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August 28, 2001 - August 28, 2001

Schools to call off work from Aug 28 Tuesday, August 28, 2001

By a Correspondent, AsianAge
Ahmedabad: Academic work at the secondary and higher secondary schools in the state would be suspended for an indefinite period from Tuesday after the Gujarat State Academic Co-ordination Council Committee members present a memorandum to chief minister Keshubhai Patel at the Legislative Assembly and the symbolic moonch kumbh (moustache urn) to represent their disagreement over the anti-school employee policies of the state government.

Even as the entire academic and non-academic staff of 1,229 schools in the city and its periphery will call-off work affecting more than 50,000 students, senior education officials confessed to their helplessness to tackle the situation. With the GSACCC declaring strike frequently, the last one-day token strike being in July 25, students are undoubtedly loosing out on their education.

With no alternative arrangement made by the state government to tackle such lean days, schools are being closed down religiously with prior notice.

“We are helpless since everyone including clerks, teachers, principals, school management are going on strike. Even our plans to appoint back-up teachers to help out in troubled times would fall flat since the ultimate decision to keep the schools open lie with the school management,” remarked District Education Officer (rural Ahmedabad) H.N. Chawda talking to The Asian Age on Monday.

The state government would have to consider the demands jointly placed by Gujarat State School Management Association, Gujarat State Principals’ Committee, Gujarat State Higher Secondary Teachers Committee, Gujarat State Secondary Teachers’ Association and Gujarat State Administrative Staff Association with GSACCC so that students do not keep loosing out on their studies, remarked an official at the DEO here.

It can be recalled that school employees are demanding revoking 20 per cent cut on appointment of staff at secondary and higher secondary schools, implementation of the fifth wage board recommendations on the academic staff of the schools, payment of conveyance allowance.

News Source : The AsianAge [ The coolest newspaper for city ]

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GEER to survey 1,419 wetlands in Gujarat Tuesday, August 28, 2001

By Parag Dave, AsianAge
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Environmental Education and Research foundation will survey the 1,419 wetlands in Gujarat as about 25 per cent of them are in danger due to various reasons such as unplanned development, industrialisation and encroachment.

The GEER foundations’ centre for wetland studies in Gujarat has already appointed two officials for the purpose. Volunteers from WWF and wild life lovers will be employed from across the state to survey the challenges faced by the wetlands, to spread awareness regarding the water fowl population and to protect these threatened habitats and their biota.

The survey gains significance at this juncture as the Gujarat high court recently ordered the government to protect all the wetlands in the state.

Director of GEER foundation Dr H A Singh said, “Extinction of these wetlands will disturb ecological balance and endanger the flora and fauna which it supports. So it is essential to protect them.”

The report of GEER foundation says that Gujarat is internationally known as a land of Asiatic Lions but coastal and inland wetlands in the state also need to be given importance as they have unique status and support one of the largest population of water fowl in the winter.

Nearly 63 per cent of the countrys’ wetland area is in the state. Report based on satellite pictures says that out of the total geographical area of Gujarat, wetlands cover 2.7 million hectare. Of total wetland areas, inland wetlands cover 7.8 per cent.

and coastal wetlands cover 92.2 per cent area. Inland and coastal wetlands in the state are both natural and man-made types. The state has 424 natural and 407 man made wetlands excluding small water bodies and it totals to 1,419. It has been further stated in the report that the state also has a special place in the countrys’ wetland based protected areas.

Some wetland based areas are Great Rann of Kutch, Nalsoravar, Thol lake, Khijadia lake, Porbandar lake and Marine National Park. The total combined area of these national parks is 13,052 sq kms which is about 77.2 per cent of total protected area of the state.

News Source : The AsianAge [ The coolest newspaper for city ]

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Sonia to appoint CLP leader Tuesday, August 28, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The Congress Legislature Party passed a one-line resolution on Friday authorising Congress President Sonia Gandhi to appoint a new CLP leader in the place of Amarsinh Chaudhary, now state Congress chief.

Two Congress high command observers -- All-India Congress Committee secretary Shailaja and Congress Parliamentary Party general-secretary Suresh Pachauri -- who attended the CLP meet here, told newspersons later, "Sonia Gandhi has been empowered on all issues related to CLP leader, including whether to elect a new leader; if yes then whom and when."

Insisting that "no date has been fixed for selecting the new CLP leader", Pachauri said, "Political decisions cannot be bound by time." He added, "The issue whether Chaudhary, who was selected state Congress president, will continue to be the CLP leader will also be decided by Sonia Gandhi."

A new CLP leader will hold charge till 2002-end, when the current Assembly term ends. He added, "No names were discussed during the CLP meeting".

At least two Congress MLAs' groups represented later to the central Congress observers. One group, of Backward Class MLAs and their supporters, led by CLP secretary Udayisnh Baria and senior Saurashtra MLA Jassu Barad, told the high command representatives that "imposing someone from the top without knowing who backed who would not help". The other group, of tribal MLAs, told the central observers that the current dispensation under Chaudhary might as well continue as Assembly polls were not far off.

