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August 23, 2001 - August 23, 2001

Fishermen delegation from South Gujarat to seek CM's intervention Thursday, August 23, 2001

SURAT: A 11-member delegation of fishermen from coastal areas in South Gujarat left for Gandhinagar on Wednesday to seek Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel's intervention in the deadlock arising out of a fishing row between the state and Maharashtra.

About 750 fishing boats from the region have been banned from entering the 'Bhaucha Dhaka' in Mumbai. If the problem is not solved in a week, all the 1000-odd boats will set sail for fishing and "matters will be tackled on the spot as the situation demanded", said Shree Gujarat Vahnavatu and Machhimar Sangh spokesman Subhashbhai Tandel.

With the new fishing season having commenced on Tuesday, several hundred fishermen families have been stranded on shore with no solution to the imbroglio.

In a meeting held on Tuesday evening at Pardi near Valsad, under the banner of the Sangh, it was decided that the state government be pressurised to intervene in the matter for an amicable solution, Tandel said.

Around 230 boats _ whose licences are yet to expire for entering the fishing jetty in Mumbai _ ready to set sail on Wednesday had been asked not to do so in solidarity with those who had been denied entry, Tandel added.

For over 30 years, the trawlers have been landing at the fishing jetty in Mumbai and the ban on their entry will not be tolerated, Sangh sources said.

It was also resolved that the state government should ask the Centre to persuade the Maharashtra government to reconsider the whole matter and lift the ban at the earliest. Meanwhile, the issue was also raised on the floor of the state Assembly recently by Umergaon MLA Ramanbhai Patkar. According to Patkar, there was no communication by the Maharashtra government in this regard.

However, a long-term solution would be to develop a commercial port at Umergaon at the earliest, for which provisions have already been made in the state budget. But, as of now, things should be pursued vigorously by the state government keeping in mind the fact that fishing is the only means of survival for thousands of families currently stranded on the shore, Patkar added.

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

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Big B joins thalassaemia eradication drive Thursday, August 23, 2001

RAJKOT: Did you know that Amitabh Bachchan is thalassaemic? How's that possible you may wonder. He doesn't have to undergo regular blood transfusions and is hale and hearty at 60.

"My family was spared because even though I am a carrier of thalassaemia minor, fortunately Jaya is not. And, so our children are not thalassaemia major," says Bachchan in his recent appeal to students of Saurashtra University to get themselves screened for thalassaemia minor.

Thalassaemia is an inherited blood condition in which there is a reduced synthesis of haemoglobin (see box). Depending upon its severity it has been classified into two main categories - thalassaemia minor and major. Those affected by thalassaemia minor, like Bachchan, are silent carriers and look perfectly healthy. But marriage between two thalassaemia minors can produce a thalassaemia major child.

It is the thalassaemia major child who requires frequent blood transfusions, besides medicines (iron chelating agents) to prevent excess deposition of iron on vital organs. These medicines are very expensive and administering them is equally painful for the child who is barely able to live through his/her teens.

"There is no satisfactory cure for thalassaemia major. Only prevention is possible. Therefore, before getting married get yourself tested for thalassaemia minor," advises Big B, adding "The aim is to build a new Saurashtra free from even a single case of thalassaemia major."

According to Indira Jani, who is in charge of counselling under the Thalassaemia Prevention and Control Programme, more agonising than the financial and mental anguish of the family of a thalassaemia major child is the uglier reality of "social boycott", particularly of the mother.

"We have come across cases when the mother is not accepted either by her in-laws or her parents and is blamed for bringing 'downfall in the family'. Despite spending the maximum time attending to her ailing child, she is made the scapegoat of society's ignorance about thalassaemia. All this when we are talking about the International Year of Women's Empowerment," she says.

"This is the case in well-to-do families too," agrees Dr Manorama Mehta. People hesitate to get themselves tested fearing social pressures. "In fact, when I was working with the KT Children's Hospital in Rajkot, we barely came across any thalassaemia major child from some high risk communities," she says.

Poverty, illiteracy, religion and family influences aggravate the problem. "Fortunately, the number of those undergoing counselling at the Rajkot Voluntary Blood Bank (RVBB) has increased considerably since 1993 when the project was launched," says Jani.

"The nearest pre-natal check-up centre is in Mumbai at KEM and BJ Wadia Hospitals. So in cases where both the husband and wife are thalassaemia minor and expecting a child, we at RVBB send them to Mumbai for sonography which can detect if the child to be born is thalassaemia major or not. In case it is so, the mother is advised to terminate the pregnancy," she informs.

