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Of Statistics And Damned Lies In Bengal

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In West Bengal, the saddest aspect of yet another ugly   face –off  between the incumbent Trinamool Congress(TMC) and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata party(BJP) is that it has become the most debased form of  political culture anywhere in India .  An  inexorable descent into   political  chaos has been  the chief hallmark of the state’s  socio-economic  narrative since 2011.

It comes as no surprise therefore to find  that the major bread and butter  issues affecting the daily lives of the long  suffering people of West Bengal , the seriousness of the crisis they face,  remain  unaddressed , in the dust and heat of the  conflict between  the BJP,  the   state Governor and  West Bengal Government.  

There is not space enough to attempt even a bare-bones   coverage of the  abysmal failure of the governance in the public health, education, job generation, economic development and industries departments   in Bengal.  Yet the daily lives/fate  of most people are  inextricably linked  to the nature of  good or bad governance in these very  sectors.

Ruling TMC leaders are second to none in responding with choice invectives at every opportunity to the slightest criticism of their (non) performance.  The TMC party supremo surely  wins the prize for habitually  using bad language, suitably  spiced with   inimitable physical gestures, while responding to even simple  questions on official governance.  

  The tragedy is that  as a political technique , such antics  succeed  in deflecting the course of political dialogue or debate.   

Latest  example : state Governor Jagdheep Dhankhar raised an important question about the actual amount of investments Bengal has received in recent years. The Government has spent thousands of crores of rupees in organising much publicised ‘Business summits’ in Bengal, Maharashtra, Singapore and the UK.   

The promised investments, according to official announcements,  has been around Rs 12,48,000 crore. Further , it was claimed  that 50% of the money was already invested in ongoing projects !  The state’s distinguished  Finance Minister Amit Mitra, himself an economist, was a party to such pronouncements .

All that Dhankhar had  asked was  : Just where were such massive investments made, in which projects  and when ?   How many people were employed  in which districts ?

As always, the eminent TMC leaders and the no less respectable array of senior officials that kowtow to them , have  made no answers, even as a storm of vituperative abuse rained on Dhankhar.  Again, not surprising. For some years, Bengal  opposition parties ranging from the BJP to the  CPI(M-L) had asked the same question .  They received the same answer as did Mr.  Dhankhar — complete silence !

Can the TMC government deny  familiar accusations that it regularly lies to the people, and suppresses fundamental information from the people of West Bengal ?  Social activists report that such questions, even when sent to the authorities through the RTI route , have remained unanswered.

It is not without significance that from Chief Minister Mamata  Banerjee downwards, people like Partha Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim,  Kalyan Banerjee ,Subrata Mukherjee, Saugata Ray , Chandrima Bhattacharya —all TMC bigwigs in their own right— have heartily abused Mr. Dhankhar,  their favourite  punching bag, often in unparliamentary language , on many occasions over various issues.  

But none  has had the courage to admit  the state’s failure to attract a single major industrial project, a single chunk of big ticket investment  since 2011 and that most sarkari  announcements  were  deliberately  misleading.   West Bengal under the TMC  simply does NOT figure in the interest map of industrial investors, whether in India or abroad !

In the same category  belong Nabanna’s periodic claims about the creation of new jobs during the TMC’s tenure.    The Chief Minister  had set the pattern  of future governance in the state :  within the first year of her tenure beginning in 2011  she had declared  that her party had  fulfilled over 95% of the projects and works it had  announced in its manifesto.

This trend has  continued in the following years, with such claims  being repeated in official ads featuring—as always —- a beaming Chief Minister, or in the speeches made by her or Dr Mitra in the state Assembly.  Ms Banerjee  claimed to have provided  new jobs to 81,00,000  people some three years ago. And now in 2020, in her list of achievements carried out over the decade beginning  in 2010, the figure has been increased to well over 10 million new jobs !  

Opposition parties doing their own calculations had computed that for 81 lakh people securing new jobs, over 150 in each of the 300-plus administrative blocks would have to be on the payroll. In 2020, the number would rise further. Does the present situation in West Bengal  confirm  such claims ? The answer ,it can be said, is  blowing in the winds, only in an unintended manner.       

The facts  suggest otherwise. At long last, some state Government officials currently accept, pace TMC leaders, that the number of migrant workers from West Bengal to other states now exceeds 40 lakhs. Predictably, unlike Uttar Pradesh or other states, Bengal has no records or  even a primary  database  about its mostly poor migrant workers labouring in other states. Various other estimates put the figure much higher , at least between 60 to 80 lakhs.

Does this tally with the creation of over 10 million new jobs ?   No TMC leader, certainly not the Chief Minister, has the guts  to answer the question.

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