Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gujjar agitation paralyses Delhi

Today, the 29th of May, 2008, was a day that a lot of people would have had a lot of worries about. Delhi and the whole NCR region has seen the effect of the Gujjar agitation when it last took place in 2007, and at that time, the lathi wielding and stone throwing members of the mob forced the major intersections of South and East Delhi to come to a standstill - traffic at major points such as the Noida Link road, Badarpur, Loni, etc was totally jammed, and demonstrators did pretty much what they liked. At that time, what was depicted in the media was that the police were essentially not taking any action and letting them burn buses and other public property.
Keeping this in mind, there was a lot of worry and concern about what the day would turn out like. The whole of Delhi and NCR region sees a lot of cross traffic with people moving on a daily basis from Delhi and other regions such as Faridabad / Gurgaon going to offices in Noida on a regular basis, and similar movement. For such people, the news of this Gujjar called bandh was a time for decision. Would you want to try this movement on this particular day and risk getting caught in violence, or stuck in a non-moving traffic jam for long periods of time. As a result, there were a large number of companies that actually declared a holiday today. Even where I worked, most people from places that were more than 10 Km away did not come, in many cases because their family persuaded them not to go.
The Government knows that this kind of demonstration will happen, and the long jams, violence and other such situations that afflict the regular commuters (as well as people who earn their living on a daily basis) are a reflection of the failure of Governance. Sample these reports from an article on Delhi shutting down:

Gujjars on Thursday had blocked road and rail traffic in the Capital and adjoining areas as part of their 'NCR rasta roko' agitation even as over 35,000 policemen fanned out across the National Capital Region to prevent any untoward incident. Earlier, all main highways leading to the Capital were blocked. There were also reports of stone pelting and effigies burning. At places the agitators broke windshields of cars and buses.
Protesters turned away vehicles from Noida and Gurgaon, home to scores of outsourcing and computer software firms. Many offices were also closed. Security personnel were deployed in strength in Gujjar strongholds like Mehrauli, Ghazipur, Patparganj, Badarpur, Khanpur, Ayanagar, Chilla village and Rampur, anticipating a strong showing by the community during the agitation.

But as reports by the media during the course of the day indicate, traffic was blocked for many hours and opened only around noon. During this time, people had to take side roads, or wait in long jams. And there is no point talking about the many hours lost, or the roadside vendors or people who are dependent on getting to their places of work for their daily earnings (who would travel by public transport, something that was directly attacked). This is something that the Government is directly responsible for, but one believes that the Government was just ensuring that the violence and disturbance does not cross a particular level. The other reaction by the Government was to cancel a number of trains running near Jaipur, Agra, and to the NCR region.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 8:09 PM