Jobs, Not Syn­di­cate, for Ben­gal’s Fu­ture

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

Tri­namool Congress (TMC) MLA Sabyasachi Dutta is not apolo­getic about his links to the ‘syn­di­cate.’ Speak­ing to me­dia, he said this or­gan­i­sa­tion pays for the liveli­hood of thou­sands of young men, which ac­cu­mu­lates to hun­dreds of thou­sands of house­holds across Ben­gal. It sounds Robin Hood-ish, but sig­nals deep eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and moral de­cay in a state that was the most ad­vanced around In­de­pen­dence and is now among the poor­est. The syn­di­cate that Dutta refers to — and ev­ery res­i­dent of Ben­gal is fa­mil­iar with — is a ter­ri­fy­ing mu­tant of some­thing 34 years of Left mo­nop­oly left be­hind. Af­ter five years of TMC rule, this ‘syn­di­cate’ dom­i­nates ev­ery as­pect of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. Its mem­bers, in­vari­ably un­em­ployed and un­em­ploy­able youth, act as en­forcers, agents and sub­con­trac­tors in real es­tate, trans­port net­works, min­ing of coal or riverbed sand and trade. An­nual syn­di­cate rev­enues from just real es­tate projects on the east­ern fringes of Kolkata, called New Town, are an es­ti­mated .₹ 450 crore. Across the state and other ac­tiv­i­ties, the num­ber will eas­ily be many mul­ti­ples more. The trans­ac­tions are in cash, so they do noth­ing to re­pair Ben­gal’s aw­ful fis­cal sit­u­a­tion. In­stead, they fi­nance the po­lit­i­cal ma­chin­ery of the rul­ing TMC in the state. This must change. Here is what the new gov­ern­ment must do. Dis­man­tle the syn­di­cates and the ex­trale­gal pow­ers that now gov­ern the state. Strengthen the rule of law. Ap­point­ments and trans­fers can­not be on po­lit­i­cal pa­tron­age, but on merit. Party loy­al­ists can­not have the up­per hand over sys­tems of the state. Free ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions from state con­trol. Fi­nally, bring in­vest­ment and jobs back to the state: with­out this, there is no hope for the fu­ture. Pa­tron­age and un­der­de­vel­op­ment will lead only to syn­di­cates.

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