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August 27, 2001 - August 27, 2001

Many slips still between the bottle and the lip Monday, August 27, 2001

GANDHINAGAR:The question doing rounds in bureaucratic circles of the state secretariat here is whether it is easier to bring about a solution on Kashmir between India and Pakistan or to lift prohibition in Gujarat , the land that swears by the Mahatma. Most bureaucrats agree that the two issues are equally difficult to tackle given the hardened stances.

Stiff resistance from social justice and prohibition minister Fakirbhai Vaghela to the state's new tourism policy's final draft - that unequivocally favours serving liquor at specific beaches along the 1,600 km long Gujarat coastline, apart from holiday resorts, entertainment complexes and star hotels - may come in the way of industries and tourism minister Suresh Mehta's plan to announce the top policy document in the state assembly, which is currently in session. Vaghela recently told the Assembly that he would react to the tourism policy only when the final draft comes to him. He says the solution to the fact that illicit liquor flows freely in the state is not lifting prohibition but enforcing the dry laws strictly.

A hawk in the pro-dry law camp, Vaghela has been quoted by top officials here that there is "no way the relaxation can be given." In fact, prohibition officials wonder why even the decision to allow liquor permits at state airports through the Gujarat Tourism outfits has not yet been implemented. "The relaxation was given. What more does the tourism department want?", said an official.

Mehta, a strong adovacate of allowing availability of liquor to at least tourists, if not others, had told the state assembly last week about his intention to come up with the new tourism policy during the current session alone.

"The industries and tourism minister is of the view that if the prohibition policy is relaxed, the state could earn a handsome money as excise. His only hitch is so-called social workers masquerading as Gandhians opposing his move. But now he is faced with yet another hurdle - Vaghela, one-time his close ally", a senior bureaucrat told TNN.
It would, in any case, not be an easy decision to come up with the tourism policy sans the liquor clauses, officials say. The view is gaining ground that Gujarat can never make headway in tourism with its existing dry laws. Besides, industries organisations had also strongly recommended lifting of prohibition if the state has to attract industries, especially IT , where the state has a lot of catching up to do.
"Chief minister Keshubhai Patel would have to personally intervene in the matter and take a decision, or else the policy, pending Cabinet clearance since September 2000, may remain untabled", the bureaucrat pointed out. The earlier policy of 1995 expired last year, but it was allowed to be extended twice, the last time being a month ago.
To end in September 2001, Mehta is now confonted with the issue on how to come up the new policy which, officials say, "is almost ready."

Under directions from Vaghela, the prohibition department officials are learnt to have put in negative remarks on the files proposing the new tourism policy. "The remarks are the standard ones", a bureaucrat said. "They say, allowing liquor to tourists is not part of the state policy or Gujarat culture. The situation would not change till a final meeting with the CM ends the controversy once and for all ", the bureaucrat added.

However, doubts exist about the CM intervening in the matter, particularly when he is found to be reluctant to take major policy decisions on important controversial issues.Relaxing prohibition being an issue that might prompt the Congress to launch an attack, something which the CM would not allow ,with the assembly electiond 18 months away.

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

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IB to probe communal clashes in Ahmedabad Monday, August 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A probe by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has been ordered into the communal violence that rocked the Walled City areas of the city since Friday, claiming one life and injuring seven.

"This was decided by the Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel after we discussed the issue with him at a meeting in Gandhinagar", BJP vice-president Madan Lal Khurana, who is in-charge of the party affairs in the state, told reporters here Sunday.

He alleged that some "Islamic fundamentalist organisations had deliberately made an issue out of non-issue to spark off communal clashes in sensitive areas of the city."

An unknown organisation gave a call for a bandh over beating up of some Muslim hawkers near Cadila Bridge about 20 days ago even as the Ahmedabad Muslim Traders' Mandal wrote to the police commissioner that it was not supporting the strike call and had nothing to do with it, Khurana said.

The sponsors of the bandh call were unknown and had printed inflammatory pamphlets bearing no name of the publisher and printers, he said adding that one person died in police firing, three shops were burnt in Kalupur area and a shed of a temple in Mirzapur area was damaged in the violence.

Meanwhile, the indefinite curfew clamped in Dariapur locality following Saturday's disturbances, was relaxed between 4 pm and 6 pm Sunday for women and children due to improvement in situation and to enable people to buy essential commodities.

The BJP leader said 30 people have been arrested for the violence that rocked the city areas for two days since Friday.

Khurana, however, evaded questions regarding when the probe would be completed, whether the IB could be trusted with the job and why no action has been taken by the BJP government against police officials who were responsible for death of seven Hindus in police firing during a religious procession in Surat a year back.

About dissidence in the ruling BJP and party MLAs engaging in arguments with ministers on the floor of the Assembly, he said there was no dissidence in the party and MLAs were duty bound to raise the issues concerning their constituency in the House and there was nothing wrong with that.

