho is our PM

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Kolkata Korner

A US Conspiracy!
As conspiracy theories go, this would surely take the cake. Bengal's higher education minister Sudarshan Roy Chowdhury perhaps stretched even his blinkered and dogmatic fellow Marxists' (at the party's 19th congress at Coimbatore) credulity a bit too far by saying that the USA was behind the unrest at Nandigram. The uprising by the people of Nandigram against the Bengal government's autocratic attempt to forcibly take over their lands was instigated by Washington, he maintained. According to Roy Chowdhury, hadn't it been for this Yankee conspiracy, the good folks at Nandigram would have obediently handed over their farmlands for the greater good of society and happily accepted the meager compensations before fading away to an uncertain future. But reactionary forces like the Trinamool Congress, aided and abetted by Washington, instigated the farmers, made them aware of their rights and then propped their revolt. It was to defeat this US conspiracy and halt the march of imperialism that police had to open fire on the US agents at Nandigram on March 14 last year and the CPI(M) was left with the onerous responsibility of re-capturing the red citadel that had fallen into the hands of reactionary, anti-poor, anti-worker capitalist stooges and class enemies in that area. The unscrupulous US even bankrolled Islamic organizations and ultra-Leftists for the Nandigram upsurge. Roy Chowdhury, by the way, is no uneducated man--he's an academic and his party colleagues tout his intellectual prowess. Imagine such an 'intellectual' spinning such wild theories that would put even Osama bin laden to shame. 

Introspective Insights
While on the CPI(M) congress at Coimbatore, the conclave made some very scathing and honest observations on the party workers and leaders in Bengal. Three decades in power, the CPI(M) apparatchik felt, have made Marxists in Bengal "self-centred, greedy, consumerist, petty, jealous and corrupt". But then, this has happened due to globalisation and the consumerism it has spawned. The mindless policies of liberalization and globalisation being pursued by successive governments in new Delhi have spurred greed among people, including the Marxists (who, after all, are part of society), and this in turn has led to widespread corruption, self-centeredness and pettiness. In other words, it is not the Marxists to blame for falling prey to the lust for lucre, but faulty policies being pursued by New Delhi that have given birth to this lust. Quite reasonable, but what was that about Marxists being different and setting high standards?

Impossible Task
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has set an impossible task for himself and his party--to take Bengal back to its days of glory, when it was the industrial hub of the country. Bhattacharjee told reporters at the 19th CPI(M) party congress that his party would fast-track the industrial process in Bengal to make it the number one state in the country in terms of industrial output and economic progress. Bhattacharjee should know that this is an impossibility, and for a variety of reasons. One, other states have moved too far ahead and even if they push the pause button now, it'll take Bengal at least five decades to reach their level of industrialisation and economic output. 

Two, despite all the work being put in Bhattacharjee & Co to attract investors, the negative perception about Bengal being a state with a dismal work culture and militant trade unions persists, perhaps justifiably. The contradictions and counter-pulls within the Left Front government in the state would also ensure that Bhattacharjee's dream remains just that. And, perhaps most important, Bengal's human resources would ensure that the state continues to remain a laggard. A lazy, slothful bureaucracy and a working class that not only lacks work culture but is more aware of its rights rather than responsibilities will always pull Bengal backwards. And for this sad state of affairs, Bhattacharjee's party is solely responsible. It is, after all, the CPI(M) which perpetuated the culture of bandhs, lockouts and shutdowns and encouraged workers to shirk work. That's a legacy Bhattacharjee and the CPI(M) will find impossible to shake off or overturn. But anyway, there's no harm in dreaming, is there?

Changing Names
Guess who's Oishorjyo Roy? Obhishek Bochchon's wife, of course. Birendra Sahabog, by the way, plays for the Indian cricket team. And Monmohon Singho is our PM (Narasingha Rao was one of his predecessors). Bengali channels and newspapers have this tendency to not only mis-pronounce everyone's name, but also convert any non-Bengali with even a remotely Bengali-sounding title into a Bengali. Thus, Sanjay Dutt becomes Shonjoy Dutta, to cite just one of hundreds of such examples. There's also the propensity to add a Bengali flavour to names--Baichung Bhutia's name being corrupted to 'Bhai'chung ('Bhai' as in brother) is one of many instances. 

We also have this propensity, at times, to twist names of places and countries: the USA becomes 'Markin Jukta Rashtra' in Bengali. One can understand 'Jukta Rashtra' (United States), but what is 'Markin'? And why is it that only Bengalis use this strange term for the USA? This perverted pleasure obtained from changing names to conform to 'Bangla' standards isn't what only the Bengali media revels in. Till a couple of years ago, even Calcutta University used to change names of all its students to a set standard--an Ashish Sen, for instance, would have his name changed to Asis Sen without even a 'by your leave'. Why this peculiar trait among Bengalis? I have no answer, but academicians could perhaps give it a thought and delve deep into the Bengali psyche to search for a plausible reason for this strange penchant for changing names.

Weather Woes
Thursday evening witnessed an unusually fierce and prolonged nor'wester that stretched well into Friday morning. Heavy rains and strong winds lashed Kolkata and its neighbouring districts, causing a lot of damage, especially to standing crops. But till Thursday afternoon, the met office didn't have a clue about the storm brewing over the horizon. This office is tasked with the responsibility of issuing storm warnings much in advance. But in the forecasts it issued to newspapers late Wednesday evening for Thursday, all it spoke of was the possibility of cloudy skies, light showers and "possibility of thunderclouds developing towards the night". The met office didn't have a clue about the fierce weather conditions ahead. But BBC, in its weather forecast on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, did warn about "very rough" weather conditions. How is it that the BBC gets it and our own met office doesn't? Why, then, waste so much of taxpayers' money to run this met office? But a met officer tells me that they're hamstrung by lack of resources and don't possess the sophisticated equipment required to make accurate forecasts. I guess this amounts to raising an army, but arming it with batons.

Greener Kolkata?
Our civic authorities have taken one decision that needs to be lauded. Laying out gardens below the city's flyovers. The space below the AJC Bose Road flyover will be the first, followed by the ones at Taratala and Gariahat. Steel dividers on roads will give way to small trees that'll act as road dividers. And public structures will have ornamental creepers over them. Also, parks in the city will be rejuvenated. All this will take a lot of time, money and commitment. And the active cooperation of citizens, without whom nothing can happen. But are Kolkatans up to it? Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharjee's lament, though in the different context, needs to be repeated. Speaking on the mushrooming illegal constructions all over the city, the Mayor said it wasn't possible to keep an eye on each and every building in the city and citizens are expected to be law-abiding. But in India, he rightly noted, anyone and everyone will break the law for his or her own profit at the first available opportunity. This being the case, will the gardens below our flyovers ever blossom?

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