Citizens' Issues
Bandh hampers social & economic life of the country

The nation-wide bandh jointly called by several opposition parties brought  most States of the country to a standstill, including Congress-ruled ones like Maharashtra. The 12-hour bandh adversely affected the social and economic life of the country

The opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Left parties' call for a Bharat Bandh to protest against the hike in fuel prices could potentially have caused an economic loss of over Rs20,000 crore (if one were to simply divide the GDP number by 365). However, in real terms, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has estimated the loss due to the bandh at around Rs3,000 crore.

As always, the worst affected were the daily wage earners and people dependent on small trade who earned no income on Monday.

The impact of the bandh varied from State to State, but it did have some effect in almost all parts of India. Schools, colleges, shops and business establishments remained closed in most States as groups of protesters took to the streets, trying to enforce the 12-hour bandh. All essential services like supply of water, milk, electricity, hospital and emergency services were excluded from the bandh. Industry corporate offices were open but branches were shut down.

Almost all private carriers cancelled flights in West Bengal; many were scheduled to commence operations after 6.00pm. In many places, public transportation was scarce and in opposition-ruled States, government offices also remained closed.

In Maharashtra, police cracked down on trouble makers and detained nearly 10,000 people. Considering the low passenger load due to the bandh, domestic airlines had cancelled 45 departures and 39 arrivals at the domestic airport in Mumbai. Around 100 buses were stoned and destroyed in Mumbai.

Although many bank branches were closed, clearing operations in most parts of the country were unaffected. The two national stock exchanges headquartered in Mumbai made a determined effort to remain open, however, trading turnover was less than half. The Bombay Stock Exchange turnover was Rs2,857 crore today in comparison to Rs4,554.87 crore on 2nd July. There was a decline of 37%. In case of the National Stock Exchange, the turnover today was Rs7,765.05 crore in contrast to 2nd July when it was Rs11,827.61 crore. Thus, there was a steep decline of 34%. Also, Multi Commodity Exchange of India Ltd’s turnover today during normal trading hours (from 10.00am to 5.00pm) was Rs7,095 crore in comparison to the same time period on Friday, when it was Rs12,756 crore. Thus, it showed a decline of 44%.

Last month, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had increased the price of petrol by Rs3.50, diesel by Rs2 and kerosene by Rs3 a litre, respectively. Prices of cooking gas had also increased by Rs35 a cylinder.

This, for the first time in years, united both the right wing and left-leaning political parties. Those who participated in the bandh included the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), CPI, Forward Block, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Biju Janata Dal (BJD), JD(S), Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Akali Dal.

In Bihar, several long distance and passenger trains, including the New Delhi-Muzaffarpur Sampark Kranti Express were detained at different stations following the agitation. In Kerala, shops remained closed and there were no buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws moving in the State. Around 700 bus services in various districts of Andhra Pradesh were disturbed and rescheduled.

Also, in case of other States such as Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, the bandh story was more or less the same. Apart from public transport, educational institutions, cinema halls and petrol pumps remained closed in Chhattisgarh. Normal life was also hit in major cities of Rajasthan. Educational institutes remained closed in Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Kota. Public transport came to a halt leaving commuters stranded. However, flights and train services remained unaffected in the State.

Road traffic was hit in some cities of Himachal Pradesh. Activists of the BJP along with opposition parties forced people to shut down their shops in most districts of the State. In Karnataka, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation, which runs bus services in the State and to neighbouring States, and the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, which services the IT hub, withdrew their buses after several of them were stoned in Bengaluru and other parts of the State.

However, in Tamil Nadu, public transport, educational institutions, the banking sector and other business establishments functioned normally as the bandh, supported by the State’s opposition party AIADMK and its allies, did not affect normal life. Also, most north-eastern states such as Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura remain unaffected by the bandh. In these States, shops, government offices and other business establishments remained open. Transport services also functioned smoothly. However, in Mizoram, some flights were cancelled.



Shantilal Hajeri

7 years ago

Ruling parties should be banned from calling bandhs or supporting bandhs. It is the job of the Government to provoide the basic facilities tot he citizens at all cost. Ruling parties obsrving bandhs is like fence eating the crops.
Even opposition parties should only call a bandh. Whether the industries and business men want to support the bandh or not should be left to them. There should not be any force for observing bandh.
Violence djuring bandh should be treated as a serious criminal offence. Exemplary punishment should be given to those involinving in violence during bandh.

July-Sep to be weakest link for steel industry, says official

However, firms which produce flat steel products—mainly used by the automobile and consumer durables industry— may consider hiking rates of some segments to stay afloat

The July-September period will see erosion of profitability of steel companies as the gloomy demand scenario would prevent them from hiking rates amid high input cost pressure, a government official said today, reports PTI.

"The current quarter would be the weakest link in the financial year 2010.

Margins, profitability of steel companies will take a hit amid high input cost pressure, sluggish demand scenario," Joint Plant Committee Chief Economist A S Firoz told PTI.

The Joint Plant Committee is a government agency which collates data on the Indian iron and steel industry, conduct techno-economic studies, among others.

Steel firms have seen prices coming down by up to Rs 6,000 a tonne to around Rs 27,000-33,000 a tonne in past few months as construction work slowed down ahead of monsoon.

"During monsoon now, steel demand and prices, especially of long steel products, are expected to fall again in the current quarter," Firoz said. Long steel products are mainly consumed by construction and infrastructure companies.

