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August 28, 2001 - August 28, 2001

Former IPS officer joins Samata Party Tuesday, August 28, 2001

VADODARA: The Samata Party took a leaf out of the BJP book when it took into its fold a former IPS officer, RC Dimri, who has served as the special Inspector-General of Police.

Dimri, who has also been with the Army, joined on Saturday as the Samata Party celebrated its first "Sthapna Diwas' in the city.

A formal declaration regarding Dimri's joining the party was made during the visit of the state unit president Pravinsinh Jadeja and Lok Sabha member from the party Brahmanand Mandal.

The BJP had made news when the party took in former Vadodara commissioner of police Jaspal Singh, known as a strict and clean police officer.

And, political observers say that the Samata Party, reeling under the Tehelka revelations at the national level and allegations of nurturing anti-social elements in its ranks at the city level, is desperately looking for ways to put up a clean image.

Dimri said the image of George Fernandes as an upright politician prompted him to join Samata Party. "After Lal Bahadur Shastri, he is probably the only central minister who had to guts to resign on moral grounds. Besides, as of now, Samata seems to be the only party in the state that has not been tainted," he said.

Dimri, however, dispelled arguments that it was the lust of power that dragged him into politics. "I am not like other officers who take to politics for power and threaten to step down now and then," he said.

Dimri, who also held the post the additional commissioner of police in Vadodara city police, retired from service in 1998. Before joining the state police, Dimri served the Indian Army. He participated in the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan.

He held the posts of the district superintendent of police at Vadodara and Bhavnagar. Other significant posts held by Dimri include those of the deputy director of Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Junagadh range IG.

Meanwhile, Samata Party spokespersons said they were looking at Gujarat as a major centre for the growth of the party. According to Jadeja, "The situation in Vadodara and Saurashtra are favourable to the party and it has performed well there. With Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress being the main political players in the state, we see ourselves as a good third front. The spot for an alternative for BJP and Congress has been lying vacant, our party can fill that vacuum."

Mandal observed that the present activity in the party in Gujarat was similar to what happened in Bihar when the party was formed. "There is a good scope for the party to grow here," he said.

Mandal added that Samata Party would maintain an independent stance in the political field. "We can have a different ideology from other parties, which makes us fit as a third force," he said.

Samata on Tehelka: Commenting on the involvement of former Samata Party treasurer RK Jain in the alleged "sex and sleaze" scandal exposed by, Samata Party MP Brahmanand Mandal said it was a "mistake".

"We admit that it was a mistake on the part of the person. The party has taken action on its part when the issue came up. It is like a wound on the party's body which it is trying to heal," Mandal said.

Mandal, however, came down heavily on the means adopted by Tehelka. "They have played with the security of the country. Besides, the present controversy shows how people have stopped exercising discretion in all walks of life," Mandal said.

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

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Ahmedabad builders move to Kutch for better opportunities Tuesday, August 28, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Looking for greener pastures, the city's builders, developers and contractors are either moving to Kutch, where there is huge construction opportunity because of rehabilitation work, or even outside Gujarat.

Many of them are even considering a shift in their business to sustain themselves. Take for instance Dilipsinh Makwana of Harshil Engineers & Construction, who has done various Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) housing schemes in the city, has shifted his focus to road construction.

Apart from these road jobs, the mass housing scheme near Kandla, carried by his NGO - Samaj Sewa - for Food Corporation of India (FCI) , has helped him be in business.

Developer Sharad A Shah, whose construction firm C Darshan Builders was starved for work in Ahmedabad, was also forced to look for work outside Ahmedabad. Two months back, Shah completed building 96 houses in Khod Village in Kutch.

Jaydeep Construction Company partner Bhavik Patel, who last came out with a plotting scheme - Nimishwar Park - near Gandhinagar three years back, says that the recession in the market has been created due to the disappearance of the investors from the property market. He says what the market is today left with is only the actual users.

"In today's market, the construction and sale prices have remained stagnant while the land prices have moved. This is dissuading many from developing new schemes," says Patel.

Comparison of cement sale in the two region, which can somewhat indicate the construction activity, also indicate a lull in the Ahmedabad market and improvement in Kutch.

Cement Manufacturer's Association's (CMA) April to July cement sales at 3.40 lakh tonnes in Ahmedabad this year indicate a 15 per cent dip compared to sales of 4 lakh tonnes during the corresponding period last year. While the cement sales in Kutch during the same period this year have improved by 35 per cent at around 85,000 tonnes against 60,000 last year.

