Fifty seven years ago, on a chilly February morning I was born in Katwa, a sub-divisional town in Burdawan district in West Bengal. My father shifted base to Odisha to earn his livelihood and we settled there. We visit our ancestral place once in three four years. It is a nostalgic bond that we share with this historical town located on the bank of the Ganges. Katwa in Bengal is known for its danta, the fleshy stem of edible leaf (saag). It is a rual agri-business hub. Its claim to historical fame is: it was here that Shri Chaitanya found his guru Keshab Bharati.
Katwa could have been a beautiful town with great riverfront view. Instead it has turned into a shabby town with hardly any access to the riverfront. Slums and shanties abound on the encroached government lands on the river bank. Narrow roads are even made narrower by in numerous small temples.
Roads are like arteries to a state’s economy. If the roads are clogged, economy is bound to suffer. The shop owners of Katwa, especially the vegetable vendors in the old market building have realised that, as it impacts their business by decreasing footfalls and increasing transport cost. But it seems successive governments of Bengal have overlooked/ ignored this simple fact.
Approach road to almost all railway stations in Bengal is so narrow and congested with roadside shanties and vendors and vehicles, that it is difficult to even walk. Encroachment of road and government land is so rampant, that at times you wonder is there any law and law enforcing mechanism in Bengal. All one needs to encroach a piece of roadside government land is a flag of the ruling party and/or an idol of any God.
Compartments of Suburb Trains in Bengal are veritable Bazars. In numerous hawkers sell in numerous kinds of snacks and food items, stationaries, knick knacks, ayurvedic medicines, gamchha and sarees, children’s books, calendars and many other items.
Railways can actually think of branding these trains as ‘Bazar on Train’.
There are several posters put inside local train compartments offering different services. From ‘easy’ abortions to ‘guaranteed jobs’ and ‘job of a play- boy’ (whatever that means).
Somebody can do a detailed study/ report on this. Who are the people offering these jobs? Who apply? To what effect?
Campaign and Reality
Talking about posters, interesting posters on cleanliness based on popular film dialogues have been put at Howrah station. However, in platform number 23, where these posters were put up, there were few waste bins and they were overflowing. The floor badly needed mopping. It only means one thing: awareness campaign should be accompanied by service delivery mechanism and infrastructure.
Fly Ash Brick
Local trains are good place to meet people and learn about different trade and business. I came across a young man, who is into brick manufacturing business. He owns one unit in West Bengal. It is an interesting business and probably one of the few surviving labour intensive enterprises. Mechanisation is taking way labour-intensive jobs. Even rice mills, which used to employ many labourers are cutting down as machines are taking over those tasks earlier done manually.
I asked him about the prospect of fly ash brick. He was not very enthusiastic and said, “it often breaks at the laying stage”.
Can something be done about it? This could really solve the storage problem of fly ash.
‘Jal khele Bal hobe, na khele durbal’. (Drinking water will make you strong. If you don’t drink water you become weak).
Gyan by a packaged water vendor on a Bengal suburb train.
Tailpiece 2: Statistical Data
Different types of phone call duration:
Boy to Boy: 00:00:59
Boy to Mom: 00:00:50
Boy to Dad: 00:00:30
Boy to Girl: 01:23:59
Girl to Girl: 05:29:59
Girl to Boy: Missed Call
Husband to Wife: 00:00:038
Mom to Married Daughter: 10:50:59
Wife to Husband: 14 Missed Calls
(Courtesy: Social Media)
A journalist turned media academician Mrinal Chatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, a Central Odisha hilly town. He also writes fiction. [email protected]