The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It's raining losses in Calcutta
- Marooned supply route bleeds trade

A week's flood in Mumbai has sunk trade in Calcutta by Rs 1,500 crore. Business bodies fear it will take weeks, even months, to recover from the blow.

'The extent of our loss can be gauged if one takes into account the fact that Bengal does business with Maharashtra, Gujarat and a few other states through a route that now lies marooned,' said Mahesh Singhania, chairman of the Federation of West Bengal Trade Associations.

The loss ' around Rs 200 crore a day ' has resulted from disruption in trade supplies, suspension of flights and trains, and cancellation of travel and hotel bookings.

Providing a rundown of the present state of trade, a federation spokesperson said that in place of over 50 trucks of textile products that used to come from Mumbai daily, not one has reached Calcutta in the past seven days. Ditto for the supply of chemicals and dyes, dry fruits, onions, raw leather and cereals.

Around 40 trucks of chemicals and dyes, 12 trucks of dry fruits and 20 trucks of onions would come from Mumbai every day. Besides, a huge consignment of solvents, dyes and raw leather would come daily from Maharashtra. Traders here are now being forced to scout for alternative sources.

With the floods cutting off road links with Gujarat as well, five to seven rakes of salt and around 30 trucks carrying bajra, dal and jowar have failed to reach their destination.

'The supply chain is cut off. Losses are mounting by the day. We will feel the pinch soon,' warned Singhania.

According to the Bengal Chemists and Druggist Association, the loss in the pharma industry, which depends heavily on Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Vadodara, is feared to cross Rs 10 crore.

From Calcutta, too, consignments of readymade garments and other finished products could not be sent to these states.

The effect of the floods on the aviation and travel industry has been crippling, with as many as 40 flights between Mumbai and Calcutta cancelled and several diverted. The loss: an estimated Rs 100 crore. A staggering 800-plus passengers have not been able to leave for Mumbai in the past week.

If travel agents in Calcutta have been left counting the number of tickets cancelled, the airlines have not fared any better. 'In the first few days of the floods in Maharashtra, we lost about Rs 6 crore. Never before has the industry been so badly hit,' said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east) of the Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI).

Mumbai being the favourite transit point for international travellers, many fliers from Calcutta have had to either opt for alternative routes or cancel visits.

Reeling under the impact, TAFI has postponed its 'mega-convention' in Singapore, scheduled for August 11-14.

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