Calcutta, which once seemed as if it would be the first great city of the world to die, is now being reborn.
Calcutta, which once seemed as if it would be the first great city of the world to die, is now being reborn. Its overcrowding problems once seemed insuperable and led to fears of a political collapse.
In 1969 and 1970 left-wing guerrillas carried out a number of ???instions in West Bengal and there was a real possibility that Calcutta could go to places.
Then the provincial government was suspended and stern action taken against the guerrillas. Politically the area became much calmer and plans were made to improve the fabric of the city which had been crumbling.
The Calcutta Municipal Development Authority was set up late in 1970 and it's already pumped over forty million pounds (eight hundred million rupees) into improvement schemes with the same amount to be spent over the coming year.
These schemes will provide new water supplies and sewers for the city, often in areas that were without these services at all. In addition much of the city's existing services, which had almost collapsed, are being replaced.
Electric power is being fed to many new areas and over twelve thousand sanitary latrines have been built in the city's busters -- its overcrowded slum areas.
In two separate but massive schemes a new underground railway -- only the third in Asia -- is being built together with a second bridge over the Hooghly River.
Both will relieve transport congestion. The bridge will be highly valuable in providing links with the mainland for Calcutta which was split off from its natural hinterland of East Bengal -- now Bangladesh -- at the time of Partition in 1947.
But while construction work is carried out there will be greater misery as traffic is diverted off main thoroughfares. And even when the work is finished on these projects, a tremendous amount needs to be done for Calcutta and its increasing population which is already nearing ton million.
The development corporation itself says it'll be two years before living conditions reach those of 1960 -- a target originally set for next year.
Despite this the fact remains that Calcutta -- now firmly under the control of India's ruling Congress Party -- is more peaceful than it was three years ago and is actually improving for the first time in decades.