WORDS NOT SPOKEN

Not always all words need be spoken

Song of silence contains melody hidden

From all such words remain unspoken

Kept secretly  inside the heart`s cavern;

Our  wishes  aspire with wings to fly

Sailing on cloud boat in open blue sky

Playing with wind  overlooking  the meadow

Where  crimson flowers bloom under hill shadow;

O n lonely moments, when dusk befalls at conch sound

Also from somewhere azans vibrating around

Our  unspoken  words  do  come out from its  hidden  shelter

Along with our desires disappear  into the unknown anywhere:

Then  the old Moon would assemble all those lost words oneday

To coin a fable to be told to the seagulls—as they say.

( shyamal mukhopadhyay )

NOBODY

Why are  these people jamming  on Road

With  family following and on shoulder bag load ?

Wherefrom are they coming beneath open sky!c

Why committed all rules  discipline to defy?

Suddenly I  locate the child by name Bunty

Staying  in the neighbourhood in a shanty,

His parents  work at a construction site

Bunty uses to roam till their return at night;

Migrants they are from  far remote village

Settled  in the city to escape debt bondage,

Authority  unaware of  the poormens` plight

How to survive now this all-lost-fight;

Few rich men carried  one deadly virus

On their travel from Italy or France

Multitude suffering for stupid horrendous-

Consequences in open –Great human exodus.

( shyamal mukhopadhyay)

RHYME FOR THE TINY TOTS

Blue sky blue sky

What makes  you cry ?

So much of  heavy rains

Falling on  mine  eyes.

Dark cloud dark cloud

Where does you fly?

Sailing to arid land

Earth there very dry.

Green  parrot green parrot

Hopping  so much  on  tree top

What makes you merrier ?

 Every place with fresh  pure air.

Pussy cat pussy cat

Why you  are weeping?

All households now  not open

No food for my kitten.

( Shyamal mukhopadhyay)

I AM SILENT

Silent i am

I am silent looking at thousands of people crowded on road

Escaping with family on walks, no money to afford

Stunned at the distressed sight of the  current  mass exodus

Reminiscence of partition  days,when people moved preposterous:

Silent i am

I am silent  following pandemic health protocol

My country appears  fragmented upon  politicians’ role

So many  dictates from UNO to BDO, a chaos of policy

Instead of cure, desperate to find ways perplexed bureaucracy:

Silent i am

I am silent for half knowledge is dangerous

That precisely media pundits  seem oblivious

The pandemic  brought end to prevailing old order

Heralding new  visions would be tough affair.

I am silent

Am i subservient?

Am i indifferent?

NO PLACE TO GO

The  threats of epidemic and hunger-not unfamiliar

Collateral  to the concourse of life for migrant worker,

Until  recently , they could manage  a small rice meal

T o earn livelihood  in a big city apparently tough deal

At  this pandemic  all doors of household or business closed

For thousands of migrant workers—livelihood locked;

Far from home, suddenly life  with family  in topsy of sort

No money for rent, food or essentials, on road last resort,

Between  virus and hunger  a choice appears  obvious

An  escape from hunger  imminently less hazardous;

Poverty hunger debt  forced  people  to move for new  place

Now  same counts compelled migrants ‘ exodus to homespace,

On this Great Escape  so  many  succumbed on dismay of hunger

For fate of the people nowhere to go, eventually who care(s).

( shyamal mukhopadhyay)

Eliminated virus

Eliminated virus-proudly declared an woman premier

On same day expired  an young pregnant woman  on way ,denied hospital healthcare,

Witnessed deaths of would be mothers ( woman or animal) due to apathy or negligence

Culpable homicide, we,the society be accused; no mercy pleading innocence,

Shamefully we failed to commit to the yet- to-born any safe  corner

Must we not be condemned before our conscience for guilt abettor;

Paralysed system insensitive  public attitude- deaths are collateral

Hyper media channel bytes everything appear at the end artificial;

Political manipulators leave no chance to exploit the situation

Life or death no matter if not beneficial to win any election.

