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November 30, 2001 - November 30, 2001

Uproar at VMC meet over mayor's Germany visit Friday, November 30, 2001

VADODARA: Visit of Mayor Bharati Vyas to Germany for attending an environment conference raked up a major controversy at the general board meeting of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) here on Thursday.

Opposition leaders belonging to the Congress party said the visit was not justified at a time when the corporation was passing through a financial crisis. At the other hand, some ruling members tried to defend the trio saying that the corporation would spend only Rs 15,000 on it. The rest of the amount is to be sponsored by the organisers.

Notably, the trip had run into controversy even before the opposition became critical of it. Corporators of the ruling BJP and standing committee chairman Bharat Shah had also expressed their reservations regarding the trip. So much so that Vyas wrote a letter to the party president, co-ordinator and Shah himself expressing her displeasure at the way the issue was being looked at.

BJP members also raked up the issue of slapping of an engineer by Congress councillor Meenaxi Fand. A ruling party member demanded that the board must condemn the act. The Congress party, meanwhile, is yet to take any action against fund.

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

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IMFL worth Rs 2 cr roadrolled Friday, November 30, 2001

BHAT (Gandhinagar): The Ahmedabad police on Wednesday plied two road rollers and one JCB over Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), worth Rs 1.93 crore they seized over the years, near the Narmada canal in Bhat village. This is the third such operation in the state in the past six months.

The stock from 25 police stations unloaded here included vague brands like 'Bullet' and 'Black Velvet' beer, 'Contessa' and 'Black Stallion' whisky. Spouts of liquor shot up as the iron wheels rolled over 64,569 bottles of the intoxicant, raising a stink in the area.

Some attractive cases even had 'free gifts inside' stickers on them, but there were no gifts inside. One had a slogan, 'Do everything, but overdo nothing!' According to prohibition officials, free gifts are banned even on official sale of liquor in Gujarat as it amounted to 'brand promotion', but one Royal Challenge whisky carton came with a free gift: an expensive pen!

The maximum quantum came from Shaherkotda police station (22,591 bottles) followed by Dariapur (11,005) and Madhavpura (10,856). The smallest stock of 86 bottles came from Danilimda.

According to senior police inspector SD Sharma of Shaherkotda station, "I have now seven rooms cleared where I can station my men who were huddled on tables in a single room".

"The administrative cost of managing this seized liquor was high since this is an attractive muddamal and even policemen can get tempted!", quipped a senior officer.

The operation was carried out in the presence of the 'Committee for Disposal of Seized IMFL', chaired by prohibition commissioner SK Saikia. Beginning with unloading of cartons and gunny bags from the trucks onto the road, to clearing off the debris and setting the residue on fire to ward off stench, the operation lasted five hours.

This same stretch of road that has become defunct after the construction of the Narmada canal, was first used for such operation a few months back. Then followed a similar operation in Kheda district.

BOX Zadaphia raises a stink Minister of state for home Gordhan Zadaphia got a rude shock on Wednesday morning when he saw two cartons of liquor from a truck driving in front of his car, slip away and crash onto the road, when he was on his way to work.

Frantic calls were made to prohibition officials demanding to know what was going on, and he was told that the truck was on its way to Bhat from the police station to take part in the 'operation destruction'. Apparently, the truck was negotiating an incline when the 'accident' happened, destroying 24 precious bottles before their time, and the incident found an entry in the police station diary 'just for the records' like they say.

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

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PF smart-card for easy access to account Friday, November 30, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Worried about your Provident Fund update? Not sure whether deductions from your last month salary were actually deposited in your PF account?

Solution to your worries is just a swipecard away. Gaining access to your PF account would be simpler than getting coffee from a dispenser. 'Re-inventing EPF India' a strategic plan drawn up by the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) says so.

In order to reposition itself as a 'customer focussed' organisation EPFO plans to keep itself just a touch away from its subscribers.

Under it subscribers can view their individual accounts through a smart unique identity card, social security card, at electronic kiosks to be installed at 260 EPFO offices in the country.

Armed with a smart card bearing a permanent Social Security Number (SSN), just like PAN number, one can walk into one such kiosk and get details within seconds.

The subscriber can also get a print-out of the balance for the last completed month by inserting a coin in the kiosk at pre-decided fee.

It would be a welcome relief for 2.4 crore subscribers nationwide and some 18 lakhs in the state if the plan gets implemented. "Providing smart cards to subscribers is definitely on our agenda and its preliminary work is underway," says regional provident fund commissioner-I, Ahmedabad A K Chandok.

Taking a cue from income-tax department, credit card companies and ATM service of various banks, the EPFO devised the concept of permanent SSN.

Obviously, the SSN allotted to every subscriber would be a unique identification number and would help to achieve the service norm. Unlike in the prevailing system, change of jobs and location will not involve transfer of account from the previous office or employer to the new one.

Regardless of who the employer or where the worker is posted, including the highly mobile migratory construction workers, the individual running ledger account of each worker carrying the social security number will remain constant and accessible to such subscribers from any location or EPF kiosk.

Once the subscriber-oriented information is posted on an IT-enabled system interlinked across the country to EPFO offices the plan would be implemented. "The whole project is being handled by our central office and the system would be operational by 2003," adds Chandok.

While the subscriber could get an easy access to the account through smart card the employers can electronically file monthly returns with employee-wise particulars. The new system would also help to drastically lessen the number of returns to be filed by the employer from present 48 to 12 in a year.

The process of receipt of contributions by employers and confirmation of contributions by banks would be integrated and computerised to eliminate missing credits and delays. In another significant move EPF will also issue a unique business number to every employer under the system to be integrated with the PAN issued by the income-tax department. The step is aimed at developing a regime where businesses and trade use a common business number for economic transactions as followed in the many developed countries.

