The nation-wide bandh called by the NDA yesterday crippled the commercial capital of the country, causing it to incur losses worth Rs 270-300 crore. MiD DAY spoke to economists, who revealed that the city has a population of approximately 20 million, of which about eight million account for the workforce. On an average, each member of this workforce has an income of Rs 1 lakh per annum, while the daily wage is around Rs 270.Economist Ajit Ranade said, “Forcibly stopping work during a bandh hits the poor and daily wage labourers the hardest.”
Gerson Dacuna, founder of AGNI, a voluntary citizens’ rights group, explained that Mumbai’s daily contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is Rs 300 crore, of which Rs 200 crore comes from the organised sector and the remainder comes from the unorganised sector. “Who will pay for these losses? AGNI is now seeking legal advice to file contempt proceedings against BJP and Shiv Sena for calling the bandh, in violation of a Bombay High Court order,” said Dacuna.
Nitai Mehta, founder and managing trustee of the Praja Foundation, echoed Dacuna’s sentiments, saying, “A bandh is definitely not the way to express disapproval of the petrol price hike. Bandhs cause hardships to the common man and daily wage earners. I am sure there are other ways and means by which the Opposition at the Centre and the state level can tackle the issues. One possible option is to compel the government to reduce over 30 per cent of taxes that we pay at present for every litre of petrol. People are already burdened with inflation, so an economic shutdown is not an answer to this problem.”
Dacuna referred to a petition lodged in 2004 against two political parties who had called for a bandh on July 30, 2003, after the Ghatkopar blast. The Court had slammed the parties, upheld the view that bandhs are unconstitutional and illegal, and averred that those who called for such shutdowns should be made to pay for any damages caused to private and public property.
According to the judgment, persons or groups calling for bandhs should be served notice under Section 149 of the Code of Criminal Procedure by the police. Moreover, the police commissioner should arrange for bandobasts to show police presence across the city. The order also stated that there should be video recording of vulnerable spots, so that the miscreants could be penalised for their vandalism. This judgment was the reason that corporate firms and private sector units did not declare a holiday yesterday, and the trains and buses plied as usual.