Long time regular readers will know about the disease that strikes my home state of Kerala – the disease called “harthal”. Harthal, for those of you who have no clue as to what it is, is a general strike that paralyses normal life in the city/state (and yes we’ve even had a couple of nation wide harthals as well). It is usually declared by the opposing political parties and their supporters/goons/hoodlums and affects businesses, schools, public and most forms of private transport, labour etc. Shops, stores, offices, schools, colleges, buses, taxis & autorikshaw services etc must all be closed on the days that the harthal is declared. Usually it runs for 12 hours – 6am to 6pm – which means you can go about your normal routine after that. Today is one such harthal.
Harthal became so routine (averaging once a month for the past 10 years or so) that most people in the state of Kerala have become used to it. The day before a harthal is to happen people buy enough food, usually planning to make a holiday out of it, to last the day without having to go out and most drinkers buy beer or rum/brandy/vodka whatever to indulge in on that day. Hey, if we had embraced the barbecue concepts we would be on our patios and backyards grilling chicken, beef or pork the whole morning! For the last 3 years or so a lot of people have voiced their frustration at this unwanted nuisance that affects us due to political parties playing around with our personal choices. Many in the IT section chose to ride their bikes to work (bikes are usually given a pass by the harthal organizers) and work at the office a full shift even if their bosses have told them to not come in. And now harthal protesters have come with their own plans.
The ‘Say No To Hartal’ group is gearing up to mark their protest against the Left Democratic Front’s (LDF) call for hartal on Monday in the state. The group which comes to life whenever there is a hartal call said that they would actively contest the hartal supporters in the streets of Kochi on Monday. In an attempt to confront the hartal supporters, the group will organise a vehicle rally from Kadavanthra to South railway station at 10 am. The organisers said the attempt was to break every taboo followed religiously on a hartal day in the state. The group has said that if any hartal supporter tries to damage their vehicles, they would move court for compensation. They have also arranged for 30 vehicles to support any travelers who are stranded in train stations, hospitals, bus stations etc or who just need to get from one point to another urgently. The ‘Say No To Hartal Group’ will be on duty at the North and South railway stations on the hartal day to help stranded passengers. Almost 262 volunteers have already registered on the group’s website ‘www.saynotoharthal.com’ expressing their interest to volunteer on the day. A number was shared on Facebook, Twitter & email for the same.
Kerala is opening up about Harthal. It’s high time we put an end to this nonsense!