Claiming lack of discussion on names was "perfectly democratic", Pachauri said, "What can we do if the Congress MLAs decide on something unanimous? We had come here to take their view."

The meeting opened with a brief statement by Chaudhary, followed by CLP deputy leader Udaysinh Baria, belonging to the rebel Madhavsinh Solanki group, coming up with a proposal to empower Sonia Gandhi to take the final decision. "Baria's proposal was supported by all MLAs by raising hand," Panchauri added.

Three MLAs in the race are: CLP chief whip Naresh Rawal, who is strongly supported by close Sonia Gandhi confidant and Rajya Sabha member Ahmed Patel; and CLP secretary Udaysinh Baria, backed by the Solanki faction and a strong group of Backward Class MLAs.

This apart, there is some support for three others -- Siddharth Patel, who represents the former Janata Dal (G) group; senior MLA from Central Gujarat Subhash Shelat; and Jassu Barad, of the OBC group belonging to Saurashtra.

Despite being an associate of the rebel Solanki faction, Baria has mellowed down. If a week ago he insisted that there should be an election procedure for CLP leader and one-line resolution leaving things to Sonia Gandhi would not work, on Friday he moved the resolution, leaving things to the Congress president.

Four of the five aspirants TNN spoke to said the decision by Sonia Gandhi would be "acceptable" to them, but Siddharth Patel emphasised he was "not in the race".

AICC secretary Shailaja told TNN that she must have met at least three dozen Congress MLAs, either separately or together, and heard their views on the crucial matter.

Though some MLAs were seen carrying out a signature campaign, she claimed that she had received none of the signed papers, except the one-line resolution.

Pachauri denied that there was any split in the party. He even said that he was not aware of the parallel meetings held by different factions in the recent past.

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

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From a humble background to the House of Lords Tuesday, August 28, 2001

A young man walks down a busy London street. He hardly notices the crowd passing by, immersed in a conversation with another man. The two - Bhikhu Parekh and his professor at the London School of Economics, Michael Oakshot - walk up to a restaurant and continue talking.

About three decades later, Parekh watches "history repeating itself" - his youngest son Anant, chasing Nobel laureate in medicine, Ernst Nehr, asking him questions, lunching with him. "I was the only student Oakshot went to lunch with," says Parekh, now a member of the House of Lords.

For Lord Bhikhu Parekh too, the wheel has turned a full circle. "In my beginning is my end," he quotes Eliot as Parekh readies for his term as professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics, where he did his PhD on the Idea of Equality from 1962 to 1963. He will end his about-three-decade-long association with the University of Hull to join LSE on September 1.

And, for the boy from the hamlet of Amalsad in South Gujarat, whose goldsmith father expected him to be a bank clerk, it has been a long journey - from his village school to the glamour of Mumbai, across the seas to England, teaching on both sides of the Atlantic, fighting racism, coming back to his country to become the vice-chancellor of one of the best universities, being nominated to the House of Lords.

Parekh is perhaps one of the busiest men in the UK today. "Even the press keeps hounding me for comments and analyses. There were so many racial riots recently," says Parekh, who is the chair of the Commission on Future of Multi-ethnic Britain.

It was a cudgel he took up way back in 1974, to fight racism, to fight for equality. And, the 400-page report stirred up one of England's biggest controversies. Lord Parekh had dared to beard the lion in its den - the report said the word "British" has "racial connotations" and is "racially coded".

With equality being his plank as much as his philosophy of life, his political persona is equally interesting. "I am politically active at three levels. At one level, I am working with the Indian community in the UK, organising meetings, trying to get them together as a community. At another level, I am working with the various races - the Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Africans, the Chinese - fighting for their problems, forming organisations. At the national level, I am actively involved with the Labour Party, being the first trustee of its think tank," he says.

"Labour Party was in a bad shape in 1992, being out of power for so long. We did a total re-think of its philosophy of socialism, rethink its policies," adds Parekh.

Two men have had a profound impression on Parekh - Marx and Gandhi. His book on Marx was described by critics as the "most Brahminical interpretation of Marx". And, Parekh found him in the thick of controversy when he wrote about Gandhi's experiments with celibacy in a book "Gandhi: Colonialism, Tradition and Reform". The Gujarati community in the UK even went to the extent of urging Hindu saint Morari Bapu to declare a "fatwa" against him like Ayatollah Khomeini did against Salman Rushdie. Threats to kidnap his son and public abuses too continued.

But, Gandhi has always fascinated him and he is now immersed in the production of a documentary on Gandhi being produced by BBC's Channel 4.

Now, in India to write a new book, Parekh vividly remembers how he took long walks at Nariman Point with his professor Usha Mehta when he studied at the erstwhile Bombay School of Economics. "She was so caring and goaded me to reach higher. So was Professor Makrani, who had studied under Wittgenstein. It was both sisterly love and intellectual power that I got," says Parekh, who was dumbstruck when he made his journey from Amalsad to Mumbai in 1950 as a 15-year-old student.

