Strike that: Whose loss is it anyway?

May 31, 2012

A few buses have been torched, a few trains have been stopped, a few people failed to get to work, a few shops were shut, a few lost their daily wages and the exchequer will register a big loss. Someone is telling India’s “common man” that this strike is in his interest.

The transportation shutdown that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and several left-leaning parties called for as a protest against a steep rise in petrol prices is seen as a means to exploit popular anger against the ruling Congress-led government, though political parties insist that they won’t benefit at election time.

A 12-hour ‘Bharat Bandh‘ (“India shutdown”) to protest against inflation in 2010 cost the exchequer 130 billion rupees, according to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). This time it can only be more. Given all of India’s other problems, can the country afford such losses?

For many autorickshaw drivers, rickshaw pullers and daily wage labourers, a strike means no earnings for the day. That’s good enough reason to look for alternate ways to protest.

A strike does register dissatisfaction with the government, but it is difficult to understand how it would help in the rollback of petrol prices or in providing an alternate economic strategy.

Thursday’s strike was not as peaceful as promised. Local media reported that strike supporters stopped trains in Delhi, set fire to two buses in the city of Pune and stoned about a dozen others. Incidents of violence have been reported from other states.

Such protests let smaller parties and factions make their presence felt. In Mumbai, the Shiv Sena, a BJP ally, said residents “should not venture out of their houses“. A strike is ideally a voluntary exercise, but fear can push some people into cooperating in a more involuntary way.

The ability to voice dissatisfaction is one of the benefits of a democracy, but is bringing the country to a standstill a good way of doing it? Maybe it’s time that political parties find better ways to articulate public interest.

ALSO READIncendiary India: petrol strike leaves Bangalore becalmed by Robert MacMillan

2 comments

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Buses torched, trains stopped, people were kept indoors, shops were shut and many have lost their daily wages.

Politically speaking, bandh in India is a dubious exercise. How?

The BJP in Tamil Nadu state went about their usual routine (keeping mum) when the ruling AIADMK govt recently had raised the price of milk, the bus fare and the unit price on electricity (price people pay for living most of the day in darkness).

But the party hit the road the instant when the Centre hiked the petrol price. What a hypocrisy!

Doesn’t the BJP know that the common people in Tamil Nadu who pay an extra rupee on a litre of milk and an extra tenner to get to work are the same people who got to bear the brunt of hike in fuel price?

Or would the hardship be any different between JJ, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu raising the price on essentials and the Congress hiking the price at the Centre?

P.S: The irony is the ruling AIADMK had felt outraged at the recent petrol price hike and gone on to register their displeasure by observing a day long protest. The two sides of a same coin, be it tossed up in air or pummeled down to earth.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

Petrol prices can be cut down if Centre and states decides to lower the taxes. Taxes are calculated as percentage and not absolute. So higher the price, more tax is collected. Can’t the governments decide to make it absolute. Not taking any sides, but Congress is yet to take any substantial step in curbing inflation. The 7-8 price hike was worrisome because, government decided to delay because of elections across the country. Cheap tricks from a costly government

Posted by sashayz | Report as abusive