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Jaipur limps back to normalcy

Vicky Nanjappa in Jaipur | August 12, 2008 15:19 IST

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The nightmare may be over, but the fear still lingers. When serial blasts rocked Jaipur [Images], it was very clear that the terrorists were targeting the tourism sector. And it seems they were successful to an extent.

Johri Bazaar, a normally bustling marketplace known for it handicrafts and silver jewellery, where some of the blasts took place, is limping back to normal.

Anand Singh, who has a jewellery store close to the Hanuman [Images] temple where one of the bombs was placed, recalls that horrific day. "My shop was filled with people that day and suddenly there was this loud noise. The air was covered with dust and for at least 20 seconds I could see nothing."

Singh prays at the Hanuman temple every morning before opening his shop. He says a major chunk of his business came from foreign tourists. "On an average I had at least 30 customers a day. However after the blasts there have been times when I have returned home empty handed," he says.

The months of May and June are usually not tourist friendly in Jaipur thanks to the extreme heat. However over the years the scenario has changed and these months see a lot of domestic tourists. The foreign tourists start pouring into Jaipur only after July.

Various travel agents in Jaipur claim that at least 40 to 50 per cent of the bookings had been cancelled following the blasts.

For Rajasthan and Jaipur, it has been a double blow. Soon after the blasts, the state was crippled to a large extent due to the Gujjar agitation. This only added to the misery of the tourism sector in Jaipur which contributes 15 per cent to the state's income.

The auto rickshaw drivers too say that they have been hit. From Civil Lines to Johri Bazaar, the charges usually were Rs 50. However the charges have now doubled and when asked why, they say that they are trying to compensate for the loss. Munna Lal, an auto driver says that he spends a large part of the day waiting for customers. "There was a time, when we used to be so busy and collections used to easily touch Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 per day. However with the drop in tourism, there are times when I have taken a paltry Rs 300 home."

Urmila Rajouria, additional director, Rajasthan Tourism, told that the situation is normal at the moment and tourism is looking up. She says that for one month after the blasts and subsequent protests, tourism was down. There were plenty of hotel rooms being cancelled and a real dip in the number of foreign tourists visiting Jaipur. However things are looking up again, she says. "I can assure you that these incidents have not had any long term impact and Jaipur has already returned to normal." Rajouria said.

The Rajasthan government is however not taking matters lightly and doing everything to ensure that tourism sector is revived. First on the line is a grand festival called 'Jaipur by Night' which will be held next month. The Rajasthan government feels that several days of festivities will help revive the tourism sector and bring more people into Jaipur. The event will showcase the culture of Rajasthan. A peace procession has also been organised during the event, Rajouria said.

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