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Unformatted text preview: july 17, 2010 Economic & Political Weekly EPW july 17, 2010 vol xlv no 29 7 Understanding the Bandh Without adequate mass participation, Bharat bandhs may not achieve their goals. T he country experienced a Bharat bandh (all-India general strike) after a long time on 5 July, in protest against the deregulation of fuel prices and high inflation, now uncon- trolled for over a year. Both the issues are important and it is commendable that the opposition parties, led by the left, have made these the centre of their political agenda. While the economic policies of the past decade and more have managed to put the country on a high-growth track, it is also evident that inequality has increased sharply and we are doing terribly on many social indicators. In such a situation, the level of opposition to the econo- mic policies of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (upa) govern- ment is actually less than what it should be. For far too long have government policies been enacted and implemented without any significant mass opposition. That needs to change, and thus, the raising of the agitational pitch is welcome. But, having said this, it is also necessary to take a closer look at the particular weapon which was deployed on 5 July – the Bharat bandh or general strike. The key to understanding the structure and political implica- tions of the Bharat bandh is in the fact that more than nine out of 10 of India’s workers are in the unorganised sector. A majority of these are in the rural areas linked to agriculture; those in non- farm work remain fragmented in small and smaller units. In the urban areas too, a large number of working people are casual labourers or self-employed. Even within the organised sector, a large proportion of workers are on daily contracts and other forms of casual labour. The livelihood of this overwhelmingly large workforce, as reiterated recently in the reports of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, remains precarious and depends on daily earnings. Agitations like Bharat bandh disrupt this. Even when the demands of the bandh are central to their work and life, as they were in the recent instance, this large majority of workers can be mobilised by those who want to undermine the protest, given the structure of their employment. The immediacy of disruption of their daily earnings provides a ready handle to any and every force which would want to subvert the bandh. That this is not merely a theoretical possibility but rather a recur- ring experience is all too apparent. How are they to be mobilised for a Bharat bandh?...
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This note was uploaded on 07/31/2010 for the course FIN 201 taught by Professor Hcverma during the Summer '10 term at IIT Kanpur.
- Summer '10