The hospitals send the report directly to the blood bank and the parents learn about the result of the test from us so that we can suggest the follow-up action, she adds. When asked how long it would take before a pre-natal check-up facility for detecting thalassaemia major is set up in Gujarat, the director of the programme, Dr Sushmita Dave, says, "For installing any genetic testing equipment, we have to get the government's clearance. We should be getting the facility in six months or in an year."

What is thalassaemia?

Blood comprises two parts - the cellular part (red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells and platelets) and the liquid part called plasma. RBCs constitute most of the cellular part of the blood. These are essential for transporting oxygen from the lungs via the heart to tissues and carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs in the body. Haemoglobin is the main part of the RBC responsible for transportation of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Haemoglobin comprises the haem part i.e. iron and globin chains. In a normal human being there are four globin chains in a haemoglobin molecule. These are two alpha and two beta chains. Their synthesis is controlled by genes. Due to some genetic mutation if one or more globin chain(s) is absent or reduced then it causes abnormalities. If the alpha chain synthesis is affected, it is known as alpha thalassaemia and if beta chain synthesis is affected, it's called beta thalassaemia.

Beta thalassaemia is classified as major or minor. Thalassaemia minor patients are silent carriers of the disorder. They lead a normal lives themselves but can transmit the disease into their offspring. Thalassaemia major is the most severe form of the disorder. The reduced or absent synthesis of a normal globin chain in these patients leads to increased destruction of RBCs causing anaemia. To correct this anaemia, frequent blood transfusions, sometimes in every 15 days is prescribed. The symptoms of thalassaemia major become apparent within six months of birth.

Frequent transfusions lead to deposition of iron in various parts of the body, particularly the heart, liver and endocrine organs. If this iron deposition continues, then it leads to multiple organ failure resulting in death even before the patient completes his/her teens.

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

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Residents angry with VMC indifference Thursday, August 23, 2001

VADODARA: A lush green plot of land developed under an aforestation drive at the Sangam crossroads in Karelibaug has now become a hawkers' paradise.

With food vendors encroaching on most part of the plantation plot, the once dubbed 'green park' of Posh Karelibaug is now housing over 20 'larris'.

Even as caretakers of the plot Beautiful Baroda Council (BBC) and the vendors are at loggerheads, residents of the area have raised serious objections to the food mart that comes to life in the night. With eateries remaining open well past midnight, residents find it a nuisance, which they would like to get rid off.

According to sources, the vendors had shifted to the spot after they were removed from other sites in Karelibaug. The eateries were located on a footpath at the crossroads, but shifted inside the plot after the traffic police got tough with them due to traffic congestion.

Since then, the residents of Sangam Society have been facing the menace of smoke and fumes emanating from the stoves of the vendors as well as garbage in the area. The 'larris' have also become a major disturbance in the area as they remain functional till late night.

Said a retired government servant residing in the area, "The plot was meant for plantation, but has now become a nuisance. A lot of noise is created in the night and garbage is dumped at the entrance of the society. We have demanded their removal on several occasions, but to no avail."

A resident of Sangam Society, Bharat Thakkar, said some shops encroaching on the road were razed by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation a couple of years back. "It is ironical that the larris replaced them just across the roads," Thakkar said. He added that after closing shop the handcarts passed through the society late in the night, which was a major disturbance.

Peeved at the encroachment by the vendors, BBC has filed a police complaint with the city police. The complaint filed under the sections 447 and 184 of the Indian Penal Code and the Damage to Public Property Act states that the plot is one of the 14 plots given to BBC by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) for aforestation. The complaint filed by BBC functionary Suresh Pathak states that a damage of Rs 10,000 was inflicted on the plot by the vendors.

BBC president RO Shah said the plot was adopted by the organisation about five years back. "The plot is one of the few green spots in the area. Unfortunately, it has been taken over by hawkers now," Shah said. Shah also alleged that a corporator of the area Pandu Yadav was siding with the hawkers to ensure that they were not removed from the site.

Yadav, at the other end, denied that he was taking sides. "Some way has to be found out so that the hawkers do not lose their only means of earning. They have been here for quite some time now," he said. Yadav claimed that the period for which BBC adopted the plot was over. "They were given possession of the plot till July 21 and must not interfere with the affairs now," he said.

