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October 28, 2001 - October 28, 2001

Bt.gene cotton row likely to split farmers Sunday, October 28, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Farmers in Gujarat are likely to get split down the middle over the recent controversy on the use of unapproved Bt.gene seeds planted in about 9,000 acres in the state as both the state and Central governments take divergent stands on the issue.

To further complicate the issue, the two largest farmers' organisations in the state have also taken diametrically opposite stances on the issue and are likely to elicit support through representations and public rallies.

The Sharad Joshi-led Shetkari Sangathan, which has support in the central and south Gujarat regions is already preparing for a big rally in Bharuch on Tuesday to canvass for freedom for the farmers to choose the kinds of agricultural inputs they would like to use. The Bharatiya Kisan Sangathan, a RSS-led outfit, will meet Chief Minister Modi in Gandhinagar on the same day to warn against a ploy by multinational organisations to make the farmers dependent on these 'terminator' seeds.

Significantly, while the Union ministry of environment has ordered the destruction of these crops, the Union textiles ministry has supported the cause of the farmers who have used the genetically-engineered seeds. Textiles minister Kashiram Rana had in fact said the seeds are not only producing better quality cotton but have also withstood the onslaught of pests where other varieties have failed.

The Gujarat government, which has taken a stand in support of the Bt.gene seed, will take up the issue at a meeting convened by the Union government in New Delhi on Wednesday. However, Modi, who is close to the RSS, will have to take into account the serious reservations which the BKS has on the issue.

The national secretary of BKS, Jivanbhai Patel has said that the seeds were an attempt by multinational companies to impose terminator seeds on Indian farmers so that every year these farmers are forced to purchase seeds from these companies. A well-known proponent of 'swadeshi', it is yet to be seen what stance Modi finally takes on the issue. On one hand, Kashiram Rana and state agriculture minister Purshottam Rupala are accusing the "pesticides" lobby for opposing the new seed, while BKS is pointing fingers at the "terminator seeds lobby".

However, Sharad Joshi is seeking a wider debate on the issue by inviting farmers' leaders from other states to join the Bharuch rally. Those who are expected to attend include Sardar Bhupender Singh Maan (Punjab), Chaudhari Prem Simha Dahiya (Haryana), P Chengal Reddy (AP) and the president of Kisan Co-ordination Committee, Saroj Kashikar.

Joshi said in a statement that Gujarat's farmers have been able to save their crop of cotton from the attack of bolloworms, thanks to the use of a special seed. The crops from all other seeds have been devastated by the pest. Use of Bt-gene cotton seed in India was blocked by the Central ministry of environment and forests last May, even though other cotton producing countries have gone ahead with the use of transgenic cotton.

And while others are talking of a "pesticides lobby" and a "terminator seeds lobby", Joshi is referring to a "green lobby" in India is going all out to have the crops destroyed. He said the farmers used the seeds that they could procure through normal channels and cannot be faulted if the seed, eventually, turned out to be of transgenic variety.

It was government's duty to ensure that the proscribed seed was not marketed. This year, the cotton crop has failed in Gujarat with the exception of the proscribed variety. "Clearly, the new variety has proved its merit and superiority," Joshi said.

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


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Police play a huge success in tribal areas Sunday, October 28, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: It was police's maiden theatre production, and it has been a runaway hit. What decades of tough policing was perhaps not able to achieve, a simple concept in communication achieved it.


Tribals in Chhota Udepur and surrounding areas are seeing police in a different light now. Thanks to a street play, conceived by senior superintendent of police Keshav Kumar and performed by a group of young MSU students associated with Sankalp group, police are now winning over tribals.
The play, staged for yet another time in Chhota Udepur on Friday, coinciding with Dussehra, met with tremendous success. Titled 'Amaro haath, Tamaro saath' (Our hand your support), the play is identified by tribals as something that happens quite often in their society. Moreover, the use of tribal language for enacting the play, actors dressed up in traditional tribal attire and the local environment has made it more popular among the tribal society.
"We wanted to convey to them that police is friendly and helpful. We wanted to dispel their fears about police, win them over and send out a message about legal literacy," Kumar told TNN. He said the play has received a very good response.
"It is in demand. It has drawn huge crowds wherever it has been staged. The local tribal is very curious and wants to know. Besides the play is in his language, performed by people who he can identify with and situations which he has come across," Kumar said.
He added that he was optimistic about the entire exercise and hoped that communication that the police have been making through the said play will translate into tangible results. "When they go home, they will remember the scenes and its dialogues. It is going to remain in their mind, and at some point in time manifest into positive reaction to the message that we have been sending them," Kumar said.
The play, which fuses elements of street theatre and Gujarati folk drama form 'Bhavai', is about a love affair. Like an action-packed drama, this play too has some 'masala' features like abduction, threats and murder. The narrators, Ranglo and Ranglee, keep reminding citizens about their legal duties and the nature of crime the characters in the play were witness to directly or indirectly.
Hardik Upadhyay, an SYBCOM student who plays a small part in the play, said: "It's is a very good experience for us too. We have come to learn a lot of thing merely by performing a small part in this play. Besides, our own concept of police has changed now. We had this impression of a gun-wielding cop who uses foul language is good for nothing, but now we see police in a completely different light. Our respect for the police has grown tremendously."

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


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Film on Parsi heritage screened Sunday, October 28, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: The National Minorities Board) has embarked on a special UNESCO assisted project on 'Preserving the Paris Zoroastrian Culture and Heritage', said board member A M Sheth who was here on Saturday for a special screening of a 20-minute film 'Glimpses 2001' organised by the Vadodara Parsi Panchayat and NIFT Gandhinagar.

