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October 24, 2001 - October 24, 2001

32% industries shut or sick in Gujarat Wednesday, October 24, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Narendra Modi got the first insight into Gujarat's industrial scenario on Tuesday when he was told that a mere 67.6 per cent of the large and medium-scale industries are working out of a total of 2,108.

In a presentation on the state industries department, headed by Principal Secretary L Mansingh, Modi was told that 23 per cent of the industries have closed down, and another nine per cent are sick and may shut down. Industries minister Suresh Mehta was present during the high-level meet.

Presenting the results of the latest survey by the state industries commission, Modi was also told that it is the big units, with an investment of Rs 100 crore plus, which are in a better shape than the medium ones. The survey results say that of the Rs 92,217 crore investment (and Rs 1,00,863 crore production) in the 1,425 units working normally in the state, 87 per cent are of those with an investment of more than Rs 100 crore. An earlier survey of the small-scale industries had found 20 per cent of the units closed.

Though officially called a routine briefing, the CM's office kept its lips tight over what strategy the CM suggested on overcoming such a large incidence of closure. Insiders, however, said, the CM was told that the closure was "not because of recession" but had taken place over a long period, and that there was reason to believe there were some other factors. "Japan's industrial closure rate is 18 per cent per year. We are indeed better off," an official remarked soon after the briefing.

To put across the point that the state was not suffering on account of recession, the industries department officials told the CM that the net state domestic product had gone up by 8.68 per cent last year, compared to an all-India growth rate of 5.6 per cent. Significantly, the latest 'Socio-Economic Review: Gujarat State, 2000-01' suggests a major downfall of 4.7 per cent in the NSDP, for the first time in a decade. The growth rate was 21 per cent in 1994-95.

The per capita NSDP, the yardstick of people's purchasing power, went down by six per cent. "The CM was not told these figures," remarked one CM aide. The 'Review' says that the negative growth is on account of the sharp fall in agricultural production to the tune of 29 per cent, adding that "the manufacturing and tertiary sectors have registered a positive growth _ 3.3 per cent and 5.5 per cent _ but not impressive as compared to the corresponding growth of 12.6 and 8.7 per cent respectively."

The CM, on his part, talked of the need to make Gujarat's industries "stronger" in the face of the globalisation challenge. Insisting on adopting a "comprehensive approach", he announced that there would be a business partnership meet from February 8 to 10, a repetition of the failed Intechmart experience a couple of years ago. "The UK would be the partner country, while California would be the partner state in the mega event," said an official quoting the CM as saying. There would be one-on-one meetings, where plans of bureaucrats and businessmen for visiting abroad would be worked out.

Abandoning ex-CM Keshubhai Patel's dream of building the second phase of the Science City at the cost of Rs 350 crore with private partnership, Gujarat may finally land up with a prototype of New Delhi's Pragati Maidan just next to the site where the first phase is currently being built behind the Gujarat High Court. Narendra Modi said, the Centre had "approved" a sum of Rs 100 crore for the new exhibition-cum-convention complex, adding that it would be adjacent to the current Science City site. It is not, however, decided how big a plot of land would be needed for the new complex.

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

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Malaria deaths speak volumes of the neglect of social sector Wednesday, October 24, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: If Nana Patekar's lingo _ "Ek machhar admi ko admi nahin rehne deta" _ is to be used for the Gujarat government, suffice it to say that one mosquito is enough to dent the reputation of a government which makes Utopian plans like 'Vision 2010'.

With the government having admitted to 61 malaria deaths in two months in the state on Monday, even its claim made on the same day, that 41% of the annual plan of Rs 7,267.85 crore okayed by the Centre is for the social sector, sounds like a bluff.

Top secretariat sources say this year's allocation for health is a mere Rs 210 crore, compared with last year's Rs 240 crore. The amount meant to tackle the malaria epidemic is just Rs 21 crore. Analysts say it is clear that the foundation of perhaps the most prosperous industrialised state in the country is on shaky ground as far as critical areas in the social sector, like health, are concerned.

The state has been ranked 9th among 15 big states in the health development index developed by scholars Indira Hirway and Darshini Mahadevia. However, their study, 'Gujarat: Human Development Report', has not been put out by the state government for fear of making public stark facts about the state.

"There are hardly any indications to suggest that things might have improved on health front after the report was prepared in 1999," Dr Hirway told 'The Times of India'.

If malaria is taken as an example, officials admit, funds constraint and lack of official surveillance are the two main reasons why little is being done to fight the disease. Already, 61 suspected deaths have been officially reported in Surendranagar, Kutch and Banaskantha districts while the unofficial toll is pegged much higher.

The World Bank, as usual, on Tuesday was urged to finance an anti-malaria programme in Gujarat. A WB team has also been asked to consider the setting up of a malaria preparedness and forewarning centre in Ahmedabad with a district and taluka data base and satellite imagery backup, apart from a research project under the Jamnagar University on ways to find out new means of fighting breeding of mosquitoes.

"But all this will take a lot of time," points out an official. "We have to prepare a project, submit it to the Bank. None can say whether it will be considered at all."

