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November 29, 2001 - November 30, 2001

Sons-of-the-soil hit hard again, as cotton crop fails Friday, November 30, 2001

RAJKOT: The sons-of-the-soil in Saurashtra are facing yet another crisis, this time on the cotton front, as the 'kapas' crop that is second to groundnut in the cash-rich category, has failed. The hopes of the farmers to reap a bumper harvest have been dashed mainly due to pest menace and erratic climate.

Not only the farmers, but the ginning-pressing industry of Saurashtra is badly affected. It is passing through a lean period, facing a sort of crisis.

Monsoon, this year, was satisfactory, in the initial stage and hopes had soared high for a good crop of 'kapas', but that was not to be. There was serious pest menace, which damaged the crop to a large extent.

Coupled with this, the climate became erratic. Instead of cold atmosphere, which is needed for a good 'kapas' crop, there was summer-like-heat, badly affecting the crop.

In the wake of reports of the 'kapas' crop failure in Saurashtra, the estimates of the cotton crop in Gujarat are placed at 25 lakh bales, as against the original estimates of 40 lakh bales - a deficit of about 35 to 40 per cent.

The new crop of 'kapas' has started arriving in the Saurashtra markets, but the momentum is lacking.

The farming and trade sources say normally, by this time the markets are over-flooded, but this year the 'kapas' arrivals are hardly 30 per cent of the normal season. The markets, which have reported slackness in arrivals include Manavadar, Babra, Rajkot, Jasdan and Botad.

The Manavadar market yard, which normally gets arrivals of 100 trucks daily, is hardly getting 25 trucks. Botad gets 30,000 maunds daily as against the normal arrival of 45,000 maunds, Jasdan is getting only 5000 quintals against 12000 quintals, Wankaner gets 200 quintals against 600 quintals in normal season.

The cotton prices are going through a recessionary period at the international level also. Imported cotton is available in abundance at a considerably reduced price, as compared to the costly local product. This has certainly added to the woes and miseries of the farmers in Saurashtra.

The Afghan war has contributed in a big way to the recession. There is a heavy glut of yarn, hitting hard the 'kapas' prices. The traders say that last year, the 'kapas' price was between Rs 500 to 525 per 20 kg, but this year, the prices are Rs 100 to Rs150 less than last year. Even the best quality 'kapas' fetches hardly Rs 400 per 20 kg.

The ruling price of 'kapas' in the Saurashtra markets is ranging from Rs 360 to 395 per 20 kg. The ginning factories do not find it remunerative to buy 'kapas' at the prevailing rates and convert into cotton. The ginners say they do not have "parity", with the result that hardly 15 to 20 per cent of the ginning units have started operations after Diwali.

The market sources say that such a situation has arisen, perhaps, for the first time, in recent years In the yesteryears, the cotton ginning factories used to hum with activities, but not this time. Two principal factors have come in the way. Slackness in demand and price disparity experienced by the ginners

Only a few ginning units have started working in the cotton-belt of Surendranagar-Dhrangadhra as well as Manavadar-Porbandar belt. A few mills in Ahmedabad and South are making purchases from Saurashtra, which is just 10 per cent of their requirements and get 90 per cent of imported stuff, which is cheaper as compared to indigenous product.

Sources said that after two successive droughts, they had hoped to reap good harvest of 'kapas' in view of satisfactory rains this year, but their hopes have been dashed. Twin factors contributed to this pessimism..pest menace and perhaps sub-standard seeds.

Surendranagar district in Saurashtra topped in respect of 'kapas' cultivation with 3.67 lakh hectres. Next is Rajkot district with 1.84 lakh hectres, Kutch with s,155 hectres and Jamnagar with 34,340 hectres.

The trend during the last few years has been that 'kapas' cultivation was more lucrative than groundnut, and keeping this in view, quite a number of farmers had diverted their attention from groundnut to 'kapas'. So much so, that in a number of villages of Jasdan Taluka of Rajkot district like Shivrajpur, Madhapur and others, 90 to 95 per cent of land was under 'kapas' cultivation.

However, the farmers complain that 'kapas' crop has failed in Jasdan, Upleta, Paddhari, Morvi and Rajkot talukas in Rajkot district as well as in Botad-Gadhdha belt in Bhavnagar district.

Those farmers who had preferred "deshi" variety could benefit. Surendranagar district was in the forefront in this respect and may benefit. But, those who went for the "hybrid" variety were the major sufferers, it was stated.

