There is a very interesting article in the latest issue of Economic and Political Weekly – “Of Hartals and Heroes.” Obviously the article is about strikes. It is about strikes in Kerala. That makes it more interesting, because there has been an endless stream of strikes in Kerala.
That’s just half of the story. The real interesting part is that it is written by a Thiruvananthapuram based film critic, C S Venkiteswaran. What have film critics to do with strikes? Yes they have entered the scene because the films and media has now attacked strikers!
How menacing is the issue? Here is what a news report in Hindu of Feb 9, 2013 says, “Senior counsel M.N. Krishnamani, appearing for the petitioner, told the [Supreme Court] Bench that in Kerala, there had been 363 hartals and bandhs resulting in mass destruction of public properties…”
Ralph Chaplin, a labour activist, identified four levels of general strike:
A General Strike in a community.
A General Strike in an Industry.
A national General Strike.
A revolutionary or class strike—the General Strike.
But in India they have invented a fifth class – ‘State Sponsored Strike!’ Political parties in power have declared strike very often. The Supreme Court slapped a fine of Rs 20 lakhs on ShivSena and BJP in Maharashtra for calling a bandh in 2003. Bandhs by political parties were banned but who cares? Actually it was Kerala High Court which observed, ““no political party or organisation can claim that it is entitled to paralyse the industry and commerce in the centre, State, nation and is entitled to prevent the citizens not in sympathy with its viewpoints from performing their duties… Such a claim would be unreasonable and could not be accepted as a legitimate exercise of a fundamental right by a political party or those comprising it.”
On 12th December 2013, when the strikers blocked a road, a lady arrived there on a scooter. She was apparently on her way home but the road was blocked by strikers. She got into a verbal duel for blocking the road with the strikers as well as with police. The strikers had a bad day because this was promptly covered by TV cameras. [See video below]. The strikers never had anticipated such an ambush.
Venkiteswaran tells us that the public sentiment against strike is getting strong. The lady was awarded Rs 5 Lakhs by an industrialist for her courageous act.
Kerala is learning, the lady showed the way, we hope men will follow.