He said, however, firms which produce flat steel products -- mainly used by automobile and consumer durables industry -- may consider hiking rates of some segments to stay afloat.

"Steel makers can increase prices of products, which have demand. Considering the demand, they can always adjust prices. But, global prices at present are ruling low, there have been cheap imports in last few months," he added.

Leading steel producers like Essar Steel and JSW Steel are looking at increasing price in some segments in the current month.

Prices of raw material -- iron ore and coking coal -- are at present ruling around 50-100 per cent high. Spot iron ore prices are ruling at around $115-120 a tonne and coking coal prices at around $200 a tonne level.

"The recent correction in spot prices of these raw material have not yet been reflected under the supply contract, so the input cost pressure is still there," Firoz added.


All in the search of food

Mumbai is at a standstill despite the ruling party saying that it would ensure that it was business as usual. For those who believed the government and made their way to work without a dabba, half the day was a long search for food.

It is called the "City that never sleeps", yet Mumbai was caught dozing off during the day today, after the bellicose call by our netas for a 'Bharat Bandh'.

Yesterday, Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan said that there wasn't going to be any bandh-like situation. Hearing that, I ventured out to my work place (after all, I work for a media organisation) at Shivaji Park in Dadar, the heart of Mumbai's right-wing Shiv Sena and its breakaway faction, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). However, once I stepped outside from my home, there wasn't a sign of the promises Mr Chavan had made.

This is the new Mumbai for you. A few years ago, Mumbaikars took pride in defying bandh calls and even the fury of nature to make their way to office. Commercial establishments and hawkers strived to remain open; but not anymore. Mumbai no longer needs to be forcibly shut down by rampaging mobs. Even on my way to work, it was evident that neither malls and shop-owners, nor the hawkers on the street were taking any chances. They had simply taken the day off. Even the legendry dabbawallahs were off today.

Around noon, it was clear that we would have to go out and hunt for food in the concrete jungle. The streets were deserted as autos, taxis and fleet cabs decided to stay off the roads. Shops and restaurants were closed. Even the road-side hawkers who supply Mumbai's countless migrants-from labour to executives-with every imaginable variety of street food were missing. Yet, you did see the occasional motorcyclist or car passing by. The police seemed to be everywhere, patiently waiting for any signs of protest or trouble. Only the mobile chaiwalas on their cycles, selling hot tea and peddling cigarettes, still dared to roam the streets.

Mumbai is a melting pot of culture and ethnicities, and this is reflected in the incredible range of its street foods and restaurants.  You can go eat a tandoori from a Punjabi dhabba or grab Maharashtra's famous vada pav. You could have some road side idlis and vada sambar, or even have some delicious pani puri. Such has been Mumbai's free enterprise.

As I set out, the hunger pangs were gnawing. There were others who didn't even have a tiffin with them, so I as pretty sure it was in their head too. As mentioned earlier not a single store was open and the vada pav or pani puri stalls were also shut. We needed FOOD!

Our first stop was at our corner vada pav wallah; he wasn't there. The stall was nicely covered with a cloth to protect it from the rain. I then made my way to Kirti College to have its famous vada pav; however, I was halted by a fellow hunter in search for food who informed me that "Kirti is also closed". By now it was beginning to dawn on me that the vada pav walah lobby had to stay shut since it owed its allegiance to Shiv Sena which controls Mumbai's municipal corporation-in other words, their legal hawking licences or hafta payments. In a flash, I recalled that all the junka bhakar and vada pav stalls mushroomed in the Sena's regime. It explained the loyalty factor as well.

So I was still without food. Right next to our office, there is an Udupi restaurant, at which I am a regular. Although its shutters were closed, I decided to try the back door and test my persuasion skills. Moneylife employees have given this place good business in the past, but it didn't relent. Once we entered the kitchen, the entire eatery was dark and you could see the workers squatting inside. One of them recognised me and said, "Saab, kya hua." I tried to look famished. Even if he gave us sandwiches, we would have been grateful. However, even in the dark I realised the answer was going to be 'no'. there were only there to safeguard the restaurant while their own dal-chawal was going to be brought from outside.
Disappointment loomed on our faces and we realised our search would be longer. We saw some youngsters trying to persuade the vada pav walah to fry a batch, but he said he wouldn't because he had no pav (buns). Finally someone told us of a place where we could get some 'tiffins'. He even took me there (towards Mahim) on his outdated Bajaj scooty, but again no luck; the owner said she only had food for two and we go to another place called the 'Canteen'. By now, I had certainly lost any hope of getting any food for my colleagues and me.

Having no choice, I went ahead. The biker was a nice guy who only spoke Marathi. He said, "You should get burji pav." I was uncertain. So, I asked him where the canteen was. He said it was at Sena Bhavan. Now, I was completely certain that we wouldn't get any food. Sena Bhavan has been the Saniks headquarters for ages. The likely thought of getting food on a bandh day like this was ludicrous. But the canteen was open. The canteen was nearly 70 steps away from the Sena headquarters and there was this South Indian guy making hot kheema and bhurji pav. His shanty was covered by a tree but it was still visible. I wasn't the only one there; there were others too who were in search of food, even some cops. So I quickly told him to pack seven plates of bhurji pav, paid for it and went back to the office with the deliciously tikka stuff.

The irony was that while most shops were closed out of fear, this South Indian hawker, whose shanty was a stone's throw away from Sena Bhavan, dared to remain open. Thank you, bhurji walah.


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