Photo of hartal Thursday, May 7 2009 

Some of the vehicles who ventured out on the hartal day (May 7, 2009) were attacked by UDF supporters

Some of the vehicles who ventured out on the hartal day (May 7, 2009) were attacked by UDF supporters

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UDF imposes another hartal on the people Wednesday, May 6 2009 

The Congress led United Democratic Front in Kerala is imposing another hartal on the people for its own failures.

The hartal is in protest against the Cabinet’s recommendation to the Governor against prosecution of the CPI (M) State secretary Pinarai Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin corruption case. The case pertains to the period when Pinarai was the Power Minister in the LDF Cabinet that came to power a decade ago. After that, the UDF had ruled the State for five years.

Five years was enough time for the government to conclude an investigation and permit prosecution. But the UDF Government was keen on withdrawing the Palmolein corruption case against Congress leader K. Karunakaran rather than pursuing the case against Pinarai, especially when the present Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy was the Chief Minister.

After the investigation was entrusted to the CBI, the Congress had been in power at the Centre. However, the CBI sat on the investigation as along as the CPI (M) was supporting the Government at the Centre. Then, it acted and sought sanction from the Governor for the prosecution, which he referred to the Government.

The Advocate General, who is a political nominee of the CPI (M) has given a legal opinion against prosecution despite the CBI listing Pinarai as the ninth accused after an investigation supervised by the courts. The CPI (M) intervened to force the decision by the Cabinet against feeble objections raised by the Chief Minister.

The case has never been vigourously by the Congress. Now, in view of media criticism about its dilly dallying, the party is imposing another hartal on the people. Thus both the UDF and LDF becoming party to subversion of rule of the law in the State.

General strike could cause backlash against trade unions Friday, Aug 22 2008 

Normal life comes to a standstill during hartals and bandhs

Normal life is hit during hartals and bandhs

Organising general strikes for political reasons and turning them into bandhs could ultimately jeopardise trade union rights.

First of all, let us think why political parties turn strikes into bandhs and call for hartals. As has been discussed earlier, it is because of their failure to mobilise support for strikes and agitations among the workers and members of the public. So, they are using intimidation. Intimidation can succeed in the short term, but not on the long term. There would come a time when people would rise against the intimidators.

Workers are not voluntarily joining strikes, as their lot is good in most sectors. In the past, they resorted to strike owning to desperation. This desperation is no more there in case of most of the workers. It is notable that employees in the IT sector are generally opposed to strikes and hartals. Naturally, this has its impact on the trade unions and incomes of their leaders.

Owing to disruption of works caused by repetitive strikes, now there is consensus that IT units and special economic zones should be excluded from strikes and other union activities. This has hampered the trade union rights of people employed in technoparks and special economic zones. Even a Human Rights report of American State Department some years back said that trade union rights were being denied to the workers of Cochin Export Processing zone. That situation continues.

Now with trade unions and political parties blocking even the movement of private citizen’s in the name of general strike, public opinion is likely to change against all kinds of strikes. Already there is a backlash against the trade union movement in Kerala because of the tactics adopted by them in the past including the infamous ‘Nookukooli’. Now, Labour Minister P. K. Gurudasan says that ‘Nookkukooli’ is not a labour issue as no labour was involved. However, the government is not willing to treat it as a law and order issue.

The general strikes are being called when many services are needed on a 24×7 basis. The backlash to their disruption and paralysing of the administration and economy even for a day will be severe.

On a hartal day Wednesday, Aug 20 2008 

The 24-hour general strike today was total in Kerala. Stops, restaurants and even petrol bunks were closed. But a few opened shop by the evening for some brisk business …

A few restuarants at Palayam in Trivandrum opened shop in the evening to provide some succour to people dependent on hotel food

A few restuarants at Palayam in Trivandrum opened shop in the evening to provide some succour to people dependent on hotel food

Related Posts:

Hartals galore in Kerala

Hartals, the weapon of bankrupt political parties

Kerala to be paralysed for the nth time

Kerala to be paralysed for the nth time

Kerala to be paralysed for the nth time Monday, Aug 18 2008 

Hartal in Kerala

Hartal in Kerala

After around 80 local and Statewide hartals this year, Kerala would be paralysed for another day as part of the nation-wide general strike.

This time, the organisers would not be content with blocking road traffic. They would picket trains in all districts through which a railway line passes.

None can dispute the right of workers to go on strike and the farmers to support such an action. However, the strike is obviously politically motiviated. Little doubt that it is being organised with an eye on the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Hardly any of the issues raised by the trade unions such as neoliberal policies of the Government are urgent in nature. As the election is near, what the left parties should have done is to promise a change in policy and better deal for farmers, if they elect the third front to power. The demands should be specifically incorporated into the election manifesto as promises. It should also clarify stand on other policy issues such as special economic zones.

