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October 31, 2001 - October 31, 2001

2 killed in massive fire at ONGC well Wednesday, October 31, 2001

News Source : TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: Two persons were killed and other two injured when a major fire broke out at well no. 345 of ONGC in Gandhar fields near Narnavi village in Wagra taluka, 60 km from Ankleshwar, on Tuesday.
Preliminary police investigation points to involvement of an ONGC employee in abetting an oil-pilferage attempt.
ONGC official sources and police said the fire broke out when some people were pilfering oil from the well and filling it in a tanker parked nearby. The fire was reported at 2.50 am on Tuesday. Sources said about 12 fire-tenders were trying to douse the leaping flames.
"The fire is massive, and is yet not brought under control. We have rushed our crises management team from Vadodara. Another crises management team from Rajmundra, Andhra Pradesh has already been mobilised and will reach the spot of disaster soon," said a senior ONGC official here.
ONGC director (onshore) R C Gaud, executive director (safety, health and environment) K K Jagati and general manager (assets) A K Mehra were camping at the spot.
Bharuch SP M D Antani said three tankers had been impounded from near the place were fire had broken out. "They were apparently trying to fill up one of the tanker (GJ6V-1377) when fire broke out and consumed two alleged pilferers _ Ibrahim alias Sidarkhan Pathan of Amod and Ajaykumar Yadav of UP," Antani said.
Bharuch police said according to the dying declaration one Pandya, who is learned to be an ONGC employ, had escorted Ajaykumar and other pilferers to well no. 345. Police said when the fire broke out Pandya and others, who had come in a Tata Sumo, fled the place. Police have also come across the names of Charanjit Sardar and Shukla of Vadodara, and one Yusuf of Chanchvel village. Bharuch LCB PI Chavda, Jambusar circle police inspector J J Solanki and PSI (Pak cell) Kaushikumar Pandya are further investigating the case.
Police have also established that Ibrahim alias Sidarkhan Pathan was involved in ONGC oil pilferage cases earlier.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]


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Modi's first test: Panchayat polls on Dec 23 Wednesday, October 31, 2001

News Source : TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Narendra Modi's test as an effective leader of the state BJP will come sooner than expected -- even before his own election to the state assembly -- with the State Election Commission (SEC) on Tuesday announcing the schedule of elections to nearly 10,368 gram panchayats. The date for polling has been fixed for December 23 though the BJP is trying hard to avoid polling by selling the idea of 'Samras Gam' where villages will be given a liberal incentive of Rs 60,000 to Rs 1 lakh if they conduct the elections unanimously.
The commission's decision came a day after the Panchayat department lifted the embargo on holding elections in nearly 9,200 village panchayats for which elections are overdue. The notification issued in May, indefinitely postponing the elections on grounds of earthquake and drought, was lifted on Monday. The commission has, however, decided to add some more villages where elections will be due by February 2002 in the list that goes to polls in December.
The notification for the election will be issued on November 26. Nominations will be filed by December 3 and counting, if necessary, will be held on December 26 and 27. The Modi government, meanwhile, has directed all the ministers and officials to fan out into the villages and try and persuade the villagers to have unanimous elections and enjoy the 'Samras Gam' status. Under this, a village having a population of up to 5,000 will be given an incentive of Rs 60,000, while a village with a population of up to 15,000 will get Rs 1 lakh.
Added to this, the government notification on 'Samras' which was issued on Monday, says that "priority will be given to villages for grants and sanction of schemes if they enjoy the 'Samras' status". Sources said in 1996, when elections to the village panchayats were last held, nearly 27 per cent of the villages had co-opted all the panchs and sarpanchs unanimously for incentives as low as Rs 2,000. It will be interesting to note what impact this desperate increase in incentives will have on the voters.
Government officials say they expect upto 40 per cent of the villages to accept the 'Samras' bait, if the Congress does not press for the elections hard. In all, there are 81,705 wards in these panchayats and the number of sarpanchs to be elected are 10,368. Of these, 495 are for scheduled castes, 259 for SC women, 1,726 for scheduled tribes, 877 for ST women, 630 for other backward classes, 330 for OBC women, 4,062 for general category and 1,989 for women of general category.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]


