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October 13, 2001 - October 13, 2001

Bombings ground foreign-bound Navratri troupes Saturday, October 13, 2001

BY RADHA SHARMA AND JAHNAVI CONTRACTOR, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD/VADODARA: For Gujaratis settled abroad, Navratri this year may just be a bombed affair, what with a large number of artists and garba groups from the state -- who were likely to fly abroad to add that ethnic zing to the dance festival -- getting grounded due to the attack on WTC.

"If someone dies in the family, one does not go about dancing and celebrating." This was what Gujarati Samaj in Leicester told Kalpesh Patel of Ghunghat Institute of Indian and Folk dances in Ahmedabad when the Samaj cancelled his booking for Navratri in UK in the wake of the attacks in US.

"This cancellation at the last minute has come as a major disappointment, as we have been going to Canada and UK for the last three years. But then it is understandable," said Patel.

His group was invited by Gujarati Samaj in Leicester and Wembley to not only co-ordinate garba nights, but also administer a dose of culture awareness to the Gujarati youth, who may have remained uninitiated in foreign lands.

In cases where there were no cancellations, hurdles have been posed by stricter visa norms effected after attacks.

"From Vadodara, there are a number of groups which go to UK for Navratri, but many have not been able to get visas as clearance norms have become strict. I know of three-four groups which are still waiting for the visas, and might just have to cancel their trips," says Hole Hole music director Tarun Shah.

Shah said many groups had to unpack their bags at the last minute after they failed to get visas to UK.

"This year, the consulates are stricter than usual. Earlier, a photocopy of the work permit was enough to get a group visa. But this time, they are asking for original letters from organisers in UK or the US, and are asking for more documents," he said.

Well-known singers Ashita and Sachin Limaye were in New York when the September 11 attacks took place. And though they had a series of functions and an assignment for Navratri, they decided to return for good due to family pressure.

"We finished the few programmes that we had committed. But we returned despite our organisers there asking us to stay on and honour our scheduled performances in New York and New Jersey during Navratri. But our families insisted that the subsequent international scenario might worsen, and it was not advisable to stick our necks out," said Ashita.

Many other eminent singers and artistes like Vatsala Patil, Vikram Patil, Prapti Mehta and others, who have in the past visited these countries during Navratri, have decided to stay back, informed another garba organiser in Vadodara.

He said consulates are reluctant to issue visas for security reasons. Since they cannot refuse flatly for fear of hurting sentiments of the NRI community in these countries, they are asking for documents and a lot of other paper work.

"Only those who have visited the country in the past are being considered for visas," he said.

Meanwhile, with the foreign trips cancelled these groups are looking forward to tie-ups with others groups in the state and other parts of the country.

"Now that we are not going abroad, we have decided to honour our long-pending commitments to Kanpur, Mumbai and other cities," said Kalpesh Patel.

Bipin Hingoo, a garba artiste and organiser, said this year the general mood lacks enthusiasm.

"Most artistes have stayed back and will perform in Vadodara. The war, coupled with lack of sponsorship, is taking its toll. Navartri this year might be a dull affair. The usual tempo and enthusiasm is missing," he said.

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NHAI submits proposal to enhance road safety Saturday, October 13, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: The National Highway Authority of India's (NHAI) Vadodara division has submitted a Rs 4.96-crore work proposal to implement additional safety measures on the Mumbai-Delhi National Highway.

The proposal was prepared in consultation with the city police to reduce the high accident rate on the NH stretch passing through city police limits.

Earlier, the city police had sought NHAI aid to carry out work involving Rs 11-crore expenditure on the highway. This included work on the GSFC, Tarsali, and Jambuva bypasses. It also included work at Dhumal, Golden, Ajwa, Ranoli, Nandesari and Kapurai cross roads.

The project was taken up owing to the high rate of incident of accidents on the highway. On some stretches, almost one person died per km every year. This, sources said, was alarming, considering the fact that traffic density on the highway was one of the highest in the country.

At present, work is proposed on the Halol, Vaghodia, Ajwa, Jambuva and Kapurai cross-roads as well as the Fajalpur-GSFC stretch of the road.

While NHAI has turned down the proposal for lighting on the highway, it has agreed to conduct other work subject to clearance from its Delhi office.

"The NHAI authorities held a meeting with commissioner of police J Mahapatra and additional commissioner Geetha Johari to draw up the proposal. Senior police officers will keep track of developments on this front to ensure that things materialise soon," said Assistant Commissioner of Police (traffic) Siddharth Khatri.

Superintending engineer of NHAI's Vadodara division S B Vasava said a detailed cost analysis of the work had been sent to Delhi. "We are awaiting a reply from their end so that work can begin. The higher authorities had also sought some clarifications which have been furnished."

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


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Modi for selection not election Saturday, October 13, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: In a new twist to the BJP's reluctance to hold panchayat elections in the state, Chief Minister Narendra Modi has said that he wants to eliminate the "evil of politics of vote" from the villages.