BOYCOTT, BILATERAL TRADE & INDIAN ECONOMY – A GLIMPSE

The concept of  boycott  as a  tool    during  Indian nationalist movement and  a unique salvo against uses, purchases, sales or storing of  the foreign items or goods and accessories  particularly of the British origin or label came into the fore during  July 1905 when  Lord Curzon decided  to bifurcate Bengal with the obstinate statement – it`s a settled fact.During October  when  the partition  was to be effective  at the call of Rabindranath Tagore an unity movement  started through rakshabandhan but simultaneously and instantaneously a bigger protest  to boycott  and to burn any and every British origin or labelled  clothes,books,items of fancy merchandises  and  toiletries etc  gained momentum  with public support not only in Bengal but spreaded across the country.The  Boycott movement  culminated into  a spirit of self  national pride with self reliance onto  making  business and manufacturing initiatives by our countrymen.

 We must keep in mind it was pre independence era when the country was fully dependant on GT.Britain and its European allies for most of the principal necessary goods and items. Besides  agriculture ,the country  had no significant manufacturing or industrial  activities owned  and promoted by the Indians.As a  British colony, entire trade and commerce of the country used to be guided to the benefit  and earnings of the ruling authority and their country. Farmers were forced and exploited to produce items required in the HOME (Britain) and its manufacturing units and the industrial output marketed and sold to the Indians. On the hindsight of Boycott action, indomitable national  spirits  to set up and manufacture  solely Indian i. e. by and for the countrymen enterprises  took shape slowly but steadily. Unless  the country  could  produce swadesi  substitutes,the very purpose of foregoing  foreign  goods would in due course be defeated. The beginning of  an  era of Indian manufacturing  initiated with setting up of Bengal Chemical  & Pharmaceuticals, TVS,  BANKS, TATA STEELS,BAJAJS, BIRLA BROS. And so on. At the same time industrial revolution  in the west  on the move, the Indian new found industrial initiatives received boost..All countries would love  to love to be self reliant and  to promote their trade interest- India is no exception.But  International Trade  is managed  with more of economic and commercial needs , leverage and  political interest where  sentimental  nationalism very weak to matter. In  theoretical  words. comparative benefits of cost namely,  raw material  availability,superior technology ,pricing and servicing and transportation logistics  influence international  trade mechanism.

In  the current  military escalation with CHINA, as a fall out of  the martyrdom  of our soldiers at the front, our  anger and anguish as a nation justifiably  would preach  to teach a lesson through boycott of their  goods or items sold in our markets. But containing emotions, the hard truth of international trade and its protocol  would ask for  dispassionate  evaluation of  commercial advantages out of trade relations  with China or for that matter with any other country.

For reference,India  has been one of the founding members  of GATT since 1948 and later a member  of WTO since 1995 and china also joined WTO in 2001 notwithstanding  the continuous  blockade by U.S.A for long. As members of WTO both India and China are obligated to its rules, articles and memorandums as in vogue to facilitate operations of mutual trade without any bar or sanctions prejudicial  to  WTO  covenants.

Let us look to trade scenario between Cuba and U.S.A – the two nation fiercely opponents to each other politically, ideologically and  strategically allignmentwise. Despite  U.S.A  having  imposed embargo and sanctions along with military threats  to Cuba (as per  latest  available trade data  of  U.S  census bureau ) exports to Cuba for  4 months  till April 2020 at $ 60 million  and imports at $ 3`5 million  ; corresponding  figures during whole of 2019  had been$ 286 million  and $ 3 million . Naturally  commercial  commitments are  not subservient  to political compulsions  in bilateral trade relations. Similarly , with no official  data  and  amidst vociferous denials,covert trade exchanges  have been  in existence between Israel  and  Arab  kingdoms . Even with heightened adversities, except brief pauses, trade contacts  continued with Pakistan.

Fundamentally ,trade relations  being  based on mutual benefits and  comparative vantage do continue in the face of political or military aggressiveness so long  an embargo  or sanction imposed.As per  data  on  website of Indian embassy, Beijing  during 2019 ( till Nov) our exports to china were $ 16`32 bn  but our imports  were$  54`24 bn , resulting in deficit balance at$ 37`83 bn  Our exports  were  ores,precios stones,metals,cotton  and organic chemicals.our imports contained  electrical machineries, electronics  equipments, boilers, mechanical equipments, plastics articles and nuclear reactors . The Indian companies operating in china are Dr. Reddys,Arvind pharma, Bharat Forge, Reliance ( now in litigation), Sundaram, Mahindra  & Tata sons. More than 100 Chinese companies opened offices in India  who are working  in  power sector and  infrastructure construction including metro transit and electronics.

