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Calcutta Diary

Between the Congress and the BJP there is really not much of a variation in the theme. Scarcely anything distinguishes, in terms of class lineage, leaders of the one lot from those of the other. The convergence of interests between the two parties is an unending affair. They share identical views on economic policy. It is all very gentlemanly. It is only those anxious to stress a sharp ideological cleavage between the two principal political parties who are having a trying time.

Calcutta Diary

Forget Kargil, forget even Jammu and Baramula. The menace of militancy so-described is casting a shadow over the entire north-east, Assam not ecluding. Assigning the credit for the disturbed state of affairs to over-activism on the part of Pakistan's ISI is laziness par excellence: the real danger lies in the possibility that we might actually come to half-believe some of the fictions we make up.

Streetcars Named Jyoti

THE sequence of events leading to the West Bengal Legislature (both Assembly and Council) on one day, and unanimously, passing the Calcutta Tramways (Taking Over of Management) Bill on Friday last was certainly history and drama put together; and the protagonist was undoubtedly Jyoti Basu, the State's Finance and Transport Minister. The argument between the Government of West Bengal and the Calcutta Tramways Company is by no means new. There is evidence that even in the British days then: were not a few arguments between the mercantilists of the C T C and the Athenians of the I C S; the company's rapacity was by and large curbed by the "guardians'. The Government of Dr B C Roy was more sympathetic and signed an agreement of sorts which left all the aces with the C T C and the Government of West Bengal, to mix metaphors, at the wrong end of the stick. The company could be taken over in 20 years

The Meaningless Dialogue

The Meaningless Dialogue THE Prime Minister's sudden summoning of the West Bengal Chief Minister to New Delhi was perhaps to the country an indication of uncertainties in West Bengal. To Calcutta it merely indicated the uncertainties at the Centre. The earlier sortie by the Governor, Dharma Vira, to the capital and his pilgrimage to the Home Minister first and then to the Prime Minister encouraged not a little speculation. When it was found that Jyoti Basu and Biswanath Mukher- jee were accompanying the Chief Minister, Ajoy Mukherjee, to Delhi, everything seemed possible. Not far behind lay the defection of Ave UF men to the Congress. How long was the non-Congress Government going to last? Cracks within the United Front could no longer be concealed. There was "a conspiracy", asserted a Calcutta daily. The Left CPI extremists, it was said, were up to mischief in NaxaL bari and beyond.

All the Wrong Parallels

 management and hard labour and that, unless workers learn to act in a disciplined manner, to maintain law and order and to increase their productivity, the economy of the country cannot improve. " Patriet took a different line, It criticised Morarji Desai for suggesting that banks should play a more decisive role. "If we go by their performance to far" said ''Patriot", "this will amount only to an attempt to increase credit facilities to the handful of monopolists who have hitherto been their chief beneficiaries. Private banking which is largely controlled by four or five big business houses has no Interest in agriculture", "Patriot" referred to rumours that the Government was thinking of "appointing Directors representing the Reserve Bank of India, the Income Tax Department and the Company Law Board" on the boards of the most important among these banks. "This" the paper said, "will not improve mat- ters because the bureaucrats who will be appointed as Directors will be as unresponsive to the demands of agriculture and small and m$- dium industries as the present pack- ed boards". "IfBanking is to be freed from the asphyxiating grasp of monopoly and allowed 'to play the creative role it can in agriculture and small industry" concluded "Patriot", "the major banks should at least be nationalised as early as possible Half-hearted gestures meant to appease the Working Committee or the few radical-minded Congressmen interested in economic reconstruction will not change the situation" All the Wrong Parallels WITH the presence of as many as six ministers this week somewhere around Naxalbari (E & P W, June 3), the place became not some obscure area in easily forgettable North Bengal but

Trouble Up North

Trouble Up North FOR MONTHS PAST there had been sporadic disturbances in the northern, tea-producing districts of Wesl Bengal

A Capful of Advice

date just what led to the creation of zonal councils. Perhaps they were the late Jawaharlal Nehru's non- answer to something or other. The late Govind Ballabh Pant presided over these council meetings with a measure of authority, The late Lai Bahadur Shastri used one such meeting for an important pronouncement on the question of language. Last week's meeting in Calcutta of the eastern zonal council was a reminder that the councils are still there and that their meetings can still be used for projecting the national "image" of a regional leader like Y B Chavan. The Home Minister certainly made a good try last week.

Palk Strait Crossed Again

Palk Strait Crossed Again THIS year's Jnanpeeth Award has gone to Tarashankar Banerjee for His Bengali novel, "Ganadevata". No literary assessment of the choice can, or need, be made here. For one thing, this reporter, like some of the judges, has not read the book. For another, the economic and political aspects of the decision and its fully deserving beneficiary, may be of greater interest to readers of "Economic and Political Weekly". The contradictions in the Bengali reaction to the award are fully representative of the Bengali predicament today; these need to be spelled out in some detail, with tentative attempts at analysis.

The Cost of Being III

The Cost of Being III IN one of his Parisian essays George Orwell wrote of the cost of dying in the French capital and showed it to be excruciatingly high. Things have changed even in France, where the State now pays back a sizeable part of the citizen's medical expenses. Though this may seem unbelievable, things have changed even in Calcutta

By Rice Alone

By Rice Alone ANY GOVERNMENT anywhere in the world stands or falls by its ability or otherwise to feed the people. The United Front Government in West Bengal faces no greater test. Disparate as its constituents are. everyone in the Government knows this. Most Ministers also know the only answer, although some may be discreet in public. Yet a strange hesitancy still plagues the State's food policy, which is dangerous because the agricultural pattern in West Bengal is seasonal and time is running out fast. The Government, it appears, is not walking fast enough. It resigned itself to some mis-fires in the matter of its transfers of some IAS officers; the original order was modified under motley pressures; and the U F Government has so far failed to give the Slate a sense of new direction and a sense of new purpose. Nowhere is this uncertainty more pronounced than in the policy on procurement on which hinges the fate of the Government itself.

South Wind

the late B C Roy negotiated with Belgrade for Yugoslav help in some of his projects for West Bengal. What, a mere State Government talking direct to a foreign Government! Similar suprise and dismay could be seen when EMS Narnboodiripad seemed poised for a take-off to the Kremlin for seeking aid independently of Delhi. That one should have been reminded of these two precedents by the recent visit to West Bengal by Mysore's Chief Minister, S Nijalingappa, may be a measure of the fragile nature of the Indian Union. This visit was remarkable in other ways too. In the USA it is not at all unusual for individual States to invite investment on the basis of concessions and advantages offered. In India it may be the first time a Chief Minister has gone to another State to sell the investment possibilities of his own.

The Axe Falleth Softly

The Axe Falleth Softly THE UNITED FRONT Government of West Bengal has not indeed taken too long to take to heart a point repeatedly made in this diary, the point being the simple one that the new political set-up could not possibly achieve any new purposes if it remained chained to its inherited bureaucratic instruments. The I C S, the I A S, the U D C and the L D C cannot overnight be done away with; but a reshuffle there was last week which some call a shake-up. As many as 11 secretaries or commissioners are now packing their bags, reluctantly ready to leave for new stations. Few seem to regret the departure of Ghosh and Ganguly, who mismanaged food and agriculture; the Home Secretary, Roy, may not be missed at all in Writers' Buildings. Not everyone will approve of every change made; but most people seem that an overhaul was overdue; far too many bureaucrats had come to consider themselves indispensable constants; the secretariat had become a stagnant pool.

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