Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 12 joined the sesquicentenary celebrations of the Kolkata Port Trust and launched multimodal development projects for Kolkata Port. On the occasion, PM Modi chose to describe how port-led development has potential to greatly impact economy and culture. Not surprisingly, the political opponents, the Left and TMC, took digs at PM by criticising that it was just a name-changing exercise for the Prime Minister. In this background, there are certain points that needs to be acknowledged to understand the significance of the Modi government’s initiatives, especially in Kolkata.
- The fact that Modi government’s port-led development initiative is positively impacting Kolkata is not an instance merely from 2020, but there is a track record preceding it.
- Given that Kolkata was a buzzing port and industrialised city even before Independence, the parties that ruled West Bengal post- Independence are answerable for the loss of that status.
Naming, Not Renaming
Kolkata Port Trust was not named after anyone. So, the question of changing name doesn’t arise. While naming the Kolkata Port Trust after Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, PM Modi himself has spelled out the reason clearly. He said: “Dr. Mookerjee, the son of Bengal laid the foundation for industrialization in the country and has been very instrumental in the development of projects such as Chittaranjan Locomotive Factory, Hindustan Aircraft Factory, Sindri Fertilizer Factory and Damodar Valley Corporation.”
Modi Government’s Focus on Kolkata Port – The Track Record
The Sagaramala project is rapidly changing the face of India’s major ports with their economic potential increasing. Kolkata port is a major beneficiary in this initiative.
- Revamping of Kolkata and Haldia docks gained momentum with major investments post-2014.
- Both ship traffic and container handling capacity at Kolkata port has increased post-2014.
- Eden channel opening which was facing impediments for the long time got cleared in September 2015 and became fully operational in February 2016.
This is how the efforts and progress in this regard have been reflecting from time to time.
Especially the Communist Party that ruled West Bengal for a long period claims that it works for the interests of labourers and workers. Their long rule only oversaw shutting down of industrial units and worsening of workers’ conditions. TMC government led by Mamata Banerjee also failed to reverse this condition.
On the contrary, PM Modi’s programme facilitated the retired and existing workers of the Kolkata Port by contributing ₹500 crores for their pension.
After Independence, West Bengal that was once the major industrial power of this country, was made to lose much of that industrial heft. Now, with the port-led development mantra of the Modi government, the state has an opportunity to return to the national developmental discourse.