STOP TAKING THIS TOLL-Business bypasses hotels as cars steer away from chaos

August 26, 2013

Rumu Banerjee & Durgesh Nandan Jha, TNN |

Behror Midway Restaurant And Its Shopping Arcade Are No Longer A Bustling Halt For Travellers Even As Many Other Shops Down Shutters

BEHROR: As you drive into the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation’s hotel in Behror, you find the entrance virtually deserted. A couple of cars are parked there, and a lone Volvo carrying passengers is waiting. It’s 6pm, time for most commuters travelling on the Delhi-Jaipur highway to stop for a cup of tea and snacks. At the RTDC restaurant though the tables are empty. “There was a time when buses had to park outside the hotel compound as the parking area would get filled. Now, we are lucky if we get more than 200 people in a day,” says Rajbir Singh, a member of the staff.

Once the main attraction of Behror town for travellers, the RTDC’s midway facility has become a casualty of the four-year long and haphazard construction work that has destroyed the Delhi-Jaipur highway. Located on one side of the carriageway (Jaipur-Delhi), the hotel now misses out on the traffic going from Delhi to Jaipur and barely manages to get some customers going in the other direction.

“The flyover is located right in front of the hotel, making it impossible for vehicles to come to this side of the road. There’s an underpass but that doesn’t connect with our hotel. The only way to reach us is to take a diversion that is located 2km away,” points out Atul Sethi, a shop owner who operates from the RTDC premises. But what has done the maximum damage to RTDC’s fortunes is the deplorable state of the road along the highway. “Most people don’t want to stop as the roads are so bad… everyone wants to rush through the traffic and leave the trucks behind,” rues Sethi.

With 22 rooms, the hotel was the ideal stopover before the highway reconstruction started, remembers Singh. “We used to do roaring business as all RTDC buses as well as private Volvos, besides the cars, stopped here. Now, we are left with only 10-15 per cent of that business,” says the head accountant. From a daily earning of Rs 2 lakh-2.5 lakh, it is down to a few thousands, complain RTDC staff.

Meanwhile, the shopping arcade at the RTDC midway – which used to be popular with tourists – is on the verge of closing down. “I have a lease on this shop till December after which I am leaving. There are few visitors and I’m not able to earn enough to pay the rent even,” adds Sethi. Other shop owners along the arcade nod as they recount similar tales. The lease rent of the arcade shops gives a glimpse of how popular this hotel used to be: the Rajasthan government had earlier fixed rents from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh, depending on the size of the shops. But with profits plummeting, the authorities claim the new rates will have to be reduced to 20 per cent of the original to keep it going. Other hotels along the highway have got similarly scarred. Rakesh

Yadav, manager at Highway King located in Shahpura, says, “Our business has gone down by 30-40 per cent. The poor road conditions, particularly during the rainy season, has prompted many travellers to switch to train or even flights,” says Yadav. The flip side, says Yadav, is that a number of small-time dhabas have come up along the highway. “But the big hotels have all taken a hit. Everyone is just hoping that the construction gets over fast,” he adds.

The virtually stalled road project has also ended job opportunities for the locals. Atul Kumar Singh, manager of a Reebok outlet near Shahpura, said initially they had six employees to run the showroom but now there were only four. “The company is contemplating shutting down this outlet if the profit margin does not go up,” said Singh. He remembers that earlier business was booming. “Many friends from my village got jobs at the shops that had opened up along the highway when business was good. Now all these shops are shutting down,” he added.

The damage to the highway has also dented the business of the buses running along the stretch. More than two dozen buses leave Bikaner House in Delhi daily for Jaipur. The bus operators say there are times when they have to leave with only 10-12 passengers. “It’s distressing to drive on these roads. Apart from getting stuck in traffic, we face problems like frequent damage to the suspension and other critical parts,” said one of the operators, who did not wish to be identified.

Property prices though are not affected, this stretch being a part of the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor. “The property rates in Shahpura have doubled. In the Neemrana industrial corridor, flats are being sold for as high as Rs 1.4 crore to Rs 2.5 crore. Buyers and investors have a long-term view,” said one of the builders.




One comment on “STOP TAKING THIS TOLL-Business bypasses hotels as cars steer away from chaos” Post your comment

  1. Ramana on August 29th, 2013 9:33 pm

    From the article, it looks like the unstated part is that authorities are not really keen on the early completion but only interested in meetings and the usual buck-passing. Guess no one really wants to go the site and do the dirty work / monitor the progress but rather sit in their air-conditioned offices and call for meetings!

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