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Urge on Industrial Growth in West Bengal
By P. Maity, Former Chief Engineer, MECON Limited

For many years efforts have been made to bring impetus to industrial growth in West Bengal to curb unemployment. An Industrial Development Corporation and an Industrial Infrastructure Development Organization were set up. Growth centres were identified, where possible infrastructure were developed to attract entrepreneurs to set up industry with allocation of various incentives. A number of visits were taken spending huge amount of foreign exchange to attract foreign investments as well as investments by Indian existing companies operating elsewhere. The results are not very encouraging. When other states drew them successfully, West Bengal could not. There must be some inherent reasons attributable to these disproportionate results. Probably we have to surrender to sickness at last.

West Bengal was an industrially developed state with independence. The Howrah, Hoogly and Calcutta belts used to shiver with the sirens of the various factories. Today these sirens have been very rarely heard. Factories after factories have been shut off years after years. Even the new factories set up in the growth centres started decaying out. Only a few of them looks to be alive and they might also be dragged towards closure.
Why this is happening?
  • Firstly whether we have a vision, it is objective or subjective
  • Secondly whether we sincerely nurtured them after inauguration
The important aspect is that we have considered the growth of industry as a ‘subject’ and therefore it always remained ‘subjective’. If it would have been ‘objective’ then all of us would have seen that they do actually happen and maintained. The failure analysis should have been made and reasons of failures could have been addressed. To make the subject objective, a few things need to be assessed and observed.
These are:
  • Products
  • Technology & machine
  • Manpower & training
  • Market
  • Environment
Products are selected considering the market potential. Thus product and market are coherently related. Products, which can be selected in West Bengal, could be many since the market to cater for its huge considering that West Bengal can serve the entire Eastern India and neighbouring countries. Is it then that the products have not been selected properly? May be so. The earlier industries in West Bengal were largely related to steel, jute, power, textile and engineering material manufacturing. A large portion of West Bengal’s families depended on the employment in steel, jute, textile and other manufacturing facilities. Today a large section of them have become street hawkers or small shop owners selling sundry materials/commodities and vegetables or fruits. Thus the markets are overfilled and markets have come down to streets. On humanitarian grounds we have tolerated this. There is another economic aspect. The market is now shared by many people raising the cost of purchase and intern the sellers are sharing the profit. The condition is that the buyers savings have been reduced and the sellers conditions remained as it was and these by impairing the growth of all as a whole. To accommodate so many sellers, the entire Kolkata city has taken an ugly look in every market place with plastics, thatches and tripal sheds. Everywhere you find fast food trolleys and tea stalls. All these show the tremendous efforts by everybody to survive somehow. Have we made a portion of this effort to make the industries to survive when we were working there to earn the livelihood?

Four Ms are required to set up an industry. These are Men, Material, Machine and Money. Money is not everything but is utmost essential. In a current growth centre money was available to set up the installation but where that installation has gone after setting up? It dried out. All four of the Ms are absolutely required to build, operate and distribute the produce of the industry and sustain the challenge.

Let us analyze them one by one:
Men means manpower or human resources. Let us look at the population from which manpower was taken by any industry. It was always told West Bengal is the house of skilled personnel. Then what happened to them at work for the survival of the company? Orientation to the company’s goal from which they could also derive their goal was absent. Rather there was a clash of goal setting. In reality there was a total absent of well wish or ‘will’ power. This could be very easily explained by the so-called can-will method. Look at the figure below:



No Work only Gossip
Needs motivation & Support

Needs Education & Training
Very good at work, acceptance of
challenge and responsibility.
‘Can’ means ‘knowledge’ of doing things and ‘will’ means ‘desire’ of doing things. When both ‘can’ and ‘will’ exist, performance will be of higher standard. When ‘will’ is absent the work will not be correctly done a ‘pretension’ of doing will exist. There was total absent of ‘will’ with the manpower. If ‘will’ was present with the workforce (including managers) nothing will be listened the work will be done. We have only tried to become an employee but in reality we have not become.

Further we have forgotten the lesson of Chanakya laid down in his Arthashastra, which stipulates the characteristic of human as under:
  • Man, the shaper of destiny
  • Man, the corruptable
  • Man, the variables
  • Man, the exploiter
He stressed upon that any one against whom there is even a slight report about his bad qualities, should not be selected for high post. But we have gone otherwise and we have also nurtured them. This has not only destroyed the total manpower, but also the entire installation. If you see our manpower you would definitely conclude that they have come to somehow get their job done to benefit them only. Thus for industrial development or sustaining existing industry an ownership culture has to come into mind by which the employee must feel that this is his unit and he must be responsible for its survival and growth. He must show a culture called ‘employee ship’ culture by which he always works towards the 3 ‘success’ areas of the company – ‘Quality’, ‘Relation’ and ‘Productivity’. He must derive his goal from the company’s goal and grow with it. ‘Will’ gives him this power and energy.

