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October 26, 2001 - October 26, 2001

Modi has no time to discuss power crisis Friday, October 26, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: Despite three Cabinet meetings since Narendra Modi took over as chief minister on October 7, 'Samras' village is the only issue that has agitated the new dispensation under him. Efforts to raise the issue of the state's crisis-ridden power sector at Wednesday's Cabinet meeting by roads and buildings minister Chiman Saparia failed to trigger any discussion.

Top ministerial sources told TNN here on Wednesday that Saparia, a camp follower of ousted CM Keshubhai Patel, complained that power was being supplied to farmers for only seven to eight hours a day despite Modi's promise of 10 hours. The promise has remained on paper, he is believed to have said. "The power supply is very erratic and farmers just can't pump out the ground water, whose levels have gone down considerably," he added.

Not having any clue on how to solve the problem, Modi turned to energy minister Kaushik Patel for a reply. Kaushik, also a Keshubhai protege, said, he was "trying hard" bring in 200 MW of power from Chhatisgarh and another 50 MW from Goa. But Kaushik did not say when or how it would be made available. "We would announce a well-worked out plan to supply 10 hours of electricity a day to farmers within this week," is all he is believed to have promised.

The state is facing a power shortage to the tune of more than 1,000 MW, said well-placed secretariat sources. One reason for the shortage was a huge 49 per cent of power going into the heavily subsidised farm sector, which bears only four per cent of the total cost of electricity supplied to it. On the other hand, a bankrupt Gujarat Electricity Board is increasingly finding it difficult to put its own house in order by spending money on modernising its plants. Even independent power plants are unwilling to sell power to GEB.

The burning issue just skipped the formal Cabinet's attention, admitted state finance minister Nitin Patel, who briefed newspersons on behalf of the CM on Wednesday. Nor have other issues agitate the Cabinet so far -- failure of the state government to increase the Narmada dam height, providing drinking water to far-off villages, attracting investment in a state where 32 per cent of the industries have closed down, how to implement the Gas Act, not being put into action under Gas Authority of India Ltd's desire to maintain monopoly in the gas sector. "We will take them up later," Nitin said.

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


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'Pesticides lobby behind cotton seed row' Friday, October 26, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: State agriculture minister Purshottam Rupala has sought to blame the country's powerful pesticides lobby for pressuring the Centre to ask Gujarat to burn down the cotton crop sown with the help of genetically-engineered cotton seed in the state on thousands of acres of land. "Pesticides firms have a Rs 800-crore business in Gujarat, highest anywhere in the country," Rupala told TNN here on Wednesday, even while declaring the crop is "totally harmless".

"It is the pesticides lobby alone which stands to lose business among Gujarat farmers if the genetically-engineered cotton seeds are used by the state's farmers," he said. Getting several experts' reports from different sources and getting them examined by the department, Rupala said, "Cotton farmers in the state have found that pests do not infest the new variety crop at all."

Pointing out that while the cotton crop from the traditional seeds has been "badly infested" this year, Rupala, himself a farmer from Amreli district, said, "The pest dies a slow death if it tries to sit on the leaves of leaves of the genetically-engineered cotton crop." He added, "The new genetically-engineered seed is just an able mixture of the traditional seed and certain properties that make the pesticides useless. It has been developed after lot of research and its success is proven world-wide."

Suggesting that the seed was even used last year in Gujarat but none noticed it as a lot of crop got destroyed due to the drought conditions, Rupala said, "Information that I have gathered shows that nearly 50 per cent of the crop in the US for the last four years is produced from the same seed. There is little reason for us therefore to take the Centre's advise to burn it. The genetically-engineered cotton crop is harmless. Its seed is harmless in the production of oil, too."

However, Rupala sounded a word of caution: He said the firm that produced the seed went ahead with distributing it for business considerations without realising the need to take necessary permissions. "It should have followed proper procedure. Already, there are 25 other institutes that are seeking to produce the same seed in a similar manner, all financed by the Central government."

Rupala insisted: "One should follow the procedures well... Otherwise, some day some harmful seeds might come to play a major havoc in the state. That might be dangerous for the farmers."

Indicating that there was no need to burn the cotton crop, he said, however, he would ask the Centre to pay full compensation to farmers if it still insists on burning it. "The compensation would come to about Rs 25 crore, according to our calculation. There is no question of the state paying the farmers for the crop they have sown," he said.

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


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'Pesticides lobby behind cotton seed row' Friday, October 26, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: State agriculture minister Purshottam Rupala has sought to blame the country's powerful pesticides lobby for pressuring the Centre to ask Gujarat to burn down the cotton crop sown with the help of genetically-engineered cotton seed in the state on thousands of acres of land. "Pesticides firms have a Rs 800-crore business in Gujarat, highest anywhere in the country," Rupala told TNN here on Wednesday, even while declaring the crop is "totally harmless".

