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October 9, 2001 - October 10, 2001

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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CM talks to collectors on video phones Tuesday, October 9, 2001

VADODARA/RAJKOT: Keen to project himself as an IT-savvy CM in the mould of Chandrababu Naidu, new Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi used the elaborate video-conferencing facility to talk to several district collectors on his first day in office on Monday.

In the process he took several officials by surprise.

His predecessor, Keshubhai Patel, had only sparingly used the network to communicate to the districts, but Modi had made his intentions known right on the day of his swearing-in when he organised the live Web-casting of the ceremony.

Sources said the new chief minister spoke to at least 10 collectors, many of whom invited the local media to witness the event at the district headquarters.

"Vadodara was my 'karmabhoomi'. I see several familiar media persons sitting there," was the first reaction of Modi during a video-conference with officials of the Vadodara district administration. The wit and humour of a supposedly no-nonsense person came as a surprise to the audience here.

Modi seemed to have done his homework well before speaking to the officials. While he admitted that the Gujarati spoken by him was heavily accented with Hindi due to his stay in Delhi, his deliberations with the officials made it evident that he had kept in touch with the state of affairs in Gujarat.

"Yes, I have read a lot about your computerisation programme," he said to the Panchmahals district collector Jayanti Ravi. He also said the media had taken special note of the work done by her in Pavagadh.

The knowledge of the affairs of a lesser important district like Panchmahals came as a surprise to many in the audience.

Vadodara district collector Bhagyesh Jha informed Modi about the e-governance and model district programmes. The CM showed keen interest in the same, and said he would like to come to the city and understand the work being done there.

Kheda district collector Bharat Joshi had a taste of the wit of Modi when he informed him that several local media representatives were present in his office when he was speaking to him.

"You seem to be media-savvy," pat came the reply from Modi. Nonetheless, he said healthy relations with the media were appreciable.

Mehsana district collector was caught in a similar situation when he said he would co-operate with all the plans of Modi, and that the administration was gearing up for the same. Modi snapped back, "You already seem to know what I want to do."

Officials in Dahod seemed visibly tense during their interaction with Modi. The CM immediately struck a chord with them by telling them to relax. "This interaction is very informal. We are here just to introduce ourselves," the CM said.

Modi held a video-conference with the Rajkot collector P N Patel too on Monday. Besides the collector, Police Commissioner Sudhir Sinha and Municipal Commissioner J P Gupta and other officials also remained present.

The conference lasted for just two to three minutes. But for the introduction of the officers in the district and exchange of pleasantries no issue related to Rajkot city were discussed.

While reporters were asked to remain present at the conference no question answer session was held.

Not fully aware of the back ground of Modi , the Rajkot district collector who thought the chief minister knew Hindi (due to his long stint at Delhi) started talking to him in Hindi but was politely told by the chief minister Hindi that it would be absolutely fine if he conversed in Gujarati.

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

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Narmada project will be a turning point: Modi Tuesday, October 9, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Newly-elected Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the Narmada project will be a turning point in the development of the state.

Speaking after performing 'puja' at the confluence of Narmada-Sabarmati rivers near Hansot, Modi said the project was not only the priority of any chief minister but also the need of 50 million people and aspiration of farmers for transforming 36 lakh hectares of land.

He said Narmada was the only solution for development of the state and congratulated the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam and the Narmada Water Resource Department for saving standing crop in one lakh hectares by providing water through bypass tunnel.

He also hoped that the project would be completed in its prescribed time frame.

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

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Migration of birds may be affected Tuesday, October 9, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Operation 'Enduring Freedom' of the US may or may not succeed in eliminating Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, but will surely infringe upon the freedom and perhaps eliminate some of the lakhs of migratory birds, which transit through Afghanistan to arrive in India.

Ornithologists fear that thousands of winged visitors, including those of crane and duck families, which winter in Gujarat amongst other places in India, can be affected as they cover most of the 4,000 km of the migration route between Central Asia and India, during the nights and rest during the day.

Gujarat has some of the most important destinations for the migratory birds in the Great and the Little Rann of Kutch, Banni Grasslands in Kutch and lake Nal Sarovar near Ahmedabad.

Originating from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and other Republics, they fly through Afghanistan and Baluchistan and North-West Frontier Province (Pakistan) during October-November, before entering India through Indus river plains in Punjab.