But we have found something else. This is because we have forgotten a basic philosophy of bringing down our desire or need level and fixing it at a slightly lower level to lead a joyous life. Why this has occurred. This has occurred due to 700 years of Muslim rule followed by another 200 years of British rule. It has impregnated in our blood. It is the time now all of us to ‘change’ and ‘change’ for better. We should not warm our chairs but come out to ‘lead’ from the front and take ‘pains’- the ‘mull Mantra’ of leadership.

Material means raw material which a factory uses to process for value addition. Its price and sources are very important for profitability of the installation. Correct product selection through demand study defines the raw material. Even a product selected by demand study may not be feasible due to difficulties in sourcing of the raw material. Thus locally available raw material must be considered first to meet the local demand of a product. This means select product based on local consumer using locally available raw material. We have long forgotten our locally available agro based products and built industry sourcing raw material from far away places. This has generated competition and finally made available at higher prices, which the factory could not sustain and extinguished.

Money is the most important parameter for setting up and operation of the industry. Money is available as loan from bank, institution and/or collected from market. We see Bank of Rajasthan, Bank of Punjab, Canara Bank, Andhra Bank, Karnataka Bank, South Indian Bank etc. but we do not see Bank of West Bengal. Why? This question must be answered by the renowned honourable finance ministers. West Bengal has Co-operative Bank but its market share is not very significant. The savings is thus deposited in other banks and they provide all financial services at cost. We the population of West Bengal invests in companies of other state. What is the amount? An example of Andhra Bank will depict the amount. About Rs.16.7 crore of money has been invested in Andhra Bank alone from West Bengal. Now estimate the total figure of investment from West Bengal in the listed companies of both NSE and BSE. This must be enormous – may be a few billion. Thus in reality we had the money we have given our money to other states. West Bengal must set up a bank of her own to combat the situation. In this case money would be available with government guarantee. I know of an owner who is going to Karnataka to arrange fund for his company. A common fund like ‘chit fund’ being run in all offices may be constituted by the owners in Bank of West Bengal from which they can take loan during their need. Each firm will monthly contribute to the fund and the money contributed by them will remain in their credit and earn interest. This would provide to the owner with working capacity in needs. The fund can be named as ‘Investor Benefit Fund’.

Market is huge. West Bengal would have been the gateway to Eastern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and even Burma and China, Kolkata being a port as well as air base city. We could not cash on the situation. We almost get everything from outside. Our little output cannot sustain the competition. Let us think. The British came to Calcutta using Calcutta port and occupied entire India through trade. We lost the advantage of all built-in infrastructures.

Let us consider a few more points, which will explain the truth on what went wrong.

Centre place (capital – the Kolkata): Kolkata being the centre place of this huge commercial belt, much importance must have been given towards improvement and development of Kolkata. Today look at Kolkata, it is dirty, clumsy, full of plastic sheds and thatches almost everywhere at every centre place. See the condition of main railway gateways. I am talking about Howrah and Sealdah station area. See the condition of Gariahat, Shyambazar, Brabourne Road etc. All the market places are ugly looking. Watch the traffic flow 5-8 km/hr. just like tortoise. How many crossover you see. How many underground you see. Only compare it with Chennai and Ahmedabad. If you move from one end to other ends of the city you will see only ugly things. The very good things, which are not even available in Chennai or Delhi, are covered with ugly things. Remove the ugly things. Calcutta looks very beautiful. We have constructed Bidhannagar. What it has given to Calcutta. It has given shelter to some so-called dignified opportunist people. Nothing more nothing less. It has reduced the wetland and increased the cost of drainage of the surface water. Kolkata remained there where it was. Only a few good looking buildings have been added. Did we see this condition 20 years back? Not at all. In last 20 years it has become ugly to uglier gradually. Look is very important. This shows the sense of administration and management and melt the heart of others and creates a sense of confidence on the people living here and people managing the show. A kind of faith is culminated on outsider to sense that they would get support of good people to do good things. Hence first of all Kolkata must be made beautiful and speedy. The approaches to Kolkata must be made beautiful. Recently you could see that a tanker sprinkles water in the road. Purpose to clean the road. Is it doing? So little water does nothing. It is only wetting the road middle. He is driving the tanker faster. Thus the cleaning of road remained ‘subjective’. To make it ‘objective’ more water to be poured. The driver is to spend more time, drive the tanker slowly. It is everywhere. All subjective things shall be made objective. I am sure once Kolkata can be made beautiful and we will be able to draw investment. We will be able to gain confidence of all future investors.