Then, campaign for victory and support of the people for the change in policies. If the people support the demands, the third front would be elected to power. Then, there will be no need for general strikes. If defeated, the Left should respect the verdict of the people (in favour of liberalization and nuclear deal).

Hartal over price rise is irrational Thursday, Jun 5 2008 

Hartal in TrivandrumAnother hartal in Kerala and bandhs in several States of India caused immense hardships to people and losses to the country’s economy this week. It was over hike in petrol, diesel and cooking gas prices.

We know that Indian Government has little control over petroleum prices. Even if it were forced to bring down prices, the general public would be paying for the losses of public sector oil companies. So, demand of the leftist parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party is that the Government should subsidise the air-conditioned cars of the rich who consume petrol in high quantities!

Now, the Centre has asked States to cut the taxes. The result is the same. The motor-riders would benefit while the State will lose higher revenues that could be used for the benefit of all. (This is in addition to the subsidies some car manufacturers are getting like subsidised land.)

It can very well be argued that the tax rates on petroleum products are unreasonably high. Yet, there is little rational for tinkering with actual prices, provided one takes into account the cost of domestic production, which could be lower. The tax burden can, of course, be partly shifted to items like luxury cars to ease the burden on the general population and economy.

The hartal caused a loss of about Rs. 3 crores to the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, as it had to maintain its infrastructure and run some empty buses. It has to pay monthly salaries to its employees while it loses a day’s revenue. This is the case with every institution that pays monthly salaries to its work force. On the other hand, the poor daily wage earners suffer because they cannot go for work on the hartal day.

The political parties organised hartal against general rise in prices. The country loses nearly 1/365 of production in several spheres. The result will only be weakening of the economy and increase in prices. Every economist knows that lowering of production by a factor of 1/365 can increase prices. One can see that such hartals are irrational. Many Indians understand that. But the politicians think that they could hoodwink some through such protests. (updated on June 6, 2008.)

Earlier posts
Hartal: the weapon of bankrupt politicians
Hartals galore in Kerala

Hike and double standards

After hartals, virtual banking holiday in Kerala Monday, Feb 25 2008 

sbthq.jpgAfter two days of hartal— first called by the United Democratic Front to protest against the price rise and the second by the traders themselves to protest against retail chains, the people of Kerala would be subjected to two days of closure of one of the leading banks of the State.

The employees of State Bank of Travancore (SBT), a subsidiary of State Bank of India (SBI), go on strike for two days (February 25 and 26, 2008) in protest against the proposal to merge it with SBI. Unions of other public sector banks and some small private sector banks join them across the country with common demands such as revision of wages.

The SBI is trying to increase its capital base through a rights issue and amalgamation of its subsidiaries to meet global competition. Neither the employees unions of SBT nor others have come out with solid grounds for their opposition to the merger. The Kerala Government is also silent.

The loss of their prominence seems to be major concern of the union leaders and higher ups in the Bank. The employees stand to benefit as their salaries are bound to go up with merger with SBI.

SBT has the largest branch network in Kerala. The presence of SBT with its headquarters in Trivandrum had helped higher penetration of banking into rural areas. Considerable agriculture credit also flows from the Bank. This push may not continue after merge. Some branches may even be closed down owing to redundancy. A major concern for Keralites would be flow of money out of the State.

The banks in Kerala, flush with deposits from the Gulf countries, had been maintaining a low credit deposit ratio. Several of the banks including the SBI used to siphon off funds to Northern States on the ground that there were no viable projects for large-scale lending in Kerala.

Update: Strike postponed following talks

Related blogs and links
What is Hartal
Why this hartal
Hartals galore in Kerala

Hartals, the weapon of bankrupt political parties

hartal-the-complementing factor of Kerala
UDF hartal affects normal life in Kerala
Traders hartal total
We hate hartals

CPI takes on retail chains
Indian Banks

Hartals, the weapon of bankrupt political parties Wednesday, Feb 6 2008 

Hartal in Kerala

The Opposition United Democratic Front in Kerala is bent on organizing a hartal on February 19 to protest against price rise.

Haratal is today a weapon of political parties that lack constructive programmes and actions. Their self-centers cadres, who have joined politics for personal gains, cannot be mobilized for any mass action, without the political parties spending huge sums on them.

People often cite that Mahatama Gandhi organised the first haratls. However, a close look would show how different they were. The hartals called by Gandhiji was organised by volunteers without resort to violence. Now, it is fear of violence by often paid goons of the political parties that keep people away from their occupations.

Gandhiji knew that his hartals would hit the colonialists in the cities than the rural populace. The peasantry would be able to carry on with their occupations without interruption while the movement of goods and services needed by the colonialists would be hit.

Today, there is no colonialists to fight against, but only elected governments. The Opposition should win the support of the people and bid for power instead of harming the economy. Life in the twenty-first century needs 24-hour uninterrupted services. The hartal by the UDF will only contribute to price rise by halting production for a day.

Statistics on hartals

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