They set out for migration in day-light hours as temperatures reduce in Central Asia. Typical flocks can be of young ones, females and adults, either together or separate.

They start flying sometime in October and reach destinations in India by late November to early December. Some of the smaller birds have already arrived.

"I am really scared to think of their plight. Long-distance passerine migration starts from the temperate breeding grounds to the tropical non-breeding grounds in India. They start an hour or two after sunset, fly till morning and rest in the day. Some of the birds follow different patterns," says ornithologist Lima Rosalind.

The noise, light and heat resulting from warheads may disorient the birds from their sense of direction, besides affecting their navigation based on magnetic fields, star-light and moon-light.

Stress can cause heavy loss of energy and deviation, and stoppages can mean more threat of poaching, she fears.

Ornithologist Lalsinh Raol, who has written number of books on birds, believes, "It's true that migration takes place through Afghanistan, and the war can harm them a lot. There have been wars in the past too, but war this time will have more weapons with large destructive power, and hence more damage."

He fears that the Siberian cranes which arrive at Bharatpur Birds Sanctuary in Rajasthan, which have already dwindled to one or two figures, will be more threatened. He, however, fears that poaching will pause an even bigger threat to these birds.

Veteran naturalist Lavkumar Khachar, however, believes that as long as the birds are not close to the war-torn areas and the sites of explosions, there should not be much of a problem.

"Since the bombing and war is mainly around cities, the birds flying in the countryside should not have much problem. Besides, they are accustomed to thunders and lightening as well as fireworks and other noise pollution in our cities," he opines.

While not being sure about other effects on the migratory birds, he fears more about the plight of birds resident to Afghanistan.

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

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Modi yet to allocate portfolios Tuesday, October 9, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Narendra Modi has quickly got a taste of Gujarat politics with sharp differences among senior colleagues preventing him from distributing portfolios or expanding his cabinet.

Modi was sworn in on Sunday along with nine ministers. He succeeded Keshubhai Patel, whom the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership asked to leave office following a series of poor showings in various elections in Gujarat.

"You will soon get the list (of portfolios)," Modi told reporters at his first press conference after a cabinet meeting, evading a direct reply on the reasons for the delay. He also said the expansion of his ministerial team would take some time.

Modi denied the allegation that he had launched a "witch hunt" among the top bureaucracy and said transfers were part of the process of giving the government a "new look."

The new chief minister said he would give top priority to improving drinking water and supply, developing the agricultural sector and ending controversies surrounding the Sardar Sarovar project on the Narmada river to the satisfaction of the people of Gujarat.

Criticising the opposition Congress for holding rallies in support of the Narmada project, Modi said the party's state leaders should organise such demonstrations in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, which the Congress itself rules.

He alleged that Madhya Pradesh was delaying the rehabilitation and resettlement of dam-affected families and creating hurdles in the implementation of the ambitious scheme.

The Narmada project, Modi said, is the "lifeline" of the people of Gujarat, without which "we cannot solve the drinking water problem or irrigate vast agricultural land in the state."

Gujarat has a chronic water shortage, made worse by two successive years of drought.

Listing issues pending with the federal government, including increasing the rate of royalty of natural gas and crude oil, Modi said an effective mechanism would have to found to resolve these problems in a time-bound schedule.

Modi promised continuity in the Patel government's policies and programmes, adding that he would like to give priority to solving the problems of the earthquake-hit people of Kutch, Saurashtra and north Gujarat. He said he soon hold a high-level meeting to review the progress of rehabilitation work in the regions ravaged by the January 26 earthquake.

Referring to the repeated postponement of elections to around 9,000 village local bodies, Modi said he had asked the administration to hold the polls as soon as possible.

He also announced the state government's decision to provide special incentives to all those local bodies that elected new village heads unanimously and started a "healthy trend".

Soon after Modi spoke to the press, the state government released a list of 13 senior officials who have been transferred. Among them is P K Lehri, principal secretary to the former chief minister, who has been appointed managing director of the Gujarat Tourism Development Corporation.

Of the others, Haribhai Patel, additional principal secretary, and I P Gautam, secretary to the chief minister's office, have been appointed managing director of the Gujarat Power Corporation and the Gujarat Handicraft Development Corporation respectively.
( IANS )

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

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