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September 20, 2001 - September 21, 2001

Parrot trainer fights to keep 110-yr tradition alive Friday, September 21, 2001

VADODARA: It's not just passengers that Amin Khan Pathan carries when he drives his auto-rickshaw in the city. He also carries the responsibility of ensuring that a 110-year-old tradition - training parrots to carry on various jobs including firing a royal canon - does not die.

This auto-rickshaw driver, who stays on the Laxmi Vilas Palace grounds, is fighting all odds to ensure the continuity of his art, which has survived four generations.

Down the years, Pathan's parrots have enthralled people of the city. In the pre-independence days, they entertained viceroys, kings and princes who visited Baroda state. In the post-independence era, men like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Rabindranath Tagore were regaled.

The parrots can fire a canon, play the piano, operate cameras, thread beads, use the tiny merry-go-round, rotate a ball of fire and even detect counterfeit coins!

Pathan believes that they are not as active as they used to be in the past. "My great grandfather was a full time parrot-trainer and he had a lot of time to teach parrots various tricks. His parrots could even douse a fire while performing their fire brigade trick and string the bow and shoot arrows," he says.

The most admired item was the cannon trick, where a parrot would load gun powder into a mini-cannon and set it on fire, the sound of which could be heard throughout a radius of two km.

But maintaining the birds is not easy. "It takes three years to train a parrot. The 'surpanjee' and the 'tui' varieties are not easy to get since laws against trapping of birds are becoming stricter. The bird feed costs money and audiences today have a limited attention span," he says.

For Pathan, the maintenance amount of Rs 600, of which Rs 300 is spent on parrot feed and the rest on their training that the palace still pays, can hardly help him sustain his "art".

However, he has not lost hope. His 11-year-old son is now assisting him keep the tradition alive.

Whatever Pathan earns from ferrying passengers is ploughed back into buying parrots, their feed, maintaining them and organising shows.

"The art is losing popularity. People don't seem to have much patience to sit through a show," he says. This has driven Pathan to innovate. He has added items like parrots playing the piano, handling a camera, which he has named "cinema shooting", and cycling.

Pathan caries his parrots and their tricks to city schools, trying to impress and educate young minds. "The children seem to like it even in this age of video games. More shows will generate more interest," he adds. Pathan has also been performing for foreigners who visit the palace.

Pathan recalls a parrot show conducted in 1908 by his great grandfather before the then Viceroy Lord Minto. "The parrots were performing the canon trick. The security guards, suspecting a coup, rushed in to find Lord Minto laughing instead. He was amused that a small bird like a parrot had scared his soldiers. The cannon game continues even today, only the gunpowder has been replaced by 'Laxmi Bomb', used during Diwali," says Pathan.

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

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Sick circus lions, tiger await shifting orders Friday, September 21, 2001

SURAT: Two lions and one tiger are still with the Rambo Circus in the city being unable to take the stressful journey of about 1,500 km to the Tirupathy Zoological Park, as they are old and sick. After detailed medical examination on Wednesday by the forest department, the option left with the local authorities is either to take them to a nearby shelter or let them be with the circus for the time being.

Forest officials here say there should be a direction from the government of India to the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) or the zoo at Vadodara to keep these animals till they become fit to be transported to Tirupathy or to grant a transfer permit to the circus organisers to take them along. "The circus could hand over the animals to the forest authorities as and when required, according to conservator of forests Anil Johri.

With the stay on transfer of the 14 lions and one tiger from the Rambo Circus to Tirupathy being vacated by the Supreme Court on Monday, the onward journey of the 12 lions from Rambo Circus, which got stranded mid-way in Dhulia, is all set to commence in a couple of days as soon as the forest officials in Maharashtra makes all the necessary preparations for the journey, Johri said.

Two lions and one tiger could not commence the journey on September 8 along with the rest of the bunch as they were declared medically unfit by the attending veterinary doctors and hence they were left with the Rambo Circus to recuperate and then later to be transported to the rescue centre, according to a senior forest official.

Meanwhile, attempts by the local forest department for an alternative arrangement to keep these animals have been without any success and no direction from the concerned official from the Central Zoo Authority too has made the matter gripped with uncertainty, sources remarked.

With reluctance on the part of SMC to accommodate these sick lions and tiger due to non-availability of suitable place in the upcoming nature park, the forest authorities are now trying to grant a transfer permit to the circus authorities to take these animals along with them for the time being.

Following instructions on August 29 by the Union ministry of social welfare and justice, the ownership of the Rambo Circus over these lions and tiger was cancelled by the chief conservator of forest of Maharashtra and the Central Zoo Authority had instructed the Gujarat forest department for the transfer of these animals to the rescue centre at Tirupathy zoo.

Accordingly, 12 lions were put on a journey from here to Tirupathy on September 8 but after traversing around 200 km up to Dhulia in Maharashtra, the circus organisers got possession of the animals after obtaining a stay from the court.

But, they could not be returned to the circus at Surat, as one lioness gave birth to three cubs at Dhulia. Hence, all of them were left stranded at Dhulia and were later kept in a forest nursery. Since the stay was vacated by the apex court on Monday, now the animals should be taken over from the custody of the Rambo Circus and be safely transported to the rescue centre.

However, the apex court's verdict was not clear in the case of sick lions and tiger which were still with the Rambo Circus, according to a senior official. Hence, the matter needs to be looked into urgently so that these animals don't suffer, Johri remarked.

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

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Gujarat By-Elections :: Ministers, officials keep fingers crossed Thursday, September 20, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: A simmering feeling of uncertainty prevails among top ministerial circles and bureaucrats in the Secretariat over the by-polls' outcome and its possible repercussions.

