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Archive for March 2012

Striking Comments: Article One

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Striking Comments_Article One

When we were young, late seventies that is, Bangla Bandh was an occasion of some importance, and rarity. It was also fun. It was a day when we could play football or cricket on the VIP Road, or ride to our school in Ganganagar on our cycles and then come back to Baguiati.. Ever since people began saying ‘yet another Bandh?’, strikes lost their political and sociological relevance. 

Everyone likes a surprise holiday – once in a while. Even lazy people like myself do not look forward to multiple Strikes in a year or sometimes even in the space of a month. This political instrument has been misused and abused to an absurd extent. Today Economists can talk about how Strikes do not change a darn thing about price hike. An irrelevant observation, if you ask me: Strikes are not for people who understand the intricacies of Economics. While we are on the topic, who understands the intricacies of Economics other than Economists? I certainly don’t. Strikes are a show of power and solidarity among people brought together by common interests. It is a way of showing the administration that no government can function without a work force, and so, it had better pay attention – or else. Strikes are a way of making your presence felt. It is unfortunate that today we all know what happens when such presence is felt too often. 

I personally support the Government’s initiative to end Strikes in West Bengal. However, the good intentions fall flat when you look at the methods adopted to ensure that. The Hon’ble Minister Shri Madan Mitra does not appear to have changed much from his questionably famous 1, 2, 3 days. He is still using the same tactics with regard to ‘illegal and unlicensed’ auto rickshaws. It is probably okay to force no work no pay on a Strike day on Government employees, and it would certainly be effective to drive home the point with a service break threat – if there were legal provisions for such a move. As it turns out, there is none. It is also rather disturbing that the representatives of the Government should keep referring to the Countrywide Strike as a plot hatched by a single political party which must be defeated. The challenge game, let us face it, is immature at best. 

As for ‘wasting’ fuel by keeping the Government buses plying: perfectly justified in view of the fact that there is no other way to assure the general populace that they have a choice. Why do most people not go out on a Bandh day after all? For one, they are not sure that there will be sufficient transport available, and then, they wonder if they are going to come back home in one piece or at all. Admirable move, then, by the State Government, to keep the buses plying even without passengers. No sarcasm here: if we are to banish the Strike Virus for good, some amount of initial loss is inevitable. Call it investment. That takes care of the first part of the problem. Unfortunately for us all, we are more uncertain than ever of coming back home safely when journalists are thrashed and the Chief Minister publicly dismisses it as a plot hatched by a certain news channel. Ransacking a Party Office of the Opposition is perhaps justified since we all know how the Left Front Government has done absolutely nothing useful in the last thirty four years. 

Anyway, the CP(I)M is getting what was coming to them, everyone knows that. They are the worst thing that could have happened to West Bengal in the last – that’s right, – the last thirty plus four years. Problem is, when the Opposition is murdered – let’s say the investigation will reveal that the Dewandighi victims were murdered by a combination of internal strife and spontaneous outburst of public rage – we are still not safe even though we are bhadralok who have nothing to do with politics. The Chief Minister and her Ministers have made enough well thought out comments to give the impression to a lot of people that explaining away any kind of act is easy. Which is why there is a distinct echo of Ms. Banerjee’s comment when the recent murder of Sagar Mete in Nanoor (http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/cpim-worker-beaten-to-death/970368.html ) is dismissed by TMC local spokesperson on camera as consequence of internal strife. It is either internal strife, or, in case of farmers’ deaths (who, incidentally, are not really farmers at all, we are told), problems within the family, and if all else fails, there is the conspiracy theory. How long before we are either in the wrong place at the proverbial wrong time or before we realize that there was a lot of internal strife within our family because of which nothing happened to us that was not fabricated?

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