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Revive jobs in Bengal, promote phuchka, push tourism — report by BJP think tank ahead of polls

Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation has come up with a report suggesting that BJP’s focus should be on two most important job-creating sectors — knowledge and tourism. 

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New Delhi: Reviving West Bengal’s economy, developing religious tourism circuits, pushing Greater Kolkata as a major IT hub like Bengaluru and Hyderabad, and promoting street food such as phuchka — these are part of a report by a BJP-affiliated think tank involved in shaping up the party’s vision document for a ‘Sonar Bangla’ ahead of the assembly elections.

Before the BJP launches its election manifesto for the polls — scheduled in late March — New Delhi-based Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation has come up with the report, suggesting the party’s focus should be on the two most important job-creating sectors — knowledge and tourism. 

The report, accessed by ThePrint, said despite having a considerable talent pool, Bengal has “missed the bus” for the IT revolution.

To revive the tourism sector, the report has recommended setting up tourism boards for six key religious places — Ganga Sagar, Nabadwip, Tarapith, Bishunupur, Tarakeswar and Madan Mohan Mandir — on the lines of Vaishno Devi Shrine Board.

It has also suggested naming Shantiniketan the national cultural capital city, besides developing it as a mega cultural centre on the lines of Oxford and Cambridge universities.

To push for job generation, the report has recommended creation of technology parks, venture capital funds to boost incubators, and promotion of research and development laboratories.

The BJP in its Bengal election battle has been using the state’s cultural and religious icons such as Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda in a big way to associate with Bengali cultural nationalism and to also counter CM Mamata Banerjee’s frequent ‘outsider’ jibe. Union Home Minister Amit Shah even visited Tagore’s Shantiniketan last December.


Also read: If TV news is to be believed, West Bengal election is Modi’s to lose, not Mamata’s


Develop Greater Kolkata region as next Hyderabad, Bengaluru 

The foundation’s director Anirban Ganguly told ThePrint, “Bengal has a huge potential to be developed as a major knowledge hub like Gurugram, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.”

“It has good quality education institutes, but due to policy paralysis, attention was not given to develop Kolkata or any city on the lines of these IT hubs,” he said.

According to the report, Greater Kolkata can be developed as the new Bengaluru by setting up technology parks, incubation centres. It has also said that ten prominent Bengal institutes can mentor these parks.

The government should push start-ups in various fields — ranging from medicine, health, IT, engineering to basic science, it suggested.

“Given the (state’s) long tradition of scientific research, there is no reason that Greater Kolkata cannot be developed as Bengaluru and Hyderabad,” the report added.

6 pilgrimage boards

The report said in 2018 Bengal attracted only 4.6 per cent of India’s total domestic tourists and 5.6 per cent of foreign tourists. This is much less than other states such as Tamil Nadu, which attracted 20 per cent domestic and 21 per cent international tourists.

Bengal attracted tourists mostly from Bangladesh, whose spending power is limited.

Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Delhi, Rajasthan attract most of the foreign tourists, the report added.

“We can aim for 10 per cent growth rate in tourism for Bengal, but lack of infrastructure and homestay policy are behind the dismal growth,” the report said.

“New homestay policy to garner employment around the pilgrimage circuit is essential. If the current figure of 90 million tourists annually is diverted to homestay, then one million households would be benefited, which can be enhanced to three to six million rural households.”

It further said Ganga Sagar attracts 1.8 million tourists, while Vaishno Devi attracts 10 million tourists, despite the former being a much older religious place.

The Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has developed infrastructure around the shrine and the same can be done around Ganga Sagar, the report said.

“In our manifesto, we are giving a big push for the development of five-six religious tourism circuits and Shantiniketan to generate employment, which was not done during TMC rule,” Joy Mazumdar, Bengal BJP general secretary and a member of the BJP’s manifesto committee, told ThePrint.

Not just rasgulla, promote Bengal’s street food too

The report also highlighted that Bengali cuisine hasn’t yet been commercially exploited like Punjabi or south Indian food.

Only the sweets like rasgulla from the state were promoted even though Bengal’s street food is “unmatched in its variety”, the report said.

“There is a need to promote Bengali street food in a big way to generate informal employment, but it can only be done through innovation, digital intervention and certification. This will not only create employment, but add charm to its tourism sector too,” the report said.

“…many North Indian politicians eat our local street food due to its low calorie. Our phuchka tastes like golgappa, and jhalmuri has low fat. All these can be promoted through new start-up interventions for more employment,” BJP national secretary Anupam Hazra, also a member of the party’s manifesto committee, told ThePrint.

The BJP has undertaken various exercises to make a vision document for ‘Sonar Bangla’. It has been collecting ideas from people through 294 special raths.

But mainly the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation has been involved in preparing the vision document. The think tank has been holding seminars, meetings for this purpose. The recommendations in the document will be incorporated in the BJP’s election manifesto for Bengal.

The state is headed for an eight-phase election from 27 March to 29 April.


Also read: I worry about 2021 Bengal election. You should too: Yogendra Yadav


 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Bengal was one of the major cradles of Hindi & Indian civilization!! It has given hosted many of India’s best spiritual & intellectual masters!! Yet!! Pakistani/Muslim appeasement politics & communism has destroyed west Bengal!!

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