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The menace of bandh

New Delhi, Sat, 30 Aug 2008 NI Wire

The recent comment of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya pronouncing bandh, gherao and hartals as “anti-social” drew immense criticism from his party colleague. Being a Marxists, he somehow defies the deep-seated Marxist ideologies which term ‘strikes’ as a fundamental right of working class, but it yet again haul up the very continuation of this method of protest.

However, it is not for the first time that the West Bengal Chief Minister openly put his deviation from the ground. In the past, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee too has advocated the banning of bandhs, more than ever the exemption of IT Sector. Undoubtedly, what he intended directly points to the workers’ right to engage in maximum profitability with more production, though went unheard and his party sidelined him terming it as CM’s personal statement.

Bhattacharjee’s own party leader strongly criticised his stand on bandh and termed it as “anti-party” remark, but what the literal meaning of his statement only turns to deaf-ear. They just forget to distinguish “bandh” and “hartal”. The Supreme Court in its earlier ruling (1998) has clearly stated that a call for a bandh is coercion of other’s right and liberty guaranteed to citizen under constitution.

Hartal signifies to remain out of work in a sense of public protest or sorrow. This form of protest in India dates back to British colonial rule and was one of the basic means of registering complaint started by Mahatma Gandhi. Furthermore, to evade from Court’s earlier verdict, political parties continued the agitation but with the name changed as hartal; the nature and intention remain the same.

Though peaceful demonstration is a constitutional right in a democratic society, but the use of bandh as a tool for pity political gains bringing much inconvenience to the people, needs to be eschewed in all respect. Bandh or hartal is no longer a ‘great success’, as in this case it is the communist-led West Bengal government who is in favour of various liberalisation policies stands at the receiving end.

So, what if Bhattacharjee apologised for speaking against bandh, what if he antagonised his own and other political parties; he has made his point and the general public have a same voice over it. It is now up to the people and political parties to understand the menace of bandh or hartal, as these only end with dire damages to public life.

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