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September 4, 2001 - September 4, 2001

PALANPUR :: Fewer pilgrims at Ambaji fair Tuesday, September 4, 2001

PALANPUR: The week-long Bhadarvi Poonam mela at Ambaji ended with religious fervour and gaiety on Sunday. The temple town witnessed a flow of over eight lakh pilgrims during the week, which according to an estimate was 25 per cent less compared to last year's ten lakhs.

Barring some minor road mishaps in which four people died, the greatest congregation of North Gujarat ended peacefully. This was a reflection of the adequate arrangement made by the administration.

An unending line of Sanghas (pedestrian bands) of men, women and the aged from all over the state arrived at the temple town. Some had reached the shrine after setting out on pilgrimage months ago.

After three consecutive droughts the lush green landscape all around the snake shaped roads presented an inexplicable joy and gaiety. The multitude enjoyed walk amid light showers. Chants of Bol Mari Ambe Jai Jai Ambe filled the air. Pilgrims went their way dancing and singing all through the hilly path among the lofty cliff of Arawali ranges.

Though the turnout was only half of the expected 15 lakhs, there were the regulars. Like Lalzandawaala from Raipur Ahmedabad, the oldest to visit the shrine for 167th time. A band from Gozaria village in Gandhinagar district, said they planted their banner for the 110th time. The other bands came from Dwarka, Somnath, Porbandar, Bharuch, Surat. About 200 bands were from Mehsana district alone.

Several devotees from Rajasthan accompanied by their companions exhibited arduous exercises. Girish Navnitlal, a constable from Haryana had undertaken an arduous exercise not for his self but the nation. He said it was a prayer to seek freedom from natural disasters that frequented Gujart too often. Moreover, he pledged his act for everlasting friendship between Pakistan and India.

Mangilal Darzi was remarkable example. He lay in the posture of Sastang Pranam at every step. Maa Amba fulfilled his desire of a son after 20 years of marriage, said his companions.

The administration had beefed up the security and made elaborate arrangements, like separate queues for men and women, strict vigil at entrance and exit points.

Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) had put up over 600 mela specials buses to meet the rush. Bus arrangements on the back journey, however, broke down. The policemen were taking care of their own wards while thousands had to wait in queue, complained a group of college girls who had to wait for hours in queue as only those who were close to officials on duty were allowed to board, they added.

People expressed their anguish over the return journey. Roof top travel was common in almost every bus.

Besides 55 officers, many police constables and home guards were deployed. DSP R B Brahmbhat was on the guard to ensure smooth conduct of religious fair. The district health department set up 16 health centres at spots like Ambaghata, Jalotra, Chandisar, Navawas, Moomanwas and Danta Guest House. Five ambulances were pressed into service.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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Ankleswar/Bharuch :: Fake ONGC recruitment racket detected in S Gujarat Tuesday, September 4, 2001

VADODARA: The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation has come across a fake recruitment racket where the corporation's name was being used to dupe unemployed youth in Ankleshwar and Bharuch region.

Official sources at ONGC, Vadodara, said that some miscreants had circulated a hand-out of an advertisement that carried ONGC logo and invited applications for class IV jobs in the corporation. However, no such advertisement had been brought out by the ONGC. The fake advertisement, sources said, was intended to capitalise on the wide spread unemployment in the region.

"They bring out such bogus ads to dupe unemployed youth. The fake ad is in the form of hand-out which carries ONGC logo and office addresses and gives criteria of recruitment. Job seekers, mostly from lower and lower middle class, cannot make out that the ad is fake and end up paying commission to dubious agents," said an ONGC official here.

He said that the racket was brought to the notice of ONGC on Monday. "We got hold of one such hand-out. It was made in a manner that no one would be able to make out that it's not the original ONGC that has asked for job applications but a fake and non-existent entity. In this particular ad, the miscreants, thinking that ONGC still has the old acronym, have used Commission instead of Corporation while coining the full form of ONGC," the official said.

The fake ad also mentions some mandatory points like guarantee/security bonds and payscales. Officials said that earlier in 1998 similar fake handouts were circulated.

"This is the second or third time we have come across such a racket. We have drawn the attention of police and asked them to take legal action against whosoever is involved in this fraud," the official said. ONGC has lodged a police complaint at Ankleshwar.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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Trekkers everywhere ... all the way to Ambaji Tuesday, September 4, 2001

MEHSANA: If you happen to drive on any highway or any interior part of North Gujarat this time around you will be required to invoke your reserved driving skills to meander through the slogan shouting crowds of thousands of devotees on their way to Ambaji.

Be it Ahmedabad- Mehsana-Visnagar-Kheralu route or Palanpur-Danta Road or Vijapur-Himmatnagar-Khedbrahma state highway. All of them lead to Ambaji in the laps of the Arravali ranges. Every year 12 to 15 lakh people gather there on Bhadarvi poonam which fell on Sunday this year.

Religious fervour is at its peak for the past ten days as padyatris began to foot it out. Some carry colourful buntings and banners, some push along a model of the shrine fixed on a wheel barrow which they call rath with loudspeaker blaring bhajans. Some devotees forming a mandal could be seen dancing on the road to the rhythm of manjira (cymbals) and dhols while others trudge along shouting Jai Ambe or Ambaji door hai/per jana jaroor hai often expecting others on the road or in vehicles to respond.

People of the roadside villages, societies off the highway have raised temporary speed breakers in front of the stalls and camps they have pitched for the relief of the pilgrims. Most of these stalls fitted with loudspeakers play cassettes of bhajans from early morning to late night.

Relief is provided at these camps round the clock on all the routes. At some visamas (shelters) the pilgrims are offered steaming cup of tea, others provide packets of refreshment whereas at some camps the pilgrims could have meals. All sorts of relief are free.

