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August 26, 2001 - August 26, 2001

Lottery scam in Mehsana Sunday, August 26, 2001

MEHSANA: A gang of conmen that cheated people of Satlasana taluka of lakhs of rupees by starting an illegal lottery scheme has gone underground following a case filed in the Kheralu court.

According to the complaint lodged at the Kheralu court, Arvindbhai Chhaganlal Patel and his accomplices had started Umiya enterprise in 1998 near Roshni theatre in Satlasana. Under a scheme members were enrolled and each member was asked to pay Rs 600 per month to get a scooter in a draw.

However, after a few draws, the firm was wound up and when members asked for refund, they were threatened by the organisers.

However, after the court case gangsters have gone underground and the police has begun manhunt for them.

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

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'Funds allocated to cultural affairs dept meagre' Sunday, August 26, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Minister of state for youth and cultural affairs Mahendra Trivedi has admitted in the state Assembly that the amount allocated to his department for 2001-02 is quite meagre compared to the importance it involves.

"Out of the Rs 18 crore allocated by the state finance department, Rs 5 crore are for reconstruction of the archaeological sites affected by the earthquake. This means, the cultural affairs department is left with a meagre Rs 13 crore", said BJP MLA Mahendra Mashru. Trivedi agreed and said, "Something must be done about it."

Answering the debate on the budgetary demands for the department, Trivedi said one reason why such important cultural centres like the Jaishankar Sundari Hall of Ahmedabad could not be renovated and hence remained unused was lack of funds. "We have to work with limited funds. I would talk with state finance minister Vajubhai Vala about this", he said, even while admitting, a number of sports complexes to be built or repaired under his department too remain in a limbo because of lack of money.

Even then, Trivedi said Gujarat has created a place for itself in the youth and cultural activities in the country. "In three years, the number of medals in inter-school competitions to Gujarat have jumped from 30 to 103, thus we have become number two. We have been inviting sportspersons like P T Usha and other Arjuna awardees to train our children for several days", Trivedi added. "The industries department has agreed to look into a scheme whereby good sportsmen could be usefully employed."

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

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Over Rs 11 cr spent every month on 11 lakh Below Poverty Line families Sunday, August 26, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The state exchequer has to spend a whopping Rs 11.88 crore per month only to provide subsidised foodgrains to 11 lakh families not included in the Central government's list of persons below poverty line (BPL).

Admitting this in the state Assembly on Friday, minister of state for food and civil supplies Babubhai Bokhiria told TNN later that there existed a sharp difference of opinion between the Centre and state over the issue of who should be included in the BPL list.

"According to our list, there are as many as 33.92 lakh BPL families in Gujarat. But the Centre lists only 21.2 lakh BPL families. The Centre provides subsidised foodgrains according to its list, prepared on the basis of the all-India criterion fixed by it. We, on the other hand, think that there are 33.92 lakh BPL families. As the Centre has refused to pay for those who are not included in the Central list, we have to subsidise it from our exchequer", Bokhiria said.

Bureaucrats here consider the state BJP government's effort to "inflate" the number of BPL families as a political game to woo maximum number of rural poor towards its side. "The Central criteria are different from ours", said a senior bureaucrat. "If our criteria were sought to be applied, then nearly 80 per cent of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh would have been below poverty line. This would have put a terrible strain on the Central exchequer", he added.

Under the Centre's guidance, already the state government has undertaken resurvey thrice. Bokhiria said, "We do not think there would be any sharp fall in the number of persons below the poverty line even after the resurveys. There are districts where the BPL families have gone down, while in some others, the BPL families have actually increased." The reason for no-change situation was, "There is a lot of pressure from the rural people to be included in the BPL. There are numerous representations too. We have to oblige", the minister said.

The result of repeated resurveys, in the meanwhile, officials admit, speaks badly on the plan to computerise the ration cards at the cost of Rs 4.34 crore. Though the computerised ration cards have been introduced in 18 districts out of 25, their distribution is still at a very infant stage. Only 25 talukas of the 18 districts have been covered "because the BPL survey there is complete", while as for the rest of the 200 talukas, it would be introduced only after the survey results are "finalised".

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

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Barot criticises Vala for overreacting in House Sunday, August 26, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: State information minister Bharat Barot has criticised finance minister Vajubhai Vala of "overreacting" during a state Assembly debate on Thursday.

