By G. Amar Tejaswi:
Each time I set foot outside the comforts of my home to run an errand or to meet a friend, I am faced with the arduous but inevitable task of walking through hordes of people and boarding highly over-crowded buses, which hardly move. Then do I realise why they say that we are facing the problem of population explosion! So, when a bandh is called, I heave a sigh of relief because I am sure I wouldn’t be going out that day. I can happily lie back on the couch and watch the city on television, the city which otherwise makes me scowl. But for people who earn their lives on the roads, a bandh is like stab in the heart!
On the 5th of July, I was one of those laid on the couch and watching the coverage of the bandh on television. One channel showed workers from a political party, irresponsibly throwing away utensils and commodities from a tea stall, apparently for not adhering to the bandh call. What made the picture look utterly ugly was the presence of several bystanders among who were a few policemen. The bandh was supposed to be in protest against the hike in fuel prices and the inflation, in solidarity to the common man who has been facing the brunt of rising prices. To the tea stall owner, the bandh was like rubbing salt on injury. While the government has been continually exhibiting its inability to control inflation, the opposition parties rather than suggesting measures, call bandhs which cripple the lives of the poor, robbing them of the little amount of food they earn. To add to that, the opposition made audacious claims of the bandh’s success.
The reason stated by the government for the hike in fuel prices was to cut the fiscal deficit. The total loss to the GDP on that day was pegged to be around Rs. 3,000 crore. This makes one wonder whether the parliamentarians have any regard for the public at all. Calling for bandhs every other day has become a wont for parties. In West Bengal, in a year, the state is shutdown for an unpardonable 50 days making the communists the worst culprits but others are not far behind. If the national parties call for closures on one day, the state parties come into the act on the next. Bandhs have been such an indispensable tool for politicians that a move by the Supreme Court to enforce a ban was stalled.
Surprising though is the way the government has conducted itself. It remained a mute spectator all along and has been ignominiouslyÂ indecisive. While opposition party workers burn buses and ransack offices, the government does nothing except making a couple of statements at the end of the day. It is abstruse why the government doesn’t realise that it has a simple obligation towards the common man: to protect his interests. When goons belonging to some party try to enforce the bandh on to the public, it is the government’s duty to obstruct and punish them. Whenever there is a call for shutdown in the country or a state, the transport corporations simply pull their buses off the roads and offices close down for the day. Neither does anybody dare to go ahead and defy the bandh nor does the government provide police protection. After all, they are only a bunch of paid thugs, how much time will the police take to round them off!
At the end of the day, it all seems ironical. We are the world’s largest democracy but we are also the most passive one. In our country, everyone wants to be a spectator, but none wants to enter the ring and fight. No wonder the goons always win unchallenged!
The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.
Image courtesy: http://himachal.us/2010/02/13/shimla-bandh-passes-of-peacefully/18519/news/ravinder [Might be subject to copyright]