|Area||88,752 sq. km|
History and Geography
Bengal finds a coveted place even in pre-historic times. At the time of Alexander’s invasion a powerful kingdom called Gangaridai ruled over Bengal. Ascendancy of the Guptas and the Mauryas had somewhat little effect on Bengal. Later Sasanka became King of Bengal and is said to have played an important role in North-Eastern India in the early half of the seventh century. He was succeeded by Gopala, who founded the Pala dynasty, which ruled for centuries and had created a huge empire. The Palas were followed by the Sena dynasty which was ended by Muslim rulers from Delhi. Bengal was ruled by various Muslim rulers and governors till the Mughal period in sixteenth century.
After the Mughals, history of modern Bengal begins with the advent of European and English trading companies. Battle of Plassey in 1757 changed the course of history when the English first gained a strong foothold in Bengal and India. In 1905 it was partitioned to achieve some political returns but people’s growing movement under the auspices of Congress led to the reunion in 1911. This triggered off hectic movement for freedom which culminated with Independence in 1947, and partition.
After 1947, the merger of native princely states began which ended with its final reorganisation in 1956 (as per Recommendations of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956) when some Bengali speaking areas of a neighbouring State were transferred to West Bengal.
The land frontiers of the State touch Bangladesh in the east and are separated from Nepal in the west, Bhutan lies in the north-east, while Sikkim is on the north. On the west are the States of Bihar and Jharkhand, while on the South lies Orissa.
Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the State’s economy and nearly three out of every four persons is directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. The total food production in the State in 2007-08, was 16060.0 thousand tonnes. During 2007-08, the production of rice was 14719.2 thousand tonnes, of wheat 917.3 thousand tonnes and of pulses 158.0 thousand tonnes respectively. The production of oilseeds during the same period was 705.7 thousand tonnes and of potato 9900.89 thousand tonnes. The production of jute was 8216.0 thousand bales in 2007-08
In 2008, 187 projects with a total investment of Rs.4060.78 crore were implemented in the State. The index of industrial production (Base 1993-94 =100) of West Bengal has been consistently rising from 132.8 in 2001-02 to 200.8 in 2007-08. Despite economic recession, industrial production index in West Bengal grew by 4.0 per cent in 2007-08 over previous year. Within the industrial sector the rates of growth of manufacturing sector it may be noted, have been quite impressive over the years. The contribution of manufacturing sector was 7.9 per cent in 2007-08.
The salient features of the State policy on industrial promotion and economic development are to welcome foreign technology and investment, private sector investment in power generation, improvement and upgradation of industrial infrastructure. The thrust areas are petrochemicals and downstream industries, electronics and information technology, iron and steel, metallurgical and engineering, textile, leather and leather products, food processing, medicinal plants, edible oil, vegetable processing and aquaculture.
In the recent years the flow of investment in the districts like Bankura, Midnapur, Burdwan and Purulia has been quite impressive. In 2007 highest amount of investment, Rs.1532.52 crore took place in chemical and petrochemical sector, followed by Rs.1359.62 crore in iron and steel sector, Rs.705.13 crore in food processing sector, Rs.471.26 crore in engineering industry, Rs.328.51 crore in software and other services sector.
The State Government has continued its effort for accelerating the process of industrialisation with the State implementing 42 numbers of industrial Entrepreneur Memorandums (IEMs) with an additional employment generation of 4535 persons in 2007, in the iron and steel sector.
Several companies like JSW Bengal, Bhusan Steel Limited, Jai Balaji, Videocon groups will set up integrated steel, cement and captive power plants in the State. Apart from JSW Bengal some of the important approvals received in the sponge iron and steel sector during the period include-5 million tonnes per annum (TPA) steel plant of Jai Balaji group involving investment of Rs.7737 crore at Purulia, 1.1 million TPA steel plant of Adhunik Corporation involving an investment of Rs.1850 crore at Raghunathpur in Purulia, 0.6 million TPA steel plant at Kharagpur in Midnapore and 1.1 million TPA steel plant of Shyam Group involving investment of 910 crore, 2 million TPA steel plant of Shyam Sel Limited involving investment of Rs.1028 crore.
Apart from the above mentioned power projects of steel companies, the State received an important IEM for setting up of 1200 MW power plant by Bharat Aluminium Company at Raniganj.
Although the State has no linkage for iron ore supplies, the companies have decided to set up steel plants in the State and source the raw materials from neighboring states like Jharkhand and Orissa. Apart from these, the State government has also been making efforts to locate Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR) in the State, which has the potential to draw huge investments
Major investments are taking place in mine, steel plants, forging, pig iron etc. The easy availability of power, removal of freight equalisation, close proximity to areas with natural resources relevant to the industry, and a labour force, traditionally skilled in operating iron and steel units are factors that have influenced the surge in investment in this sector. In recent years, investment in the chemical and cement industry has also picked up.
After the commissioning of the Haldia Petrochemicals Limited (HPL) in 2000, downstream units in the plastic and other related industries were set up in the State and they are mostly engaged in manufacturing plastic items like buckets, containers, moulded furniture, battery containers, nylon nets, house wares etc. During 2008 an amount of Rs.138 crore has been invested in 67 HPL downstream units. Thus direct employment of 43863 persons was created till 2006-07. Indirect employment of 80044 persons was created.
