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October 11, 2001 - October 11, 2001

Is 'bhay, bhookh and bhrashtachar' irrelevant? Thursday, October 11, 2001

It is rather too early to evaluate the ways and means of the new chief minister _ Narendra Modi. What we may examine here is whether the original BJP slogan of the abolition of "bhay, bhookh and bhrashtachar" in Gujarat (abolition of fear, hunger and corruption) is relevant anymore or not.

Reports indicate that NMO has coined a new slogan instead -- "Aapnu Gujarat, Aagvu Gujarat"! Shall we dub this as a mere slice of demagogy or a sentiment? Does he think that BBB was not his agenda anymore? We don't know.

Actually, if NMO cared to make an objective assessment, all the three evils shave accentuated during the last three-and-a-half years of Keshubhai's rule, turning "Aapanu Gujarat" into a cockpit of corruption.

Fear of communal mischief mongers too have been haunting the minorities, as evidenced in the latest incident of naked sword-wielding Bajrang Dal volunteers kicking out 500 members of 120 Muslim families from the town of Chanasma (according to an inquiry committee report).

And about bhookh -- the less said, the better. Not one of the 40 per cent below poverty line mass has come down. We understand that the declared mandate of the RSS-BJP's central leadership to NMO is: "Rejuvenate the BJP and bring it back to power in the next election."

That means, for the NMO's mother-body RSS too, hankering after power will be a focus, not the service of the people. In that case, if it really comes to advise him, he could really turn out to be a "Lion" -- as the RSS-made image denotes -- if he could revive that old slogan of BBB, particularly if he could handle only one file honestly well -- to curb the demon of corruption -- within his government and party in 545 days, not really a one-day match! It is this newly stamped "corruption" on every file that decidedly gave BJP rule an ugly image.

It is a matter of pride for all the womenfolk of the state to know that mother Hiraba of NMO ordained her son "never take bribe" while blessing him.

I would go further and forget about "abolition of corruption" as such, but let me emphasise that fortune of his party heavily depended on the government making at least a visible dent into this evil.

My recent trip to Paliad-Taraghara of Bhavnagar district in Saurashtra rural area rekindled my ire against this menace. A no nonsense farmer told me that "we were used to the corrupt practices of Congress.

We heard stories in those years that top leadership enriched itself by corrupt practices. But now we find this BJP completely enmeshed with corruption -- from top to bottom! Even during the drinking water crisis, they have not left tankers or pipes or check-dams or water-shed schemes cleaner.

I made a rainwater tank in my house with the partial grant given by the water supply board, but they showed having 'spent' a lakh rupees for it, against an estimate of only Rs 30,000! They built hundreds of such tanks in my area alone like this and pocketed a huge amount".

A president of an NGO told me at Bhavnagar that a particular group of officers in the district development agency was regularly charging "personal cut" before allotting millions of rupees of grant for watershed schemes under implementation at Vallabhipur and the Bhal area.

Officials in the state directorate of municipalities at Gandhinagar followed the same practice without wincing its eyes while handing over large amounts of grants or subsidies to office-bearers of the local bodies.

Political corruption has now become a regular norm for most of the ministers and their cronies. One minister, claiming his own honesty, gave me an example of another top minister and a couple of kith and kin of the outgoing chief minister having amassed crores of rupees in dubious land deals all over the state -- particularly in Rajkot and Jamnagar districts.

No surprise, state's financial bowl is almost empty now. Twelve overdrafts plus heavy non-plan over-spending on personal amenities, facilities, phone bills, plane and helicopter and foreign jaunts made by the ministers knew no bound or shame.

How the new chief minister is going to handle this mess? It will be a blunder for the BJP to close their eyes to reality and organise impressive inauguration ceremony or puja path or havan and hope to rejuvenate the party.

Gujarat has both the vigilance commissioner and Lokayukta office but most of the time those people sit tight over the files, as no powers have been delegated to them despite their repeated requests.

No right to information law exists here, no people's unofficial vigilance bodies exist either.

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

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Traders threaten stir over octroi abolition Thursday, October 11, 2001

RAJKOT: The wholesale textile merchants' association has decided to launch an agitation if the state government does not go ahead with the plan to abolish octroi from the six municipal corporation areas by December 1.

As many as 45 trade organisations from the entire region participated in a meeting on Sunday evening in this regard. An action committee has also been formed to oversee the transition and abolition of octroi.

The meeting that had adopted a tough stand right from the outset said that if the state government failed to abolish octroi, then the traders would also stop paying all taxes to the government. The proposal was passed unanimously by the traders.

President of Electric Merchants' Association Balwant Pujara said that only if the traders are united, they could exert any pressure on the state government, which was giving false promises.

He said that with the decision to abolish octroi from the taluka and district panchayat areas, the trade in big cities have been affected.

President of Steel and Iron Merchants' Association Jayantibhai Kanabar said that the associations must forget their differences and intensify their agitation.

He also warned traders and other association presidents not to succumb to any pressure tactics by the state government.

Every speaker at the meeting said that the BJP had in its election manifesto stated that octroi would be abolished once it was elected to power but even after five years, it was not moving in that direction.

Incidentally, Chief Minister Narendra Modi was instrumental in framing the election manifesto of the BJP and he had carved out the octroi issue, and today when he was assuming power, it was the duty of the traders' community to remind him of the promises made in the manifesto.

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

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MSU teachers unite to fight student leader Thursday, October 11, 2001

VADODARA: The teachers of the MSU's faculty of arts have approached the city police commissioner and Sayajigunj PI to inform them of misbehaviour of student leader Nitin Patel, at present, elected Faculty General Secretary.

