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October 10, 2001 - October 10, 2001

S K Shelat stays as adviser Wednesday, October 10, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: After keeping him waiting for two days, S K Shelat, the high-profile economic adviser of former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, has been asked to continue by incumbent Narendra Modi. Many had expected that Shelat would be out as part of the total revamping of the CM office.

Shelat, who retired as chief secretary four years ago after successfully attracting major Asian Development Bank involvement in Gujarat, said "Now I will advise the CM not just on economic matters but on whatever he wants. It could be Narmada, water resources, economic matters, anything".

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

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Modi has his way on portfolio allocation Wednesday, October 10, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Allocation of ministries to the 10-member Narendra Modi team went along expected lines on Tuesday with a majority of the ministers retaining the portfolios they had held during the Keshubhai regime.

Modi allotted the industries and parliamentary affairs portfolio to Suresh Mehta, finance to Nitin Patel, social justice and empowerment and prohibition to Fakirbhai Vaghela, labour and employment to Kanjibhai Patel, water resources and capital projects and urban housing to Narottam Patel, school education to Anandiben Patel, energy and planning to Kaushik Patel, agriculture to Purshottam Rupala and health and family welfare to I K Jadeja.

There was a fresh round of talks between Modi and Patel in morning after which the portfolios were announced. Reports suggested that Keshubhai's demand that Kaushik Patel be given the revenue portfolio was shot down by Modi who asserted that portfolio allocation was his prerogative.

Suresh Mehta also lodged a mild protest against the CM retaining the industrial policy portfolio while giving him charge of the industries ministry.

Modi retained home, general administration, information and broadcasting, Narmada, science and technology, ports and policy matters pertaining to planning, industry, power, Narmada, science and technology, mines and minerals. He is likely to retain some of these even after expanding his Cabinet as he would personally like to handle these affairs, sources said.

A beaming Mehta later told 'The Times of India' that Modi had made his department "more comprehensive". Despite the fact that his demand for being given industrial policy was not conceded, Mehta was able to get information technology and salt industries apart from parliamentary affairs and tourism.

Representatives of important industrial groups paid a courtesy call on Mehta later in the day.

The most surprising decision was the allocation of the finance portfolio to Nitin Patel who, officials pointed out, lacks experience in the same. He had held agriculture and irrigation departments while working under Keshubhai.

Asked what he had to say about the financial condition of the state, Nitin said, "I would have to study the matter before giving a reply... I have just been given the charge. Kindly give me some time."

Kaushik, Narottam, Anandiben and Fakirbhai retained the same portfolios though Narottam was tipped to get the Roads and Buildings portfolio. "It is quite likely that the ministers may get other departments later," remarked a minister.

Kanjibhai is the only other minister whose department has been changed from forests and environment to labour and employment. The allocation of agriculture to Rupala and health to Jadeja, both new entrants, indicated the changing political equations and the increased importance being given to the Suresh Mehta camp.

Significant portfolios not yet distributed include revenue, roads and buildings, irrigation and food and civil supplies. "The new revenue minister will have to be a staunch Modi loyalist," remarked a ministerial source.

An official release said while the CM had kept policy matters to himself, decisions would be taken in consultation with the minister concerned and the secretary. It further stated that the CM wanted to give a thrust to bio-technology which was the reason why he had kept the science and technology department with him. Besides, he also intends to ensure time-bound implementation of the Sardar Sarovar project and has retained the Narmada portfolio.

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

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Cyclone intensifying in Arabian Sea Wednesday, October 10, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A deep depression which developed in the east-central Arabian Sea, some 375 km south-south-west of Porbandar, has intensified into a cyclone and is likely to move in the north-north-west direction.

Meteorological Centre, Ahmedabad, director R K Kankane told TNN on Tuesday that there, however, seemed no threat to the Gujarat coast. A watch, in any case, was being kept by the centre over the developments there. He said the depression was centred some 375 km south-south-west of Porbandar in the Arabian Sea, at 19.0 degree North latitude and 68.0 degree East longitude, at 17.30 hours on Tuesday.

