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November 27, 2001 - November 27, 2001

"Water holds key to state's development" - Governor Tuesday, November 27, 2001

RAJKOT: Governor Bandari said on Monday that if the water problems of Gujarat were taken care of, that would open the doors of development.

Inaugurating a three-day symposium on 'Palaeodrainage and water resources in Gujarat', organised jointly by the Saraswati Shodh Sansthan and Arvindbhai Maniar Jankalyan Trust here, Bhandari said there were definite signs of large quantities of underground water, which could be of the mythological Saraswati river.

Bhandari said research in Rajasthan and Haryana on the mythological river had proved successful and if the findings were adopted by Gujarat, it would yield positive results.

Research by historians, archaeologists and geologists and data provided by satellite pictures had shown that the Saraswati flowed through many areas of the country and one of them was Gujarat.

Well-known geologist and former faculty member of the MS University, S S Mehr, who inaugurated the symposium, said it was important to conserve rain water.

He felt that papers presented at the symposium would be of great help to the state, especially the Saurashtra region, which was facing acute water shortage.

Director of the Sarasvati Nadi Shodh Sansthan, Chennai-based S Kalyanram, claimed there was definite proof of the Saraswati flowing through the Gujarat region.

He said after a tubewell project was commissioned in Jaisalmer, a large quantity of water was found. He said the Centre had also prepared a project to join the main rivers of the country.

President of the Sansthan, Baldev Sahai, said as many as 500 sites related to the Saraswati had been discovered and it was time to conduct research on the subject. He called upon all those connected with water conservation to join hands in the endeavour.

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

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AT&T World launched in Surat Tuesday, November 27, 2001

SURAT: For more value-added services on par with the global standards, the Birla AT&T Communications Limited launched the AT&T World in Surat on Monday _ the first one in Gujarat.

According to a Himanshu Kapania, chief operating officer, Gujarat Circle, the showroom will provide customers with multiple solutions like handsets, SIM cards, new tariff plans and bill inquiries among others, under a single roof. Customers can now approach the showroom for new AT&T connections _ both pre and post-paid, recharge vouchers, activating new features, changing tariffs or even for paying the monthly bills.

The company has plans for investment of Rs 200 crore in the state, out of which Rs 40 crore have been earmarked for Surat and the surrounding areas, Kapania informed. When asked, Surat with its huge economic potential was the natural choice for launching from here, he said.

Keeping in mind the large customer base that the company targets for, a new switch with a capacity of over 1,50,000 subscribers base has also been started in Surat, he informed. Altogether 25 sites have been identified in whole south Gujarat and 15 more would be added, Kapania said.

The showroom in the city has been opened in partnership with Trans Telecom. There would be several such showrooms in the city in due course, he informed.

When confronted about plans by BSNL to launch cellular services in the state in the near future, Kapania said that being the initial operators they would not have any problems. Moreover, more competition would mean better services, which could be healthy trend in this sector.

About tariffs, he said various calculations are taken into consideration to fix the slabs for the incoming and outgoing calls and the recent measures to rationalise the tariffs was an effort in this direction where subscribers on the whole should get benefited.

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

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GEB Unions threaten to stall power reforms Bill Tuesday, November 27, 2001

VADODARA: A joint action committee of six employees unions and engineers associations of the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) has decided to launch an agitation to oppose the passage of the power reforms Bill by the assembly.

Nearly 450 representatives who met here on Sunday in four unanimous resolutions opposed reforms in the power sector, based on the 'Himachal Pradesh model', where the SEB has been allowed to carry out reforms for the next five years.

The unions said it was not in the interest of consumers and the nation and would hamper developmental work related to the power sector in the rural areas.

The leaders feared that with the passing of the Bill, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) will be infructuous as MNCs need not get its clearance to set up power projects. This, they alleged, would amount to compromising on the quality and price of power supplied to consumers.

