Entire states in India screeched to a halt a few of days ago to very firmly tell food and fuel prices to fall. In Kerala and West Bengal, offices, shops, theatres, schools, colleges and factories were shut and public transport virtually disappeared on April 27 — to drive home to food prices that it was time for them to come down from the commanding heights they'd achieved.
Hartals, of course, come in various sizes. There are the teeny-weeny ones that envelop a specific locality or neighbourhood in their vice-like embrace. And then there are the district- or city-level hartals. And last, but by no means the least, are the state-wide hartals like the one on April 27.
According to the Anti Hartal Front, this recent hartal is the 17th that has been called in Kerala this year. Last year, there were 54 hartals of all hues in Kerala, it adds.
So far though, India’s food and fuel prices have remained unmoved by the stern message that was tweeted to them through the hartal. ‘What does a hartal have to do with us and how is it going to make us climb down,’ they appear to wonder.
And since no one’s explained to those darned prices just how a hartal is expected to bring them down, they’re still high and seem disinclined to come down from their cosy perches up above. They seem comfortable where they are and would, perhaps, even like to climb further.
What next then to teach those disrespectful prices a lesson; one they’ll never forget?
A Tweet-a-thon? A FaceBook status campaign? A dawn-to-dusk mass fast? Another hartal, perhaps?