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October 25, 2001 - October 25, 2001

Little actors do mentor proud Thursday, October 25, 2001

Archan Trivedi, working painstakingly and with dedication for Darpana's Repertory Group, known for his acting and direction, has of late, working with children, become something of a child himself. A month ago he burst into a playful song on phone: Hum saat poochhadivaalo re chun chun undar... During a conversation the other day, again a song came to his lips: O bakari maa, O bakari maa. And the playlets, all workshop productions, he got staged by kids last week are replete with many such songs.

He has written the songs himself. "I didn't set them to tunes or fill words into tunes", he confides, "I found myself singing them while working with the children at this workshop". His young colleague, Pagarav, used to take down the lines during the process. He had 52 children, eight of them below five, as participants at the workshop, conducted for two months, two days a week.

The children, in the age group four to fourteen, while acting out four popular stories _ Sat Poochhadio Undar, Bhatudia na Bachcha, Gadheda ni Savari, Raja Karataan Maari Topi Saari (Durgesh Shukla) _ adapted and modernised, supplied lines. No need for scripts. Their cat is 'a pure vegetarian', addressed by the mice as 'Dear Billi Aunty'. The she-goat's kids devoured by the tiger can all be seen in his big belly giving him a tough time. The Gadha proves he has brains. The tail-less mouse is taught to be proud in being different!

The little players at the performance, following six days of intensive rehearsals, were one with their characters from the animal world. To creating the right ambience _ with colour, spectacle and detail _ the sets and costumes (Pagarav, Archan, Ramesh) made no mean contribution. The music (Nisarg, Shradul, Jagat) was good enough, but not so rich as to turn the productions into full-blooded musicals.

All the same, the joy Rishvis, Vaidehis, Nidhis and Namratas had on the stage was infectious. Some of those in the packed open-air Natarani auditorium, amongst them grandpas and nannies, joined them laughing, singing, clapping. When a child in a play rode a donkey, a kid in the auditorium till then wondering where to sit, quickly perched on her mummy's shoulders, astride her neck!
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Detective stories are no longer 'the normal recreation of noble minds' as Andrew Wyke (Iftikhar Ahmad), a successful writer of the genre in Anthony Shaffer's well-known play Sleuth believes they are. Maybe they were half a century ago. Sleuth, however, is so brilliantly written, its performance can hold interest even today as the one directed by P S Chari for XYZ did at the C C Mehta Auditorium in Vadodara last week. To an appreciative audience it comes alive with humour and action neatly projected in all available space.

The only two characters in the play, at one time a hit on both Broadway and Off-Broadway, are initially interlocked in a fierce verbal combat, apparently restrained. Having known the audacity of the younger one, sharp and neatly dressed, Milo Tindle (Adil Marawala) _ "I understand you want to marry my wife". "Well, yes, with your permission" _ and Andrew's disaffection with his wife Marguerite, whose 'love is the fawning of a willing lap dog' and her fascination for Tea, whose 'cobalt eyes are the secret forest pools of Finlandia', spectators anticipate action any moment.

The imposing details of the sets (Shashi), a crafty-looking Andrew's quiet confidence about the burglary game he engages Milo in _ he is so good at such games 'Jung or Einstein would been honoured' if invited to participate _ and the atmosphere the fiction writer builds up ('the cowled figure seen haunting the grounds of Manor House'... 'the agonised screams...) coupled with his assertion "She is mine whether I love her or not" leave one in no doubt the action could be thrilling. In fact, there are unexpected twists and turns that can leave spectators out of breath.

Chari in his entertaining stage production of the play keeps the highly dramatic goings-on at an even flow and lets the spectators understand the characters and their motives on their own. In this format, in an elegant conversation, with just the right modulation by both the players, we get an excellent exposition. The elegance gradually wanes and smart natural alacrity is ruefully missed once the actual action begins. A good test in such play is: Do silences sound terrifying? Does the spectator even in silent moments perceive the tension between two characters, even if standing apart?

With emphasis and variation in speech, along with appropriate pauses, dramatically how effective Inspector Doppler's line, for example, could be? : "When Mr Tindle lurched off as you put it, did he lurch naked?" Intelligent terseness in contrasting moods perhaps outline characters and happenings more effectively than loquacity. Incidentally, do you recall Pravin Joshi's Khelando, a Gujarat adaptation of Sleuth?

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

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FICCI urges Modi to give fillip to a weary Gujarat Thursday, October 25, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Warning the Gujarat government that its power tariff was so high that no power-intensive industry would like to set up shop in the state unless it had its own captive power plant, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) made a presentation to the new Chief Minister Narendra Modi in which it pointed out "gaps in development" in the state and offered the trade and industry's perspective on how some of these problems could be sorted out.

A high-level delegation comprising FICCI president Chirayu Amin, secretary general Amit Mitra and Gujarat region council chairman Amit Goradia met Modi on Wednesday and offered to give concrete proposals for alternate taxation in lieu of octroi, state PSU disinvestment and development of bio-technology. Goradia said the proposal on alternative to octroi, which is still in existence in six cities of Gujarat, will be submitted within eight weeks.

FICCI has called for rapid implementation of 'Vision 2010', greater private participation in roads and ports, decongestion of roads and highways and facilities like trade and finance centres, corporate headquarters and convention centres in the state. On the power front, it said the trend indicate decline in overall energy availability. The high cost of power discourages industrialisation. "At Rs 6 per unit, no power-intensive unit will come to Gujarat when there is cheaper power available in other states," Amin said.