After two years of drought, the farmers had pinned their hopes on 'kapas' yield and had taken sufficient precaution to spray insecticide. But, that was of no avail, as the farmers lamented that the insecticide proved ineffective, maybe it was sub-standard. Such complaints are in plenty in Jasdan and Upleta talukas.

Moves are afoot among the farmers to represent the matter to the state government.The farmers also look towards the insurance companies to come to their rescue, as many of them were covered under crop insurance scheme.

And, like the groundnut producers, their counterparts who have produced 'kapas' were also looking to the authorities for the purchase of their produce at the support price.

But, surprisingly, there are few defenders of the interests of the cotton growers, unlike those who champion the cause of the groundnut producers. Perhaps, the groundnut lobby is more powerful and its voice is heard in the corridors of power and is also responded to. The 'kapas' growers' lobby is not that strong, at least till now.

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

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HC rejects plea for trial transfer in Sonia Modi murder case Friday, November 30, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The additional city civil and sessions judge will continue to conduct trial in the sensational Sonia Modi murder case, as the high court has dismissed the application filed by the accused seeking a transfer of the case.

Justice AM Kapadia held that there was no valid reason to transfer the sessions case from Court No 15 to any other court and directed expedition of the trial and even conclude it before April 30, 2002. The accused have been allowed four weeks to approach higher forum.

The accused, including victim's brother-in-law Ashok Modi had prayed for transfer of the case from the court of additional sessions judge Bela Trivedi, alleging that fair and impartial trial was at stake.

They had submitted that though one of the accused knew Hindi, he was given charge-sheet in Gujarati, despite representations. It was alleged that the judge gave threats to the accused not to retract from the statements made before the police and the judge even had compelled them to adhere to the statements made before the police. The high court which had asked for confidential remarks found the allegations untrue.

It then observed that transfer of part-heard sessions case on the grounds that the judge gave threats to the witnesses and was not giving accommodation to the advocates appearing for the parties could not be considered as grounds for the transfer of the partly-heard cases.

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

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Modi rules out early Assembly polls Thursday, November 29, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The ruling BJP is unlikely to go in for early Assembly elections. Ending speculation in political and bureaucratic circles, Chief Minister Modi said on Wednesday that those who are talking of mid-term polls "are merely spreading a canard meant for misinformation".

Averring there is "no reason" for holding polls ahead of schedule, in February 2003, Modi, who addressed his second news conference ever since he took over on October 7, however, refused to divulge from where he would contest Assembly elections. "It will be one of the 182 state Assembly seats."

Top BJP circles said he would contest polls much before the legal deadline in March, may be even before February 15, when the Assembly is scheduled to meet.

The CM's clarification on a controversial issue came even as he moved forward in further distancing himself from his predecessor Keshubhai Patel.

Coming out of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Modi announced the decision to appoint senior ministers Purshottam Rupala and IK Jadeja as his official spokespersons.
Rupala and Jadeja, known to be allies of the Cabinet's No 2 Suresh Mehta, were not inducted into the Cabinet by Keshubhai, despite repeated demands by Mehta.

Rupala is also close to BJP MP Dilip Sanghani, a known Modi supporter who on Tuesday was appointed the state BJP vice-president.

Modi also displayed clear indications of his intention to give weightage to a political programme of action, rather than a harsh economic agenda, by announcing a plan to ensure that welfare schemes, central or state, reach beneficiaries.

"We will be holding district-level fairs to make people aware of the welfare schemes and find out whether they have benefited," Modi said. The fairs, which will begin soon after the December 23 village panchayat polls, will be attended by secretaries and ministers. A committee will be formed to work out the details.

"Both rural and urban beneficiaries will be covered," said Modi. "For instance, we would like to know whether the widow pension scheme is working normally."

In yet another important decision meant to woo the common masses, the Cabinet on Wednesday raised the financial limit of small cause court cases from Rs 5,000 to Rs 2 lakh.

Rupala told newspersons that since 1961, the financial limit of the small cause court had remained Rs 5,000. As a result, the district courts were flooded with cases, while there was little work with the small-cause courts. "With the important decision, the problem of inordinate delay will be met."

Rupala pointed out that only recently, the state government had raised the financial limit of the taluka-level civil cases from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh for the rural people. "The new decision will help the urban dwellers. The limit has been fixed at Rs 2 lakh, as land prices in urban areas are higher."

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

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World Bank seeks qualitative quake rehabilitation Thursday, November 29, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The World Bank, which is supporting the massive earthquake rehabilitation programme, has made several suggestions to the Gujarat government in improving the engineering aspects of the reconstruction process as well as bringing about more peoples’ participation and transparency in the effort.

