Feb 18, 2008 at 08:47pm IST

Pls dnt strk: Citizens petition Kerala politicians

Kozhikode (Kerala): Civil society organisations in Kerala are petitioning Congress leaders with SMSes asking them to call off the state-wide strike they are organizing on Tuesday against policies of Left-led government.

The campaign against the shutdown is being led by 'Hartal Virudha Munnani' (Anti-shutdown Front), which is a confederation of about 17 organisations, including Gandhian and environmental groups, formed in July 2006.

The Munnani distributed pamphlets with mobile phone numbers of state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala and Congress-led United Democratic Front convenor P.P. Thankachan urging people to send SMS and make calls to them to withdraw the shutdown.

THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR: Civil society groups bombard Congress leaders with text messages.

"People are calling these leaders to express their opposition to the shutdown. We are also collecting signatures from people against the shutdown and are sending fax to the Congress state headquarters. All the district units of the Munnani are doing this," Johnson Williams, the district secretary of the Munnani, told IANS.

The Munnani says its study shows that every year there are seven statewide shutdowns, 30-35 district level ones and 200-215 at the local level.

"The total loss due to these shutdowns is about Rs.40-45 billion," says K Chandrababu, the state general secretary of the Munnani.

To make people aware about the cost of shutdowns, the Munnani is organising exhibitions throughout the state.

"The Congress-led UDF is organising the shutdown against the price rise. Recently, the central government, with Congress at the helm, hiked petroleum prices. This will also result in price rise. Then what is the relevance of this shutdown by Congress?" asks Williams.

The organisers justify the shutdowns saying it is a Gandhian method of stir.

"People are sending e-mail messages to the Congress leaders. We have also asked schoolchildren to send postcards to the leaders to withdraw the shutdown," Chandrababu said.

"Some people here are asking their friends abroad to send e-mails to the Congress party," added Williams.

Apart from mobilizing public opinion and conducting awareness campaign, the Munnani is also taking recourse to legal action to stop shutdowns.

The Indian Union Muslim League called a shutdown in north Kerala on Oct 29, 2007 to protest the central government's alleged neglect of Kozhikode International Airport. The BJP organised a state wide general strike on Nov 1, 2007 to protest against Railways neglect of Kerala.