On his way to Kheralu this reporter came across a vehicle with cans of fresh buttermilk being distributed by some youngsters. When spoken to Bharat Jam one of the crew said he and his friend do something or the other for the Ambaji pilgrims every year. This time they were supplying buttermilk to renew the pilgrims' strength and stamina.

Near Kheralu a good medical camp has been set up by the people of Kathlal near Ahmedabad where some volunteers could be seen rubbing and pressing the feet of the pilgrims and others were applying balm besides giving medicines. The pilgrims who included old women and men were also provided cots with mattresses at a visama called Rain Basera. Many private medical vans could be seen on the route besides a few government ones.

The reporter also noticed the van of the mobile library of university granth nirman board on the PWD (stores) grounds at Kheralu cross roads and found that it was a part of the Lok Jagruti Pradarshan arranged there by the information department of Mehsana and Kheralu college.

Cutting across castes, communities, social status pilgrims from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan visit the temple of Ambaji which is known as aadya shakti peeth on Bhadarvi Poonam. Often women outnumber men in their zeal and a large number of children also join the yatra. The practice of paying their obeisance to the goddess on this day is only a few decades old. But the increasing faith of the people in the spiritual powers of the goddess has turned the Bhadarvi Poonam a day of fulfilment for thousands of pilgrims who complete their badha (vow) once their wishes wee fulfilled. There is an interesting variety of vows. Some take a vow to crawl to the temple on the fulfilment of their wish. Every year one or two pilgrims could be seen crawling or rolling on the roads on their way to what they described as the holy place of fulfilment. Thousands could be seen barefooted. Many would refuse to eat anything until they offer their prayers to the goddess.

Does the ever increasing number of pilgrims reflect their increasing faith or their religiousness? R B Patel, a local journalist, observes that the number of visitors from backward and poor classes is on the rise every year. The reason, Patel guessed was perhaps that for them this was an occasion for a free junket and merry making. Vikas Desai who has covered the event for ten years feels that for most the occasion is a diversion from the stress and strain of their routine life. However, he agreed that some people of the deprived sections have made if a routine to enjoy free and have fun.

But an officer in the revenue department who did not want to be named called it madness for it involved huge waste of time, money and energy. He complained that all offices, schools, colleges, banks remain deserted during these padyatras of Ambaji, Dakore, Ramapeer and others.

Another citizen said that one could see people indulging in drinking, gambling and even whoring during these padyatras. He observed that the holy town of Ambaji is the den of all sorts of anti-socials indulging in all the evils. People thrive on these evils, he said.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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Eklavya awards announced Tuesday, September 4, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Eklavya Education Foundation has announced the names of the four winners of the Eklavya Excellent Educator Awards 2001.

Among them Ankur School founder Freny Desai has received the Lifetime Achievement Award while Higher Secondary School for the Blind principal Jasubhai Kavi received Eklavya Excellent Institution Builder Award. Science and Maths teacher at F D High School for boys Mohammed Ibrahim Shaikh and Narendra Pandya received the Young Educator Award and Excellent Educator Award respectively.

The winners will get a cash prize, a trophy and a citation on September 5 _ Teacher's Day. Chinmaya Vision director Swamini Vimalananda will be the chief guest at the function.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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GSDMA signs MoU on disaster management Tuesday, September 4, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat State Disaster Management Agency (GSDMA) on Monday inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Academy of Traumatology of India (ATI), and Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science to develop a programme in the area of disaster management and training.

The GSDMA chief executive officer (CEO), Dr P K Misra, said the first step in the implementation of the programme would be to organise a workshop in November, where experts from the US and India would meet and look into the real needs of India.

"We would focus mainly on strengthening our search and rescue team along with medical emergency services team," Misra said.

The programme is expected to be implemented in three phases. The first phase would involve a study of the existing disaster management plan and the response mechanism in Gujarat. Based on the state's strength and weaknesses in these areas, DREW would draw the master disaster management plan for Gujarat.

Dr S Balasubramaniam, who is chairing the disaster committee at Drew Medical Center at LA, says that such a preparedness programme would consider three aspects: Incident Command System (ICS) involving personnel from fire, law enforcement, public works and communication department.

"The other aspect of the programme would be the Urban Search & Rescue programme (US&R), which involves life-detecting system likes dogs and scopes and extracting equipment like heavy cutter and field resuscitating. The Disaster Medical Action Team (DMAT), which is the third aspect, would involve physicians, medical and paramedical and administrative staff, who would take care of the operation room, ensure the supply power, water, satellite phones and such emergency equipments during the disaster," says Balasubramanian.

In LA, the DREW staff pretends to live through a disaster for two days in a month to prepare the staff for the disaster. "With such regular trainings, the disaster management team works on spinal cord reflexes and that is how six people are able to set up a field hospital in five minutes during any calamity," says Balasubramaniam.

Balasubramaniam has already prepared a proposal for disaster management master plan, which has been submitted to the government. This proposal enlists the goals of the disaster management in the state, which includes reducing in mortality and morbidity after the disaster, and developing a model for disaster preparedness which could be adopted by other states in the country.

He has already roped around 10 experts, who were interested in coming down to India to prepare report on the disaster management. Once the team submits the report, an Indian team of disaster management would be trained in the US, who in turn would set up a disaster management institute in Gujarat for training.

Balasubramaniam says that funding would not be a major issue since the US Congress has approved around $ 10 million for Southeast Asia aid and some of this fund could be tapped by the university to be routed to the Gujarat's disaster management programme.

"But we would be able to get this fund only after the first phase of the programme is completed. After this, we will have a fair idea as to how much was needed and the MoU would give an indication of the intention of the state in putting in place a disaster management team," says Balasubramaniam.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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