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September 3, 2001 - September 3, 2001

Zoos relocate, grow in Gujarat Monday, September 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A nature park, a zoological park with separate eco-zones for animals and a model menagerie - all in three premier cities of Gujarat. Surprised?

Don't be. With the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) closing down 64 zoos and deer parks across the country and asking five to relocate to more natural locales (that includes zoos in Surat and Vadodara) the moves are on expected lines.

And, more than just complying with CZA norms and trying to remain in its good books, zoo authorities of Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara seem to be playing a game of one-upmanship.

While Ahmedabad lays out a renovation and expansion plan worth Rs 1 crore, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has an ambitious plan to set up a zoological park at Ajwa on a plot of around 100 acres at a cost of Rs 3 crore. Not to be left behind, Surat Municipal Corporation talks about a nature park-cum-zoo spread over 81 acres near Sarthana village on the banks of river Tapi.

Aided by a 100 per cent grant from the Centre, the Kamla Nehru Zoological Garden at Kankaria in Ahmedabad is looking towards a much larger area and a complete new look by the end of this year. Superintendent of the zoological garden R K Sahu says, "A sum of Rs 50 lakh has already been sanctioned, while the rest is in pipeline. In the first phase we have completed renovation of lion and tiger enclosures complete with moats and a natural air-cooling system (that is being adopted by other zoos in the state).

The Ahmedabad zoo at Kankaria will have three bear enclosures, three large natural enclosures for monkeys (of which one is ready) and an ultra-modern hospital for furry inmates of the garden. Better enclosures for small jungle cats are also envisaged.

"We plan to develop this into a model zoo, good enough for the rest to take a cue from. From our existing 31 acres, the garden will grow to 38 acres with inclusion of Dedki garden and adjoining areas. Most of our projects have already been approved by the CZA and we hope to give the zoo a new look by the end of this year," said the deputy municipal commissioner in-charge of central zone, D B Makwana.

However, for Vadodara it is more of a relocation and rebuilding the existing zoo in accordance with the CZA directives. Former deputy municipal commissioner H S Patel said, "We had no option, but to shift the zoo to a bigger place. Either we did that in accordance with CZA norms or close it. Besides the norms, there was the problem of frequent flooding of the present zoo due to the Vishwamitri river."

But, the new zoological park of Vadodara will be unequalled with its separate zones for different species of animals. The enclosures will resemble the ecosystem of the natural habitats of the animals. For instance, the Asiatic lion enclosure will resemble the Gir forest ecosystem and that for tiger will resemble the Sundarbans.

Patel informed that it was also planned to have more species from other zoos in the
country like rhino, Indian smooth otter and wild ass. A separate enclosure has been kept for exotic animals like giraffes, zebras, elands, ostriches and chimpanzees.

A similar kind of prodding from CZA has seen the Surat Municipal Corporation launch on the first phase its nature park-cum-zoo. Around 20 species of wild animals including lions, tigers, deer would be procured by the year end from various zoos across the country. For this, grant of permission from the Central Zoo authority (CZA), Delhi is under consideration.

According to J K Shah, the in-charge of the nature park, "Fourteen moats have already been developed and another 37 are to be constructed under the second phase of development. The park will be open to public after completion of the first phase by December."

Cost of capturing wildlife in its natural surroundings could touch the Rs 7 crore mark, officials said. Nearly 35,000 saplings that were planted a few years ago have already transformed the site into an afforested habitat, serene and calm, being away from the city's pollution and population.

According to SMC officials, the park will have a veterinary hospital and a research centre with an audio-visual library for study of wild animals. Each enclosure in the park will be fitted with an audio-system where a visitor can plug in to have a detailed commentary on the animal.
(With inputs from our Surat and Vadodara bureaux)

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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HC notice on sale of zoo animals Monday, September 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The High Court has issued notices to the authorities in connection with the sale of zoo animals by Kankaria Zoo. This follows a petition by Ahimsa Maha Sangha.

