Is ‘Bandh’ the right tool to protest?



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On September 20, India virtually came to a standstill (barring some specific cities) courtesy the ‘Bharat bandh’. The main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Left parties and UPA’s outside supporter Samajwadi Party (SP) had called for nationwide protests against the central government’s decision to hike diesel prices, cap subsidised cooking gas cylinders and to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail.

Workers of these parties held protests on streets, downed shutters and halted trains at a number of places across the country. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, to an extent, were the worst hit. Further, BJP workers and traders blocked the Agra-Gwalior Highway by burning tyres.

Of course, everyone knows that the ‘bandh’ called by the Opposition parties had a political hue; but are these bandhs helping us in any way? Does the common man, who is facing the brunt of so called ‘reforms’, getting any respite after such mega protests? The answer is a clear NO. Some of you might disagree with me and opine how else to attack an immune government, but I don’t think it is actually helping the aam admi.

Yes, it is true that the masses are feeling the pinch of the price rise which is expected after all in a growing economy, but, I think rather than achieving something, we lose more as thousands of people are stranded in m1ost of the cities. Further, vandalisation of public property takes place and above all there is a revenue loss.

For a country’s economy, which is already under so much pressure, we just cannot afford to burn a single penny in vain in the name of a ‘bandh’. In fact, for an economy like ours, ‘bandh’ seems to be a more threatening word.

According to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the nation-wide strike against the government’s reforms move is estimated to have caused losses of Rs 12,500 crore (2.25 billion USD) to the Indian economy.

The above figures clearly indicate that the call for ‘bandh’ has therefore done more harm than good.

Resorting to ‘bandh’ is never a common man’s reaction. We have to understand that ‘bandh’ is not actually a protest; rather it is an opportunity for hooligans to have a field day.

Voices can be raised regarding an issue by other means too rather than crippling the life of the common man, which further burns his pocket as he has to spend more on a day when it is a ‘bandh’ to reach offices, schools, hospitals etc.

Undoubtedly the prices of almost all commodities are going up, but you are fooling yourself if you believe that ‘bandh’ itself will bring down soaring prices. A ‘bandh’ can only signify that the ‘aam aadmi’ is not taking it lying down and if the government at the Centre is not doing anything to tame down the prices, they may be shown the door in the next elections.

Even the Supreme Court of India has put a ban on forced implementation of ‘bandhs’. And the real ‘grimy’ picture is that the burden of these economic losses will again fall on the back of the common man when the government will chalk out a new reform to recover these losses.

So, dear common man please don’t look at the ‘bandh’ as a solution as nobody is actually trying to solve the problem, rather it is just a political tool to get votes and take ‘aam aadmi’ for a ride.

I don’t know if this would work or not but can we start by gathering at a stage of prominence and show that we are not liking the reforms introduced by the government. Or, another alternative could be raising awareness with the help of SMSes, tweets etc and swelling support against an unjustified move of the government.

Although the UPA government is firm on its stand that it will not rollback diesel price hike, but in case of FDI in retail it has put the ball in states’ court which implies that a state may or may not opt for it.

Further, in a desperate attempt to score over the opposition and project itself as pro-aam aadmi, the Congress has instructed states ruled by its governments to increase the cap on subsidised cylinders from 6 to 9 per household annually.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram too came forward with an initiative to abolish import and excise duties on non-subsidised LPG cylinders, which implies that consumers will now be able to buy the 7th cylinder at Rs 97 less. The government had last week restricted supply of subsidised cooking gas to 6 per household in a year and any requirement beyond this was to be purchased at market price, which currently works out to Rs 895 per 14.2 kg a cylinder.

So, while the common man gets some respite, one thing is sure that ‘bandh’ is certainly not the right way to protest.