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August 27, 2001 - August 27, 2001

Gujarat ministers embarrass - and are embarrassed Monday, August 27, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Ministers and leaders from Gujarat's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seem to be repeatedly putting their foot in the mouth. Leading the way is chief minister Keshubhai Patel.

Even before his infamous promise of building 800,000 houses for the quake-hit in two months faded from people's memory, Patel made another grandiose announcement - the government would provide jobs to 100,000 unemployed youths.

He told the state legislative assembly that unemployed graduates and those who have passed the higher secondary examination would get part-time jobs in various departments for Rs. 1,000 a month as wages.

The details of the scheme are yet to be worked out, but Patel said mounting unemployment prompted the government to think of the scheme. He said a committee of senior bureaucrats would finalize the eligibility criteria.

Gujarat officials privately admit that the promise is unlikely to be implemented because the state coffers are virtually empty.

The grim financial situation has also forced the government to cut down on the expenditure on its ambitious Narmada dam project over the last three years.

The multi-billion, multi-state Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is mired in controversy again.

The Supreme Court granted the Gujarat government permission to take the dam on the Narmada river to its envisaged height of 138 meters. The government had to ensure proper resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected families.

Although the government claims to have achieved considerable success in this regard, the depositions at public hearings reveal facts to the contrary.

Madhya Pradesh officials have accepted that all families affected by the dam height of 90 meters have not been rehabilitated. Now Maharashtra officials have said the same.

Even a judicial committee constituted by Maharashtra has accepted that the rehabilitation efforts are far from satisfactory.

But even as the government was receiving flak, it got an aerial survey of the Narmada valley done by a Narmada Control Authority official and announced that all families have been properly resettled.

Most victims thrown out of their traditional settlements because of the dam are poor tribals.

The latest to embarrass the government is Minister for Consumer Affairs Leeladhar Vaghela, who said the government was planning to bring the press under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act. The reason he cited was to "tame blackmailers" and "newspapers indulging in yellow journalism."

Vaghela also announced that he had asked officials of his department to examine the Act and explore the possibility of bringing the press under its purview.

A red-faced BJP denied the government move the next day.

"The BJP fought against the attempts to gag the press during the Emergency. It stands for free speech. The minister's views have nothing to do with the BJP and the government of Gujarat," said prominent BJP leader Madanlal Khurana, who is in charge of party affairs in Gujarat.

Khurana of course failed to explain why a minister was expressing a "personal" view in the house. And why did the minister order officials of his department to examine the Consumer Protection Act if it was his "personal" view.

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


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Crude oil royalty hike inadequate: GCCI Monday, August 27, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry though having appreciated the Centre's decision to increase the crude oil royalty from Rs 800 to Rs 850 with effect from December 1999, has, however, described it as 'grossly inadequate'.

In a statement issued here on Sunday, chamber president Kalyan Shah stated that the hike was grossly inadequate compared to the prevalent international price of the crude oil and the expectations of the people of Gujarat.

He said that Gujarat and Assam will get an arrear of Rs 47 crore and Rs 36 crore retrospectively as a result of ad hoc rise, but this is too less as Gujarat has been producing around 58 lakh to 61 lakh tonnes of crude oil per year since the last decade.

The chamber president stated that the Centre should have come out with a well, thorough and realistic formula in the matter so that automatic increase in royalty rate is regularly ensured to oil producing states every two years.

He appealed that in any case the uncertainty and ad hocism in fixation of rate should go at the earliest and matter be regularised as also the past arrears be given to oil and gas producing states.

According to Shah, the royalty on crude oil should be based on an administered price of petroleum products or import parity, whichever is higher, and royalty on crude oil may be fixed at the rate of 40 per cent on such estimated price and 20 per cent of value of gas on ad valorem basis on the entire production of gas, and revisions of royalty should be done annually at the beginning of each financial year.

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


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Human rights commission demanded in state Monday, August 27, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: People's Union for Human Rights has demanded that the state government should set up, at the earliest, a state-level human rights commission and a court.

In a letter to Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, union president Indukumar Jani and secretary Gautam Thacker stressed such demands have been made time and again and necessary representations have also been made to the officials and ministers concerned, but the same has been delayed.

They stated that it is shameful for Gujarat that while 12 other states have already established their human rights commissions, and work is on in Bihar and Orissa, the state has done little on the front.

They also said that human rights are being violated in Gujarat in incidents of atrocities against Dalits, minorities, women, Harijans, Adivasis, and also in cases of torture in police custody. Quoting the incident of burning of a Dalit man, the union demanded early action.

The state government has appointed a committee, which included the chief minister, Assembly Speaker, Leader of the Opposition and home minister; hence, the committee should meet at the earliest to set up the aforementioned bodies.

An announcement to form a commission was made by minister for home (state) Haren Pandya in Assembly during March 2000, and was also mentioned in the manifesto of the ruling state BJP.

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


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Rs 3500-crore jackpot awaits 'Sons of the soil' Monday, August 27, 2001

BY NARANDAS THACKER, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
RAJKOT: The 'Sons of the soil' await Rs.3500-crore jackpot. Literally. It appears within their reach. At their door-step.

After half a century the farmers in Saurashtra, considered the peanut bowl of Western India, are striking gold, this year as Varun Dev, the rain God smiles.

A record-breaking groundnut crop in Saurashtra, which accounts for 33 per cent of the country's yield is all set to cast a spell of buoyancy on the farm economy and give a U-turn to the economy of Gujarat as a whole.

