Friday, March 05, 2010

Hartal and a street vendor

by D.Dhanuraj

Today morning, I was speaking to our vegetable vendor near my home. When I asked for the fresh pieces, he started discussing , yesterday’s strike. Knowing my interest in politics, he started asking; “are we living in a democratic country or not?” I was not sure what he was referring to. Then he showed me a basket of rotten tomatoes and mangoes. It was shocking site for me since he is a medium level vendor who makes a living out of that. When I asked him what had happened; he was so angry for the strike called yesterday. He had gone to Ernakulum market on Monday to buy vegetables and grocery to sell it on Tuesday. He was told that there was motor strike only. so he bought on a regular basis. Yesterday morning, when he opened the shop, he was asked to shut it by the local politicians who support the strike. He had no other way except accepting their muscle power.

He keep on narrating what happened to the nearby shops that include hotels, restaurants, grocery shops and so on. All of them had opened it in the morning but had to close as soon as the supporters of the strike barged into them. A restaurant was on business as usual in the morning but then they had to close and throw away food prepared for the day’s business. I remember a study which estimated Rs 700 crores loss per hartal in Kerala. I am not sure what is the loss yesterday but it will be more than what state has to pay for the increase in petroleum products. If the state is concerned about the price hike, then why does not government look at the tax structure? They say half of the price is attributed by the tax. I am also not sure why the protest marches head BSNL offices. BSNL is already in a crisis and whether they want to speed up the layoff proceedings? The vegetable vendor kept on saying his difficulties. interestingly, none of his remarks were against the government or the state policies as we believe most often, but were against the disgruntled and moderate political leaderships and their muscle power. When I was about the leave the shop, he again asked; “are we living in a democratic country or not?”

This time I answered; “ I don’t understand why the same political forces stop their print media (news paper) and television channel from working at least for a few hours as a mark of protest? I don’t understand why don’t they force to close the state Beverages corporation outlets?”