Apart from the lull in construction activities in the city, builders developers and contractors are lured to the Kutch because of the higher margins that the NGOs are offering.

Shah says that the construction cost in Kutch is very low compared to Ahmedabad. There is almost a difference of Rs 1,000 per sq yard with the cost per sq yard in Kutch at around Rs 1,600 against the Ahmedabad's Rs 2,600 in the present market condition.

One of the main reason for the lower cost of production is excise-exempted price of cement in the Kutch region. Shah says that the price of cement in Kutch is only Rs 132 per bag compared to over Rs 160 per bag in Ahmedabad. Though, Makwana who began his construction work in May had to pick up cement at Rs 180 initially, which was down to Rs 150 per towards the end of his construction work.

"Rebate on cement price is only available to builders who pick up 1,000 bags at a time. Since there is no adequate storage facility in Kutch, we did not want take the risk of buying cement in bulk. Our cost per house worked out to Rs 50,000," says Makwana.

Even though Shah has reverted to housing schemes in Ahmedabad at Sabarmati and Viramgam, he will not renew his developer's license once it expires.

"Like me, there are many others who do not want renew their licence due to such draconian law as providing 75 years guarantee on your buildings. And this guarantee has to be fulfilled by your legal heir, if you are not there. Who would like to risk his son or grandson's future," says Shah.

Makwana has worked out a better solution, he is looking at road construction. But here again, there is a scarcity of opportunity. Makwana is, at present, developing 6 km of the 132-feet Ring Road in the city at the cost of Rs one crore in Ahmedabad. Along, with this, he has road jobs in Baroda and Viramgam worth Rs 80 lakh.

But despite these jobs on his hand, Makwana is considering shifting base to Rajasthan as his payments from the government do not come on time. Makwana's payment worth Rs 80-90 lakh is stuck with the government. He informs that this was nothing compared to the dues, totalling to Rs 670 crore, to be recovered by the Gujarat Hotmix Plant and Road Contractors Association from the government.

"It is becoming very difficult to survive in the construction sector due to the overall lull in this sector and this is leading to a lot contractors shifting their base outside Gujarat in Maharashtra or Rajasthan," Says Makwana.

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

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SMC engages trust to curb dog menace Tuesday, August 28, 2001

SURAT: In view of increasing number of dog bites in the city, the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) authorities have planned to engage the services of a city trust to carry out sterilisations on the dogs, aiming to put a curb on their growing population.

According to municipal commissioner Gurprasad Mahapatra, the corporation has decided to sterilise on an average 10 to 15 street dogs everyday, for which Shri Surat Panjrapole Trust has been asked to develop their veterinary hospital with well-equipped machines and qualified surgeons. Soon three to four surgeons are likely to be engaged for the purpose by the trust, Mahapatra said.

Recently, the trust started a beauty parlour-cum-motel for dogs at Ghod Dod Road in the city with all facilities to turn dogs into lovable companions of their owners. However, the city does not have any place like kennel where street dogs could be kept.

On an average, 60 incidents of dog bites are reported everyday in the New Civil Hospital and Maskati Hospital managed by the corporation. According to New Civil Hospital doctors, incidents of dog bites have increased in the past one year and the hospital receives around 30 patients everyday who are given anti-rabies vaccination and treated for injuries caused by bites. Maskati Hospital receives around 25 to 30 cases each day, according to hospital sources.

The corporation officials on condition of anonymity admitted that till date planned strategy has not been there to catch street dogs in the city. Objections raised by members of a particular community and even animal lovers, having strong belief in no cruelty to animals, often compel the dog squad of the corporation to leave empty-handed, SMC health officials remarked.

As such, it is difficult to see any effort on the part of the corporation and the district administration to tackle the menace of street dogs, despite increase in number of dog bites in the city, sources in the New Civil Hospital said.

In view of complaints received regularly from common people, a few months back the SMC had divided the city into six zones, each one equipped specifically, to catch the street dogs. As a result, around 20 dogs are caught everyday by the corporation from different parts of the city, Mahapatra informed. Last month, 448 dogs were caught in the city and then eliminated, sources said.

