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food for thought

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  23 May 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Our country has a large number of religious holidays, so the people have to take full advantage of all working days available in the calendar. This is one aspect in which Assam suffers and lags behind, because every other day, some or the other part of the State is closed down due to a bandh. This has been so for the last three decades, causing incalculable loss to the State’s economy. Recently the Gauhati High Court directed the Assam government to submit details about number of bandhs called in Assam and the loss suffered by the State. The court also asked the government to frame appropriate laws to curb bandhs by making some changes in its draft policy. But Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s reaction is hardly encouraging, which somewhat explains why Dispur has been dragging its feet over the issue. Gogoi straightaway said his government is not in favour of outlawing bandhs. If the police fires upon bandh supporters, it may create law and order problems and huge public outcry. But he conveniently forgets to mention bandhs called in the past to protest decisions by Congress governments in the State or the Centre. In such instances, the entire government machinery was used to neutralise bandhs by forcibly getting markets to open, sternly directing government employees to attend offices or face discipliry action, and letting loose police and para-military forces on bandh supporters. Chief Minister Gogoi says without public cooperation, it is not easy to prevent bandhs. But it is the Assam government that needs to cooperate with the courts by taking a pro-active stand against bandhs. All political parties, whether ruling or in opposition, need to introspect which way the State is going with frequent bandhs causing loss of numerous mandays. The necessary laws must be framed. And use of police force does not mean firing with live bullets. After all, rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and other such crowd dispersal measures have been used in Assam too. Above all, the government must take the lead in building up public opinion against bandh culture, in accordance with the High Court’s initiative in 2012.

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