Make protestors pay for hartal damage

To call Kerala a hartal state is not an exaggeration. Kerala has the highest number of shutdowns every year, and life comes to a standstill every national bandh day.

Published: 03rd October 2022 08:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd October 2022 08:36 AM   |  A+A-


The windshield of a KSRTC bus broken following stone pelting in the PFI hartal in capital city on Friday | Vincent Pulickal

To call Kerala a hartal state is not an exaggeration. Kerala has the highest number of shutdowns every year, and life comes to a standstill every national bandh day. The flash hartal called by the now-banned Popular Front of India (PFI) last week following the arrest of its leaders, as always, found resonance only in Kerala. There were widespread attacks on public properties, buses and shops across the state. This, again, was as usual. But something unusual happened in the following days.

While the police launched a statewide crackdown to nab those who indulged in violence, the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), which bore the brunt of the anarchy unleashed by PFI activists, approached the High Court seeking a directive to the organisation to pay Rs 5.06 crore to compensate for the damage caused to its properties and the loss of revenue owing to the hartal. The high court has since ordered the organisation to pay the amount.

The transport utility cited an earlier High Court order banning ‘flash hartals’ and making political parties liable for losses caused to the government and the public during forced shutdowns. The KSRTC said the protesters had smashed windscreens and damaged seats of many buses, and hurt some employees. It said it had incurred huge losses owing to the damage caused by the hartal supporters even as it struggles to stay afloat with government support.

The move by the KSRTC has been widely appreciated in the state, which is used to seeing properties worth crores being damaged routinely during hartals and perpetrators going unpunished. And the Kerala High Court has since directed PFI to pay the damages. The UP government had recently issued an ordinance on similar lines to make protestors pay for the damage caused to properties. That a government led by Left parties, primarily responsible for Kerala’s bandh-hartal culture, is keen on punishing protestors, may seem a bit contradictory. But, it certainly is a welcome contradiction. 

However, what remains to be seen is whether this diligence to get compensation from protestors is limited to the case of PFI, which is a marginal and much-maligned force in the state. If the same approach is shown towards hartals called by mainstream political parties too, it will certainly be a welcome change for the harassed people in a politically volatile state.


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