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October 15, 2001 - October 15, 2001

Kites, shikras still scan Vadodara skies Monday, October 15, 2001

VADODARA: They had gone out to count the vultures, instead found pariyah kites and shikras, both hunting birds known for their prowess of making piecemeal of their preys.

The vulture census might have turned out to be a major disappointment for the forest department but it did bring home some good news too.

Vadodara skies may no more be home to vultures, but they definitely are the favoured hunting grounds of majestic kites and shikras.

"We thought the census was a good opportunity to count raptors (carnivorous birds which hunt and kill other animals) in city. We found a couple of shikras and about 304 pariyah kites," deputy conservator of forests wild life division S K Mehta told TNN. He said most raptors were found in Sayajibaug and Laxmivilas Palace campus.

"Maximum pariyah kites were spotted at Sayajigunj and Vishwamitri river area. We counted about 45 of them here and some 45 more in Karelibaug area. About 26 pariyah kites were seen in Parshuramm no Bhatto area, and 32 were sighted at the railway station and Alkapuri area," Mehta said.

The census team, he added, saw four shikras in the palace campus and in agriculture land in Tandalja.

"Raptorial birds belonging to the kite family have a good presence in city. The Laxmivilas Palace campus hosts quite a few variety of raptors and occasionally one can also spot owls," said wildlife warden and member of the census team Rohit Vyas.

He said raptorial birds were an important part of the city's ecosystem, and played a crucial role in keeping it clean.

"Not having vultures in the city is a cause of concern. We should ensure that other carnivorous birds don't meet the same fate. People can contribute by getting educated about the significant roles that these birds play in our lives. Not to mention these birds are splendid creation of nature and add to the beauty of planet earth," Vyas said.

The forest department, meanwhile, has decided to document the census. Conservator of forests Vadodara circle R N Tripathi said the census study has been scientifically recorded and will be put in the form of a document.

"We wanted to do some constructive work during the wildlife week, and hence decided to conduct a census of these birds. We thought the data would be of use to researchers and also make an important study for the department," Tripathi said.

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

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AMC doctors want panacea for interference Monday, October 15, 2001

AHMEDABAD: What happens if a doctor in the emergency ward tells a group of over 15 people, who defying the security guard storm inside the emergency room late at night inquiring about a patient's health, that he will not see the patient until they all wait outside?

If the visitors turn out to be political heavy-weights like standing committee chairman Badruddin Sheikh and his friends, the doctor can get show-caused and transferred to another hospital, as it recently happened to a resident doctor of V S Hospital.

The incident should not be seen in isolation. Men in khadi have scared the daylight out of doctors in the AMC-run hospitals in the city, who confess to living under this constant threat of disciplinary action at the instigation of municipal corporators and other political bosses of the corporation.

"It's like an invisible sword hanging on your head. With so many patients streaming in and out of the hospital, you don't really remember who is a politician or his relative. And the moment you fail to pamper the ego of these netas, there goes your head," says one resident doctor.

Matters have come to such a pass that the Junior Doctors' Association (JDA) last week shot off a letter to the hospital superintendent and municipal commissioner expressing their inability to discharge their routine duties due to ever-increasing political interference.

"Political interference within the hospital premises is uncalled for. There is always a scare in the minds of the junior doctors of biased disciplinary action which happens at the instigation of some political interference. This should come to an end," says members of JDA in the letter.

The doctors also pleaded that the only relationship in the hospital should be that of a patient and doctor, and there should be no room for political interference.

Have things really got that bad? Doctors and nurses insist that things could not get worse. "It is as if the hospital has become a personal fiefdom of corporators and corporation big-wigs. Every now and then, there are requests for looking after this relative or that acquaintance. We should do our jobs or keep the political patients in good spirits," says another resident doctor.

Senior doctors too confess that one of the biggest nuisance of politicians is in getting their patients passed as free cases, or getting 'indents' done which entitle poor patients for free medicines.

"It is no exaggeration, almost 75 per cent of the cases will be those recommended by politicians. Poor patients no longer benefit in this hospital. The largesse is being passed on to the political vote-bank," says a senior doctor.

