This is not the first time. Nor it will be the last. A nation-wide bandh has been called out again by some political parties.This time it is for protesting against hike in Diesel, gas and FDI in retail. Though such bandhs are meant to force the government to change its decision, be it on a state level or a national one, it’s always the common people of India who suffer. Passengers, shopkeepers, commuters and students are worst affected always. A bandh may succeed or fail but its impact is always left behind.
An old man opened his books/newspaper shop in Patna railway station. It is his bread and butter and no amount of bandhs will make him abandon his work. And why should he anyway? Now what did the protestors do? They straight marched on the platform, disrupted his shop things and threw down books. The helpless man was seen fighting alone against a bunch of tough men, trying to resist them. He tried stopping them. But his shop was forcefully made to shut after tearing down the whole stock of books and newspapers. What did the protestors meant by that? Tear away every paper available in the country for getting your rights? No matter even if that leads to a lot of paper wastage? What kind of bandhs would anyone call it? In India, we regard every piece of paper as ‘vidya’. It is a Hindi word for ‘knowledge’. If a book gets touched by anyone's leg, they quickly pick up the book and touch it on their forehead. It is a kind of apologising for disrespecting the book or ‘vidya’ or goddess Saraswati.
Trains are being stopped in high numbers at Patna, Mathura, Kanpur, Varanasi, Faridabad, Allahabad and the list goes on. But what nobody is caring about are poor passengers. They are left standing terrified on platforms and railway tracks for hours. People don’t know where to go with their heavy luggage and are left to stand waiting for the protests to end. Nobody is available to help them out. And who will when no transport is there? How will they move? With no buses and taxis on the road, they are stranded and helpless. In such cases who will pay for their time loss? Who will pay for their boredom? Is anyone providing them food and water for free of cost inside the forcefully stopped trains? Anyway who has given anyone the right to stop a train and ruin every passenger’s journey? Harass travellers so much that any government will bow down? What kind of democracy are we living in? Urgent works compel some to travel during bandhs. Some book their tickets online months before when they are not even aware of any future bandhs.Their relatives and acquaintances would be worrying back at home.
Cities like Kolkata and Amritsar are facing forceful shutting down of shops. Delhi is the worst hit of all. Schools are closed and fires are seen in the middle of streets in some places. Protestors are rallying with posters and placards on the empty highways. Slogans with full volume are being raised. Amidst all the mayhem, the local people are left with no choice but to sit at home and sulk.
Protestors in Andhra Pradesh are halting the state by stopping the city buses. Markets and malls are shut. Vehicles are off the road. But I am sure people there have got used to it by this time. They have gone through Telangana bandhs a lot of times. When I was in Hyderabad, nearly half of my college life was ruined by such bandhs. Sitting for days at a stretch at home with nothing to do was very cruel. We used to go to bus stops some days and become disappointed when no bus came to pick us off during bandhs. No going out, no shopping, no friends, no theatres, no parties was our lives during bandhs. We were forced to shut ourselves at homes. Our minds were empty and turned into a devil’s workshop.
Chennai has been least affected by the bandh. Schools are open and people are going for their jobs. There are vehicles on the road and shops are open. Life is normal and without any chaos in the city. Why can’t we have such situation in other capitals like Lucknow and Mumbai? Why Mumbai always targeted during bandhs? The city of dreams is an important workplace for many Indians. Disrupting its life affects a lot of people and mounts to a huge loss. Those who want to join in the protest should do it but those who do not want to should not be forced.
Caught in the political crises, the country only is the ultimate sufferer. Battle between various parties should be done in parliaments and not on streets. Politicians\leaders are meant for helping the people and solving their problems. Bandhs and protests should be done peacefully without disrupting anyone’s routines. At the time of Ganesh Chaturthi, when people should have been busily happy in the celebrations, they are now suddenly faced with bandhs. Where there should have been ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’ slogans, protestors are shouting ‘Hai Hai’ and beating their chests right in front of cameras. Where is the country leading to like this? I can suddenly recall the lines from Lage Rahe Munnabhai, “Desh toh aazaad hogaya par log paraye ho gaye.” It looks like that now.
Meanwhile, AI’s latest plane Dreamliner has taken off its maiden flight. And as protestors are not stopping planes nor are climbing on it to raise slogans as they are doing with trains and buses, this piece of news would be relieving for some passengers! Happy Ganesh Chaturthi and have a safe journey!