The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The bridge, the river and kids' play. Brilliantly captured by Sujay Kumar Das.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A different life

Yesterday I went to a place called Ghuni, a place in the countryside in the interiors of Baguiati. The occasion was a family picnic at a relative's friend's place. Soaked in pure nature to the heart's content.

In a short time, on a walk around, discovered that the place is just on the other side of a canal bordering New Town, Kokata's showcase township in-the-making. Got curious by looking at some large plots guarded by boundary walls and heard from a local farmer that they all are bought by builders. A startling fact came out. Before New Town happened, the land was sold at Rs 500-600 a cottah. And now the rate has gone up to Rs 300000 a cottah. Many builders have bought land for future development by offering such astronomical amount. Here I pointed out that local people must be happy having been able to make a killing by selling land that barely fetches enough crop to sustain a family, but the guy didn't share the consequence happily. He said while some have started business or put the big money to good use, many have misused it to enjoy the luxuries of life and are now left with paltry sums, ruing their luck.

Its common sense that an illiterate farmer can't handle big money out of a windfall. But where it struck me was that the opposition party of Bengal, Trinamool Congress, is against any kind of industry on farmland. According to them nothing can be a better substitute to farming even at this age of diminishing income from farming. And they provoke the farmers to guard their land against the state government's industrialization drive that requires large tracts of framland. But what do they have to say about such cases where farmers are tempted to sell their lands, and then on one hand don't find a suitable profession or business to keep themselves going and on the other hand blow up the money? Do they feel like standing by these hapless farmers and help them find a way of living? It's indeed in the best interest of everyone that the state government acquired the framland at Singur for the Tata Motors plant and took care of rehabilitating willing landlosers by providing them vocational training in collaboration with social organizations for their indirect employment in the project in arrangement with Tata Motors. Now, instead of this if industrialists start buying land directly from farmers, lots and lots of such cases will happen, as it happened in Ghuni.

The place has an interesting dichotomy, while their are people to buy Maggi noodles (Smaller, Rs 5 packs were hanging in chains in a retail shop) and a variety fruits, the place doesn't even have a bus route. Auto rickshaw and a few rickshaws were the only transport. The autos carry 7-8 passengers on an average. We were in a big group and had to rush to the nearest busstand so that we don't miss the last bus. And eight of us had to board a single auto. I had to sit at the front on one side to accomodate the ladies at the back and my hip joint started paining so much during the journey that I had to stand up somehow. One main reason for this apart from the sitting discomfort was extremely poor road condition. The road was simply not motorable. The driver revealed, when an auto breaks down midway, another auto passing by carrying a full load of passengers accomodate all the passengers in the other auto. And nobody will belive but the fact according to him is that sometimes this takes the passenger count to 18. I have no idea how that is possible and even if somehow possible, how safe that is on that kind of a road. Its scaring even thinking of the kind of life people back there live.