KOLKATA: The culture of violence and corruption is holding West Bengal back despite the state having a formidable army of skilled labour, trained engineers and professionals, and vast natural resources, former Union Minister Dinesh Trivedi, who recently switched over to the BJP, said.
He said job creation, infrastructure building and harnessing Bengal’s standing as a knowledge hub to build industry, will be among the focus areas for the BJP, if it comes to power in the state.
The 71-year-old former minister said the party expects investment in infrastructure to create jobs and the pull needed to attract the industry.
Development of highways, railways, ports and airports will all create the jobs, he said. “Bengal is a knowledge hub, yet we have failed to cash in on that to transform the state industrially and create jobs. There is scope to build a parallel Silicon Valley here given the number of software engineers the state trains every year,” he said in an interview with PTI.
The Left Front government which preceded TMC had set up an IT hub in Salt Lake, but it is considered a paler version of Bangalore, the IT and start-up capital of the country. Software techies from Bengal’s engineering colleges and universities continue to throng IT hubs elsewhere in the country and abroad, he said.
Trivedi, as the railway minister, had planned to set up an engine manufacturing and coach building hub in Bengal, before his tenure was cut short and he was asked to resign by TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee in March 2012.
“Bengal which was an industrialised state long before many others, slipped as successive governments failed to deliver it from a cycle of violence, corruption and ‘tolabaji (extortion),” said Trivedi who started his political career with the Congress, became a Rajya Sabha MP of the Janata Dal in 1990, before switching over to the TMC in 1998.
The BJP’s manifesto called ‘Sankalp Patra’, too, had lamented that Bengal’s share in India’s industrial production had fallen from 30 per cent to 3.5 per cent.
“This has happened despite the best brains and resources because of this endless cycle (of violence and corruption). When Mamata Banerjee came to power, replacing the Left, we spoke of ‘Bodol’ (change). The only change was in the party which ruled Bengal, not in the governance style.
“She simply copied the CPIM)’s model of interfering at every stage of our social, political, and economic life down to the village level. The few jobs that were there were bought and sold. Government benefits depended on political patronage,” Trivedi, an alumnus of Kolkata’s St Xavier’s College and Texas University, said. He said dance bars and liquor vends increased in numbers but not industry.
The state now earns a significant slice of its revenues from liquor sales and lottery business, he claimed. As jobs got scarce, the coal mafia became a major employer, employing thousands in unsafe and exploitative environment in illegal coal mines, something which needs to be stopped and legal mining operations expanded, he noted.
“We feel there is a need to bring about a paradigm shift and that can only happen once this cycle is broken,” said Trivedi.