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Sunday, Mar 03, 2002

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Bleeding Gujarat losing Rs 500-cr business daily

Vinod Mathew


GUJARAT took about a year to recover from the trauma of the Republic Day earthquake. The much-hyped Resurgent Gujarat business held only three weeks ago was the forum back to tell the world that the State's economy was back on its feet. This time round it will need much more to convince the world that Gujarat is a worthy investment destination, either of the offshore or the domestic variety.

According to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the daily loss of business in the State is Rs 500 crore. The cost to the exchequer is to the tune of Rs 300 crore, mainly in the form of sales tax and customs duties.

This being the third day of riots, the cumulative loss would add up to Rs 2,400 crore. However, there is still no freeze on loss to property across the State, which is expected to be in excess of Rs 500-600 crore.

Thus, the anarchy that was witnessed in the State, somewhat quelled on Saturday on account of the presence of the army, has already cost Gujarat Rs 3,000 crore.

Meanwhile, the official death toll has crossed 289, while unofficially, the figure is put at over 400.

The loss of life in the last 24 hours was 86, 47 of which came from police firing. Keeping alive the trend of mass murders that has set apart the ongoing riot from the ones that have gripped the State in the past, 27 people were burnt alive in Saderpar village in Mehasana district and 7 in a bakery in Dabhoi near Vadodara. Five were stabbed to death in Gandhinagar.

Meanwhile, a disturbing trend has come to light wherein the violence has begun moving from urban centres to the hitherto untouched rural hamlets. Also, the organised rioting seemed to have spread geographically to encompass newer areas like Surat, Bardoli and Navasari in south Gujarat, Kheda in central Gujarat, Bhavnagar in Saurashtra and Mehasana in north Gujarat.

The Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, reiterated at a press briefing on Saturday that the situation was getting under control. "Situation is fast returning to normal. As much as 90 per cent of the State was peaceful. There was no untoward incident in 15 districts of Gujarat on Saturday," he said, adding that curfew had been partially lifted in 14 cities and towns.

However, for `Global' Gujarat, fresh investments over Rs 1,25,000 crore in the pipeline may not look as much a safe bet as it did before the fateful Union Budget day.

And for the people of the State who have always taken pride in their ability to carry on `dhandha' regardless of all external factors, the simmering communal cauldron is something that cannot be wished away.

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