Apparently, there is lack of clarity on policy direction for funding, too. The WB, said a top Secretariat official, will give loan for a malaria project, but that will involve a debt burden. The state health department, as a matter of principle, prefers assistance. It has been "promised" Rs 170 crore by the European Commission for reconstructing hospitals.

But assistance is not easy to come by. An earlier plan to have a malaria forecasting centre with British funding had to be abandoned because the organisation that was to finance the project had "other priorities".

Even otherwise, little success is noticed in projects taken up so far. The Rs 30-crore five-year World Bank project to fight malaria in eight districts started in 1997 may officially seem a great success. Being implemented in the Dangs, Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch, Narmada, Vadodara, the Panchmahals, Dahod, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha districts, where incidence of falciparum malaria has gone down from 28,545 in 1997 to 3,149 till now this year.

But strong doubts exist in the claimed success rate. Says Ashok Bhargav of the Institute for Development Education and Learning, "About 75% of the malaria cases are treated at private clinics. People go to the private doctors because the government machinery does not work." An 'early warning' of a malaria epidemic by the World Health Organisation was taken indifferently by the officialdom, he alleges.

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

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Nine held for rioting over garba passes Wednesday, October 24, 2001

AHMEDABAD: In the second incident this week, the Satellite police arrested nine persons on Monday for allegedly attacking a garba organiser after a brawl over entry passes to the garba at the St Xavier's College grounds on Sunday morning.

Donald Erics Marcs, who was allegedly attacked by a group of boys, lodged a complaint at the Satellite police station that Smith Anthony Fernandes and eight others intercepted his car on the Drive-in road while he was on his way home after Saturday night's garba. Police sources said the boys fought over some passes for the garba. They followed Marcs and threw stones at his car at about 2.45 am. Their vehicles have been seized by the police.

Those arrested and booked for rioting are Fernandes, Navpreet Singh Manohar Singh Sindhu, Saujan Anand Prasad, Sinu Jugetam George Verghese, Devdutt alias Jingu Devraj Singh, Billu Attarsingh, Rajendra Bhogi Jayantilal, Satyen Vaswan and Ashutosh Bameshwar Singh.

Truckers robbed, killed
Two persons in a truck (GJ 12 U 5716) parked near Motipura village on the Himmatnagar-Ahmedabad highway were robbed and stabbed on Monday morning by four unidentified persons. Adding to the spate of highway dacoity was this incident where driver Valaram Shankarlal Mali and his assistant Surrbhai Bagdadi were attacked by two persons while they were sleeping in the truck at around 4.30 am. The assailants stole Rs 4,000 from their pockets, and when the two woke up they were stabbed with a knife. Two others joined in and attacked them with stones, after which Bagdadi succumbed to wounds in the hospital. A complaint was lodged by Pir Ali Mansuri.

Dacoity at Thaltej
Some 10 persons robbed gold ornaments worth Rs 28,000 from Sitaben and her husband Ramesh Rabari at Thaltej on Sunday afternoon, in an apparent bid to settle scores. Sita and Ramesh stay at Riddhi Siddhi Apartments in Thaltej. They were visiting Sita's father Ajmalbhai at the Ajanta-Ellora Apartments, where Gova Bhagwanbhai Rabari, Ramabhai Jivabhai Rabari, Mafatbhai Rabari, Babubhhai Gamanbhai Rabari and Gemarbhai Karamsibhai Rabari, with five others, attacked and robbed them. They attacked the couple in revenge, following a suspicion that Sita's brother Raju had eloped with Gova Rabari's daughter.

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

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Welcome to Navratri in Ahmedabad Wednesday, October 24, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Bolo tara ra come the strains from a building complex. Now everyone knows that Daler Mehndi has not yet become Dalerbhai, that his music is not part of the 'garba' tradition and not even part of Gujarati tradition. But so what? A lot of Navratri is about having fun and judging from the number of children dancing their hearts on, the tune was working.

Welcome to Navratri in Ahmedabad. It may not be 'sanskar nagri', but it is Gujarat's biggest city and Navratri here covers the gamut, from Mumbai-ishtyle 'dandiya dhamaka' to traditional 'ras garba'. An evening at the Hutheesing Centre showcases the folk dances of Gujarat and Rajasthan and sets the mood for the festival.

Next door, the CEPT ground resounds to the beats of the dholak and the sounds of the first invocation to Goddess Amba lead you into an older time. The dancing starts in a small circle around a collection of 'diyas' on a open brick altar. The circle slowly grows and then another larger one forms around it. In the corner, a boy gets a quick refresher on the steps. Soon, concentric circles sway and swirl to the music. From afar, it looks like a colourful field of grass on a windy night.

Out on the highway, though, it's goodbye 'diyas' and pots and welcome to high decibels and bright lights. At the Amitara grounds, Jayesh Panchal and his group take the dancers to a frantic pitch. On the huge lawns, groups do an energetic hudo, no delicate movements here. High energy, high adrenaline and an audience charged up for more.

