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September 25, 2001 - September 26, 2001

For love of America: Barodians wear their heart on their sleeve Wednesday, September 26, 2001

VADODARA: 'I love NY', 'America's Most Wanted ... Reward $1 million', 'Love it or leave it', 'My heart bleeds for America'. These aren't slogans reverberating in the streets of New York. They are all over on the University Road here, on T-shirts being sold on the roadsides. And, people here are literally wearing their love for peace and America on their sleeves since the September 11 attack on World Trade Center.

These T-shirts, many of which have cropped up recently, seem to have caught the fancy of youngsters, especially MS University students, who are buying them either to "be with the times", or to express solidarity with those affected, or to simply preserve them as a memento of a historic event.

Vendors selling such T-shirts opposite Kamati Garden, near the MSU head office and other places seem to be doing brisk business. They point out that the T-shirts with such prints were available for the market soon after the September 11 incident in New York. Available for prices ranging between Rs 55 and Rs 100, the T-shirts may not be branded but their messages seem to be appealing.

Said Manoj Sharma, a vendor selling such T-shirts near MSU, "These items came to me for sale a few days after the incident in New York. Most of the pieces have now been sold."

Sellers point out that the once popular 'I love NY' variety, using the heart sign, has staged a comeback since the New York accident. "These T-shirts were with me for sometime but their sales have shot up after September 11," said a vendor selling ready-made garments opposite Kamati Garden.

Encouraged by the response, vendors have ordered more such T-shirts from suppliers. "The demand picked up within a couple of days of the attack and I sold about 15-20 of those embossed with 'I love NY' within two days of the attack. The new stock must arrive soon," Sharma said.

Interestingly, wearing the US flag and slogans glorifying the country on T-shirts seem to have become acceptable. Said Arpit Shah, a student, "Earlier, I always hit across a couple of people who would tease me about wearing a foreign flag on my T-shirt. Now, they do not object when I wear a T-shirt that has the American flag or one that says "'I love New York'."

For many citizens, wearing these T-shirts are becoming a way of expressing solidarity with the people beleaguered by the attacks. "They are facing a tragedy and passing through a traumatic phase. This is one way in which we can express our affection and concern for the families of those affected in the attacks and the country at large. It is not possible for me to help those unfortunate people physically. But, by wearing a T-shirt with a message I can express that my heart beats for them and I wish them well," says a school student Karan Matani, who had come from Karelibaug to pick up a T-shirt after he saw his friend wearing one.

For others in the city, they are a memento to be preserved. "The attacks, like the Pearl Harbour bombing, are a part of modern history and will have a bearing on the future of the world. I have heard that people are picking up pieces from the rubbles of the World Trade Center to preserve them as a memento. Since that is not possible, I would like to preserve this T-shirt," said Avinash Rathod, another MSU student.

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

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US plastic surgeons skip A'bad workshop Wednesday, September 26, 2001

AHMEDABAD: In view of an imminent attack on Afghanistan, all four US-based plastic surgeons, who were to deliver lectures and conduct live surgery workshops at the 36th annual national conference-cum-workshop that kicked off at Civil Hospital on Tuesday, have opted out, citing security reasons.

"The doctors cited security reasons and of course the resistance from families to allow them to go to a South Asian country at a time when the US was planning to attack Afghanistan," a senior doctor at the hospital told TNN.

"It is quite sad that the US-based surgeons have not come, but we had expected their pull-out," said member of the organising committee, Dr Vijay Bhatia.

Curiously, the four US doctors include two Non-Resident Indians -- Dr Niri Niranjan and Dr Venkat Swamy. They too are reported to have opted out of the conference because of family pressure!

The saving grace are four surgeons from the UK who decided to attend the conference, the security threat notwithstanding.

"What happened in the US is cause for extreme worry but I decided not to be cowed down by this threat perception. The world itself is dangerous place to live in, what with these road and air accidents happening every where, so why just fear terrorism?" questioned Dr Joe McManners, an oral and maxillofacial expert from Scotland.

McManners confessed that he too was pressured by his family to drop the plan, but he managed to convince them otherwise.

"I contacted the foreign office but they had put up no such request of not going to South Asia. I was encouraged and have safely arrived. I don't know if I will reach back safely but I am hopeful", says McManners, who is a self-confessed lover of India. His favourite food includes bhajiya from a shop in Vadi Gam in Dariapur!

Dr Peter Mafee and Dr Andrew Bachelor are other two surgeons who were in two minds, but then eventually decided to make it in the larger interest of the fraternity.

