The Telegraph
Sunday , February 23 , 2014
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Of change and its challenges

Authors Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay and Shankar browse books at Starmark, Quest mall. The 15,000sq ft space is packed with books, music and movie DVDs, toys, stationery and gift items. Also present at the opening were Sanjiv Goenka, Bickram and Jaya Seal Ghosh. Picture by Pabitra Das

Is Bengal changing for the better or are we stuck in the same boat? Is the present government bogged down in the same set of challenges as the previous one was?

The launch of Sitaram Sharma’s West Bengal: Changing Colours, Changing Challenges was followed by a panel discussion that sought to answer these questions. On the panel were the author, Rudrangshu Mukherjee of The Telegraph, Mohammad Salim of the CPM and economist Abhirup Sarkar. The topic: Wither Bengal.

The discussion was moderated by Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, who has also written the foreword.

“The book was the result of 2011 Assembly elections. The first big parivartan came in 1977, beginning a long reign of the Left Front promising stability as it continued to return after each election until it seemed it would remain in control forever,” said the author. “The present generation that grew up seeing the unpleasant face of Left Front will find it difficult to believe that the victory of the Left Front in 1977 was hugely welcome, by a large section of people.”

Like the book cover that changes colour from red to green to white, the author spoke about the red regime of Bengal giving way to green revolution and how he hopes for a better and brighter Bengal.

Salim began by saying Bengal is “in deep sea”. “Change is now marketed well and many have jumped on the bandwagon of change,” he said. The real facts, according to him, told a different story with Bengal recording the lowest investment among all Indian states, highest number of farmer suicides and a poor law and order situation.

Sarkar, on the other hand, illustrated how Bengal had, under Trinamul, ushered in a change for the better.

Mukherjee drew the middle line, pointing out how Bengal has been withering despite change in governance. “If you don’t belong to the dominant party you are in implicit and explicit danger. That has been the case always,” he summed up.

Terror tome

V.S. Subrahmanian, a professor of computer science at University of Maryland, conducted a session on Indian Mujahideen: Computational Analysis and Public Policy based on a book by the same name he has co-authored. The professor listed some conditions noticed in the run-up to an Indian Mujahideen (IM) attack —warming up of India-Pakistan diplomatic ties, arrest of IM personnel, religious violence in India and holding of IM conferences. The session was also attended by Rajat Bagchi, a former official of the Intelligence Bureau.