Addressing newspersons here on Friday, Barot said, Vala "overstepped" while angrily reacting to senior BJP MLA I.K. Jadeja's query on encroachment by a chemical factory in Dhrangadhra a day earlier. Barot defended Jadeja's query, which angered Vala, saying, "In a democratic set-up, any BJP MLA has the right to ask what he wishes."

Barot are Jadeja are known supporters of the Cabinet's No 2, Suresh Mehta, a liberal opponent of Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel. Despite being one of the very few and influential BJP Rajput leaders from Saurashtra, Jadeja has not been included by Keshubhai in the ministry. Barot, too, remained outside when it was formed first in 1998. He was included by the CM a year later during the only expansion in 1999. Jadeja, a minister in the first BJP rule of 1995, waits in the wings to be included in if expansion takes place next month.

After making the tough anti-Vala statement, Barot realised he had uttered something he should not have. He tried changing his stance, saying he did not say anything "officially", whatever he uttered on Vala was in his "personal capacity" and had nothing to do with what the party thinks.

In a hurriedly called press conference to react to Opposition leader Amarsinh Chaudhary's statement that the state government would collapse under its own burden, Barot said, "The Congress history is the history of splits."

Pointing out the BJP has "never suffered" as the Congress has, Barot, however, said the split in the party in 1996 when Shankersinh Vaghela and 50-odd MLAs moved out leading to the ouster of the BJP rulers then was now a "thing of the past".

Criticising the Congress of forming a co-ordination committee to overlook Opposition leader Amarsinh Chaudhary's work, he said the issue of forming a similar committee sought to be formed by the BJP's Gujarat in charge Madanlal Khurana was being addressed by Khurana.

"He alone can say what happened to it," Barot added.

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

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CEPT releases quake damage assessment data Sunday, August 26, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Centre for Environment Planning and Technology (CEPT) has come out with a compact disc that could provide answers to many unanswered questions on the nature of devastation left behind by the January 26 earthquake.

This CD, result of in-depth survey by the institute's students, covers eight earthquake hit zones of the city and has marked house collapse sites on a city map.

Take for example the case of western parts of Maninagar. The area has seen the maximum number of building collapses in Ahmedabad. This data, when super-imposed on the Geographical Information System (GIS) map, can answer queries like why an area like Maninagar west was unsupportive to its buildings.

The student-generated study, preceding the CD, catalogues 1,168 surveys, 44 case studies, 987 photographs, including 25 contact prints of all photo documentation. In all the 44 case studies of collapsed and heavily damaged buildings of the city provides details of the extent and nature of the damage.

The work had begun on January 29 with 26 students of CEPT headed by faculty in-charge and co-ordinator of CEPT's School of Architecture, Professor Miki Desai.

"Areas to be assessed and recorded were decided upon and groups were formed after working out the method, proforma and modalities of documentation. Preliminary observations, notes, sketches and photography were accepted as tools for this purpose. The students took up the job with missionary zeal, often putting in 12 hours on the trot," said Prof Desai.

The survey data was later fed into computers for a semi-interactive CD title Earth Quake Damage Survey of Ahmedabad. "What we have now is raw data of high value. We hope that interpretative analysis of this will given valuable insight into earthquake and its effects. It is however prudent to mention here that the survey has been carried out without any sophisticated measuring instruments. It is essentially a visual survey based on the surveyers' observations," said Prof Desai.

On Friday, at a function to mark the CD release, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority were given 50 CDs each.

AUDA and AMC are joint sponsors of this damage assessment survey, which is now being extended further for preparation of yet another CD that would contain details, along with city maps, on the building inspection reports.

"This CD will be of academic interest and a useful record for analysis. Though the corporation does not have GIS, we will put the data generated for our future course of action. The data will also be handed over to experts on earthquake engineering from Rourkee whom we have appointed for post-quake analysis," said an AMC official.

The reaction was much the same in AUDA.

Said Bharat Rawal, chief executive administrator: "The data will help experts look into the way buildings and soil types behave during natural calamities like earthquake. Once a GIS map for AUDA is ready, along with minute details, we plan to superimpose CEPT's data to learn more on the earthquake and its effect on an urban conglomerate like Ahmedabad."

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

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