TNN too managed to get hold of a case recommended by standing committee chairman Badruddin Sheikh, where the patient, reportedly a relative of Sheikh, was admitted in the special room but was also given free medicines (which should ideally be given only to poor patients) from the general ward number 14!

When asked to comment on this apparent politicisation of hospital affairs, Sheikh gave a very different version of the incident with the resident doctor.

"I very politely asked the doctor how the patient was doing, but he refused to give treatment. I can understand, but what if he does this to common people. I thought that the incident should be brought to notice," said Sheikh.

About his recommended patient who got free medicines, he said, "Our relatives can get free treatment."

When asked who the relative was, he refrained saying, "I am in a meeting now. I will call you up and tell you later." That phone call never came.

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

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Differences on garba venue fee issue Monday, October 15, 2001

VADODARA: The issue of asking garba organisers to cough up rent at commercial rates for using Vadodara Municipal Corporation plots as venues has snowballed into a major controversy.

The administrative and elected wings of the corporation seem to be on a collision course over the issue.

Elected representatives had raised a major hue and cry in Thursday's general board meeting seeking explanations as to why the VMC did not charge rent from the organisers who made money by holding the festival.

Sources said that about half-a-dozen plots owned by the corporation were rented out in the past at a token rate of Re 1 per day to the organisers.

Councillors, cutting across party lines, made representations regarding the issue. Eventually, the furore subsided after Mayor Bharati Vyas agreed to look into the matter.

The issue took an interesting turn when some administrative members allegedly expressed their inability to act, as the general board had not made a resolution on the matter.

"While the issue was discussed, the members did not make a resolution for the administrative wing to act upon," a source said.

The elected representatives are, however, firm on their decision. Said Congress councillor Chirag Jhaveri, "There is no reason for anybody to get alarmed as the demand affects only those people who organise the event to earn profits. Besides, bullying by these organisers over the years has increased. They also use corporation machinery for the purpose of organising garbas."

Notably, offering the grounds almost free of cost has been a tradition of the VMC. Commenting on this Jhaveri said, "That may be true, but does not imply that wrong practices must continue."

The demand has also found support from Deputy Mayor Shailesh Mehta and members of the Samata Party, which he represents. Said Mehta, " I have proof which shows that stalls and parking contracts at these venues will be sold at exorbitant rates. The organisers will earn. So, they should pay as well."

Mehta added that the resolution in this regard by the standing committee already put stringent restrictions and paved way for the organisers to pay the VMC. "The only point is that this largely goes unnoticed. It must now be implemented strictly," he said.

The deputy mayor also said that the argument for inaction was wrong, as there was no resolution regarding the issue. "I believe that the general board is supreme, and things said have some weight. If a promise is made there, it must be kept," he said.

Commenting on the issue, Deputy Municipal Commissioner (administration) Jayantkumar Sevak noted that it could not be denied that garbas were conducted as a major public event.

"To this extent, the demand for asking them to pay up is justified. On the other hand, there is the argument that the events are being held for the public at large, which enjoys there. Considering this involvement, people demand the waiver of commercial rates," Sevak said.

Sevak added that VMC would in any case charge the organisers a high rent for stalls put up there. "The issue is whether the use of space where people dance is commercial," said Sevak.

Meanwhile, Bharati Vyas has called a meeting of senior VMC functionaries and Opposition leaders on Monday. A final decision on the issue is likely to be arrived at in the meeting.

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

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Modi takes up issues before central leaders Monday, October 15, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Narendra Modi met Prime Minister Vajpayee in New Delhi on Friday and apprised him about the various security measures being taken in context of the current situation of war against terrorism.

Modi also apprised Vajpayee on the latest political situation in the state, the ongoing rehabilitation programme in the earthquake-affected areas and other pending problems like increase in royalty on crude oil produced in Gujarat and allocation of more natural gas to industries and power projects.

The chief minister reviewed the security arrangements along Gujarat border with Union home minister L K Advani, who assured that the Centre would consider the state's plea for allocation of more speed-boats to patrol the 1600-km-long coastline.

Modi, accompanied by state BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana, also submitted a memorandum to Vajpayee seeking more help from Union government for speedy completion of the ongoing rehabilitation projects in earthquake-affected areas of Kutch and Saurashtra.