The State Government has introduced policy reforms in several areas in conjunction with practical measures to sustain investor confidence; the State Government has introduced policy reforms in several areas. It has promulgated in a quick succession its policies on the development of industries in Biotechnology, Mines and Minerals, Information Technology and IT enabled services sectors. These policy statements have clearly enunciated the State Government objectives and outlined map to achieve them. Through WBIIDC and WBIDC the State Government has set up the leather complex, foundry, rubber, chemical, plasto-steel, light engineering, polymer, garments and jute parks. Setting up of industrial parks in the Paschim Medinipore, Bankura, Malda, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri districts have been initiated.
The State Government is focused on developing Special Economic Zones (SEZs). It encourages hassle free manufacturing and trading for export promotion. Till March, 2008, 6 notified approvals have been issued by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. Around 80 per cent investment takes place in IT/ITES sector and 2 per cent in biotech sector. In West Bengal, there are three 3 functional Special Economic Zones- Falta (multi products zone), Manikanchan (Salt lake-gems and jewellery) and WIPRO (Salt Lake-IT/ITEs).
The Calcutta Leather Complex at Bantala has already been declared as a Special Economic Zone. It is a perfect model of public private partnership, spread over around 1,100 acres of land and is steadily emerging as one of the largest projects of its kind in the world.
The Food Processing Industries & Horticulture Department of the State Government promotes food-processing industries in the State. There is an increasing trend towards setting up of Food Processing Industries in West Bengal and in 2006-07, 67 projects with a total investment of Rs.336.18 crore were implemented in the food processing industries sector.
The State has identified the Information Technology (IT) sector as a priority sector for growth. The IT Hub at sector-V of Salt Lake is India’s first fully integrated electronic complex spread over 150 acres of green pollution free area near airport. An estimated 15,000 new jobs were created in 2007-08. The gross value of export under software Technology Park in Kolkata has already touched Rs.4000 crore during 2007-08 as against Rs.2167 crore in 2005-06 and Rs.3169 crore in 2006-07.
Irrigation and Power
There are 7 major irrigation projects and 34 medium irrigation schemes being managed by the irrigation and Waterways Department of the State Government. Teesta Barrage Project and Subarnarekha Barrage Projects are the two major in-going schemes. A cumulative potential to the tune of 145020 hectares has been created from the Teesta Barrage Project upto 2007-08 against the ultimate potential of 527000 hectares. The Subarnarekha Barrage Project envisages the utilization of the share of water resources available from the river Subarnarekha as per the Tripartite Agreement with the Government of Bihar (presently Government of Jharkhand) and Orissa to irrigate an area of 99248 hectares in Kharif and 30766 hectares in Rabi in the districts of Paschim and Purba Medinipur of the State.
The State Government took up several Medium Irrigation Schemes in the districts of Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan and Purulia. Out of the 32 schemes in Purulia, 25 schemes have been completed and 7 schemes are continuing, of which 2 schemes namely Patloi and Tatko Irrigation Schemes are included under modified programme of AIBP. The ultimate irrigation potential achieved through the completed medium irrigation schemes is 43,002 thousand hectares, whereas the ultimate irrigative potential of the on-going schemes is 8.21 thousand hectares.
The ultimate minor irrigation potential in the State has been estimated as 44.34 lakh hectares, out of which 31.34 lakh hectares are from ground water resources and 13.00 lakh hectares are from surface water resources. At the end of the Annual Plan of 2008-09, creation of irrigation potentials in the Minor Irrigation sector has been estimated to reach 40.20 lakh hectares, of which 27.47 lakh hectares through ground water resources and 12.73 lakh hectares through Surface Water Resources.
The electricity generating utilities in West Bengal in the State Sector are West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDECL), Durgapur Projects Limited (DPL) for thermal power generation, West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited, and Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) for non-conventional energy generation. Besides, Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) and National Thermal Power Corporation (NPTC) in the Central Sector, CESC Limited and Disergarh Power Supply Corporation in the Private sector are the other power generating utilities in the State. Total generation of power produced by the state agencies was 16270.1 MU in 2008-09 (from April to October). The total number of Mouzas Electrified upto October 2008 is 37416 and in 2008-09 (upto October 2008) the total number of pump sets energized is 1,15,357.
Roads: : The length of roads as on 31 March 2002 was 91970 km including 1898 km national highways. The length of roads under State highway is 3533 km, under PWD 12565 km and that of the district roads are 42,479 km respectively.
Railways: The total length of railway route in the State in 2007-08 was 4561.93 km. Howrah, Asansol, Sealdah, Bandel, Bardhaman, Kharagpur and New Jalpaiguri are the main junctions.
Durga Puja, West Bengal
Durga Puja is the most important festival along with Kali Puja or Diwali besides Vasant Panchami, Lakshmi Puja, Holi, Sivaratri, Janmasthami, Id-ul-Fitr, etc.
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