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Price rise: Is Bharat Bandh the solution?

Last updated on: July 2, 2010 18:34 IST

Price rise: Is Bharat Bandh the solution?

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Indrani Roy Mitra and Manu A B in Kolkata/Mumbai

There seems to be no end to the common man's worries and woes. With the central government deregulating oil prices and inflation already at a record high, Indians are gasping for breath as prices of essential commodities spiral out of control.

Amid this, the National Democratic Alliance and the Left parties have announced a 12-hour nationwide strike on July 5 to protest against petro price hike while demanding a rollback of the hike.

How effective are these strikes to solve an issue as vexing as this? Aren't strikes a bane for a nation already reeling under a heavy dose of inflation? Don't strikes put more pressure on an inflationary economic structure like India's?

Rediff.com presents the voice of India on whether the proposed Bharat Bandh to counter rising price rise will serve the purpose. Read on.

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Image: Protesters hurl bricks at glass windows of a passenger bus.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters.
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'A bandh in protest against price rise? Ridiculous'

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Meghatiti Banerjee
Student

"For the last six months, I have been planning to save some money from the pocket money that Ma gives so that I can buy a camera. But I did not manage to save anything at all, thanks to the unbridled price rise.

"Ma keeps complaining every day that things are just going out of hands. She is a single parent who runs the house on a paltry salary she gets from an NGO job.

"Things were not that bad even a six months back. But now? We have stopped having non-vegetarian food daily and have also stopped going to the movies. I wish the political leaders came up with a solution. And by solution, I definitely don't mean a bandh like the one that is due on July 5.

"A strike can be a problem only, not a solution. It's a move that just pulls our country backwards. The leaders are too smart. They think we, the people who elect them, are fools.

"If the Opposition thinks they would win over us by just playing these gimmicks, they can't be more mistaken. The people, who are just struggling to make both ends meet, have seen through these politicians. Their ploys and deception won't cut a dice. The troubling inflation has to be curbed no matter what.

"Political figures that would do something constructive would be hailed by the people but those who would capitalise on the issue to gain mileage would achieve nothing.

"Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance took the people for a ride in the past and they had to go. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance has started treading the same path. It is just ignoring the people's needs. And by doing that, it is committing a grave political mistake.

"It is the duty of the government to feed its own people. If it can't, it has to go. The answer to price rise does not lie in the Opposition calling for a bandh but in making the popular voice heard in Parliament loud enough for it to succeed and to topple a useless government."

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Image: Meghatiti Banerjee.
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty.
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'No party has the right to stop us from earning'

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Khokon Mondal
Vegetable vendor

"Another bandh on July 5. Another day of no work and no pay. Are the political parties out of their minds? What will a bandh achieve? For them, political mileage. For us, starvation.

"I earn Rs 150 per day by selling vegetables in and around Patuli in Garia, south Kolkata. With this meagre sum, I run our family of four. My wife works as a housemaid in the vicinity. We both pool in from our income to send our kids to school at a time when uncontrolled inflation is milking our savings dry.

"And on July 5, we would be deprived of our day's earnings. I heard the Opposition parties have called the bandh in protest against price rise. But have they made arrangements to feed us on that particular day? Can a strike ever be the solution for any problem, whatsoever? Will all essential commodities be available at a cheaper price post July 5?

"Will my wife and me be able to save more from July 6? NO! Everything will either be the same or take a turn for the worse. Yet the political parties would have to call a bandh just to prove a point.

"At times, I feel even monarchy or dictatorship is better than the democracy that we live in. I am illiterate. Political ideologies are not excatly the things I should talk about. But as a commoner, I do understand that a democracy should be pro-people. If so, ours is no democracy at all. Shame on this government!"

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Image: Khokon Mondal.
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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'Those who call strikes are inhuman'

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Janak Chowhan
Tea stall owner

"I am a poor man. My morning starts with worries and ends with them. My family of four has to do with Rs 2,500 that I earn every month from this tea stall. It is needless to mention here that recent inflation has eaten into our savings and rendered us poorer.

"Thanks to the political leaders, who have called a bandh on July 5, we will be deprived of our daily income. Hence I have decided to keep this tea stall running for four hours extra everyday to make up for the loss. And these extra hours at work are just killing me! But then that won't affect the politicians. Why should they bother about nobodies like us? That we are the electorate is a thing they 'care' to remember only during election.

