Bengal on firm footing, financially more robust

Written by noted economist Abhirup Sarkar

The state under the Mamata Banerjee government seems to be doing quite well, financially. The tax revenue as a per cent of the State Domestic Product has improved: it is at about five per cent now. It could have improved more but Bengalis spend more on consumables like meat and fish, which are non-taxable, than they would spend on say, buying a car.

In terms of infrastructure, I feel that the condition of roads especially state highways have improved dramatically in the last four years. I travel a lot and feel that the condition of the National Highways is not as good. Say, if you are driving from Barasat to Siliguri, you realise that the Highways Authority of India haven’t done much and they would not do anything till they have acquired the entire stretch of the land. On the other hand, the road from Jalpaiguri to Siliguri has improved a lot in terms of maintenance.

The government has also done extremely well in terms of rural electrification and public distribution system.

I’d say that earlier, the block level party bosses or the panchayat netas had a lot of say in providing these services to the people. But now, works have sped up with the bureaucracy being made accountable for development. Also, the fact that Mamata Banerjee is holding review meetings with the district administration on a regular basis is having a positive effect on development.

As far as the state of industrialisation is concerned, the entire nation is not seeing any big industrial growth. Bengal is no exception. However, our industrial parks are doing well. There are small, medium and even big set-ups there in textiles, software etc. So far as the land problem goes in the state, I think it is over-hyped. All state governments are competing with each other in offering sops like tax and subsidies. All that the Trinamool Congress government has said is that it cannot forcibly take away land from the farmers.

It is only after fighting for farmers’ rights that the party came to power in 2011. Industrialists have to buy land in Bengal just as they buy other things while setting up a unit. Also, they cannot expect 1,000 acres of continuous land in prime areas, which are densely populated.

I feel that on the whole, the Mamata Banerjee government has done well enough to win the Assembly polls next year.