Industry faces roadblocks as Jat stir enters 7th day

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New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) With the stir by Haryana’s Jat community, wanting affirmative action, entering the seventh day, the impact on industry in the National Capital Region worsened on Saturday, with companies neither able to get supplies, nor ship out their merchandise.

Even as Army columns held flag marches in violence-hit districts of Haryana — a state bordering the national capital — movement of goods continued to suffer due to blockades of both railways and roadways.

Particularly hit were the industries in Haryana, India’s third largest exporter of software with a large presence of automotive, agro, textiles, oil refining, biotechnology and petrochemicals industries.

While no estimate was available on the extent of losses, the impact can be somewhat gauged by the fact that the state’s GDP was $72.2 billion in 2014-15 — a shade under $200 million per day or Rs.1,360 crore in Indian currency.

“Yesterday alone we’ve lost Rs.15 lakh worth of business. Our finished goods just couldn’t reach the locations,” a businessperson with a factory in Gurgaon, a hub for IT services, told IANS but requested anonymity due to the sensitivities and the violence involved.

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“All our major offload takes place during the month-end. If we don’t service our clients on time, our receivables also get impacted,” the businessperson said, adding the movement of trucks even to areas beyond Haryana was getting affected.

Her reference was to the blockade along the National Highway 1, which is an arterial road that connects the north of Haryana with the southern parts of the country. This has resulted in some consignments of other states getting stuck as well.

For some specifics, the highway was blocked by protesters in Sonipat district, 50 km from Delhi, even as the disruptions were caused on the railway track between Delhi and Ambala, some 200 km north of the national capital. Nearly 550 trains were either cancelled or diverted.

Due to the violence — resulting in the death of three people and injuries to dozens, including security personnel — industry bodies declined comment, politely saying they needed more time to assess the situation. State Finance Minister Abhimanyu’s house was set on fire.

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Mahendra Mittal, president of the Haryana state sector of the Confederation of All India Traders, told IANS: “Of course business is impacted due to the agitation. But if the government promised the Jat community reservation earlier, then they should stick to that promise.”

The state has several large units, including the main plants of India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki. But smaller units are the ones that pepper the industrial landscape. However, Central Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Kalraj Mishra had little to say.

He termed the stir as “unfortunate” but remained nonchalant about the impact. “Disturbances will keep happening,” he said, trying to give the matter a political twist as well. “Some frustrated elements can’t digest the huge mandate given to the BJP.”

Even Maruti Suzuki said it halted production at two facilities, making 5,000 cars per day.

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“Owing to the agitation in Rohtak and nearby areas, supplies of certain components have been disrupted. As a consequence, the company has had to temporarily suspend manufacture of cars at its facilities in Manesar and Gurgaon, starting Saturday (February 20) second half,” it said.

“Once the supply of components is restored, normal operations will resume.”

In the National capital, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted on Saturday: “Am worried about impact of Jat agitation on Delhi.” He said he spoke to the central Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and was assured early resolution of the issue.

What has also left industry wondering is: How will the state now showcase itself as an attractive destination, when it hosts its flagship event for the global investors. As of today, “Happening Haryana”, as the summit on March 7 is being called, sounds like it is for a different reason.

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