It may be recalled that teachers had boycotted classes on Monday to protest against Nitin and his supporters. They have now also launched an awareness campaign against the alleged misbehaviour of student leaders.

"We have contacted deans of other faculties and principals of constituent colleges for their support. We have also written regarding the matter to syndicate members for their support. We have also circulated a copy of the resolution," said dean of the faculty, P J Patel.

The teachers have formed three committees to raise public opinion in their favour. The three committees include one each of young teachers, senior teachers and woman faculty members.

The committees will meet the authorities independently to seek action against the student leaders. Also, they will try to muster support from students by addressing them in classes.

A police case was registered against Nitin and two others when they abused faculty members recently.

MSU pro vice-chancellor VD Pathak said they have sought legal opinion regarding the incident.

"As per the norms the faculty dean would have to form a committee for further action. At the faculty level, minor punitive action can be taken, but for major punishment another committee will have to be formed at the university level after the faculty members provide the necessary information and request," he said.

Dean PJ Patel says the teachers are adamant in their demands. "We have locked the FGS office room and refuse to consider him as a student leader," he said.

Nitin, on his part, has alleged that the teachers have blown things out of proportion. "Our issue was simply that a water cooler must be set up at the girls' canteen. Now, they have added several others things to it and are trying to implicate us," he said.

Nitin denied he had misbehaved with a teacher. "I had only gone to make an announcement in the class, but the teacher misbehaved with me. He later apologised for the same and we thought the issue was over," Nitin claimed.

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

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6.5 lakh new connections this fiscal: BSNL Thursday, October 11, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited has registered significant growth in its first year of inception and is speedily donning a corporate look, according to Gujarat Telecom chief P K Chanda.

Chanda said, on the occasion of BSNL's first anniversary, that during the last year, BSNL's Gujarat Circle launched the Wireless in Local Loop mobile phones, standardised intra-state communication, slashed internet rates and offered many other facilities to its consumers.

Chanda said the corporation is constantly striving to be as competent and efficient as a private entity in this era of corporatisation.

As the launch of its cellular services is due shortly, the department is trying to achieve a target of around 6.5 lakh new phone connections in the current financial year.

The department also proposes to connect all telephone exchanges through optic fibre cables. Intelligent networks are also being extended to all important cities in the state and new support systems are being introduced to curb the fault rates to single digits.

The department has also slashed rates for new connections with an idea to expand the telecom network and internet tariff have also been slashed to popularise the medium.

To stay buoyant in the competitive market, the department is also launched many customer friendly steps. Also staff are being trained by premier management institutions to improve the work culture.

The move to computerise the commercial activities and billing operations of the department has also been initiated. The work for offering cellular services in 72 urban centres across the state has also been initiated.

But the launch of the system based on the GSM technology which was to take place by December this year, is likely to be delayed.

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

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ISD Scam :: Sharma, Chandpure, Rana on remand Thursday, October 11, 2001

VADODARA: City court has remanded multicrore ISD scam kingpin RT Sharma, his accomplices Kiran Rana and Shailesh Chandpure for six days in police custody.

Sharma, Rana and Chandpure had surrendered to police on Tuesday after evading arrest for over six months.

The trio along with other accused and one Vidhan Shah (now in UK) who seemingly masterminded the scam had fleeced Vadodara Telecom District of some Rs 22 crore by way of facilitating illegal ISD calls.

Police having established Vidhan Shah's role in the scam have stepped up measures to issue his arrest warrant.

Meanwhile, police are also expecting Sharma and company to make further reveal facts about the scam.

This time police are expecting Sharma to give out names of senior officers in VTD who had apparently helped shielding him despite being in knowledge of the ISD racket.

Interestingly, Sharma has already confessed that he got help from some senior officers of the VTD in return of special favours.

Till their surrender, Sharma, Rana and Chandpure had made all efforts to obtain an anticipatory bail but failed in sessions as well as high courts.

About 16 times, police had to present their case in courts and succeeded in convincing the judiciary of not granting an anticipatory bail to the accused of multicrore ISD scam.

Police's action of attaching property of Sharma which runs into over Rs 50 lakh also did the trick. Before the property attachment move, police had already got information of the Rs 44.60 lakh that were in Sharma's credit society account.

Sharma, interestingly, had also declared an income of Rs 35 lakh in voluntary disclosure of income scheme. Sharma had been suspended on four occasions in 1976, 1984, 1990 and 1991 but managed to sail smoothly.

Other news from Vadodara
Man arrested
Crime branch has arrested one Irfan Ahmed Sheikh (30) for possessing a .32 bore country made revolver. Crime branch sleuths also found two live cartridges from Sheikh, who has deposed that he procured the revolver from one Munna Bashir Pathan.

"We arrested Sheikh from Chhani octroi post. He drives and autorickshaw. We have asked for his remand and are expecting him to vomit some more facts," crime branch PSI RC Dave told TNN.

Body found
Body of an unidentified youth, around 25 years of age, has been found near Kamrol village, in Waghodia. Police said the body bore stab wounds and signs of torture.

The youth seemed to have been killed by repeated stabbing with sharp-edged weapons. The body seemed to be of a Sikh, police said.

Man dies in accident: One Ganpatsinh M Chauhan (40) was killed in an accident while he was on his bicycle on Harni Road.

Chauhan was run over by a luxury bus and died on the spot. Karelibaug police have registered an accidental death case.

Body found
Railway police have found the body of a youth from the railway tracks on Wednesday. The deceased has been identified as Praveenkumar Vira Parmar (28).

It's yet to be confirmed whether the youth was killed in accident, was done to death or had committed suicide.

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

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