The farmers, marksmen, oil millers and official agencies are near-unanimous in their estimates of groundnut yield this season and put the figure at not less than 27 lakh tonnes of groundnut-in-shell, spread over seven districts of Rajkot, Junagadh,
Porbandar, Jamnagar, Surendranagar, Amreli and Bhavnagar.

And, the value of this bumper harvest, in monetary terms, would be as much as Rs.3,500 crores, something unheard of in the past 50 years, after Independence.

A Rajkot oil miller Sameer Shah says he has not experienced such a 'fantastic harvest' during the past two decades since he joined his family business of groundnut crushing.

He says groundnut crop could be anywhere near 25 lakh tonnes ..... maybe more.

Echoing the same feeling president of the Saurashtra Oilmills Association Ukabhai Patel says even if there was no more rain, the groundnut crop would be 27 lakh tonnes in the state.

The share of the border-district of Kutch and Gujarat region to-gether is just seven per cent of the total, leaving almost 93 per cent to Saurashtra.

The total land under groundnut cultivation this year was 17.01 lakh hectares, out of which Junagadh and Jamnagar districts topped the list with 3.96 and 3.89 lakh hectares respectively, with Amreli and Rajkot districts following with 2.91 lakh and 2.89 lakh hectares.

The Kutch district accounted for 48,200 hectares, which was little less than three per cent of the total of the state, while Gujarat region accounted for 65,000 hectares, which was little less than four per cent of the total.

In other words, cultivation of groundnut in seven districts of Saurashtra alone stood at 15.88 lakh hectares, or nearly 93 per cent of the entire state.

As against this, the groundnut yield is estimated at 27.31 lakh tonnes, out of which Saurashtra accounts for 26 lakh tonnes, Kutch 75,000 tonnes and Gujarat region just 60,000 tonnes.

In respect of yield, again, Junagadh and Jamnagar district would top the list with the projection of 7.42 lakh tonnes and 6.08 lakh tonnes respectively. The next in line would be Amreli and Rajkot districts with 3.00 lakh tonnes and 3.61 lakh tonnes. Bhavnagar accounts for three lakh tonnes, Surendranagar 42,000 tonnes and Porbandar 89,000 tonnes. In the wake of these estimates, groundnut oil prices have been showing a downward trend, in the past couple of weeks. In the coming days, this trend would be more noticeable, say market sources.

The prices of groundnut-in-shell had shot up to Rs.350 per quintal, during the lean season, about a month back. But, they have started moving down, and could stabilise between Rs.250 and 300 per quintal.

The support price fixed for groundnut is Rs.260 per quintal. If the crop is valued in terms of this support price, 27-lakh tonne produce would be prices at a fantastic amount of Rs.3,500 crore. This was, more or less, double the value of this cash crop in the past. At the best of times, groundnut crop fetched about Rs.2,000 crore.

The farmers and oil millers are in a jubilant mood. The millers say with the bumper harvest in the offing, they would be in a position to have crushing operations for a long time, at least for eight to nine months in the year. During the last two drought years, hardly a tenth of the oil mills were running to full capacity; others had downed their shutters indefinitely.

There are 1,000 oil mills in Saurashtra said to be an over-capacity. Consequently, about 40 per cent have gone into oblivion in the last few years. And, from among the rest, 600 and odd, only 50 per cent manage to operate during the first few months of the season, and hardly 10 per cent manage till the end of the season.

Along with the producers, millers and traders, consumers also have a reason to feel happy. But, they are keeping their fingers crossed. Experience has shown that consumers hardly get the benefit they deserve.

However, farmers, millers and marketmen say with one voice that the market yards in the towns all over Saurashtra would overflow, on a daily basis, with groundnut arrivals, giving a major boost to the economy of this region.

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


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Drug syndicate kingpin arrested Monday, August 27, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: The Narcotics Control Bureau (Gujarat region) has busted an international drug trafficking syndicate and arrested its kingpin from Mumbai on Sunday.

The arrested have been identified as Mohammed Farooq Khaniya alias Farooq Jadiyo, who is an Indian partner and a key person of the syndicate. Jadiyo, in his 40s, is a resident of Bandra in Mumbai.

Acting under the direction of NCB regional director P S Tomar, intelligence officer M S Bhalla brought him from Mumbai on transfer warrant and produced him before the magistrate and obtained a remand order till August 31.

Jadiyo confessed of a number of crimes before the NCB officials and gave information about his modus operandi.

He used to receive heroine, mandrax and other narcotics from Pakistan through Rajasthan border. After receiving contrabands from Barmer area, he used to transfer them to Bharuch and Mumbai and from there to Mauritius. He had been supplying drugs to his Mauritius-based contacts of old days when he used to be involved in goods smuggling.

The NCB officials hope to extract vital information from him as he is believed to be a key partner in Indian operations.

He was arrested by Mumbai police for minor offences. Jadiyo, who was arrested twice in connection with narcotics hauls, is also wanted by the South African police and the UK Customs in connection with a series of crimes.
He was first arrested in 1993 in connection with a large mandrax tablet seizure valued then at Rs 1.5 crore in the open market. Then again he was arrested in 1995 for heroine trafficking.

It may be noted here that in early July the Kheda police had seized 35 kg of brown sugar from Matar and arrested two persons in this regard. The NCB and the anti-terrorist squad had seized some seven kg of high-quality brown sugar, also originating from Pakistan, and arrested a wanted drug trafficker Iqbal Musa Patel of Bharuch in that connection. Hemaram Chaudhary of Barmer, who was a key-person in the supply chain, was also arrested along with him.

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


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