Our basic drugs used in pharmaceuticals  are nearly 70% from china,our mobile sets 50% from china, most of our antibiotics come from china apart from vitamin, cardiovascular drugs,our auto components are more than 20% from china so also china supplies  nearly 20% in steel sheet materials.As of late  a Chinese company STEC bags contract  worth Rs. 1170 crore in Delhi- Meerut RRT  and Govt. Of Maharashtra  executed MOU with a China firm for infra project.Expecting potential business improvements,  state run Bank of China acquired  stakes in HDFC  few days back. Alibaba  of China has been holding  major stakes in all leading  E-Com & payments  platforms.

With outbreak of COVID, exports  from  China dropped by 12%  so also imports from india by 11% million indicating not much impact  on bilateral trade.To  achieves  our mission of  make in india it is imperative to  reset and revive our manufacturing sector which has now been pushed  around 14%  of GDP during 2019 ,further  falling during pandemics.As  per CII estimates 12% of our labour force  are employed in the organised manufacturing sector.China  started to produce small and minor electronic,plastic,chemical,automobile  eqipments and spares and  now grown into big industrial hub penetrating into world market including India in every field  of major industrial activities sharing nearly 30% of their GDP.

It is imperative to accept for our manufacturing sector with missionary zeal the challenge against infiltration of make in china goods with better quality, priced and easily available make in India products. On a pragmatic scale, the thread to the success of China intruding every corner of world with their goods and items lies on bulk supply chain, low pricing, average quality and average durability compared to local supplies.Unless the spine of their business economics is made to paralyse with our local products,a call to boycott may sound patriotic but may not hit the bull.

The industrial sector also need support from authorities  ,some of which  may be in pipeline of make in India mission.World bank ranked  India 64 on  Ease of Doing Business  whereas China  stays at 31 despite ours is a democratic but china a party regimented rule.On fundamentals, we need  number of reforms and reliefs in the manufacturing and labour arena  to pull up the economy to withstand new challenges.History offers opportunity  to all, one who seizes ,becomes  glorious.

Shyamal mukhopadhyay

Covid, Migration and Informal Sector of Indian economy—A Look Through

I  start with  a story.

A photo journalist Mr. Kevin Carter had been covering disastrous famine of 90s in Sudan when he took shot of a dying child and an awaiting vulture  by chance during his journalistic detour. The photo  captioned “ The vulture & The little girl “ brought Carter Pulitzer honours.

 Later during  a reception, one gentleman asked ,” Mr. Carter, what happened to that girl eventually?”

Mr. Carter replied,” no idea. I needed to rush for my flight.”

The person asked ,” how many vultures you noticed—only one?”

Carter  said ‘ possibly.’

The person  asserted, “ no sir, I could see two vultures – the other one holding a camera.”

Carter was terribly distressed and later mentally frustrated to commit suicide for whatever reasons.

The prologue  refers to the continuous  eye catching  photo coverage  daily on all kinds of media  referring to  the plight, woes and worries of the  lost job masses and their consequent   home bound exodus out of fear  from quarantine,uncertain  future and hunger.No doubt the stark realities of the situation with supportive pictures help  raising up sales and TRP for the print  as well as audiovisual media, but have these not been proactively  brought into public domain, neither we would know   nor the authorities would have  taken  cognizance of  the massive fallouts of the pandemic.

To look through, the Corona virus does continue to affect the population of almost all countries and  lack of prior knowledge and  effective  remedial drugs,it  has been extremely  deadly  for  the human.Each country has evolved its own strategy  of individual distancing  with protocol for  country wide locked down  for all sorts of commercial and individual  movements and in  open activities. Thus far India also  remains on same global platform   and  WHO standardised  procedures.

The  chink  appears to have come , on our shield  to fight the pandemic ,out of our vast  magnitude of workforce engaged in the  non- formal or unorganised  sector of our country.No other  nation( data not available for China)comprises their economy  with  this level of contribution  from the unorganised ( non- agriculture) sector  business  and allied enterprise as traditionally  prevailing in India.

