Indian States and Territory - West Bengal Source: National Portal of India
Area: 88,752 sq. km
Principal Languages: Bengali
Total Literacy(%): 77
History and Geography
The State of 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 began 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 of Congress led to the reunion in 1911. This triggered off hectic movement for freedom, which culminated with Independence in 1947, and the partition thereafter.
After 1947, the merger of native settlement 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 frontier of the State touches Bangladesh in the east, and is 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, Jharkhand, while in the south lies Orissa, and the Bay of Bengal, washing its southern frontiers.
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 2006-07, was 15820 thousand tonnes. During 2006-07, the production of rice was 14745.9 thousand tonnes, of wheat 799.9 thousand tonnes and of pulses 154.4 thousand tonnes respectively. The production of oilseeds during the same period was 645.4 thousand tonnes and of potato 5052 thousand tonnes. The production of jute was 8411.5 thousand bales in 2006-07.
In 2007, according to the available information 96 projects with a total investment of Rs. 3677.51 crore were implemented in the State. Besides Rs. 160.15 crore has been invested in 34 downstream projects of Haldia Petrochemicals, thereby total investment amounts to 3837.66 crore. It is expected that total number of 125 units with about total investment of Rs. 4014.84 crore will be implemented in the State at the end of 2007 as full information on projects implemented will flow in.
The important projects implemented in the State in 2007 are Jai Balaji Industries Limited's Rs. 153.73 crore captive power plant project in integrated steel plant. Hooghly Met Coke and Power Company Limited's Rs. 150 crore metallurgical coke and power plant, Ambuja Cement Limited's Rs. 165 crore mega expansion project at Farakha, Murshidabad and Indian Oil corporation Limited's Rs. 154.36 crore expansion project in Purba Medinipur. A huge amount of investment is taking place in mini steel plants, sponge iron, forging pig iron etc. The easy availability of power, removal of freight equalization, 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 cement industry has also picked up.
During January to August, 2007 an amount of Rs. 160.15 crore has been invested in 34 Haldia Petrochemicals Limited downstream units. These units are mostly engaged in manufacturing plastic items like buckets, containers, moulded furniture, battery containers, nylon nets, house wares etc. The State Government views a strong opportunity in the automobile sector and has deployed specific policy initiatives to attract investment in this sector. The small car project of Tata Motors Limited with a planned capacity of 2.50 lakh car per annum is already under implementation. With an investment of Rs. 1700 crore in the plant and an additional Rs. 500 crore in the ancillary industries, the Tata Motor project at Singur will bring about a significant change in socio-economic condition in the region.
Of the total investment in West Bengal, highest investment will be in steel and power sector. The top potential investor in the State was SAIL, which announced plans to invest Rs. 20,000 crore in Kulti, Bunpur and Durgapur for increasing its steel production capacity. It was followed by L & T Power Development, which laid out a plan of Rs. 20,000 crore in Haldia for increasing its power generation capacity in Haldia. The State Government has recognized the need for faster economic development through creation of potential for industrial investment. The investment in Information Technology Sector and the sector registered 48 per cent growth rate in export against national growth rate of 30 per cent. 250 IT and Information Technology Enabled Service (ITES) companies were operating in Kolkata employing about 45000 professionals. 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.
Irrigation and Power
The major irrigation projects, namely, Teesta Barrage Project and Subarnarekha Barrage Project are currently in operation in the State. During the 10th plan 51.475 thousand hectares of irrigation potential has been created. The target for the 11th plan is to create 210.9 thousand hectares of irrigation potential. A cumulative irrigation to the tune of 1,38,520 hectares has been created from the Teesta Barrage project upto 2006-07 against the ultimate potential of 5,27,000 hectares. Subamarekha Barrage Project envisages to irrigate 99248 hectares in Kharif and 30,766 hectares in Rabi seasons in the districts of Purba and Paschim Medinipur.
Out of 32 medium irrigation schemes in the district of Purulia 25 irrigation schemes have already been completed. The ultimate minor irrigation potential in the State has been estimated at 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. Upto the 2006-07, 38.64 lakh hectares minor irrigation potential was created out of which 81.96 per cent could be utilized during the year amounting to 31.67 lakh hectares.
Power in West Bengal is currently generated by the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited, West Bengal State Electricity Board, Kolkata Electricity Supply Corporation, Durgapur Project Limited, Disergarh Power Supply Corporation etc. Total generation of power produced by the State agencies was 21926.2 MU in 2007-08 (upto April to November). The total number of moujas electrified during 2007-08 (upto November 2007) is 36,944 and the total number of pump sets energized is 1,14,516.
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 2005-06 was 4499.82 km. Hawrah, Asansol, Sealdah, Bandel, Bardhaman, Kharagpur and New Jalpaiguri are the main junctions.
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.
Important tourist centres are, among others Kolkata, Digha (Midnapore), Bakkhali Sea Resort, Sagar Island and Sundarbans (South 24-Parganas), Bandel, Tarakeswar, Kamarpukur (Hooghly), Gadiara (Howrah), Shantiniketan and Bakreshwar (Birbhum), Durgapur (Burdwan), Mukutmanipur and Vishnupur (Bankura), Ayodhya Hills (Purulia), Murshidabad, Gour and Pandua (Malda), Darjeeling, Mirik, Kalimpong, Sandakfu and Falut and Kurseong (Darjeeling), Jaldapara and Dooars (Jalpaiguri)