NEXT BENGAL BEST BENGAL
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee boasts of great human capital of the state. A few days ago she reiterated this in London. But transforming this human capital into a growth-driver for Bengal seems to be a fading aspiration.
What will create the best Bengal by utilising its human capital? Mind the word create.
Everyone in India admits that Bengalis are a creative people. Creativity begets great ideas and good institutions. Restlessness of creative people drives enterprise building, insures against stagnation, and spreads its impact down the society lane.
But what we witness in present-day Bengal is a society surrendering to government, institutions crumbling under pressure of below-mediocrity and politico-casteism destroying the rural fabric. This is the result of dividing people on the basis of political identity.
Though the barrier of caste in Bengal had been dissolving steadily; with the Left coming to power in 1977, identifying Bengalis either as Left or anti-Left camps gradually got formalised. From exploiting government programme to grabbing a job, the political identity grew in importance over the years. Exclusion and out-casting, two extreme manifestations of this, became a common phenomenon in our villages.
Bengal science and technology institutes, despite teachers and scholars getting much better compensation than the past, are unable to produce the expected numbers of patents.
No incubation park (we have some) can compensate for this inability. Patronisation of below-mediocre in academic sphere produces a viral effect, which we have been experiencing since long.
The present dispensation, Left-of-centre Trinamool Congress, is busy institutionalising the menace further. And this leaves us faced with the obvious question: how would Bengal’s human capital, which the Chief Minister boasts about so much, thrive in such an environment?
Isolated isles of excellence cannot remain immune to this, the recent happenings at Jadavpur University hints. Traits of contemporary Bengal show dominance of individual ambition, symptoms of cocooning, and actions of selfishness.
Political practices are exposes of outrage, perception of crisis, submission to and acceptance of fait accompli. Snubbing and wiping out every bit of tradition continues as part of the modernity project on borrowed ideas.
The leadership in social science on original interpretation of social existence is vanishing fast. Thus, our state policies of societal improvement are misplaced; at best they are bunches of prescriptions to cure superficial symptoms.
A malnourished intelligentsia, a village society vertically divided in non-ideological political camps, gradually weakening professionalism and skills across our social spectrum, and the inability of the leadership to advance society on socio-economic-cultural capitals are signs of a weakening social action.
Mamata Banerjee is right in boasting about Bengal’s human capital, and we must acknowledge that no amount of automation can replace human beings. Here’s an addendum though, i.e., emotionally intelligent human beings.
Emotion has to be fired with an ideal, here in this case, with the aspiration for the best habitable Bengal. Only then, intelligence will serve the cause of making Bengal the best in chosen spheres of social action.
Social action creates a smooth interface between individual pursuit and societal existence, moving the human force from right to duty mindedness.
We need to have an image of next Bengal founded on our strengths as a people. Creativity and innovativeness demand imagining an aspirational future in a free atmosphere. How do we discover this is the challenge ahead.
(Biplob Loho Choudhury is a professor of journalism at Visva Bharati. He lives in Santiniketan, Birbhum)
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