A veteran journalist who enjoys looking at the quirky side of life

R K Nair

Hartal greetings!

| Updated on July 30, 2013

Thiruvananthapuram district has been shut down. This is the sixth shutdown in as many months. Some right-wing organisations have called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in the district today to protest police action against some unruly students in a city college.

Shops, schools and offices are closed. There are hardly any vehicles on the roads and people are mostly confined indoors. Welcome to Kerala's favourite pastime: shutdowns!

They don't call it bandhs anymore because the courts have outlawed the practice. So now they call it hartals. The effect is the same: shutdown.

No sooner do they hear the 'H' word than the shopkeepers happily down the shutters and go home. Children are happy because there's no school. Grown-ups are also happy because there's an unscheduled holiday. The State seems to be celebrating its shutdowns.

But my heart goes out to the people from other parts of the country who land here on a hartal day. Imagine the plight of passengers stranded in an eerie ghost town at the end of a three-day train journey. Or the frustration of a migrant worker desperate to catch a flight to the Gulf. Or people caught up in a medical emergency not being able to shift the victim to hospital.

But the political classes are not bothered about these "minor inconveniences". They are eager to flaunt their power: we can shut down the city, the district or the entire State at our whim; of course, with the aid of our puppet minions!

No one seems to care about the loss of productivity or the harm such mindless shutdowns are doing to the image of the State. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy once recalled his unsuccessful attempt to get Volkswagen to set up a unit in the State during his previous tenure.

The day the Volkswagen team landed in the State capital for talks turned out to be a hartal day. The talks were postponed and the team returned another day, only to find that it was also a hartal day. They took the first flight out of the State capital and never returned!

But who is bothered about such nitty-gritties when we can enjoy an extra day off?

Published on July 30, 2013

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