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

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Afghan war could mean more dope in Gujarat Wednesday, September 26, 2001

AHMEDABAD: As Afghanistan readies for a war with the US, security agencies in the state are gearing up for an obvious fallout of the event – a rise in narco-terrorism here arising out of a need to feed the war.

With at least two major drug seizures being reported in a month and certain villages in the state allegedly harbouring drug peddlers, the agencies for control of drug trafficking and terrorism are already on the guard.

Recent raids indicate that drug traffickers have put down roots in villages like Bharuch, Palanpur and Deesa. Officials, too, admit that the seizures in Gujarat have increased since last year.

Additional director general of police (Intelligence) GC Raiger told TNN, "If there is a war, the drug flow will definitely increase because they will need money to spend on the war."
According to Raiger, most of the superior quality dopes are grown in Afghanistan and Pakistan and they manage to find their way into India. "It is the easiest way to make money," he remarked.

Most of the seizures in Gujarat have been of opium, charas or heroin, which are brought by 'carriers' from Kashmir via Delhi. "What needs to be controlled is the cultivation of opium in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir," say sources at the Narcotics Control Bureau.

It is believed that Afghanistan is the biggest cultivator of narcotics in the world. It has a major portion of the land dedicated to opium cultivation and grows some of the most sophisticated drugs specially for the European market. And, Kashmir has only followed suit after the complete collapse of its economy.

"Beejbihar in Anantnag district is where all the narcotics come from and it is upsetting to see how, with the collapse of tourism and other sources of income, Kashmiris are sowing opium in their paddy fields just for easy money," observe officials here.

In the last one year at least 15,000 people, including foreigners, have been arrested from the state for drug trafficking. Interestingly, interrogations of Kashmiris held recently in the drug trade have revealed the compulsions under which the residents of J-K have been forced to take up this trade to feed hungry mouths. "Almost 95 per cent of Anantnag residents are involved in opium cultivation," say officials.

Also, with winter setting in, agencies are expecting the menace to grow. "Because now is the time for the crop to be harvested and it will find its way here soon," sources say.
"The real drug lords are barely caught, even if the source of the traffic is identified, because of problems of repatriation," say officials.

Interestingly, officials also feel that the trade will be hit if Pakistan seals its border with Afghanistan when the war starts. "I think drug traffickers will lie low for sometime since one of the conditions imposed by the US on Pakistan is that it seals its borders," says Anti-Terrorist Squad Superintendent of Police Satish Sharma. "Drug cultivation is legally carried out in Mansor in Madhya Pradesh and Chittorgarh in Rajasthan from where opium comes into Gujarat," adds Sharma.

The state authorities, however, are relieved about the fact that Gujarat has only been a conduit and not a destination for the consignments, except for charas (opium) which is largely consumed here.

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

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Real estate, property market looks up Wednesday, September 26, 2001

RAJKOT: Terror Tuesday has adversely hit the economy. But at least one sector is looking up and may be its beneficiary.

The real estate and property market in Saurashtra which had been crippled in the past two years due to successive droughts and of course, the recession sees a silver lining.

The prices of land and buildings, sky-scrappers and shopping complexes, had sky-rocketed three years ago so much so that estate brokers and property developers had all-time, historic boom.

But the economic recession and the drought brought the estate business virtually to a grinding halt. That was till recently.

Things are changing now, dramatically.

Property developers and the estate agents are active, though in a slow mode. The market, which had become 'totally silent' is now active. Thanks to satisfactory monsoon on the one hand and the recent wave of terrorism in the United States, on the other.

The estate market gets a major boost around Diwali when the new crop of groundnut, the principal cash crop of Saurashtra, reaches the markets.

But, this time, perhaps, the major factor, which may prove rather decisive to boost the estate market may be the inquiries from the Non-Resident-Indians, who have been shaken by terrorism in the United States.

Many have started re-thinking and look homeward, with the theme of 'home, sweet home'. Some have already evinced interest in buying houses in Rajkot, Jamnagar among other cities. The dormant property market has suddenly come to life, after a very long interval.

Though there is no rush, as it was witnessed in the seventies and eighties in the wake of the migration of NRIs in East Africa. But, the latent feeling to return to the homeland has resurfaced, of late.

Some estate agents said they were daily getting inquiries, though they have yet to translate into transactions. All the same, they say, it is a good sign and gives them a new ray of hope.

Many NRIs are so much shaken with the terrorist threat that they were reconciling psychologically to return home. Maybe, not now, but later.

