Super Cyclone ‘Amphan’ devastated West Bengal, a state located in the Eastern part of India adjoining the Bay of Bengal, after making landfall on Wednesday, 20th May 2020. Over 100 people are reported killed by the storm which was accompanied by incessant rains and wind speed reaching upto 140 Kmph. Even after 24 hours, Kolkata, the historic capital city of West Bengal remains flooded, without electricity and net connections in various parts and pockets of the metropolis.
Since last 24 hours the social media is flooded with pictures of devastation caused by the storm, hotels with broken panes, many trees uprooted, walls and roof of houses, cars, trucks smashed by falling trees, roofs of kuchha houses blown away etc. This is very painful for someone who is away from his beloved city and I pray that the city shows its resilience and shows the tenacity to bounce back up on its feet and be self-reliant in the reconstruction process.
Along with this, the new trend online from some Bengalis is to castigate initially, the mainstream media for not covering the storm (though I did find it has been covered by multiple channels albeit not 24 hours live streaming) and then somehow pin the blame on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for sending Amphan to Bengal and Kolkata. Suddenly people see resilience and strength in their great leader Ms. Bannerjee irrespective of the fact that she mostly did nothing other than immediately started asking for funds from center and made token tours of a few areas. Additionally her party is single-handedly responsible to bringing the state down to it’s knees, destroying the industry, ruining development and openly declaring welcome citizenship to illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh.
I have a big problem with this thinking.
Bengal first under CPIM and then under the present TMC dispensation has had only one agenda of governance, how to remain in power. For this, they have run down the industry to the ground, hounded out Tata Motors from the State, closed down almost all organized industries and finally what remains left are the cottage industry of alur chop (potato fritters) and chicken rolls. During such disasters, what helps local governments are a strong industry who can contribute to the rebuilding of the place. A simple example is the huge donations made by the industries in PM Cares Fund after the appeal by Mr. Modi. Imagine, if India was like Bengal, bereft of industries, how much money would have been collected in the PM Care Fund?
My second problem is, the government here feels that they can’t remain in power if great initiatives taken by the Modi Government in Center like Ayushman Bharat Yojana, PM Kisan Samman Nidhi etc. Further they feel if they implement such schemes, first of all the infamous Syndicate in Bengal is left out of the equation, second the poor in Bengal will realise that whatever state benefit they actually get, is actually from the Center. Now if they had been more sagacious in their judgement like for example the BJD Government in Orissa, the people of Bengal would have been better off today. The farmers in Bengal would have had better security after the storm, the poor and impoverished Bengalis would have been able to receive medical insurance and crop insurance and overall a possibility of a better and secure life. But no, the TMC government can’t look out of it’s lenses as a central opposition party and behaves as if it’s in opposition in the state too!
My third problem is this sudden insurgence of Bangla Pokkho (a chauvinistic regional jingoistic movement) which has recently cropped up. This movement has particular derision for Hindi speaking people, nationalistic media and state governments from the Hindi heartland. Ridiculous. Having spent the majority of my adult life across 7 states in India, this kind of jingoism and regionalism is present in other parts of our great country as well and not unique to Bengal. Unfortunate part is, in Bengal it was almost absent and not mainstream ever, but have suddenly cropped up. The irony is, the same people are today crying that North India, nationalist media is not giving Bengal coverage in it’s time of crisis! I mean, you can’t choose to behave as you always feel like and expect to have sympathy of your national brethren. First learn to behave as an Indian, then and only then expect being treated as an Indian. One of the hidden faults of our nation builders was, I sincerely believe, was to bifurcate India into states and UTs based on linguistic criteria. Didn’t help at all towards integration. If they had instead done on some other criterion say geography, then by now, I am sure, we would have been much more Indian much more integrated.
Final fourth and final issue is the utilization of grants. Modi has already sent his National Disaster Management Team on the ground before the storm hit Bengal. He has already toured the affected areas. He has already announced Rs. 1000 Cr relief to Bengal. He will ensure much more help in the coming days, directly and through his various Governmental agencies. But how will all these get utilized. I can bet a large sum, much of this amount will be siphoned off, unless carefully monitored by Center. Hawks in Bengal are waiting to gobble up the money. Just wait a couple of months, and some or other scam will be unearthed. We don’t have to look far. Grains and central assistance sent by Center during the Covid crisis were misappropriated in Bengal. There are news that sacks of rice were diverted to private godowns and than repackaged and sold off. There are news that party bosses were distributing these food grains to their supporters in Kolkata and suburbs. So yes, the final issue of how the money will be spent without corruption is a big IF!
Therefore, as Mr. Modi says. Become ‘atmanirbhar’ or self-reliant. Earn the respect of your countrymen. Bengal has a rich past and the tenacity to outgrow the communistic brainwash of 4 decades to climb out of the well of self-indignant pride and start behaving as responsible productive citizens. Only then you would have earned the rightful place at the table.