Wed, 26 Jun, 2019

Rethinking the lockdown

In an age when keeping the economy alive and well is the key to development, is calling a bandh and bringing all businesses to halt the right way to protest?

11th January 2019, 03:41 Hrs

JAY JOSHI  


Our country recently witnessed an attempt by political parties to protest against certain policies of the central government. In Goa too, some parts of the state were deeply affected while others were not. All in all, the move did cause inconvenience to people from all walks of life, and that led to a debate on different forums online as well as offline: is calling for a bandh the right way to get one’s voice heard?   

The debate turned quite colourful on Twitter with some tweeple praising the ‘unity of workers’ while others expressed anger at the hardships caused by the bandh. Some users also observed that bandh was a tool used by Mahatma Gandhi to damage the British-run economy of colonial India, and questioned as to why the same tactic was being used now when it was in fact it was ruining India’s economy. Examples were also cited of a May 2018 strike of bus drivers in Japan where the drivers had registered their protest without harming the people.   

The Japanese bus drivers were demanding more better job security and improvement to accommodation facilities from the private company hiring them. Even as they declared the strike, they continued to drive their buses on regular routes, but refused to take money from the people. Thus, the firm and the government were affected, but the people in general were not.   

A number of Goans who were affected by the bandh also cited this incident, arguing that there was a need to find ways that brought pressure upon concerned authorities without harming the general populace.   

“The Bandh was held to bring pressure on the government, but ordinary people such as myself were the ones who suffered the most during the bandh,” said Siddharth Behra, who had travelled to Goa from Odisha for work, and is currently lodged in Panaji. “I think a much better way to doing this is by causing inconvenience to the decision-makers rather than the entire populace. That could mean preventing elected representatives from leaving their houses or offices for instance. This will not affect others.” Behra further noted that the Band in Goa was peaceful in comparison to other states where instances of stone-pelting are often witnessed during such events.   

For Abhinav Joshi, a student from Ponda, the bandh was a mixture of confusion and delight. “Well, I agree that this is not exactly the right way to protest, but I can’t think of any other way that could get the government to listen. Besides, we got a holyday so it was kind of a good day for us!” said Joshi.   

Deepak Sawant from Pernem has a different idea. “I do not understand why people have to pelt stones and burn buses during a bandh. At the end of the day, the cost of all the losses will be deducted from our own pockets as taxpayers. The means of protest should be non-violent but effective. Holding a series of awareness campaigns or lectures, going on a fast-something that compels the government to take a note and act, but does not harm the people,” said Deepak  

Meanwhile, reports suggest that many businesses including private bus owners supported the bandh in Goa, which affected the tourists, but in a number of people were not even aware of the cause for which the bandh was called.   

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