Sunday, September 30, 2007

The same different Bengalis!

Bengalis of two neighbouring nations are so different

What has been interesting to note that it is not just in the field of cricket that Bangladesh had proved its mettle against India, but in business too it has been giving India tough competition, particularly in garment exports. Industry reports claim that Bangladesh would cross India (in terms of revenue earned from garment exports) by January 2008! Today, it is reported that Bangladesh is producing garments at a pace that the entire country put together cannot match. On an average, it produces 20 shirts, per machine per day, whereas the best of Indian factories produce between 10 and 14. What is even more incredible is not that a dot of a nation has taken a lead in an industry where India had an early mover advantage but the very fact that it is the same Bengali community who are crazily driving the business in Bangladesh that has been complete failure in evoking its sense of enterprise in India. What went so wrong in West Bengal that it could not produce a single worthwhile entrepreneur in the past six decades? The prime reason for the death of the spirit of enterprise has been the state of governance in Bengal.

To begin with, the first biggest catastrophe was the Naxalite movement (1967) (which was meant to be a revolution against the upper class), unfortunately left the state drained of the intelligentsia as bright youngsters, who joined the movement, were either killed or they fled the state for good. Well, that was just the beginning, what followed thereafter was 30 years of mis-governance which not only killed the spirit of enterprise within Bengalis forever, but worse, it reduced them to mediocrity. The entire governance structure has been woven in such a manner that Bengalis in Bengal are still caught on to the times and greatness of the Tagores and Satyajit Rays! No one even bothers to question the fact that it has been decades that Bengal has produced such greats and looking at the way things have been going it doesn’t even look like producing one such iconic cultural entrepreneur in decades to come. And forget about any questioning or unrest, the revolutionary Bengali is long dead, what we have today are complacent Bengalis who are victims of political illusion, who are happy in the belief that theirs is the best governed state in the country, particularly with respect to social parameters.

Had that been true that would have been some consolation, but the reality is something else. On most of the social indicators Bengal has just about managed to perform better than Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (perceived to be worst performers on social indicators). And in most of the social indicators like infant mortality and sanitation, even Bangladesh scores better than West Bengal, which otherwise scores low in UNDP-HDI, as compared to India. And there is no comparison with respect to industrialisation between Bengal and Bangladesh. The Left Front has been responsible for a systematic de-industrialisation for over three decades making it a complete un-productive economy. I always wonder how mere illusion can keep citizens of a state contented for so long!


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