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September 11, 2001 - September 11, 2001

Draw ends 6 VMC committee members tenure Tuesday, September 11, 2001

VADODARA: A draw at Vadodara Municipal Corporation marked the end of the tenure of six standing committee members, including its chairman Shabdasharan Brahmbhatt.

The draw was held to replace six members of the standing committee. According to rules, six members whose names are picked in the draw have to retire. These are then replaced by nominations made by the general board.

Members who retired after the draw include Brahmbhatt, Pradeep Joshi, Pravin Patel and Ranjan Bhatt from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Also, Ashok Pawar and Liyakatali Saiyed from the Samata Party retired in the draw.

Brahmbhatt said the nominations would be made in the general board meeting scheduled on September 20. The board will meet on September 19, but it is likely to be adjourned after paying tributes to former municipal corporator and noted social worker Fatehsinh Rana.

The meeting will bring out in the open the equation between the Samata Party and the BJP. One time alliance partners in the VMC, the parties have strained their relationship of late.

"The BJP and its independent allies will have to muster the support of one more councillor if Samata is considered as an opposition to BJP. If not, things shall not change," a BJP leader said.

Samata Party members, however, said a final decision over the support to BJP would be taken at the state level. A clear picture will, however, emerge only on the floor of the House.

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




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Police arrest teachers for burning ESMA notification Tuesday, September 11, 2001

SURAT: The city police arrested several hundreds of teachers from the city and the nearby areas in the district on Monday afternoon on charges of creating disturbances and resorting to some unlawful activities including burning of the official notification invoking Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on the striking teachers.

According to police sources, the teachers were kept at Police Parade ground in Athwalines for a few hours and later, they were released with a warning not to resort to any such activities that would deteriorate law and order situation in the city.

Meanwhile, a meeting was convened by the district collector and the district education officer, P N Dave, on Monday evening to take stock of the situation, and also how to contain any untoward incident. Dave told TNN that stringent actions could not be initiated against the striking teachers, as the government would like to be lenient in this matter.

He informed that four more schools resumed their teaching activities on Monday. In all, out of 252 schools on strike, 24 were reported to be open on Monday, according to sources in district education office. More schools were likely to open in the next couple of days, Dave said.

Sources in the school teachers' associations said a big rally would be taken out on Tuesday if the government fails to reconsider the whole matter. Police sources said keeping in view of the proposed rally on Tuesday, all required bandobast was being chalked out to prevent any untoward incident from taking place.

Some of the school managements this correspondent contacted expressed their inability to put an end to the present crisis. Sources in St Xavier's School said the management was with the striking teachers, whereas the trustees of V D Wadiwala School at Adajan tried to convince the striking teachers about the issue, but to no avail. In Sanskar Bharati School at New Rander Road, with the principal being on strike, no efforts on the part of the school management were taken to arrive at any conclusion in this regard.

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




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Panel to decide on plans for new courts in Surat Tuesday, September 11, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The state government on Monday appointed a committee consisting of representatives from the law department, high court, Surat district court and bar association to decide about the issue of setting up a new court complex in Surat.

Law minister Hemant Chapatwala told TNN that the committee members, state law secretary and the registrar of Gujarat High Court would shortly visit Surat to discuss the proposal with the concerned authorities there.

He said as per the advise from technical experts that the existing court complex required huge expenses on repairs, the government has spent around Rs 2 crore. The earthquake had damaged the structure, and it was impossible for the courts to function from the building.

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



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IAS have-nots Tuesday, September 11, 2001

SOURCE : THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE
CAG has divided the IAS bureaucrats, once again. The division is not north-south, as was alleged during the recent elections to the executive posts of the IAS Association. This time it is between the haves and the have-nots.

The haves, who enjoy foreign travel as managing directors of boards and corporations, argue vehemently against the CAG indictment of the CM and other bureaucrats' foreign tour. They say no one will be able to travel abroad if every rule in the book has to be followed. And at the time of globalisation this can prove disastrous, they contend.

But the have-nots, who have had no chance to go abroad, disagree. According to them, CAG has rightly acted by pointing out irregularities in expenses incurred during foreign travel.

"Bureaucrats prefer to head boards or corporations because foreign travel is lucrative. One can save lakhs on a fortnight-long tour," said a have-not. In fact, CAG officials say a lot of bureaucrats have been billing their foreign visits to state PSUs.

Forest posting
The High Court order to appoint Ashok Kumar, retiring on September 30, as new principal chief conservator of forests has put the top state officialdom in a quandary. No sooner did the order come early this month than state forest minister Kanjibhai Patel sought "legal opinion" on whether it was feasible to appoint Kumar as PCCF for less than a month, as he was about to retire.

Would it not be proper to "upgrade" the post of managing-director, Gujarat Forest Development Corporation, making it equivalent to PCCF, instead? In the past, a few years ago, when there was a seniority dispute in the forest department, the problem was sought to be solved by making one of the contenders PCCF and the other managing director of the forest corporation.

To the minister's surprise, the legal department sent back the file, saying "act according to the HC order".

The file is again back with the legal department for a fresh opinion. If it is positive, the moot question is: Would Kumar go to Vadodara, where the forest development corporation is located, for less than a fortnight to take the post? It might take yet another week to upgrade the post! Files take at least that much time.

What's CAG?
This might just be an apocryphal story. Exactly a year ago, Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel was asked to comment on the CAG's indictment of the then chief secretary, LNS Mukundan, for allegedly messing up things as managing director of Gujarat Industrial Investment Corporation, a post he held before he became CS. A puzzled CM looked around. He was heard asking bureaucrats sitting next to him, "What is this CAG?"

Indeed, with the CAG criticising his foreign tour, as also his approval of purchase of the aircraft without global tenders, "he knows what CAG means now", said one of those who had tried explaining to him what CAG was a year ago, though with little success.

