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August 30, 2001 - August 30, 2001

Jamnadas Patel BJP candidate from Sabarmati Thursday, August 30, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The central election committee of the Bharatiya Janata Party has finalised State Dairy Development Corporation chairman Babubhai Jamnadas Patel as the party candidate for bye-election to Sabarmati assembly constituency scheduled for September 20.

The state committee had sent its proposal after its meeting in Gandhinagar in presence of Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and party observer Madanlal Khurana.

Patel has been selected as nominee in the crucial bye-election which has been necessitated following resignation of sitting member Yatin Oza. Though Opposition Congress has yet not named its candidate, it is believed that the party may field former deputy chief minister Narhari Amin.

News Source : The Times Of India News Service [ Lightning News ]

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Cong leader criticises BJP employment plan Thursday, August 30, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Former state labour minister Girish Parmar on Tuesday described Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel's announcement of providing one lakh jobs to educated unemployed persons as one more gimmick aimed at deriving political mileage.

In a statement, Parmar said the announcement made by Patel in the state Assembly last week would come a cropper like several others earlier. He alleged that the BJP government had failed to fill the backlog of 28,000 posts reserved for Schedule Caste and Tribes in past three years, and that too when the Gujarat High Court had twice directed the government to do so.

He said state social empowerment minister Fakirbhai Waghela gave false excuse that the vacancies for the SC/STs were not filled because of a circular issued by erstwhile RJP regime. Parmar demanded that the CM should have accommodated SC/ST youths in the proposed employment plan.

News Source : The Times Of India News Service [ Lightning News ]

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Fishermen tense on eve of landing at Mumbai jetty Thursday, August 30, 2001

SURAT: With almost 700 fishing boats from South Gujarat, which are currently in the high seas, scheduled to reach Mumbai Port area from Friday onwards, there is still no solution in sight to the ongoing tension between the state governments of Gujarat and Maharashtra over the use of the fishing jetty in Mumbai by Gujarat fishermen.

A seven-member delegation of fishermen from coastal areas in South Gujarat met Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel on Tuesday at Gandhinagar and apprised him of the deadlock.

The fishermen expressed the apprehension that the local fishermen of Maharashtra and even the government may not allow them to land at Bhaucha Dhakka, the jetty which has been traditionally used by Gujarat fishermen to land their catch.

The chief minister assured the delegation of possible steps by the state government to get the ban on Gujarat fishermen lifted by the Maharashtra government. Following the meeting with the chief minister, a high-level committee, comprising of ministers and representatives of fishermen, has been constituted to take up the matter with their counterparts and the concerned authorities in Maharashtra, according to Shree Gujarat Vahnavatu and Machhimar Sangh (SGVMS) spokesman and delegation member Subhashbhai Tandel.

The newly-constituted committee will go to Mumbai early next week after the conclusion of the ongoing Assembly session and would keep the chief minister posted with the developments. The chief minister assured the delegation of his intervention at the highest possible level and his visit to New Delhi for the purpose, if nothing comes out of the scheduled visit of the committee to Mumbai in this regard, Tandel told TNN.

The SGVMS had sought immediate intervention of the state government some days back through several representations for a favourable solution to the problem without any delay, as the new fishing season _ spanned over only three months a year _ already having commenced almost 10 days back.

The delegation expressed satisfaction over the outcome of the meeting with the chief minister at Gandhinagar on Tuesday and extended all support to the government in the matter, according to the Sangh spokesman.

The Mumbai Port Trust (MBT) has been very positive in their approach, which has given a ray of hope to thousands of fishermen families of the South Gujarat region to kick off their fishing season, the spokesperson said. However, while the MBT has issued landing passes to the fishermen, the Maharashtra government may still block the path of the Gujarat fishermen as the area of 12 nautical miles from the coast is in the control of the state government.

The Gujarat fisheries commissioner, P K Parmar, said at present only 231 fishing boats out of a total of 750 boats from South Gujarat, which use the Mumbai jetty, have valid licenses issued by the Maharashtra government. However, this week, the neighbouring government had started accepting application forms for the issuance of new licences. "We are not sure whether these fishermen will be given licenses or not, but this is a positive sign", Parmar said.

News Source : The Times Of India News Service [ Lightning News ]

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Prices of gutkha, cigarettes to go up Thursday, August 30, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The state Assembly on Tuesday, cutting across party lines, favoured a sharp hike in luxury tax on gutkha, cheroots, cigarettes, cigars and all smoking tobacco-based mixtures that are used in pipes and cigarettes.

The proposal -- mainly from senior Congress MLA Urvashi Devi and top BJP leader Ashok Bhatt, and echoed by other members of the state Assembly -- was accepted in principle by state finance minister Vajubhai Vala, with the promise to look into the matter at the earliest.

