Bandh (or strike) with holiday. Bandh meant trooping out to the road, putting up stamps 22 yards apart and playing cricket without any concern for traffic. Calcutta, as a city ruled by Bandh-friendly leftists, has a fair share of Bandhs every year.
The Bandh yesterday, which was called for rise in fuel price, took me back to my days in Calcutta sans the cricket. Every shop in the locality was shut. The streets were deserted with only a few souls here and there. Some goons were roaming the streets on bikes to ensure total compliance to the Bandh.
Had it not been for a guy selling tea in flask, I would have gone through the morning without the all-important day starter. For lunch, I had stocked some biscuits and butter the previous day.
The Bandh was successful – and I wondered how a successful Bandh affects local economy. The Internet has minimized the impact of Bandhs as many forms of businesses can be transacted indoors, but businesses that depend on daily cash collections like shops have not become Bandh-proof.
Do Bandhs really manage to force a government to alter an unfavorable policy? Even if they do, it comes at a price: the local economy and the image of the place. It is also not easy to decipher whether the policy was changed due to the Bandh or general protest against the policy.
One might argue that Bandh is the most effective way to take a message to the commonest of common as it directly affects their lives, unlike protests voiced in public offices or via media, which many don’t come to know about.
But: a) by affecting the local economy, a Bandh affects the interest of the very poor that it claims to protect; b) the shopkeeper doesn’t keep is his shop shut to show solidarity but to avoid incurring the wrath of party goons. Bandh is largely an Indian concept that the western democracies today are hardly familiar with. And even in India, some cities see higher number of Bandhs than others.
So next time when there is a successful Bandh, enjoy your day indoors – there is no point fighting party goons trying to defy the Bandh – but also spare a thought for the shop next to your house.