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October 20, 2001 - October 20, 2001

Land scam accused remanded to police custody Saturday, October 20, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: Pol Christian, the prime accused in the Padra land scam, was remanded to police custody for three days on Thursday. Pol had earlier absconded from the court premises on September 28 when the court was about to deliver its verdict.

District government pleader Raghuveer Pandya had in his argument in additional sessions Judge A N Vakil's court pointed out that Christian's conduct should be seriously noted. At the end of the arguments from both the sides the court remanded Christian to three days' police custody. The court also rejected Christian's appeal for a stay order in the case.

It can be recalled that early last month the district police had exposed the Padra land scam where a group of unscrupulous elements had hatched a conspiracy to sell a sizeable chunk of land belonging to farmers by way of making bogus documents and putting up dummy farmers.

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


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Drug traffickers employ innovative methods Saturday, October 20, 2001

BY AMIT MUKHERJEE, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: September 14: Narcotics Control Bureau sleuths intercept a Sumo, laden with cricket bats near Relief Cinema. They recover 25 kg of fine quality Kashmiri charas.

September 29: NCB sleuths, on receiving specific information, search a truck coming from Kashmir with a consignment of apples. They unearth a cavity in the ceiling of the driver's cabin. A huge consignment of charas, weighing 92 kg, was stuffed inside!

The Narcotics Control Bureau of Ahmedabad seized a record total of 117 kg charas, worth millions in the international market, in September.

According to department sources, the origin of both the consignments was Anantnag district. The drugs made their way into the state through porous state borders. "It would have been difficult to detect the consignments in the absence of specific information," admits an official.

Gujarat has always been a major transit point for drug pushers, with a large chunk of the drugs supplied to Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra passing through the state.

Sources say, with peddlers employing innovative methods in trafficking, intelligence gathered from informers becomes vital to crack down on the gangs. However, efforts put in by the department to cultivate the informers and develop a better intelligence network have started showing results.

The first consignment intercepted in September had a very unique modus operandi. Willow being a major produce of Kashmir, and bats made from it in demand all over the world, provide an opportunity for gangs trafficking charas.

The consignment had been carefully stuffed inside cavities in the cricket bats and marked to a sports outlet in Ahmedabad, leaving no ground for suspicion. The supplier was identified as Kabir Khurseed and the procurer Ali Hasan Bapu, a peddler with a history of dealing in drugs.

In the second consignment, apple, another major produce of the troubled state, was utilised by the peddlers. The consignment weighing 92 kg was carefully concealed inside a truck laden with apples.

The department attributes its success in all recent seizures to intelligence networking. In fact, the NCB, based on tip-off, also made one of the biggest seizures of acetic-anhydride in Ahmedabad. It is a controlled commodity and an ingredient used for the manufacture of Mandrax tablets.

Sources in the department say that hit by manpower constraints, NCB is focusing mainly on movements of contraband in bulk. They admit there is a large amount of contraband items floating around in the retail local markets of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat.

"Apart from being a major transit point for drugs moving into Maharashtra, peddlers find sizeable number of customers in Gujarat, too," reveals a police officer. Informants have pointed out that the state has a market for cannabis ('ganja'), brown sugar, opium and hashish, with 'ganja' being the most popular.

While 'ganja' is a cheap commodity circulating in abundance in small quantities in industrial belts and university areas of the cities, opium is being used by many tea stalls. "There have been instances where tea stall owners have been using pinches of opium to get youngsters hooked on to their special brand of tea," discloses a police officer of the Anti-Terrorist Squad.

Brown sugar is also consumed in some parts of the state, with the contraband finding way through Rajasthan and even from pockets of Madhya Pradesh. Brown sugar or heroin is a derivative of opium. Consumption of heroin is evident from 469 addicts who had approached various rehabilitation centres in Gujarat for de-addiction during the 2000-2001. While Surat topped the list with 377 addicts, Ahmedabad had about nine. Nadiad had about 48 heroin addicts.

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


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WWF project to save whale sharks along Gujarat coast Saturday, October 20, 2001

BY RAJA BOSE, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: The exotic whale shark, that has been facing extinction due to hostility from man, especially along the Gujarat coast, now has a saviour. After the Supreme Court put it on the Schedule I list of endangered species, the Gujarat state office of the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF) has set out to help prevent such killings. WWF has just concluded a survey that assessed 'ground realities' along the coastline.

The survey, completed during the Wildlife Week that began on October 2, has highlighted factors that directly led to increased killing of whale sharks. A WWF team will meet the state commissioner of port and fisheries and other officials on October 23 to draw up a project to create awareness among people, especially fishermen and traders along the coast, on the need to protect whale sharks.

The project, termed the 'Whale Shark Project _ Conservation and Protection', will be modelled on the one done in Australia, which has a significant presence of whale sharks. According to an Australian Marine Conservation Society report, the whale shark is 'rare and prior to mid-1980s, there had been less than 350 confirmed reports of whale sharks world-wide'.

"The survey was a ground-level one, conducted by our volunteers along the coast at Rupen, Porbandar, Mangrol, Dwarka and Veraval. Its findings are based solely on information provided by people living along the coast, especially fishermen", says WWF Gujarat state office director Smita Pradhan.

"The idea of the survey, done under the aegis of the Marine and Fresh Water Project of the WWF, was to find out all the angles to the problem. The fishermen told us that extreme poverty and lack of alternative means of eking out a livelihood compelled them to kill whale sharks. Though they were aware of the Supreme Court order and the punishment involved in killing these animals, they had little choice. And, since WWF advocates sustainable lifestyles, we thought we could work out a solution along with government departments concerned", she adds.

