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September 16, 2001 - September 16, 2001

Notice to labour commissioner on diamond workers' plight Sunday, September 16, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Justice K M Mehta of the Gujarat High Court issued notices to the state labour department, labour commissioner and chief inspector of factories following a writ petition filed by Maha Gujarat Diamond Labour Union on behalf of thousands of workers engaged in diamond cutting units in the city in connection with their living and working conditions and also about the implementation or non-implementation of labour laws in such units. The petition was moved by its general secretary, K V Kumar.

The petitioner union had conducted a sample survey of the workers working in the diamond cutting units in Ahmedabad and had prepared a report which pointed out that diamond cutting is a flourishing industry in Gujarat. More than a lakh workers are working in hundreds of such units, big and small. The workers belong to the most exploited sections of the society. Large number of such units are covered under the Factories Act. As per the petitioner, none of the provisions of the factory legislations is enforced or implemented in any of these units.

Senior advocate Girish Patel with Shalin Mehta appeared on behalf of the petitioners and pointed out that in spite of a number of representations made to various authorities, no improvement in the living and working conditions was made and all authorities are totally callous towards the plight of the workers. In spite of representations for them, nothing has been done. Patel argued that the living and working conditions of these workers which are in flagrant violation of all labour laws and constitutional provisions are just like bonded labour system and the authorities are totally indifferent.

The petitioner therefore has demanded that the state government must produce before the court the status report about the implementation of the various labour laws and the relief given to the earthquake victims and also taking effective steps for the implementation of various labour laws.

Justice Mehta issued direct notices to the authorities with a further direction to the labour commissioner to produce before the court the minimum facts about the living and working conditions of the workers engaged in the diamond cutting units and about the implementation or non-implementation of labour laws.

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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Chocolates, roses, 'tilaks' galore at MSU campus Sunday, September 16, 2001

VADODARA: "Jigo-Gotyo, Jigo-Gotyo, be ane tran, be ane tran" - these were mantras being repeated over and over again at the faculties of arts and commerce here on Friday. The students were not selling tickets in black or hawking commodities on a street side market.

They were pleading with fellow students to vote for their favourite candidates and providing them the numbers they should vote for as MS University students' union elections got under way on Friday.

The five main MSU campuses _ the main Sayajigunj campus, the polytechnic campus, the girls' college campus, the Padra college campus, the faculty of technology campus _ all wore a festive look.

There were boys with red roses in their button holes, girls with bunches of flowers and cards attached with chocolates. Never had the MSU campus witnessed a more peaceful and uneventful, yet fun-filled, election in the past.

A large number of police officials were seen resting under trees- on the lawns _ yawning and wishing for once that there was some action on campus. Clearly their presence went unnoticed throughout the day. One of them was heard remarking "wish I was in Kashmir instead- there is no action here.

Suited and booted, student leaders make a fashion statement: In addition to wielding mobile phones, student leaders came to the campus nattily dressed. "They have dressed up as if it was their wedding day," remarked an onlooker. All were "suited and booted". Not withstanding the blazing sun - most of the leaders were seen in dark-coloured blazers, some with neckties and coats. And some added a 'tilak' on the forehead to complete their dressing.

"I went to the temple early in the morning and took the blessings of all elders before coming here,' said Hitesh Bamania or Bunty, as he is popularly known on the polytechnic campus. His supporters too had 'tilaks' on the forehead and were seen canvassing for him on campus.

Saying it with flowers: The polytechnic campus was one where students had come out in large numbers to vote (65 per cent voter turnout). And student leaders like Bunty had brought with them a stock of roses to be distributed _ not just to girls even to boys. Many boys too were seen holding roses in hand, taking in the fragrance of the 'desi' variety of red roses, some had pinned them onto the buttonhole. The girls too came out in large number to vote for their friends. "It's fun, and exercising one's franchise is important," said Birwa Patel a student of polytechnic.

Way to a voters' heart through chocolates: At the girls' college too quite a few girls were seen exercising their mandate when it started in the morning. A nattily dressed Parth Joshi and other leaders were seen giving out handouts with names and numbers of candidates. Some of the handouts had chocolates attached to them- clearly the way to a voter's heart is through his/her stomach!

Following the code of conduct: Those not following the code of conduct on campus were immediately stopped by the team of observers. A few mobile phones were confiscated at the faculty of commerce when students tried to enter the polling booth with mobiles in hand.

Many students who did not have their identity cards or fee receipts were turned away from the gate itself. In the faculty of arts the team of observers upbraided a few students and the authorities for allowing the use of more than one representative cards for candidates and their supporters. From some faculties the cards used for canvassing were confiscated too.

History repeats itself: And as it has been happening over the years, faculties and departments like Home Science, Fine Arts and Technology and Engineering registered abysmally low voter turnout.

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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Meet to draft curriculum for blind ITI students Sunday, September 16, 2001

AHMEDABAD: "There is hardly any blind student in any Industrial Training Institute (ITI) across the country, despite reservation by the Disabilities Act passed six years ago", lamented secretary of Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) JP Singh on Friday.

To correct this pathetic scenario, the RCI had organised a 32-member meeting at the Blind Person's Association to draw the first `Curriculum for Training of Vocational Instructors of ITIs for teaching visually impaired'. The curriculum is being touted as one step forward towards integrating the blind into the mainstream.

