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September 10, 2001 - September 10, 2001

Teachers' strike continues unabated Monday, September 10, 2001

AHMEDABAD/VADODARA: The state-wide teachers' agitation, which has brought school education throughout the state to a standstill, completed 13 days on Sunday.

Outside residences of Assembly members elected from the city, members of the striking Gujarat Rajya Shikshanik Sangha Sankalan Samiti organised a programme of 'Ramdhoon' on Sunday. They asked them to pressure the government into meeting their demands.

The residences outside which the protests were organised included those of higher education minister Bharat Barot, information technology and transportation minister Bimal Shah, Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation chairman Kamlesh Patel, home minister Haren Pandya and Assembly member Amit Shah.

The Samiti president Keshubhai Patel blamed his namesake, Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, and education minister Anandi Patel for the imbroglio. He said the announcement to invoke Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) showed that the government did not care for the students.

Meanwhile, on Sunday afternoon, a large meeting of teachers, representatives of school management, employees was convened to discuss the problems. The attendees pledged that they will make a bonfire of the notices and ESMA in public, and will fight till the problems were resolved.

The Samiti spokesperson Ashok Shah said they will gherao the offices of the district education officer to get their salaries of 28 days.

Shah also claimed that 13 different employees' organisations -- covering various colleges and universities in the state -- have extended support. These include organisations of teaching and non-teaching staff, principals and management.

Gujarat Federation of Trade Unions, which held its meeting on Sunday, extended support to the striking teachers. It strongly criticised the government's move to bring the strike under ESMA. Its general secretary NN Patel said if the government used ESMA on the teachers, his Federation would support the teachers.

Jan Sangharsha Mancha has described the government's move as un-constitutional, and declared that it will stage dharna near Town Hall on Tuesday.

National Students' Union of India secretary Hemendra Bagadi alleged that the state government and the Bharatiya Janata Party were using anti-social elements to curb the peaceful agitation.

However, Vidyarthi Hit Rakshak Samiti has appealed to the teachers to start working in the interst of the 25 lakh students. This organisation of parents warned that if the teachers did not resume teaching immediately, they would launch a more powerful agitation against them.

Meanwhile in Vadodara, striking teachers were warned of stern action if schools did not reopen on Monday. Despite being Sunday, several high-level officials of the nine district education offices, including the Resident District Collector and the District Collector, met the state deputy commissioner (mid-day meals) Ashwin Shikalikar here and drew up a 14-point plan.

The agenda chalked out by the officials includes sending notices sent to 32 minority schools, warning them of cancellation of certification if schools did not reopen on Monday.

A variety of notices warning of 25 per cent cut in education grants, building grants and curtailing of salary checks have been sent out to over 322 schools across the city and district.

More than 322 schools have been warned that a 25 per cent cut in grants would be effected if schools did not reopen on Monday. Similarly, 230 schools were given notice that their building grants, amounting to more than Rs 42 lakh, would be cancelled. In more than 129 schools, salary checks have been curtailed and in 272 schools warnings have been given out that teaching assistants would be sacked if they are not present on Monday.

Shikalikar has also instructed DEOs to contact the employment exchanges in the state to ensure that a list of all eligible unemployed, who can be recruited as teachers be prepared.

In case teachers do not report to duty on Monday, the unemployed who are listed as eligible for the post of teachers at the secondary section in employment exchanges would be employed in schools.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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BJP cashing in on Lagaan, Gadar tunes Monday, September 10, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Congress and BJP candidates for Sabarkantha parliamentary constituency and the Sabarmati seat are biting their nails in anticipation. All know the trends more or less, yet there is suspense in the air.

While campaigns are hotting up, the BJP has picked up suitable tunes from latest hits Lagaan and Gadar to add pep to drab electioneering. In a press release on Sunday, the BJP media cell said 200 Congress workers had joined the BJP from Modasa taluka panchayat in Sabarkantha and extended support to their candidate Upendra Trivedi.

The BJP is relying on the popularity of this silver screen idol who won from the Bhiloda Assembly constituency as an Independent in the previous elections, and is now pitted against Madhusudan Mistry from the Congress.

But it is Sabarmati which is giving the BJP the shivers, despite the fact that the Congress candidate, Narhari Amin, has lost twice from here. In the last elections in 1998, the BJP had won by a narrow margin, securing only 56 per cent of the votes. And with Union home minister L K Advani not giving any signs of showing up in his constituency in the near future, the BJP is surely in a dilemma. Pepping up the campaigns here are former Union minister Harin Pathak and former health minister Ashok Bhatt.

Word is doing the rounds that the Madhavpura mess will prove a major setback for the BJP at Sabarmati which is dominated by the middle and upper classes of voters.

Congress, meanwhile, is persuading its workers to be prepared for what they allege is "misuse of official machinery to gain political advantage" by the BJP.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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Nine graves and 18,000 claimants Monday, September 10, 2001

CHANASMA, Patan: Right outside the locality inhabited by the Patels, the area around a shrine is humming with activity. Tractors roar across flattening the soft garden soil around the plinth as hordes of people queue up to pay obeisance to 'Naugaza Pir'. Nearby, in a tent pitched outside, are a couple of policemen.

This is where legend says that a fakir revered by both Hindus and Muslims was laid to rest with his seven sisters and a brother. The seven graves, an unusual 10-foot-odd long are covered with white sheets as coconuts and diyas strew the saffron-coloured shrine marking Naugaza Pir's place of burial. His brother Bhola Pir is buried some 20 feet away.

