Jobs, Not Syndicate, for Bengal’s Future
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.