Sunday, April 24, 2011

Winds of Change?

I'm sitting by an open window in our several decades-old ground floor house; the rain-cleansed wind bears in the mild fragrance of flowers that have just bloomed. It also carries in the voices that call for change not too far away, petitioning for the valuable votes that could swing the balance in their favour.

West Bengal is in the midst of the Assembly elections, and with just two of six phases completed, Durgapur awaits its turn to vote. Campaigning is on in full swing, and party flags are visible in abundance; loudspeakers broadcast Mamata Banerjee's indignant voice perhaps protesting injustices and calling for change. West Bengal has seen three decades of Communist rule, but the tide just might turn this time around. The trouble with Singur and Nandigram, pitting development against the displacement of large sections of the population, put the government in a dubious situation. It also continues to grapple with Maoist violence and poverty.

As an outsider, I am probably not entitled to sweeping observations. However, from my observations of Durgapur, it is extremely evident that the state desperately needs to change for the better. Development is conspicuous by its absence. The industrial belt of Burdwan district by no means is opulent, and much needs to be done to improve the standard of living. Durgapur boasts an NIT and a new spanking mall endeavouring to bring major brands to the town. Education need not necessarily beget consumerism, and efforts need to be made towards improving the lot of those riding cycle-rickshaws (with corpulent women more often than not, as one cannot help but notice) for their daily wages. The metal buses jostling against one another on narrow streets, precariously teetering under their weight, need to be replaced with effective modes of transport. Vegetable vendors sit under tarpaulin sheets, a single light bulb hovering overhead; where do they go when the sudden summer storms strike the town? Do the party symbols painted on the crudely whitewashed walls of low two-storey buildings promise them any hope?

The campaigners continue to make their winding, fervid speeches; may the best people win, and not renege on the promises they are at this moment making.

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