A crisis of identity
Sir ó For last a few days I have been under attack. They say I am a Bihari and hence must be kicked, maimed, raped, burnt alive or hacked to death. In Bihar too I was under attack as I was from a specific caste. I was also under attack because of my faith whenever there were Hindu-Muslim riots. I donít want myself to identify with the Biharis who attacked hapless passengers and molested a girl in a train but I also donít want to identify myself with the Assamese who killed equally hapless people and raped an innocent girl at gunpoint. I donít want to identify myself with the Muslims who burnt passengers in the Godhra train but I also donít want to identify with the Hindus who killed innocent people in Gujarat in revenge. In fact, I donít want to identify myself with anyone who commits crimes on fellow citizens in any name whatsoever. I want to identify myself with the Bihari woman who saved an Assamese boy from criminals in Jamalpur. I want to identify myself with those brave souls of Assam who saved many people in those hours of insanity. Is it possible that I may, henceforth, be identified as a peace-loving Indian Citizen and nothing else'
Neelkanth Bihari, Guwahati
Sir ó Despite high literacy and a professional class, West Bengal has failed to initiate any of the information technology-related businesses that are so successful elsewhere in India. This is not because Bangalore or Gurgaon has better facilities than Calcutta. At least a decade ago, the large VSNL facility at Salt Lake had state-of-the-art computing and communications infrastructure ó but it had few takers among IT entrepreneurs. At that time, VSNL had no such facility in Bangalore! Bengalís political rulers are now belatedly trying to lure established companies like TCS and Wipro to Calcutta. This is an admission that even in a booming area like IT, Bengal is incapable of fostering new businesses on its own. The foresight, drive, risk-taking and persistence necessary for new businesses are now absent in Bengal.
Historically, Bengalis had been adventurous businessmen who traded across the seas in southeast Asia. But lately, the Bengali entrepreneurial spirit has become dormant. Bengalis now prefer the safety of a steady job, no matter how low-paying or ignominious. They have also developed a rather negative attitude to wealth. A lingering fascination with half-baked interpretations of outmoded political theories has not helped either. Before setting out on the road to recovery, Bengalis must first accept that wealth does not necessarily have to be made at othersí expense and not all capitalism is evil. They must realize their strategic advantages. West Bengal is the only state in India to have both the Himalayas and the open seas within its boundaries. It is uniquely situated to once again become the industrial powerhouse serving this vast area.
The last industrialization of Bengal was forced on it by the British. To make Bengal flourish again, it is the Bengalis who must take risks and start new businesses.
Dev Gupta, Scottsdale, US
Sir ó The West Bengal government had started its e-governance project, ďBanglar MukhĒ, with much fanfare. But I donít think anyone takes it seriously. I sent a letter to the minister for IT requesting his comments and moral support for our GNU/Linux localization project about three months ago. I am yet to receive an acknowledgement, let alone an answer. If this is the attitude of the minister for IT, the projectís chances of success can be imagined.
Anirban Mitra, via email
Sir ó Years ago, when the Marxists were fighting hard against the introduction of computers, I had predicted that if ever they came to power in West Bengal, they would jubilantly introduce computers. How correct I was!
Now I predict that if ever the Marxists get absolute power (not bound by democratic shackles) they will immediately ban processions. Look at what happened in China and Cuba.
Asoke C.Banerjee, Cambridge, US
Sir ó It was heartening to see all chief ministers of the northeastern states clamouring for the attention of potential investors at a recent IT fair in Calcutta (ďNorth-east in Infotech thrust, 18 Nov). Just a couple of days after D.D. Lapang claimed that insurgency was no longer a problem in the Northeast, Meghalaya and Assam have seen a fresh outbreak of violence ó controlling which wonít be easy for the governments. The Northeastís advantage of an English-knowing populace wonít really come in handy unless a semblance of normalcy returns to the region. Itís only then that the Northeast can aspire to become Destination IT, to enjoy some of the opportunities in the call-centre business and the emerging high-end business process outsourcing segment. Administrators and technocrats of the region must brace themselves for fierce competition. However, the e-governance initiatives of some of the states in the region need to be lauded.
Subhajit Ghosh, Shillong
Sir ó It seems what India is to the world, Calcutta is to India. The big IT tycoons are planning to develop centres in the city. Business houses like Wipro are planning huge investments in West Bengal. Reliance has plans to set up a call-centre, Infosys is getting into the act, while the career consultants, Ma Foi, has announced plans to set up a 1,000-seater call centre. It seems all of them are eyeing the unutilized talent of Bengal where, job opportunities being far less than in Bangalore or Hyderabad, IT professionals can be had for very little remuneration.
Priyank Parakh, via email