End Bandh Culture
As if the economic distress caused by the frequent Covid-induced lockdowns for more than a year is not excruciating enough for the citizens of Nagaland, organisations continue to force business establishments to down shutters— twice in this month itself. The first was on the 16th when the Confederation of Nagaland Chamber of Commerce and Industry called for closure of all business activities across the state to protest the inaction of the government on its charter of demands, and then end the month on a dull note with a similar protest spearheaded by the Dimapur District Citizens’ Forum in the state’s commercial hub. Bandhs and economic blockades are not new to the state but it hurts more when people are yet to get out of the harrowing time. The economic downturn caused by the pandemic has not spared anyone but it has affected the economically marginalised sections of the society like the daily wage earners, street vendors and owners of small enterprises more. For some, even a day’s loss of income during crisis can affect the amount of food on the table. For this reason, organisations should not forget that it is the human element that give meaning to its values and mission.
Well, political parties, civil societies, organisations, pressure groups etc., have every right to take up democratic forms of protest to express their dissatisfaction and dissent on certain policies and actions of the government. It is an essential part of a democracy. However, constitutionality of bandh as a form of protest has been debated. The Court had ruled on several occasions in the past that a call for a bandh is different from a call for a general strike, as the public is expected to cease work in the former, and hence illegal and unconstitutional. Bandh as a form of protest should be ideally acceptable but it becomes an issue when organisations force unwilling citizens to obey their diktat, either directly or indirectly, and thus infringe the fundamental rights of others to earn a livelihood. It is wrong and inhumane for organisations to make the business community and the general public to pay the price while trying to settle scores with the government, resulting in a loss to the local economy in terms of crores of rupees. It can also have a cascading effect on fellow citizens from other states as seen in the road blockade by the farmer unions at Delhi border to protest the three farm laws passed by the Centre. People should hold the government accountable for poor governance and bring about substantive change through peaceful forms of protests like strikes, boycotts, rallies, etc. but not at the cost of others. It is time to stand up against the bandh culture and nip it in the bud before thousands of organisations jump aboard the bandh bandwagon.