"It is the pesticides lobby alone which stands to lose business among Gujarat farmers if the genetically-engineered cotton seeds are used by the state's farmers," he said. Getting several experts' reports from different sources and getting them examined by the department, Rupala said, "Cotton farmers in the state have found that pests do not infest the new variety crop at all."

Pointing out that while the cotton crop from the traditional seeds has been "badly infested" this year, Rupala, himself a farmer from Amreli district, said, "The pest dies a slow death if it tries to sit on the leaves of leaves of the genetically-engineered cotton crop." He added, "The new genetically-engineered seed is just an able mixture of the traditional seed and certain properties that make the pesticides useless. It has been developed after lot of research and its success is proven world-wide."

Suggesting that the seed was even used last year in Gujarat but none noticed it as a lot of crop got destroyed due to the drought conditions, Rupala said, "Information that I have gathered shows that nearly 50 per cent of the crop in the US for the last four years is produced from the same seed. There is little reason for us therefore to take the Centre's advise to burn it. The genetically-engineered cotton crop is harmless. Its seed is harmless in the production of oil, too."

However, Rupala sounded a word of caution: He said the firm that produced the seed went ahead with distributing it for business considerations without realising the need to take necessary permissions. "It should have followed proper procedure. Already, there are 25 other institutes that are seeking to produce the same seed in a similar manner, all financed by the Central government."

Rupala insisted: "One should follow the procedures well... Otherwise, some day some harmful seeds might come to play a major havoc in the state. That might be dangerous for the farmers."

Indicating that there was no need to burn the cotton crop, he said, however, he would ask the Centre to pay full compensation to farmers if it still insists on burning it. "The compensation would come to about Rs 25 crore, according to our calculation. There is no question of the state paying the farmers for the crop they have sown," he said.

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


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Gujarat babus and the art of car maintenance Friday, October 26, 2001

BY AMIT MUKHERJEE, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: This is not a cost- cutting excercise and drivers of government vehicles are certainly not being laid off. But guess what Class I and class II gazetted officers in Gujarat are getting trained in these days? Well, many of them are attending a course on ‘‘basic auto mechanics and maintenance’’ to try and understand their vehicles better and learn to repair them if the cars break down in the middle of the road.

The government has sanctioned funds to train senior officers in ‘‘skilled driving’’ and enable them to attend to trouble with their vehicles when the officers are driving themselves. The training programme comes in the wake of instances in the past where senior government officers have either died or suffered severe injuries while driving their vehicles.

The proposal was mooted by commissioner of training (Gujarat) Fateh Singh Jasol, who is also the director of Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration (SPIRA), in April last year. The programme was sanctioned in July last year.

SPIPA is currently running a single day-package programme which aims at imparting knowledge to all the gazetted and IAS officers about their vehicles and alertness on roads.

The programme is being run in collaboration with the Western India Automobile Association.

Officers who enrol themselves undergo a seven- hour complete programme which helps them associate with the vehicle better and improve their driving skills.

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


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Convert vacant NRI seats to payment ones: HC Friday, October 26, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: The seats reserved for NRI students in engineering, pharmacy and technical institutes in Gujarat will have to be converted into the payment category seats if they remain vacant.

The seats will have to be offered by the Centralised Admissions Committee in the order of merit by charging fees as in case of payment category, and not that of the NRI category. The category of students as NRI will be defined as laid down in the Income-Tax Act.

This follows a judgment by a full Bench of the Gujarat High Court on Wednesday which upheld the earlier orders to this effect by a Division Bench. It also dismissed the batch of petitions filed and transferred from a single judge of the HC, to the full Bench, for seeking direction against the order of the Division Bench.

The Bench comprised of Chief Justice D M Dharmadhikari, Justice R K Abhichandani and Justice N G Nandi then dismissed the petition filed by Charotar Vidya Mandal for conversion of vacant NRI seats.

Earlier in a petition filed by advocate Amit Panchal, party-in-person, a Division Bench had issued an order that NRI seats should be made available only to genuine NRI students as per rules and as per the clarification issued by the All-India Council for Technical Education. It was also ordered that the unfilled NRI seats cannot be given to NRI-sponsored candidates or Indian citizen category students who are willing to pay NRI equivalent fees.

If the seats remained vacant, they were to be converted to payment seats. The admission on such seats was to be granted in order of merit. The High Court had also directed the chief secretary of Gujarat to see that the earlier orders of the court in connection with the admissions to the medical, engineering and other colleges in Gujarat should be complied with.

The court also dismissed the civil applications filed by the state for modification or clarification of the orders of the single judge, and a contempt petition for non-compliance of the single-judge's order were also disposed.

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


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