As per Economic Survey (2018-19) more than 90% of our  working  population  are engaged in the unorganised  sector which does include also  self employed . NITI  AYOG figures  for workers  in the unorganised  sector are  around 86% of total  workforce. (Numerically, out of Total  45 cr. employed  persons ,nearly 42 cr. work  in the informal or unorganised sector).When one looks at the    employment  vector, further revelations   come  as  shocker.Nearly  70% of  workers in  the unorganised  sector   are paid  wages  informally without  any type of contract/ agreement ; no paid  leave  apart. However, we need to bear,  all available data  in respect of informal sector are  itself  unverifiable or informal and at variances  from one to other. Shamefully, even after 72 years  of  Independence , Minimum Wages Act has not been effectively implemented ,  admitted in the Economic Survey- one in every three wagers fallen through crack.These workers  have no  welfare supports , no work hours limit or not  all  covered  under Unorganised Workers` Social Security Act 2008—alleged  all Trade Unions.

In terms of  U.N.O  report on Hunger , India  ranks  102  amongst  117 countries as per  Hunger index and 14% of our total population of app. 135 cr. are under- nourished or without diets.For sure, as a nation we have failed to  ensure  minimum guarantee of wages and diet to a vast majority of our country men, despite number of  committee reports, policy programmes  and budgetary outlays.

This is the untold tale and unkindest  of  efforts to alleviate poverty and hunger  for  the mass.The  consequences   have forced people to  shift or to settle for comparatively greener Pasteur elsewhere  from their home  intrastate  or interstate: these  are  people–  the operative force  in various manufacturing units,trade and business,eating houses,construction works and self employed professions  as encompassed in informal arena .

 The   people migrating  out of  home  states  are because of  squeezing employment opportunities,  reducing  farm land, perpetual  indebtedness and poverty  as common existential reasons.Their  presence  create  incentives to the economy of cities or states they get  settled  seasonally or permanently; their wages.savings and remittances  help boost  the economy of the original home . As per  2011 Census , Total  figure of migrant  people arrived at 45.58 cr. out of whom 39.57 were intra state and remaining  interstate .  Half of total migrated people  shift  from U.P & Bihar to other states and there continues a steady flow of job seekers  from neighbouring Bangladesh, Nepal and others.  Despite  the existence of so vast migrated workforce, no official count or  record are maintained at  any level  except collating from records  scattered  at different agencies or departments.A few years back  in 2012 Committee on unorganised  sector  set up by National Statistical Commission  noted — 50% of GNP contributed by the sector but lack of reliable data on size ,distribution  and share of the informal sector had been constraint to the understanding of its significance in the development planning.Even in recent past, a study  by ISID affiliated to ICSSR suggested reforms to push the sector and its workforce.

When the authority declared Pandemic and subsequent  stringent locked down formalities ,it came as bolt from blue on the country`s already ailing economy,no  matter it has been Happenings on world economy , strong or weak.The organised sector were able to adjust and adapt different lines of operational procedures  albeit  slowly but entire informal sector( farm and nonfarm )  has come to halt nationwide abruptly without cushioning time alike demonetisation saga. Obviously,  the workforce engaged  in this sector lost job with activities shut,gradually lost  saved money ( if at all ) to pay for food,rent and essentials.Thus commenced since MARCH END 2020  the Great Exodus of the workfoce  for life and security from  the unorganised  and partly  also  organised sector  to the Home  out of fear and escape from  Covid virus,hunger  and administrative excesses.The  lack of coordination,planning , backup synergy  and  quick response  caused   great mess and havoc  to  the   homeless  hunger  stricken  people and their families wandering on  Highways,Railways or Bus stands.  No doubt  improper or  misinformations  had been floated   from  vested sources  but   inept or  insensitive  handlings  by administration who were caught off-guard only aggravate the intensity of  critical situation.

But for continuous  highlights  in the media, the subsequent  corrective steps  undertaken  by the authorities would likely to be delayed farther .To condemn media on focusing too much on migrants `distress as adversarial to the authority is manifestation of despondency not  compatible to  our  human and democratic values.We all need to move along, take along and grow along to combat crisis and to assist the distressed for a better India.

