We enter the tiny union room of Asutosh College where Karl Marx and Anil Biswas are obviously ideologues. The atmosphere is charged as the college is going through its admission process. The table is moved to a corner and a large group of students move in for a healthy debate on whether there is a political change round the corner.
Says Paheli Saha, doing her BSc (third year), “If we are talking about change, then what kind of change do we desire? If I am scoring 50% today I would want to score 75% tomorrow. Would I want to score less? Similarly we want the government to change for the better. We don’t want the change to be Trinamool, which stands for mass killing.”
Fellow student Abhirup Dutta has some specific recommendations for the Left, should it come back to power. “Change is good but before change creeps in, we need to know who is bringing in the change. We welcome industrialisation but we need to make sure that people who are bringing in industrialisation are looking beyond their own benefit. We want a new government but we want an improved Left Front,” he said.
Several students seemed to want the incumbent chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to continue in power.
“After the Lok Sabha elections (in which Trinamool fared well) we saw a so-called change — 15 students lost their lives. If we see a new government coming to power we may see more innocent students losing their lives,” said Samya Bakshi, a first year zoology honours student. Students started talking about issues such as law and order which affect their daily lives. “As far as safety of the city is concerned the city has become much safer than what it used to be. Women easily commute from places like Salt Lake and Bypass even at night but nevertheless there are chances of improvement,” chipped in Bakshi.
Citing the Rajib Das incident (beaten up for protesting against his sister’s molestation), co-student Sujaya Shaw said that one cannot blame the system for an isolated event or incident.
On the issue of jobs, Paheli said that she would suffer from a sense of insecurity if Trinamool comes to power. “I can see that some of my seniors are jobless. There are more promises being made than number of jobs that are actually being given,” she said. Another student, Avirup Dutta, said just as students are moving out of the city, there are many who are coming to Bengal. “There are many south Indians who are coming to Kolkata to seek jobs in Sector 5. All you need is competence,” he said.
The conversation started heating up. Subham Mitra, a second year student of English (honours) accused the Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee of “pretending” to fast for 26 days during the Singur agitation.“Someone accompanying her wrote an article a few days back which clearly said that Banerjee had signed a deal with Lexus and Volkswagon. No one finds her trustworthy. When she was elected railway minister she said 1,76,000 jobs were to be allotted. But how many jobs have been given to the people? Providing jobs for Suvaprasanna and Bratya Basu are so meaningless,” said Mitra.
Sulakshna Iyenger, who joined late, pointed out that a government running for so long cannot be perfect. “There are loopholes that need to be taken care of. Singur is being made an emblem of injustice and violence. The planning of a modern state should have started much before the Singur incident happened. What was the government doing before that? Look at Bangalore. Isn’t it a model city in terms of IT development? West Bengal should aspire to be like that instead of complaining about the same issues over and over again.”