It is very difficult to keep a check on the growing population of the dogs in the city as at many places one encounters pots with foods for street dogs and they are not often chased out, rather they are made comfortable to live and procreate, local residents of the City Light area remarked. On any day one can count in the posh locality of the City Light area as many as seven to 10 street dogs at corners of apartments, sometimes chasing the passers-by.

There is no way except eliminating them, but at times it is very difficult, so let there be a curb on the growth of their population, Mahapatra added.

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

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MSU German dept to organise seminars with foreign embassies Tuesday, August 28, 2001

VADODARA: The M S University's department of German has planned two seminars in collaboration with the Austrian and Swiss embassies, according to M K Natarajan, the head of the department of German.

Natarajan informed that one seminar would be held in November (in Delhi) and the other one in February (in Goa). He said, "The seminar in Delhi is being organised by us in collaboration with the Austrian embassy and the Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the one in Goa is in collaboration with the Swiss embassy".

This is the first time in the history of M S University that one of its departments is planning seminars and programmes in alliance with foreign embassies, he added.

Natarajan said the department completes 40 years this academic year and therefore many interactive programmes would be conducted throughout the year.

According to Natarajan, this year the German Academic Exchange Services would send a lecturer from Germany for a period of three to six months to acquaint students here with the language and culture of Germany.

"Our department is perhaps the only one of its kind in India which includes in its introduction courses studies of the two countries Austria and Switzerland which also have German as one their national languages. At the MA level too, these courses are included", he said.

According to him, plans are also afoot to have interactive exchange programmes for students and teachers in the future with help from the two embassies.

The year-long celebrations would be inaugurated on September 10 when the department organises the Kennfest _ a cultural programme that is organised every year to welcome the freshers.

In addition, he said, "We also want to join hands with other linguistic departments of the MSU for various interactive projects. Also on the anvil is an All India German Teachers meet to be organised here by the Goethe Society of India, Vadodara chapter, he said.

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

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Mass rapid transit systems yet to overcome hurdles Tuesday, August 28, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Even as the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board (GIDB) has taken up the Rs 3000-crore integrated public transit system (IPTS) study for Ahmedabad, the mass rapid transit system (MRTS) projects across the country still have to cross the hurdle of institutional and legal framework that exists today.

After the tricky issue of funding of these capital-intensive MRTS and light rail transit system (LRTS) projects, it was the legal framework required for implementation of any urban mass rapid transit system (UMRTS) which needed to be addressed by the authorities concerned.

Today, MRTS projects in Pune and Bangalore are under implementation, those under planning stage are in Bangalore, Thane, Andheri, Ghatkopar and Kolkata (LRT) while Pune, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Surat, Kanpur and Lucknow are under consideration.

Bangalore Mass Rail Transport Ltd executive director B S C Rao, who made a presentation on this topic at a seminar on Friday here, said that since the MRTS project would develop rail transport system along with the feeder transport system, it would come under either the Indian Railways Act (if the plan stretches beyond city limits) or the Tramway Act (within city limits).

Here is where problem crept up. If the project came under railways then it came under the purview of the Centre, but tramways would be a state subject. For the smoother and speedier implementation of the project, it was necessary to implement it under the Tramway Act, but that would mean that the plan could not be stretched beyond municipality limit, so slight amendment of the Tramway Act was required.

Another problem dogging the system was the involvement of the Indian Railways in the project. As the railways, which was primarily responsible for the inter-city rail transport, was not in the position to regulate or fund any other segment other than itself, there was question of how far the railways should be involved.

Railway board executive director (projects) Pankaj Jain is of the view that railways will not be in the position to invest in the development of urban transport system nor it will be in its interest given the fact that most of these systems are financially unviable.

According to him, the fact that some of these projects, though financially unviable may be economically viable, does not help railways as these economic benefits do not get transferred to railways in the existing arrangement of things.

Speakers at the seminar suggested that the public private partnership (PPP) route should be taken to fund these projects.
To tackle the funding issue, it was suggested that a central mass transit fund should be created and to dissolve any risk that may be attached to such projects, a state and Central government guarantee for loans should be provided.
It was suggested that tax holiday, exemption from taxes and duties would go a long way in giving a boost to such projects. Lastly, any move to totally indigenise the MRTS would be foolhardy as India did not have the sufficient knowledge base, expertise or technology for the same.
Louis Berger International Limited CEO Michele Jinclinski, however, felt that indigenisation was important for operation and maintenance of the MRTS.

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

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