"After all who doesn't know that the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre is safe for four more years. Therefore, it can go on hiking the prices at will and the Opposition can go on calling strikes over its decision. We, the poor and the marginalised can rot in hell.

"The babus working in government offices must be elated over the fact that the bandh quite conveniently falls on a Monday -- they will get an extended weekend. In fact, I overheard some of my customers planning a short trip for those three days.

"Indian democracy zindabad!"

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Image: Janak Chowhan.
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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'Bandhs are a sheer waste of time'

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Amit Roychowdhury
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Applied Mechanics
Bengal Engineering & Science University, Shibpur

"We have all marked July 5 as a holiday in our daily schedule. How will we spend that day? We will wake up late, chat for hours over tea, watch television and spend quality time with our families. After all, we are the lucky middle class. We don't lose our daily wage for a bandh. Rather, we earn a much-awaited holiday.

"The hike in petro prices will affect the middle class extensively but a bandh by the Opposition parties in protest against that hike will have little or no effect on them. It will indeed impact the poor and the marginalised -- those who toil hard to earn their livelihood. But why should the political parties think about them?

"They would rather use the issue of price rise as an elction plank. Who knows, it might help them win the election next time. Who are the political parties trying to fool, anyway -- the people? If that's the case, they must remember that theirs is a futile attempt.

"People of India, no matter how brainless they may seem to the political voices, are mature enough to see through ploys and deception. It is they who elect the governments. Therefore, it is they who should decide if there would be a bandh or not.

"Even a child understands that price rise does not affect a politician as much as it affects the commoners. Therefore, no political party has any right to announce a bandh on behalf of the people without their consent. If they fail to acknowledge this simple fact, they should at once resign from their respective posts."

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Image: Amit Roychowdhury.

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'Parties calling bandhs should compensate us'

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Sailendra Nath Sarkar
Loader-cum-driver

"I earn Rs 400 per day on an average out of which I spend Rs 250 and save the rest for a rainy day. But as there will be a bandh on July 5, I have to earn extra during these three days so that we, a family of five, sleep easy at night.

"I read in newspapers that the Opposition parties are calling this bandh in protest against price rise. But I have a simple question for them?  Will the prices of essential commodities come down from July 6? Definitely not.

"And no one knows it better than our learned politicians. They are the think-tanks, the lawmakers. They are calling the bandh only to make their presence felt. If they intend to gain popular sympathy by this move, they are sure to be disappointed.

"The people of India are far smarter than what they think. They are sane individuals with a clear sense of logic. No political outfit can hoodwink them for long. Just as the Indians denounce the illogical and maddening inflation, so also they condemn strikes and bandhs our leaders are so adept in calling at the drop of a hat.

"If the Opposition were so sympathetic about the issue, why did not it do something constructive that would counter inflation to some extent?  Why do they need to call a bandh that just leads to waste of money, time and mandays.

"It's time we commoners get united and cry ourselves hoarse at these double-faced monsters. Enough is enough!"

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Image: Sailendra Nath Sarkar.
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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'Bandhs seldom represent mass opinion'

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Suyash Trivedi
Entrepreneur

"In India, bandhs seldom represent mass opinion. It is generally a set of few individuals who drive a crowd of people, who decide to sit on the fence and not take decisions to steer towards a protest. And the domino effect begins. Bandhs have never been the right way to protest.

"The idea is to get a superior authority to make amendments, but a bandh puts the common man in further trouble, while the irony is these authorities are hardly ever affected. I think online campaigns -- like the Pink Chaddi campaign for example -- are far more effective ways to bring out public opinions."


Image: Suyash Trivedi.

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'What are we gaining from all this?'

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Manoj K G
Businessman, Kochi

"The bandh is not justified as it only creates more problems for the citizens. It is going to affect my business as I won't get stocks on time from other parts of the country. We will not be able to deliver goods on time. However, we cannot cut down on the daily wages that we pay the workers.

"This will result in huge losses. We should have peaceful protest without disturbing the law and order situation. The price rise is a grave issue which should be debated by all the political parties and a solution needs to be found.

"Last week also there was a hartal in Kerala to protest against the petrol price hike. What are we gaining from all this? How many more bandhs and hartals will we have to go through? Tourists and hotels will be the worst hit in Kerala."

