Sunday, January 15, 2006

Economic stagnation in Bengal

An interesting article by Udayan Namboodiri. Lots of statistics about the economic stagnation in Bengal under Communist rule.

State in turmoil (The Pioneer, November 11, 2005)

This week's Thinkpad is about a rare kind of Chief Minister who is loved by the very people who should hate him. On the other hand, the men and women who surround him would like to see his back.But they are willing to strike but afraid to wound. West Bengal's Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who completed five years in office last Sunday, is the toast of the national chatteratti - yesterday's "class enemy" - for openly denying his links with Marxist dogma. To the business elite, he is the antithesis of Prakash Karat, the CPI(M)'s general secretary, who still swears by the Red Book.

While Karat represents old-world communist obstructionism, Buddhadeb is cheered on as he demolishes precisely those impediments which the Left erects to trip the Manmohan Singh government. Karat is one-dimensional, obstinate and lives in a time warp. Buddhadeb is like a whiff of fresh air in the dank world of Indian Communism.

But, in his home state, Buddhadeb has to live with more than one Karat. His predecessor, Jyoti Basu, who he upstaged in a silent coup in November 2000, is still licking his wounds. The peasants, trade unionists, teachers and government clerks who made up the rungs of the ladder which helped the CPI(M) and its ilk rise to power in the 1960s, are now left high and dry by policies borrowed from Deng Xiaopeng's China. Buddhadeb makes no secret of his love for foreign investment, whatever the source, and takes the ideological combat right to the Politburo every time eyebrows are raised.

To millions of people who live by the state's single-biggest employer, agriculture, Buddhadeb is an object of hate today. He is accused of having sold out their interests by encouraging anybody who promises to bring "investment" to grab their lands. That's after Marxist policies have ruined their prospects of a better life by promoting a party-backed class of agricultural middlemen who kept them mired in poverty and debt for three decades. The workers, whether in the huge industrial wasteland that makes up today's Bengal or in the hundreds of sweatshops still limping along, have stopped dreaming of the proletariat's paradise. Buddhadeb wants to strip them of the right to strike and offer gherao.

Many of his admirers liken Buddhadeb's predicament to that of Mikhail Gorbachev who was hated by his own comrades but feted outside the Soviet Union for carrying out glasnost and perestroika. But the analogy lacks basis. For, Buddhadeb lacks two fundamental principles that Gorbachev lived by - courage and honesty. Ordinary Soviet subjects admired him for his willingness to die for his commitments. That is why they came out on the streets of Moscow to dare the tanks on August 19, 1991. In contrast, Buddhadeb lives by the forked tongue. The Bengali Communist survives by playing comrade against comrade. He owes his personal power to remnants of the Pramode Dasgupta faction and uses them against Jyoti Basu who, ironically represented Communist reform in an earlier age. He is mortally afraid of losing elections which explains the brazen rigging resorted to by the CPI(M) to keep itself in power since 2000.

Actually, he has nothing but hype to offer. Under Buddhadeb, West Bengal has become one of the poorest states of India. There are 70 lakh people registered with its employment exchanges, a figure he refuses to acknowledge. Over 31 per cent of the rural poor live under the poverty line (against the national average of 27 per cent: NSSO-2000), yet Buddhadeb has the gall to claim that West Bengal is a model of success in "alternative development". The average per capital rural expenditure in West Bengal is the sixth lowest in the country.

According to the findings of the 2001 Census, only 13 per cent of rural households owned TV sets against the all-India figure of 19 per cent. Whereas 41 per cent of Indians live in pucca houses, in Bengal only 25 per cent of the people enjoy this basic amenity. A mere 20 per cent of the state's rural households have electricity in contrast to the national average of 43.5 per cent. In terms of expenditure and ownership of basic assets,West Bengal, which once led the country in terms of economic indicators, have only Orissa, Bihar and Assam for company. In July 2004, a NSSO survey depicted West Bengal as India's "hungriest state". In the supposed socialist paradise, 17.4 per cent of rural households are underfed for one to three months of the year and 2.4 per cent are underfed for ten months.

Yet, Buddhadeb has had one significant success. He has outclassed all politicians of the country in the game of deception. Manmohan Singh, on a visit to Kolkata on January 8 this year, declared him as "best chief minister". To impress the international investment community, the Marxists have been claiming since 1993-94 that their superb governance has given West Bengal a steady annual State Domestic Product (SDP) growth rate of seven per cent - higher than the national average of 4.4 per cent and lower than only Gujarat. This is nothing but pinko statistics. Logically, a state with such a high SDP should also report a healthy Tax to SDP ratio. But West Bengal's average on this count is only 4.61 the lowest among the major states. Even Bihar, at 7.0, is better placed.



At 10:33 AM, Blogger Intuitive Investigator: The Maverick Recusant said...

But where are the proofs to substantiate your statistics?

At 12:07 PM, Blogger Bengali Patriot said...

Udayan Namboodiri quotes NSSO figures. NSSO is the national sample survey organization.


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