Non-availability of appropriate equipment and lack of training of vocational instructors working in ITIs in teaching the blind are the two major hurdles in allowing the visually challenged to take advantage of the reservation advocated in the Disabilities Act. "The three month course being framed will aim towards sensitising instructors towards the special needs of the blind", said Singh.

BPA director Bhushan Punani said the course content will include educating the instructors about the basics of visual impairment. "This component will be aimed at educating the instructors about the disability as defined by WHO, causes of blindness, development of vocational education and over-view of various forms of educational programmes", said Punani.

Other components of the curriculum being finalised at the two-day meeting are `Special education needs of the visually impaired' that includes sessions on braille, the special aids and preparation of teaching learning material for visually impaired ITI students.

A specific section on the special training needs of the vocational instructor will address the implications of the blindness in teaching skills in specific courses like carpentry, plastic processing, operator, electro-plating, and mechanical trades.

Practical courses on braille, use and maintenance of special aids and appliances and orientation and mobility skills and techniques under the blind-fold condition will also be a significant part of the curriculum being designed to effectively teach the blind.

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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Diamond barons find new diversions to fight recession Sunday, September 16, 2001

SURAT: Despite having one of the largest diamond producing units of Surat, with an output of 7,000 polished diamonds per day, Shankarbhai Patel was far sighted enough to sense that a slump in trade - an inevitable fallout of global recession - would not leave their business unaffected.

It was a matter of chance that an elderly person from Patel's hometown Mehsana visited the diamond processing unit at Varacha Road, in the outskirts of the city, some three years back. The elderly man casually sighting a herb in the backyard of the factory and identified it as one which villagers use as nuska (home remedies) to check high body temperature.

Today, Patel grows 266 medicinal herbs in his backyard of his 150-acre diamond processing unit and utilises his yields to manufacture a wide range of herbal cosmetics, which has been in the market for some months now.

Diversification and multiple investments have been the regular trend among the diamond merchants. Specially after the whopping investments in the Hazira industrial complex around late 1980s, which triggered more investment from the diamond merchants in various sectors.

Initially, the multi-crore investments from the diamond industry was being made into real estates and film financing where the diamond industry led by Bharat Shah was pumping in as much as Rs 2,000 crore. "But following the arrest of some for alleged links with Dubai-based mafia, people have started withdrawing from the film business as it became a risky affair", says Pravin Nanavati, the president of Surat Diamond Merchants' Association (SDMA).

Even the investments in the real estate and construction industry from the diamond sector have started receding with repeated interference of the Mumbai underworld and fear among investors of being caught on the wrong foot, Nanavati said. Due to their constant touch with the European countries, the diamond merchants have discovered prospects of better and hassle-free investments in the agro sector and other non-conventional sector, the SDMA president said.

While Shankar Patel's company is further diversifying into cosmetics business by engaging his farm-produced herbs into manufacturing of herbal medicines that are awaiting their launch in the market, Karp Diamonds - a city-based unit - has diversified into the ship breaking industry.

Since the end of last year, investments in the farm sector have gained ground. Many traders have found it a better alternative as in the wake of recession, diamond units have stopped functioning with full capacity and have been retrenching labourers. "But the diversification in the farm sector has created opportunities for the labourers, as instead of retrenchment they are being employed into agriculture" says additional commissioner of police Mohan Jha. He said, "In fact, the crime rate which had gone up due to retrenchments have also shown a steady decline."

Bipin Shah, another diamond processor and exporter, operating from the Prasad Chambers in Nariman Point, has also found better results in investment in the textile sector. "The traditional production pattern of the industry has been long awaiting upgradation to counter global competition, which the orthodox producers have been shying away from", he said.

Many are now investing into modern hi-tech looms which would be better substitutes to the traditional looms. Machines are being procured from Korea, Taiwan and other Asian countries. "Many diamond traders are now taking investment initiatives to effect evolution in the age-old weaving techniques for high-grade production", said Shah.

Now-a-days the diamond merchants have also found better prospects in investment in paper mills, cattle fodder production and poultry.

With children of diamond merchants being educated in the West and coming back to manage and diversify their family business, prospects of setting up of windmills are also being explored by many, says Nanavati. Aquaculture or sea farming is also being contemplated upon by cash-rich diamond barons, in which crabs and shrimps are artificially bred for domestic consumption and even for exports.

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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GEB asked to take steps to prevent cascade tripping Sunday, September 16, 2001

VADODARA: The low frequency operation of the power system in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh falling under western region grid is causing concern to the Powergrid Corporation of India Ltd.

In a fax message to the states, it has sought immediate remedial measures to prevent cascade tripping. The message received at the GEB headquarters here has stated that the demand from the region has increased considerably with the break in monsoon. Availability of power, however, has not matched the increase in demand. This has resulted in continuous low frequency operations affecting the grid.

According to the message, the frequency is unlikely to improve in the near future as the demand-supply gap is expected to widen.

To prevent the grid from collapsing, the corporation has suggested several measures. These include hourly load-shedding to take care of long-term capacity shortage. It has asked GEB to maximise generation from all sources including IPPs and CPPs.

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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