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India Inc loses $1.25 bn due to Gujjar stir

India's corporate sector has lost some $1.25 billion since May 23 due to the ongoing Gujjar stir, apart from cancellations of at least 75 trains by the railways.
IANS | By Anuradha Shukla, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 03, 2008 06:13 PM IST

India's corporate sector has lost some $1.25 billion since May 23 due to the ongoing Gujjar stir, apart from cancellations of at least 75 trains by the railways, as per estimates by official agencies and industry chambers.

The losses are in addition to the physical damage to train tracks because of the stir called by the Gujjars to demand Scheduled Tribe status in Rajasthan with support from people of their community in adjoining states.

"Our estimate of losses does not include the inconvenience caused to passengers who were stranded at stations and disruption to goods transport," said VN Dhoot, president, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham).

"Added to this is the huge losses that the tourism sector in Rajasthan and some parts of Uttar Pradesh have suffered," the chamber president told IANS, adding that their estimates placed the losses at around Rs 50 billion for India Inc.

According to Northern Railways spokesperson S. Negi, on May 29 alone - when the agitation was at its peak - the railways suffered a loss of Rs 29.6 million ($696,659) because of delays and cancellations of trains.

"At least 75 trains, including six Rajdhanis and the Lucknow-bound Shatabdi from here, were delayed and 23 trains were cancelled," Negi said. “We are now trying to change the routes to minimise the public inconvenience.”

Officials said refunds were also made to around 37,000 people till May 29.

The Rajasthan government also appealed to the agitators not to inconvenience the people, even as an estimated 40,000 passengers were stranded at railway stations in Jaipur, Delhi and Agra.

“Due to the disruption of rail and road movements the people of this state and the country are facing problems,” Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said. “I appeal to the protesters to spare rail traffic.”

The protests also affected bus services to and from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana - the three states that were affected the most. The Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation (RSRTC) said at least 50 of their busses were damaged.

"Services were also hit in over 60 routes. So far, we have lost around Rs.200 million ($5 million) in revenues," said Durga Joshi, the state-run company's executive director.

“The damage caused to buses is yet to be calculated.”

In Agra, which houses the famed Taj Mahal, an important destination for overseas and domestic visitors alike, the tourism sector has been badly hit, as the stir continued for 10 days.

Hoteliers in Agra said there was a significant drop in the occupancy rate. "Even domestic tourists are not turning up. This is a major setback to us and tourism sector this year," said Agra-based hotelier Surendra Sharma.

According to members of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the ongoing agitation has also inconvenienced industrial establishments, mainly in the areas bordering the national capital and Rajasthan.

They, however, hoped that the stir would end soon.

“People of all communities are condemning these activities and this shows that Rajasthan will not be affected by way of investment or tourism,” said CII's chairman for Rajasthan RK Poddar.

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