The Propaganda Legacy?
There used to be a time when it was said that what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow. Post independence West Bengal was the first state to adopt computers. In fact, Indian Statistical Institute and Jadavpur University were the first institutes to offer a course in Computer Science way back in 1968. The same institute started country’s first computer center back in 1962.
Almost the same time West Bengal saw mass protests against computerization. The trade unions opposed introduction of computers at any cost. The power of trade unions grew massively in the following decades, resulting in an early death of any software industries in West Bengal. The propaganda created to uproot “computerization” lived in popular memory. IBM left India back in 1977 due to such policies. (Read Luddite fallacies and know why it is wrong.)
Back in 1997, when I was to get into an university after my successful Joint Entrance campaign, I faced a dilemma. Given my rank, I would not have got into either of Computer Science or the Electronics in Jadavpur. But the rest of the options (including the NITs) were kind of open to me. I swayed between JU Mechanical, Bengal Engineering College (now Bengal Engineering and Science Univ or IIEST, Shibpore) Electronics or Computer Science. I asked for opinions from several people – teachers, servicemen and prospective students. Almost everyone asked me not to go for Computer studies. They thought I will run into trouble getting jobs as the field is “saturated” and there are no plan B options since Govt jobs don’t require Computer Engineers. Some others told me that Electronics field will have more research opportunities as it is the “mother” subject. A few said that Computer Science is not even an Engineering stream. I chose to study Computer Science after a few hiccups and that was probably one of the best thing happened to my life. 16 years later when I see careers of my friends and try to analyze the arguments, I don’t see any justification for any of them.
Not everyone is as lucky as I was. In WBJEE counselling (seat choice system), the seats for Electronics and Telecommunications (ETC) or Electrical Engineering (EE) get exhausted earlier due to higher demand from top ranked students. The arguments those drive the students away from Computer Science (CS) are probably still the same. However, in between, Indian Software industry grew exponentially. Let’s look at data from last year WBJEE counselling (2011) –
|University||CS Closing Rank||EE Closing Rank||ETC Closing Rank|
|Kalyani Engg College||2356||1684||1807|
What’s the pan India trend? Let’s look at the data from IITs (2012) –
|IIT||CS Closing Rank||EE Closing Rank||ETC/EC Closing Rank|
Now it clearly shows, Computer Science seats gets exhausted earlier than the other streams.
So, now the question becomes – why does West Bengal defy the trend? They will eventually compete in the same pan-Indian job market (which is again increasingly globalized) and preference to a particular subject should be almost global or at least pan-Indian. The fact that West Bengal defies the trend is amazing!
I believe the answer to this trend can be found in the propaganda legacy that were run in West Bengal against computerization. Computer is an “evil” and take jobs away from common people – was the notion and there were strong propaganda created to defend this. Along with that, inward-looking attitude among parents in West Bengal and lack of courage to take a bold decision matters as well. In a sense, West Bengal is stuck in 1970s and is not being able to adopt a new burgeoning India. The sooner we brake this trend-defiance, the better it is.
Data Source –
One can try out a few years and I have already eyeballed the data – it’s basically the same.
Jyoti Basu (CM of West Bengal) profile in Wiki talks about his “initial support of trade unions against the use of computers”.
The growth chart of Indian Software Industry –