The Met office has geared itself into a state of preparedness to meet any eventualities in case the course of the cyclone changed. Warning would be issued in such a case.

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

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Quake-hit residents meet AMC officials Wednesday, October 10, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A delegation of earthquake victims, those whose apartments collapsed on January 26, met the top brass of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) on Tuesday. The delegation appealed to the civic authorities to hasten up the process of building-plan clearance.

Mayor Himmatsinh Patel said cases of the 69 buildings that collapsed within AMC limits were inspected afresh on Tuesday in presence of flat owners.

"Of the 69 only 10 building plans have been passed till date. I have asked the municipal commissioner to hasten up passing of plans. While cases involving violations of FSI and illegalities in construction, and those that are against the new General Development Control Regulations, will be taken up with the state government," said Patel.

Patel added, "This delay is mainly due to indecisiveness of the state government, which is mired in red tape. We will put up each case before the urban development ministry and ask for this lengthy process to be cut short so that the quake victims can begin rebuilding their homes at the earliest."

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

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New property tax bills in city Wednesday, October 10, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has begun issuing bills according its new property tax formula. Bills on this path-breaking formula -- developed by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation which is touted to reduce tax burden on commoners, increase tax-payer base of corporation and thereby its income -- has drawn a "good response" from the payers bringing more than Rs 2.4 lakh to the corporation's coffers.

These long-awaited property tax bills, that are now being issued only in areas under the west zone of AMC (that includes areas like C.G. Road, Navrangpura, Naranpura, Nava Vadaj) has been a contributing factor to the corporation's ongoing financial crisis. As the new formula was developed before the monsoon, the corporation could not call for its usual pre-monsoon advance property tax payment from the masses, causing a Rs 10-crore depreciation in its income.

Municipal commissioner K Kailashnathan said: "We have got 232 tax applications and spot payments worth Rs 2.46 lakh was received on Tuesday, 75 per cent of which was in cheques. We have set up five collection points, other than the west zone office in Osmanpura, at muster stations in Paldi, Navrangpura, Naranpura, Nava Vadaj and Bhavsar community hall where cheques are being accepted while receipts will be handed over a day later."

The corporation has set a target of issuing 10,000 property tax bills every month. After west the corporation will shift focus to north zone. "This is the first time that use of computers is being inter-woven with the tax department of AMC. Data entry for east, central and south zones will soon be complete and then we will issue property tax bills for these areas too," said deputy municipal commissioner of north zone, Utpal Padia, who is also the in-charge of information-technology in the corporation.

But, that's not the end of AMC's I-T dreams. The corporation wants to allow its payers to file property tax returns, not just from five centres (as is the case in west zone) but from any of its ward and zonal office that would be linked to the headquarters through lease-Net lines provided by Reliance.

Padia along with the municipal commissioner recently had visited Hyderabad to learn from the e-governance integrating government offices there. "We hope to have e-governance in place in all AMC's offices by March 2002," informed Kailashnathan.

But, despite all the hue and cry about issuance of new property tax bills the new formula will only bring down the corporation's income. Officials pointed out that as compared to last year's Rs 150-crore property tax collection, the new formula and the depreciated tax rates will rake in no more than Rs 125 crore.

"Admittedly our property tax collections will suffer but our tax-payer base is already expanding, due to the new scaled down rates. That apart, earlier our recovery was only 50 per cent our new people-friendly formula will ensure a near-total (at least 80 per cent) tax recovery," said Kailashnathan.

The commissioner's claim is further supported by the Rs 38 crore that the AMC recovered in settlement of pending property tax claims. Of the 32,455 pending property tax cases 29,504 have already been cleared with help of AMC's decision to waive the 18 percent penalty levied pending property tax payments that is being propagated and implemented through numerous Lok Durbars.

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

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