This afternoon I experienced my first up close encounter of a strike in Gaighat. It’s astonishing looking back before arriving in Nepal what I pictured a strike to be. My mind automatically pictured a violent scene with fires and massive, angry crowds. Indeed, those types of strikes have occurred and very well might continue into the future (I certainly hope not). I think my brain has been shaped too heavily by the media and easily made assumptions before taking a few steps in this country. I am very happy to report that the strikes (bandhas in Nepali) have diminished so much that my experience last year would be very different.
At its most simplified form, strikes are a group of people who disagree on something and desire change. Citizens in Nepal are so comfortable with protesting that its a completely familiar and a feasible action to take. Don’t agree; let’s stop what we are doing in our jobs until those in charge take notice. There is even a website that reports all bandhas across the country. I couldn’t imagine checking a website to see if buses are running in order to get to my home.
As I took pictures from a distance I couldn’t help but think how many peoples lives are affected this very moment, by these tractor workers. The strike only existed for a few hours, not the days or weeks that some last for and most often absolutely everything is closed down, putting life at a standstill. The bandhas work in Nepal for the citizens voice to be heard. It’s a double- edged sword because society has to suffer. I don’t see bandhas ending anytime soon as every strike that is successful only entices another one to start, creating a vicious cycle. A cycle that needs to find another means for change I believe.
Standing up for what you believe in and demanding change is very admirable still to me. The little man winning over the big corporation is implanted in my thoughts as I begin to relate strikes to those I know of in the U.S. Why can’t people take more action at home? We do have strikes where unions defy wages and other job benefits, however they seem to be limited. Perhaps there aren’t many protests because of fear and our capitalistic system keeping us “locked” down to keep us diligently working.
Today the strike involved tractor workers whom were protesting a tax that they must pay twice, going in and out of the market of Gaighat as reported by Fastline.com. If collecting stones near the river for building, a tax is required when dropping off and then when leaving. The workers are demanding one tax payment. Buses, motorcycles and cars were stuck behind the tractors, stopped to a halt because of unhappy tractor workers. Luckily, it only lasted for a short period. The stunt worked successfully, (after two previous strikes in weeks before though) local political parties have agreed to meet to discuss the tax. Let’s hope the meeting will go well so a fourth strike will not occur.
Posted By Morgan St. Clair
Posted Aug 28th, 2009