Retreat from Revolutionary Rhetoric!

Charting a New Capitalist Path!  

Yes, there is a new air of great expectancy in Bengal.  A new optimism and a new sense of purpose in all walks of life. But this expectancy, this confidence is still in the hearts and minds of some people at the top. May be in the  minds of Chief Minister Mr.Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and some of his colleagues!

Alighting from the plane and coming out of Dum Dum was a great experience this time. Here I come, rather come back, after 20 long years!  Also I come back to my old haunt where I had spent some of my carefree years as a student at Tagore’s Santiniketan. Yes, I had been back in West Bengal many times. But this time, I come back with so much change in me too!  This time I come with new eyes and new ears! I am seeing things, seeing the world in a new light. As an entrepreneur and as an economist (yes, I dislike the expression businessmen and in Calcutta they have so much dislike for business and businessmen, but here I am to communicate with the readers in some clear and non-complicated language!)  I see thing, the world in black and white! Yes, your are either for creating wealth,  or helping to contribute to the persistence of poverty! So, Calcutta this time I saw in a different light. Of course in a very positive and sympathetic light.

What I saw and what I learnt?

There was so much in my own expectation too. But alas! Not much yet has happened. The very first sound I was greeted as I came out of Dum Dum was a beggar’s soul! Fine, I told myself, what if, we could still change things, we now have a vision in the CM’s change of heart, I told myself as I walked out. I was full of optimism and I was so impatient to see and find for myself how things are going on in the State. I was not disappointed!  Of course, Calcutta itself gave lots of new impressions. The city’s infrastructure very much seemed neglected. Compared to what we see in other cities.

And coming from Bangalore, Calcutta seems an orphan; there is no infrastructure activity visible, as we see in the Silicon Valley. Everything about Calcutta seems very old, every building or pavement seem crumbling and every corner seem congested and filthly. Anyway that was the first impression. The transport in the city is a mix of mind-boggling variety. The battered buses that ply the roads are from another age. When you see Bangalore introducing the Volvos in so many new designs, in hundreds, seems another India!  Alas! It was a big disappointment. No news about the Chief Minister or about the redoubtable Mamata do either! There is not much political news, nor even the economic or industry news. I had to scan the many newspapers to learn that the Haldia Docks are working to capacity and they are planning for expansion! Fine, I thought. The typical Bengalis business news? Not much.  For Calcutta’s size and historical and heritage value plus the new found enthusiasm of the Chief Minister, the city’s leading media don’t give a damn to any of these aspects.

Yes, there were some positive changes and developments I noticed after my long time visit this time. The flyovers, the Vidyasagar Sethu and the underground Metro are truly international class and this gives a new hope for the city’s comeback in due course.

What raises an unusual hope and confidence, for outsiders as well as those who are living there is the fact that the newly transformed Chief Minister of the State Mr.Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s all-out thrust to court the private capital!  Capitalism is the path he has begun to chart! So he also says so openly and with no tinge of any stricken conscience! 
Unfortunately, all these have been badly neglected and even crushed. In spite of Prof.Amartya Sen, having won the Nobel Prize in economics and in spite of other equally talented economists serving the government as finance ministers (Ashok Mitra and now Dr.Ashim Dasgupta) the State is an example of  too much intelligence producing and economic laggard State. On every indicator of the Human Development Index, West Bengal comes almost after Bihar and UP! What a shameful state of affairs, after so much talk, outdated theory of Communism, Naxalism and other  revolutionary empty rhetoric!  There should not be any slight misunderstanding here.

I am not the one who blindly believe that solutions to our multiple problems, be it economic development or political governance is simply in back and white! There are so many nuances, so many human and humane sides to society’s problems, especially when we embark on radical changes. Let us remember that radical changes are taking place everywhere, not only inside India, outside as well. In such a context, all we have to be prepared to keep in mind is that we have to have an open mind and must be willing to see and willing to listen and willing to learn useful lessons that will suit our immediate requirements.

Globalisation is here, but not in the way run of the mill businessmen will hold forth. Globalisation works for good and also works for some undesirable things.  As Prof.Pankaj Ghemawat, a professor at  Harvard Business School has pointed out that the world is still not yet flat,(Thomas Friedman’s thesis that had sold well with Indians as well as the Americans in the wake of the on-going boom in outsourcing),there are still country-specific strategies that is good for the countries like India. India is a large country, India’s economy and culture, our peoples’ perceptions of things are so unique that what works for Wal-Mart in the USA might not work in India. That is exactly the thesis of  Ghemawat. He points out that Wal-Mart, the famous MNC, could not replicate its business model in all countries. It famously failed, the prof.says, in 5 out of 8 countries! There is a lesson for us in India. The comrades can take heart!

So too in issues like FDI. There is now news about the Indian Government passing a National Security Exception Act that would protect security interests (threats) and also some sectors and some countries from which FDI might be prohibited. I need not dwell on this sensitive issue and I hope readers know enough and at least the authorities know it. Even otherwise, there is now even talk of restricting the many MNC companies to be headed by foreign CEOs. So much for the concerns expressed by patriots about protecting the country’s interests.

Here again, I don’t like to dwell on grand themes or big theories but talk in simple language, deploy common sense and talk about policies that could make a dramatic impact and a change in the lives of the common people. The “Best practices” is another concept, so too the Public-Private Partnership. Whether we like it or not, it was Vajpayee who triggered the National Highways Development and the result can be seen even in Bengal today.  It is roads and communications infrastructure, in my view, that are basic to other infrastructure. Luckily, these two sectors are booming in the country in many parts and the way ahead for the West Bengal Government is almost easy now. They just have to study what is being done elsewhere.

Image Source : connect.in.com

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