The CM also briefed PM on the progress made in the Narmada project in last few months, mainly after the clearance for construction of hump by the Narmada Control Authority.

Prior to meeting Vajpayee, the chief minister met Union home minister L K Advani and senior party leaders and discussed with them the proposed expansion of his Cabinet next week.

Though the list of probables was reportedly finalised by Modi in consultation with Rana and former chief minister Keshubhai Patel on Thursday, it has to be approved by national BJP president Jana Krishnamurthy and Madanlal Khurana who is in-charge of Gujarat affairs.

It is believed that Modi on his return to Gandhinagar on Monday would given final shape to the list on the basis of advice from central leaders, who were closely monitoring the developments in Gujarat after BJP's debacle in the by-elections last month.

The next round of expansion of the Modi ministry would be held either on Wednesday or Thursday.

The process could be delayed as some aspirants have tried to pressurise the central leaders through the powerful Sangh Parivar.

Modi has hinted that inefficient and controversial ministers in the previous Patel regime would not be given a berth in the expansion, in which at least 22 to 25 new ministers would be inducted.

The state BJP chief will return here on Saturday, while Modi is proceeding to Agra to attend a national convention of the BJP Yuva Morcha.

The chief minister also called on petroleum minister Ram Naik and pleaded for more allocation of natural gas to Gujarat which was faced with acute shortage of gas. This has seriously affected power plants and industries using gas as fuel.

Modi expressed his thanks to Union rural development minister Venkaiah Naidu for the timely help of Rs 300 crore for construction of over 1,00,000 houses under Indira Awas Yojana for the poor sections in Kutch.

He said a sum of Rs 75 crore has already been spent on the project. Naidu assured the CM that the remaining amount from the package would be released in two weeks.

The Union minister said the government would soon sanction Rs 100 crore to Gujarat for the construction of rural roads under the Prime Minister's Gramin Sadak Yojana under which Rs 50 crore were sanctioned.

Naidu told Modi that the central government had approved a proposal for setting up of oil seed plantation sub-centre at Mujpur in Patan district.

Modi assured Naidu that the state government would provide all possible help for the proposed Rural Entrepreneurs Summit being held in Gujarat on November 1.

During his stay in capital, Modi also paid a courtesy visit to information minister Sushma Swaraj and HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi.

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

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Standing committee meeting adjourned Monday, October 15, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Differences and lack of synchronisation between the ruling political wing -- Congress -- and the administration of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation continues to throw the civic body in a tizzy.

On Friday, the standing committee meeting of AMC was adjourned within minutes of its commencement owing to Congress' protest against alleged inactivity of administrators on survey of city-slums.

"Survey of slums in the city has not taken place since 1976. Congress had this issue in its election manifesto in the municipal elections-2000. The same was passed as a proposal in the AMC's budget session in February," said member of standing committee Jayantilal Parmar adding, "I once again took up this issue a couple of months back, but despite repeated reminders, officers of AMC's administration failed to attend to this job."

Chairman of standing committee Badruddin Sheikh said, "In 1976 the Congress had got a similar survey-work done where 85,000 shanties were recorded and the dwellers provided with photo-identity cards. Since then the slum population has grown manifold and we have called for documentation of all shanties built in or before December, 2000. The registration will not only ensure civic facilities for the slum dwellers but whenever there is need to relocate the slums, all the residents will be given an alternative permanent accommodation in a new location by the AMC."

Rajkumar Gupta, the chairman of Congress' co-ordination committee of AMC, said, "We adjourned the Friday's meet to reprimand the administration and draw its attention to this deliberate neglect of duty."

Leader of Opposition in AMC Dharmendra Shah, on the other hand, criticised this move. Shah said, "Congress is trying to throw its weight around while issues like large number of jaundice and malaria cases in Krishnanagar of Saijpur Bogha ward and one death due to jaundice in Naroda go abegging. Municipal hospitals (especially V S Hospital) do not have syringes, needles or even life-saving drugs due to lack of funds, while doctors go for private practise, and yet Congress is more bothered about honouring its election manifesto."

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

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