The hawkers too are in no mood to relent and threaten to conduct an agitation if they are removed from the spot. Jamnadas Thakkar, a hawker, said, "They cannot deprive us of our livelihood. We will conduct an agitation if we any decision is taken against us." In the past, the same hawkers conducted a stir when they were removed from the site.

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

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For GeneratioNext, politics is still a dirty career Thursday, August 23, 2001

AHMEDABAD/VADODARA: Believe it or not, but even the extravagant bonanza of three-fold hike in emoluments of MPs is not inspiring enough for the GeneratioNext to pursue the smeared profession of politics as a career!

"It is peanuts as compared to what I will be able to earn once I start practising as a general surgeon. Then why pursue a denigrated profession like politics?" questions Jaydev Gadhvi, a MS (general surgery) student of KM School of Post-Graduate Medical Sciences.

Official salary of Rs 12,000 per month, Rs 10,000 constituency allowance, Rs 14,000 office expense allowance, transport allowance of Rs 8 per km, 25 per cent hike in the daily allowance of Rs 400, mobile phones and free electricity and water upto 50,000 units and 4,000 kilo-litres respectively... the recent hike in emoluments of MPs is manna from heaven, one would say.

But not so for the Generation Next's wannabe professionals who confess they would consider taking up politics only as the last option...when all other options dry up !

"The hike would be good news for those already in politics... more income is always welcome. But not for me... I am sure I will be able to earn much more after I start my own construction business after completing my engineering. If I fail in that and in all other fields that I may chose, I might consider politics," concedes Maulin Shah, general secretary of LD College of Engineering. Shah is pursuing DE (Civil) and plans to go abroad for further studies and start his own construction house later.

Curiously here, it is not that the salary and other perks are less. It is only that the same is not "compensation enough" to enter the big, bad and defamed world of politics. "Politics is basically a thankless job. Hard work you may, but all you will get in return is public abuse. No matter how upright or honest you are, you will be viewed as one corrupt baddie, siphoning off the public's hard-earned money", says Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad's state organising secretary Govind Vagadia , who plans to start his own business.

Interestingly here, Vagadia confesses to feel so from his own experience. "I have worked as a student leader and have personally witnessed that no student has ever praised the good things that we have been instrumental in bringing out, say, the insurance policy. But all are ever-ready to deride politicians and ever student leaders as corrupt who get admissions at a price and so on and so forth. So its not really worth it", feels Vagadia.

Shah could not agree more. "For becoming an MP, one has to minimum invest Rs 1 crore. I am the general secretary of my college, I know that entry into any level of politics comes at a specific price-tag. So for a person who has invested Rs 1 crore, the hiked salary would mean nothing. He would gain only through corruption and that is something which I am not ready to taint my hands with. Small-time student politics is OK, there is nothing exciting about big-time politics", Shah says.

Bharat Dangar MS University Students Union (MSUSU) general secretary says, that there are several issues to the rise in MP's emolument. "On the one hand, it would be wrong to say that those who enter politics do so for the income that it provides, as most politicians have their own business. But on the positive side, it is possible that the salary rise would benefit those who want to work honestly for the society."

Prakash Verma former MSUSU vice-president believes that the salary rise per se would not prompt those not interested in politics to enter it. "Most of the politicians enter the field either due to their own social objective or activism or to carry on a family tradition. Many politicians are corrupt and the salary increase may not make the field lucrative," he said.

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

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Delay in MMCB revival questioned Thursday, August 23, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Nav Gujarat Banks Customer Protection Council (Gujarat state), an association representing the Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank (MMCB) investors, has written letters Union home minister L K Advani and Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha highlighting why there is delay in clearing the MMCB revival plan.

In the letter, the association has asked for the reason as to why the revival proposal, which was supposed to have been implemented in the first week of July, has not yet been taken up.

"What depositors want is concrete implementation of the decision taken unanimously at the highest level in the government for urgent revival of MMCB and redemption of their deposits. They do not want hand outs, but justice and fair play in the matter," it was stated in the letter.

"What is more disturbing is the fact that if redemption of funds of the depositors in US-64 could be decided immediately by reversing the decision of the UTI Board and making payment to them from August 1, why are the MMCB depositors kept hanging for the last four months in redemption of their deposit amount, especially when the MMCB was a scheduled bank approved by the RBI," it was stated in the letter.

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

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