"I joined St Xavier's College in Mumbai. I could hardly speak English. The other students dazzled me, especially the smart Sindhi girls. I would stand in a corner and gaze at them. My self-confidence was shattered. I went back to my village but my father sent me back. But, within 18 months, I gained my confidence. When I went to Ruia College to do my senior BA, I felt superior there, having come from the elite St Xavier's", says Parekh.

He left India in 1959 and came back in 1983, to become the vice-chancellor of M S University. He established the department of philosophy and till now remains one of the most revered vice-chancellors. It was during this stint in India that his friend Salman Rushdie came visiting. "He stayed at a hotel in Alkapuri but wanted to have home-cooked meal. The then pro vice-chancellor V C Mehta cooked for him", he recalls.

Parekh is writing again - another tome after his seven-year labour from 1993 that produced "Re-thinking multi-culturism - cultural diversity and political theory", a definitive philosophical study. This time, Parekh is working at his flat in Fatehgunj, on a bigger project that he calls "a reflection on the violence of our times, seen from the eyes of an activist and philosopher".

He feels that the 20th century has been the most violent century in the history. He will look into a lot of questions - what is violence ? the logic of different forms of violence like political violence, caste violence, ethnic violence and religious violence, and finally try to figure out - what is the way out?

Perhaps, only he can.

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

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ASI apathy puts Shaking Minarets on shaky ground Tuesday, August 28, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Standing on the platform from where these pillars rise, you still feel like you are in an area just rocked by the earthquake. The Shaking Minarets of Bibi-ki-Masjid in Rajpur area of the city are almost falling apart with no move yet to resurrect this architectural wonder built in 1454.

With the Archaeological Survey of India taking its time to start reconstruction and conservation of the heavily-damaged northern minaret it remains to be seen if the ancient towers will ever regain their distinctive swaying capabilities.

Only on Wednesday did the local ASI officials begin surveying the condition of the northern minaret that lost two storeys during Republic Day quake. The minarets are part of a huge mosque, built by Ahmed Shah II, spread over 4,598.70 square metre plot about one km away from Sarangpur Darwaza.

Ironically enough, opposite to the same Sarangpur Darwaja, stand Sidi Bashir's minars that the ASI labels as "the most convincing examples of shaking minarets". ASI has already attended to minor cracks and "widening of joints" on what is termed as the official shaking minarets of Ahmedabad.

But, the same cannot be said for the towers (with equally unique characteristics) of Bibi-ki-Masjid in Rajpur. These minarets are still awaiting restoration work to begin.

While the Bibi-ki-Masjid and its shaking minarets still draw tourists from all over the country and abroad the localites are concerned about the image presented by the towers wearing a broken-down look.

"All my life I have wondered on how such huge towers sway like trees in breeze. The ASI had carried out large-scale restoration work on the mosque just last year. The minaret collapsed on January 26, it was like seeing my dreams crumbling. I wish to see these being restored in my lifetime," said 45-year-old Mohammad Khwaja, who owns a shop opposite the imposing mosque.

Khwaja added, "Though tourists used to throng the exquisitely designed mosque with its huge minars. But, suddenly Bibi-ki-Masjid was taken off the tourist map of Ahmedabad. Just the other day some foreigners expressed surprise on stumbling upon this mosque and the shaking minarets. After a lot of brow-beating we have got encroachers cleared off from the immediate vicinity of the mosque. We hope this site steeped in history finds its due place instead of being obliterated from pages of history and tourism."

The superintending archaeologist of ASI (Gujarat circle) based in Vadodara, D.R. Ghelot explained: "Of the 54 centrally protected archaeologically important sites in Ahmedabad 20 had been damaged during the earthquake. Of these 12 are in urgent need of repair. While restoration work on certain sites like the, Ahmed Shah mosque, Raipur Darwaja and Bhadra Fort is in its final stages other sites too will be taken up soon. Post-quake restoration has become an enormous task and one can't but help adopting a disciplined and measured approach. Any delays are unintentional."

V. Nair, senior conservation assistant of ASI, Ahmedabad, adds "Drawings needed for restoration are complete and we hope to begin work within a month's time. By this year-end I hope to restore the shaking two collapsed storeys of the shaking minaret at Bibi-ki-Masjid to its old self." ASI will start work with Rs 4.5 lakh which officials say will be upgraded as and when needed.

Sources disclosed that to restore all the 20 damaged monuments the ASI would require nothing sort of Rs 2 crore. "With only eight skilled artisans imported from Rajasthan working on ASI sites. Scarcity of manpower, if not finances, and construction technicians well-versed with the structural nuances of centuries old monuments are bound to slow down the restoration and conservation process," sources disclosed.

For the localities of Rajpur however the oft-repeated question and prime concern is echoed by a localite Sheikh Mohammad Rafiq: "Will the minarets continue to sway as they always did? We are all anxious to know the fate of these shaking towers built by Qutubuddin Ahmed Shah - now inseparable parts of our lives."

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

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