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In Jharkhand, it's bandh every 11 days

August 29, 2005 12:00 IST
There has been a bandh in Jharkhand every eleven days since its creation as a state.

A total of 178 bandhs have been organised since the state's birth on November 15, 2000 by political and non-political groups and the trend continues with another bandh today.

As businessmen, students, teachers and daily wagers are the most affected by bandhs, many trade and non-trade groups have decided to oppose bandh and lodge an FIR against its supporters responsible for bandh-related violence and destruction.

"The people who call for bandhs have neither any concern to social development nor respect to Supreme Court observations on bandh," says Girish Malhotra, president of Jharkhand Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

"A day's bandh incurs a loss between Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion) and Rs 1000 crore (Rs 10 billion). The business community and daily wagers must have borne the brunt of 178 bandhs so far."

Claiming that many investors are hesitant to invest in Jharkhand because of frequent bandhs, Malhotra says the chamber, in association with other social groups, has decided to oppose bandh and seek the administration's support to protect the negative impact of bandhs on economy and education.

"The bandhs are called on trivial matters to get cheap popularity... It has become difficult to complete courses of school curriculum," says Sudhir Uggal from Jharkhand Abhibahavak Manch (an organisation of parents of school children).

"We prepare for our class tests and exams only to find the dates are postponed due to bandhs," complaints Rizwana Azmi, a class seven student of Doranda Girls High School.

Arun Thakur, reader at Ranchi University, views bandhs as a mindset of a "sick society, which is bad for education in a state where illiteracy percentage is high".

State President of the Builders Association of India Omprakas Sarraf demands fines be imposed to recover damage from the outfits calling bandhs.

However, the Left parties have a totally different view when asked how it benefited from past bandhs and whether it was not concerned over the adverse effect on economy.

"The businessmen don't represent the people and bandhs called in the interest of the people clash with their business interests. In fact, they want to turn the Supreme Court observations on bandhs in their favour, which is not constitutional," opines CPI(M) state unit Secretary and member of the party's central committee J S Majumdar.

Stating that progress of a state depends not on bandhs but the policies of the governments, Majumdar says "the groups opposing the bandhs will find themselves isolated from the people for interfering with their democratic right."

Retired central government official S K Sengupta says, "Bandhs hardly affect the retired. But we do feel bad about daily wage earners. Even on normal days, they go to bed half-belly and imagine how bandh affects that section of the society."

It is high time political parties review calling bandhs in the interest of the state and its prospective investors, Sengupta adds.

The representatives of the chamber also met Ranchi superintendent of police Anil Palta and stated their intention to oppose bandhs in future, chambers secretary Prem Mittal said.

The Chhatra Yuva Shangharsh Samiti has called Ranchi Bandh, its nineteenth this year, on August 29 and wanted to know why the Chamber's Secretary Prem Mittal had participated in April 24 Jharkhand bandh.

"I would like to ask Prem Mittal why was he in the forefront of April 24 bandh called by the Sadans (non-tribals) against the Panchayat Act," asks Samiti's Convenor Uday Shankar Ojha.

Ojha, also the vice president of LJP's Jharkhand unit, says "where was the chamber during eighteen other bandhs convened earlier this year".

"Bandh is a democratic right and the people are with us... We are not opposing the chamber's decision to lodge FIR against bandh supporters. Let them do what they want," adds Ojha. 

P V Ramanujam in Ranchi
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