Slice of the Kolkata city

Kolkata provides succour for a host of migrants from across the
country who have discovered a dignity in labour by catering to the
needs of a bigger world that passes them by ~ something they never
enjoyed ‘at home’. sun narin reports
ASK any Kolkatan who might have boasted about the serenity of his city
back in the 1960s and he’d tell you that it’s now nothing short of
bursting at the seams, not to forget the lack of pedestrian walkways,
basic amenities — despite the highrise boom and the resultant
denudation of spacious avenues. On the flip side, though, Kolkata
provides succour for a host of migrants from across the country —
Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand in particular — who have
discovered a dignity in labour by catering to the needs of a bigger
world that passes them by, something they never enjoyed “at home”.

Nearly 10 years ago, Ramkumar Shaw moved to Kolkata from his native
Bihar with his two sons and a daughter. He and his wife had been
peasants. He sells South Indian food from a small establishment in
bustling Lenin Sarani and admits he has a clientele that keeps him
busy. “I am happy here,” says the 45-year-old. “The work is good for
me and Kolkata is good for my children’s study and future.” He earns
around Rs 2,000 a day, which results in a profit of between Rs 350-500
after overheads are taken care of.

Since his children are in school, he can least afford to count his blessings. He pays Rs 1,200 a month
as rent for an accommodation near New Market, where he stays with his
family and two workers.
“Sometimes I have problems because business isn’t good when I have to
close shop on bandh days, but I cannot complain.” He had no plans to
return to Bihar. “Why I should go back? I have the facilities here. I
do not know what I would do over there. How would my children go to
study at a good school?”
Kolkata in recent years has grown to acquire a population of some 15
million because of the mass migration from other states and remote
villages in West Bengal. The reasons for this migration, as per the
Census, have been classified into seven broad groups —
work/employment, business, education, marriage, runaways, family
groups, etc. Most migrants in the city work in the unorganised sector
in unskilled or low-paid jobs — food vendors, hawkers, waiters,
taxi-drivers, construction workers, rickshaw-drivers, nursemaids,
housemaids, cooks in restaurants, even streetside barbers.
Occupying a one square-metre of pavement space on bustling AJC Bose
Road is Ram Bharosa Thakur, now 65 years old. He has been cutting hair
here for nearly 45 years since he moved from Bihar. 

“I live here alone, without any support. I am here to earn money for my family back
home,” he said. But, no, he does not face any difficulties. “I am
happy to live here and earn money to send to my family.” He manages
between Rs 3,000-4,000 a month, keeps a portion for his own needs and
sends his family the rest. “I try to save money. I spend only Rs 20-30
each day for my food.”
Shaquat Ali is from Jharkhand and works as a waiter in a restaurant.
He’s been in the city for about four months now and says, “I earn more
than Rs 4,000 a month. I send most of the money to my wife and family
in Jharkhand.

I am always saving. I like living here. I feel free. I
am happy and earn more money. I wouldn’t know what to do in
Jharkhand,” said the 24-year-old.
The restaurant’s proprietor, Bashir Mohamman, said he employed 10
waiters who were all migrants from Bihar, Jharkand and North Bengal,
places where there is a lack of employment opportunities. “Everything
in Kolkata is cheap so most (people from there) want to live and work
here,” he said.
He did admit, though, that employment in Kolkata was “limited” for
migrants. “They are all happy because they can earn money and send
something to their families. But after only a couple months they stop
working and go back.”
According to a study by the Confederation of Indian Industries and
Ernst and Young, titled “Roadmap for Successful Public-Private
Partnership in Infrastructure”, one of the greatest threats to
industrialisation in Bengal is the largescale migration of its
workforce to other states because of a lack of opportunity. The study
said Kolkata did not draw in people from rural areas by offering them
a better quality of life. As in any other Indian city, migrants found
poverty in Kolkata as severe and dehumanising as in the villages, but
were offered a relatively quick opportunity of earning through
placement in the urban economy. But these migrants would finally move
on to other states with a higher per capita income, better wages and
more opportunities.

At the same time, rickshaw-pullers, construction workers and those
engaged in other “hard-living jobs” live from hand to mouth. They
don’t have shelters, sleep on pavements. Researcher M Christiensen,
writing on Kolkata in the Encyclopaedia of Homelessness (Vol 1, 2004)
said there were five million people living on the streets or in
cardboard/bamboo makeshift shelters who had not been counted. “And up
to a half of all Kolkatan families live in just one room (some live
four families to a room, each family having just a chowki or cot to
themselves).”

Pintu Maity of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee in Kolkata, whose
work concerns sex workers, said, “Most of the sex workers are migrants
from districts in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.”
And all of them were highly susceptible to disease, given the poverty
and hard times, he added.

Largescale migration to Kolkata in search of work had a negative
impact, said Sourav Sannigrahi, secretary, Affection Society for Human
Advancement. The consequences were an overcrowded city, a deficiency
in the labour in neighbouring states, traffic jams, new slum areas,
unemployment, no tracking between source and destination, disorder,
chaos and many other social ills. “They have no choice but to come to
Kolkata to search for jobs and a livelihood. Poverty and poor
infrastructural facilities at the source locations are the major
reasons for migration,” he said.
Asha wants the government to create a better environment, promote an
urban-rural link and increase job opportunities for migrants. At the
same time, it should also adopt proper measures to curb migration to
Kolkata.
To look on the bright side, Kolkata has come a long, if hard, way from
Rudyard Kipling’s description of a “City of Dreadful Night”. There
have been remarkable expansion in certain areas, including real
estate, information technology and retail trade.