And, with that objective in mind, they would undertake planning to buy property.

Though they had an easy, secure life over there, their top priority, as some estate brokers put it, is nothing but safety and home is where safety is.

Rajkot city is perhaps the costliest in the state so far as property rates are concerned. Despite slackness in demand, land, flat or shop or office prices have not dipped.

But, new constructions are slow. After the earthquake people prefer tenements to multi-storey flats. The result is that there are no takers for flats, even if owners sell them at lower prices.

Now, in view of the latest situation in the United States, the NRIs, who may be intending to buy property, may go for such flats, which would satisfy their needs and have modern facilities.

Till recently, people in Rajkot, Jamnagar and other towns used to prefer low-budget houses, say Rs.3 to lakhs. Flats costing between Rs. 10 and 20 lakh were lying vacant. But NRIs may prefer such high-priced flats, since in terms of dollars, the cost would be around 20,000 to 30,000.

Coupled with the local demand, the inquiries from NRIs may give a new lease of life to estate brokers, who have been idle for the past couple of years.

With good monsoon, property developers also hope to go in for a new phase of construction, which had come to a grinding halt in the last one year or so. Some builders have sensed the feelings of the people and launched their plans to build 'mini-bungalows' instead of multi-storey structures.

How much is the interest of the NRIs in the Saurashtra property market may be known in a few weeks as there is a general belief that such transactions may not be preferred during the 'Adhik Mahino' considered not so auspicious.

Perhaps buyers are waiting for the auspicious Dussera-Diwali time.

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

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Cong flexes muscles in AMC Tuesday, September 25, 2001

AHMEDABAD: It took three victories -- at corporation polls, state Assembly election at Sabarmati and Parliamentary election at Sabarkantha -- to give the Congress enough confidence to frown back at BJP's past misdeeds at the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

In presence of the newly elected MLA from Sabarmati, Narhari Amin, the Congress leadership of AMC formed a co-ordination committee on Monday, much like the BJP did when it was in power at the corporation. Congress's co-ordination committee consists of the party's city unit president Rajkumar Gupta as the chief and mayor, deputy mayor, chairman of Standing Committee and leader of Congress in AMC as members.

Party insiders said the meeting that finalised the co-ordination committee saw disgruntled Congress men raise voice against Mayor Himmatsinh Patel and Standing Committee chairman Badruddin Sheikh.

Monday's event was a sequel to the hush-hush meeting that took place last week at the mayor's bungalow near Law Garden between Congress' poll observers -- Manoharsinh Jadeja, Anuj Patel and Mohammad Hussain Baloch -- and 66 party corporators.

Thirty-eight allegedly spoke against Patel and Sheikh while only 28 threw their weight behind the present Congress leadership at AMC. The dissidents unanimously demanded that Patel resign forthwith.

This, said party sources, had forced AMC's Congress leadership to create this co-ordination committee which apart from looking into the corporation's day-to-day functioning will discuss and plan on all its AMC committees' agendas.

"Through this co-ordination committee Congress wishes to liaison with the administrators of the AMC and also to ensure smoother infrastructure development in all wards of Ahmedabad," said Rajkumar Gupta.

Party sources added that this move was to quell the growing dissent in the party against the present leadership.

In the first-ever move to take on the BJP for having Ganpat Parmar elected as chairman of municipal school board, the newly formed co-ordination committee said: "We have told BJP that they should nullify the election of Parmar, for he is a suspended Congress man, or else we will not honour the existing pro rata that allows the Opposition party in the AMC to have representation in all its committees, including the Standing Committee," Narhari Amin told TNN.

While Congress men promised to resolve the school board issue before the next general board meet on September 28 and also filed six nominations (instead of four members of Congress and two from BJP) to fill up the six vacant seats on the Standing Committee, the municipal school board chairman remained adamant: "All speculations that I have resigned or bowed to any pressure is figment of imagination. I have spoken to state Congress chief Amarsinh Chaudhary and told him that I will step down if the party so wishes but before that my so-called suspension has to be revoked. Furthermore, the school board is an autonomous body and the chairman's resignation (if any) has to be notified at least two weeks in advance."

Amin however added, "The co-ordination committee will bring in better times for people belonging to the middle class and those living in shanties and slums. For the next six months the Congress at AMC will focus on infrastructure like water, toilets and sanitation, for the slums of Ahmedabad. Ours is a democratic and secular party and all members have a right to voice their opinions. But, this does not mean there is any rift amongst us."

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

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