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September 29, 2001 - September 29, 2001

Police fail to register dolomite smuggling complaint Saturday, September 29, 2001

VADODARA: How much time does it take to pen a police complaint and draft a first information report (FIR)? A few minutes, hours at the most. But at one of the police stations in the district, complaint of a government officer has not been taken even after a month.

This, surprisingly, when the complaint concerns an illegal trade that amounts to loss revenue for state government to the tune of Rs 50-60 lakh per annum!

In fact, instead of lodging the complaint immediately, the police allegedly ridiculed the government officer, dealt with him rudely and made him come to the police station again and again. While all this time the person against whom the complaint was made was treated with 'utmost' care.

On August 28, royalty inspector from the flying squad (Geology and Mining) P C Mehta raided a truck carrying dolomite smuggled out of a mine in forest area. The truck was to empty its consignment at one Ambica Chips factory which uses dolomite chips to make floor tiles. Mehta during his raid established that the truck had got dolomite clandestinely from a mine declared closed and illegal for use in the forest area of Chhota-Udepur.

Mehta asked for official papers of the consignment from Paresh Panchal of Ambica Chips but the latter failed to produce it. Mehta than immediately went to the Chhota-Udepur police station and lodged his complaint. He insisted that a complaint be lodged under section 176 and 179 of the Indian Penal Code as the accused has failed to produce necessary documents. Chhota-Udepur police however argued that the matter amounts to a non-cognisable offence and the accused can only be question or arrested after orders from the magistrate.

On the evening on August 28, Geology and Mines department modified their complaint and added that the 'illegal stock of dolomite' valued at Rs 96, 252 amounts to theft of government property and hence constitutes a cognisable offence under section 379 of the IPC warranting arrest of the accused. But despite the complainant's documentary evidence against the accused no FIR was lodged. On the contrary a crowd of over 200 men allegedly stormed Chhota-Udepur police station premises and threatened the complainant in presence of the police.

On September 11, the state geology and mines department sent another reminder to the police and followed it up again on September 17. But on both occasions the department did not get any reply from the police. On September 24 there was yet another follow up and insistence on police action. Finally on September 25 a government representative was sent to Chhota-Udepur.

"This officer camped at Chhota-Udepur for two days but was not allowed to meet the police officer. He demanded a copy of FIR but was denied it", said a source in Chhota-Udepur. Ultimately on September 27 another letter was shot to Chhota-Udepur police but yet another time it failed to elicit police response.

"One can only imagine the plight of a common man. Police which is part of government is not entertaining a complaint from a fellow government department what can you expect from it. Is this how they define 'pro-active' policing", said a source in Chhota-Udepur.

Besides police politicians role is also suspect in the said affair. Sources allege that a BJP MP hailing from Chhota-Udepur had made calls to a section government officer allegedly trying to influence them. Another politician from Chhota-Udepur had even written to the state government that a particular government officer was 'strictly' following rules and regulation instead of being flexible.

Sources point out that at the root of the entire case is the illegal mining of dolomite going on unabated in the forest region. Despite a Supreme Court ban on mining dolomite from forest areas, some notorious elements indulge in clandestine mining and supply the stock to a handful of factory owners.

While the honest factory owners buy dolomite chips after paying royalty to the state geology and mining department, those who indulge in corrupt practices get the 'illegal stock' by paying of those who manage to smuggle dolomite from banned mines in forest area.

Sources also say that over the years two notorious elements Lalsingh and Khimsingh of Chhota-Udepur have established themselves as dolomite smugglers and even formed a gang to execute illegal operations. "The police knows about this but does of do anything", sources said.

Deputy superintendent of police B L Parmar when briefed on the case said his office has not received any such application that talks about confiscation of illegal dolomite stock from Chhota-Udepur region. "I will have to check from Chhota-Udepur police station about the details but we have not received anything at this office", he said.

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

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Customs finds revenue targets beyond reach Saturday, September 29, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A row has broken out between the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Customs Department in Gujarat over the targets fixed for the state. It has been six months now, and the department here has refused to accept the revenue collection target proposed by the Centre, stating the figure to be "astronomical" and "unachievable".

According to a senior official of the department here, the target collection proposed this time for Gujarat is nearly 40 per cent higher than the last year, which was around Rs 4,600 crore. The previous target, however, could not be achieved by the department despite satisfactory performance in the first three quarters. The reason being the economic lull in the state followed by the January 26 killer quake. The target fell short by about 5.5 per cent as the department could mop up only Rs 4,394 crore.

"There was no indication of an increased domestic demand, which would have boosted imports leading to revenue to the Customs," said a senior official of the department.
Further, the bullion scam involving the Choksi brothers in March this year, also spelt decline in revenue for the department. The Choksis' were the biggest importers of gold in Gujarat and their operations have come to a halt.

"With their arrest, the demand for gold has dropped, as the nationalised banks have stopped importing gold that was done on the basis of demand," says a Customs official stating that the decline in gold import revenue has "come down by almost 65-70 per cent".

However, the department has compensated the decline in the gold import by an unprecedented increase in crude vegetable oil imports, which has yielded fairly high revenue. "The shortfall as in the first five months stands around Rs 200 crore as compared to the corresponding period in the last fiscal year," said a senior official of the department at the Ahmedabad commissionerate. "With the attacks on America, such an inflated target now becomes absolutely unachievable," said the official. The Customs in Gujarat relies heavily on Kandla port, which generates almost 50 per cent of the revenue, and the smaller ports along the coastline of the state.