Shyamal mukhopadhyay

SOMEWHERE

Someone uncannily repeated history

Someone dared to commit utmost stupidity

Someone callously professed colour superiority

Someone smothered the neck of Liberty;

Someone forced people to come on street

Someone warned them to make a retreat

Someone slothly ignored the pulse of anger

Someone therefore escorted to safe shelter;

Someone holding high seat of democracy

Someone needs to abstain from hypocrisy

Someone messing with peoples` cry

Somewhere an escape run awaiting public eye.

A STORY OF BENGAL KANTHA

An arrival of a new bay is always a matter of rejoicing for the family anytime anywhere. In a Bengali household the natal paraphernalia usually commences as early as a year prior to actual delivery of the newborn; it begins when elderly ladies initiate process of making ‘KANTHA’ to be used for and by the new baby. So goes a saying, that there is no ‘Bangali who has not been wrapped in infancy with Kantha. (Exaggeration to be overlooked).

KANTHA (in rustic language called as ‘Tena’) may be most closely described as layers of patched old clothes  stitched  with a pattern of stitching called as ‘running stitch’ exclusively by the respective household ladies. A making of a Kantha or the art of stitching has remained an ethnic household art of Bengal including Bangladesh and parts of eastern India viz. Orissa and Assam. The stitching of Kantha  has been an unique traditional process of reusing old, torn or unusable clothes of the house like saree, dhoti etc. Significantly, the use of base cloth pieces beholds not only the antiquity from third or even fourth generations but also the warmth of ancestral blessings with a stitched Kantha for new born child. This X-factor will always be unique in the making of it.

As a practice, old, used sarees are never discarded but preserved with the sole motive of stitching Kantha for any would be born baby in the house ,even at times given to relative or a  neighbour`s house as gift. Normally, stitching is done on layers and pieces of old clothes stitched together with ‘run stitch’  on all sides leaving the centre for non-delicate motif or design; but many a veteran expert ladies would prefer curved stitches and needle works depicting nice and eye- catching flower, plants or motifs. Gradually the primary stitch works to be used as Baby Kantha improvised into needle craft of ‘Nakshi Kantha’. By the way, the preparatory essentials remain the same — thread rolls are prepared by extracting thread lines from the saree borders, to add more colours additional borders would be extracted; to make Kantha puffy more layers of sarees are used. Though this was deemed to be a household craft, a beautiful decorative piece may take months to finish, hence the urgency to begin Kantha stitching, calculating the arrival date of new born. The illiterate or not so knowledgeable ladies traditionally has been aware of soft support needed to the new born, that`s why old clothes has always been preserved in Bengali households.

Although the art has two primary styles –‘Kantha’ for newborns and the other ‘Nakshi’ for multipurpose uses; the Nakshi gradually has evolved into long quilt type covers to be used during light cold by all. Different patterns of stitching also have come to stay. Bangladesh remains the harbinger for the improvisation, improvement and aesthetics in the traditional art of Kantha stitching.

To trace the ethnicity of this art, the scholars in Bengal referred to the mention of this form in CHAITANYA CHARITAMRIT by KRISHNADAS nearly 400 year old.

With the passage of time and urbanisation, like many other ethnic art and craft, the art of Kantha  stitching in the individual house domain slowly has begun dying  out due to disinterest or disinclination of current home keepers. Exception has been for ‘Nakshi Kantha’ popular and widely made in parts of Bangladesh,

Since 2008, an official encouragement helped to safe keep some exquisite pieces of Kantha  in the gallery of Indian museum, Kolkata and National Craft  Museum , Delhi.

As Govt. Initiative to protect and promote this  ethnic ART has been taking shape, commercial hawks have also put eyes on minting money through reinventing Kantha patches or Nakshi art as designer motifs on Saree, Apparels or other garments .  It would not have mattered, had these art promoters (?) helped to encourage this household craftsmen/women; instead of promoting these commercial entities have created travesty of this artwork in the name of promotion and profit. It`s a sad facade of an almost extinguished art of household tradition of stitching Kantha. Now, what we come across at Malls, Shows or High-end markets as Nakshi Kantha style sarees or kurtas are plagiarised or imitation version of our original ethnic creations. If we desire and look into our own heritage, we may find a way for revival of the Kantha- a labour of love always.

Shyamal Mukhopadhyay