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October 9, 2001 - October 9, 2001

Modi suggests co-option to village boards Tuesday, October 9, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: In what is seen as a brilliant back-door move for the BJP to retain hold over nearly 10,000 gram panchayats, for which elections are long overdue, Chief Minister Narendra Modi announced that the status of 'samras gram' will be given to villages which co-opt the sarpanch and panch unanimously.

These villages will be given additional incentives. The solution, said to have been arrived at at Modi's first Cabinet meeting, is the BJP's way of avoiding handing over control of these gram panchayats to an upbeat Congress, if elections are held.

Elections to these bodies have been indefinitely postponed under the pretext of earthquake and scarcity conditions.

Taking resort to a Panchyats Act provision which allows prize to a village that unanimously elects its sarpanch, Modi said, "We want unanimous elections in as many villages as possible. The state government has decided to declare those villages that elect its panches uncontested as 'samras' villages. Such villages would be allowed an extra developmental support." He did not say what developmental support he would be offering.

Well-placed official sources here said there are not more than 10 per cent villages in the state where uncontested polls take place.

A senior bureaucrat said, "Caste heterogeneity is so strong in state villages that such 'samras' experiments cannot succeed." Modi thinks otherwise.

He said, "I would like to promote such atmosphere in villages where people rise above political considerations."

Denying this would mean disincentive to those villages which hold contested polls, Modi said, "The 'samras' concept would go a long way in solidifying the already existing Gokul Gram Project" started by his predecessor Keshubhai Patel.

He also denied that it was a political move to make a backdoor entry for the BJP in the village panchayats, showing them the carrot of "unanimous polls".

The CM, however, did not say anything about any plan to hold pending polls for 86 nagarpalikas and nagar panchayats, 15 taluka panchayats and two district panchayats, also postponed by his predecessor indefinitely by a notification.

Even holding village panchayat polls soon might face a problem: The Central Election Commission has ordered a revision of voters' list from November 5 to December 4, 2001.

Targeting the rural Gujarat as his priority, Modi sought to assure the state farmers that he would do "everything" in his capacity to ensure that they get power supply without any difficulty.

He indicated that the issues particularly bothering the farmers such as the introduction of metres and higher power charges, as advised by the tariff commission, "would be taken up in due course in the interests of farmers."

Considering solving drinking water problem as the most urgent task facing the state government, Modi said, "Though rains have been good, and this would help the farmers, they have not been enough to solve the drinking water problem. Gujarat has suffered from two consecutive droughts..."

Stunt, says Congress
Times News Network
AHMEDABAD: Chief Minister Narendra Modi's maiden scheme to woo villages was termed "another gimmick" by the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee. "This is the first sign of defeat," declared former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela.

"Who is the chief minister to defy democratic norms and dictate villages that they choose sarpanches by consensus?" he argued. Vaghela dismissed this as a "stunt", and said this way "we can have one sarpanch for 50 years!"

GPCC vice-president Arvind Sanghvi said it was "illegal and anti-democratic" to avoid elections. According to him, Modi's this "gimmick" showed signs that the party was still afraid to go to polls after the humiliating defeat in the district panchayat and the recent by-polls.

Congress MP from Sabarkantha Madhusudan Mistry felt the scheme was hardly feasible. "If consensus is the solution, then why do we need elections?"

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


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The art of side-stepping questions Tuesday, October 9, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Chief Minister Narendra Modi appears to be a more difficult customer than his predecessor as far as getting replies to questions are concerned.

At his maiden press conference after assuming charge as chief minister on Monday, he was consistently evasive and tried to deflect the issues with some humour.

The press corps had a surprise in store when the 9th floor conference room of the Sachivalay was thrown open for a press conference for the first time.

Modi entered and addressed the media, flanked by Chief Secretary G Subbarao , his principal secretary P K Mishra and the media committee chairman Bharat Pandya.