A full-bench comprising Chief Justice DM Dharmadhikari, Justice RK Abhichandani and Justice KR Vyas issued notices to the commissioner of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Superintendent of Kamla Nehru Zoo complex and the member secretary of Central Zoo Authority on Friday. The notices have been made returnable on September 7.

The petitioner organisation has asked the HC to restrain the zoo authorities from selling, transferring or parting with the custody of animals or birds from Kankaria Zoo. In addition, it has requested the Court to direct the authorities to recover birds and animals that have been sold and to repay the amount collected thereby. A stay against sale of animals has also been sought.

The petitioner trust, which is involved in protection of wild-life and has maintaining environmental symbiotic equilibrium as one of its major objectives, filed the public interest litigation following reports about sale of about 16 species of animals and birds by Kankaria Zoo.

It was submitted that the animals and birds were transported to another environment in the custody of a private individual.

Giving example of how four 'Tibetan goats' were huddled in a small autorickshaw and transported, the petitioner alleged that the zoo authorities and others have contributed to the cruelty to the animals.

Important amongst the contentions was that if there was a multiplicity of animals and birds they could have been shifted to Indroda Park at Gandhinagar or at Sundervan, but there was no justification in selling them to private individuals without ascertaining the environment in which they were sent or otherwise.

The authorities could have bartered the animals with other zoos or measures could have been taken to control reproduction of such animals.

The animal rights organisation then contended the above decisions of the zoo authorities were contrary to the national policy and provisions which were specifically restricting such sale or transfer.

It is in the interest of animals, species concerned that the necessary habitat -- including the type of food, shelter, atmosphere and temperature, water resources as well as the environment for protection, growth and reproduction of such specific species of birds and or animals -- is provided in the place or area where this specific bird or animal is kept.

The petitioner then stated that some of these birds and animals require special care and attention. It is often found that private owners fail to take due care.

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Sales tax rates revised Monday, September 3, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The state sales tax commissioner in a statement has said that the cement produced by mini-cement plants would invite an 8 per cent sales tax instead of the present six.

Insecticides would invite 4 per cent sales tax instead of two, stone wares would invite 8 per cent sales tax instead of four. The sales tax exemption on jam, pulp, jelly, ketchup, sauce has been cancelled, and they would now be inviting an sales tax of 12 per cent.

This apart, cotton hose pipes would invite a sales tax of 8 per cent instead of none at present. Molasses uses for cattle feed would invite sales tax of 4 per cent. And 20 kg of tea in packs would invite sales tax of 8 per cent instead of four. The statement said under the new rules the registered traders would have to obtain new numbers by November 11 this year, application forms for which are already available.

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Back-breaking exercise in Saurashtra Monday, September 3, 2001

RAJKOT: Planning to visit a pilgrim centre? Or have a look at the King of the Jungle? Or the beautiful beaches of Saurashtra? Making your own calculations of journey time? Hoping to reach your destination on schedule? Impossible. Forget it. At least, for now.

Saurashtra is traditionally considered a tourist's delight. And, rightfully so.

With myriad attractions like Dwarka, Palitana, Gir forest, Porbandar and what not. These spots do beckon you, no doubt. But all the meticulous planning goes awry with the road network in a shambles, thanks to the multi-lateral agencies manning them, maybe local roads, mofussil roads, state highways or national highways. The roads are nobody's baby.

Saurashtra once had the best roads in the country, thanks to the foresight of the erstwhile rulers. Anyone could drive from Rajkot to Ahmedabad or Rajkot to Veraval in just three hours. But, not now.

Road journey, not only on the highways, but even in the interior parts has become hazardous, due to neglect on the maintenance front. Reason: Multitude of agencies like corporation, nagarpalika, panchayat, state roads and buildings department, national highway division and what not!

