September 2008 will go down in the history of the nation as the month when India finally received waiver from the 45-nation strong Nuclear Suppliers Group for dealing and trading in nuclear fuel.
India’s admission to the ‘august’ group seems to have great portents that will gradually unfold as against the solution of more pronounced needs of nuclear fuel supply and the reactors to generate electricity.
Incidentally as the waiver came through after marathon sessions in Vienna, another important meeting to herald or not a monumental occasion has been ‘on’ at the Raj Bhavan in the city. It’s about Bengal unshackling the bondage of ‘smallness’.
Let me deal with the latter. It is important because if the Nano plant does happen, it does not automatically mean that Bengal’s industrial rejuvenation is just round the corner.
On the contrary there are many more hurdles that have to be crossed yet – the hurdles of smallness, of finding glory in smallness. I’ll narrate 3 incidents that have happened only recently to explain my point.
First the Sep 4 issue of Anandabazar Patrika with the results of an opinion poll that showed that 72% of Singur people want the plant at any cost.
If that sounds good, wait a minute. Consider the answers to 4 other queries in the same poll. They are alarming and indicative of the people’s mindset toward industry.
Here they are:
Q1: If Tata goes Birla will come. So what’s there to be afraid of?
43% agree to this.
Q2: Bengal has no future without industry.
57% don’t agree to this.
Q3: Agricultural land must be kept aside for the food needs of 7 generations to come.
Q4: We’ve survived all these years without industry. So why is there so din?
Needless to say the path to industrial glory in Bengal is highly tortuous. Remember Singur is quite close to Kolkata. So if a sizeable populace of Singur has doubts about industry, you can expect the picture in the rest of the state.
The state’s transport minister who doubles up as minister of sports and youth affairs – and in the process I feel is unable to do justice to any of the departments – recently in a lecture in a chamber of commerce supported the innumerable 3-wheeler autos.
He said one needs to compassionately consider that the auto drivers too have to feed themselves and their families.
Nothing wrong there, but unfortunately the autos are a law unto themselves. They use highly polluting adulterated fuel and they give a damn to traffic regulations.
Both are dangerous for any normal living, especially the pollution. But that means nothing to the powerful minister, immersed strictly as he is in reaping political dividends.
The third incident is ‘shocking’ and shows a malaise that has now become symptomatic of once-hailed high-thinking principled Bengalis.
ABP, Sep 3 reports an assistant school inspector in West Midnapore’s Ghatal was arrested for insisting on and accepting bribe for issuing a clearance certificate a school needed after it utilized government grants for improving the school facilities.
What’s new in this you may ask?
A routine affair indeed but for the fact that the school in question was Bhagabati Vidyalaya in the Birsingha village that was established by Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar and named after his mother. No prize for guessing why the news made to the paper.
If you ask me I’d say the inspector insisted on bribe because he knew he could never afford the goodies of modern life he so aspired for, and believed that asking for bribe – this is more ominous – was rather the norm than exception. Why hesitate then?
I think the common thread to the 3 incidents is people’s yearning for ‘smallness’. We have radically transformed from being simple-living-high-thinking to wanting-high-living-yet-committed-to-petty-thinking.
I’ve nothing against high living, but the Bengal of today is still strongly hesitant of coming out of the shell of mediocrity while being unable to refuse the lure of modern living.
Bengal’s position is worse than say a distant virgin territory in a village elsewhere. There the people are simple and do not pose as ‘great’ thinkers to judge whether or not industries are needed.
To our ill-luck we ‘know’ too much, way too much that forces us to remain confined within the deep depth of narrowness.
The wind of change, so desperately required in Bengal, will need many more Nano plants to blow strongly. And that unfortunately is still a long, long way off.
As I write this we’ve the news that the Singur problem is on the verge of solution after the Governor met the CM and the Trinamool Congress chief.
The Singur solution is the latest entrant in the list of memorable events in the week gone by. To the NSG waiver I’ll add Google completing 10 years as being the other two important events.