New Delhi, Sep 20 (IANS) Economic and business activities across India was hit Thursday causing an estimated loss of around Rs.12,500 crore ($2.25 billion), a leading industry lobby said.
The one-day strike, called by parties from the right to the left, and backed by trade unions disrupted normal life and hit key sectors such as road transport, railways, factories, mining, small and big shops, schools and hospitals.
Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said over five crore (50 million) business establishments all over the country kept their shutters down in support of the strike.
"More than 25,000 trade bodies across the country participated in the strike," said Khandelwal.
The cumulative impact of ongoing political instability and the strike could also be seen at the country's stock markets. The benchmark Sensex of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) fell 146.76 points or 0.79 percent at 18,349.25 points.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said the strike had been "disruptive for business and trade in many parts of the country."
"While an exact loss for the entire economy is not known, it can be estimated that almost Rs.12,500 crore has been the loss to the country in terms of disruptions in production and trade," said CII.
The CII did not say how it arrived at the figure.
Another industry chamber, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham), put the loss at Rs.10,000 crore ($1.81 billion).
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and smaller parties had called the strike in protest against the government's recent decision to hike diesel price, limit the supply of subsidised cooking gas and allowing overseas investments in multi-brand retail.
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the strike had hit the economy but reiterated that the government was not considering a rollback of any of the reform measures.
"In a democracy you have the right to protest against the government's policies. But it's rather ironic that the form of protests you are doing will cause great economic losses," said Chidambaram.
He also said the government has found "new friends" who would support the policies to keep the economy on track.
The industry associations have been asking the government not to roll back the reform measures under political pressure.
"Good economics seldom makes for good politics and therefore, it is important to communicate to the masses the merit and necessity of the reform measures announced by the government," said the CII.
Its president Adi Godrej hoped that parties across the political spectrum would work to ensure that the much needed economic reforms were carried out in the country.
"The merits of the reforms that were first initiated in the early nineties are there for everyone to see. Irrespective of whichever political party has been in the government since then, the reforms have not been reversed," he said in a statement.