May 22, 2006

India on alert for suicides after stocks slide

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian police are watching out for
possible suicides by brokers and investors after a steep market
slide wiped out billions of dollars in share values, officials
said on Monday.

Policemen were keeping a watch near lakes and canals,
possible places where people in distress could head to kill
themselves. They said rescue teams were on alert.

"A financial crisis can trigger suicides. We are just
trying to prevent them. Till now, no such cases have been
reported," said R.K. Patel, a police official in the western
city of Ahmedabad.

India's Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd., which had a market
value of $657 billion last week after falling 10 percent in the
previous two sessions, slid as much as another 10 percent in
early trade on Monday following sales of stocks held by brokers
as security on behalf of their clients.

"Gold has turned into brass. We are finished," said S.S.
Gupta, a middle-aged Mumbai broker who said he had lost
millions of rupees in two hours of trading on Monday morning.

Ahmedabad is considered particularly vulnerable to stock
market volatility.

With over five million retail investors, the city is one of
India's main trading hubs where people have put in millions of
dollars of their disposable income into the stock market.

"I borrowed money to trade in the market. I lost it all in
the past two days," said 37-year-old Sanjay Joshi, a small
investor. "I don't know how will I repay my loans."

In the 1990s, a stock market meltdown led to several
bankrupt brokers and small investors committing suicide across
India, some of them drowning in rivers or throwing themselves
off highrises.

Analysts described the market slide -- which has been as
much as 22.4 percent from an all-time high of 12,671.11 points
on May 11 -- as a correction and said order should return soon.

"It seems overdone and the market should stabilize during
the second half of this week," said Rajat Jain, Chief
Investment Officer, Principal Asset Management Company Pvt Ltd.

(Additional reporting by Rupam Jain Nair in AHMEDABAD)