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September 4, 2001 - September 5, 2001

Sales tax on gold, silver lowered by 0.5% Wednesday, September 5, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The sales tax on gold and silver has been slashed to half per cent from the existing rate of one per cent, with immediate effect.

The state government issued a notification on Tuesday night reducing the tax rate which was in force since the last four months, in accordance with the uniform sales-tax structure introduced by the Government of India.

The decision has been taken following several representations made by the Gujarat Chokshi Mahajan and several bullion associations from all over the state pleading that the increase in sales tax had adversely affected their business totalling to Rs 400 crore in the last four months. The government has incurred a loss of around Rs 25 crore following the new uniform sales tax structure of one per cent.

The final decision on issuance of notification was taken after a joint meeting on Tuesday between the chief minister, finance minister and a delegation of Chokshi Mahajan led by their functionaries Himmatlal Chokshi and Manoj Bhimani.

Talking to the TNN, Bhimani said the decision was timely and would surely protect the business interest of gold and silver merchants in the state.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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Short-staff fire brigade may jeopardise city's DM plans Wednesday, September 5, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation may be striving to prepare a disaster mitigation plan, but it may well be a case of one step forward and two steps back with the municipal fire brigade which has to be central to any such planning.

A control room well equipped with communications gadgets at Tagore Hall with hundreds of heavy vehicles, concrete cutters and manpower at the beck of AMC has been envisaged. That and the empowerment of city fire fighters with state-of-the-art equipment and special training on rescue operations form Ahmedabad's disaster mitigation plan.

However, the Ahmedabad Fire Brigade (AFB), which is supposed to play a key role (like it did at rescue operations in a post-January 26 scenario) in Ahmedabad's disaster mitigation plan, is hit by an administrative breakdown. The reason: administrative staff have been shifted to other departments while firemen double as clerks and babus in this department of essential services already plagued by a severe staff shortage. One can only imagine what effect this administrative break-down would have on a busy day.

Shortage of staff at AFB is now reflected in a proposal awaiting the Standing Committee's nod when it meets on Thursday. The proposal (number two) says 45 vacancies at the brigade be filled with students qualified from the National Fire Academy at Vadodara.

But the problem, says AMC sources, is too deep-rooted to be solved with this recruitment.

"We now lack an office superintendent, a head clerk, an impress-cash clerk, a junior clerk and firemen. Of the nine fire stations only two have station officers. That apart, a large number of skilled firemen are forced to handle jobs like running municipal ambulance and hearse service, doing the mechanics' job at the workshop and handling the communications cell," said the source.

"On an average we have 80 personnel on casual, sick or weekly leave. That we performed exceedingly well in a post-quake scenario is reflected in the six President's awards that came AFB's way. But without replacements, our job is becoming increasingly difficult. Let alone playing an important role in disaster mitigation programme for Ahmedabad, we are poorly placed to attend to fire calls on any busy day," an AFB officer said.

Lack of administrative and clerical staff in the department on the other hand has seen bills worth Rs 20 lakh pile up with creditors daily visiting AFB officers for payments that are not forthcoming.

"For over two to three months there has been scarcely any payments in the bill-clearance front. The problem has accentuated because we do not have staff who used to handle jobs like letter-writing and bill-preparation. Staff shortage has also resulted in non-collection of money for our hearse services," a source in AMC revealed.

The acting chief fire officer, Bipin Jadeja says: "My team has done an excellent job in the relief and rescue operations just after the devastating quake despite some shortage in staff. There is scarcely any problem as we have 120 fire-tenders and enough staff at our disposal and very soon we will have more men joining our work force."

Deputy municipal commissioner, in-charge of the municipal fire brigade, A.R. Bhatt says: "Recruitment of additional firemen is under scrutiny of the Standing Committee and we hope the scenario will soon improve. We are also deliberating whether to outsource departments like the ambulance, hearse service and communications to other trained personnel of the AMC. Firemen will then be able to focus on their job of fire fighting, rather than carrying stretchers for bodies and doubling up as security guards. That Ahmedabad might become the regional headquarters for disaster mitigation in Gujarat will also bring in better equipment and more manpower at AFB."

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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Food & civil supplies clerk nabbed for accepting bribe Wednesday, September 5, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested a junior clerk at the zonal office of the foods and civil supplies in Maninagar for accepting a bribe of Rs 200.

With the help of a government-recognised kerosene vendor, Bachchulal Ramprasad Gupta, a trap was laid. A decoy was sent to the junior clerk, Sumtibhai Ramanlal Shah, at Maninagar, for obtaining allocation for the kerosene stock.

When his colleagues were around, Shah refused to accept the money, but later when the decoy put Rs 200 into his shirt pocket, Shah took it out and slipped it into his pant pockets. At that moment ACB sleuths arrested him.
Cops arrested: The Anti-Corruption Bureau caught a police sub-inspector and a head constable for taking Rs 2,000 as bribe for giving an opinion on the recovery of a seized electric motor.

Apparently, some persons had stolen the electric motor and pipes from the complainant's field in Vagad village and a complaint was registered at Ranpur rural police station in Ahmedabad district in June this year.

After some days head constable Ghanshyamsinh recovered the motor and in order to retrieve it, the complainant, Virabhai Popatbhai approached PSI Joshi to give an opinion to be presented before the court for which he demanded Rs 10,000.

The complainant paid him Rs 2,000 through Ghanshyamsinh and inquired as to where the next instalment was to be paid. As per information, a trap was laid outside Samir Hotel, where the head constable collected another Rs 2,000 from the complainant in lieu of the PSI.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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Roop on remand till September 7 Wednesday, September 5, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Roop Abhay Mehta (17) was remanded in police custody till September 7 on charges of murdering his 51-year-old aunt. He will be administered the lie-detector test.

Roop was arrested by the Ellisbridge police on Monday after he confessed to having made sexual advances towards his aunt Grishmaben Desai and then killed her when she tried resisted.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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Prepare action plan for Narmada project, says CM Tuesday, September 4, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has directed the agriculture, co-operation, Narmada and water resources departments to prepare a comprehensive action plan for the development of the command area of the Narmada project to boost agriculture production as per the requirements of the world market.

Addressing a high-level meeting of officials of different departments, Patel said the Narmada project would play a pivotal role in enabling the farmers to face the challenges posed by the world market.

Prominent among those who attended the meeting were Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) chairman Bhupendrasinh Chudasma, SSNNL vice-chairman V B Shah, additional secretary (agriculture and co-operation) A W P David, chief secretary G Subba Rao and advisor to the chief minister S K Shelat.

Explaining the importance of the implementation of the Narmada Vision, the chief minister said the traditional methods of farming would not enable farmers to face the challenges posed by WTO. He said since Narmada water would start flowing in the canal in the near future, advance planning was required for the scientific distribution of the water.

Stressing on the need for changing the crop pattern by adopting modern techniques and implementation of drip irrigation, Patel said a comprehensive action plan should be prepared by removing all impediments to boost up farm production and make it competitive in the world market. He stressed on the need for harnessing the manpower while adopting the modern techniques. He expressed confidence that the Narmada water would change the complexion of the farm sector and would usher an era of prosperity in the state.

The chief minister discussed various issues pertaining to the construction of the Narmada dam in a phased manner, irrigation bypass tunnel and distribution of water in a scientific manner and the development of the command area of the Narmada project.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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