Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Mar 02, 2002
Government - States
A forgettable day for Gujarat businesses
Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists blocking a train in Mumbai during the bandh on Friday against Gujarat killings.
AHMEDABAD, March 1
FOR Gujarat, particularly its business capital of Ahmedabad, it was an eminently forgettable day as the carnage of Thursday spilled over into mayhem and chaos on Friday. Business was virtually non-existent as a majority of industrial units remained closed and most parts of 14 out of 25 districts in the State came under curfew.
Clearly, what did not help matters was the major delay in deploying the army, 13 columns of which had reached Ahmedabad by Thursday night.
Unofficially, the delay was attributed to hiccups in procuring some 60-odd trucks requisitioned by the army, which eventually had to make do with garbage collection trucks of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.
By the time the army was deployed under the aegis of the police by noon today, significant damage had been wreaked by the lumpen elements that had been enjoying a free run for the better part of the past two days.
The official figures from the Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, in the evening read, 136 dead (17 from police firing), 43 injured and 1,137 arrested.
Of this, the maximum loss of life, at 119, came from Ahmedabad.
As the official toll yesterday was put at 28, it translated into 108 deaths having taken place during the last 24 hours.
The unofficial figures available, however, put the casualty figure at well past 200.
Meanwhile, there was no figure forthcoming on damage to property as such an exercise was deemed secondary at this point of time. But there was argument that the State would have suffered significant losses, both on account of property lost to arson and looting as also man-hours lost by the industry in the State.
Most of the business houses remained closed just as there was selective destruction of shops and factories.
This cut across the business hubs of the city as well as some of the far-flung industrial estates in places such as Halol, near Vadodara and Aji, near Rajkot.
The chief targets included showrooms selling items such as garments, foot wear and even jewellery while restaurants continued to be a major draw for the hooligans.
At the end of the day, there were not many buyers for the Government's assertion that things were pretty much under control and that peace had begun to prevail once again in Gujarat. This, despite the fact that the army had begun its flag march spanning eight routes in Ahmedabad and Vadodara was slated to be next in line.
Because, things were far from normal in areas like the labour-intensive Naroda region housing business establishments such as Reliance Industries and Arvind Mills, where over 50 people were reported to have been burnt to death on Friday. Even as the media trooped out of the Chief Minister's press briefing in the evening, thick columns of smoke could be seen billowing out into the sky from the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
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