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September 11, 2001 - September 11, 2001

Modi's keeping off canvassing may harm BJP Tuesday, September 11, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Om Na Mo Sivay. This rendering to Lord Shiva has assumed a political dimension in the run-up to the two by-elections in Gujarat scheduled for September 20. The second and third words of the rendering stand for Narendra Modi. The fourth speaks of his absence from Gujarat politics for long.

And as the BJP dons its battle gear once again amid reports that it will take a miracle for the party to win both Sabarmati and Sabarkantha seats, the prospect of RSS once again pulling the rug from under its feet -like it did in the municipal elections one year ago -is quite disturbing. One man could change all that, and he has been camping in the city for the last few days purportedly to attend to an ailing RSS associate who is battling for life in a heart hospital on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.

But Narendra Modi is not talking politics. He has been prohibited from interfering in Gujarat affairs by the party high command at the instance of Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel who blames him for all the troubles that took place during his earlier tenure as chief minister in the early 90s. The redoubtable organisation man -who knows Gujarat like the back of his hand, and knows RSS workers at the village level by their first names -can just cool his heels and talk about some northern states of which he is in charge as BJP general secretary.

Though Keshubhai loyalists hate to admit this, Modi is one person who could make all the difference to its election campaign which, at present, seems to be like fighting a losing battle. The Bharat Barot committee which had examined in detail the causes of the debacle in last year's municipal elections -when the party lost both its strongholds of Ahmedabad and Rajkot -had cited non-participation of other Sangh Parivar cadres in the BJP's poll campaign as one of the reasons.

More disturbing for the Keshubhai camp is the news from New Delhi that Union home minister L K Advani has decided not to visit Gujarat for the poll campaign despite Sabarmati Assembly seat forming part of his Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat. The signals are ominous for the state BJP. If the party loses the two seats, it will have to take upon itself all the blame. And that will be quite a loss of face for Keshubhai himself, because while Sabarkantha has been a traditional Congress bastion, Sabarmati was considered a safe seats for the BJP.

But Yatin Oza, the former BJP MLA who quit the party necessitating the by-election, is making things worse by helping the Congress in the form of personalised attacks on Advani and Keshubhai. He is reminding the once-saffronised voters of Sabarmati that it was Advani who promised the Ram temple soon after the BJP came to power. It was Advani who said that people of Ahmedabad could book their tickets to Kashmir as tourists because the BJP was coming and would rid the state of all violence.

BJP leaders say the two polls would be trend-setters 15 months ahead of the next Assembly elections. Adverse results may usher in cataclysmic changes which may be good for the party in the long run. And that is perhaps what the RSS cadres, unhappy with the Keshubhai government's performance so far, are looking at. Most of them would like to have Narendra Modi back in control of the BJP in Gujarat. This, they feel, is necessary if the BJP wants to arrest the continuos downslide. And, the chief minister may not succeed in keeping Modi at bay post-September 20.

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

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Wary govt bars teachers from by-election duty Tuesday, September 11, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Teachers who took part in the strike are likely to lose out on the extra bread that usually followed an election with the Sabarkantha and Ahmedabad district administration having reportedly 'barred' them from duty in the by-elections scheduled on September 20.

Instead the Sabarkantha district education officer has invited guardians to run schools on a daily allowance of Rs 200! The temporary office created is that of a 'visiting teacher', who, according to the release, should be eligible to perform the duties of a teacher. Observers feel that this teaching duty could also stretch on to 'polling duty'.

As if this was not enough, the Ahmedabad district administration would conduct an 'audit' on the teachers and evaluate how best have school premises and the grants been used. Teams would visit each school beginning Tuesday and assess 'possible violations'.

In a smart move on Monday, Sabarkantha DEO in a press release invited guardians to form a committee and help manage schools. Every candidate would be paid Rs 200.

Congress leaders who had questioned the budget proposal in the assembly to recruit Vidya Vyavsay Preraks in schools and Vidya Sahayaks for promoting literacy in tribal areas said the decision on 'visiting teachers' was " another move to rig elections by using unfair means as the BJP knows it is losing".

Interestingly, these moves have been made only in districts that go to polls in less than a fortnight, thus indicating a possible nexus between the strike and the elections. The office of the chief election officer, however, does not feel that this will affect elections in any way. According to deputy election officer JP Jadeja, "Polling duty is basically for primary teachers who are not on strike and secondary teachers are roped in only as the last resort".

He added that the election office would rope in the services of the panchayat and Central employees.

Officials say that at least 8,000 people would be employed on polling duty in the Sabarkantha parliamentary constituency while 2,000 will be deployed in the Sabarmati assembly constituency.

Officials from the Ahmedabad collectorate were also assured that polling would not be affected by the strike. "We have begun our training programmes for those who will be on election duty and each participant will be paid Rs 225 ", an official said.

According to an official in the Sabarkantha DEO, the teachers who have repeatedly revealed their anti-BJP stand, have virtually lost the confidence of the people and their integrity is not beyond apprehension. The returning officers, both of Sabarkantha and Banaskantha as four talukas of Banaskantha (Danta, Vadagam, Amirgadh and 58 villages of Palanpur) come under the Sabarkantha constituency) are believed to have received instructions to this effect.

BJP workers during their electioneering meeting are learnt to have demanded that teachers be kept away from the work of presiding or polling officers in view of their anti-party statements repeatedly made during their agitation. Even college teachers from both the districts are being enlisted for election duties, the official said.

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

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State govt moves Supreme Court in PCCF case Tuesday, September 11, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat government has moved an appeal in the Supreme Court of India against the order of Gujarat High Court to appoint chief conservator of forests (social forestry) Ashok Kumar to the post of principal chief conservator of forests.

Dr Sanat Chavan, the chief conservator of forests (Narmada), was appointed to the post of the PCCF from August 1, following retirement of D P S Verma.

