By Probal Basak
It's the first full year of 'Paribartan' for Bengal.But leaving aside the abrupt cosmetic changes – be it painting the city with the chief minister's favourite blue and white or an overdose of government-sponsored celebration throughout the year --- 'Paribartan' was largely captured in just a change in regime.
The year started with infants' death across the state in government hospital, violence in educational institutions, alleged government apathy to victims of various crimes that constantly hit headlines while Mamata Banerjee's political opponents in the Left Front pointed out that the state government’s “honeymoon period” was over, too soon for even them to digest.
The Opposition might be well within its right to score political points, but to be fair to Banerjee and her government, as many of prominent citizens like educationist Sunanda Sanyal said, “It is only the continuation what the state had been witnessing even under the rule of her predecessors.”But when it comes to managing state finances and propelling industrial growth, investors point out West Bengal's anti-industry image, has hit a new low in the new regime.
A rerun of Singur saga with pullout of private cargo handler ABG Haldia Bulk Terminals' (HBT), no breakthrough in the single largest investment that's JSW, labour issues in industrial towns, Bengal has pretty much seen it all.
West Bengal chief minister's voice against the Centre's move to allow Foreign Direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail was the loudest, what ultimately led to the pullout from UPA. Not stopping at that Mamata Banerjee chose to hit the road to protest and passed a resolution in state assembly against entry of large scale investment in the sector. While, politically it culminated in break up between Trinamool Congress and Congress both at Centre and state level, it also sent out yet another negative vibe in the industry circles.“The government's opposition to land accusation was known. But the way it has conducted itself be it Haldia fiasco or stern opposition to FDI, the industry has hardly got anything from the state in the year to cheer about,” said a city-based industrialist.
To make it worse, the state government faced some unexpected blow, as Singur, which had catapulted the TMC to power, seems to have come back to haunt the government. Earlier in June, 2012, a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court struck down the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, which Trinamool Congress-led government had enacted to return a portion of the land acquired for the Tata Motors at Singur to “unwilling farmers”.And towards the end of the year, the government faced the wrath of Singur as it was yet to fulfill its pre-poll promise to return land, with rebel Singur TMC MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya being the voice of that wrath.
More than anyone else, the government itself is aware of its experience and the West Bengal government now hopes to fulfill its promise with a new Tata Group chairman in Cyrus Mistry in the new year. So hopes Singur, too, and people in other parts of the state for the fulfillment of their dreams, that prompted them to bring the “Paribartan” a year and half before.2012 was lacklustre for Bengal. But 2013 is crucial, with panchayat elections looming large. Whether it will be another game changer for Bengal, remains to be seen.