Th 65-km trip from Rajkot to Morvi, which used to take a little less than an hour, now takes exactly double the time; 90-km journey from Rajkot to Jamnagar, once a 90-minute journey, now takes two-and-half hours, to say the least. And, 130-km trip from Porbandar to Jamnagar, which normally was covered in just two hours, now takes double the time and 240-km trip from Rajkot to Dwarka used to take a little over four hours .... but, no more so. It is not less than six hours now.

The 10-km road from Rajkot to Ishweria mahadev temple, is in terrible shape and takes 30 minutes with back-breaking exercise, causing traffic jams and break-down, too. (So is the road to Ram Charit Manas Mandir at Ratanpar.) The road is maintained partly by the Rajkot Municipal Corporation, partly by the roads and buildings department, partly by the panchayat .. and all the three invite curse from people.

The condition of roads in Rajkot is worse. Coupled with bumpy roads, the stray
cattle factor aggravates the problem. Roads are in bad shape and affect the vehicle-drivers and the pedestrians alike. The Rajkot muncipal corporation is trying to tackle the cattle menace. Mayor Ashok Dangar has claimed the civic body would solve the 'cattle menace' in a week. According to an estimate, the number of stray cattle roaming on Rajkot roads, without any let or hindrance, is 10,000. But,in the past six weeks, hardly 10 to 15 per cent of them were removed.

Talking of cattle menace and the road mishaps, it would seem the road construction has been sub-standard and the maintenance nil. On top of that, agencies like telephones depatment, Gujarat Electricity Board, water works department do their bit to damage the roads. After the roads are dug and laying cables of pipeline is over, the roads are left uncared for --- without any surfacing.

Perhaps, such negligence has more to do with the battered roads, rather than rains.

Surprisingly, the people in Saurashtra are having such hazardous experience in the face of the four-lane culture. Rajkot-Ahmedabad road is being converted into a four-lane road and that is a great boon, indeed, but there are pangs of the transitional period. Similarly, the Samakhiyali-Kandla highway is also being converted into a four-lane road.But, there too, problems of transition do recur.

Equally surprising is the resilence of the people of Saurashtra as one hardly sees any kind of protest, save the occasional murmur!
Political leaders and parties are too busy to think of such 'trivial things'. We have to think of big issues, said a leader.

The local bodies do occasionally make a feeble attempt to repair the damaged roads, but the patch-worl doesn't work much.

The average man waits for yet another election --- maybe national, state or local --- when his or her woes may be redressed.

Over to New Delhi and Gandhinagar.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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Students stay home as teachers' strike continues Monday, September 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Deadlock between striking teachers and the state government continued even as the state-wide strike of secondary and higher secondary school employees entered its fourth day on Saturday.

Here, even as the teachers are adamant that they will call off the strike only when all of their six demands are met by the government, the prospect of indefinite closure of schools have left the parents fuming with anger.

"First, there were these three months of forced vacation after the earthquake and now the indefinite closure of schools. Do the teachers have any moral responsibility towards the students or all they are concerned about is their vehicle allowance", says a mother of a class IX student studying in Mt Carmel High School.

Parents feel that the students have already missed much of the academic year because of the marathon post-quake vacation. And now, instead of ensuring that the students do not lag behind, the teachers are busy shouting on the streets, pursuing their personal agenda. "The days when teachers were considered next to God are gone. Today, teachers are more concerned about their allowances and pay hikes than grooming young minds to mould the nation. It is a shame", says a father of a class X student studying in AG Teacher's High School.

Unfazed by the rising criticism amongst the parents and academic circles, the teachers have decided not to relent the pressure and consider calling off the strike. "The question of our calling off strike at this stage does not arise. The state government has fulfilled our one demand of 100 per cent recruitment and we will continue with our fight until we get complete justice", says samiti spokesman Ashok Shah.

The teachers, principals and other administrative employees of the schools staged a dharna outside the district education office on Saturday and submitted a memorandum to the governor.

The samiti on Sunday has plans to organise a 'Satyanarayan Katha' outside the BJP office.

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