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October 21, 2001 - October 21, 2001

State to pay Rs 239 cr compensation to PAPs Sunday, October 21, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: After resisting pressure for several months, the Gujarat government has finally succumbed to demands of Madhya Pradesh in a desperate bid to remove a bottleneck in the way of raising the Sardar Sarovar dam height from the current 90 to 100 metres. Gujarat has bowed to MP's insistence for a liberalised financial package to the tune of Rs 239 crore for the thousands of dam oustees in the neighbouring state unwilling to come to Gujarat to resettle.

Mooted by the MP government before the onset of monsoon in Gujarat, no final agreement on the package could be reached for four months. The Gujarat government insisted the neighbouring state to bear 50 per cent of the cost of the package. MP did not agree. "As things were getting delayed for dam construction, the state government decided, several days ago, to bear the full cost of the package," said an official.

"Now okayed, the plan has been sent to MP," said a top bureaucrat. "We expect a policy order by the MP government soon, so that dam rebuilding restarts immediately." An agreed programme allows dam construction up to 100 metres from January 1, 2002 onwards, and completion of work within six months. The height remains static at 90 metres for a year, depriving large parts of the state of the benefits of dam water."

Gujarat's finance department would fund Rs 137 crore of the package immediately. The rest would be given in instalments.

The package sanctions Rs 1.25 lakh for each hectare of land an oustee farmer family decides not to receive against the submerged plot.

It also increases the cash compensation per oustee family from Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 lakh. "The package was worked out because the MP government insisted it had no land for project-affected-persons (PAPs) unwilling to come to Gujarat," the source said.

The height of the Narmada dam, under a Supreme Court order, cannot be raised if the oustees' problem is simultaneously not taken care of. A Narmada Control Authority meeting, to be held on November 8 in Delhi, is likely to put a stamp of approval to the package, officials said. Top officials of Gujarat, MP, Maharashtra and Rajasthan will participate in the NCA meeting, to be chaired by the water resources secretary of the Union government.

Insiders say it would be a "Herculean task" to convince the oustees about the package as a better option when little land is available in the neighbouring state for those unwilling to come to Gujarat. As of today, 453 MP families at the submergence level of 100 metres would have to be immediately compensated. The figure might go up. The number of families not willing to come to Gujarat is increasing. It might reach 600 by the year-end.

"Though 887 MP families at the 100 metres submergence level have agreed to come to Gujarat and letters have been issued to give them land, many might finally opt to stay back," informed a top government source. Land acquisition is already proving to be a major problem in MP. "About 140 hectares have been acquired in Dhar district, but the land is so bad that no farmer is willing to settle for it. Besides, it would accommodate only 70 families."

Informed one bureaucrat: "In all, 33,000 MP families would suffer by the full dam height level of 138 metres. Out of this, 14,000 are expected to come to Gujarat, while the rest would stay back in MP. Those entitled to get land but are unable to receive it in the neighbouring state would all have to be given cash compensation after the government takes an undertaking about the oustee family's renunciation of land claim."

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

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Gujarat seeks Rs 5 cr from Centre to fight Anthrax Sunday, October 21, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The state government has prepared an action plan titled 'Fight against Anthrax' with the help of experts to deal with possible anthrax infection in Gujarat though no cases have been reported even among animals which are carriers of bacteria in past two years.

Health minister Ashok Bhatt, who was inducted in cabinet on Wednesday, is busy going through animal husbandry records and discussing precautions against the disease. He said that in past two years not a single case has been detected in the state.

Bhatt said he would leave for New Delhi on Sunday to seek Rs 5 crore from Union health ministry to strengthen the facilities to meet bio-war threats. He will meet Union health minister C P Thakur in this connection.

Anthrax is called kaliyo taav (black fever) among cattle breeders and shepherds who are familiar with its symptoms. Talking to TNN, Bhatt said, "we have taken extra precautionary measures as Gujarat has a border with Pakistan which was engaged in cross border terrorism with India".

He said all hospitals attached with medical colleges have been asked to be prepared. Plans have been formulated to open special wards for prompt treatment to patients. If need be, those tested positive would be admitted to ICCU in civil hospitals in six cities where teams of doctors would be ready to handle any exigency.

Senior health officials and doctors and faculty of biology and micro-biology pathology and members from animal husbandry commissionerate, at one day workshop on Saturday, worked out a multi-pronged strategy to check the possible outbreak of anthrax in the state.

The minister said district health officials would be informed the details of this action plan through video conferencing on October 25 and private dispensaries and hospitals would be briefed about the anti-anthrax steps they might have to take in case of any eventuality. The government hospitals are well- equipped to deal with anthrax and there was no need for panic.

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

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DEO notice to school on chocolate mishap issue Sunday, October 21, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The city District Education Office (DEO) has issued a show-cause notice to Shree Narayan Guru Vidyalaya to explain why a private company was allowed to hold a quiz competition in the school premises.

Seventeen children had taken ill on Wednesday, minutes after they consumed chocolate 'Perk-Slims' distributed after completion of the preliminary round of the Bournvita Quiz Contest (BQC) which was held on Tuesday.

