Sir — If West Bengal is such a bankrupt state that it will find no takers if put up on auction, as Mamata Banerjee has suggested, why do people from other states come here in search of job opportunities (“No takers for Bengal: CM”, Dec 13)? If the state was indeed in such a bad condition, there would have been a sharp and steady decline in its population, as people would have left the state for greener pastures. But there has been a continuous flow of migrants to West Bengal in recent years. At present, Bengalis are no more a majority in the urban areas. With so many people flocking to the state to find means of survival, or for higher education, medical treatment and business, West Bengal can hardly be considered as a state with “no takers”. It was unbecoming of the chief minister to have ridiculed Bengal in this way.
There is a growing tendency among Bengalis to mock and criticize their own state in order to prove that they are not parochial. This has almost become a fashion statement. Those holding such views must realize that only a progressive and developed state can attract migrants.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — Mamata Banerjee is right in despairing about Bengal’s financial condition and in putting the blame on the Left Front government for this situation. The previous administration did nothing to boost revenues and to curtail debt. Instead, senior leaders had a tendency to smugly refer to the high debts of Maharashtra, quite ignoring the fact that the latter is economically much stronger and raises more tax revenues than Bengal. States like Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh can service more debt than Bengal will be able to at present. Even though tax rates are high in Bengal, its tax revenue as a percentage of its gross domestic product is below 5 per cent, which is far lesser than that of Maharashtra, and one of the lowest in India. The tax authorities of Bengal have failed to improve tax-collection methods.
The previous government was oblivious to the fact that while Bengal’s industrial growth is moribund and the agriculture sector remained outside the tax net, the services and real estate sectors are booming. Bengal is still a big trading centre, serving many parts of eastern and northeastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Massive tax evasion is rampant in sectors such as garments, transport, electronics, metal, coal, medical services and real estate. The present government has continued with a similar approach. Tougher tax-collection methods — applied particularly to certain areas of Calcutta, Howrah, Durgapur, Asansol and Siliguri —will increase revenues.
Banerjee’s faulty land policy and lack of control over small-time syndicates and contract labour are the main reasons behind the slowing down of industrialization. This is deepening the financial crisis. There are many ways to reduce government expenses. Merely blaming the Left or antagonizing the Centre might win votes or public sympathy, but will not help start a fiscal recovery.
Partho Datta, Calcutta
Clean the mess
Sir — It is unfortunate that the people of Calcutta are hardly concerned with the cleanliness of the city. While this applies to the whole of India, it is particularly true of Calcutta. People spit and urinate everywhere — on the streets, on the walls of buildings, on footpaths. What bothers me the most is that no one seems to think that there is anything wrong with such practices. Even in places where there are litterbins, people end up throwing garbage on the roads. And in most places, there are no litterbins at all.
A recent experience struck me as particularly ironic. I saw a decent-looking man urinating on a footpath. Close to him was a banner that said, “Keep your city clean”. The callousness of such people is almost horrific.
In these times of paribartan, when the state government is determined to turn Calcutta into London, it is imperative that awareness about public hygiene is created among Calcuttans. Strict laws pertaining to cleanliness must be put in place. People breaking them must be punished severely. The ‘city of joy’ is unique in its own way. Citizens must realize this and learn to protect and value their city.
Sharangee Dutta, Calcutta
Sir — Aveek Sen’s article, “House with a head” (Dec 17), made some sensitive observations. When in a nostalgic mood, we seek solace in the tranquillity of the terrace. There, we feel connected with nature as well as with our inner selves. Childhood memories of flying kites flood our minds.
Jayanti Ghosh Dastidar, Calcutta