Posted On Saturday, June 02, 2012 at 08:45:13 AM
On Thursday the Opposition political parties called for a nationwide bandh, or stoppage of work. This was their form of protest against the petrol price hike announced by the central government.
Actually the price hike was the work of oil marketing companies. So technically the protest should have been directed against the directors of those companies. Never mind. The call for stoppage of work infringes on the constitutional right of citizens to work and earn a living. So to be successful, a bandh, or complete stoppage needs the fear factor.
|People are either too scared to be out, or they shrug and
decide to forego a day’s income
If people who are otherwise not political supporters of the parties which call for the bandh, choose to stop work, they do so because they are terrorised to stay at home. Or maybe they simply shrug their shoulders, and decide to forego their income, instead of taking the risk.
It is precisely to put such apprehensions to rest, that the government gives extra assurance of safety and security. Extra police are deployed simply to ensure that buses and trains run (both run by the government), and that private taxis and cars can ply (with adequate police protection).
So one side tries to stop work (using fear and an implicit threat) and the other side is determined to continue business as usual, as if there is no threat. Citizens make their own assessment, and choose to take a risk or not.
The cost of the bandh then is simply the income and production lost due to work stoppage. For a city like Mumbai or Pune, the per capita annual income is close to Rs 1 lakh (in current prices). That works out to Rs 275 per person per day. Note that such annual income does not add up uniformly, linearly and incrementally every day.
So crops grow only during monsoon. A hit movie generates maximum income only on the opening weekend, and not all days of the year. Ice cream sellers make money only on some hot summer days.
Malls generate less business if it is raining heavily. But on average let’s assume that we lost about Rs 275 per person on Thursday. So a rough estimate could be Rs 300 to 400 crores for the Mumbai metropolitan region. Note that this is cost of lost income that cannot be recovered.
Is that however the real cost? No. This is just a mechanical estimate. The true cost to the nation is the cost of erosion of constitutionality. One set of political parties successfully could thumb their noses at citizens’ right to earn a living.
These parties could also thumb their noses to a High Court judgment of 2005, which implied that a bandh is illegal. These parties could thumb their noses to the law, which says threatening somebody is a crime. Ordinary people (like taxi drivers, shopkeepers) feel threatened by the political parties calling for work stoppage.
They are afraid of physical harm, or destruction of their own property (like a cab, or glass windows of their shop). Hence under threat and duress they choose to “support the bandh”. Thus their fear, which becomes entrenched by a “successful bandh” is the true cost. This cost of the bandh is borne by the nation, whose constitutional edifice gets chipped away steadily every time an illegal act goes unpunished.
The High Court verdict said that sponsors of bandhs have to compensate the monetary loss to citizens and society. If such penalty is not collected, the contempt of law gets emboldened. It lets fear in the heart (of threatened citizens) find a permanent home. That is the real cost of the bandh.
This is with reference to ‘China’s Year of Dragon’, (PM, May 26). China has climbed rapidly to the top of the super-powers’ list by aggressive, almsot ruthless means. The strange thing is that America is no less ruthless, but I suppose China is simply more open about it.
However, it cannot be denied that China wields enormous power over the world and it is power they intend to hold on to. I doubt a change of seat will make much difference to their determination.
Regional unrest, a slow GDP etc may be obstacles to their march for absolute power, but I think China will continue to rise, no matter what.
- Arko M