With the war clouds looming large, the economic activities are further likely to be affected. Under these circumstances, the department feels even maintaining last year's performance in revenue collection would be difficult, leave alone raising revenue substantially.

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

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Farmers face series of catastrophes Saturday, September 29, 2001

GOOD rains this year have made it possible for farmers in Saurashtra-Gujarat to grow bumper crops of cotton after two years of drought.

You drive through the countryside from Viramgam to Wankaner or Jodia to Talaja and you will hit eyeful of lush green cotton crops swaying on every inch of the land. Peanuts in comparison have been pushed back to a second place.

But the farmers are likely to fall victims to couple of more catastrophies, if not the drought this year. First is the curse of "eels" eating up most cotton balls, again and again two three times even after you spray costly pesticide. Second is the man-made calamity of erratic power supply, when the farms are supplied power for 10-20 minutes at intervals of every three or four hours! The farmers must sit there, and even pass sleepless nights waiting for the next power supply! This is like a hide and seek game of the GEB which could kill crops despite the availability of water!!!

Third and most dangerous is this "understanding" reportedly arrived at in Gandhinagar between officials and cotton traders to slash the support price to Rs 1,900 per quintal, instead of Rs 2,350 last year. Perhaps, the main factor for doing this is low international cotton prices. What would farmers grow next if cotton too did not pay them enough _ following the peanut fall _ would be anybody's guess!!

Cotton market faces a general recession the world over, mainly because of almost 95 per cent of the cotton mills closing down in the United States of America. US would use only 20 lakh bales of cotton instead of two crore! Cotton exporters of America have started hunting down other countries' markets, including that of India.

Further, some 25 lakh bales of cotton are likely to be imported this year by India, instead of 16 lakh bales last year, despite more than enough production at home. Even the speculative forward market price has come down by Rs 3,500 per khandi (356 kg). How is it that Maharashtra Cotton Federation has announced an offer to buy cotton at Rs 2,300 per quintal in its area, while none from Gujarat has yet done so?

The only way to save cotton growers from such a big loss is to force Gujcot (Gujarat State Co-operative Cotton Federation Ltd) and Cotton Federation of India to buy out at least 10 to 20 per cent of cotton by opening purchase centres everywhere. They could borrow money from NCDC and create more fund out of it.

On the other hand, Dilipbhai Jobanputra, Wankaner-based ginning miller and one of the hosts of a recent conference of Gujarat ginners, told this writer that in India as a whole, cotton production was likely to hit 1.70 crore bales, 30 lakh more than last year.

Gujarat would turn out more than 45 lakh bales. Saurashtra's share was 300 mills out of the 700 ginning mills in Gujarat with an annual turnover of Rs 5,000 crore. Major problem they faced was the sinking of their Rs 700 crore from their all-India customer textile units, most of them from South India, who just registered their units with the BIFER _ meant for sick units _ and escaped from any debt liability.

It's an ironical fact that while the government intended to collect more revenue through increased excise duty (9.2%) and sales tax (4%) from cotton yarn production and sales, the government excise officials have been pocketing huge "personal revenue" through fixed "quotas" from each of these units for dodging the taxes. Most of this yarn is made from cotton bales sold by Saurashtra-Gujarat.

As a result, fed up with such a malpractice, Saurashtra ginners resolved not to credit their production to those units for more than 20 days, instead of their earlier practice of giving on credit for up to 90 days. Any miller violating this resolution would be penalised with Rs 2.5 lakh, they have resolved.

So far as the production method is concerned, most of the growers have not yet been well-informed about dangerous and costly pesticides. This has increased the production cost to a great extent.

This writer visited Khadasali Lok Shala sometime ago at Amreli district near Savar Kundla, where one could see the new innovative method of organic farming being practised, including large-scale use of processed cow urine to kill germs. No chemical fertiliser, no pesticide, and yet cleaner yield of foodgrains and cotton. It is time Saurashtra farmers and the government's agriculture department officials moved out to the villages in a big way and explain the safe and cheaper methods of farming so as to meet the international price crash. A Doordarshan programme should be produced specially for this purpose.

Our farmers live with vagaries of not only nature but of capitalist market forces which have never come under their control. Tied down to their loss making "eels" on the crop and erratic power supply, farmers may have to cry again in silence or even commit suicides, or even gather in force in front of GEB sub-divisional offices and shutting their office fans off till they resumed supply in some sensible way!

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

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Junagadh :: Check on mushrooming of tuition classes Saturday, September 29, 2001

JUNAGADH: The president of the Junagadh unit of Shiv Sena, Shankersinh Thakur, in a memorandum submitted to district collector Sunayna Tomar demanded immediate action against mushrooming of tuition classes in the city, whose organisers are allegedly associated with government colleges and schools.

Thakur said these tuition classes charge exorbitant fees, which are beyond the reach of common students. This also affects overall standard of education, he added.

The Sena has demanded action against the operators of these classes.

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Rajkot admn gears up to meet any war-like situation Saturday, September 29, 2001

RAJKOT: The district administration has geared itself to meet any war-like situation in view of the recent terrorist attacks in the US.

District collector P N Patel held a meeting to chalk out a plan to provide maximum protection to communication links, water supply, highways power and water supply schemes, besides taking measures to maintain essential supplies in case of any crisis.

The meeting was attended among others by municipal commissioner J P Gupta, district superintendent of police Ajaykumar Tomar and deputy police commissioner Narsinh Coomar.

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