By Sakshi Sachdeva:
India has its own legacy of strikes, bandhs and rallies. Strikes generally refer to a work stoppage undertaken in support of a bargaining position or in protest of some aspect of a previous agreement or proposed agreement. India is the largest democracy in the world and Article 19 (1) A guarantees freedom of speech and expression to every citizen. Also, it is a democracy which is based on multi-party political system. Different political parties mean different ideologies, plans, programs and thoughts. Democracy presupposes full freedom of expression to all these parties. A political party can put its ideologies, plans etc. by organizing meetings, processions, demonstrations, strikes etc. These are very effective tools to keep the government and administration on its toes and keep moving in the right direction.
Since once the government comes into power, if it does not accede to the demands of the people and the parties in opposition, the only way the opposition can make its presence felt is through strikes. Political parties in opposition are the watch-dogs of democracy and these methods are their teeth. Right to differ is the essence of democracy, and strikes and demonstrations are the legitimate means of expression of this dissent. It is our fundamental right to oppose wrong decisions.
Strikes played a major role in our independence struggle. Mahatma Gandhi used non-cooperation, strikes, civil disobedience in a non-violent and peaceful way. In February 1922, the Chauri-Chaura incident of Uttar Pradesh is a correct example of non-cooperation and civil disobedience movement. It was a great national upsurge against the tyranny of Britishers. The people’s confidence and strong protest traumatized the British government. But when the Gandhi ji found out that people are using violence, which went totally against his spirit of agitation, he abruptly called off the agitation. A violent mob had burnt down a police station and killed 22 policemen there. So, as a responsible citizen we have no right to take our frustration to the streets and pose a threat to public harmony and normal daily life by going on strikes.
It is good to give expression to dissent. Dissent is an essence of democracy, but it is really dangerous to carry it too far to the extreme. Strikes do ensure freedom of expression but they also result in major dislocation in the functioning of the Indian Economy. It exerts a liquidity pressure on the economy, cause dislocation in the production, loss in the income of employees or staff members for the duration of the strike, the organization or government also lose its goodwill.
Democracy is neither mobocracy nor a license to fulfill your desires. It is a fine balance between rights and duties, liberties and responsibilities. Democracy exists only when there is a discipline and a deep sense of responsibility. Democracy means discussions, free expressions and right to information but in a disciplined and a decent way. No rally or demonstration should block the flow of traffic. There should be prior notice about a demonstration or a rally so that government may make suitable arrangements to ensure law and order. There are specific laws which empower the government to issue preventive and prohibitive orders if a demonstration, rally or a bandh is likely to disturb peace, cause violence or result in loss of public and private properties. So, it is our responsibility to behave in a civilized manner. Also, it is our responsibility to introspect that are we protesting for the right.