"This is a protest against the ruling government's indifference to the poor". Such was the explanation offered by a leading television channel to the nationwide strike called by the opposition party. State wide strikes (or 'bandhs' as they are called in Hindi) are common in India. Particularly in the northern and eastern states. As per Indian Chamber of Commerce, such strikes lead to loss of more than a dozen man days every year in these states. The economic loss for a 12-hour strike in the strike infested state of West Bengal was recently estimated by ICC at Rs5 bn. But who is bothered?
Inability to rein in inflation has been one of the few lapses on the part of the incumbent reform friendly government. And a huge opportunity for the parties opposing it. Rather than worrying about the economic loss caused by the strikes, they would instead prefer earning some political brownie points. Pretending to protest against the price rises would help them earn some vote banks.
How would this solve the problem of inflation if one may ask? Rolling back fuel price hikes would only push us closer to fiscal blunders. That will mean lesser funds to build schools and colleges. Lesser funds for rural employment. And lesser funds for roads and irrigation. Wouldn't that be too heavy a price to be paid by the poor?
More importantly, can economic loss be the solution to an economic problem? Achieving higher economic output requires a lot more than just resources. Probably a lot more determination to execute and achieve targets. Something Indians have been sorely lacking in. Such strikes only do their bit in aggravating the problem.
Terrorism, corruption, red tapism are the few causes that regularly come to our minds for poor business confidence in India. Politicians with vested interests seem to deserve a reckoning too. Can India really afford them? Let us know your views.