East Kolkata Wetlands
Within the East Kolkata Wetlands, a Ramsar site and recently flagged as one of the two most outstanding wetlands in the world for managing wastewater, there was one of the most flourishing mouza (revenue village) named Bhagabanpur. In 2002, Bhagabanpur had 88 per cent of its area covered with waterbody. This was the year in which East Kolkata Wetlands was declared as a Ramsar site and it became a protected wetland. After 14 years, in 2016 this area of waterbodies has come down to 19 percent. The work was carried out by a non-profit,SCOPE (Society for Creative Opportunities and participatory Ecosystems), a Kolkata-based organisation which is active in the wetland area and the researchers were Dhruba Das Gupta, Subhamita Chaudhuri and Sudeshna Ghosh. The first copy was placed for the perusal of the state environment secretary and thereafter it has reached the shores of many countries of the world, rightfully. Environment minister of the state has been continuously saying that the government will not allow even a single waterbody within the East Kolkata Wetlands area to be filled up.

The city of Kolkata has one thing in striking abundance. These are billboards or signboards, glow signs and such creative contraptions. See a passenger shelter, and right above a billboard reminds you that you are looking at a passenger shelter, lest you think it is some other structure like a space for a street food vendor. Not just this. You can find a larger billboard which mentions the name of the people’s representative with glittering prominence, whose turn of good thinking could create such glorious example of public service! And yet there is not one billboard that indicates the presence of this global pride point – the East Kolkata Wetlands.

But billboards and signboards are there in plenty, very much within the protected area of the East Kolkata Wetlands. These billboards are forthright information for interested persons to buy plots of land/ flats or buy building materials as required. A few of them, as of today, read thus:
Sai Garden – Plots available (Dream Plot in your city within your Budget) – 033 24264853/ 9874334752; Maa Manasha Enterprise – Bricks, Sand, Stone Cheap (sic), White Sand, Rabis (sic) and Soilt (sic) Goods Suppliers - 9883117621 / 9903639703; Orchid Developer (Building Construction and all kind of Land Purchasing and Selling) 9836632471/ 9831946692/ 68888234.

Within East Kolkata Wetlands, in the sensitive locations, where many wetlands have been lovingly converted into buildings or saleable plots, during most of the time after the Sun slides west, one can see a number of interesting joints, strategically situated. Bamboo structures mostly, least impressive otherwise, and interested persons keep gathering here. These are the places where the future land use in the East Kolkata Wetlands are more intensely and imaginatively discussed than any research institutions, university dipartments, non-profit organisations or places of governance anywhere in the world.                
Dhrubajyoti Ghosh,

Women against Women
Indian society faces every day violence against women physically, socially and  psychological. Bride torture, dowry death and so forth are performed by women in their different role-relations. A racket of girl trafficking is many times operated under leadership of women. In a study of commercial female sex workers (CFSWs) of Bowbazar red-light area (located at Premchand Boral Street and Nabin Chand Boral Street under ward no.48 of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation) of Kolkata, it was found that 62% of these CFSWs were pushed into the stigmatized profession of sex work by females in different relations. Of them, 23% CFSWs were entered into the trade by their female relatives and 30% of them were pushed by their neighbourhood females. Even, 9% of them were pushed by their biological mother. Thus, women were here connecting persons to other women. Again women in this trade used to play different roles of same gender exploitation. It was also found that they did not prevent and protect the entry of minor girls and women were deceived. They did not also extend their help to rescue girls. Is it same gender jealousness or revenge? So, women should rectify their roles for women’s liberty, justice and equity. Only slogan against patriarchy and patriarchal  dominance would not be enough for peaceful living and sharing of equal space for women in India. Women’s look towards women should be free from same gender exploitation.
Harasankar Adhikari,

Black & White
Whether one support the recent  demonetisation or not, one has  to agree that black money in India has assumed ominous propotions. Loopholes in the tax law too are responsible for  this pernicious phenomenon. For instance, a preposterous distinction has been made in the corrent union budget  between agriculture and non-agriculture income. The former is not taxed directly. The two are clubbed to determine the tax rate. At this rate, the non-agricultural income is taxed. What is the rationale of the arrangement ? If the move is meant to help small and marginal farmars, it is understandable. There is no end to the ‘privilegee’ of elected leaders. One can  understand the pussyfooted approach of politicians irrespective of their colours to  radical measures like land reforms.

The Budget appears to send one clear message : pay taxes honestly, and the tax burden will be kept at the minimum. Though this is sound,  the denouement is uncertain. The government, in  the past,  reduced tax rates substantially, but that failed to deliver the goods.

Indian tax law and administration are tenuous.

In 2015-16, those who submitted tax retunrs number 3.7 crore. In India, tax revenue forms only 16.6 percent of the GDP. Only 5 percent of the voters pay taxes. It should be at least 23 percent. Some of those who own cars are not paying income tax. In India, only 27 percent of the population, and 59 percent of people in the working age group pay direct taxes. A narrow tax base, and unbridled growth in revenue expenditure, have enfeebled the fiscal system.

Demonetisation alone cannot unearth black money which is generated in more than one way. Corruption is the root cause of generation of black money. Can one eliminate this without curbing political corruption.
I Satya Sundaram,

Vol. 49, No.46, May 21 - 27, 2017