Asked what he had to say about reports regarding rural housing minister Jaspal Singh meeting Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh and his plan to quit the BJP, Khurana said he was not aware of this. "Jaspal Singh has met me and had related his problems to me," the BJP vice president said, refusing to divulge the issues raised by Singh.

He said the core group for the state unit of BJP would be announced after Septemeber 20 by-elections and claimed that his party would win both the Sabarmati Assembly and Sabarkantha parliamentary seats in the by-poll.
( PTI )

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

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City museum continues to lose precious paintings Monday, August 27, 2001

VADODARA: Years ago, Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery had lost many of its priceless paintings to moisture. This time, three paintings by noted Gujarati artist Rasiklal Parekh were destroyed by termites. The paintings were kept in a store with other 'scrap' of unused wooden frames.

Ranjitsinh Gaekwad, former MP and the great grandson of the erstwhile Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad, who constructed the museum said, the current state of the museum and the rare paintings reveals the sad state of affairs at the state-run museum.

"These are priceless works that were acquired for posterity. The scandalous neglect in the upkeep and the safety of the artefacts is disgraceful," he says.

According to him, it is the duty of the people to ensure that the elected government safeguards what we have acquired in precious legacy.

"If a thorough investigation is undertaken one does not know what skeletons will tumble out of the closet. The government must institute a time-bound investigation, and come clean with the people of Vadodara," he said.

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

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Chief Minister promises support to SMEs Monday, August 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Chief Minister (CM) Keshubhai Patel has promised the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) that the state will offer support to the small and medium scale enterprises (SME). This would be done by sanctioning a captive power plant (CPP), which will to be run by a group of small industries or by local industries association. This would help them reduce costs, and thus gain price-competitiveness against international players.

The CM was extending this support as reduction of tariff by the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) was not possible in view of its current precarious financial position.

Such a sanction for CPP by the government would help the SME reduce power cost by Rs 2 to Rs 2.50 per Kwh. The CII will submit its power proposal, along with inputs for a new IT and tourism policy, by August-end to the CM for consideration.

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

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National bird, Peacock, facing extinction Monday, August 27, 2001

PALANPUR: Peacock, the splendidly magnificent bird has fascinated people since time immemorial. The folklore abounds in the vivid description of peacock. But for the presence of the bird it is difficult to think of Indian gardens or a village house rooftop. Its multihued feather and characteristic call lends enchantment to any environs. They bring peace and tranquillity to a weary soul.

On the one hand the wonderful bird has inspired many a poet and artist and has carved for itself a pride position as our national bird and tragically, on the other its colourful appearance has been the cause of its disastrous end, too.

During the past two decades, this wonder of the wild has been but vanishing gradually, as their number is diminishing steadily. In fact, this species is not common in North Gujarat which once prided itself as the peacock's abode. How far could it remain safe considering the avarice of man? The increasing demand for its feathers, both for the decorative and religious purposes, is the main factor for this.

May it be a disease, witchcraft or quack's way of treatment the peacocks feathers are indispensable. Besides, the increasing use of pesticides in farming, particularly by tomato growers leads to mass killing of peacock, reveals a study by a Mumbai-based organisation working for the protection and welfare of animals.

The demand of mayur pankh and zhadu (Hand fans and broom prepared from peacock feathers) for use in places of worship and the beautiful feathers that adorn the head of Adivasi grooms and brides are some reasons that point to the peacock's popularity.

Recently some 15 peacocks were found dead in the hilly Danta-Ambaji region. It was attributed to consumption of a pesticide.

Recently this reporter found a vendor with scores of peacock brooms (zhadu) and hand fans tied in a cloth sheet. He was selling them for mere Rs 30 a piece. Neither the police nor forest officials were serious about such sale on the footpath.

According to a forest official peacock killing is an offence but not selling its feathers. What an irony! Only last Thursday Vaghri Gopal and Nena and Vaghari Ramesh Nena fond of the tasty peacock meat were arrested at Magarwada village in Vadagam taluka on the charge of slaughtering two female peacocks. The police filed the case under clause 26 and 102 of forest Act. The unauthorised killing of peacocks was on for a long time. Said a schoolboy of the village who witnessed the peacock killings. The female peacock had four chicks and they are fluttering their wings for the motherly touch. "We have been trying to feed them but they will not survive without their mother. They are too small to move without the fostering help of their mother", he said. Explaining the trapping tricks, boys who would follow the poachers said, "Usually the peacocks follow a track for breading and water accumulated area or tall and thick groves of the trees are the ideal places. But the poachers are at the strategic position in the night, use bright light to attract them. They trap the birds and slaughter them for their delicacy. A forest official of Danta range said, "Over dozens of hundreds of the birds trapped are peacocks. A grown up peacock yields more than one and half kg of flesh, while its feathers are also a prized item. Trapping a peacock is both easy and lucrative, as they can not fly long distance. Catching a peacock is even easier than catching a hen. Only a committed drive can save the fast vanishing beauty. Or else, the peacock will be confined to verses and vases (i.e., paintings) and perhaps some books, remarked a veterinary scientist and bird lover V S Rathore.

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

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