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From 50 Years Ago (16 Sept 2006)

to be maintained in a land-hungry State even itself own no more than a fractional part of FROM 50 YEARS AGO if there were not the burden of refugees stream-the enterprises which make West Bengal the ing in since 1948 at a rate, accelerated in most industrialized State in India. This is recent months, to an average of between 20,000 reflected also in the employment situation to 30,000 a month. where only 37 per cent of the total of 6.3 lakh What is the sharpest feature in the

to be maintained in a land-hungry State even itself own no more than a fractional part of

FROM 50 YEARS AGO

if there were not the burden of refugees stream-the enterprises which make West Bengal the

ing in since 1948 at a rate, accelerated in most industrialized State in India. This is

recent months, to an average of between 20,000 reflected also in the employment situation

to 30,000 a month. where only 37 per cent of the total of 6.3 lakh

What is the sharpest feature in the “pro-labourers in organized industry is Bengali. In

file”? Perhaps a sense of unfulfilment and Jute mills, for instance, Bihar contributes 36.98

Vol VIII, No 37, September 15, 1956 lack of direction manifesting themselves inper cent of the labour and UP 19.52 per cent;

the present hyper-sensitiveness and nostalgia Bengal’s share is 22.04 per cent. In his BudgetProfile of West Bengal for the earlier years of the century when the speech in the Assembly two years ago West (From a correspondent) leadership of India rested largely with Bengal. Bengal’s Chief Minister, Dr B C Roy, esti-

Francis Bernier, describing his Travels in mated that employment from development

For West Bengal “profile” is the appro-the Mughal Empire wrote that if there was expenditure leaked about 50 per cent to compriate word for it is a State from which the body any other country in the world where there petitors from outside the State. So that if Rshas gradually slipped away. When the first was such abundance as in Bengal, it was 1 crore were calculated as investment neces-Indian Census was undertaken in 1872 Bengal’s probably Egypt (which he had not visited). sary to give employment to x numbers, say,area was 248,231 sq miles, in 1901 it was But these and other enthusiastic details are in actual fact the investment in West Bengal189,837 sq miles, in 1941, 82,876 sq miles from portraits of yesterday and the day be-would need to be Rs 2 crores. and in 1951 no more than 33,524 sq miles. fore; in todays’ profile the ancestry is Partly at least this is due to a rigid refusal

Now the head remains – Calcutta, the most recognizeable but the expression has altered. of Bengalis to enter certain occupations. Inindustrialized city of India, perhaps also the Probably the biggest problems today for the large city of Calcutta the conservancy,most unpredictable, undoubtedly one of the the State are the economic – how to sustain plumbing, house-building and (until lately)least happy cities. And part of the trunk – 15 in the second-smallest State in India a large transport are in the hands of workers fromdistricts grouped under two administrative population, now about 28 million. outside the State; the myriads of “pan” andcommissioner’s divisions, predominantly cigarette booths are owned by people whoagricultural, where the average density of Complicating Factors have come from other States to make a living;population was 799 per sq mile in 1951, varying even in the more sophisticated trade ofin the southern district from 817 to 2,877, one The situation is complicated by other catering and hotel-management the story is of the highest in the world; too high certainly factors. One is that the people of the State the same.

Economic and Political Weekly September 16, 2006

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