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Facing massive loss in business, Kerala traders say no to bandhs

Kerala Travel Mart (KTM), which convened a meeting of 28 organisations operating in the tourism industry, said the stakeholders in the industry would take necessary action to ensure hassle-free operation of the tourism sector during shutdowns called by political parties in future.

An anti-hartal movement led by 36 organisations of traders, which met in Kozhikode on Thursday, decided to observe 2019 as ‘anti-hartal year’. (Express Photo by Vishnu Varma)

Their business battered by three state-wide bandhs over past two months, organisations of traders, transport and tourism operators on Thursday said they would not cooperate with forced shutdowns called by political parties and their affiliated unions.Kerala Travel Mart (KTM), which convened a meeting of 28 organisations operating in the tourism industry, said the stakeholders in the industry would take necessary action to ensure hassle-free operation of the tourism sector during shutdowns called by political parties in future.

KTM president Baby Mathew said tourism sector would not cooperate with the 48-hour-long strike called by various trade unions on January 8 and 9 if it leads to complete shutdown. A hartal or bandh would lead to the loss of Rs 200 crore, he said.

An anti-hartal movement led by 36 organisations of traders, which met in Kozhikode on Thursday, decided to observe 2019 as ‘anti-hartal year’.

T Nazeerudheen, president of Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi, said all shops would remain open on hartal days in future. Buses and trucks would not keep away from roads as per the decision of the anti-hartal movement. The decision would be communicated to leaders of all political parties, he said.

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Although the Kerala High Court in 1997 declared bandhs illegal and unconstitutional, this year the state has witnessed 97 shutdowns so far — both local and state-wide — called by various political parties and related bodies.

The state-wide hartal called by the BJP Friday last, was held as a mark of respect towards a person who had immolated himself near the venue where the party had held an indefinite hunger strike, demanding restrictions at Sabarimala be lifted. However, the BJP was at the receiving end after an expose that the person ended his life over personal and family issues, and not over the Sabarimala issue.

Since then, campaigns to challenge the hartal calls given by political parties have been gaining momentum. Several trade bodies and villages have already declared that they would not pay heed to the shutdown calls given by political parties in future.

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Kerala Hotel and Restaurants Association president Moideenkutty Haji said the strikes have made the going very tough for over 1 lakh entrepreneurs in hotel industry. “We are dealing with perishable raw materials. On many occasions, we find out about hartals only when the outlets are ready for open in the morning. Our association would soon take a decision on whether to cooperate with the next hartal,’” he said.

Meanwhile, local traders’ communities and civil society in many parts of the state have voluntarily decided to resist the calls for shutdowns. Traders at Venmani village in Idukki district on Monday decided that they would not cooperate with hartals in future. A people’s initiative at Sreemulanagarm village in Ernakulam district declared their village “hartal free”. The Kerala Retail Traders Association units at Chala in Thiruvanananthapuram and S M Street in Kozhikode have also decided to boycott hartals.

CPI (M) leader and Centre of Indian Trade Unions state president Anathalavattam Anandan said his party and its trade union are against abrupt shutdowns. “…When we want to fight for common cause, sometimes hartals have to be held. We may also face criticism over it. We have given advance information regarding the next month’s 48-hour shut down,” he said.

First published on: 21-12-2018 at 06:02:14 am
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