Why do people tend to leave a city that has essentially been theirs, a city that has been not only their birthplace but also a part of their childhood and growing up years? Why do people abandon a city that has been an integral part of their ancestry? The answers may be many, but seeking answers to the questions is as important as finding out what makes a certain city a fond destination of sorts. If the availability of and the lack of opportunities be the reasons respectively for a city being favored or shunned, then one must also probe deep to find out what the associated factors are.
Kolkata, it has been observed, has fallen out of favour with people belonging to different sections of the population, and that includes a large section of the youth. For young people, the lure of opportunities for career growth is quite obvious. But there are others too who have been part of the exodus in recent times and which has resulted from a large number of causes ranging from a lack of proper infrastructural facilities to unhealthy political movements. Professionals have often complained about the absence of a proper work-culture to be a key factor. Individuals at times have even felt stifled, compromised, and stagnated in the city of Kolkata which has eventually led them to decide in favour of some other city.
The so-called drying up of opportunities was indeed a disheartening phenomenon witnessed by Kolkatans for close to two decades. The socio-political blockades, as perceived by many, wasn’t conducive to what can be called loosely ‘a good life’. The aspiring citizens cannot be blamed for choosing what they considered richer pastures. Be it the businessmen, the corporates, the salaried employees in the private sector or the wage-earners and unskilled labourers, a large chunk of people opted out of Kolkata.
For some, as always, settling elsewhere is a choice, a luxury that can be afforded, for some it has been a question of survival, more of a compulsion. Some have had to shift to different location to eke out a bare existence simply because the conditions experienced were anything but conducive. Those may be the marginal ones, their stories may remain untold or unheard, but they too exist. The educated youth, on the other hand, have felt a disconnect with the city for which they would have naturally been assumed to have a sense of belonging. This has been a typical phenomenon of the Nineties. Kolkata (then spelled Calcutta) has been thwacked in a futile manner like a piñata that has no cherishable offerings – all that followed were epithets of disrepute, like ‘a dying city’ or ‘a pathetic mess’. Is there greater political will to hark back the sons of the soil? To what length would one go to stem the drain of human resources, if at all the need to do so is felt?
Well, the exodus continues, even as the city has been having its share of makeovers, albeit superficial, and transformations of multiple hues. The city does welcome more and more people from various ethnic groups, and, just as always, throws up all that it fails to chew, gobble or assimilate.