Pernicious bandh culture
The Assam government has put a figure to the economic loss the State has long been suffering from bandh culture. In the past year 2014, the State as a whole suffered a staggering loss of Rs 2,943.25 crores with as many as 68 days lost to bandhs called by various organisations. This fact has come out in an affidavit submitted by the State government to the Gauhati High Court, hearing a PIL against bandhs. Separately, frequent district bandhs took a heavy toll, inflicting a total loss of Rs 1,484 crores. The district to suffer most was gaon with Rs 170.86 crore in terms of economic loss, followed by Sonitpur with a loss of Rs 135 crore. The statistics also revealed that Kamrup (Rs 101 crore), Kamrup Metro – including Guwahati city (Rs 73 crore), Tinsukia (Rs 82 crore) and Barpeta (Rs 81 crore) were other major sufferers. Kokrajhar lost maximum 48 days due to bandhs, followed by Chirang with 37, Baksa with 34 and Udalguri with 21 days. Common people, particularly daily wage earners and petty traders, have been the victims of the pernicious bandh culture holding the State hostage — while political parties have vied with little-known, obscure organisations and even mischievous groups of individuals in bringing about frequent shutdowns. After the Supreme Court in 1998 upheld a Kerala High Court judgment that bandhs are illegal, the Gauhati High Court too in 2010 had declared bandhs ‘illegal and unconstitutiol’ as these violate the fundamental rights of citizens. The threat of vandalism by unruly bandh supporters on shops and offices as well as private offices, the fear of insurance firms not honouring claims for damages during bandhs — have doubtless cast a pall during shutdowns. But the Assam government has refrained from taking tough action against bandh organisers because it does not want to risk antagonising them. It continues to be a monumental failure of governce, taking an ucceptable toll on this backward State.