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September 18, 2001 - September 20, 2001

Different versions on why Baba Amte left ashram Thursday, September 20, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat government and the Narmada Bachao Andolan have given sharply different versions on the reason why veteran NBA activist Baba Amte has

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Of rising temperatures, a good night-life Thursday, September 20, 2001

VADODARA: The rains were good this year and most people expected a pleasant September. Yet, for the past one week the city is witnessing a steady increase in temperature during the day followed by a sharp drop at night. Citizens here wonder if summer's back again.

For the past few days, late evenings are characterised by cool breeze -- a welcome change from the hot and sultry daytime.

Night life in the city never looked so good, especially for the past few weeks. After a hot and sultry day, late evenings in most city areas is marked with citizens cooling off at street corners, at traffic islands and parks.

The heat wave is causing discomfort and city roads are once again characterised by commuters travelling with caps and dupattas wound around the head.

The Met office in Ahmedabad has an explanation. Met officer director Kankane says, "This is a temporary phenomenon caused by a special change in wind direction called the 'anti-cyclone' over Gujarat.

This is leading to increase in temperature and creation of a small trough. This is a small activity that induced localised scanty rainfall in Vadodara," he said.

Meanwhile, citizens say the increasing temperature in the day ranging from 37 to 38 degrees and the low temperatures at night between 24 to 26 is causing discomfort. Some have also reported an increase in cases of common cold and fever.

And clearly weather is a hot topic these days, both in offices and on roads. Some like Sulochana Joshi feel the sudden change in temperature was evident immediately after the WTC tragedy. "Usually, a major disaster causes sudden change in temperature. This could be due to the instability in the world," she feels.

According to Raju Srivastav, the sudden summer-like weather is strange. "Especially because this year the rains were good. So one wood expect the city to start seeing the onset of winter, or, at least, pleasant weather, but instead we are faced with this intense heat," he says.

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

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Good news for MMCB's small depositors Thursday, September 20, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Relieved small depositors came out of the Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank's (MMCB) branches waving wads of currency notes on Tuesday as the bank started returning clients' money which had been stuck up for the last six months since the fiasco caused by Ketan Parekh. By evening, an amount close to Rs 1 crore had been paid to the customers.

For many customers, who had virtually given up hope of recovering their money, this was a moment of joy which came after months of trauma. The return of depositors' money with value of less than Rs 1 lakh is the first step towards revival of the bank under the Rs 1,100-crore revival package.

Depositors are being returned money out of the money paid by the Depositors Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation.

"I was the first person to get back money from MMCB's head-office branch, after having sent my man to stand in the queue since 5 a.m.," said Yashwantbhai S Panchal. "My house had collapsed during the earthquake, and my boss gave me Rs 5,000 as special bonus. Out of this, Rs 1,000 was stuck in my savings account at MMCB when the bank closed. Now I have got back my Rs 1,000 along with Rs 21 as interest," explained a beaming Panchal.

Panchal said: "I still have another Rs 5,000 pending in a fixed deposit (FD). As the addition of interest makes the amount exceed Rs 5000, I will have to come back tomorrow to withdraw this amount as today amounts of upto Rs 5,000 only are being disbursed," he added.

Another depositor, Anjana N Modi, prematurely withdrew her FD of Rs 1,500 from the head-office branch, and was to then go to the Navrangpura branch to withdraw another FD of Rs 1,000.

She has two more FDs of Rs 5,000 each, but she will withdraw them prematurely tomorrow. "I am withdrawing all my money from MMCB, that too prematurely, as I am not sure what will happen to the bank a few weeks from now," said Anjana Modi.

The general mood among MMCB depositors was to withdraw whatever they could. Even if they had to forego the higher interest rate offered by MMCB.

Crowds at the branches were not very big. At the head-office, there were around 30 depositors standing in queue, with about an equal number of policemen. Depositors were being allowed inside the bank in groups of 4-5, and most came out with their money in around five minutes.

The Nav Gujarat Banks Customers Protection Council (NGBCPC), an association formed after the closure of MMCB, was making its presence felt with its volunteers running around to control and help the depositors. "We have a core team of around 50 volunteers, all businessmen, who are actively working to help all MMCB depositors," said a volunteer of the association.