The Human Resource: West Bengal is a house of good brand of sufficiently skilled knowledgeable human resource. But this human resource has no definite mission and vision statement. One example – we go to foreign country to invite foreign investment in one side and on other side we show black flag to visiting Prime Minister of that country. What does this shows? This shows we have become always ‘subjective’ on getting foreign investment and never made it objective. We have forgotten our culture. Our tolerance is huge, but we cannot tolerate ourselves. We always compromise to solve any problem anyhow. The admixture of the population, the origin of the population directs this attitude. We have never raised a large hue and cry on whereabouts of ‘Netaji’. We have called so many strikes, but a single strike has not been called on this issue. Is it not a very big issue for us? Can we not ask ourselves why? We have enormous patience and we have enormous tolerance. We takeout processions for so many issues. Have we taken any procession on this issue? This represents to any investor that whether their grievance will get enough support and assistance. This is the human quality. We have to rise and exploit ourselves to the fullest extend. Our attitude to work inside West Bengal shall be same as we exhibit it outside West Bengal. We love to hear and act. We visit ourselves rarely to collect first hand information. We believe in receiving complaint and then take action. We do not try to minimize complaint. This aspect is seen from minister to mayor to councilor to MLAs to district magistrate to OC to SDO to BDO. We love to warm our chairs. Our leaders must be good managers too. We should exercise our power judiciously and correctly. Employment is required for everybody but right man must be preferred in right place. Preferences are to be given to human quality, knowledge and experience. Best people deserve the best and do the best. We must reward the best people.

We have given employment to many for too little work, which not only drained money but also created abuse or misuse of manpower with misdirection. The less work and idle people have spoiled the work environment. This gave a great speed to deteriorate the work culture and bring is corruption. The human resource must be well directed. The leaders must be from the working people and he must give his best to the development and growth of the company. All our leaders worked together to make available best things in the shortest period of time keeping the wider aspects aside. This did not nurtured the company but ruined it. The goal setting was different. Here success was not goal setting with determination and concentration. Success became goal setting followed by crisis generation and crisis management. This change has ruined the merit, ruined the culture, and ruined the work and establishment finally.

Technology: The technology base of the industry in West Bengal is old and obsolete. The equipment is old and productivity is low. Generated fund was spending more towards services. The depreciation amount allocated was not spent for modernization. This was one of the important reasons. We lost to competition and extinguished.

Product: The product quality was not upto the mark and these became costly to the loyal customers. Customers switched over to some other good quality cheaper products. The product look was not interesting and appealing. The competition was unequal. Hence products lost the ground and gave way to other products.
Selection of products for production should have been made on high internal demand using locally available raw materials. We have not used our agro base. We have not thought of tourism. We have forgotten to diversify our jute products when plastic is replacing jute. Our jute product in the form of gunny bag was used by factories in other states. We should have a number of cement, fertilizer factories to use the gunny bag. We could have developed lined bag and other improved variety of products to compete. We did not do. We believed in staying with what we had. We did not modernize our factory. We were confident and complacent. This was true for all products being manufactured in our various growth centres. Let us take the example of the flyover (I should call it a cross over for through traffic) recently built over AJC Bose road. How much it has solved the traffic problem? We should have first built a number of cross overs in various important crossings with the money spent and made all the signals fully automatic based on traffic counts. This would have increased the speed of vehicles.

Machines and Operations: Selection of technology is as important as is the selection of machines to perform. Here again the owner did a wrong thing. He selected poor machines to reduce cost but showed them as good or adequate to use over invoicing technique to show his contribution to the project. As a result the technology though became good, the machines performed inadequately and the product failed in the market place owing to competition. There must have been ‘technical audit’ during installation. This must be the job of the industrial development corporation. Every growth centre should have a panel of experts/advisors to check on the same. In Howrah belt a number of forge shop and re-rolling mills are in operation, you would find a lot of smoke coming out of the chimney. Is it not a sear wastage of fuel? The furnaces built have a number of drawbacks and the operating crews do not have much knowledge. Some of them use coal dust as fuel knowing that it is not environment friendly and will have to be stopped as per environmental regulation. Is not this a sear wastage of money? Why we should not have a training centre to train the operators for right operation subject wise. The money saved on saving of the fuel would be enough to bear the expenses of the centre. The owners will sponsor the centre too. Technical audit must be made compulsory on one hand. On the other hand those who use the equipment must be trained. We should save huge money. At least my recent experience in a few forge and anneal shop will prove this statement. At least in two installations smoke has been stopped and savings from fuel are generating extra fund to meet the pay bill of workers.

