“Hartals have become the order of the day and they have become an inseparable part of our daily life…”
We live in a land of bandhs, hartals, and strikes. This week we saw yet another 24-hour hartal. Hartal is becoming such a common factor in the most literate state Kerala. Where ever we go we hear about hartals. In 1997 bandhs were declared as unconstitutional by Kerala High court and was later upheld in the Supreme Court. Strikes, bandhs, hartals the name underwent various changes. When the court banned strikes, they replaced the word to bandhs. And when that was declared unconstitutional, it was replaced by the protestors as hartals. Hartals have become the order of the day and they have become an inseparable part of our daily life. Kerala is the only state where every political party is sure that the hartal they observe would be a sure success. The people of Kerala are scared of the violence that happens during the hartal that they prefer to stay indoors. And in a way, they are helping the protestors to make the hartal a success. The hartal was first used by Mahatma Gandhiji against the British during the independence movement. It was a form of civil disobedience against the British. But now the worst thing is it continues with much vigor in Kerala in protest even for petty crimes.
We live in a democracy which permits all non-violent means of protest. The hartals have crippled the state’s economy to a large extent over the years. There are different types of strikes which are observed by laborers in a factory. By students or teachers in colleges or universities. By doctors and nurses in hospitals and strikes by various political parties on one pretext or another. Strikes affect the life of the common man. It brings a host of problems for the common man who will be at the receiving end. Democracy is more on the lines of expressing one’s personal opinion in a nonviolent way without causing inconvenience to fellow citizens. But hartals are far from these. Educational institutions, government offices, and shops remain shut the whole day and the roads are deserted. These hartals have become successful in instilling fear in the hearts of an average Keralite. Kerala is known for its rich culture, mesmerizing backwaters. but these frequent hartals stand out as a negative point.
When the call for hartal comes from political parties, trade unions, religious and social organizations. The entire state switches to the celebration mode. Everybody has become accustomed to the frequent hartals since the past so many years that they tend to get happy when they get one. Its become an extra holiday. Despite the court verdict people stopped reacting against hartals because of incidents of violence. Instead of protesting against them they celebrated them. The ones who struggle are the ones who work far away and the ones who are traveling from far of places to their homes. Unexpected hartals get them stranded and traveling becomes a hazard. This recent hartal we had this week it was pooja holidays most of the people working out of state were getting back home for their holidays. My kids too were coming home. I was scared if they would be stopped as they were traveling during the hartal hours. My daughter’s bus was stopped for 20 minutes by the protestors. Its a shame and a disgust. This must be avoided the protestors should understand the difficulties of the people who are traveling from far off places. There are people within our country who are traveling on work, there are tourists on holidays from within the country and from out. It is sad to note that these hartals have become such a big nuisance and makes life inconvenient for them. These frequent hartals have affected the tourism industry.
We should realize that we have fundamental rights. Our constitution does give us the right to protest in any nonviolence manner but we should not disturb others life. Hartal doesn’t help us nor our society. We should raise our voice to ensure that the rights guaranteed by the constitution are not violated by anyone. Strikes and bandhs are a curse to the society and they cannot be banned or stopped. Calling for a bandh or hartal by any association or political party and enforcing it is illegal and unconstitutional. We must all unite and stand against such atrocities. The need of the day is that we must be aware of our duties and fundamental rights. And try to behave with more responsibility to the interest of the nation and the common man.