It’s a ghastly misunderstanding’, said the shady chap who claimed to be a Trinamool Congress honcho. We were sitting in a hooch shop in Kolkata, talking intellectual stuff. We were discussing the spate of bomb blasts in West Bengal, the latest being a blast in a firecracker factory that allegedly doubled up as a bomb-making unit and a fight between armed groups in a local train in which several people were hurt. ‘To understand why there are so many bomb blasts in the state’, explained the shady one, ‘you have to go back to the policy decision taken after the announcement of the Make in India programme.’ Idly playing with a small bomb, he said they were very excited, as they realised it was a golden opportunity to recover West Bengal’s lost manufacturing glory.
‘You see,’ said an unreliable guy who claimed he was a policy insider, ‘we wanted to set up an industry in which we had a lot of expertise.’ ‘What better industry,’ he continued, sipping his hooch while fingering his country-made revolver, ‘than bomb-making. After all, we have vast experience of making bombs in the state since colonial times.’ An old-timer grew misty-eyed at the recollection. ‘My grandpa used to make bombs for the independence fighters,’ he said, ‘my dad transported bombs for the Naxalites, while my uncle threw them for the Congress. An aunt has a diploma in bomb-making from the CPI(M). It is due to their blessings that I am now the largest supplier of bombs in the state,’ he said proudly, eating a fried fish.
‘When the prime minister said we must make more defence equipment within the country, we realised that bomb-making fitted perfectly,’ said the alleged honcho. A tipsy economist pointed out it was a labour-intensive cottage industry that could prove employment to thousands of people. ‘Remember last year’s discovery of a bomb-making unit in Burdwan? That was an export-oriented unit making bombs for Bangladesh’ he said. ‘That’s why’, summed up a tough member of the lumpen-proletariat who was picking his teeth with a large knife, ‘we took up bomb-manufacturing under the ‘Make in India’ campaign. The demand is huge.’ He added he was also inspired by the prime minister’s emphasis on skill development and kids all over the state were being instructed in the necessary techniques.
The drunk economist said, ‘It’s not just Make in India and skill development we misinterpreted. Take the financial inclusion drive. We thought that meant allowing people to invest in chit funds and encourage them to grow like toads during the monsoon without any regulations because we wanted to improve our ease of doing business rankings, as the prime minister has emphasised’.
After a few bottles, we all agreed the mix-up was terrible. ‘Maybe you should concentrate on the ‘Swachh Bharat campaign instead’, I suggested, ‘wielding the broom for a filth-free Bengal’. ‘Oh we’ve already started doing that’ said the tough guy proudly, ‘The recent municipal elections were almost a clean sweep for us. We wiped out the entire opposition,’ he chortled, chucking a bomb playfully at the guy who had come with the bill.
Manas Chakravarty ( email@example.com ) is consulting editor, Mint. The views expressed are personal