By Tanuj Gupta
Edited by Shambhavi Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
With the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) announcing a total transport strike across West Bengal on 19th September, 2014, followed by an indefinite taxi strike in Kolkata, things couldn’t get worse for commuters in the state. With the festive season soon to set in and preparation on in full swing, this definitely comes as a damper to many.
However, in the tussle between the Transport Unions and the Government, it is not just the daily commuter who loses out. The major loss is to the daily wage earner. Be it the one who is part of the striking faction or the one who depends on them for his routine livelihood. While higher authorities squabble and fight over raising fares, the ones who suffer the most are at the grassroots levels. Taxi drivers, bus conductors, and auto rickshaw drivers are the sort of daily wage earners who have the toughest time when this happens. Often they are the ones who are forced to remain silent, while the authorities above them make all the decisions. It is unfortunate because it is in their name that most of this power politics is played.
This does not imply that all active protest is bad. However, there is a need for boundaries. When a Union beats up a taxi driver for taking his vehicle out in an effort to feed his family, it reflects not only on the kind of social environment we are building, but also on the values that we no longer abide by. The fact that the government stands rigid and firm in its demands as well is further proof of the rot as ego triumphs any compassion or care.
It isn’t solely about the loss of livelihood to those involved in the sector. A strike such as this ends up affecting a wide cross section of the society as well. The only good thing to come out of it is perhaps that the air is fresher to breathe and the roads are much less clogged. This is the sole Silver lining to an otherwise grey cloud. It has not been that strikes such as these have brought much help. At the end of the day they are a little more than a show of strength, with a pittance to show by way of hikes or real help and support.
So is there a way out of this mess without getting anyone’s hands dirty? Well it is a simple formula called compromise and discussion. While it may not sound as the most exciting or lucrative idea, more often than not talking things rationally and logically can do far more than taking a stand and not budging from it. In all the bad blood that comes in the aftermath of something like this, it is not just sentiment but also livelihood that is affected by the behaviour of those entrusted with the responsibility to protect.
While there is an argument which says that everyone in a democracy has the right to protest in any way that they deem correct, there is also an argument which says that the needs of the many should not be sacrificed for the demands of a few. While this will be a debate that will go on for eternity, there is a hope that common sense will prevail.Tanuj is a final year student of B.Com (Hons.) at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. Simultaneously pursuing CA and doing his Articleship, the remaining time that he gets he spends debating, reading, writing and procrastinating. Not usually in that order. With a keen interest and opinion on practically everything under the sun, he is always more than enthusiastic to share it with others and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org for any sort of lively discussion.