The exhaustive FICCI presentation spoke about the declining production of sugar, spun yarn, fertilisers and steel which does not augur well for the state. Textile and chemical sectors were facing a recessionary trend. Even foreign trade, as per recent data, indicates a negative trend and there has been a decline in tariff and cargo handled at Kandla for two consecutive years.

Speaking about "visible signs of recession", the report said commercial vehicle sales are down by 50 per cent and consumer durables have experienced a drop in sales by 20 per cent. The finances of the state were also worrisome because of the massive revenue deficit of Rs 1,400 crore. Speaking about the need for fiscal reforms, it said the earthquake has further added to the deficit in the state.

The FICCI functionaries told the chief minister that Gujarat must prepare for another quantum leap in development by renewed thrust to the old economy sectors of chemicals, textiles, petrochemicals and consumer durables. It should also give a fillip to the areas of pharmaceuticals, telecommunication, information technology and bio-technology.

The FICCI delegation also focused on agriculture, in which Modi evinced keen interest, and said that there should be a transformation in the sector through contract farming, commercial plantations, extensive agriculture, production of food and cash crops and development of horticulture, floriculture and wastelands. Modi is believed to have told the delegation that he was quite focused on the development of bio-technology and invited more suggestions. Mitra said the FICCI has already prepared a detailed document on development of bio-technology and will be presenting it before the chief minister shortly.

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

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Uproar building up against flyover Thursday, October 25, 2001

VADODARA: A major uproar is building up against the proposed flyover near Chhayapuri. The objection is against the toll tax system to be adopted once the bridge is built.

Gauging the public mood, municipal corporator from Sama area shot off a letter to Chief Minister Narendra Modi urging him to cancel the go-ahead orders given for the flyover construction. The letter argues that the flyover, which has become unpopular before the first brick is laid, will unnecessary tax commuters.

"Many people cross the railway under bridge at Chhayapuri near Chhani to go to work. All these people will be forced to cough up additional money every day for travelling which is unjustified," the letter says. Traffic inconvenience is also cited as one of the reasons why building the flyover was not feasible.

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

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Gandhi Sena protests against Cong demo Thursday, October 25, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Gandhi Sena has objected to the desecration of Mahatma Gandhi's statue at the Income-Tax circle by Congress workers last week and demanded they tender an apology against their action in public.

Workers of the state Congress in a demonstration staged last Thursday had pasted posters of Prime Minister Vajpayee all over the statue, while protesting against the re-induction of George Fernandes as Union defence minister.

President of the Sena, Dhimant Badhia, submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, police commissioner P C Pande, director general of police K Chakravarthi and other authorities stating that the Congress had misused the name of Gandhi and desecrated his memorial.

The Sena also demanded that steps be taken to ensure that such things do not happen in future. Badhia quoted reports published in the freedom movement periodical 'Harijan Bandhu' where Gandhiji had talked about disbanding the Congress in 1948.

"But the Congress has been using the name of Gandhi and now desecrates his memorial in this manner," Badhia added.

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

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Admission hurdles that Kashmiri students face Thursday, October 25, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A noble gesture can fall flat on its face if not backed by firm commitment. The Central government has tripped over one such gesture to Kashmiri migrants who have fled the valley and its trigger-happy terrorists. It has asked state governments to reserve seats for migrants in engineering colleges but has not given guidelines on how to conduct such admissions.

As state governments like Gujarat grope in the dark to implement the policy, the migrants say their agony has been compounded. They have not yet got admission though academic year has begun.

The state implemented the GR on the reservation only this year, and has landed in a web of technical hitches. There is no clarity on who can be defined a migrant or who could certify that a person is truly a victim of terrorism. Can a person, who fled the valley 10 years back, still be considered a migrant and given the benefit of reservation? There are no clear answers.

Hoping to make matters clear, the state government came up with its own GR asking students from the valley to provide proof that they were migrants who had suffered terrorists. Proof could be in the form certificates from collectors in Jammu and Kashmir or a copy of the special ration cards that Delhi issued when the migrants first came over.

Besides creating an additional seat in each college, they stretched the deadline for such students by 30 days and brought down the minimum eligibility marks by 10 per cent. However, there was still no clarity on who is eligible; those who have left the valley recently, or just any migrant.

The Centralised Degree Admissions Committee (CDAC) has received 88 applications and will issue call letters after scrutiny. Apart from the definition of a migrant, education officials are also worried about the low percentage of applicants. Nearly 30 of them have less than 50 per cent marks, many even below 40 per cent.

Normal admission for open seats in the free category in Gujarat on the other hand have stopped at 65 per cent. Also, such students have applied to universities elsewhere and may have got admission in Maharashtra or Karnataka, while Gujarat may be going out of the way to give them admission.

State higher and technical education secretary Gauri Kumar insists they will soon remove the ambiguity to resume the admission process. "The call letters will be issued soon," she says. Many of the migrants, however, have their doubts. "I am hoping this is not another whitewash in the name of assistance," says a vocal R K Dhar from Vadodara whose daughter has applied to the Committee. "I have made numerous representations but received no answers. They have not even called my daughter while many colleges have already started their academic year." Dhar, working with the Gujarat Electricity Board, left the valley nearly 10 years back.

Rajneesh Chatta's cousin Anshita Ganjoo on the other hand, is still in Jammu and has applied in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, too. "We would have preferred a centralised system in Delhi itself," Chatta, based in Ahmedabad, says. "Anshita has not heard from anywhere despite all the right sounds being made initially."

Having completed his school education in the valley, Chatta confirms that higher education in Jammu and Kashmir is in a pathetic state, not leaving bright students with any option but to leave the state even if they do not perceive terrorist threat.

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

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