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Ban bandas




MIN BAJRACHARYA

There have been more than 100 days of general strikes over the past four years. Omitting Saturdays, this means five months' worth of nationwide bandas. Imagine the loss in work, the sick who couldn't go to hospital, the daily wage labourers who went hungry, the children who couldn't go to school.

The bandas of April 2006 brought about dramatic political change. The people suffered then, but at least the shutdowns had the political aim of ending dictatorship and establishing democracy. The same was the case in 1990. But bandas did not stop with the advent of democracy both times.

A nationwide general strike should be the last weapon to fight an uncaring state. Now, it's become the first. There are many ways to carry out peaceful protests. In a democratic state, the government has no choice but to listen to legitimate demands. Those clamouring for rights can use the free media, lobby civil society, and try to convince the political parties. After all, those are the pillars of democracy-political parties, media, civil society-and they are the institutions through which one can work.

After teachers unilaterally closed down schools for 11 days, the janajatis shut down the country last Friday. There are more bandas in the offing. The tarai has been facing chronic shutdowns. Education is a basic right of children and bandas violate that right. It is criminal to use children to serve political ends. Teachers who use school children as pawns, and workers who agitate just for the sake of agitation can't be regarded as legitimate.

Bandas are enforced by the threat of violence, and through fear and intimidation. The people have been forced to accept or risk being stoned and attacked. Citizens have said through the media that they don't want any of this, but this has fallen on deaf ears. The country suffers great economic loss during every closure. Unions and groups affiliated to various political parties use any number of excuses to announce sudden bandas. This has cost the country more than Rs 30 billion in the past four years.

The affiliates of political parties that call bandas should be aware of the damage their strike calls cause. Only if we ban bandas can the country find a way out of its present deadlock.

Related Article: East-west banda



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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