As reported by K P M Basheer in on 18 February 2008:
The Hindu : Kerala / Kochi News : RTI data belie State claims

RTI data belie State claims

Hartal information received by a Kochi-based NGO
Government, public suffer loss despite court directive

KOCHI: Information from the police, public authorities and public sector undertakings shows that both the government and the public suffer extensive losses on hartal days and people’s right to mobility is badly affected, in spite of the High Court’s directive.

Information received by a Kochi-based NGO, Proper Channel, under the Right to Information Act from these agencies belies the government contention in the High Court that no incidents of law and order violations and damage to property had taken place during the hartals last year.

Proper Channel had sought information on incidents on hartal days from a large number police stations and police offices, apart from the KSRTC and other public sector organisations.

The information, according to M.K. Haridas, president of Proper Channel, shows that hartals cause losses to the public as well as the government, apart from damage to public property and private assets.

“The large number of responses we received from the police is a clear indication that the government has failed to ensure the directives of the Kerala High Court’s Full Bench on hartals on May 28, 2004,” he told The Hindu.

For instance, he pointed out, the office of the district superintendent of police, Kannur, in its response stated that 19 hartals were held in the district during January 1 to December 31, 2007.

The police registered 36 cases in connection with incidents of law and order violations. Of the 19 hartals , 17 were called by political parties and two by the traders’ organisation, Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti. The BJP called four; CPI(M) six and the UDF five.

The district transport office, Ernakulam stated that the KSRTC Ernakulam depot suffered a loss of Rs.13.75 lakh because of the cancellation of trips on hartal days.

Court directives

The High Court had wanted the government to take nine steps to ensure that hartals caused no violence and no damage of public and private property.

These were in addition to the court’s directives in Bharat Kumar versus State of Kerala judgment which banned bandhs. The nine steps included: The government should ensure that no bandh-like situation was created on a hartal day and that if the police were not able to handle the situation paramilitary forces should be called in; no examinations should be rescheduled because of the hartal; people’s right to life and their assets should be protected; and, their mobility should not be curtailed.

However, when the government was sued for contempt of court for failing to execute the High Court’s directives, the government denied that there were any law and order violations on hartal days. It claimed that people enjoyed themselves on hartal days. The affidavit the Home Secretary, on behalf of the State government, filed in the High Court on December 20, 2007, claimed that the media were exaggerating things regarding hartals.

He claimed that people were not willing to come out of their homes on hartal days and that the examinations were rescheduled for the convenience of the people.

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