I am a proud Bengali. And like many others in my state, I have a strong inclination towards politics. However, I have been living away from West Bengal since I was 11 years old, which is when I moved to Delhi. My father realised that as much as we love Kolkata, it is a stagnating city in terms of job opportunities.
My adolescence and adulthood were spent in Delhi. Living outside West Bengal for a long time made me more attached to my hometown. As I grew up, I found myself increasingly interested in and intrigued by West Bengal politics. And with that, over time, came the realisation that West Bengal, especially my city of Kolkata, was losing the race against other metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Bangalore and even Chennai.
Politics without progress encapsulates the situation in the West Bengal.
Sure there are many problems in all these cities, but they have all developed at a rapid pace after Independence. But somehow, Kolkata (and West Bengal as a whole) stopped and stagnated. The once British capital of India has not been able the shed its colonial baggage and move with the times as the rest of India has. The city has nostalgia, history and warmth, all of which make it unique and endearing, but it is also plagued by a lack of job opportunities, low industrialisation and now a high degree of communal tension which is shredding society.
In 2010, when the Trinamool Congress came to power, I was very hopeful. The long-standing Communist Party had finally been shelved. Bengalis felt disillusioned with the CPM and Mamata Banerjee's "Maa, Maati, Manush" worked wonders for her in Singur and Nandigram.
However, when I visited Kolkata in June 2016, six years since TMC came to power, I somehow got the feeling that the city hadn't moved an inch towards progress since the new regime came into place. My friends in Kolkata told me that I was lucky to have moved away; they described how the city has degraded over the years. I refused to believe it at the time.
However, in light of the recent cases of communal violence occurring in the state, I find myself inclining towards the hypothesis that West Bengal is still far away from walking in the path of all-round development. Mamata Banerjee seems to have lost all control over the state, which is descending into chaos. Her appeasement politics along with a propensity for blame games are not even papering over the cracks which are appearing in her state.
The communal riots in Dhulagarh, Hazinagar and Halisahar, just to name a few, are prime examples of how the state's social fabric is crumbling. Due to a brittle society and political disharmony, investors are not willing to invest.
I used to engage in debates where I vouched that there was hope yet for West Bengal. But now... I do not have enough proof to justify my hope.
I am now a student in London, and when I see the developed society around me, I can understand better than ever how far behind West Bengal and Kolkata are. It's a pity because Kolkata, with its vibrant history and culture, has the makings of a great society. Yet, a city cannot only stand upon its history. India is one of the rising economies of the world. Every major conglomerate wants to get a piece of the Indian market and they are making investments in so many places. West Bengal needs to attract these companies to invest as well. For that to happen, the social and political atmosphere needs to be stable and positive.
With the BJP trying to capitalise on the communal tension in Bengal, a political battle seems to be bubbling. As a state, being politically intense is not a negative trait. But, regressive politics is highly detrimental. Politics without progress encapsulates the situation in the West Bengal.
I used to engage in debates where I vouched that there was hope yet for West Bengal. But now I'm beginning to doubt my chances of winning such a debate. I do not have enough proof to justify my hope.