The scene of a hartal in Trivandrum

On a hartal day: President Pratibha Patel’s enterouge passes through the general hospital junction in Trivandrum on Nov. 1, 2007, while the city is observing a hartal called for by the BJP. Interestingly, the banner the police used to stop traffic says: ‘Scene of Crime Do not cross”.

Kerala saw more than 550 hartals within a short period, according to estimates of a voluntary group. This included hartals observed at the State, district, taluk, village and even ward levels. The losses that these hartals cause are considerable.

The Gross State Domestic Product of Kerala, at current prices, is estimated at Rs. 1,20,564.39 crores for 2005-06. Of this, tertiary (services) sector contributes 60.5 per cent (Rs. 72926.89 crores). It is this sector that is hit hard by the hartals and hartal-bandhs. The daily contribution of this sector to the GSDP works out to be about Rs. 200 crores.

Much of this contribution vapourises when political parties observe a single day’s bandh. It may be argued that part of the business would be recouped in the subsequent days. However, recovery becomes impossible when hartals follow one after another. The overall efficiency of the tertiary sector is diminished. Thus, the growth of the sector is hit. This is when only the services sector is showing growth rates above 12 per cent in the State.

Politicians call hartal as an easy way out. Organising other forms of protest needs more effort, skills and public support. Hartal cashes on the fear of people and could be organised even for a cause that does not enjoy public support. It is high time that the practice is stopped.

Trivandrum observes hartal

Trivandrum observes hartal: Chalai bazaar on Nov. 1, 2007

Many politicians take refuge against criticism by pointing out that hartal was a non-violent form of agitation used by Mahatma Gandhi. But everyone knows that violence or fear of violence ensures the success of hartals these days. It is not used to fight a foreign power but to cause hiccups to growth. It is neither voluntary nor disciplined as during the freedom struggle.


Contribution to tertiary sector (2005-06)

Transport, Storage & Communication– 9.9 per cent (Rs. 11919.03 cr.)
Trade, Hotels & Restaurants– 23.1 per cent (Rs. 27930.05 cr.)
Banking and Insurance– 5.7 per cent (Rs. 5755.73).


Distribution of one lakh gas cylinders would be disrupted by a day’s hartal.