It has been just a little over two weeks since the beginning of the new year but the state has already seen two bandhs. Another one is coming up in the next few days and who knows how many more will follow. Apart from everything else, this form of protest also reflects on the work culture, and indeed the nature of the economy, in the state. The reality is, not many feel the pinch painfully enough when a day or two go waste without work. The explanation lies perhaps in the definition of `employment` in the Manipur context. You are either employed by the government or else you consider yourself as not adequately `employed`. As an `unemployed` a day of bandh makes no difference, and as a government employee, a holiday or a bandh still makes no difference, as the salary you take home remains intact, and hence apart from the irritation that some in love with their work may feel, there is generally no desperation about the sentiment against bandhs and blockades. There is a justification behind this. Manipur fledgling private sector enterprises are unable to match the government in terms of service guarantees, rewards and safeguards. For this scenario to change, the private sector must have to grow. But this growth is what suffers the most amidst the bandh culture, perpetuating in the process the conditions that stunt the private sector job market.
The vicious cycle is tragic. You get caught in a trap you are chiefly responsible for, and then you express your outrage that you are caught in this trap by setting up more traps along your own path. Why can`™t the habitual bandh callers remember there is a fledgling private sector chipping in to the state`™s economy. These small time entrepreneurs, ranging from tyre retread shops, computer job centers, car mechanics, electronic repair shops, printing presses and numerous others, rent work spaces in commercial areas and conduct their businesses. They would have to pay the same rents regardless of no work caused by bandhs and blockades, holidays and Sabbaths, meet salary commitments, service entrepreneurial loans etc. How can they ever take off and climb to the heights they are capable of under the present circumstance, for every bandh and every blockade amounts to removing a feather from their wings? Then there is also the growing number of daily wage earners in our increasingly impoverished society. None of them, we are certain, would encourage a bandh. None of them would think calling one is justified either, no matter what the provocation. Surely there must be other ways of making a protest register without shooting yourself in the foot. It can also be presumed accurately that those who are fond of bandhs are those who do not value work, but sadly, as always, they are the ones who end up holding the entire population to ransom by their methods and inclinations. Perhaps it is time those who do work, and value work, begin defying bandhs and get along with their businesses. Let it also be remembered that in minding their own businesses, they are also minding an important business of the state `“ that of putting in their mite in lifting the economy out of the doldrums it has been condemned in for decades. But who will bell the cat, always remains the question in the end. The answer sadly has also always been, nobody, and it is not likely to change.
The outrageous thing is that those who call these bandhs are so very presumptuous about what they consider as public opinion, so that all of these protests, without exception, are made in the name of the public. These would include bandhs called for as frivolous a reason as the non-declaration of government job interview results. As for the real public opinion, they are extremely contemptuous. Otherwise, the bandhs and blockades as a tool of protests would have ended a very, very long time ago.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam