Gujjars call off protests as Raje agrees to consider their demand

Gujjars call off protests as Raje agrees to consider their demand
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First Published: Tue, Jun 05 2007. 12 20 AM IST
Updated: Tue, Jun 05 2007. 12 20 AM IST
Gujjar caste members in Rajasthan called off their week-long agitation for scheduled tribe status in the state and their leader said that the state government has agreed to their demands.
Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje promised a panel to examine the lower-caste Gujjars’ demands for preference in government jobs and spots in educational institutions that would recommend a solution within the next three months.
“We have got whatever we have been demanding,” Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Baisala said at a joint press conference with Raje.
The agreement came hours after hundreds of Gujjar protesters torched buses and attacked police with rocks in the national capital to demand greater government benefits.
The rival lower-caste Meena group, which already receives special government treatment, is opposed to sharing employment and education benefits with the Gujjars. Clashes between both sides left four people dead on Friday.
Gujjars comprise 7% and Meenas nearly 12% of Rajasthan’s 54.8 million people.
Most of the violence has occurred in Dausa town in Rajasthan, including repeated attacks on government offices, railroad stations and vehicles.
Police fired tear gas and used bamboo batons to disperse nearly 500 protesters who set two state-run buses on fire and hurled rocks at police. They also blocked roads leading from New Delhi to outlying areas and burned effigies of Raje.
Honda Siel Cars India Ltd said its production was disrupted due to the agitation. The company claimed a loss of 50%, or 110 cars, on Monday as workers on the second shift weren’t able to reach its factory in Gurgaon as the agitation spread.
Industry estimates that Rs40-50 crore were lost every day last week on an average. The losses are those accruing mostly on account of vehicles carrying goods that were not allowed to ply to and from Rajasthan.
“Rs40-50 crore is just the losses for goods-carrying trucks that can not enter or leave Rajasthan. There are additional costs from the damage done to trucks by angry mobs. Industries such as tourism and exporters missing out on deadlines add to the cost,” said M. Murali, secretary general, All-India Motor Transport Congress, a lobby group for commercial cargo and passenger road transporters.
Access to Rajasthan from neighbouring areas was completely blocked since Sunday, as a result of which 40,000 to 50,000 trucks have been stranded, particularly along its borders with the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. In addition, 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles with essential supplies are stuck on Rajasthan’s border with Uttar Pradesh, waiting to get into the state where shortages are being felt.
On an average, in addition to passenger buses, 20,000 to 30,000 trucks are estimated to enter or leave Rajasthan every day.
Around 80 trains that cross Rajasthan were either cancelled, rescheduled or put on temporary hold by the railways during the crisis. Only special trains were allowed to run between Delhi and Jaipur, to ferry stranded passengers.
Ravi Krishnan of Mint and AP contributed to this story.
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First Published: Tue, Jun 05 2007. 12 20 AM IST