The chief minister, who has already announced that villages which co-opt their sarpanch and panch would be given incentives by the government, wants to "create harmony in villages reviving the spirit of selection and not election".

This could be achieved through the medium of Gram Sabha, he said.

The chief minister has told the administration to organise Gram Sabhas starting from Jayprakash Jayanti on Thursday to Sardar Patel Jayanti on October 31.

While the Opposition has accused him of sabotaging grassroots democracy, Modi said "in a democratic way, villagers should sit together and discuss their problems threadbare and with an open mind".

October 11 -- the first day -- is the birth centenary of Jayprakash Narayan while October 31 -- the last day -- is the 125th anniversary of the iron man of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

To coincide with the two events, he said, the state government has decided to organise Gram Sabhas in all the 18,000 villages to make each of them strong and vibrant.

On the Gram Sabha day, all concerned regional employees, talatis, minister, gram sevaks, health workers, primary teachers, vidya sahayaks, anganwadi workers, veterinary employees and panchayat workers will remain present and discharge their duties.

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


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Bhuj hospital to be ready by Jan 26 Saturday, October 13, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: The reconstruction work on the old G K Hospital, which had collapsed in the Republic Day earthquake, in Bhuj has been accorded a financial aid of Rs 150 crore from the Prime Minister's Office.

The new 500-bed hospital with most modern equipment and facilities would be ready by January 26.

State industries minister Suresh Mehta, who has been monitoring the project, told reporters here that the whole structure of the hospital would be built on 180 base-isolators made of rubber and other imported materials so that the building would not fall even if jolted by quake with an intensity of 8 on the Richter scale.

Mehta said that a firm from New Zealand has been asked to supply base-isolators for the hospital.

This is the first building in the country to use quake-resistant technology, adopted from similar structures in California. The PMO has entrusted the entire hospital project to NDDB.

Once the hospital is ready, the state government will set up a new company and hand over the management of the hospital to a corporate firm.

The state government has entrusted the monitoring of the progress of the hospital to a senior officer of the health department.

Mehta, who was temporarily holding health portfolio in Keshubhai Patel's ministry, said the government had decided to set up a separate construction corporation to carry out the construction of health centres and the residential quarters for the medical staff.

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


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Modi treading the populist path? Saturday, October 13, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: Two crucial meetings that the new incumbent Chief Minister Narendra Modi convened on Wednesday -- one on energy and the other on water sector -- has revealed the chinks in his armour.

The meetings have lain bare his limited understanding of the two vital issues of privatisation and economic reforms.

He might take considerable time before coming up with any policy decision required to improve the state's financial health. Too bogged down with pet phrases such as "tightening the administration" for "faster decisions" than hitherto has been the case, Modi, at the meetings, showed little interest in making the two major sectors market-friendly.

Modi was more bothered about how to ensure that "people's interests do not suffer" and the "agricultural sector is helped somehow".

He did not bother to inquire about the plans drawn up to privatise the two sectors and why they have not been implemented.

"That would come later," explained the CM's adviser S.K. Shelat. "These were more of familiarisation meetings", he added. Issues related with financial institutions' insistence on making the two sectors market-friendly "would be taken up later".

During the meeting on water, well-placed Secretariat sources said Modi was specifically told why water charges for drinking-water through the Narmada-based pipeline network, currently under implementation, would have to be substantially increased.

A market-friendly model was being worked out with separate charges for the industry, and metropolitan cities, small towns and villages. Water supplies minister Narottam Patel has insisted in the past that Narmada water would not be given free.

But "we must help the people", was Modi's comment. "One can charge more from the industry to subsidise the common users", he added.

Modi was told that cross-subsidisation could be the best option, but the real charges could be fixed only by a tariff commission on water, the recommendation for which is hanging fire for two years now.

The well-known policy document, "Infrastructure Agenda: Vision 2010", prepared in 1999, as well as the Manu Shroff commission report on financial reforms of this year, have insisted on making water, a scarce commodity, market-friendly.

On energy, the new CM, even while taking a briefing on the Gujarat Electricity Board, did not utter a word on such crucial issues as how to go ahead with trifurcating the GEB, about which a top Hyderabad consultant's report is already pending clearance.

He was told that there were "very good experiences" of reforming the electricity boards in Haryana, Orissa and Rajasthan. He just wished to know what these experiences were, but did not say whether to corporatise the huge ungovernable GEB or whether to privatise its distribution network.

"It seems Modi was more on a familiarisation spree", commented a senior bureaucrat attending the meeting.

"He perhaps decided to take up issues like metering the farm sector and the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission award on raising the electricity charges to the farmers at a later meeting. He insisted on a comprehensive review, but gave no indication of what he meant by that or which way he wanted to move."

This despite the fact that he was told about GEB's poor financial health, very low rates being charged from the farm sector, a high-generation rate, etc.

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


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