They expressed serious concern over the rising power tariff since the entry of private companies. They feared that the rural sector might be neglected. This could have serious implications for the agricultural sector which gets highly subsidised power.

In the discussions before adopting the resolutions, the leaders warned against MNCs taking over SEBs after adoption of the power reforms Bills in parliament and the assembly. This would amount to privatisation of the power sector by disintegrating state electricity boards.

The leaders sought support for a nation-wide strike announced by the national co-ordination committee of electrical engineers and employees, opposing the power reforms Bill. The committee will launch public awareness campaign to educate people on the impact of the power reforms Bill. It would also organise a rally in each district headquarters from December 10 to 25.

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

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UN's cluster development programme on at EDI Tuesday, November 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Cluster development methodology is fast becoming a popular mode of ensuring growth among small-scale enterprises (SSEs) in the country faced with common opportunities and threats. "We are over-subscribed this time and there was an intense clamour to register for the programme," says Anita Das, expert from United Nations Industrial Development Programme (UNIDO).

Das was here in connection with the training programme for cluster development agents (CDA) at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India.

She said the CDA programme was getting popular among institutions as post-programme studies after training the first batch revealed encouraging qualitative results among the clusters. This year about 35 participants are taking part in the programme, representing state governments, industrial associations and NGOs.

"The programme is designed to equip field functionaries to change the approach of a particular cluster to eliminate mistrust and negative competition inside the cluster to ensure better results," Das said.

Citing the case of a floor rug-making cluster in Tonk district of Rajasthan, she said, "The intervention of CDA changed the mind-set of the cluster, thereby increasing its productivity. The cluster was able to fetch an export order of Rs 3.5 lakh, which was not possible for any individual artisan of the same cluster."

"The concept has proved helpful in building local capabilities, competence building, public-private partnerships, skill upgradation, technological development and a host of other aspects necessary for the growth of a cluster," said Mukesh Gulati, focal point manager, UNIDO cluster programme.

The cluster development programme which started in Italy in 1970 against a large investment model was later followed by many developed nations. UNIDO replicated the cluster development programme in Latin American countries in 1993, while the concept came to India in 1996.

There are an estimated 350 modern SSEs and 2,000 rural and artisan-based clusters in India contributing up to 60 per cent of the country's manufactured exports.

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

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PG students sulk as exam branch delays reasessment Tuesday, November 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Second year PG students of Gujarat University are cursing the authorities for not completing the reassessment of April examination papers. They have been frequently visiting the University main office for the result, but only to go back empty-handed.

"I can't imagine that it takes over six months to reassess a paper," says a distressed commerce student who wanted to apply for a doctoral course in Australia. "Because they failed me in one paper, I dropped the idea of applying this year. But if they are going to take so long, I cannot apply next year, either."

Approximately 1,300 reassessment cases are pending, all of them in the PG courses. Controller of examinations Satish Bhatt, however, says that they receive 7,000 reassessment applications every year. This year, the number was 7,500. "We cleared most of them before the October exams where failed students attempt the second time," he says. "The pending applications will be cleared soon. These students need not worry as they will have to reappear only in April."

Bhatt's problems run deeper. He conducts examinations for three lakh students and the examination branch has only 37 full-time employees, three times less than the norm.

Ironically, they had 100 employees when Bhatt took charge six years back. There were only two lakh students then and they conducted only 208 examinations in a year. In comparison, today they conduct 340 examinations for three lakh students.

In the past few years, many new professional courses have been added. In the law faculty alone, 11 new subjects have been added raising the number of papers to 28.

Bhatt has been urging authorities that he be allowed to increase the staff or computerise many sections. "A huge burden would be taken off if the issue of eligibility certificates is computerised," That he adds would benefit students, too, as they could get the certificate in a day. Even the fees payment can be computerised."

Officials in the administrative wing, however, say that like all other universities, the government has allowed them to fill up 50 per cent of the vacancies. For 92 posts they have advertised, replies had come and they hope to complete the process soon.

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

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