“Congratulations,” I said. “When you say you managed to keep it open, does it mean that your sainiks threatened those people who were not going to work, to go to work?”
“You know very well we never threaten anybody, that is a story spread by the press,” the official said. “All we did was put up boards in different areas, stating that it was not a bandh. And everybody, spontaneously and voluntarily, did not observe a bandh.”
“That is very commendable,” I said. “What about the shops? I am told they remained closed in many areas.”
“At the start of the day, some of the shops were closed, but that was because they were afraid they would be attacked by unsocial elements. But our boys went around and told the shopkeepers quietly that they should open the shops and they did so,” the official said.
“Nice,” I said. “Were you responsible for the running of the trains and the BEST buses?”
“Well, we would not like to take credit for it,” the official said. “Let us say that we let the railway and BEST employees know that they should report for work, and they did. There was absolutely no coercion on our part.”
“That is very creditable,” I said. “Did you get Mantralaya to work at full strength?”
“You know, Mantralaya never works at full strength,” the official said. “But we got as many people as we could to attend Mantralaya. We explained to them, it would be silly their observing a bandh when we had not called a bandh.”
“True,” I said. “I believe there were pickets at some of the textile mills, urging the workers not to go on duty.”
“Yes, there were pickets at a few mills, but immediately we came to know about them, we organised our own pickets to prevent the pickets from preventing the workers from entering the mills. Let me tell you, attendance at the textile mills was almost cent per cent.”
“Remarkable,” I said. “And how much percentage of Bombay, would you say, was working yesterday?”
“You want to know how much percentage of Mumbai was working yesterday,” the official said. “Give or take a few taxi drivers, I would say 90 per cent.”
“That's a substantial amount,” I said. “Then would you say the bandh was a failure?”
“On the contrary, it was a great success,” the official said. “This is the first time in the history of the bandh that we got people to go to work.”
Copyright: Busybee, courtesy Farzana Contractor
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