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November 27, 2001 - November 28, 2001

RMC struggles to meet water distribution costs Wednesday, November 28, 2001

RAJKOT: Distribution of that 'precious' stuff, water, to quench the thirst of parched throats in the city, has become a losing proposition for the Rajkot Municipal Corporation.

While distribution costs are mounting, the returns are negligible. If one goes by the figures dished out by the RMC, the civic body is accumulating huge losses by distributing water.

When contacted, city engineer at the RMC, Narendrasinh Vaghela, told 'The Times of India' that while the cost of bringing in water from Bhadar dam was Rs 6.50 for every 10,000 litres, it was a rupee more when the water was drawn from the Wankaner bore project.

Vaghela said the city had approximately 1,07,000 authorised tap connections and needed to be supplied 150 million gallons of water a day.

He said that the civic body spent Rs 856 per connection to distribute water while charging water tax of just Rs 240. The tax has not been increased for years, for reasons best known to the civic fathers.

The city engineer said that to supply water to the people of Rajkot, the civic body spent Rs 15 crore a year. On the other hand, many citizens did not even bother to pay the water tax in time.

Vaghela said that power bills comprised a chunk of the water distribution expenses. The civic body incurs an expense of Rs 1 crore to fetch water from Bhadar while it spends Rs 1.25 crore to draw water from the Wankaner bore project every month.
Vaghela said that going by the World Health Organisation standards, the civic body has to supply 550 litres of water to each family per day, but it was giving just half of that.
He said efforts must be made to conserve water locally so that the water table could rise which would help minimise the distribution costs.
With almost all sources of water in and around Rajkot on the verge of going dry, there would be no alternative but to bring water from the Wankaner bore or even the Mahi Pariej project, which would be even more costly, he added.

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

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IDA holds beautiful smile contest Wednesday, November 28, 2001

VADODARA: It was smiles all the way at the 'Beautiful Smile Contest' held here when the Gujarat state branch of the Indian Dental Association chose among contestants from all over the state. The programme was held under the National Oral Health Programme -- 'Smile through the millennium'.

The participants were winners of similar contests held by local branches of IDA in various cities and towns of the state. The winners from the two groups - six to 10 years and 11 to 15 years - will now fight it out with contestants from other states at the 'National Beautiful Smile Contest' on December 16 in Mangalore.

"While judging the participants, emphasis was laid on the general condition of the teeth, relation of the jaws, placement of the teeth in relation to the smile, confidence radiated through smile, general awareness about oral health and hygiene," said IDA honorary state secretary, Amish Mehta, who would also be on the panel of judges during the national contest.

The winners in the six to 10-year group include Hardik Maniar from Bhavnagar, Monika Sant from Vadodara and Jignasha Gohil from Bhavnagar. In the 11-year to 15-year group, the winners were Chandni Devani from Junagadh, Atik Fatima Mamrawala from Bhavnagar and Sargam Yagnik from Ahmedabad.

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

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Tribal girl was abducted to be to forcibly married off Wednesday, November 28, 2001

VADODARA: The girl who managed to escape from the clutches of her abductors in Lavaria village of Dahod district recently has alleged that she was "picked up by a group of people and handed over to another person who wanted to marry her and take her to Junagadh."

When TNN contacted the girl, Kokila Mansinh, who is now in the city, she said she went through a harrowing time while in captivity for over a month. Social activists working in the tribal-dominated central Gujarat region say many girls like Kokila are becoming victims of a new social trend, where girls are abducted to forcibly marry them off. "It is taking the form of a systematic racket," says Kanubhai Brahmbhatt, a Sravodaya worker.

Kokila said that she was abducted on October 24 and taken to Dangaria village. She claimed that she was then handed over to a person in Dangaria. "They were then discussing to take me to Junagadh. However, I managed to escape under the pretext of relieving myself," she said.

According to social workers working in the area, the incident was not an isolated one. "There are several persons who pick up girls forcibly. Such incidents keep happening in the area," said Pratap Raiji Baria, a local leader.

"Till now we used to believe that this was a tradition. Now, we have realised that this is a racket in which local leaders are playing a dubious role," said Brahmbhatt, who has given shelter to Kokila and her relatives in Vadodara.

Brahmbhatt said that Kokila was minor and this could be confirmed by a medical examination. "We will approach high-ranking police officials regarding this. They should take the matter seriously and initiate immediate action," he added.

Commenting on the episode, Special IG (Vadodara range) Deepak Swaroop said "there are occasional complaints of missing girls, but these are mostly cases of elopement or sometimes consent marriages," he said. Swaroop added that the problem had a larger social dimension to it.

