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Trader pitch for history & society
Ranjit Bhowmik

he has a business to run, helps retain local history, promotes small newspapers, is a member of several social service organisations and helps protect small-scale industry in the state. Ranjit Bhowmik is 69 years old, but shows no signs of slowing down.

As president of the Assam Banga Yogi Sammelani, he runs a free hostel for poor students from the districts who come to Calcutta to study. The 40 boys have a safe haven at the Saraswati Pal Chhatra Nivas. Next on Bhowmik’s agenda is an evening medical clinic for the poor, for which they have the space and are in the process of collecting funds. And then, an ambulance service. “We do what we can, but money is always a problem,” admits Bhowmik.

While the father of four lets his only son run the family paper packaging business, he dabbles in his favourite pastime — helping people. At Narendrapur is the Sonargaon Housing Co-operative Society Ltd, of which Bhowmik is the secretary. Through that organisation he has helped establish a hospital, a primary school and a bank (a UBI branch) for the people of the area.

“We also occasionally distribute small plots of land to middle-class families to help them set up home. And we have also donated a large tract of land to the state government where it plans to build a rehabilitation centre for handicapped children,” Bhowmik explains.

However, it’s the condition of small businesses in West Bengal that bothers him the most. The man is on a mission — to lift small-scale industry from the doldrums. For that, he submits proposals, and runs from pillar to post pursuing those in charge to try and elicit their help. “But nothing usually happens. Forty per cent of the industry in this state is small-scale, but this sector is sadly neglected. But I am not going to give up,” he declares.

Local history is Bhowmik’s passion, and its decline is another cause for concern for this businessman from Taltala. Indian Mirror Street is his home, and it is to preserve the name of the road that he is now a part of the Naren Sen City Committee. “Indian Mirror was a good newspaper, which did a lot to publicise and promote the Indian freedom struggle, with Naren Sen as its first editor. The paper was part of our history and we want to remember it, although some people want the name changed,” the campaigner emphasises.

The Kazi Nazrul Islam Committee is another one of his occupations, once again to keep alive the history of Calcutta and Taltala, and his support to the Taltala Darpan, a local Bengali newspaper, is to promote culture and literature, and encourage the community.

“My life is like the North and South Poles — two halves. There is business and social service. That is what makes me whole,” he concludes.

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