I started enjoying reading books from an early age. My father and mother were avid readers. My father used to buy books, both Bengali and English. In his collection were books by many Bengali stalwarts of Bengal renessaince like Rabindranath Thakur, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhaya, Sharat Chandra Chattopadhaya, Bibhuti Bhusan Bandopadhaya among others. I grew up reading them many times over from my childhood to youth.
My exposure to Bengali literature further increased during my six years of school days in Bengal. In general Bengalis back the underdog. Most of the novels I read during my formative years depicted pain of poor and downtrodden. At the same time, there was oblique reference to villain, who happened to be local landlord or man with money. Bengali psyche is also scarred by the history of battle of Plashee. Two Bengali generals, Mohanlal and Meer Madan, fought East India Company forces and lost. While bulk of the army commanded by Mir Zafar did not fight. Mir Zafar the general was purchased by two business men from Marwar – Umi Chand and Jagat Seth.
No wonder, then Bengalis mistrust business and people that engage in business activity. No wonder Bengal had the first naxal movement, in post independent India. Among many ideological issues, naxals tried to take land away from landlords and distribute among peasants. Bengal also had the thirty six years of uninterrupted communist rule. Communists helped redistribute land among landless, albeit, taking from landowners. However, communists drove away big business systematically, communist could not bring prosperity to Bengal, communists could not increase economic growth in Bengal. When Mamata Banerjee took over, people thought here comes the change. But Mamata Banerjee, despite being virulently anti-left, became more left than the left. Mamata didi managed to evict Tata motors even before she came to power in Bengal. Afterall, our Bengali gene is more powerful than ideological differences.
It also should not surprise us when Prof. Amartya Sen, nobel laureate in economics, advocates India should give free food grains of sixty six percent of Indians. Prof. Sen is fighting for the underprivileged. We may not agree with his method, but we cannot doubt his intention. However, cost of Prof. Sen’s gesture, more than 100000 crore to national exchequer. At a time, when Indian economy is not doing well. At a time India needs investment in education, investment in health care, investment in infrastructure, is this the right way to spend taxpayers money? More so, when we know our public distribution system is leaky. Actual needy misses government goodwill. Whereas corrupt make money at taxpayers expense. Should our government not create policies that make us stand on our feet, rather than asking for dole?
Should we not think of growth, so that most people can take care of themselves. True some segment of our population may need help, can we not identify them? In last sixty years, if we have not been able to eradicate poverty by repeatedly pursuing affirmative action, should we not think differently? Only a prosperous nation can help her citizens with education, job and food, not a welfare state. We need a different vision. Unless we teach our people to standup on their feet, no amount of wealth of the world may be sufficient for one nation.