After brief introductory remarks, he threw the floor open for questions. When a scribe asked him whether he would have a small Cabinet, he kept quiet and looked the other way. The journalist persisted but could not evoke any response from Modi.

When someone asked him when he would allocate the portfolios, he said, "You will come to know when it happens."

Asked whether his ministers would be required to declare their assets in the Assembly, he said, "They would not declare it to the press. They will declare it to the party president."

Asked whether it would be a two-tier or three-tier ministry, he said, "I just read somewhere about Modi Tyres."

When one questioner asked whether there was pressure on him to induct Vajubhai Vala, he again looked the other way. A journalist then asked him about popular perception that he was an 'extremist".

He said: "You have just met me. Maybe your views will change." Asked whether he had already started a 'witch hunt' through the transfers of bureaucrats, he said "that is for you to decide."

Modi said during his meeting with the secretaries on Monday, several issues pending with the centre were discussed. However , the journalist who asked what these pending issues were , drew a blank.

Modi also appeared combative at times, particularly when questions were raised about the extravagant swearing-in which he had on Sunday.

He said all that was done was to provide shade and water to those who had come for the function. As far as the expenses were concerned , he said, "The media was free to investigate and report on it."

He refused to give details of the expenditure, and said, "If a question is asked in the Vidhan Sabha, the government will give a reply."

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


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GSRTC depot: A bad place for a send-off Tuesday, October 9, 2001

BY SACHIN SHARMA, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: Buses queuing up at the Gujarat State Transport Corporation bus depot have become a source of envy for motorists here.

The reason for the scorn: The buses have a place earmarked for parking, while this basic facility is a luxury for those visiting the depot. Commuters at the depot do not have a parking lot.

Visiting the bus stand to receive or drop a relative or an acquaintance can be frustrating. With no facilities to park one's vehicles in that area, the only option is to park them in front of the railway station and walk down to the GSRTC depot.

The single line parking in front of the Vadodara District panchayat's guest house is more often than not jam-packed, with little space available during the day.

Traffic policemen, on the other hand, seem to be working overtime to ensure that not a single vehicle is parked haphazardly. With this state of affairs, vehicle owners dare not park their vehicles on the sides of the road or on footpaths.

Said Ashish Madhia, a regular visitor to the bus stand, "There is no parking space here. I walk down after parking my two-wheeler near the railway station. Besides, one cannot afford to halt even for a minute on the road near the bus stand due to heavy traffic and because of overzealous cops who do not tolerate this."

The state of affairs is disturbing considering the fact that the depot is one of the busiest places in the city.

Several residents visit the depot for seeing-off or picking up family and friends. There are others who frequent the numerous bus operators and travel agents who have businesses opposite the bus depot.

With no parking space available, illegal parking at the GSRTC bus depot premises is rampant. Vehicles are parked just near the platform from where inter-city buses to Ahmedabad leave.

Besides the state transport staff, outsiders too park their vehicles here. Tiffs with GSRTC personnel over the parking have become the order of the day.

According to Manoj Desai, another frequent visitor to the depot, "Nobody likes these petty tiffs. People will definitely use other places for parking if given an option. Leaving all formalities, these days I drop my guests at the entrance of the bus stand and say goodbye. The job of finding a place to park my vehicle and walking down to the bus sand is very tedious."

While two-wheeler owners might be lucky to squeeze in their vehicle, those driving cars are the worst hit.

JD Sharma, a commuter, said he avoids taking his car to the area unless more than two persons have to be dropped off.

"Traffic on the road opposite the depot is maddening. Besides, finding a space to park a four-wheeler is always difficult. The city planners must look into this affair soon," he said.

Interestingly, officials say that the GSRTC has a plot at its entrance, which has been barricaded. This, they say, could accommodate at least 50 two-wheelers.

"However, the parking there is seen as a menace by GSRTC officials. This attitude is surprising considering the fact that they can turn it into a 'pay and park' facility to earn money," the official said.


