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Calcutta Diary

case in the main building twists no more. The teachers' rooms marked with swastikas were burnt

Calcutta Diary

 THE incendiarism at Lucknow has proved a point: the distinction between certain kinds of student leaders and ordinary hooligans is almost blurred out. And yet, how many politicians will have the honesty to own that Lucknow is not an aberration, or that it is their sins coming home to roost?

Calcutta Diary

paralyse action. Surely Indira Gandhi knows the chips are down and the battle must he joined. In fact, what is urgently needed is a little respite from the obsession with elections and all that goes with them. It is ridiculous that at this juncture bye- elections of little consequence should engage the undivided attention of leading members of the ruling party. No bye-election is going to prove anything of lasting value. The Congress Party may he bruised and battered by its mishandling of central tasks, hut it is the only party capable of tackling the CALL him by the most vicious names, there is still a certain charm in the old rascal. And of course a certain endur- ability, an historical grandeur. Thirty years, twenty-five years ago, drums wouId heat through the villages; the boats would wind their way against the fairly strong current into interior canals of Vikrampur or Kishorganj and carry the tiding: the Maulana was coming to the market-place ten, fifteen, twenty miles away, your chance of a life-time to listen to him, to be blessed by him, to be enlightened by him. Men, women and children would begin to flock from all over; they would tuck their victuals for three, four, five days in towels and trek: it the food would run out, they could buy some more in any case in the market-place. It is market day, and Bhashami would commence to speak even before the first crowing of the eariiest- rising cock. Discard all notions you ever had about what constitutes a speech. It is invocation to God, religious discourse, political economy, agricultural practices, story telling, rabble rousing all rolled into one. At the very beginning would he the prayer. The vast congregation, spread in an unplanned, untidy formation all over the field abutting the market-place, would join in: the atmosphere would be both eerie and peaceful, and the Maulana's enormously rich voire would throb against the sky. With the prayer over, he would begin on a low, matter-of-fact pitch: it is the story of the prophet, his glory and his exploits, his saintliness and nobility, his mission, his love for the poor, the story of the Prophet who was the first and greatest of all socialists, Islam being the religion of socialism. It might be all theology, but you listen to it spellbound; the Maulana's charm grips you. Abruptly, from the concept of Islamic situation at the moment. This is known to the people. In other words, the Prime Minister and her team, over the next three years, have to concentrate not on electioneering but on putting together a coherent programme for building the economy of the subcontinent. No gimmicks. Just plain hard work.

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M THIS is an individual's sample investigation spread over a few cursory weeks, and may well therefore ho somewhat imprecise. Still, a scanning of the so- called national newspapers reveals, in the course of a period of six consecutive weeks recently, a particular Cabinet minister had on the average delivered five speeches a week. These are of course the speeches which got reported in the press. If, for each such speech reported, there was another which missed the limelight, the minister must have been on the public rostrum on the average for ten occasions during a single week. Since on each occasion he was supposedly talking on issues pertaining to his portfolio, there must have been a written text. The text must have been prepared by officials at a fairly senior level. These officials, in their turn, must have depended upon drafts sent up from below; the drafts too must have gone through a few intra-mural rubbings. A ministerial speech therefore embodies an impressive quantum of official resources, and let nobody ask what the opportunity cost is.

Calcutta Diary

with the different employment exchanges in West Bengal was 811,665 in 1972 as against 555,835 in the previous year. This, the arithmetic says, implies an over-the-year increase of 46 per cent. The rise over the year in the number of applicants who can be described as educated unemployed is even more frightening, something of the order of 75 per cent. It is anybody's guess whether there is any close correspondence between the incidence of registrations with the employment exchanges and the actual incidence of unemployment. Not all who arc unemployed register, and not all who register are necessarily unemployed; they may simply be looking for a superior, alternative opportunity. A spurt of faith in the efficacy of placing one's name in the live register to secure a job can also lead to a sudden increase in registrations in a particular year. But these caveats al belong to the genre of pettifogging foot-notes. One has merely to look around, and check the data on fresh industrial investments, maintenance outlays, supply of raw materials, the power situation, and the rush of new entrants in the labour market. The rate of economic and industrial growth being what it is, a near-fifty per cent increase in the number of the unemployed in the course of 1972 does not appear to be an improbable estimate. That to some it may be an unpalatable one is neither here nor there.

