Agitations and their effect

Mass agitations are bad for business and the economic climate for a growing country like India.

In China, agitations are banned. Whatever little happens is suppressed. Very little information gets out. The world knows that China has problems, but it tends to ignore the problems as it believes in the Central Government’s ability to deal with those problems without affecting investor sentiments and the stock market.

In India, agitations cannot be banned. Political parties sometimes favour the protesters and sometimes position their party against the protesters, depending on their convenience. If the police allows a protest to take place, then the protesters will carry on. Sometimes the law enforcement agencies do not allow protests in the interest of public security and public inconvenience. But that could be misconstrued as beneficial to the ruling party in a State or at the Centre, as police reports into the respective government in power.

When agitations cannot be banned, then the government will have to take a public stand explaining to citizens at large (and to investors as the case may be) that they are addressing the issues being raised by the agitators and will resolve the same in an amicable manner. However, many a time, that kind of official public stand is not feasible or the government does not wish to take a stand. So the public and investors get confused which side the government is on.

In a country as large as India, it is difficult to have a uniform policy on controlling agitations, as State politics differ. There are innumerable causes for agitations to be initiated in India. Currently, there are several major ones in progress, such as the Telengana State agitation, the Anna Hazare agitation against the Congress Party candidate in the Hissar election in Haryana, the auto-rickshaw drivers’ agitation in Mumbai, the anti-Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project agitation, and so on and so forth. There is an endless list of agitations being planned.

In a democracy, this is to be expected. But the government has to do its job of addressing the root causes, because if it doesn’t the agitations tend to repeat and sap the energy of the law enforcement machinery and the government, and exasperates the common citizens’ problems every day. Apart from frustrating the investors who have invested their money and the investors who are waiting to invest in the second fastest economy (still !) in the world.

So, both the agitators and the government need to discuss the issues threadbare before taking up street protests and letting it inconvenience the citizens and the economy, which India can ill afford in the current situation.

Elections will create distractions but that is part of the democratic process of change. But, many agitations can be avoided by negotiations.

At the end of the day, it is compromise which will help India as conflicts are inevitable along the growth journey.


Vijay Srinivasan
9th October 2011


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