Recently, PrimeMinister Manmohan Singh said the time had come to build on this great civilisational heritage and “pool all our wisdom, knowledge and
experience to revitalise West Bengal’s economy, polity and society so
as to scale new heights of human endeavour and achievement in the
service of the people of West Bengal and India as a whole. I sincerely
believe a new sun is rising on our East, and Kolkata can once again
regain its glory as India’s window to Asia”.

Kolkata is losing out (Brain Drain)

By Sun Narin

Kolkata-born Bamezai Senha (25) has moved to study and work in Pune for nearly 6 years after he finished high school in Kolkata. He is now working in the field of Information Technology over there.

“Here, after finishing bachelor degree, I am able to find a good job for my expertise and I can make a good earnings,” he says by explaining that “Kolkata lacks job opportunities and the sectors related to my skill are not developed yet; therefore, I decided to work here for my good life.” However, he says that he also faces challenges of living in other cities such as too much spending and knowledge challenges and work competition with other people.

His saying is echoed by a 21-year-old Kolkata-born and educated student, Mr Debajyoti Chatterjee who has just recently won the scholarship to study his Master degree of Communications Engineering in Germany. He said that he wanted to move out from Kolkata because of the education and job opportunities here are not good for him in the future.

“The job opportunities are increasing in all sectors day by day including IT, ITES, Hotel, Aviation, Finance and education. However, the semiconductor industry and industries with a focus on Biotechnology are still underdeveloped. Not much opportunity exists in Kolkata,” he said.

Kolkata city has been suffering of the moving out of thousands of students due to the brain drain of the students to other cities, which are better for them in terms of education, job opportunity and condition and the modernity of the cities. Every year, a lot of high school graduate students from Kolkata move to pursue their higher education in other cities including Bangalor, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune. At the same time, after graduating, they do not want come back to Kolkata to work since they find other cities a good place for them to work and live rather than working in Kolkata city.

Mr Kanjan Sen, secretary of Dhakuria Society for Education and Expression raised two reasons for technical and higher students go out of Kolkata and they don’t return to Kolkata: first, they get used to the atmosphere where they stay for such a crucial period of life and second, they can work in the environment which they get used to.

Education expert says that students want to do all the best for them, adding that “If they want the places good for them, they will go for those places.”

Mr Kanjan explains that this will result in the shortage of human resources in Kolkata and leads to the least development in the city. “Son of the soil may not return to Kolkata” he says. In contrast, it will be overcrowded in other cities and there will be job problem over there. However, he says that there are a lot of challenges for the students over since they have to spend a lot on the accommodation and daily living and they also risk of being from the families in Kolkata.

He continued that the state administration should arrange for further educational facilities and job creation in Kolkata. He added that, there should be “decentralization” like development for other towns and cities in the state and the government should develop adequate educational and business infrastructure and the quality of education has also to be dealt with.

Kolkata shares the same situation in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh capital city. Every year, thousands of provincial high schools students from 24 provinces across the country go to pursue their study in the city and most of them never come back to their hometown provinces to work and live with their families. They want to work in the city for the rest of their life. The consequences are: a huge development gap between the provinces and cities and the negative impacts on the cities are traffic jams, overcrowding, slum areas, unemployment and many other social ills. After graduating in Bachelor degree, a number of students cannot find the jobs since the fewer job opportunities comparing to the huge number of graduate students in the city.

If the opportunities do not exist in the provinces, the educated youth will not return to live and work there.  If you want to develop your province, you need good people, but if good people do not come, how can you possibly develop it? The higher they study, the better the job they hope to attain. How can they find what they are looking for in the countryside, what job can they do? It is the same as Kolkata.

The education expert says that the government should, in order to attract the students back to Kolkata, create better environment, activities, city-city linkage, and balanced development between the Kolkata and other cities so that the educated youth will return to their hometown Kolkata. However, it is quite challenging to ameliorate the issue because it’s the chicken and the egg problem. You do not know which one is the initial problem.

Both Mr Bamezai Senha and Mr Debajyoti Chatterjee suggested that the development in the industrial sector could only take place if the right infrastructure is in place, adding that the airport, roads, highways etc. needs further development and modernization. “Only then can the industry flourish in Kolkata” says Mr Debajyoti Chatterjee.

Mr Debajyoti Chatterjee adds that: “Education system on the other hand needs a major change in Kolkata. The existing infrastructure at all levels (primary, secondary, higher secondary etc.) needs to be revamped and the private as well as the government engineering colleges must allocate more funds for higher education and research.”

However, “I would like to come back and contribute to the development of the higher education sector of India in the future,” he says.

He emphasizes that important thing that: “I wanted people of my country to change first before the state change this is because it’s the people who implement the governmental policies. And proper implementation of our governmental policies can bring an end to many of our problems.”

The official from the department of Education in Kolkata said that the students have choice to choose where they want to study and work. “We do not force them to stay and work here,” he says. However, he adds that the department tries to develop the education sector here in order to satisfy the students to study and then they can work in Kolkata. The department of Planning and Development could not contact for comment on this issue that students want the government to develop the industry sector in Kolkata and improve more infrastructure.

Due to the fact that there are a lot of pressures in other cities besides their hometown city Kolkata including expenditure, work competition, overcrowding and a questionable social environment, some students come back to Kolkata to work for some specific reasons after graduating from those cities.

“I want to live with my family and help develop my born city. If I work at those cities, I won’t have chance to contribute to the development in Kolkata for the next generation,” said Miss Minakshi Majumdar (26).