The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Familiarity is the opiate of initiative. Bandhs, protest rallies, demonstrations, and disruption in general these form the familiar world of Calcutta. The first month of the new year shows how familiar these things are. The calendar of events for the month of January displays two bandhs and two protest rallies. One of these rallies, called by Ms Mamata Banerjee, has already been held and another is around the corner. There is a bandh on the 10th and another, later in the month. Calcutta is thus back on course. The fact that the mainstream left, the fringe left and the principal opposition to the left are all involved in the bandhs and protests shows that stoppage of work and disruption of normal life in West Bengal know no ideological divisions. All that political parties need is an excuse to put their cadre out on the streets to block traffic and if need be, provoke violence and destruction. This has a long history in the state and especially in the city of Calcutta. The left rhetoric these days might make the revival of work culture its slogan and Ms Banerjee may well dedicate her life to saving West Bengal, but the fact of the matter is that their politics stands as an obstacle to the goals set in their rhetoric.

The irresponsibility of politicians not only adds to the notoriety of West Bengal as a place where investment is risky but also kills its future. Having said that, it is important to underline that politicians are not the only ones to be blamed. The people of the state have also allowed politicians to get away with serial acts of thoughtlessness and irresponsibility. This is obvious from the fact that every bandh is successful. People of the state seem to love to absent themselves from work under some pretext or the other. Political parties only take advantage of this attitude and then pat the people of West Bengal on their back for their political awareness. In reality, political awareness during bandhs is non-existent as most people treat them as paid holiday and stay at home and enjoy themselves. The new chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, waxes eloquent about the need to revive work culture and to bring back capital. From the evidence, the only thing that can be said is that bandhs have had a revival, and capital continues to shy away from the state. Mr Bhattacharjee may not be responsible for this state of affairs but his party certainly is. Ms Banerjee has only taken lessons from the Communist Party of India (Marxist). West Bengal and Calcutta thus remain on familiar turf. This is not the place for entrepreneurship to bloom; only corpses sprout in the dead land.

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