Saheli Dey: Today, ten trade unions called for a nationwide bandh to protest against the government’s alleged “indifference” to their demand for better wages and “anti-worker” changes in labour laws. As this is a nationwide bandh, again the discussion on the validity of bandh has come to the fore.
People have always criticised the bandhs and termed those as an obstacle in India’s progress. But are bandhs so bad? Or we are interpreting these methods of protest in a wrong way thanks to the actions of the activists who implement their boss’ order at the ground level? Probably a discussion with open mind will show the way. Here is what I feel.
Historically, bandhs are the means of protest that the common man use to remind the authorities about its duty. Several bandhs do lead the authority bowing down to demands and wishes of the people. But this phenomenon and tactic is used again and again by the politicians. It does not provide any profit for the society. Anything to achieve through unpopular means could not get true democratic supports. Politicians adopt this method to get in the news along with their followers, easily. None has ever tried to resolve the issue by negotiation, perhaps. It has become the regular practice of some parties to held strikes in order to oppose anything. Once in the state of Bengal, the ruling Left Front government itself gave the calls for strikes and bandhs. It was a very peculiar and suicidal gesture, which has no comparison in the whole world. This is where the ‘bandhs’ have lost their appeal. Bandhs without a proper cause eventually distracts the common people from it. And shatters their livelihood. This is the reason why we saw today’s strike having a negligible effect on the city and its citizens.
With the change of time and the advent of a more ‘youthful’ society, this despairing image can never be a sign of democracy. The wrath of the daily wagers is the main reason why the people oppose to bandhs. Moreover, violence erupts in the name of peaceful bandhs. There is not a single sane person in the planet who would want a life lost in the name of a mere ‘bandh violence’. There cannot be any logic in keeping the doors, windows and shops closed in fear of violence. Do these politicians ever think about simple wage earners? He or She might be the only bread-earner of the family. Who will compensate him for the loss he or she has been inflicted?
Political parties must realize that the protests they organize, can be successful only, if they gain the support of the common man. Does the common man, facing the brunt of life’s burden, get any sort of respite through the occurrence of bandh? The answer is a clear NO. Some will disagree with me and opine on how to spit venoms, but it actually does not help. Some would point out that ‘bandhs’ are actually good as these means oblige people inactive in order to pressurize the government or administration of authority to fulfill the populist demands. But is there no other way? As far as we know, the ‘government is for the people’. If there is passive resistance, every disadvantage can be turned to an advantage. This is the teaching of Bapuji, father of our Indian nation.
So, one thing is sure that ‘bandh’s certainly not the right way to protest.