By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, July 1: Despite court rulings, government warnings and anti-bandh rhetoric, organizations in Assam continue find shut-downs and blockades as the most potent device to vent their grievances.
Bandh supporters today yet again resorted to destruction of public property besides halting traffic on the vital tiol highway 37 at Dimoria on the outskirts of the city. The blockade was imposed on the controversy surrounding the elections to the Tiwa Autonomous Council.
Organizations and mobs are increasingly resorting to such violent activities and disruption of normal life to either reinforce their demands or vent their anger.
Government sources said that in the last six months, there have been 131 road blockades in the State, many of them over road accidents.
"An accident is an accident. What good will it do if anyone blocks the road after a mishap?" wondered an elderly person, frustrated at the bandh culture that has become an integral part of Assam.
According to a report by Industries and Commerce of North Eastern regions (ICNER), Assam loses an estimated Rs 900 corer annually because of bandhs.
The state's oil industry had suffered a loss of at least Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) during fiscal 2012-13 due to as many as 290 bandhs, blockades called by numerous organisations in three eastern Assam districts Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia where the company has its oil and gas fields, according to an industry official.
While many say the 'bandh culture' is a stigma on the effectiveness of local governce structures, and is unconstitutiol to say the least, Assam government has been a mute spectator, though it had time and again, issued veiled warnings to the organizations.
Bandhs in Assam have a rippling effect on all the Northeastern states as most basic commodities reach those states via Assam.
"The latest trend is sudden blockades on highways. Nowadays, if anyone has to travel to Upper Assam from Guwahati, he has to first make phone calls to inquire if there are any road blockades enforced on the route," said a trader who scuttles between Guwahati and Dibrugarh frequently.
On many occasions, protestors, buoyed by the government's silence and iction, are seen torching public vehicles and even assaulting 'bandh violators' - like they did today at Dimoria.
The Supreme Court had declared bandhs "illegal" and "unconstitutiol". The Guwahati High Court had also instructed the State government to act against bandh callers.
However, no action whatsoever has been taken by the State government against any organization to discourage the disease. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has been often hard saying that his government will be "tough" against bandh callers and that there would be "zero tolerance", but all those "warnings" have been seemingly hollow.