OPINION: THE GREAT ESCAPE – from the real to the imaginary ?!!
From The Telegraph Editorial
Sep 12, 2010: Magician Merlin is coming to town. Or, at least, that would be the perception of the West Bengal chief minister, who cannot ever be accused of not thinking big.
Wally Olins, the brand consultant who is touching up London’s image for the 2012 Olympics, may not think of himself as the Arthurian magic man, but there is no doubt that West Bengal’s leaders have perceived him as such. The government is appointing Mr Olins to create a brand idea and a brand identity for the state. It is expected that Mr Olins’s magic wand will, according to the CEO of the consultant’s company in India, conjure up that one “unifying idea” which will create a “positive disposition”, a “sense of pride” as well as a “fair and unbiased evaluation of the state” all in one go.
The magic will obviously lie in reconciling the last two; they are in absolute and implacable conflict. No doubt Mr Olins will also be paid magically: a state always complaining of empty coffers will probably produce a stream of silver like the Water of India from discarded files in some dusty corner of the Writers’ Buildings.
It is really only a question of perception, since the stated goal of the brand makers is to instil pride in the inhabitants of Bengal, and among the cross section of Bengal’s population living outside the state. This must be of great comfort to the chief minister and his team, because, given their vociferous righteousness and their signal failure in governance, they can loudly claim that there is nothing either good or bad, only thinking makes it so.
The people of Bengal have just not been thinking right. They should not be bothered, for example, that two-thirds of the anganwadis in the state lack drinking water and four-fifths lack bathrooms, that 41.2 lakh of their children are yet to be covered by the integrated child development services scheme, or only 41 per cent of severely malnourished youngsters have been granted extra provisions and only 24 per cent referred to health centres, that 31 lakh students do not get the mandatory midday meal at all while only 20 per cent of upper primary students get the prescribed nutrition.
This is just a part of the report provided by the Supreme Court commissioners on food. It is, however, quite enough to show up the realities in West Bengal — a state failing consistently not only to look after its children, old people, women and poor, but also to implement Central schemes or utilize Central funds.
But with the positive disposition promised by Mr Olins’s team, West Bengal can be seen as a big achiever: a state with the unique distinction of having had every potential destroyed.
The chief minister knows that a complete turnaround in perception, from the real to the imaginary, from facts to dreams, is all that is needed to chase away fears of losing in the elections. Given the size of the effort, it can also be called the great escape.