From 2005 to 2012, Kerala witnessed 363 hartals with the year 2006 alone contributing 223 to the tally

Three Kerala politicians who are boldly saying no to hartal
news Wednesday, September 02, 2015 - 19:15
Kerala has the dubious distinction of being a state that loves to protest. As life went on largely uninterrupted in many parts of India in spite of a Bharat Bandh, Kerala and West Bengal bucked the trend with a total shutdown.
From 2005 to 2012, Kerala witnessed 363 hartals with the year 2006 alone contributing 223 to the tally.
 
The Kerala chapter of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) pegs ‘the loss to exchequer on account of duties and taxes to be approximately Rs 200 crores’ per day.  
 
But what causes much consternation is that every hartal declared in the state goes on to become a success, as a result of people’s capitulation to the call for a bandh, either in support of the cause or in fear.
But for the last five years, an Ernakulam-based man is striving to change the current situation and has the unequivocal support for three politicians who say they will defy even their own party’s call for a bandh.
 
The ‘Say No to Hartal’ campaign founded by social activist and congressman Raju P. Nair in 2010 has the unprecedented and unexpected support from three politicians – MP Shashi Tharoor, Paravur MLA VD Satheesan and Ernakulam MLA Hibi Eden.
 
Tharoor, the Congress’ MP from Thiruvananthapuram believes no one has the right to coerce others into giving up their work or other commitments, whatever the cause.
 
 
“When I entered politics I pledged to oppose all hartals, even if my own party called one. While I support the right of workers to strike, I consider it a deeply anti-social act to compel others to do so. Hartals have kept students from exams, patients from hospitals, and cost crores in lost economic activity,” Tharoor told The News Minute.
 
Asked if he thinks parties including the Congress should stop calling for hartals, he said, “Yes, I have said so, and I have openly defied every hartal that has been called since my return to India seven years ago, including one called by the UDF to protest the T.P Chandrasekhar murder. I have kept my office open and worked on all hartals days, including today. I would be in favour of an all-party consensus against hartals, as Malappuram is striving to achieve.”
 
But when the rest of the country is rejecting the hartal phenomenon, why does Kerala have a strange love for it? Tharoor says that puzzles him too.
 
“Kerala is often the last refuge of lost causes. Hartals flourish here when they have become obsolete everywhere else. Here, everyone loves a good strike! It surprises me that a people as hard-working and industrious abroad as Keralites are so willing to enjoy enforced idleness at home,” he said.
 
 
At 27, Congress member Hibi Eden was the youngest MLA to be elected to the 13th Kerala assembly. Like many politicians in the state, Eden too is active on social media and when someone questioned him over his support to the ‘No to Hartal’ group, the MLA retorted that he would oppose it no matter which party called for a hartal.
 
“Even if my party calls for it, I will not accept hartals that infringe into people's right. The fact that me, VD Satheesan, Shashi Tharoor, MM Hassan are coming against this atrocity beyond party line shows our conviction. Change should start within,” he said in a Facebook post.
 
Eden calls hartals a primitive mode of protest. “People from the younger generation do not support hartals. There is a huge economic impact. I am an active member of ‘Say no to hartal’ and irrespective of the colour of the flag I am against hartals,” he told The News Minute.
 
 
Paravur MLA and KPCC vice-president VD Satheesan was a practicing Kerala High Court lawyer until 2011 and has called hartals and strikes at public places “anti-constitutional” and a violation of fundamental rights.
 
“I have been protesting against hartals for the last 15 years. I am a member of ‘Say no to Hartal’ movement. Everyone has the right to strike work, that’s a democratic way to protest. But that does not give one the right to hinder others’ freedom. You can't enforce hartals on others. Whichever party holds hartal, I am against it”, he told TNM.
 

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