The report also talks about the lack of a strategic approach towards disaster management and the need for better dissemination of information. The World Bank’s aide memoire has observed that ‘‘overall, the mission is encouraged with the progress achieved so far in the the momentum that housing reconstruction has achieved to date and with the quality of earthquake resistant construction.’’

Given the magnitude of damage to housing in both rural and urban areas and the consequent scope of reconstruction spread over 12 districts and about 7,609 villages, the mission had identified areas for improvement which have been accepted by the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA).

Sources said the mission has observed that ‘‘rural housing reconstruction is advancing at a faster pace than that in the urban areas’’ but the pace of construction is relatively slower in the non-Kutch towns as compared to that in the four Kutch towns of Bhuj, Anjar, Bhachau and Rapar.

This is due to the fact that while in the four Kutch towns, Area Development Authorities under the Town Planning Act have been constituted due to large scale destruction due to the earthquake, in the non-Kutch towns also affected by earthquake although to a lesser degree, the administrative set-up of revenue, road and buildings and local authorities are looking after urban housing.

‘‘More coordination between these authorities appears to be necessary. Major attention from the GSDMA is needed to streamline the reconstruction of houses in order to avoid imminent backlogs in the construction process, delays in works and the development of insufficient seismic resistant houses. Institutional efforts to decentralize and down market housing finance is also advised to improve access to affordable housing loan,’’ the mission said.

The report said, ‘‘the overall level of construction quality is satisfactory even though there are a few examples indicating the lack of sound technical assistance.’’

On the issue of disaster management, the mission said GSDMA organized the preparation and the dissemination of manuals, brochures and posters on seismic resistant construction and repair of non-engineered construction.

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

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Attempt to murder case filed against BJ college students Thursday, November 29, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The police cracked down on rioting students at B J Medical College on Tuesday night and registered a case of attempt to murder against seven of them.

The action was initiated after four students were severely beaten up and had to be hospitalised. One of them, Ashish Gamit, received serious head injuries and was brought to Civil Hospital profusely bleeding. All of them belong to the B block of the college hostel.

Acting police commissioner M K Tandon told 'The Times of India' on Wednesday that the strong action was initiated to bring the violence under control.

The seven students who have been booked under Section 307 of the IPC are, Ashutosh Jumar, Ranjan Chawala, Piyush Jain, Amardeep Bhatia, Tejas Hathani, Bhowmik Shah, Siraj Munshi and Siddharth Shah.

The new measures, however, failed to prevent more violence on Wednesday afternoon when about 10 students attacked their college mates belonging to the rival group, resulting in yet another head injury to one of the students.

The latest attack was allegedly in retaliation to Tuesday night's assault and took place in the presence of police personnel who were escorting the boys from the police station to the hospital for a preliminary check-up.

For the first time, college dean K V Bhatt broke his silence and said he is worried about the escalating violence, especially since the four students were beaten up outside the college campus. "If the violence continues like this, we don't want to have hostels at all. I would not have been sitting in this office had something untoward happened to the students."

Bhatt has written to the state health secretary seeking permission to shut down the four hostels which have turned battlegrounds. The college authorities have been threatening to shut down the hostel ever since the students went on strike on November 6.

They claim that Tuesday night's violence took place after some B block students went to the mess in D block for dinner. They were allegedly surrounded and thrashed. D block students, however, claim that the violence was initiated by the opposite group.

Students in the A block revealed that the college authorities had not taken half the measures they had promised, to try and curb the violence. "Where are the Gujarat Industrial Security Force personnel they had said they would employ? We have seen none of them." The college authorities had sought approval from the state government for at least 20 security personnel when the violence began. The A block students also alleged that their block had been sealed off by the police not allowing the inmates to go out. Those who were left outside the block were beaing beaten both by students of the B block and the police, they alleged.

Some of the students have even summoned their parents to the campus to pressure the authorities whom, they claim, are not listening to them.

If the parents do join the students, the situation will go back to square one when, at the beginning on the month, they had joined their wards in a hunger strike. A truce was arrived at, following the intervention of health minister Ashok Bhatt, just a day before the Diwali break. After the holidays, there were some sporadic incidents where the college authorities had locked the hostel rooms late in the night if the students were not in by then.

Meanwhile, the brighter students of the college are starting to complain about negligible academic activity in the last 30-odd days. As one of them put it, "I have put all my 25 years in reaching here. I can't forget the effort of all these years just because some of my college mates don't like each other. But there is nothing I can do. I feel completely helpless."

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

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