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M THE difficult months have begun. Reports of food riots at Nagpur and other places stir frightening memories. Way back in 1951, in the dusty, remote north Bengal town of Cooch Behar, a hunger- march was organised on an April morning: food was woefully short, prices had shot up, the public distribution system had broken down. The local administration panicked, the police predictably lost their head, the march was interfered with. Soon, there was a hailstorm of police bullets; several people, including a young girl, were killed. In the subsequent outcry, the state government was compelled to institute a judicial enquiry. The report of the enquiry was hushed up, although it became common knowledge that the judge had come down heavily upon the administration. It was only during the second spell of the United Front government in 1969 that the report of the judicial enquiry into the firing at Cooch Behar was released. It castigated the different official agencies fairly even-handed- ly: the statisticians who, on the basis of a suspect sample survey, had declared the district to be surplus in food- grains when there was actually a deficit running into several hundred thousand tonnes; the local deputy commissioner who failed to inform himself, and, in turn, failed to impress upon Calcutta the seriousness of the situation arising out of the shortage of grains; and the police who had equated the pressing of the trigger with the solution of the food crisis.

Calcutta Diary

en-lai is a youthful-looking seventy-five. The Chinese Communist Parly has prodded them to grow old along with it. That was noble sentiment, and, certainly, up to a point, has served the cause of the revolution truly and well. But the physical law of decay cannot he flouted however intense the chanting or" the scriptures, and the old must, sooner or later, yield place to the new. If, meanwhile, the new generation has not been provided with the opportunity to prepare itself for the eventuality of succession, an interregnum of chaos is a distinct possibility.

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary AM IT is always the weighted average of your guess and my guess and our next door neighbour's guess, but, according to one set of statistics, there are at present nearly five hundred poetry magazines and fifteen thousand practising poets in West Bengal. Determining the current number of poetry magazines can be a matter of semantic exercise. Some of these magazines may appear only once in five years, or appear only once and fade into oblivion. A whole lot of others are supposed to be monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly publications, but their actual periodicity varies with the financial straits of the managing editor at any given moment. There is that other specimen, representing a genre which is a cross between love of poetry and love of entertainment; for example, the daily poetry magazines which usually assert their existence every year during the week or fortnight when Calcutta celebrates Tagore's birth anniversary. In one or two stray years, one has also heard of hourly poetry bulletins. The births, deaths and periodicities of these magazines are afflicted by an acute stochasticity, and bands of budding mathematician economists, if they are so interested, can have a whale of a time in trying to fit a simulated Markov process or some such thing to the phenomenon.

A Kathmandu Diary

A Kathmandu Diary A M IT is pure Kafka : wherever you go, whichever way you turn, never mind which poor country you are currently in, there is no escape from courses and seminars on economic development. The more the frequency of such courses, the less perhaps is the rate of economic growth in the country concerned. But such cynicism cannot deter the style of a world suffering from an excess supply of economists, quite a number amongst whom, on a fair guess, must also be moonlighting as espionage agents for this or that nation. The other day, at one such course catering to officials of the Nepalese government, there was an intense dabate over the motion: 'If I were not born in the heavenly Kingdom of Nepal, I would then rather be born in China than in India'. The motion failed to carry, but. just by the skin of the teeth: the verdict of the congregated bureaucrats was six for and seven against, with two abstentions. The minions of the Indian embassy, anxiously waiting in the wings, must have heaved a sigh which reverberated beyond Raxaul.

Calcutta Diary

March 3, 1973 NOBODY took any notice, but, a few clays ago, another anniversary was at hand. It was exactly 25 years since the second congress of the Communist Party of India met in Calcutta. Momentous things happened at that session, and subsequently. B T Ranadive ended P C Joshi's long innings as General Secretary of the party; theses and counter-theses rent the air; the heretics and the dissenters of yesterday became the inheritors of the party line; an interregnum of a few weeks

Calcutta Diary

A M WHERE obfuscation is the issue, sociologists, who does not know by now, can beat even the economists hollow. Economic growth fails to occur, the latter would say, because there is not enough of savings in the system; nothing of the kind, pat would come the rejoinder from sociologists; you are not going anywhere on account of a basic deficiency in your achievement- orientation; you are oriented toward affiliation

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M THIS could be an apocrypha, or could as well be what passes as a 'true story. In the lush middle 1960s, when the American foundations were rolling in money, academics could demand, and fetch, a very high price in the United States for indulging themselves in the luxury of research projects. Unless the foundations could deplete the funds fast enough, there could not be any replenishments from the industrial and business houses; the spectre of corroding taxation would then loom large over them. So, for dear life, the foundations had to be cajoled and coaxed into spending the funds, and the prima donnas in the universities and other institutions of learning had to be humoured into accepting proposals

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