However, Kumar who is senior to Chavan, had objected to the appointment and moved the High Court. He was chosen for the post by the departmental promotion committee (DPC) last year but he was not appointed.

Once again, the committee met on July 31, 2001, despite the pending recommendation of the earlier DPC. Kumar was not appointed after the meeting but was instead handed over a charge-sheet and Chavan, also an Indian Forest Service officer of 1968 batch as Kumar, was appointed.

The charge levelled against him was that when he was conservator of forests of Mehsana, in capacity of a disciplinary authority, he had not given sufficient punishment to a range forest officer for forging the documents regarding payment of salary to a beat guard.

Kumar had submitted that he was victimised and was denied promotion by manipulation, which was upheld by the court.

Highly placed sources in the forest department claim that there were number of charges pending against Kumar and the file was with the forest and environment minister, Kanjibhai Patel, who had not forwarded it to the chief minister for initiating action.

It is also believed that a charge-sheet based on just one of the several charges was prepared and handed in a haste. Moreover, the state government has also set up an inquiry by retired IAS officer C R Biswas into the report submitted by the state vigilance commission on charges against Kumar. The report is expected sometime later this month.

Considering the fact that Kumar was due for retirement on September 31, the state was not allowed a stay on the order in order to approach the Supreme Court. The High Court had asked the state government to immediately appoint him but the state preferred to move the apex court.

Following this a contempt petition was also filed in the High Court, on which the High Court issued notice to additional chief secretary for environment and forests P K Ghosh to remain personally present before the court on September 14, to purge the notice.

The High Court had described the charge-sheet as "stale" and observed that the only reason for it was to deny him the legitimate right to be promoted and posted as PCCF of Gujarat.

It was also questioned that though there were two posts of the PCCF, the other one being that of the managing director of the Gujarat State Forest Development Corporation, why was the other post downgraded.

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

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Balwant Singh posted as MD of beleagured GSFC Tuesday, September 11, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: It took two-and-a-half months for the state government to appoint a new managing-director for a state public sector undertaking Gujarat State Fertilisers and Chemicals, Vadodara. In an order issued on Monday, it made Balwant Singh fill the post, considered so far one of the most lucrative that a bureaucrat would desire in a government corporation or board.

Formerly chief electoral officer, Singh, belonging to the 1975 IAS batch, was lately serving as port secretary for the past one year. Reputed to be one of the most upright officials, many wonder how would he solve the problems piled up with the GSFC. Its latest balance sheet has shown a loss of Rs 224 crore, though insiders place other hidden losses to the tune of Rs 150 crore.

Considered till GSFC losses came to light in June as a 'crorepati' posting, the GSFC MD's appointment is now being compared by top bureaucrats here as equal to that of the captain of the legendary Titanic which sunk. The post was vacant after K P Das retired on June 30. A D Desai, MD, Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertiliser Corporation, was holding additional charge of the post.

Balwant Singh's place would be taken over by A K Pradhan of the 1966 batch, as additional chief secretary, ports. Pradhan till now served as planning secretary, a post that has gone to Anuradha Mansingh of the 1970 batch. Mansingh is just back from long leave, an official communique said.

Officials said, this is the first round of a number of transfers expected 'soon'. Rumours are afloat that 20 IAS officers might be shifted sooner rather than later. One such crucial posting is that of MD, Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation, lying vacant after the retirement of T C A Rangadurai last month. The post is being temporarily held by industries commissioner K N Shelat.

Currently down thanks to the government of India's policy of stopping fertiliser subsidies, the new GSFC MD 'would have to ensure how to sell fertilisers and industrial chemicals produced by the corporation's numerous plants in a competitive market', said an ex-bureaucrat. With administrative expenses, particularly wasteful expenditure by the staff, eating into the GSFC finances, it would be 'miracle if Singh is able to overcome the subsidy problem with the Centre'.

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

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Spurred by BJP, guardians threaten to counter stirs Tuesday, September 11, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Higher and technical education minister Bharat Barot announced on Monday that public opinion was against the strike and 'vali mandals' were being activated and channelled.

The activation by the BJP to put pressure on the teaching fraternity through parents seems to be finally working what with at least two 'vali mandals' suddenly waking from their slumber and holding public meetings on Monday to condemn the teachers for striking and holding education to ransom. What's interesting is that all of them are speaking the government's language, too!

"How can we let the teachers, who are striking for their own motives, take the career of our children for a ride? The state government has accepted most of their demands and still they are greedy. How justified is the strike then," says president of the Ahmedabad Purva Vali Mandal Association, Dinesh Togadia.

"Thus far, we were hopeful that the strike will end; so we remained silent. But now, it is high time that both the state government and teachers laid aside their ego problems and broke the deadlock at the earliest. If this does not happen, we will be compelled to start an intense counter-agitation", Togadia threatened.

The Vali Vidyarthi Hitrakshak Samiti on Monday also held a protest meeting outside Dariapur Darwaja and condemned the teachers' strike.

"Our children lost almost four months of education because of the earthquake, and, now, further damage is being inflicted by the teachers who are greedy for more allowances. The teachers have been looting parents for long by extracting hefty tuition fees. They should not be sympathised with. If the strike is not withdrawn, the parent and student bodies will be forced to hold surprise protest programmes," warned Samiti convenor Gautam Shah.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat Rajya Shaikhanik Sankalan Samiti president Keshubhai alleged that the state government was mobilising fake Vali mandals to break the sustained agitation by teachers.

"The government is trying all sorts of techniques to mobilise an anti-teachers' strike wave. But we are confident that it will not impact on our agitation," Patel said.

The Samiti announced on Tuesday that teachers will take out a scooter rally from Town Hall to press for their demands.

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

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