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Business community in Gujarat rues its stars

Vinod Mathew

The figures ought to keep climbing by the day, but as there is no fool-proof way of checking out on loss on account of business not transacted or only partially transacted, the overall loss to the business community still remain pegged at around Rs 3,000 crore.

AHMEDABAD, April 2

THE Gujarat economy, that caught what was perceived to be a bout of flu in late February, seems to have had a relapse into something akin to pneumonia.

A month after the riots began in Gujarat, and especially after the lapse of the fiscal that was 2001-02, it is book-keeping time for the various associations representing prominent industries.

The handful of business federations and confederations, which keep coming out with weekly updates of losses suffered in terms of damage and lost business, now have the chance to compute them into monthly figures.

The figures ought to keep climbing by the day, but as there is no fool-proof way of checking out on loss on account of business not transacted or only partially transacted, the overall loss to the business community still remain pegged at around Rs 3,000 crore.

Moving away from the world of number crunching, the mood of the business community in the State can be gauged just as incisively by considering some other denominators that reflect the economic well-being of a State.

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector, normally one of the busiest routes for air travel, now wears a deserted look.

Arguably, up from the days immediately following the beginning of Gujarat riots when many an aircraft touched down with about half a dozen passengers, even now some of the flights fare no better than a dozen or two, that too on weekdays.

The decimated flight loads have a direct impact on the once-thriving hotel industry in the State. Some of the most favoured destinations of Ahmedabad have had their occupancy levels drop alarmingly to around 10-15 per cent.

Says Mr Darius Merchant, General Manager, Taj Residency, "There is absolutely no work as the people have almost stopped coming to Ahmedabad. It seems more than the businessmen it is their wives that have put an embargo on their travel to this city. The fact that Indian Airlines and Jet Airways are swapping passengers to cut down on the number of flights from Mumbai speaks volumes.''

Adds Mr Joseph D'Couto, General Manager, Holiday Inn, "Normally, the highest occupancies at about 90 per cent are in March, but we are down to below 10 per cent this year. And those who are brave enough to come in prefer to leave town by the evening flight. This is against 3-4 days that they used to put in per business trip in normal times.''

With fresher areas coming under violence and Kutch too getting affected for the first time with Anjar taking a hit on Tuesday, it appears that there is no immediate solution in sight for the riot-torn State. And the business class continues to keep its fingers crossed for even a semblance of normalcy to return.

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