This appeared in Bombay Times today....
Bandh ko bandh karo!
One had foolishly believed that the era of old-fashioned ‘bandhs’ was well and truly over. Apparently not! Here we are dealing with yet another unproductive day in which the only thing achieved” is a monumental loss of revenue. Whoever these Bandh blokes are, by forcing citizens to bunk work and stay home, they will only be invoking anger and scorn. If this is their way to attract attention and gain political mileage out of what is a gigantic national crisis ( rising prices!), they are wrong if they imagine the people of Mumbai are with them. Of course, the fuel hike is the trigger. And of course, it affects the aam aadmi( not politicians) the most. But by staying away from work, will fuel prices come down? Will it make one jot of a difference? We all know the answer. Despite zero popular support, despite the 2003 High Court rap and fine, politicians are at it again – this is dadagiri at its clumsiest.Today’s Mumbaikar should stand up and defy such a diktat that is perverse and serves no purpose. Bandhs as a form of political protest, had their day a decade ago. Even then, the aam aadmi used to feel frustrated and annoyed at being compelled by a bunch of goons to bring normal activity in the city to a halt. There was no sympathy for those Bandhs back then, there is none now. It is the pheriwalas and small traders who suffer the most when the city shuts shop. Let’s be honest, what do most people do during a Bandh? Do they spontaneously take to the streets to register their rage against the government? Do they join the organisers to show their solidarity to the cause? Do they use the extra free time to pressurise the powers that be in a meaningful manner? Forget it. People stay home, watch television, take long afternoon siestas, and wait for the Bandhwallas to go away so they can saunter out and catch a movie without being pelted with stones or beaten up.
A city like Mumbai simply cannot afford a Bandh. A day’s lost wages is a huge loss here. If the BJP’s Sudhir Munganitiwar describes the Bandh as a litmus test, and issues ultimatums, he risks his own credibility. It is worth asking who or what gives this person or any other person, the right to allow or disallow freedom of movement? Threats and dumdatti are so yesterday…. They worked at a time when people were unaware of their rights and went along with random diktats from random people. Who determines the nature of essential services’? Who defines what exactly constitutes ‘essential’’? Who compensates people who consider a marriage date éssential’? And surely people have every right to celebrate in whichever way on whichever day they see fit? What happens to all the food that has been pre-ordered? Guests who may be travelling from other cities for the happy occasion? This is grossly unfair. And even those citizens who are appalled by the price rise and very angry with the government , will agree that a Bandh’ will not solve this problem. Ít would be far more democratic if political parties were to display a more constructive attitude and urge people to conserve precious fuel, till we see a correction and a major rethink at the Centre. Indulging in a show of strength or plain dadagiri will only antagonise the aam aadmi already reeling from daily problems. Mumbai should not allow itself to be held to ransom by a small group of motivated people like this. Jago,Mumbai,Jago. Kaam karo, kaam karo! Bandh ko ignore karo!