The project aims to preserve and promote Parsi heritage and culture. The film enumerates the Parsis' contribution to the Indian culture and the historic and religious aspects thereof.

Over the past four census, the community has been dwindling by an alarming rate of 10 per cent. The population has sunk so low that it comprises 0.01 per cent of the Indian population.

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


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NRGs look for investment in Gujarat as US faces threats Sunday, October 28, 2001

BY PRIYA ADHYARU-MAJITHIA, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Osama bin Laden's chilling threat of more attacks from the skies seems to have had its desired effect.

Americans today are a scared people, ready to vent their frustration at any one who even vaguely looks like a terrorist to their geographically-ignorant eyes. As a result, many Non-Resident Gujaratis have started investing back into their homeland to escape an increasingly anti-immigrant environment in their adopted country.

"The Indian community has received a few hate mail messages," confirms Sumir Meghani of Stanford University Hindu Council. "We are worried that racial profiling by the authorities may target Hindus and Sikhs. Many NRIs undertake outings and travel only when it is absolutely necessary."

Anxious to safeguard their hard-earned money, NRGs are busy searching for the safest investment options in their home towns. "Many Gujaratis in the US are considering investing in their native land.

The inquires are rising as the war goes on," says Vijay Shah, director of Gujarat Industrial Infrastructure Corporation. The first beneficiaries are real estate agents in Ahmedabad as this has traditional favourite for NRG investment. "The property market is a considerably cool investment option," says Rajesh Thakkar, an NRG. "The recession and steady land prices are attracting the frightened NRGs."

Nilesh Patel, a chartered accountant from Chicago, says the trend of investing back home emerged long ago. "However, in the wake of the war, more than 60 per cent of NRGs prefer to have a second base in Gujarat. Not putting all your eggs in a single basket is the logic."

"NRGs find investing here easier than before," avers Mahesh Mistry, an NRG and a retired banker. "Investing in banks seems less attractive because of the low interest rates. Land is a good option."

Mistry's sentiments are echoed by Dinesh Patel, president of the Gujarat Institute of Housing & Estate Developers. "This is the right time for investment when the property market has become a buyers' market," he says. Better construction rules and more transparency in the construction business have also led to the increased interest.

Sighting examples of NRGs investing in real estate in the city, Vijay Shah mentions industrialists based in London who have invested in office and residential properties in the city, and clients from the US who have invested in thousands of acres of farm land.

"This trend has picked up in Gujarat with stricter General Development Control Regulation (GDCR) laws and other construction by-laws in place after earthquake." The cancellation of Rent Control Act has also made it easier for NRGs to invest in property and create income, says Shah. Today, landlords have the right to have the property vacated when the lease expires.

Adds Sanjay Patel, a real estate consultant, "The trend is not only because Ahmedabad is a developing metro but also because, compared to any other developing city like Pune, Bangalore and Hydrabad, land is cheap in Ahmedabad."

However, Anil Bakeri, one of Ahmedabad's top builders, says the rising inquiries from NRGs seem impulsive. "In the past NRGs have burnt their fingers by investing in property here. And this time due to lack of faith in builders, NRGs will take a calculative and calm action, and not jump for investment."

Kishor Dedhia of Space Management says, "NRGs from Middle East invest here because they can't invest there. And to attract NRGs from other countries, the local builders need to be bring in more transparency."

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


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Garba organisers' woes compounded by cops Sunday, October 28, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: With a man having been murdered by drunken louts after resisting eve-teasers who harassed his wife for quite a while and a wrist watch godown reporting a Rs 1.5 crore theft by a gang which came nonchalantly in a mini-truck , one would be wondering what the police was up to during the Navratri celebrations in Ahmedabad.

Many garba organisers have the answer. The festivities are over but rampant bullying by the police throughout the nine nights has left a bitter after-taste for most organisers who are even wish to talk to authorities. Some garba organisers were of course smart enough to invite the police commissioner P C Pande himself as the chief guest so as to lessen the nuisance from the lower ranks.
"It starts from seeking licence to organise garba and extends right up to the entry gates. Every step you take, you are either expected to make commitments of gifting chunk of 50 to 500 passes or be ready to generously grease palms. Unless you comply, you don't stand a chance to get things cleared in your favour", confides a garba organiser.
If these pre-Navratri blues are not enough, the big brothers continue to throw their weight around during the festivities. Incidents of police personnel landing at the gates seeking uninterrupted entry without having to show passes is the most dreaded but oft-occurring bane.
"On the last day of Navratri, some eight police trainees landed at the entry-gate of our garba and refused to show passes. When pressed by the security guards, they raised quite a storm and bashed up a few of the guards and my office-men and the local police had to be summoned to intervene. And the irony of it is that they had passes in their pockets but did not want to show", laments president of All Gujarat Festival Cultural Association Himanshu Shah, main organiser of the SOI-Dandiya Dhamaal.
He says the association plans to urge the police to support security outside the venue. "Gate security should be supported by the police because there is a limit to the kind of security we can provide by hiring private guards. Just like the police is duty-bound to maintain security during polls or any public event, it should extend support during Navratri, too. After all the festival is a big event where there is large congregation of people in public places", pleads Shah.
But that, say other organisers, would only complicate the issue as the cops would insist on permitting everyone they know inside the venue without passes.

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


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