Stir makes industry jittery

The Times of India, December 22, 2010
On the agitation path once again, Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla said his community would hold only peaceful protests’ in the state on the reservation issue. However, the business community in the state is yet to draw any comfort from this promise.

Removing fishplates from railway tracks is hardly a non-violent protest and if rail movement on the Delhi-Mumbai trunk route is not restored immediately, the worst fears of industries will come true.

“As of today, the container traffic from Tughlakabad to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and the Baroda-north India has been blocked. Cement dispatches from ACC and Chambal Fertilisers in Kota have been affected. However, the route along the cement manufacturing belt covering Ajmer and Beawar is functioning normally,” said an official of railways.

“The stir had caused substantial damage to our supplies in 2008. Almost 70% of our total cement production goes out of the state to markets like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat. If the container service to north is affected, our supplies will be hit hard,” said Kaushlesh Maheswri, vice-president, Binani Cement, which produces over five million tonnes annually from its plants in the state.

Another industry major, JK Lakshmi Cement, which has a 5-million tonne capacity manufacturing plant in the state, echoes the same concerns. “Around 60% of our capacity caters to Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. If the agitation spreads, 30% our dispatches will be affected,” said Shafi Shaukat, senior general manager, JK Lakshmi Cement.

This is Christmas time when demand for handicraft in Europe and the US reach the peak. After the recession in 2008-09, the demand has returned. Rajasthan is a leading player contributing 20% to the total handicraft exports of the country. About 50% of the transport to the ports in Mumbai is done through railway container services.

“As of now, there has been no impact. However, if the container services continue to remain closed, it will have a serious impact. Eventhough the demand has risen by 15% this year, the recent snow in Europe has cropped up fresh concerns and we don’t want an agitation at home front to compound the problems for us,” said Dileep Baid, president of Federation Of Rajasthan Handicraft Exporters.

In 2008, the agitation cost India Inc $1.25 billion. Even then, it started like a bushfire beginning from rail tracks and then spread like forest fire, blocking road and rail links and forcing shops and businesses to bring down shutters.

“This kind of disruption creates a climate of uncertainty for businesses. If it spills over, it would be a setback for the image of the state’s industry,” said Pradeep Mehta, secretary general, CUTS International.

This news item can also be viewed at: