Try explaining this: both the ruling and the Opposition parties in the state decided to observe a hartal on December 31, 2006. Both had decided to tread international waters, and denounce the ‘imperialist designs’ of the US which was manifest in the hanging of Iraq’s former President Saddam Hussein.
It mattered little that bandhs were banned way back in 1997, as it returned with a vengeance as a hartal. On Monday, it was only natural that the Bharat Bandh spared much of the country, even as it brought Kerala to a standstill. It was another nothing-to-do day for a bulk of the public, already groaning under the weight imposed by demonetisation. Ironically, the hartal was called against the ills of demonetisation on the co-operative banking sector!
The long queues in front of the Beverages Corporation’s liquor retail outlets and heavy rush in front of poultry shops, during every hartal, is quite revealing. Spare a thought for the hapless residents of Thrissur district where the people ‘enjoyed’ three holidays, with a hartal by the Congress party against a lathi-charge by the police on Saturday, had already set up the weekend.
With no clarity on how the cooperative banking sector will benefit from the hartal, it appears to be another knee-jerk protest, more out of habit, than ensuing from any constructive thought. Curiously, as if extending an olive branch, more and more services keep getting exempted from the hartal.
This time, it was the turn of tourism and banking institutions to get added to a swelling list. The regular exemption list includes hospitals, weddings, milk and newspapers. It is a matter of debate whether the newly exempted tourists will enjoy a state, paralysed by hartal, just as it is a mystery as to how banks can be up and running when public transport is a casualty and the public is cautious of using their own vehicles. The hope now is that the next list of exemption from the rigours of hartal would include public transport.