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Counter propaganda against SSP : CM Wednesday, October 31, 2001

News Source: TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Modi said the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) has been a "victim of negative propaganda" and stressed the need for presenting the project in proper perspective before the world. One of the ways of countering this campaign against the project would be through its website, he said.
Modi said the world should be made known the facts that the Narmada project is not a chief minister's project, but a project for the state's 50 million thirsty people, its animals and lakhs of hectares of parched land.
The CM on Monday inspected the progress in the implementation of the project at Kevadiya Colony -- the site of the main dam. Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam chairman Bhupendrasinh Chudasama vice-chairman V B Buch, managing director K C Kapur and engineers of Jayprakash Associates were also present.
Modi also reviewed the rehabilitation work done so far for the project-affected people (PAP). He said a large number of people of Gujarat faces acute water shortage. In such a situation the Narmada project could play a very decisive role. He said this should be highlighted before the world in a proper perspective. He suggested the project's website should be updated and given a modern touch.
The chief minister stressed the need for making the world realise that the Narmada project was in the interest of the people of Gujarat. The project was linked to the future development of the state, he said.
Making a mention about the completion of one of the two by-pass tunnels approved by the Narmada Control Authority, Modi said the second pilot irrigation tunnel should also be completed expeditiously. He reviewed the ongoing rehabilitation work for PAPs and said the project would benefit all participating states. He expressed confidence that the MP government would implement the rehabilitation programme in letter and spirit.
Chudasama explained details on the approved timeframe of raising the dam height and the supply of Narmada water to drought-prone areas through the pilot irrigation by-pass tunnel. He said the dam height would be raised along with the rehabilitation work. He said the height of the dam would be raised up to 100 m by June 2002. Thereafter, by June 2003, the dam will attain the height of 110 m by June 2004, 121 m and finally by June 2005 the height would be raised to 138 m. He said the Gujarat government was prepared to achieve the target in a time-bound manner. He said along with this, rehabilitation of PAPs was also approved.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]


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Ahmedabad firm devises kit for nuclear, bio attack Wednesday, October 31, 2001

NEWS SOURCE : TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Gujarat seems to be leading the way as far as preparedness to combat any biological or chemical attack is concerned. Not only is it the first Indian state to have readied an action plan to counter anthrax, but the first-ever emergency first-aid kit to counter any kind of nuclear-biological-chemical (NBC) warfare has also been developed by an Ahmedabad-based company.
Troikaa Pharmaceuticals Limited has readied and supplied 10 such kits to Gwalior-based Defence Research & Development Establishment (DRDE), one of the three organisations recognised in the world for NBC warfare, and the brain behind the development of this indigenous first-aid tool against dreaded bio-chemical weapons.
"The kit is the brainchild of DRDE which they asked us to develop three years back in the interest of national security. Initially we were reluctant to divert our resources but finally gave in as a service to the country, because DRDE insisted that though there are quotations from foreign manufacturers it wanted the same to be developed indigenously," said Ketan Patel, managing director of Troikaa. He admitted that he had never foreseen the product could come in so handy to deal with the current bio-warfare threat.
So what exactly is the kit all about? Packed in a 70x55x50 cm water-resistant box, the kit is armed with 42 components including all the advanced essential medications like antidotes and antibiotics for the most dreaded germs and chemicals that threaten mankind, special NBC pads for protection against nuclear radiation, water poison detection kit to the most basic things like surgicals, syringes and even sterilised water. An instruction manual in the kit make access to drugs easier in case of an emergency.
"The high point of the kit is the single source availability of antidotes for cyanide, mercury, nitrogen-mustard and related poisoning and antibiotics for almost all the dreaded bioterrors including anthrax, plague, brucellosis etc., plus all the added medical tools that a medico would need to tackle any surprise attack," said Patel.
It needs mention here that the kit is not equipped to handle botulism and small-pox attack. "This is primarily because there is no ready vaccine available for these two deadly diseases," he said.
Except for these disadvantages, experts insist the kit is user-friendly especially in emergency situations likely to be posed by the current biochemical war threat, given the fact that it is water and vibration resistant, has a shelf life of two years and can come in handy to treat as many as 30 patients in one stroke.
"The kit looks promising. We have asked for details about the kit from the company and are in the process of making suitable additions and subtractions to enhance its user-friendliness. If the situation demands, we will acquire the same to remain better prepared," said a member of the core team of the state health department at the Civil Hospital which is actively pursuing the present contents of the kit and ways to better the same.
Troikaa too is aware of the sudden increase in the market-value of its product and concedes that it will be making efforts to explore possibilities of marketing it to friendly countries. "We have signed a MoU with the DRDE to sell this kit and in case the biochemical war threat persists, we will definitely explore the possibility to offer this product to friendly countries. Most countries are going to need such a product and we have an advantage of providing it at 1/20th of the price charged at international level," said Patel. The kit is still priced at Rs 2 lakh per kit, obviously too expensive for Indian standards.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]



