Leona is a cute four old girl in my neighborhood. She is the daughter of Joseph who stays in the same apartment building. I meet her occasionally in the passage, lift or drive way. She responds very well to my questions apart from the normal greetings. A short dialogue with her is like an elixir to start something good when I stir out in the morning. Generally she also gets out of her flat to catch the bus to her kindergarten when I too move out for some work.
The other day, precisely on 25th December, I met her in the driveway with her parents. I asked her 'No school today?'. I was expecting an answer that it was Merry Christmas day…..But she replied, 'Hartal ….no school.’ I was in a hurry and I drove away without more queries. But her answer got imprinted in the corner of my mind..
I met her again two days back in the lift. I repeated the question, 'No school today?' The answer was very prompt, 'Corona hartal'..
Somehow I could not resist finding out how the girl has understood the word hartal as synonymous with holiday.
I tried to make a study into the whole gamut of shut downs, bandhs, hartals, lock downs or whatever name it is called in our state (often called God's own) has been suffering from for the past many years. It has become a menace often used as a weapon by every political party irrespective of the colour of the flag they wag. And even after persistent cautioning by the judiciary they wag their tail (and their colour) in the same fashion without any remorse or shame…..!
I read somewhere that there were 363 hartals between 2005 and 2012. In 2018, the number was 97 and one more in 2017. On an average, the state of Kerala suffered one hartal in every four days, each one burning a hole of rupees two hundred crores in the economy. This figure is less because our economy is not a production economy, but a consumer oriented one.
The little child Leona had understood a holiday as a hartal day without knowing the meaning of it since it has become a common word like Sunday or Monday.
During the lockdown (or hartal or bandh as it fondly called) sponsored by political parties, the policemen are supposed to ensure normal life and to prevent the party workers who try to disrupt it. It's a paradox that the role has been almost a reversal during the lockdown declared in the wake of the Corona.
The political parties, the economists, the financial experts, the planning wizards, etc. who clamour now for additional infusion of funds, legitimate share, etc in the wake of a slide in growth, monetary deceleration or even an economic cataclysm have never raised their voice against the repeated bandhs they have been either proclaiming or enduring silently for the past many years in the state.
It has been only a two weeks lock down so far on account of Corona. But the data reveals that politicians have made us pull down the shutters of our economy for more than fourteen weeks every year…..for the past so many years without a break……!
It's for the general public to decide as to which is worse, Corona or the political virus…..? We have to find a vaccine against the deadlier enemy first.
Can we stand up and say a firm ‘NO’ against the political lockdowns hereafter…….?
Note...Figures quoted are reproduced from reliable sources.