To take place on Thursday, the by-polls to the Sabarmati Assembly constituency and Sabarkantha parliamentary constituency would decide the clout Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel might have over ministers and officials, getting increasingly indifferent towards framing policies and implementing them.

If the BJP loses, the chances of which a senior minister suggested on Wednesday "are more, considering the fact that nothing has changed for the ruling party ever since the civic poll debacle a year ago", the CM would have to go in for a hectic exercise for revamping his Cabinet under the Central high command's pressure. Important departments _ Narmada, major irrigation projects, health, food and civil supplies, roads and buildings _ have no full-time ministers as in charge for the last more than nine months.

The CM has been refusing to go in for a Cabinet expansion for the fear of "displeasing" different BJP sections, liberal or hard-line, but a loss of face in the by-polls would force him to take sides and seek allies within. The balancing game would have to be brought to a jalting halt. But a victory only at Sabarmati, considered by top ministers as "more crucial than Sabarkantha", might make the CM more powerful. It would make him even more indifferent towards the pressure for expansion.

A minister holding an important portfolio told TNN that the factors on which the BJP hinges for victory are "quite weak", suggesting, one might witness a less powerful CM soon after the by-polls. "At Sabarmati, out candidate Babubhai Patel, heavily dependent on 70,000 Kadva Patel voters, might fail to attract the younger generation on caste lines. The youngsters seem more inclined to consider Congress candidate Narhari Amin as their man, having a cricket background with strong infiltration into higher education institutes," the minister said.

Ministerial circles also find that campaigning has suggested that Babubhai is a "weak candidate imposed from outside" who has failed to establish a rapport with Sabarmati voters, quite unlike Amin, a local heavyweight with all his pluses and minuses. "How far would Babubhai's clean image and opening of the Madhavpura bank charge the voters other than some sections of the middle classes is still an open question," a senior minister said.

As for Sabarkantha, though the candidate, Upendra Trivedi, is more well-known, ministerial circles say, the BJP has not been able to set the agenda for the largely rural and tribal voters. "While everyone rules out getting tribal votes, forming 30 per cent of the constituency, as Congress candidate Madhusudan Mistry has done good work among them, the non-tribal farmers appeared less convinced when we argue that Congress was lying when it said we were favouring introducing electricity meters", said a minister.

Bureaucrats were particularly uncertain about the CM's possible policy direction after the by-polls. His complete refusal to interact directly with any senior bureaucrat involved in earthquake rescue and relief over the last eight months, least of all seek an advise over what should be done to improve government operations, might "accelerate" as he would be increasingly involved in politicking after the by-polls, a senior official said. "The CM might be more concerned with saving his skin particularly if the party loses", the official commented.

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

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RI for controller of explosives Thursday, September 20, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Controller of explosives (Vadodara) A D Petkar, who was caught red-handed accepting a bribe of Rs 500 for renewing explosive-transport licences of two truck-tankers in 1989, has been sentenced to a total of four years' rigorous imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 1,000.

The sentence was given by a CBI special judge, B N Jani, on Wednesday.

It was alleged that Petkar had asked for a bribe from one N K Jadav for renewal of licences for his two truck-tankers. Jadhav then lodged a complaint in this regard. The matter was transferred to the CBI and a charge-sheet was filed in 1992.

The court ordered that the accused stands convicted under Section 235 (7) of the Code of Criminal Procedure for the offence punishable under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

He was also convicted for the offence under Section 13 (1) (d) r.w. Dec. 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and was sentenced to undergo another two years' of rigorous imprisonment. Both the sentences will run concurrently.

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

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Gujarat By-Election :: Cong goes to polls as a divided house Thursday, September 20, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The word doing the rounds in the Congress is that if the party were to lose the Assembly by-election at Sabarmati, it would be more because of opposition within the party than because of the BJP.

The biggest fear for many Congressmen is that if Narhari Amin wins the elections, it would be a gain for the Janata Dal (JD) group and of course, for Yatin Oza, more than the Congress (read 'Original Congress') per se. And this groupism has been evident at the poll campaigns in the Sabarkantha parliamentary and Sabarmati Assembly constituencies, but more so, in the latter.

Similarly, Madhusudan Mistry's winning the Sabarkantha seat for the party would be seen as Shankersinh Vaghela's "third man in the Parliament" and once again would mean nothing much for the original Congress, going by the factionalism in the party.

But, who is with who and for what, became clearer during campaigns in both the constituencies, which have become prestige issues not only for the main contesting parties but even for the candidates.

Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee president Amarsinh Chaudhary's biggest adversary and former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki did not mind addressing at least two meetings with Vaghela in the Sabarkantha constituency, but his men were hardly seen in Sabarmati for obvious reasons.

One reason could be that Sabarmati is dominated by Kadva Patels, and there was no place for leaders of OBCs and Kshatriyas, which Solanki and Vaghela represent respectively. Moreover, Sabarkantha is also very close to Chaudhary's heart and almost the whole of the Congress (old and merged) were doing their best to work towards Mistry's victory.

At Sabarmati, representative of the JD group in the steering committee of the Congress, Dr Urmila Patel, turned up with colleague Dalsukh Godani at Kali village on Tuesday to add some 'importance' to the campaign, but apart from involvement from these JD colleagues, Amin has had few star campaigners. Contrarily, the BJP has moved in its entire political men and machinery from Saurashtra to campaign for their candidate in Sabarmati.

Thus, Amin's campaign is resting more on the strength of the city Congress and of course, of Oza because of whose resignation, the by-election was warranted. Finally, the equation is that "each to his own".

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

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