Today, the patronage of this shrine involving almost 200 bighas of land is the bone of contention between the Hindus and the Muslims of Chanasma. "For years we ignored the place and when the Muslims took over, the battle went to court", says a senior leader of the Rabari community here, pleading anonymity.

But might ruled, and now the Patels comprising 80 per cent of the 18,000 strong Chanasma taluka have begun "developmental work" here.

Seated outside the shrine, secretary of Chanasma Seva Sahakari Mandal Naranbhai Patel says, "The baba was brought here by our forefathers when Chanasma was founded. Claiming to be the 18th generation of Lalji Laxmandas Patel and his brothers, Naranbhai and the other Patels recount word-of-mouth tales about one Mir Khan taking care of the 'samadhis' years ago. "These tractors belong to Narmada and were lying idle so they said why not use it here!", he points to the three tractors blaring a cacophonic country number.

"No, you cannot take pictures", one of the Patels tells the lensman. A garden and a playground for children is planned at this place. The name of the fakir, they explain, is derived from 'Nau-gaz' indicating the measure of the graves. And the 'Pir' according to Naranbhai, is an improvisation over the years, of "Vir" meaning hero which the baba was called some 200 years back.

Thursdays are 'holy days' when the whole of Chanasma pays obeisance to the baba, they say. People also say that for four years, no 'Urs' was held here and the minorities have almost stopped coming. "Some 10 days back when the majority group felt that the case was turning against them, the wall surrounding the shrine was pulled down and repainted", alleges this Rabari leader.

Residents recount how diyas flickered instead of agarbattis and how green gave way to red.

Apparently, the police were stationed at Naugaza Pir earlier this week, after the "desecration" threatened to blow out of proportion and spill over into a communal riot.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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PATAN :: Abandoned lanes in Chanasma speak of reign of terror Monday, September 10, 2001

CHANASMA, Patan: "They come at around midnight and tell us 'Go away, or will hack you to death'. It's been going on for a month!" That's Khatijabibi of Chanasma, one of few Muslims who dared to stay back.

At least 40 families have evacuated this place _ some 100 km from Ahmedabad and famous for its iron safes _ fearing fundamentalist forces which have let loose a reign of terror.

The latest provocation being a 'yatra' carrying a picture of Hanuman, conducted in the nearby Vadavali village of Chanasma taluka on August 17, which culminated in a communal clash - an incident which stayed off the limelight for some reason.

"It was a Friday, and they insisted on taking it out during our 'namaaz' time right outside the mosque, to which we objected," says Ismail of the village which consists of Thakore, Rabari, Patel and Muslim localities.

A scuffle followed and the leader of the yatra lodged a complaint at the Chanasma police station alleging that miscreants had defiled the picture of Lord Hanuman. Ten persons were arrested.

Patan's superintendent of police P B Upadhyay reached the spot and sorted out the matter, but it has refused to die down. Residents say Vadavali faced its worst communal riot in 1998 when curfew was imposed for three days. When contacted, Upadhyay said, "We have brought the Hindus and Muslims together." Admitting that some Muslims had "run away" out of fear, he adds that they were returning. But the locked doors in the 'mohallas' of Indiranagar and Kalal Chaali in Chanasma tell a different tale. "Since the BJP has a hold, the Muslims are terrified," says a Congress worker pleading for anonymity.

According to Khatijabibi, only three families now remain in Chanasma after the threats. "Earlier, in the riots they only came and threw our vessels on the floor and left. Now they say 'we don't want you here'", she says.

The Patels are very categorical that they don't want any "outsiders". "Those who have been staying here are welcome, but we don't want any outsiders who will spoil the peace of this place," says Chanasma Seva Sahakari Mandal secretary Naranbhai Patel.

Trouble broke out at Vadavali, and minorities from Chanasma _ 12 km away _ scooted from their homes. Some came to Vadavali, and the rest left for Mehsana, Nandasan or Patan. The threat to minorities here is not just 20 days old, it dates back to four years when the two communities fought over patronage of a disputed site named after Naugaza Pir who is learnt to have been buried here.

"It is our 'dargah' and they have covered it with a white 'chaddar'", says Khatijabibi. Tension still prevails in Vadavali and Chanasma, and everyone feigns ignorance about the turn of events. Ask the Rabaris and they murmur: "Nothing has happened here." But the couple of cops casually reclining at a tea-stall, with their batons parked nearby and dressed in khaki pants for identification, signs that peace is still a far cry.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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Gujarat teachers' strike continues Monday, September 10, 2001

( PTI )
AHMEDABAD: Agitation by over 50,000 secondary and higher secondary school teachers in Gujarat entered 13th day on Sunday, even as state government officials claimed that about 2,000 schools have reopened and more were expected to open on Monday.
Employees, including teachers of 5,500 government-aided secondary and senior secondary schools are on strike to demand vehicle allowance from April 1998 and pay at par with central government employees among other things and have completely paralysed the education system in the state.

The government had invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on September 7 to end the strike and bring back normalcy.

Situation in Bapunagar, where about 60 teachers who were agitating were detained for violation of prohibitory orders on Saturday, is normal, the police said. Some of the teachers had received injuries in the scuffle with the police.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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