DEO S B Mandlik told reporters that the school had been asked to reply to the show-cause notice within seven days, and action would be taken on the basis of the report submitted.

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

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Elusive builders delay consumer cases Sunday, October 21, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Elusive builders, made respondents in cases related to quake-damaged buildings, were delaying the disposal of a large number of cases filed before consumer courts by staying away from hearings.

Cases filed before the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission and the District Consumers Forum in February-March this year against builders, seeking compensation for collapsed buildings during the January 26 quake, are being frequently adjourned due to the absence of respondents.

"We cannot disclose the details of cases to be filed against builders as they might go underground and would not respond," said a Consumer Education & Research Centre (CERC) official pleading anonymity. CERC is planning to file at least seven cases on behalf of flat owners of an apartment which collapsed during quake in Ambawadi area. Known for their 'speedier redressal' of cases, the consumer courts would take some time for quake-related cases in order to prove the basic facts, say legal experts.

"As far as my case is concerned, respondents have acknowledged the summons and are also appearing before the court but there are a lot many cases where builders have gone incommunicado," says A O Chudgar, a practising consumer lawyer, fighting a case against a builder on behalf of his father whose house collapsed in the quake.

There are more than 50 cases pending with the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission seeking claims for quake-related building damages and another 25 cases are lying with the forum. Apart from these, some 500 cases have been received by the city civil courts for compensation for quake-damaged buildings.

While the slow progress of quake-related cases in civil courts was understood on account of heavy backlog, the non-appearance of respondents is prolonging the disposal time in the consumer courts. "In a majority of the cases, notices have not been received by respondents as most builders are in jails or have gone underground," says Rajiv Mehta, another consumer lawyer, who is fighting at least 15 cases against a public-limited construction company for deficiency in service.

Complainants, mostly flat owners, are now considering to approach the commission to pray for an ex-parte disposal of the cases. "But going for ex-parte disposal would leave ample scope for the respondents to approach the appellate court for quashing the orders citing various reasons for his absence from the hearings," adds Mehta.

Most of the cases have been filed on the ground that builders handed over defective dwelling units, not in compliance with the national building code. The builders were also held liable for offering defective products to customers in most of the cases filed.

"Still consumer courts are a better alternative to redress grievances as they act faster and require a bare minimum expenditure unlike civil courts," says Naynaben Shah, a consumer lawyer. According to her, more and more people should approach consumer courts as they consume less time and do not charge the court fee too.

Experts see another hitch in the disposal of quake-related cases as complainants have to prove the negligence on the part of the builders. "Builders can easily argue giving natural calamity as the reason for the collapse of buildings," comments a lawyer, adding that cases would take a longer time than usual for disposal.

While cases in consumer bodies are lingering on, nobody from the state has till now approached the National Consumer Redressal Commission, which has a jurisdiction of accepting cases beyond Rs 20 lakh. A CERC official said, "Not many respondents are willing to approach the commission due to the high cost involved in litigation to fight a case."

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

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Bharuch :: Brown sugar seized at Bharuch Sunday, October 21, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Bharuch district police seized a consignment of 1.84 kg brown sugar and arrested four persons from Rajasthan from a hotel on the Vadodara-Bharuch highway late on Thursday night.

While drug trafficking appears to be on the rise in the state consequent to the Afghanistan crisis, the police believes that the amount seized was a sample "meant to be tested at the destination to confirm the quality and decide on the delivery of a subsequent consignment," Bharuch SP M D Antani said.

The four persons arrested are Jameel Ahmed Kader Khan Chitta who runs a PCO and a transport contract in Ajmer, Kamruali Ishtiaqali who runs a perfume business in Uttar Pradesh and enjoys 'access' with the drug contacts, Abdul Gaffar Hafiz Abdul Quayyum who runs a bookstore in Ajmer and was heading for Ahmedabad on a personal errand, and the driver and owner of the Tata Sumo, Surendrasingh Chhotusingh Rajput.

According to Antani, the police had stationed a watch on the highway after an alert was sounded on the increase in the drug-trafficking business. The four persons who had brought the sample from Rajasthan, were seen moving about suspiciously near Shama Hotel between Karjan and Nabipur on the highway, and were intercepted by the local crime branch around midnight.

The sample would have fetched them about Rs two lakh after delivery, the destination of which is yet to be determined. The price of the brown sugar is estimated at Rs 2 crore in the international market. The accused, in their early twenties, have been taken on remand till October 27.

Chemical factory workers die: The Odhav police registered a case of accidental death after two workers died after inhaling poisonous fumes in the factory premises of Jay Chemicals in Odhav area. The workers, Guddubhai Shivprasad Chamar (27) and Rajbharti Sitaram Parmar (22), residents of Ranchhod Desai ni chaali, had lifted a 50 litre can filled with a chemical used to make dyes when poisonous fumes suddenly erupted from it and they faced breathing problems.

In all, three workers were affected and were rushed to the Shardaben Hospital where these two succumbed.

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

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