The dancers, too, perform to the crowds as they form circles, moving around their collections of shoes and bags. Kathiawari dress dominates for the men and 'kedio' and 'dhoti' can be seen in every colour and combination. Indeed, for sheer brilliance and style, the men compete with the women, backless cholis, banjara-style bangles and carefully applied make-up notwithstanding.

But it's not necessarily the same story everywhere. Some grounds, along the highway, are so well organised that people are practically attacked by security men, armed with whistles and sticks. Rules are meant to be strictly adhered to here, but only for some people. "You can't go into the rink in a sari," this correspondent is told. "That's not a traditional dress."

Which would be all right, except for the fact that the sari is the national dress for women in India and that the rink is full of women in salwar kameezes, certainly not the traditional dress of Gujarat. So much for the YMCA. "We will fix it tomorrow," promises one of the rosetted men. Politeness lessons for the security staff would help.

Then there's the Hindi film music, the varying degrees in quality in sound systems, the increase in disco dandiya... but enough grouses. From the clubs like the Sports or Karnavati and Rajpath, to grounds like Zarna and Nova Village, to building societies across the city, Ahmedabad is throbbing. From 8 pm onwards, the little children are seen, in their festive gear. being ferried from place to place by harried fathers. More than anything else, it is the children who make the lasting impression.

And the fact that come Navratri, Ahmedabad rocks. A little tradition, a little razzmatazz, a little Mumbai, a little Vadodara. A good bhelpuri of customs, traditions and fun.

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

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Customer is king till purchase is made Wednesday, October 24, 2001

VADODARA: In a market-driven economy the 'customer is supposed to be king'. Could be, till the time the purchase is made. After that, very often the proverbial king is treated like a pauper.

Once the goods are bought, customers' grievances seldom get addressed. Their complaints are rejected and they are blamed for making nagging queries and wasting the company's or the shop's valuable time.

The ones who are left in lurch are not only the typical middle-class or the lower middle-class buyer, but also those who quite often fly in premier airlines.

"I selected British Airways because I thought it was the best, but soon realised that I had made a wrong decision. Right after boarding, I faced lot of problems," says Afsha Safree, Gujarat Setco Clutch Limited general manager. Safree had boarded flight BA-138 of British Airways (Mumbai-London) on September 14.

"My hand luggage weighed 5 kg extra. I paid Rs 4,500 for the extra weight. I requested the officer that since I was on a business trip, they allow me to carry some of the files I had in my hand. But that request was rudely turned down," Safree said. She said more than the extra payment what bothered her "was the lack of courtesy and an understanding of the practical problems".

"I faced problems during my return journey too. I had informed the change of dates nine days in advance, but yet was made to pay œ16 extra. Moreover, the officers made me throw chocolates worth œ60. I requested that the chocolates were for children, and that it meant a lot to me, but despite that they behaved rudely and forced me to leave them," Safree said, adding that she has written to the customer service manager of British Airways in New Delhi, Gurgaon and Vadodara, but has not got any response.

Mona Nanavati, an NRI, had come to Vadodara from US on a brief visit, but left the city with a bitter taste. "I had bought a dress from Vichitra Rachna in Alkapuri. It cost me Rs 1,500. The dress had an embroidery defect. For 45 days the shopowner misled us, made promises to replace the garment, made us come to the shop over and over again. After all this, he blamed us for the defect," Nanavati said. She added that it was only when one of her relatives threatened the shopowner of legal action that the defect was rectified. "The moment we spoke of legal action he rectified the defect in two hours. This means he unnecessarily kept us harassing for over a month," she said.

Atul Upadhyay is another troubled consumer. "I had bought a Kinetic Style (GJ6QQ-6081) in November 1999. In then last six months, I have got so fed up that I have decided not to purchase anything from that company ever again in my life," Upadhyay said.

His woes began with a petrol-cock defect. He got it fixed, but soon the oil started leaking into the silencer. He got that done too but hardly had he finished briefing the dealer Western Motors of frequent technical problems, the vehicle developed a crack near the mouth of the petrol tank. "I showed it to a number of mechanics and all came to one conclusion that the defect was a manufacturing fault. Western Motors, however, evaded my complaints, made me false promises and simply ignored the problems," Upadhyay said. He pensively observes that he had purchased the vehicle from his savings. "The cost of the vehicle for them might be less but for me it is big. I had bought the vehicle hoping it would make my later life comfortable, but the opposite has happened," Upadhyay said.

Manisha Shah's faces a similar problem. She had purchased a Kinetic Style (GJ16L-6615) in February 2000. Since then she had written a couple of letters to the company office in Pune and for umpteen times contacted the dealers N K Motors complaining about the problems she has been facing with the vehicle, but all this to no avail. "They had promised to send a company engineer who never came. N K Motors is simply not interested in answering our calls. We feel cheated and hurt," Shah said. Private mechanics have told Shah that the vehicle had developed a crack in the petrol tank. "Several times the vehicle went out of order midway through my journey. We wrote about the problems to the dealer as well as the company, but there has been no attempt to solve the technical snag," Shah laments.

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

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