Monday, November 24, 2008

When will Calcutta rise again?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

This is a question which strikes all the inhabitants of Calcutta (I prefer calling it by the old name due to its glorious past) and everyone who has a direct or indirect connection with 'City of Joy'.
Such was the aura of Bengal in general and Calcutta that freedom fighter Gopalkrishna Gokhke had once famously said “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.” But to be honest Calcutta cannot afford to sing praises of its past and regret its present for too long.

First hit by partition, then by naxalism and finally by vision less politics for decades Calcutta became an irreverent city in the context of the Indian nation. We Bengalis might argue against this being a very emotional community but the truth is we are not among the places people go gaga about anymore in India. It is true Bengalis are still doing well (mostly outside Bengal) but Bengal as a brand has failed miserably in the last 50 years.

When Tatas came to Bengal the the people suddenly saw a sense of hope in the cultural capital of India. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was being seen as a developmental leader trying to revive the state from the slump and driving it out of the 'Black Hole' in which it has been for decades. But for a leader and her demands the Tatas walked out of Bengal and with it crushed the dreams of many both within the state and outside it.

Many people were planning to re-migrate to 'desher mati' once decent career opportunities were available in Calcutta. They were eyeing Tata Nano to be a turning point in Calcutta's history. I had a bet of Rs 100 with one of my friends from Calcutta during the heights of Singur protest. He said Tatas would not leave after investing so much money while I insisted Tatas won't do business in a war like situation. This was one bet I would have been happy to loose.

The IT business which is the buzz word in the country has at the most kissed Kolkata when compared to cities like Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Gurgaon leave aside the Silicon Valley of India Bangalore. This is pretty disappointing considering Bengalis or people from West Bengal comprise are one of the largest work force in terms of head count in this industry.

Another industry which has eluded Calcutta is the BPO sector. It surprises me as Calcutta is one of the most cost effective cities in the country a must for the BPO business. Add to it the huge number of BPO executives from the region especially North East this business would have flourished in Calcutta. But unfortunately apart from a few major BPOs the city has seen negligible job opportunities being created by the calling business.

A SWAT analysis of the state needs to be done immediately to bring in some much development to the state which is crying for it. The present chief minister seems to be the best man helming the affairs of the state right now. Hopefully people sitting in the opposite bench will realise and take a lesson from the grave mistake that they have committed in the recent past. Its a dream of many that 'City of Joy' also becomes 'City of Opportunities'


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