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September 23, 2001 - September 23, 2001

Power supply restored to rural areas Sunday, September 23, 2001

VADODARA: Power supply to rural areas, which was disrupted on account of closure of number of units couple of days ago, was on Saturday restored as per the scheduled programme.

Two gas-based stations at Utran and Vadodara and all the coal-based power unit at Wanakbori went back on stream providing the much-needed relief. A majority of the units at Gandhingar thermal power stations have also now been generating power as per their capacity.

Closure of these units had forced the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) to increase the hours of loadshedding in rural areas, which had to go without power supply for twelve hours since the past several days. People in rural areas had taken out morchas at a number of electric substations demanding more power for saving their withering crop.

A fire mishap in the ONGC pipeline at the centre processing facility at Gandhar village in the neighbouring district of Bharuch district on Thursday had resulted in cutting off of gas supply to both the stations at Utran and Vadodara.

The 135 mw gas-based power station at Utran is owned by the GEB while the 145 mw gas-based power station on the outskirts of the city is owned by Gujarat Industries Power Company Limited (GIPCL) promoted by state and Central government undertakings.

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

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Furore in A'bad co-op bank over deposits in MMCB Sunday, September 23, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Trouble is brewing at the Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank (ADCB) over the bank's investments for the revival the Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank Ltd (MMCB).

Several members of co-operative societies from different parts of Ahmedabad district staged a hunger strike in front of the bank premises near the Income Tax circle here. The protesters were are demanding that the recently-concluded annual general meeting be convened afresh.

Alleging that the 5,159 member-co-operative societies was not intimated about the AGM on time, and did not get to voice their concerns in keeping with the norms. Co-operative society members threatened to take their fight to the streets by taking out a massive rally from Lal Darwaja to the bank headquarters situated near the Reserve Bank of India office in Ahmedabad.

The other more startling demand of the agitationists was voiced by a director of ADCB, Pradip Singh Chudasama, who joined the agitationists on Saturday. "The chairman of ADCB (Amit Shah) has promised to give Rs 100 crore to the MMCB at the rate of 7.5 per cent interest, to bail it out from the financial crisis. While one knows that this is being done to buy two positions on the MMCB board of directors, we question the very logic behind this decision involving public money," Chudasama told TNN.

He added: "We demand that the chairman give a similar loan with exactly the same rate of interest to the farming community that has suffered drought for years together. This agitation is intended to stop autocracy in a co-operative bank which largely deals with farmers' money. Though the bank is financially stable and has made a profit, one would not like it to go the MMCB way."
Jayantibhai Solanki, chairman of Suryakala Agarkha Utpada Sahkari Mandal of Bapunagar, who on Saturday completed the fifth day on hunger strike said: "There is definitely something fishy about the state of affairs in ADCB. The AGM held on September 18 got over within a very short duration. By the time we reached the Dinesh Hall on Tuesday, the meeting had passed four of the five proposals, and the meeting folded up as soon as the chairman declared a dividend of 10 per cent. We did not get to say a word."
Citing examples of "arbitrary" investments like one worth Rs 20 crore made by ADCB in Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (without consulting its co-operative body members) and failed-promises like partial crop insurance as against the promised 73 per cent, Chudasama said: "After 102 hours of hunger strike, there has been no effort from the ADCB chairman to resolve the issue, so I decided to join the agitation. By the end of this masses' movement, one hopes for transparency in the working of ADCB and its branches. This would be crucial for its financial buoyancy and not going the MMCB way."

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By-poll results in Gujarat major setback to ruling BJP Sunday, September 23, 2001

By Ashraf Sayed, Indo-Asian News Service
Gandhinagar, Sep 22 (IANS) The rout of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in crucial by-elections to the Sabarkantha Lok Sabha and Sabarmati assembly seats in Gujarat might trigger uncertainty for the Keshubhai Patel government.

The main opposition Congress party, which always considered the Sabarkantha constituency its citadel, won at both places. It had won at Sabarkantha in the last three successive elections and wrested the Sabarmati seat.

But the adverse verdict against the BJP in Sabarmati which falls under the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency of Home Minister L.K. Advani has shattered the morale of the state leadership.

The BJP played all tricks of the trade to woo the voters, including announcing the opening of the scam-tainted Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank and making payments to small depositors on the eve of the polls. Advani also made a last ditch bid by canvassing on the last day of the campaign.

The defeats have raised the possibility of dissension within and outside the party acquiring new dimensions in the coming months.

That the BJP's popularity was on the decline was evident last year when the party miserably lost control of district and sub-district civic bodies as well as municipal corporations in the state, with the Congress staging a remarkable comeback after nearly a decade.

Now political analysts have started debating the survival of the Patel government, which is bogged down in several controversies, including charges of corruption, non-performance and failure to provide adequate relief following droughts as well as the January killer earthquake.

The credibility of the BJP government took further knockings when the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) pointed out several financial irregularities and alleged that undue favours had been shown to big industrial houses in granting sales tax concessions running into millions of rupees.

The CAG has also passed strong strictures against the chief minister and his second-in-command Suresh Mehta for undertaking foreign jaunts by misleading the prime minister's office and the central government.