Administration: The way West Bengal is moving can we not conclude that administration is not visible. Let us list out a few examples:
  • People say Kolkata possesses 4% of her area as road, which is being claimed to be much lower. In spite of that you would find road is occupied almost every day. Sometimes some evictions are seen but the evicted people come back forthwith. Is it not subjective? Huge money wasted in eviction.
  • If any body does not make any complaint you can do anything, provided the local committees are paid.
  • Licence is granted for opening any shop anywhere. A car repairing shop or an air filling shop is located even in a floor space of 3’x 6’ area or even less.
  • The house building rules are different for colonised area and purchased area.
  • From outside Government offices look very beautiful but see the inside, it is dirty.
  • No value of integrity.
  • Arrival to office is as per wish of the employee.
  • Institutionisation of corruption.
  • Numbers of clubs are increasing day by day. They waste a huge sum of money every year. What is the need for them? They are collecting huge money from industries and wasting it. The land occupied by them can be used for other good purpose.
  • Monthly cards issued by police station allowing to run overloaded trucks.
  • Doing transactions in foreign exchange in border areas without any fear.
  • Criminalisation of politics.  
  • Scams after scams, irregulation after irregulation.
  • Road blockages, road meetings any time anywhere.
  • Faith of administration only on complaints.
Look around you. You would observe that you do what you like or want. The total administration depends on complaints. Any incidence against law and order, the in-charge will say nobody has made any complaint, as if he is getting his salary only for warming his chair.
This cannot continue forever. Time has now come to hold administration to administer so that no complaints come. Everybody now should be active and move around to set right things so as to allow the chairs to cool down. A good administration reduces wastage in every sphere, cleans areas and brings peace and harmony. Without this industry cannot surge and urge for industrialization will remain as an urge.

Conflict Management: In the industry sector the industrial disputes have not been managed adequately. Win-win philosophy has not been observed. Because of the stronger support of the government towards the workforce through their political alliances, many of conflict had been resolved favouring the workman at the cost of industry ignoring even the most justifiable need of the owner. The large part of the efforts towards this was purely on the basis of making available some opportunity in a short period of time leaving aside the wider impact. Another aspect was to protect the image of the leaders and his whims. This was due to gain political superiority over the rivals. By doing this, the industry was devoided of performance excellences and thereby lost market shares and profit. Accordingly fund was rarely available for modernization and future development. I remember my good old days, how often a strike was called to activate demand and the loss incurred there upon. I could remember it because I had to operate the emergency equipment in those days on a special duty assignment when I had to stay inside the plant for days. I still don’t know what these strikes yield. How many problems have been resolved through strike? The very arrogant nature of the union and union leaders spoiled the industrial relation and peace impairing production and progress. There is another side – the leadership. The worthlessness of the leadership managing the industry gave pace to the deterioration. The industry is full of incapable leadership having very little knowledge of the subject. In fact they were given the chairs to occupy. This mismanagement took a great toll. In some cases the owners collected the profit for himself at the cost of men and machinery. All these aspects aggravated the conflict resulting an industrial chaos, which hampered the growth.

Change: Each of us has to change. Change for better. All controlling persons must extend positive hands to quickly set up the industry. We have to change to create an atmosphere of faithfulness that we would really help in every sphere of setting up of the industry and during its operation.

Lately however some softening is occurring. This looks to be healthy. We have been able to realize our past deeds. This is at least a good smell that “change” has started and it has to accelerate. Let us show examples to gain the confidence of all.

Lastly probably I will not do justice if I don’t raise an astrological fact, which is hurting me in the similar way as with Acharya Satyananda. It is known that we should not talk of evil or ill things or ill ways. Ill things would happen soon. Currently Satyananda is preaching against worshipping of ‘Saturn’. ‘Saturn’ is considered to be sign of ‘evil’ or ‘Alakshmi’. Worshipping him means we are inviting ‘Alakshmi’. So industry is drying out. In last 20 years, a large number of ‘Saturn’ temples have been established althroughout Kolkata. It is found almost in every nook and corner.

The ill effect of such worshipping is destroying our culture and wealth, even probably human quality. I am also thus shout that let us not worship ‘Saturn’ but worship ‘Lord Ganesh’, which is symbol of ‘good’ and ‘richness’. Let us set up Hanuman Temple to erase out the evil of ‘Saturn’ since ‘Saturn’ is only afraid of ‘Bajarang Bali’.

What the astrology says or not says, I would say let us ‘change’ and ‘change’ very soon. Why not we follow the advice of all to bring in prosperity and growth, quickly. We need a number of change and ideal leaders to accelerate. The sooner we find them and give the responsibility the better.

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