Computer-assisted system will automatically detect and flag every case of default and delinquency every month and kick in action for recovery of contributions along with the interest and penalty, the plan says.

The completely IT-driven programme will also address the issue of unpaid arrears by employers and help special teams in designated EPF call centres which will chase all delinquent accounts on a day-to -day basis.

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

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IIM-A's confluence kicks off Friday, November 30, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad's (IIM-A) annual international business school meet, Confluence-2001 was inaugurated by the French Ambassador to India Bernard de Montferrand on Thursday evening.

The three-day meet will see management students from the leading business schools both in the country and abroad to interact with leaders from corporate India. There will be discussions, paper presentations and lectures apart from a quiz and a host of other events.

Delivering the keynote address, Montferrand spoke about the changing pattern of the socio-political world order after the terrorist attacks on the US after September 11. He said that the world was seeing unprecedented solidarity among several democratic countries from across the world to counter terrorism. This solidarity needs to be transformed for an overall development he felt. Montferrand also cautioned against "hasty generalisations" and a feeling of neglect of few countries should be contained, in order to make globalisation successful.

Former RBI governor and the chairman of the board of governors of the IIM-A, I G Patel called on the future managers to balance profit against social responsibility, and personal fulfilment against corporate success. He said that the real art of management lies in integrating the existing contradictions in a beneficial way.

The meet will cover areas like strategy, marketing, finance and information technology. The London School of Business, Asian Institute of Technology, Asian Institute of Management, National University of Singapore and the International University of Japan are among the other foreign business schools that are participating in the event. Besides, Indian Institutes of Management, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, XLRI and XIM are also scheduled to take part at the meet.

Senior personnel from the Tata group, McKinsey Consulting, Ranbaxy Labs and i2 Technologies are also participating in the event. Former managing director of Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) JJ Irani, will also be coming to the Institute fore the event.

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

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Samras coming unstuck; steady stream of nominations Friday, November 30, 2001

CHIEF Minister Narendra Modi's popular slogan of Samras is yet to make an impact on the panchayat elections scheduled for December 23.

With nominations for polls to continue till December 3 and withdrawals to take place till December 6, a mid-session assessment in talukas located near Gujarat's four major cities shows the lucrative incentives for villages that avoid elections and co-opt their members may not be just enough for people to forego their right to contest and vote.

Daskroi taluka (Ahmedabad): Villagers are convinced that Samras is a great scheme, and will probably make their village richer by a few thousands, but fight for power they will. "Who would want the village to become a fiefdom of a single individual?" says one official.

The stakes are higher if the panchayat is located in an urban suburb like Thaltej, Bodakdev or Vastrapur which show a lot of promise for development. Of these three, Thaltej and Bodakdev have already been declared sensitive from the law and order perspective. "It is not just the MLAs but even builders and developers who have stakes in these areas," says a source from the collectorate. "There is no chance of Thaltej becoming a Samras village. And no village near a growing city will be interested because there is lot of political activity here," says one Thaltej resident Jitubhai Patel. He says the scheme is good and the common villager is upbeat about it, but those keen on politics will fight the elections. Of the 86 villages under Daskroi taluka going to the polls, nominations for sarpanch and members of the gram panchayat have been filed from 46 villages.

Padra taluka (Vadodara): Samras seems to have found few takers here. A majority of villages in the taluka are likely to go in for polls despite the sops offered by the state government. If the initial trends and the mood in the district is anything to go by, only about six of the 27 villages scheduled to go in for polls may unanimously select their representatives. The mamlatdar office has been witnessing a steady stream of candidates. As many as 14 persons filed candidature for the post of sarpanches in various villages of the taluka till Thursday morning. Also, 45 nominations were received for elections to the post of members of village panchayats.

Even local BJP leaders admit that only about eight to 10 panchayats would accept Samras. "We are trying our best to arrive at consensus to avoid political rivalries," said president of BJP's Padra unit, Khumansinh Padhiar. However, said a former sarpanch having Congress leanings, Arvind Patel: "I will have to throw my hat in to hold our people in the village together. The Samras concept is not practical considering the political dynamics of large villages. It might work only in very small villages."

Kotdasanghani taluka (Rajkot): Out of the 41 gram panchayats, so far just four villages have agreed to the Samras scheme. Efforts are being made to net in some more gram panchayats. During the last elections in 1995, as many as 26 gram panchayats of the 41 panchayats had opted for Samras. Most villages were divided as to whether to go in for the scheme or elections. While the older generation was keen on Samras, the younger generation which wants to come up the political ladder were keen for elections. "It is this tricky situation which would force most of the villages to go in for elections," observed Narendrasinh Jadeja, a school teacher. Most of the people said the prize amount of Rs 60,000 was too small. "One cannot even construct a classroom from the much money," said Babubhai Savaliya, a Congress leader.

An octogenarian BJP worker Shamaldasbhai Rabari said: "Though he (Narendra Modi) is from my party, I must tell him to accept the peoples' verdict and try to improve upon it rather than run away from the results."

Olpad taluka (Surat): The total nominations for contesting elections for the post of sarpanch submitted were 61, whereas 153 papers for the post of various wards members were received here. The taluka has 94 gram panchayats.

"In most of the cases, consultations were being held to co-opt the candidates unanimously," said Girishbhai Kanubhai Patel, head of BJP unit at Kim village. He said villages having population in the range of 300 to 1,000 might go in for unanimity, but those having a population of over 1,000 will want elections. The BJP does not have a strong presence here, and the party is worried about giving the panchayats on a platter to Congressmen. There is likelihood of the BJP itself forcing contests in some villages to get a foothold.
(Inputs by Leena Misra, Sachin Sharma, Amarendra Jha and Sudhir Vyas)

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

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