|Area||88,752 sq. km|
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History and Geography
The name of Bengal or Bangla is derived from the ancient kingdom of Vanga, or Banga. In early Sanskrit literature references to the name of Banga occur, through its early history is almost obscure until the 3rd century BC. However, Stone Age tools dating back 20,000 years have been excavated in the State. Remnants of civilization in the region date back four thousand years, when the region was settled by Dravidian, Tibetan-Burman, and Austro-Asiatic peoples. The region was a part of the Vanga kingdom of ancient India. The kingdom of Magadh was formed in the 7th century BC, consisting of the Bihar and Bengal regions. It was one of the four main kingdoms of India at period of Mahaveera and Buddha, and was consisted of several Janapadas. During the rule of dynasty, the Magadha Empire extended over nearly all of South Asia, including Afghanistan and parts of Persia under Ashoka the Great in the 3rd centuy BC. Bengal was referred to as Ganaridai by the ancient Greeks around 100 BC, meaning, speculatively, a land with the river Ganga in its seat of the Gupta Empire.
The first recorded independent king of Bengal was Shashank, reigning around the early 7th century. After a period of anarchy, the Buddhist Pala dynasty ruled the region for four hundred years, followed by a shorter region of the Hindu Sena dynasty.
During the 12th century Islam made its first appearance in Bengal when the Sufi missionaries arrived. Later, occasional Muslim raiders reinforced the process of conversion by building mosques, madrassas, and Sufi Khanqahh. During the 14th century, the former kingdom became known as the Sultanate of Bengal, ruled intermittently with the Sultanate of Delhi. Bengal was ruled by various Muslim rulers and governors till the Mughal period in the 16th century.
After the Mughals, history of modern Bengal begins 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 auspices of Congress led to the reunion in 1911. This triggered off hectic movement for freedom which culminated with Independence in 1947, and partition.
After 1947, the merger of native princely states 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 frontiers of the State touch Bangladesh in the east and are 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 and Jharkhand, while on the South lies Odisha and the Bay of Bengal washes its southern frontiers.
Agriculture is the main source of income for about 70 per cent of the population. Jute and rice are the principle crops grown in the State, along with the tea, maize tobacco and sugarcane. The State Government is concerned with activities relating to policy decisions on agricultural producing and productivity, and its extension through technology generation, transfer of technology, ensuring availability and timely distribution of agriculture inputs specially seeds, fertilizers, subsidy, credit etc. along with support service through soil conservation, water conservations, seed testing, seed certification, plan production, quality control of fertilizers and pesticides etc.
The salient features of the State policy on industrial promotion and economic development are to welcome foreign technology and investment, private sector investment in power generation, improvement and upgradation of industrial infrastructure. The thrust areas are petrochemicals and downstream industries, electronics and information technology, iron and steel, metallurgical and engineering, textile, leather and leather products, food processing, medicinal plants, edible oil, vegetable processing and aquaculture.
In the recent years the flow of investment in the districts like Bankura, Midnapur, Burdwan and Purulia has been quite impressive.
The effort of the State Government to accelerate investment in the State has reflected in investment proposals through EMIs. During 2010, West Bengal received 209 IEMs with investment proposals of Rs.42,765 crores and employment potential of 58859 persons.
Major investments are taking place in mine, steel plants, forging, pig iron etc. The easy availability of power, removal of freight equalisation, 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 chemical and cement industry has also picked up.
The State Government is focused on developing Special Economic Zones (SEZs). It encourages hassle free manufacturing and trading for export promotion. Around 80 per cent investment takes place in IT/ITES sector and 2 per cent in biotech sector. In West Bengal, there are three 5 functional Special Economic Zones- Falta (multi products), Manikanchan (gems and jewellery) and WIPRO (ITEs)), Dalmiya & Co Ltd. (Leather, IT/IteS) and Unitech High (IT/ITeS).
An airport city (Aerotropolis) is coming up in the Durgapur-Asansol region in Bardhaman district. The estimated project cost is Rs.10,000 crores and is expected to be completed by 2015. The project area consists of an Airport, It and Industrial Park, Institutional area, Supporting Township and Rehabilitation and EWS zone.
The chemical and petrochemical sector is also an important area of investment in the State. The State has received approval from the Central Government for setting up Petroleum, Chemical Investment Region (PCPIR) in the existing Haldia mainland and additional processing area in Nayachar Island. Proposed investment for infrastructure development of Nayachar Island is approximately Rs.8,400 crore with employment potential of 50,000 persons.
Dishergarh Power Supply Co. Ltd. (DPSCL) has proposed to set up a 2x270 MW thermal power plant at Raghunathpur Indutrial Park. The proposed investment of the project is Rs.3024 crore.
The Food Processing Industries and Horticulture Department of the State Government promotes food-processing industries in the State.
The State has identified the Information Technology (IT) sector as a priority sector for growth. The IT Hub at Salt Lake in Kolkata is India's first fully integrated electronic complex spread over 150 acres of green pollution free area near airport.
State, Central and Private Utilities constitute a vibrant power sector in West Bengal. West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL), West Bengal State Electricity Transmission Company Limited (WBPDCL), West Bengal State Electricity Transmission Company Limited (WBSETCL), West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL) and Durgapur Projects Limited (DPL) are in the State. CESC Limited and Dishergarh Power Supply Company Limited (DPSC) are positioned in the private and joint sector respectively. The State also receives Central Sector power allocations from National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and National Hydel Power Corporation (NHPC) plants in the East/North-east and through bilateral understandings from DVC.
Peak demand in the State at present is nearly 6000 MV. It is growing steadily over the years. Most of the demand in the State is met by thermal power. The total installed capacity of WBPDCL is around 3610 MW, DPL 641 MW and CESC 1225MW. A unique project of its kind, the 4x225 MW Purulia Pumped Storage Project under WBSEDCL, plays a significant role in peak demand management in the State.
Apart from these, solar, wind, hydro and biomass based power plants established by the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) and captive generation units set up by various industrial houses. Further, West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Limited (WBGEDCL) was established some time back with the objective of promoting investment in Grid-connected renewal energy projects and in various green energy sources. The other objective is to develop and execute special renewal energy projects on commercial basis.
Transport Department looks after provision of transport facilities and infrastructure on road, inland water and air within the domain of State Government. It also provides administrative and legal framework for the same. Its activities include issue of licences and permits. The length of roads as on 31st March, 2002 has been 91,970km including 1898 km of National Highways. The length of roads under State Highway is 3533 km, under PWD 12,565km and that of the district roads 42,479km respectively.
Tourism has emerged as one of the largest service sector industries of the world. Internationally, this boom is travel and tourism industry is expected to continue, and will be an opportunity for every region in the world to be part of this process. India is also becoming a leading international tourist destination. Against this backdrop, the Department of Tourism in West Bengal has been making concerted efforts to boost the tourism industry in the State. West Bengal is endowed with distinct natural attractions like impressive mountain range, virgin forests, variety of wildlife, verdant tea gardens, meandering rivers, sandy beaches and the world's largest mangrove forests, the Sunderbans. Along with this, the State also has a rich tradition of art, craft, cultural and cuisine. All these facets, together, make West Bengal a highly potential tourist destination.
* As per 2011 Census (Provisional Data)
Source: India Book 2012 - A Reference Annual