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Chhattisgarh looks east

Chhattisgarh shifted from central to eastern India after it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000, reaffirming its proximity to Calcutta, said Shekhar Dutt, the state’s governor.

“Chhattisgarh is eastern India rather than central,” Dutt said while delivering the Think lecture presented by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) in association with The Telegraph early this week. A former defence secretary and deputy national security adviser, Dutt exhorted Calcutta to lead eastern India to excellence.

The governor, who was a commissioned officer of the army as well as an IAS officer, analysed eastern India’s heritage and economic opportunities in his speech.

According to him, it was an “immense outcome of history and geography that had made Calcutta the erstwhile capital city of India”.

“Now, 21st century is the century when Calcutta can regain its glory,” he said.

He listed two factors that went in Calcutta’s favour. “It is the people, outgoing and thinking ahead of their times, that made the British realise that the capital has to be Calcutta,” said Dutt.

The city’s proximity to the sea and the Southeast Asian countries was another decisive factor.

“All around us are people and places who could gainfully be a participant in the development of themselves and thereby allowing Calcutta to assume leadership,” said Dutt.

The city could regain its position as the country’s leader in sea commerce with Myanmar, Thailand and east Asian countries.

Dutt said eastern India’s economy could land in a win-win situation if robust trade ties could be established with Southeast Asia.

He said the focus should be to work towards achieving these goals in a decade or two by pursuing a definite gameplan. “We should involve stakeholders constantly in dialogue with each other,” he advised.

His caveat: “If you don’t do it, somebody else will.”

He said India and Malaysia got freedom from foreign rule around the same time and had a similar per capita GDP of $120 at the time of independence. “Today, Malaysia’s per capita GDP is $16,000 or more while we are struggling below $1,000. But if we consider gene pool and literacy as parameters, India and Malaysia are on a par.”

He then turned to Calcutta to make the difference. “We should create a resilient group of institutions that can constantly upgrade their abilities to cater to global needs.”

On urban growth, the former secretary in the Union health ministry said, towns should develop vertically while industrial zones must contain staff quarters.