Too Many Bandhs Hampering Businesses, Kerala Traders Declare 2019 The ‘Anti-Hartal Year’
On December 20, over 35 trade organizations representing merchants, bus and lorry owners, owners of hotels and restaurants and representatives of Chamber of Commerce in Kerala decided to observe ‘anti-hartal year’ in 2019, to cut down massive losses, reports The Wire.
State-president of Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti(KVVES), T Nasarudheen claimed that the traders, bus owners and other establishment owners lost crores of rupees due to these hartals.
”We want all the political parties to co-operate with us. Even a minister had said the political parties need to find an alternative to such flash strike calls,” said Nasarudheen, as reported by The Wire.
90 hartals in one year
Recently, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) on December 14 had called for a hartal to mourn the death of an activist who reportedly self-immolated at Sabarimala protest site in Thiruvananthapuram. Although, the commissioner of police said that the deceased self-immolated due to personal reasons. However, this was the sixth shutdown forced by BJP in the last three months over the Sabarimala issue.
At a meeting here on Thursday, the traders pointed out that Kerala had seen more than 90 hartals so far this year and the State exchequer had incurred heavy losses on account of this.
As per The Hindu, traders are thinking of moving to the court and approaching the State Election Commission against political parties. They are also looking for legal options through which they can protect their properties against vandalism by any party cadre during such hartals.
In 1997, Kerala High Court had banned bandhs. Following which the Supreme Court rejected Left government’s plea to reverse the order. Bandhs were renamed as ‘hartals’ to get around the law, as reported by The Wire. An ex-parliamentarian and Kerala Vice-President of Indian National Trade Union Confederation (INTUC), Haridas, said that workers’ strikes are different from hartals as in hartals the workers are forced to protest for their survival.
Massive economic losses due to hartals
President of Cochin Chamber of Commerce, V. Venugopal said that a successful hartal causes a loss of Rs 900 crores to Kerala’s Rs 7.76 lakh crore GDP.
“Hundred percent successful means the entire state comes to a standstill,” Venugopal said. He added that public transport systems and private vehicles are forced to stop during these hartals. And shops, schools and universities are also forced to close. He further said that these hartals have ripple effects across various sectors-delays in shipment and transportation, supply chain interruption and damage to inventory. Meanwhile, the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce has also decided not to support such shutdowns.
Hardest hit areas of Economy
The Tourism Sector, one of the main contributors to the state’s economy is also suffering from massive losses because of these hartals. According to Venugopal, at least 50,000 foreign and domestic tourists were trapped indoors due to a state-wide hartal on December 15. Kerala Tourism Task Force has also declared that the tourism industry will oppose such shutdowns.
However, what remains most affected is the informal sector of the state. Normally, wages in the formal economy are not cut due to hartals. But, the Informal workers are forced to stay at home and lose their day’s income.
Rahman M., a fish seller in Kothamangalam, said “I need Rs 1,000 every day for survival. My parents need medicines worth Rs 600 daily. With the remaining Rs 400, my family survives. It’s stressful and painful when we lose even one day’s business”.