West Bengal to be renamed!

So a resolution has been passed to change the name of my home state West Bengal. A new name has not yet been decided upon. The reason for the change? Sample this:

“… in meetings of representatives from various states, our turn comes at the end since the name starts with the letter ‘W’. In fact, people doze off when we rise to speak. Our CM does not want this situation to go on”

Seriously? This is a matter of prime importance for the new Chief Minister, who has inherited the reins of a state in not the best health?

Moreover, why this penchant to change names? Names have some history, a heritage, attached to them. Calcutta was a fine name; West Bengal is good too.

(By the way, the name West Bengal comes from the fact that there was, before, a unified Bengal—which the British then broke into East and West Bengal. East Bengal is now Bangladesh.)

Why does Mamata Banerjee want the world to forget how our state came to be? Leave the name alone, dear madame! You have matters of much higher importance on your plate.

Also, the matter of “people dozing off” will solve itself when West Bengal begins to contribute in matters of national import. Do good work, and people will take notice. Changing the name will only incur the state the cost of changing every signboard and the address of every official letterhead—and people will still doze off just the same.

When EPIC fail is the norm.

In my last post, I said:

Considering this is West Bengal bureaucracy… Wow!

This is why:

Meet Amit Banerjee. He is 49, but if you go by his voter identity card, he is going on 267. The “EPIC proportions” of Banerjee’s age is thanks to a goof-up by the Election Commission.

According to Banerjee’s EPIC card, he was 259 years old on January 1, 2003.

Yes, that’s the norm we’re used to living by.

(And, um… Pardon the pun in the title.)

Pioneer’s Plight: Dr Subhash Mukherjee

Found this article about the Late Dr Subhash Mukherjee, who was the pioneer of In Vitro Fertilization in India in the late 1970s, but was apparently shut down by the medical and political communities.

It is an unbelievable read in terms of how pathetic a situation can get.

Dr Subhash Mukherjee, according to the article, was the pioneer of the IVF procedure in India. (The article has a quote implying that his was the first IVF in the world, but this Wikipedia link tells me the first IVF child was born a few months before Dr Mukherjee’s procedure succeeded. Even in that case, though, he remains one of the pioneers who got the procedure going in the first place.)

However, two things went against him: his own medical fraternity, who did not believe that what he did was possible (that by itself tells a story, no? A group of scientists do not “believe” that something can or cannot be done, without caring to actually verify the procedure.), and his own state (West Bengal) government, who sought for some reason to stifle him and his efforts. He was not allowed to present his work outside of India, and was essentially ostracized from his own circles.

The weirdest part was that when the WB government put in a team to find whether his efforts were genuine, the team was headed by – a radiophysicist. (Does that mean that no one else came closer to understanding his work, or that the government simply didn’t care? Either of those cases is very wrong.)

The kicker of course was what followed. The Health Minister said he was stifled keeping in mind “public interest”; he was then transferred to the Opthalmology department – resulting of course in all his experiments coming to a screeching halt.

Well, this incident is a sorry affair by any measure, and I wonder if it would have been handled differently outside of West Bengal. We as a state, and as a state government, have this wonderful ability to kill insightful ideas and pioneering efforts.

I guess it’s one more instance of the question of how an equal society can be achieved (well, that’s what both Socialism and Communism seek, is it not?). You can either pull up the people who are below the average, and thus make everyone equal, and better, or you can push down the people who are above the average, and just make everyone equal – and feed the egos of those that are at or below the average. Which do you think the West Bengal government usually chooses to do?

I know, technically it could have happened anywhere, and yet – I wonder.

Now the West Bengal government wants to make amends – by wanting to start an institute for research on reproduction and stem cells in his name.

And they have been sitting on that project for four years now.

P.S.: The man who’s credited with starting IVF in India, Dr TC Anand Kumar, himself says after going through Dr Mukherjee’s papers that the honor should have gone to Dr Mukherjee.

Change in West Bengal!

So there’s change in West Bengal. Everyone, rejoice. It’s been a long time coming.

Personally, though, I have mixed feelings.

The CPI(M) has lost its position, which I think is a positive outcome. That’s one group of people who’ve messed up big time in West Bengal over many years. (Really, they should write a ‘What not to do’ manual of politics.)

But now, two questions remain. One, these are the National Elections, which means CPI(M) is still in power in WB. The State elections are two years away, where the CPI(M) must also be beaten handsomely for any real change to come in.

Two, and this is more important: If the CPI(M) do lose two years from now, who’s going to take over, and NOT make a mess of it? There are of course candidate(s) – even though I’m not sure the plural is really applicable – but is there really anyone who is capable of leading a government?

I’d like to think being CM needs a cool head, calmness in speech, and foresight. Those qualities are somehow hard to find in West Bengal, it seems. (A case in point: even though the Tata Nano project had its absurdities on the part of the government, what did anyone gain from driving Tata out of West Bengal? Shouldn’t that situation have been more maturely handled? [This is what I wrote, a few days before the Tatas decided to leave.])

Will the next REAL candidate step up please?

Typical West Bengal

There is a law in West Bengal whereby it is illegal to use loudspeakers in public places during school board exams. (It is another matter that the law only protects students of the State Education Board, not those of other Central Education Boards whose national exams fall on different dates.) In risk of digressing slightly from the topic, the other funny thing about this situation is that local political parties, to gain ‘support’ from local people, set up booths during this exam time at busy intersections, and try keeping the traffic running smoothly for the benefit of the examinees – by blaring their instructions over a loudspeaker.

Anyway. The law exists. And here’s what the Chief Minister does, flanked by his Information and Cultural Affairs Ministry, and his own police department – whose job (I think) is to protect the law of the land – in blatant violation of the loudspeaker law.

Typical West Bengal, no?

P.S.: It’s election time, and being the eternal optimist that I am, I am hoping once again for sanity in West Bengal. Does anyone have news? I haven’t got any yet.

From Bankura to MIT!!

Anshuman Panda, from a remote village in West Bengal, is headed to MIT, after cracking a perfect SAT score. Nice to hear, also, that the West Bengal government has taken upon itself to fund his travel and initial expenses once he is here. That’s one use of tax-payers’ money that no one will begrudge, I am sure.

Anshuman is also receiving well needed advice from an MIT alumnus, WB Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta. There’s one bit that I loved the most. Says Dr Dasgupta, ‘Don’t take more than four courses at a time!!’. Yes, very important advice, that!

On a related note, check this post. More than the post itself, check out the comments section, which has been graced by the man of the moment himself.

Best of Luck, Anshuman.

West Bengal at its best (worst)?

This is stupid. Tragic. Idiotic. Foolhardy.

The Calcutta High Court had mandated that Autorickshaws running 2-stroke engines should be removed from the roads, to reduce pollution (the older Autos are 2-stroke, almost 60000 in number).

Guess how the political brass, and the government backed trade union (CITU), and even the opposition to the government reacted.

Did you guess right?

(This is not the first such instance. I wonder if the Calcutta High Court remembers a provision called ‘Comtempt of Court’, which is punishable under the Indian Penal Code.)