Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Born in Naihati, undivided Bengal, in 1915. Full name Chittaprosad Bhattacharya. 

Ideologically, it seems that the man had two basic preoccupations -- first, the fight against colonialism

And second, an angry understanding of the feudalism and class structure that were a part of India herself. 

Chittaprosad dropped the 'Bhattacharya' early on, preferring to go by only his first name.

He joined the Communist Party of India soon after college. 

In 1943, at the age of twenty-eight, he travelled through Midnapur during the Bengal Famine. Some of his prolific recording of the famine was published in The People's War, the CPI's weekly newspaper.


He was clearly horrified by what he saw, and, also clearly, he strove for realism

This man's name was Kshetramohan Naik, and he lived in Midnapore. 

We know this because Chittaprosad was not content to simply draw the horror. He reported on individuals --people, their families and homes, and what the Famine had done to them.
So many of his drawings from this period have the names of the subject written just beside the illustration. 

Somehow knowing the name of a person changes it all. You have to wonder how many of the many individuals and families he drew survived the famine. Not many, probably.

Our British overlords reacted with predictability. They burnt every copy of his artwork they could find. This was lots of copies of  the weekly, and all but one copy of his collected visual ethnography of the famine, Hungry Bengal. 

And then there are his political illustrations

That's pretty clear, then.

Swinging the arc between deep empathy and acid humor in expression, there is however very little ambiguity about where his sympathy lies

He used the traditional pen-and-ink, but also linocut, woodcut, charcoal and watercolours. 
Using lino or wood to make blocks from which to print means carving out all the detail of the picture in the mirror image and in the negative

A friend who studied art tells me cutting is an unforgiving sort of activity. You make one mistake, you start all over again. These were Chittaprosad's preferred media of expression.

He has some wonderful children's art, and he started an illustrated Ramayana, which was never finished. Some of those prints are quite incredible. He also has some really neat frogs, at least one of which dances with an umbrella under the Bengal rain.

Chittaprosad died 1978 in Kolkata, the capital of by then divided Bengal.

Centre to spend Rs, 30,000 crore on linking villages with broadband

This story appeared on the last page (p. 20) of  today's  The Hindu.

It says that Sam Pitroda (Advisor to the PM on Infrastructure, Innovation and Information) announced that that the centre would spend the named quite large sum on providing more than 2.5 lakh villages with broadband connectivity. 'We need 30,000 to 40,000 more kms of optical fibre,' said Pitroda, and about '25,000 to 30,000 crore for all this'. They are working on reducing the cost of the project, he says.

Interesting to me are the following features implicit in the story:

1. Have these 2.5 lakh villages wanted broadband connectivity? If asked, would they possibly want other things, such as better irrigation, more health facilities, and primary or secondary schools that work?

2. 'The connectivity', apparently, 'would not only improve the delivery of government schemes, but would also empower rural people'. I'm wondering about these government schemes on the internet that our educated villagers would widely access and read. I'm also wondering if all of these 2.5 lakh villages have the means to actually deliver these schemes to the people

3. Who is manufacturing the optical fibre? What is their history in the industry? I'm not asking the next few questions, but you know what they are :)

4. Apparently our villagers will have to pay 'Rs. 1.20 a minute to the US, Rs 1.20 mobile and Rs 7.20 on landline to the UK, and Rs 1.20 to China'. Wow. Our villages are clearly better networked internationally than anyone thought.

This, to me is the familiar story of development planning in India. In 1978, a man called Mahbub-ul-Haq, founder of the UN Human Development Reports, wrote a book called The Poverty Curtain. In it, he commented on the gaps between intention and fact in development policy making:

'Development planners are quite fond of making a distinction between planning and implementation. When hard pressed, they generally argue that while development planning is their responsibility, its implementation is the responsibility of the entire political and economic system. This is no more than a convenient alibi.'

To the decades-old problems with development planning, we, in this era, add the profit motives implicit (or explicit) in being involved in the exploding scene of new India telecom. What we get, inexplicably, is the picture of a rural India with a burning need to be in touch with the US, the UK and China -- on broadband.

Figure it out.