R M Shah, acting CEO of MMCB, said the bank had extended work at the customer counters by two hours so as to cope with the large number of depositors. "Over the next one week, we hope to clear most deposits of upto Rs 15,000. Thereafter, we will work out the repayment schedule for depositors with over Rs 15,000 investments," he said.

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

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Kenyan law student runs amok Wednesday, September 19, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A Kenyan student studying law at Gujarat Law Society suddenly ran amok, prancing about Mithakali and Law Garden area naked on Monday evening. Besides attracting undue public attention, he caused a near-traffic jam around 6.30 pm in the Mithakali area.

Opande Frederick Okello was later sent to a mental hospital near Dilli Darwaza.

A second year LLB student, Okello was walking down the Law Garden towards Mithakali when he suddenly began stripping. People began to chase him. There were also reports of his teasing female passers-by. However, reports of his being beaten up by irate people could not be confirmed.

Police arrived on the scene after a passer-by called up Navrangpura police station. A jeep was sent to pick him up. "We threw a sheet around him, but he pulled it off and tore it," inspector ON Mazumdar told TNN.

When the police got him finally, he began shouting "shoot me" and let out some gibberish. He was then tied with a rope and sent to hospital where doctors put him on tranquillisers.

His colleagues and fellow African students testified that he was otherwise a brilliant student and had never displayed such behaviour earlier. Okello stays in the Ramdevnagar area.

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

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Disaster management authority to be made statutory body Tuesday, September 18, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The state government has taken an important decision to convert the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority into a permanent statutory body, thus steering clear of all speculation about the type of organisation the GSDMA should become.

Well-placed Secretariat sources told TNN that several other options suggested by world-renowned consultants Arthur Andersen on the GSDMA have been "rejected". Plans are now underway to come up with a new Act providing the GSDMA with statutory powers.

The options rejected include converting the GSDMA, formed in the wake of the quake in Kutch, into a new department under the state government; making it a totally independent body like the human rights commission with all the rights of asking the state government to work out and implement specific disaster management plans; and forming it as a think-tank with all the data base on disasters guiding the state government during emergency with its collected facts.

Seeking to imitate the USA's Federal Emergency Management Authority, the GSDMA would, however, work as an "autonomous body with strong linkages with the state government," a senior government official said. Its chairman would continue to remain the state's chief minister, but its chief executive officer will be either a bureaucrat or a top expert in disaster management.

"The option would be kept open," the official said. Currently, the GSDMA is a society, registered under the societies Act.

Confirming the decision to make the GSDMA into a constitutional and a statutory body, its current CEO P K Mishra, an IAS bureaucrat of the 1972 batch, said, "We have been studying the model disaster management Act sent by the Central government for consideration and finalising details on how can the GSDMA become a powerful co-ordinating agency that would acquire strong powers to act against disasters by declaring emergencies."

The Arthur Andersen report 'Evolving a framework for managing disasters: Organisation, strategy and structure of the GSDMA', dated June 18, had assessed that the current dispensation lacks mandate, co-ordination, funds and resources, with disaster focus being plagued by short-term perspective, absence of statutory powers, limited integration with Central bodies, and poor community awareness.

In short, it is "not ready to deal with disasters of huge magnitude and impact." Its main focus is "mere relief and rescue."

As statutory body it would be an inter-disciplinary organisation, and take under its wings 31 different type of disasters, natural, health-related, industrial and environmental, an official source said.

It would identify resources and mobilise them, customise relief packages and supervise implementation, monitor and audit emergency relief operations, prepare, co-ordinate and mobilise rapid action teams, contribute to policies and guidelines, do hazard mapping, and carry out community awareness work.

The rapid action teams would consist of personnel from the police, paramilitary forces like the BSF and the CRPF, fire brigade, doctors and nurses, engineers, equipment manufacturers and contractors.

The line departments would be placed under the statutory body to implement guidelines through technical expertise and resources, available with training institutes, seismological observatories, national and international disaster management bodies, and so on.

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

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