Not without reason, he is avoiding holding news conferences now. He is afraid: the same question might be repeated.

The three C's
The CAG report this year has made an indifferent state bureaucracy even more wary of crucial decisions. Earlier, bureaucrats were afraid of indictment by the Central Vigilance Commission. Few months ago, they started saying one should get files cleared by the Central Bureau of Investigation before signing them, lest one faces the music later. Several raids by CBI officials at some of their colleagues' residences made them cautious. And now it's CAG. All the three C's would operate together with full force. A top bureaucrat commented, "One should be wary of all the three C's. One should ensure that one's file comment does not invite the ire of CVC, CBI, CAG..."


Fodder issue: Mum's the world
What is the price of fodder? Ask state revenue minister Vajubhai Vala, and he is unwilling to utter a word. He knows the reason: the CAG has indicted the department he heads for buying fodder at the rate of Rs 480 per quintal, instead of Rs 245, from a blacklisted supplier.

Vala said the decision to buy the fodder from the supplier was not his but that of a committee appointed by the Cabinet. Moreover, tenders were invited; it was all transparent.

Yet, Vala is unwilling to quote the prices offered by those who had put in the tenders. Ask him how many tenders the department received, and what the offer price was, and his reply is, "I won't tell you. I will tell it only to the public accounts committee of the state Assembly."

He is aware of the fact that the PAC probably cannot take up the matter for eight more years. Currently, it is only discussing the 1993-94 CAG report!

Advani's absence
All top guns in the ruling BJP are puzzled. Why is Union home minister LK Advani not coming here for campaigning for the Sabarmati and the Sabarkantha elections? After all, the government has announced a rehabilitation package for the Madhavpura bank.

Actually Advani, who represents Gandhinagar in the Lok Sabha, has not been coming to the state, to which he was a frequent visitor earlier. The grapevine suggests that may have been because of the non-finalisation of the Madhavpura package.

And even as the BJP candidate from Sabarmati, Babubhai Patel, has told his senior colleagues to do "something" to ensure that Advani addresses several public rallies during the by-poll, it seems Madhavpura still has something to do with the home minister's absence.

Patel feels Advani's presence would make a lot of difference to his campaign, but the home minister is adamant. Incidentally, Sabarmati falls under Advani's constituency.

The earliest date he is said to have mentioned for a visit to Gujarat is September 25, which is after the polls. A firm believer in Gita and Upanishads, he has taken the oath not to come to the state till Madhavpura revival scheme starts rolling. That would be on September 25, the process having now stalled because of the by-polls. On that day, Advani is suppose to preside over a cheque-presentation function.

Anandiben's scientific temper
Union human resources minister Murli Manohar Joshi and his firm supporter state BJP leader Ashok Bhatt may campaign for the inclusion of astrology in higher education syllabus. But not state education minister Anandiben Patel. A firm believer in science and scientific thinking, she informally told those who had gone to see her last week, astrology was not a science. It was just superstition. Ironically, a well-known hard-liner, the only pity is the higher education department is not under her. She is in charge of school education. On an earlier occasion, Anandiben opposed a decision to close down schools on a solar eclipse day. But none listened to her. "Children must be told about the scientific phenomenon. They wouldn't get another chance," she had insisted.


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AMC staff seek police cover for risky jobs Tuesday, September 11, 2001

SOURCE : THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE
AHMEDABAD: More than 200 employees posted at the north zone office of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) stormed into the civic body's headquarters at Astodia on Monday.

Complete with drums and slogans delivered in singsong tones, the employees led by the Ahmedabad Municipal Servants' Association (AMSA) demanded that they be provided police protection when going on "risky" assignments like disconnecting illegal water lines, especially in eastern parts of the city.

Monday's event was expected as agitated employees had held the north zonal office of the AMC at ransom for about five days.

And with reason enough as the civic body on its part has intensified a drive to disconnect illegal water lines in eastern areas of the city like Kubernagar. During the last one month, the corporation has cut off over 400 illegal tappers in Kubernagar itself. With an estimated 25 per cent leakages (a major chunk of which is dominated by illegal water tappers) plaguing the municipal water supply, the problem is indeed worth the concern.

Gulam Ahmed Malek and Hirabhai Jashabhai Chawda, working as fitters in AMC's engineering department, were beaten up by local residents. This had prompted them to stop work at corporation's north zonal office in protest against non-provision of police protection to AMC employees.

"This is a sensitive task and yet the employees are unnecessarily being targeted. We have submitted a memorandum to the municipal commissioner to give us security if they want employees to continue performing their duties", said Dinkar Bhatt, the general secretary of AMSA.

In their memorandum, the association has cited two instances. One that occurred on September 4 was when AMC employees were busy digging to uncover an illegal connection that supplied water to Madhuwan Park Society in Kubernagar. Localites protested the move and even beat up the employees before throwing them out of the housing complex. A police case naming five accused too has been filed in this regard.

The second altercation, also in Kubernagar, occurred much along the same lines but with a difference. Here, the victim-fitter, Chawda, alleges that among those protesting the move (complete with abuses and threats) was a local corporator, Suryaben Patel, and her husband.

Municipal commissioner K Kailashnathan said, "While senior officials of the engineering department have contacted the local police station for providing security, I have written to the police commissioner on the same context. We cannot have repetitions of such instances where AMC employees are out to perform their duty."

Kailashnathan added that, "Due to numerous complaints of water contamination from eastern parts, we had to take this drive. Rampant illegal connections, which may have cropped up due to lapses on part of some department officers, have led to polluted water seeping into the main water pipelines of AMC. After investigations, we found Kubernagar to have most number of illegal connections."
SOURCE : THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE


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