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Govt takes first step on MMCB Wednesday, October 31, 2001

News Source : TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Two days before the deadline set by the Centre to generate Rs 800 crore from co-operative banks in Gujarat to revive the grounded Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank, the state government took its first step in the direction by convening a meeting of representatives of local co-operative organisations. Two earlier meetings convened by the government for this purpose had been postponed for inexplicable reasons during the previous Keshubhai Patel regime.
In any case, with the prospect of raising Rs 800 crore from the co-operative banks looking quite distant, the Gujarat government has sought an extension of two months from the Central Registrar of Co-operative Societies for raising the amount for implementation of the revival package of the ill-fated Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank (MMCB). The deadline is to expire on October 31.
Official sources said state finance minister Nitin Patel convened the first meeting on Monday to solicit support from co-operative banks for the revival package. The meeting was attended, among others, by Jairambhai Patel of the State Co-operative Bank, Amit Shah of Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank, Girish Chowksi, a representative of the Gujarat State Urban Co-operative Banks' Federation, Ramesh Ambalal Shah, a representative of the Gujarat Chambers of Commerce & Industry and R S Patel, a representative of the Ahmedabad Urban Co-operative Banks' Association.
As per the revival package agreed upon by various state co-operative banks and the state government, the co-operative banks were required to contribute Rs 800 crore as their contribution towards the revival of MMCB. The amount had to be raised within a period of one and half months of the announcement of the revival package on August 24, 2001. The scheme became operational on September 15 and the co-operative banks were required to collect the stipulated amount by October 31.
It is not yet known how the Central Registrar will react to the Gujarat government's request for an extension of the deadline. Sources said if the Centre refuses to oblige, liquidation of the bank was the only possibility. Sources said the co-operative banks have not even commenced the process of raising the amount of Rs 800 crore as they find the interest of 7.5 per cent on the deposits too low.
Sources said that the Central Registrar has been assured that the state government would raise Rs 800 crore from co-operative banks by December-end, an unlikely possibility looking at the fact that the board of directors of several leading co-operative banks have already rejected the idea. According to government officials, the deadline could not be met in view of last month's political developments which brought in Narendra Modi as a replacement for Keshubhai Patel.
Moreover, a high-level committee, which was set up under the chairmanship of former state finance minister Vajubhai Vala for mobilising Rs 800 crore had not been able to achieve much because of the preoccupation with political developments.
State finance minister Nitin Patel however said on Monday after the meeting that the implementation of revival package of MMCB was going on as per scheduled and hoped that the state co-operative banks' federation would mobilise Rs 800 crore which they have committed while reaching an agreement with the Central Registrar of Co-operatives and Reserve Bank of India.
While speaking to reporters, Patel said the progress achieved in the disbursement of deposits was reviewed at the meeting. The minister said the co-operative banks would have to shell out four per cent of their deposits towards the package and they would not back out from their promise as 164 co-operative banks have lost deposits of around Rs 600 crore with the MMCB.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]


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