The report has been sent to the WWF secretariat, which will now look for appropriate agencies for funding the proposed project and the second survey. Pradhan feels that it will take a couple of months to put the project on course.

"We have received letters from fishermen in the area requesting us to provide help. Another in-depth survey based on preliminary findings will help to frame policies", she said.

A startling fact revealed by fishermen and traders was that each whale shark fetched between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh and that their tails were extremely popular. The oil from their liver is used to coat fishermen's boats. Fisher-folk told the survey team that certain industrial effluents dumped into the sea could have affected the sharks' habitat.

Australia banned killing of whale sharks years ago, developed a lucrative eco-tourism industry at Ningaloo Marine Park on western coast where they appear annually. The whale sharks are also found along the Maldives, South Africa, Mexico, the Galapagos Islands and Indonesia.

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


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Townships celebrate in 'small is beautiful' style Saturday, October 20, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: They are small in scale yet elegant. They combine class with a homely atmosphere. They all generate oodles of gaiety and fervour. They are the 'township garbas' of the city and its surroundings as PSUs and private companies host their own garbas during Navratri.

Be it the oil giants like ONGC, IOC and IPCL or the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) or private companies like Alembic, the motto seems to be "small is beautiful" as officers and their families bring their best dresses out and get ready to put their best foot forward.

Being performed for over half-a-century now, the garba organised by the Alembic group, begun by late Dhirajben Amin to ensure unity, has grown from an informal affair where the performers both sang and danced to a professional one now. While about a 100 people participated and saw the garba in the 50s, the garba in the Alembic ground now attracts about 8,000 people with music by professional singers belonging to the Shruti group.

At the Gujarati Medium School ground, Gujarat Sanskar Samaj of Indian Oil Corporation's Gujarat Refinery began the Navratri Mahotsava from Wednesday as thousands poured in to join the garba and watch the proceedings as singing group from city Shreeji Garba Vrinda belt out the songs.

The lush green lawns of the Tapovan Temple Complex is playing host to the children of the IPCL township for nine nights as the Petrochemical Township Devasthan Trust organises the Shishu Garba Mahotsav. Though this garba gets over at 10 pm, the music and songs by Harmony group is providing nights of pure fun.

The township's garba ground is also attracting thousands of people with music by city-based music group Swar Nad and every participant putting in their best performance to emerge the best dancer in three different groups.

The competitive spirit is also mixed with the fun and frolic at the ONGC stadium where people are also putting in their best performances. "Every night, about 3,000 to 4,000 play the garba to the tune of the city-based Swar Archana group. Best dancer awards will be provided in three categories," says ONGC Employees' Welfare Committee vice-president Rajiv Kumar.

In nearby Anand, the Garba Lawns of the NDDB begins to fill up as every night. The milk capital is reverberating with the sound of garba as about 1,500 to 2,000 people gather every night to join the revelry.

"Not just the NDDB employees and their children, we have also invited students from Anand schools, students from Vidyanagar University girls' hostel and medical students from Karamsad Hospital for a one-night performance," says Manoj Inayat, cultural secretary of Boho Club that organises the NDDB garba.

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


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Modi's greenhorns add colour to drab ministry Saturday, October 20, 2001

BY RAJIV SHAH, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: They are the dozen 'novices' of the Modi ministry who have just got possession of a sparkling new car with red flashing lights on top. The air of importance and the sense of power comes basically because of the 'hangers' all around them. In fact, one of them was barking away on his telephone to someone in Amreli that a certain murder accused has to be immediately released, come what may.

The 39-strong ministry shows that, for the first time, the BJP has turned to the backward classes as a future support base. The new comers, many of them virtually unheard of till they became ministers on Wednesday, may not perform here in Gandhinagar as able administrators. Nor are they meant to. But their raised status in their community will perhaps help the BJP use them as vote-catchers when elections arrive.

Indeed, many of the greenhorn ministers admitted quite frankly that they have little knowledge of either state policy or administration. Take minister of state Devanand Solanki, given independent charge of animal husbandry. He told TNN that though he's a farmer's son, the department is "totally new" to him, and that he knows "nothing about it".

Solanki said: "Of course, I know animals. It would be better if I had also been given cow-breeding. But I don't mind. After all, it's the CM's prerogative." He said working in the administration with a fresh mind is "like fasting after taking a heavy meal". Whatever that means.

Or take the junior-most minister among the ministers of state - Sundarsinh Chauhan - who took charge of labour and employment department. Flanked by labour secretary Arjun Singh and another senior labour department official, Chauhan, a second-term MLA from Kheda district, is every bit a simpleton. He said this whole thing of governance was alien to him. He had just taken over, had sought a briefing from officials, though was not sure when he would get it.

The smartest among the dozen-odd fresh faces is Ishwarbhai Makwana, the new culture minister. Belonging to Mehsana district and an MLA for the first time, he runs a monthly magazine, composes poems, writes articles and stories. "I was part of the JP movement," he told TNN proudly. Makwana's predecessor, Mahendra Trivedi, also composes poems. Even sings. Trivedi, in one of his poems, wrote that the ministers do nothing but "meet, eat and cheat." Not Makwana. He says he believes only in "meeting and seating, not in eating and cheating". Nor does he believe in writing such satirical poems.

Minister of state Bavku Ughad has been given petrochemicals and ports, two very important departments from Gujarat's perspective. One of the two private ports, Pipavav, falls under his constituency. Yet, he awaits a briefing next Monday on the projects to lay down gas pipelines in the state, the controversial Gas Act which the Centre has asked the state not to implement, and a gamut of intricacies which these two departments entail. He is also trying to figure out whether Pipavav would fall under his jurisdiction, being a private port. His officials have so far told him it won't.

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


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