Kolkata Revisited: The Arc of Hope
I don't actually see a revolution, however: No long marches from Kolkata to Delhi or Washington! I see instead a break with the dependent development model - from the hat-in-hand model of begging international financial capital - and one based on developing local enterprise. There is nothing new in this, but the emerging country governments often forget this option. The reason why the erstwhile leftist government in Bengal failed to start job creation, which eventually cost them the election, is because even the communist model of development is bereft of options other than luring global capital investment. This, contrary to the mythology, does not enable the local population, does not create jobs and is all but permanent: The capital flees as people aspire more and costs rise. Local enterprise, instead, create sustainable wealth and local jobs, and most importantly, local role models and self-sustaining chain of enterprise.
I know Kolkata isn't ready now: Such enterprise revolution needs a quad - business, government, academia and civil society working together - as Ernest Wilson argues in his recent article on Strategy and Business. None of these elements are in place now. However, studies of innovative regions show one common trend: That they stood on the precipice of disaster just before the things started turning around. I cling on to this hope, only a slender one, that Kolkata's time has finally come.
After writing this, I was wondering whether my views have changed or remained same on the subject. Here are some earlier posts:
August 2008 : Singur: Where Do I Stand?
August 2008: Recounting Kolkata's Past: How we got here?
November 2009: Late Stage Industrialization: Curious Case of West Bengal
May 2010: Road Ahead for Bengal
July 2010: A Future for Kolkata
January 2012: A New Future for Kolkata