By Abhismita Sen:
Life in West Bengal keeps getting interesting with each passing day, making the news channels no less entertaining than the daily soaps.
As the tensions with the centre ensue, the state government, desperate to undo the ills of the “Saradha Scam“ prior to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections, is coming up with the most bizarrely amusing tactics to appease the electorate. The latest amongst these is the (tentative) installation of free WiFi throughout Kolkata, claiming the facility to be the first of its kind in the country.
When the All India Trinamool Congress was campaigning before its victory in 2011, the residents of West Bengal were promised a brighter future with better standards of living, greater access to educational resources, and wider scopes of employment.
I am a resident of Jagannathpur in the Sonarpur area of the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.
As per reliable resources, the distance between the Jadavpur area (famous for the Jadavpur University and its proximity to the South City mall, which hosts every signature feature of Trinamool aesthetics, such as trident lights and Rabindra Sangeet at each traffic signal), and Sonarpur, is barely around 10-13 kms. Legislatively too, Sonarpur happens to be a part of the Jadavpur Constituency, which recently elected Professor Sugato Bose (who like the other stakeholders of the municipality was never visible after the elections). But, there remains an obdurate contrast between the scenarios amongst these “two parts” of the Jadavpur constituency.
Sonarpur has its own municipality, known as the Rajpur Sonarpur Municipality, and it has failed to take care of its open drains on both sides of the streets even after decades of its establishment, while Kolkata Municipal Corporation is busy installing free WiFi in its area of discretion, which is in the same constitutional area. This automatically clarifies the condition of government responsibility in the sphere of healthcare in this sector.
The unique feature of the auto rickshaws (it is the only available conveyance barring the further unsafe trains) in this locality is that they ply at least 7 passengers at a time, although, they are legally bound not to carry more than 4. Complains of transport safety are of course vain exercises in a state where rapes are termed as “staged strategies” and transport ministers are convicted miscreants.
Power remains a crisis in the Sonarpur area, which faces cuts ranging from 45 minutes to 1 hour everyday. Often, this extends up to 4-6 hours. While a large chunk of the area remains true to the manners of a “semi urban” locale, the availability of empty spaces has catalyzed the establishments of a considerable number of modern residential complexes that are virtually paralyzed during such long power cuts. The water supplied to this municipality has traditionally been rich in arsenic, and no attempts have been made for its sterilization by the state government thus far. While tridents illuminate the “posh areas” of the city, there are virtually no streetlights in this area, making driving at night quite a treasure hunt.
The Trinamool Government seems anxious to compete with the other states in terms of administration. In this regard, it is no secret that Kolkata lags not only far behind any other metropolitan city in the nation, but also some of the nonmetropolitan cities. Industries are limited. Development is tediously slow in comparison to Delhi or Mumbai, or even Bangalore. But, what sets the city apart is while the outskirts of other metropolitans like Noida or Goregaon have seen considerable development and growth, the “outskirt” zones of Kolkata have continued to receive the same step motherly treatment in the 4 years of Trinamool administration as it did in the 34 years of the left administration, barring the exception of Salt Lake, where again the status of safety and sanitation remains dubious.
I would end with a humble appeal to the custodians of administration and political rights of the city on behalf of its youth at large. We, the youth of West Bengal, do not gauge development in terms of commodious criterion like digitalization, rather we would be much better off if development is reflected by the parameters of human development and basic amenities of habitation, such as better standards of living, and enabling measures, and better scopes to avail the same through a proactive and employment-wise convenient and feasible education system. Access to these parameters should be our right and not a privilege, irrespective of our means and social status as we pay taxes to the state government, which binds the administrators to provide these to us.
Ultimately, let us not forget that unlike it is being preached, Kolkata is not really the first state in India to be digitalized, instead it was Mysore. I hope this revelation would not drag me where other whistle blowers in the state have been taken since 2011. Aren’t the prisons too full nowadays anyway?