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Image: Manoj K G.

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'My family will go hungry'

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Ravi More
Auto Driver, Mumbai

"Ever since the petro prices have been hiked, it has become difficult to fill CNG. My profit has gone down by 25 per cent. I get Rs 200 a day after I pay the owner a percentage. I have to run the house with this money.

"I have two kids, wife and an ailing mother to take care of. I can't think of staying without work for even one day. My family will go hungry if I have to stop the services for a day."

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Image: Ravi More.

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'Why should our lives be dictated by politicians?'

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Marykutty Mathew
Housewife, Bangalore

"I am totally against the bandh though I am shocked to see prices rising. Earlier, I was not so bothered about what I buy and the price. Now I ask the price of each and everything. I take much more time before I buy things.

"The government has failed in its responsibilities. There is nothing these politicians will do for our benefit. The bandh will only create more problems for us. I had to cancel an urgent trip to my native place.

"Why should our lives and schedules be dictated by politicians who do not care the least about us. Once, on a bandh day, our vehicle was badly damaged by protestors while we were on the way to attend a funeral. There should infact be a campaign against bandhs."

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Image: Marykutty Mathew.

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'Parties make political mileage from our misery'

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Sunil Yadav
Tempo driver, Mumbai

"I am against the bandh. This is not the right way to protest against any price rise. It will certainly affect our business. We transport goods across Maharashtra, the stocks that we carry on a schedule will get disrupted. As it is the petrol price hike has hit us badly. The prices of all essential commodities will rise further.

"The bandh will help in no way to bring down prices. It will affect businesses and the common man, while the political parties make mileage from our misery."

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Image: Sunil Yadav.

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'We need to protest against the govt'

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Sreedevan R
Astro Palmist, Kochi

"The bandh is a result of people's anger against the government. We need more such protests so that the government will take notice of it and bring the prices down. But the protesters should be careful that they do not attack emergency transport services, sick and ailing people who are being taken to the hospitals.

"The government should also provide alternate transport services so that people can go to work if they want to. We need to protest against the callous attitude of the government which has only pro-rich policies and the poor  are finding it very difficult to survive in this country.

"The prices are touching the skies. It is impossible for the common man to survive. If we keep silent, our woes will never be heard. There needs to be a mass movement against such unfair practices."

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Image: A tourist sits on an empty railway platform in Palakkad.
Photographs: Dipak/Reuters.
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'When will our government wake up?'

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Amrutlal Jhakaria
Grocery shop owner, Mumbai

"I believe we need to register our protests by closing down the shops. It will send out a strong message to the government. The shop owners are not united, they will close the shops only if they are forced to shut down. Prices have never gone up so much.

"Our profits have gone down by 15 per cent. Why should we suffer when it is just because of the bad management of the government? When will our government wake up? What is the point of working so hard? At the end of the day, we are not satisfied. We continue to live in hope.

"Dal has never been so expensive ever. Two years ago dal was priced at Rs 60.  The prices have doubled. The sale of pulses have gone down. Many people now make watery dal. This has been our staple  food for ages. So I believe that we need to act against the government's policies strongly and in every way we can."

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Image: Amrutlal Jhakaria.

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'Bandhs like this will cripple us'

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Mahesh Raut
Bus driver, Mumbai

"We have got full booking for the weekend trips to states like Goa and Karnataka. We are tensed as they may be violent protests on the way. We have to ensure that our passengers are safe. If we don't run our service, it will lead to huge losses.

"Bandhs like this will cripple us. What will they achieve with a bandh? Will things get back to normal? I have never seen prices coming down. The bandh will only add to the miseries of people like us."


Image: Mahesh Raut.

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'Look for other options to protest'

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Unnikrishnan K
Ahmedabad

Bandhs have always created difficulties for people in all walks of life.  Unfortunately, a bandh has been accepted as the only way to protest against the price rise. Everybody knows that poor people will suffer the most.

Their life will become more miserable. So why don't we choose some other option to express our anger?

One option is come to offices and not work, which is also some kind of agitation or spend more time in the office, stay till late night. This will not affect others or any other emergency service. But at the same time you can express your disappointment in a peaceful manner.


Image: Unnikrishnan K.

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