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Bandhs: Does the cost of citizen inconvenience justify the message?

Pune, 3rd November, 2023:- In a democratic country like India, everyone is born with freedom of speech. It is every Indian’s birthright to voice issues, queries, concerns, and grievances. However, raising a voice at the cost of disturbing the economy, the ordinary public’s convenience, emotions, and daily life is unsettling, is what I feel. Simply put, such situations are known as Bandhs or Strikes.

Bandhs in India are often treated as a medium to communicate issues to the authorities. Political parties, communal fraternities, or interest groups usually announce Bandhs to highlight their demand actions on particular issues, and put the authorities on the back foot to address grievances. Bandhs are indeed an influential tool for advocacy, although they frequently come at a sheer cost that usually creates turmoil in society.

So, the real question I would like to ask is, do the Bandhs have an equally strong alternative medium to voice issues that will not harm the human ecosystem?

Let us understand the gravity of this common issue!

During a Bandh, protesters stride the streets with roaring vehicles, block roads, scream slogans, force shop owners/businesses to shut their ‘Dukaans’, and ensure day-to-day activities go on an indefinite pause. The crux of this action is to manipulate the authorities to take the message or demands more seriously.

How do Bandhs impact society on different levels?

  1. Economic Impact: The economic impact on businesses and individuals is one of the most stringent costs of Bandhs. When businesses are forced to shut, productivity falls, and financial losses pile up rapidly. Unfortunately, daily wage workers, small shop owners, and self-employed individuals face the wrath of Bandhs at large, as they lose income they cannot easily regain.
  2. Disruption to Daily Life: Bandhs devastate not only the daily routines of citizens but also create fear in their minds. Especially while traveling via public transportation, there is a high chance that protesters may attack transportation vehicles, leaving innocent public shiver with fear. Most of the time, protesters also halt transportation services, making it hard for people to travel to work or access essential services. During Bandhs, schools and colleges often remain closed, disturbing the educational regime.
  3. Healthcare and Emergencies: Bandhs can severely affect healthcare services and emergency facilities. For instance, if a critical patient needs urgent medical attention, due to Bandhs, he/she may not get it on time. Even for hospitals, it becomes challenging to maintain a whole staff.
  4. Inequality: Bandhs barely affect some individuals as they can easily remain untouched by the chaos. On the other hand, Bandhs highly influence those whose livelihood depends on daily income.
Source: Times Citizen

"While Bandhs serve as a medium for voicing issues, they unsettle many lives and negatively impact the economy. Bandhs create fear in the general public and obstruct essential facilities like public transportation, healthcare services, etc. Daily wage workers and small business owners are the ones who face the wrath of Bandhs the most."

Sameer Desai, Founder & Managing Director

Considering the consequences and possible outcomes of Bandhs, I feel the debate about Bandhs is encircled by complexity and diversity. In a nutshell, protesters should choose a less disturbing path to express their concerns to the authorities. Peaceful protests, digital campaigns, and being open about an issue through established channels can be the efficient means of communication minus any inconveniences. A Bandh undoubtedly is an integral tool to shed light on important issues to bring it to the notice of the government. Although, it shouldn’t obstruct citizens’ inconvenience and create serious, moral, and functional questions. Those who organize Bandhs need to reconsider the way they protest. Their methods shouldn’t harm innocent citizens.

Governments should also become more responsive and responsible towards addressing the issue raised by protesters to avert the repetition of Bandhs. Ultimately, the message is of invaluable significance. But how it is conveyed should not cause a threat to society.

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