The Name Game
Mamata Banerjee had changed most of the names of Metro stations in Calcutta while she was in charge of the railway ministry at the centre. But just heading the central ministry wouldn’t really allow her the freedom to go ahead and do that. She would have undoubtedly faced objections had she not been also simultaneously controlling the power politics in Bengal. When she had the names changed, the Left government’s popularity was on the wane. So no one really protested when the Metro stations were no longer being identified by the area but the names of our great leaders and other celebrities including actors and poets. This created some confusion because while buying tickets you didn’t really know which leader corresponded to which area. This proved to be cost-ineffective too because the area names had to be written beside the new names. The problem was compounded by the fact that there were more than one station named after some of the leaders. There were already two stations named after Tagore— Rabindra Sarovar and Rabindra Sadan. Now we also had two stations named after Netaji. The existing Netaji Bhavan and the new ‘Netaji’. Yes, just Netaji. No ‘nagar’ or ‘pur’ or any other suffix. The two Garia stations were divided up into Kavi Nazrul and Khudiram. And then we had the relatively self-explanatory changed nomenclature: Tollygunge, the area famous for the Bengali film industry was renamed Mahanayak Uttam Kumar, after Bengal’s most celebrated actor of all times. Anyway, this week Adhir Chowdhury, the new junior railway minister at the centre, who was installed after TMC withdrew power from the UPA II, thereby vacating the railway portfolio, announced that all the names would now be changed back to their original names corresponding to the areas. Obviously he doesn’t want to be seen to be disrespecting our leaders, so the other names would also remain but the area names would get prominence. This action has more significance than just being an act of vindictive defiance (the UPA II has been on an overdrive trying to show Mamata how they can get back at her. They’ve instituted two known Mamata-baiters, Adhir and Deepa Das Munshi at the Centre after TMC pulled out.) It is also an indication that TMC’s power to call the shots is on the wane.
In an interesting turn of events, at an all-party meet in Delhi which was held to press the government for a debate over issue of FDI in retail, the TMC decided not to demand such a debate. This raised a lot of questions. The speculation was that Didi was now going to retaliate against the parties which did not side with her when TMC called a no-confidence motion. This irked the TMC MPs. They pointed out that the TMC’s stance on FDI in retail was clear. They were the only party that showed guts by pulling out of the government and also calling for a no-confidence motion. But a mere debate is nothing compared to what they had wanted, which is to topple the government.
Where's the Land?
When Tata Motors pulled out of Singur after a bitter battle over 400 acres of land, the people of Singur had hoped that if they voted Mamata to power, their land woes would be solved. A year and a half later, they are disgruntled. Not only did they lose the small car factory (which, if it had come up in their area, they now recognize, would turn it into a hub of trade and business activity) to Gujarat—where Ratan Tata had shifted the Nano factory to. But they also never got their land back. In spite of Didi’s promises, their land had got locked in a legal tussle. This week all this pent up anger and frustration exploded when TMC minister Becharam Manna (who had been instrumental in bringing Singur and the farmers’ problems there to Mamata Banerjee’s notice back in 2006) visited the area. Short of roughing him up, they surrounded him, demanding explanations that ranged from “Where is our land?” to “Where is the promised compensation money?” (Mamata had announced a monthly compensation package of subsidized rice and two thousand rupees per family to the “unwilling” farmers who lost land in the Tata factory. But the farmers want compensation for their land.)
In very encouraging news, Mamata Banerjee has pulled up the Mayor of Calcutta and reprimanded him and the entire civil body of falling way short of expectations. Other than putting up, in the name of “beautification” a series of trident streetlamps—which became controversial because they are energy guzzlers—the Calcutta Municipal Corporation has done absolutely nothing by way of improvement since Parivartan (change of power). By replacing the old and apathetic former government the people of Calcutta had high hopes from the present one in terms of a “cleaner and greener” city as was promised. But after one a half years, people are talking about “change” once again. Mamata Banerjee, who has been at the receiving end of all the criticism has clearly decided that enough is enough and instead of taking the flak which has been landing squarely on her shoulders, will now pull up those to whom she has delegated responsibility.
Sign of the Times
Written behind an auto: Ei jiboney shobi bhalo…tobu manusher mone, hayrey, boroi kalo (In this life all is good…but alas, people’s hearts and minds are all black)