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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bharat Bandh today - its impact and implications

It dawned normally – slowly Sun came out on what was to be another scorching hot day; the Sunset would also be as normal as ever.. Chennai swelters in heat, no rain – some powercut and people were anxious on the impact of the call by the opposition – their concern was whether there would be any impact on public transportations, whether auto rickshaws will ply and continue to fleece them….. things looked as normal as ever as one travelled to Office this morning. 

If you wonder, or did not know – today is ‘Bharat Bandh’ – the unprecedented hike in petrol prices has helped the Left and the right to make common cause tomorrow for a nationwide protest, described by BJP and its allies as Bharat Bandh and by Left as all India protest day.

Bandh  is a Hindi  word meaning 'closed', is a form of protest used by political activists.  When Bandh is declared the protagonists want the life to come to a standstill and for doing that transportation would have to be stopped and shops and establishments closed.  A couple of decades, most were State run and anything against the State would paralyse the normal life.  It was extremely powerful means of civil disobedience and protest against the actions of the Govt.  One of the more famous Bharat Bandh was organized in Aug 1989, when Rajiv Gandhi was in power.  As the opposition resorted to stoppage of public transportation and threatened the shops to close [cinema theatres also would remain closed – as also hotels], the Govt did all that was in its power to break the bandh.  Curiously, the PSU employees were asked to attend Office and to facilitate their attendance they were allowed to report to their nearest branch – it was mockery of work – an employee working in a Branch going to another Branch was only symbolic attendance – no functional work took place that day.

Just as the Opposition claimed that the Bharat Bandh was a success, the Govt. on its part claimed that it had dissipated into a non event as people attended Offices !!

This bandh [31st May 2012] is the coming together of BJP, Left and other non-Congress parties.  Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, which is supporting the UPA goverment from outside, has also given the bandh call tomorrow so has BJD in Odisha. In Tamilnadu, the situation is always bizarre and is unlikely to have any major effect.  AIADMK has staged protests and so did DMK on its own in which dramatic statements and veiled threats  were made  to pull out of the UPA.

Political parties try to score some brownie points and now a days bandhs do not get any visual results.  Parties would announce that its leaders will take part in rallies in public meetings – bigger leaders would turn up cautiously weighing the mood of the public, which these days is lukewarm response at best.  The rewards are illusory for the Organisers as also those whom they expect would join these form of protests.  Sadly such protests hit the people working in the unorganised sector most as their day’s wage might get lost for no fault of theirs.  The Communists who claim to represent the worker, wage earner and unorganized sector would do nothing on this count.   

Hours after making a statement that he would pull out of the UPA government if it continued with its anti-people policies, DMK leader Karunanidhi backtracked saying that he never threatened to quit.
“We can’t say we will quit if there is no rollback of petrol prices. We never threatened to pull out of the UPA. Communal forces will enter government if we quit” he said, at a hastily convened press conference in Chennai.  Earlier Karunanidhi created a media frenzy when he said, ““If this government continues to violate the fundamental principles of the Dravidian movement, we will have no hesitation in separating from the UPA alliance”.

There were times, when call for Bandh threatened to immobilize and paralyse the way of life of commoners but over the years Indian democracy has matured and it is time, the political parties too learn their way in finding out newer ways  of channelling popular sentiments without causing economic losses and inflicting misery on common folks.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. When all pleas fall on deaf ears. When all options of advise die down. When elected Govts behave as per their whims and fancies. When the common man is really hit under the belt by his on representative, then bandh is the only option left to him. Here teh UPA and especially the Congress has become very adamant and this bandh is justified. Let people resolve to put an end to Congress rule.

  2. When there is a bandh, the daily wagers has to suffer a lot. On one side we are speaking about development of India and on the other side by calling bandhs we are paralyzing the life of the weaker sections. Can one point out the socio-economic implications of frequents bandhs? Is this bandh culture really effective?