Participating in the discussion on Gujarat Tax on Luxury Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2001, which seeks to charge up to 20 per cent luxury tax on different products containing tobacco, Urvashi Devi fired the salvo by saying that the tax be increased to 50 per cent, even more if possible.

"I personally smoke and take gutkha," the Congress MLA, hailing from the erstwhile princely family of Devgadh-Baria, made the frank admission. "I know its harmful effect."

The Bill sought to replace sales tax by luxury tax as the Central rules do not permit sales tax on excise.

"Two doctors from London had especially come here on deputation recently to study cancer cases. They found during their two-month stay here that out of the 1,000 persons suffering from mouth cancer, only two came for treatment. In their view, in the entire world, cancer due to gutkha and other tobacco-related addictions was the highest in Gujarat. Often, ordinary workers spend up to Rs 50 per day on gutkha. If it is not possible to ban it, we will ensure that it's very highly priced," she said.

Urvashi Devi informed the House that the gutkha ingredients include dolomite and the addictive powder made from wall lizard.

Bhatt, who as health minister had tried to ban gutkha but failed because Central laws do not permit, said he favoured an ordinance on increasing tax on the addictive items, including a ban on advertisements that encourage gutkha and cigarettes.

Gunvant Makwana, a Congress MLA, said there should be ways to examine how tobacco products could be brought under state pollution laws, adding, "There should be strict laws banning spitting of pan in public places; also, smoking should be prohibited by law at public places."

"I think, this type of addiction is worse than drinking liquor."

In his reply, Vala said he would very much desire a ban on gutkha, but Central laws do not permit him to do so. Agreeing with the House's view, he said he would soon consider an ordinance increasing tax on tobacco-related addiction.

The Bill was passed without any opposition. It would invite five per cent luxury tax on cheroots, cigarettes, cigars and smoking cigarettes, and 20 per cent on gutkha and pan masala containing tobacco.

In all, it would fetch the state exchequer up to Rs 5 crore this financial year, Vala said, adding, however, he is not interested in the money if it is possible to restrict the social evil by some other means. "I would also consider banning smoking at public places and a law against spitting pan," he assured.

News Source : The Times Of India News Service [ Lightning News ]

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City IT firm hits big time Thursday, August 30, 2001

VADODARA: Those who thought IT-wise Vadodara was dead, here is the stunner. Surya Infotech, a small company dealing in high-end software architecture and solutions, comprising not more than eight people and set up by an NRI from Vadodara, has completed a major project that will make it richer by $5 million.

In Indian currency the company has raked in a cool Rs 23.75 crore for developing a software that would be installed in gambling machines (commonly called slot machines) on some 70 ships owned by a US-based leading shipping company.

"We have developed a state-of-the-art solution which automates the tracking and accounting of 'slot and player' activity for a casino and makes this information available in real time over the Internet," Surya Infotech president Parag Amin told TNN.

Also the president of Radiqal LLC (a US-based IT solutions company having Surya Infotech as its Indian subsidiary), Amin and his partner Venu Krishnamurthy joined hands with two other US-based companies to build the product branded 'Slotmaster III'.

"Our part of the job was to architect and develop the software. But to execute the task with finesse we needed marketing and hardware solution expertise. This is where our joint venture came in handy," Amin said.

Radiqal thus partnered with Iverson Gaming Systems (IGS) headed by Joanne Iverson and Richard Lee Corporation (RLC) headed by Rick Kundrat.

Radiqal and its Indian subsidiary Surya Infotech developed the total software solution and application layer for Slotmaster III. RCC, on the other hand, developed the total hardware solution including the physical hardware. While IGS, which actually owned the brand name Slotmaster III, marketed the solution and was instrumental in collecting customer needs.

"IGS helped us get the first customer and the approximate project value of this customer alone is $5 million. Last week, we got the first instalment of our royalty," Amin said.

Technically, Slotmaster, uses the existing power line network to transmit and receive data to and from the gambling machines and a centrally located server computer. Once the real time information is collected by the server, it transmits this information to the company head quarters via VSAT links. This provides the company an immediate access to real time information about money collected and player activity for gambling machines installed on its ships floating in seas of five continents.

"An authorised company employee can even access this information from across the Internet via VPN. The information is secured via propriety encryption methods. Besides, the communications protocol across the power line is flawless", Amin said.

He said that the data transmission method devised for the client suits the shipping industry. "In a ship, otherwise, one has to cut open its layers to run computer cables through it. The expense to retrofit a vessel with computer network cabling is around $7 million. We got over the problem by simply using power lines instead of laying computer cables", Amin said.

He is optimistic that the product his team developed in eight months working at the Kirti Towers office will fetch them few more millions. "There are over 90 cruise liners world wide accounting for over 450 vessels and 43,500 ships. A casino is an entertainment feature on every ship. What our product does is that it brings the total status and account of every machine on the ship or ships under one click", he said adding that the 'market was huge and opportunities limitless'.

News Source : The Times Of India News Service [ Lightning News ]

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