"It is not essentially a law and order problem," he said, adding that non-government organisations working in these areas need to study this and come up with solutions instead of merely making wild allegations.

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

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Modi keeps Keshubhai at arm's length Tuesday, November 27, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The divide between Chief Minister Modi and his predecessor Narendra Modi seems to be widening.

The former chief minister's camp increasingly feeling unhappy about the way Modi is "neglecting" and "sidelining" Keshubhai. It is not known if it is Modi's revenge against Keshubhai, who had banished him from the state for four years.

Says a Modi protege, "Keshubhai, when he was CM, never consulted Modi. Modi, too, is well within his rights to do the same."

The former CM has been keeping indifferent health ever since he relinquished office. Keshubhai rarely moves out of his residence here, fumbles while speaking and doesn't tread more than a few steps.

But poor health didn't deter him from attending a wedding at agriculture secretary AWP David's residence or the state BJP's executive committee meeting in Ahmedabad. He went to Rajkot during Diwali.

Keshubhai's aides regret that Modi didn't visit their leader to wish him on Gujarati New Year day. He had called on Keshubhai when he was hospitalised, but that was the only meeting between the two since October 7, when Keshubhai relinquished office.

Points out a Keshubhai supporter, "Even his political rival Shankarsinh Vaghela pays obeisance to him, but not Modi. Shankarsinh, who quit the BJP in 1996, makes it a point to touch Keshubhai's feet, whether it be at his residence, airport, anywhere. Modi's approach seems coldly political!"

When asked, Keshubhai refuses to reveal much. He speaks mostly on his health, how much time he might take to get well, how he is dieting.

Ask him on politics and Modi and he replies, "Not now. We will talk later. I read a couple of papers, listen to those paying a courtesy call. That's about all. I really do not know what all is happening." He even refuses to reveal if Modi meets him. "We meet during public functions."

Reveals an aide, "Modi did not meet Keshubhai during the BJP executive. Nor was Keshubhai invited to two public functions in North Gujarat for commissioning water supply schemes started by him."

How Keshubhai's position has been undermined can be seen from the way officials who were close to him are being treated. A senior engineer from Jamnagar, C J Thakkar, was officer on special duty in Keshubhai's CMO. Even 45 days after being summarily pushed out of the CMO and sent back to the urban development department, he has not received a posting.

Same is the case with Mehul Dave, a deputy development officer who was a key figure in Keshubhai's CMO. Sent back to the revenue department, Dave is again left without a posting. Both Thakkar and Dave have not received their salaries.

IAS officers who were known to be close to Keshubhai remain sidelined after having been given punishment postings. One of them claimed, "Two of Modi's men, Vijay Rupani and Dilip Sanghani, met officials like RK Tripathi, PK Laheri, IP Gautam and others and conveyed to them they would be rehabilitated as the new CM now realises it was a mistake to have sidelined them. But there has been no progress."

Sanjay Gupta and Ravi Saxena had met the CM directly after being shunted out of key positions. Yet, nothing happened.

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

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Panchayat election notification issued Tuesday, November 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The model code of conduct for ministers and office-bearers of the boards and corporations has come in force with effect from Monday with the State Election Commission issuing the notification for gram panchayat elections scheduled for December 23.

Commission secretary S D Sharma said on Monday that the election code of conduct will be implemented strictly to prevent anybody influencing voters at district, taluka or village levels.

As per the code, ministers and office-bearers are not allowed to make any announcements about financial grants or any such promises, also not clear payments from their discretionary funds, not lay foundations for any projects as also not make promises for construction of roads or facilities for water.

They have been restricted from visiting villages in their official vehicles or staying where elections are to be held. There is restriction also on holding meetings with officials connected with the election process, or even taking government or panchayat employees with them.

The state government and the ruling party have also been prohibited from making announcements on government plans or projects or about policy matters, which would influence the voters. Taluka and district panchayat office-bearers have also been prohibited from using government vehicles during the period.

Following the notification, nominations will be invited from candidates wishing to contest the elections to 13,334 gram panchayats which will go to polls on December 23. The filing of nominations will end on December 3, and scrutiny will be done on December 4. Withdrawal of nominations will take place on December 5-6. Counting of ballots will be done on December 26-27. The elections will not be fought on party symbols though both the Congress and BJP are expected to form panels in each panchayat which will have the support of the party.

Nearly two crore voters spread across 25,000 polling stations are eligible to vote in these elections, considered crucial for the BJP which is trying hard to avoid as many contests as possible through the 'Samras' scheme. Under the scheme cash incentives of Rs 60,000 or Rs 1 lakh will be given to panchayats will co-opt the panch and sarpanch unanimously . Besides, priority in infrastructural works will be given to villages having Samras status.

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

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