The ministers were absent, but not the mandarins. Bandh supporters were out on the roads to ensure a complete shutdown but babus at government offices tapped away at computer keyboards — not by choice though.
The picture during Thursday’s Bharat Bandh was one of striking contrast in the state capital.
If transport was hit, schools stayed shut and business establishments downed shutters, government employees attended office with many even having to walk for miles to reach their destinations.
No wonder, they hit out at the state government for its “double standards” and for allowing the bandh supporters to flex their muscles and paralyse normal life while they had to be at work, all because of the service code.
At Nepal House, one of the state secretariats, the chamber of a top-ranking officer was the crib centre for the day.
“I wonder whether the bandh has been called by political parties or the state government. Why did the administration remain a mute spectator while bandh supporters forced small shopowners and street vendors to toe the line and forget their business for a day? And if the bandh did enjoy government support, why the state top brass forced us to come to office amidst all odds?” asked a top beaureaucrat, obviously peeved that he had to work while others were making the most of yet another holiday.
The discussions did not remain confined to the government or its fallacies, the wise brains also pondered on the UPA government’s latest round of reforms.
The topic of discussion was the motive behind an advertisement published by the Union ministry of commerce and industry, highlighting benefits of allowing FDI in retail. The babus felt that the Centre ought to have similarly explained the reason behind the steep rise in diesel price and the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders.
“The economic reforms initiated by the Indian government in 1991-92 have now reached a critical juncture. We have no option but to move ahead with new reforms,” was the view of a young IAS officer.
“The bandh supporters should also say why they are scared of healthy competitions in the retail sector if that ensures fair deal for poor farmers and generates more employment opportunities. And the Centre should also spell out why an increase in diesel price and rationing of LPG was essential,” he pointed out.
Many also questioned the need for such frequent bandhs and their outcome.
Political parties, on the other hand, don’t care much for such reasoning and vowed to step up the heat.
BJP state president Dineshanand Goswami, for one, said the success of Thursday’s shutdown was a public mandate against soaring prices and rampant corruption under the Congress rule. He promised more such agitations.
Bad news for the babus, they would again have to forgo a holiday.