West Bengal

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West Bengal

West Bengal is a state in eastern India on the Bay of Bengal and is the nation's fourth-most populous state, with over 91 million inhabitants. It is bordered by the countries of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, and the Indian states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, and Assam. The state capital is Kolkata (Calcutta), the seventh-largest city in India.


  • This is the history of the people who speak Bengali, covering both present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal and other Bengali-speaking areas of the country from the earliest recorded times to 1947 when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan, and nearly two-thirds of undivided Bengal went to Pakistan.
    • Nitish Sengupta in the Preface to the History of the Bengali-speaking People.
  • I think that on the whole, the Muslim minority in West Bengal – which also, I think, suffers from from a feeling of frustration and a certain insecurity – is relatively more secure than the Hindu minority in East Bengal… Now take the proposal regarding exchange of population… it is completely opposed to our political economic, social and spirtual ideals. If you want to have an excahnge of population, then you must change the whole basis of not only this Government but of all that we have stood for these thirty odd years and during the movement for freedom in this country.
  • This is where, between 1956-57 and 1966-67, 46.9 per cent of India’s exports left the country and where 30.4 per cent of the imports arrived… The Mogul rulers of India knew Bengal as their Paradise on earth, and this certainly was’nt because it was comfortable to live in. The British soon came to the same conclusion and Charles Stewart had decided by 1813 that ‘The province of Bengal is one of the most valuable acquisitions that was ever made by any nation.’ It has always been a source of profit. In 1964, West Bengal was producing 95 per cent of India’s jute, 92 per cent of its razor blades, 87 per cent of its electric fans, 80 per cent of its sewing machines, 78 per cent of its railway wagons, 74 per cent of its rubber shoes…
    • Geoffrey Moorhouse in Calcutta: the City Revisited, 1971, Penguin Books, p 133.
  • The extent to which this process of political organization of disadvantaged groups has occurred has varied a great deal between different parts of India… In West Bengal, for instance, effective organization of different groups under the leadership of the ‘left front’ parties has led to a significant change in the balance of political power, and this, in turn, has provided the basis for important social achievements, notably land reforms…West Bengal provides a good example of the possibility and rewards of land reform programmes (enhancing equity as well as the efficiency of local agriculture.)
  • We investigated the working of a number of elementary schools from three districts of West Bengal… The problem is, in some ways, compounded by the fact that school teachers are now comparatively well paid – no longer the recipients of miserably exploitative wages... The salary of teachers in regular schools has gone up dramatically over recent years. This is an obvious cause for celebration at one level (indeed, I remember being personally involved, as a student at Presidency College fifty years ago, in agitations to raise the desperately low prevailing salaries of school teachers). But the situation is now very different. The big salary increases in recent years have not only made school education vastly more expensive (making it much harder to offer regular school education to those who are still excluded from it), but have also tended to draw school teachers as a group further away from the families of children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is considerable evidence that the class barrier that deeply impairs the delivery of school education to the worst-off members of society is now further reinforced by the increase in economic and social distance between the teachers and the poorer (and less privileged) children
    • Amartya Sen in The Argumentative Indian.

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