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Government employees in Meghalaya saved crores of rupees by turning up on the first day of the four-day ‘total shutdown’ called by the proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC). On the second day, anyone hardly remembered there was any ‘shutdown’ on that day too besides two more days after the weekly holidays. The people have shown that they are mightier than any militant outfit and even the government. This message will pass across many quarters. Although a ‘spent force’, HNLC is still the most influential militant outfit of Khasi-Jaintia region. The outfit still draws sympathy even from political parties besides the NGOs ‘concerned’ about rights of indigenous people. The reason for calling the four-day bandh – arrest of an NGO leader and four others for nexus with the outfit – shows how close their relations are. No NGO or political party made any statement against the bandh. But after the utter failure of the ‘total shutdown’ of state and central government offices, the HNLC and for that matter any organisation will think twice before calling a bandh.

The ‘shutdown’ call was a lucrative offer for government employees to enjoy a six-day holiday package. They have enjoyed numerous such bandhs in the past without really knowing for what the bandh was called. It has been a cheap practice by most organisations to call bandh on days preceding weekly holidays so that government employees, especially those staying away from home, take advantage of the situation and go on long holidays. Shillong-Guwahati tourist taxi fares go up on Thursday evening every time a bandh is called on Friday because Central government employees hailing from Assam make hurry to rush home on three-day holiday. Ironically, Central offices where there are substantial numbers of employees from outside are more ‘faithful’ to the local organizations whoever calls a bandh. There were times when Central offices were found locked when state government offices recorded good attendance.

Thursday’s scene was different because the state government issued special instructions to each Central government office not to pay heed to the shutdown call. Also, for many, the four-day shutdown call was too much for release of a not-so-popular NGO leader and four others who were held for nexus with an outlawed organization. The government deserves complement for making the employees attend their offices and work for what they are paid from the public exchequer. It is also a message to the public to feel the need for showing its might to anyone who take them for granted time and again.

(Published as editorial in Meghalaya Guardian on May 10, 2014)

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