On a day when the United Democratic Front (UDF) the main opposition in Kerala, observed a dawn-to-dusk hartal on Monday, to protest the petrol price hike, a man from Ernakulam used his cycle to protest against both the price hike, as well as hartals in general.
47-year-old Dr Benny John, who lives in Aluva in Ernakulam district, rode his bicycle from Aluva NAD road to Cherthala, around 60 km away. The Principal of Bharathmatha College of Arts and Science in Aluva, Dr Benny tells TNM that he was protesting against hartal as a mode of protest.
"Hartals are not the solution for any problem. Not only the UDF, but no political party must resort to hartals as a form of protest. It is nothing but a loss of a productive working day and causes huge financial losses," Dr Benny says.
He says that he was unhappy with two things, that prompted him to embark on a solo cycle expedition.
"As everybody else, I am also concerned about the rising fuel prices. But hartal is not going to solve that issue, it just obstructs the people's freedom of movement. Through my cycle trip, I wanted to convey the fact that it is high time we explore alternate, non-polluting means of transport and utilise renewable energy," Dr Benny says.
In the 60 km that he covered in a span of 4 hours, Dr Benny says that he came across people who either considered a hartal day as an off-day, or common people who expressed concern on their lost income.
"I walked into this small hotel for breakfast and the owner told me about what a financial loss a hartal has brought him. Being a head of an educational institution, I know how we are losing working days due to rains and other issues and cannot afford to lose more classes to hartals," he says.
Cycle as a choice of transport
Dr Benny chose cycle as a mode of transport three years ago. Speaking about the shift, he says, "This is the time when pollution is rising and the rising prices of fuel is also a concern. There's no better time to make such a conscious choice to opt cycles as a mode of transport. Although I haven't completely switched to cycles, I use it on most evenings to visit friends."