West Bengal has never had it so bad. The latest episode in the ongoing saga regarding Haldia port in which three officers of Haldia Bulk Terminals were forced to leave Haldia at gun point is evidence of where matters have plummeted. West Bengal, since the 1960s, has never been the preferred destination of investors. The attitude towards work of most Bengalis has always irked industrialists. The Maoist violence of the late 1960s and then the coming of successive communist governments further alienated investors. There was an attempt by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, when he was chief minister, to resurrect investor confidence. But the return of confidence was short-lived as the exit of Tata Motors from Singur demonstrated. Under the new dispensation and under the flag of change nothing has altered so far as attracting investment is concerned. In fact, the situation has deteriorated with the chief ministerís rigid stand on the transfer of agricultural land for manufacturing units. The Haldia incident only adds the fear of lawlessness to the existing negative features of West Bengal as an investment destination.
The problems of Haldia port have deep roots. The prospect of a deep sea port has certain obvious geographical disadvantages in West Bengal. Paradip in Orissa offers much better prospects than anything that Haldia can offer. The latter, at best, can offer only very limited opportunities. Even these opportunities have been obstructed by hostility to technology and irresponsible trade unionism. Both these features have been compounded by political patronage and the unholy nexus between mafia dons and political parties. The colour of the patron and the dons have changed but this has in no way altered the situation in Haldia. On the contrary, it has led to further deterioration. This precipitous decline is the fallout of a persistent failure to impose law and order and to restrain political cadres who are happily running protection rackets and creating an atmosphere of intimidation. Incidents in Haldia port are big examples of a slump that is affecting many spheres in the state. West Bengal is facing its hour of reckoning. The choice is clear. West Bengal can be pulled up by its boot straps to become a well-governed and modern state. Or it can become one overgrown village. But from Kalighat to the Writersí Buildings is a long no-hearing zone.