ACP speaks
Assistant Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Siddharth Khatri: "Several attempts have been made to streamline traffic in the area. Rickshaw drivers too had a major parking problem here. This has been sorted out by providing them an earmarked space, separated from the main road by boulders. The parking lot has different entry and exit points to take care of any chaos. As far as a separate parking lot in the area is concerned, we have requested GSRTC to provide the space in front of its entrance. This will be a big respite. Besides, we are contemplating allowing parking in front of the railway goods yard and near Natraj Cinema. This should take care of things."

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


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Grant to repair quake-hit roads in Gandhidham Tuesday, October 9, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHIDHAM: The Kandla Earthquake Relief Fund board, a part of the Kandla Port Trust, has approved a grant-in-aid to the tune of Rs 13.69 crore to National Buildings Construction Corporation to repair and restrengthen several roads of Gandhidham and Adipur towns that were damaged in the January 26 earthquake.

Apart from carpeting nearly 48 km of internal roads in all sectors of Gandhidham, the KERF board has also decided to widen the eight km stretch of Tagore Road and provide lights on this road which connects Gandhidham with Adipur.

A service road of five km length will also be provided along the Tagore Road from KPT office junction to IFFCO colony, which has a storm water drain.

The existing road between Mahatma Gandhi statue and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel statue in Gandhidham would also be strengthened and in this regard the KERF board has decided to provide covered storm water drainage, footpath, parking area and street lights on this road.

The existing road between Apnanagar and Oslo cinema would be converted into a four-lane one from the present two-lane one.

To regulate traffic of the township, the KERF board has decided to repair the six existing traffic circles and provide two additional circles at the junctions on the main roads.

An amount of Rs 1.06 crore has been sanctioned to improve traffic circles and repair them aesthetically.

The KERF board has also decided to sanction Rs 35 lakh to provide sodium lamps in the Kandla township.

The original plan to upgrade road network and provide better streetlights to Gandhidham-Adipur township could not materialise because of the cyclone that hit the area in 1998. An amount of Rs 6 crore were sanctioned for the purpose at that time.

The plan could also not materialise because of the earthquake, but now the Rs 6 crore would be spent on upgradation of roads in the township with the KPT chairman, A K Joti, and managing trustee Vipul Mitra taking interest in improving the roads in the twin townships.

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


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Grant to repair quake-hit roads in Gandhidham Tuesday, October 9, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHIDHAM: The Kandla Earthquake Relief Fund board, a part of the Kandla Port Trust, has approved a grant-in-aid to the tune of Rs 13.69 crore to National Buildings Construction Corporation to repair and restrengthen several roads of Gandhidham and Adipur towns that were damaged in the January 26 earthquake.

Apart from carpeting nearly 48 km of internal roads in all sectors of Gandhidham, the KERF board has also decided to widen the eight km stretch of Tagore Road and provide lights on this road which connects Gandhidham with Adipur.

A service road of five km length will also be provided along the Tagore Road from KPT office junction to IFFCO colony, which has a storm water drain.

The existing road between Mahatma Gandhi statue and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel statue in Gandhidham would also be strengthened and in this regard the KERF board has decided to provide covered storm water drainage, footpath, parking area and street lights on this road.

The existing road between Apnanagar and Oslo cinema would be converted into a four-lane one from the present two-lane one.

To regulate traffic of the township, the KERF board has decided to repair the six existing traffic circles and provide two additional circles at the junctions on the main roads.

An amount of Rs 1.06 crore has been sanctioned to improve traffic circles and repair them aesthetically.

The KERF board has also decided to sanction Rs 35 lakh to provide sodium lamps in the Kandla township.

The original plan to upgrade road network and provide better streetlights to Gandhidham-Adipur township could not materialise because of the cyclone that hit the area in 1998. An amount of Rs 6 crore were sanctioned for the purpose at that time.

The plan could also not materialise because of the earthquake, but now the Rs 6 crore would be spent on upgradation of roads in the township with the KPT chairman, A K Joti, and managing trustee Vipul Mitra taking interest in improving the roads in the twin townships.

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


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