Jaipur: Rajasthan`s tourism industry is worried about the ongoing Gujjar agitation that has affected the influx of visitors to the desert state in this peak tourist season.
Gujjars, demanding five percent reservation in government jobs, have been protesting in the state since Dec 20. The protesters have laid siege to a railway track near Bayana in Bharatpur district of the state.
According to travel agents, the blocking of the rail route between Delhi and Mumbai and certain other sectors and few highways has started affecting tourist inflow.
With over 1.1 million foreign tourists and 25 million domestic tourists visiting in 2009, Rajasthan has been one of the most popular destinations in the country.
"No one wants to spend holidays in tension. And with tourists aware of the Gujjar agitation through the media, they are trying to either skip their tour to the desert state or postpone it," Karan Singh, a local travel agent, told reporters.
Said Navendu Goswami, a tour operator dealing in inbound tours: "We are getting calls and e-mails from our principal travel agents overseas, asking us to inform if it will be safe to travel in Rajasthan in the wake of the Gujjar agitation."
"We do not know what to reply," Goswami added.
"Looking at the violent protest of Gujjars in 2006 and 2008, tourists do not want to take any chances. We are also requesting them to postpone their tour by a few days," Jaipur-based tour operator Rajendra Singh said.
The agitation has certainly affected tourist inflow, he added.
An official of Hotels & Restaurant Association of Rajasthan said: "Two things have hit us - the heavy snowfall in Europe and America that hit flights and now the Gujjar agitation."
"Almost 10-15 percent of bookings in hotels are reported to have been cancelled. If the protest continues like this, we may see more cancellations," he added.
Foreign tourist arrivals in Rajasthan soared by almost 30 percent in the first 11 months of this calendar year. However, with the Gujjar agitation the state may not be able to maintain this growth.
Over 15,000 Gujjars began their agitation Dec 20 under the leadership of Colonel (retd) K.S. Bainsla.
In July 2009, the Rajasthan government had announced five percent reservation for Gujjars and 14 percent for the economically backward classes, taking the total reservation in the state for various sections of society to 68 percent.
The high court in October 2009 stayed the quota in jobs and educational institutions in the state for Gujjars and the economically backward classes as the reservation ceiling had exceeded the cap of 50 percent.
Between 2006 and 2008, Gujjars had staged violent protests in which many lives were lost.