The outcome will provide much-needed moral and political boost to the Congress, which had been demoralized by its poor showing in the last four Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

For the first time after years of fighting intense internal warfare, Congress leaders put up a united face in the by-elections. This was in sharp contrast to the BJP leadership that pulled in different directions.

Bubbling with enthusiasm over the party's victory, two former chief ministers, Amarsinh Chaudhary and Shankersinh Vaghela, said Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel had "dug the grave" of his party.

"We will bury the BJP in its grave in the coming Assembly election so deep that even its ghost will not be able to come out for years," they said in a statement.

Both Chaudhary and Vaghela refrained from demanding Patel's resignation, saying his survival was "thousand times better for the Congress than its immediate ouster.

"The BJP government has created a mess on all fronts and its credibility has nose-dived," Chaudhary said.

While Patel was not available for comment, BJP leaders maintained that by-election results always went against the ruling party because "anti-incumbency factor" played a big role.

They ruled out the possibility of a change of guard at Gandhinagar and maintained there was no alternative to Chief Minister Patel. However, they hinted at the possibility of expansion of the ministry and reshuffling of portfolios to accommodate dissident legislators.
Source - Indo-Asian News Service

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BJP camp on tenterhooks Sunday, September 23, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The low voter turnout in the crucial by-election to Sabarkantha and Sabarmati in Thursday's poll has sent alarm bells ringing in the BJP circles, and close aides of Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel are already talking in terms of an imminent Cabinet expansion and reshuffle of portfolios to contain the onslaught by dissidents in case the party loses both the seats.

Counting of votes will begin on Saturday and results are likely to be declared by afternoon.
Party sources close to the chief minister said "even if the party emerges victorious, a reshuffle of the ministry is imminent". But there is lack of conviction in party leaders about the possibility of results being favourable to the BJP even though they still nurture some hopes about the Sabarmati constituency.

The chief minister has succeeded in warding off the expansion. There are reports that possible losses in both the seats may lead to a campaign for his ouster one-and-a-half years ahead of the next Assembly elections. This time, he may be forced to make suitable changes in the 39-member ministry to give a facelift to the party.

While the dissidents may be gunning for the chief minister himself, the chief minister may try to get approval from the central high command to drop some ministers with tainted image and induct some members from the dissidents' camp.

State BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana observed: "It is difficult to comment on the future course of action at this stage. Once the results are declared, we will have to take remedial measures." However, he did not spell out anything.

In case the BJP loses both Sabarkantha and Sabarmati, the central high command might summon the chief minister and some other senior leaders to New Delhi next week and discuss the political situation in Gujarat which is a far cry from the 'model state' which the BJP wanted to project to the country.

The CM's camp believes there is no threat to the leadership of Keshubhai as he still enjoys the confidence of the BJP legislators, mainly from Saurashtra despite the campaign of his detractors that his lacklustre leadership had resulted in the downslide in the BJP's fortunes. Unconfirmed reports said the high command has convened an important meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday to discuss the by-election results.

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

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SC order makes Kumar PCCF for 6 working days Sunday, September 23, 2001

AHMEDABAD: With a Supreme Court order in his favour on Friday, chief conservator of forests (social forestry) Ashok Kumar was finally appointed Gujarat's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.

However, with his retirement due on September 30, he will also become the shortest-serving PCCF with only six working days in office! His appointment follows the Supreme Court quashing an appeal filed by the state government against a Gujarat High Court order for his appointment. The apex court had earlier stayed the HC order on the basis of the appeal.

The present PCCF, Sanat Chavan, has proceeded on leave to make way for Kumar. Chavan will re-assume the post on October 1. The departmental promotion committee of the state government met in July to choose the successor of DPS Verma. Despite being senior-most Indian Forest Service officer in the state, Kumar was not promoted to the post as he was handed over a charge-sheet on the same day.

Sanat Chavan, who was next to him in seniority and is due for retirement in May 2002, was appointed to the post on the grounds of merit. The clamour for the post started in August 1997 when the then chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela appointed Verma to the post displacing AP Misra who was already appointed to the post in January 1997.

He was then moved to the Gujarat State Forests Development Corporation (GSFDC) at Vadodara and was brought back as PCCF after change of government in 1998. Verma was then sent to GSFDC.

A DPC meeting was held in July 2000, when Misra was about to retire and it recommended name of Ashok Kumar and not that of Verma who was seniormost. However, it was Verma who was appointed to the post, after Misra's retirement and Kumar was left out.

Once again as Verma was due to retire in July 2001, a DPC was convened in the same month which finally conferred the post on Chavan who was chief conservator of forests in Narmada Nigam.

Chavan and Kumar are batchmates and joined the services on the same day in 1968. However, Kumar was considered senior to him on the grounds of merit. But as he was handed over a charge-sheet on the same day, he turned ineligible for the post and Chavan was appointed. The charge leveled against him was that when he was conservator of forests of Mehsana district, in capacity as a disciplinary authority, he had not given appropriate punishment to a range forest officer.

The RFO had forged documents relating to payment of salary to beat guard.
The incumbency chart of the PCCF shows clearly that of the five CCFs and 17 PCCFs that the top office has seen, only five have lasted for over a year. However, Kumar's stint will be the shortest ever.

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

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