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August 21, 2001 - August 23, 2001

NHRC report confirms govt delay in quake rehab Thursday, August 23, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Contrary to the state government's claim that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had "appreciated" the work done by the state officialdom in earthquake relief, a report finalised by the NHRC speaks of "the delay in announcement of rehabilitation package, and the slow progress of rehabilitation".

The NHRC report, which the state officialdom has been treating a secret while refusing to part with its text for two months now, recognises that "the task of rehabilitation is stupendous and will be long drawn". It emphasises that rehabilitation should be undertaken "promptly and without aggravating the hardships" of the victims.

Noting that power rested in the hands of those around Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, NHRC said this was a reason for the delay. It further says, "It is necessary that the administration, at the state level, is sensitive to the needs of the quake-affected. For promptly dealing with the grievances, it's necessary to decentralise powers and empower officers at the district-level."

It says, "Rehabilitation process will be aided if the decision-making process is simplified and more powers are granted to officers stationed at Bhuj. The commission requests the state government to sufficiently empower the officer stationed at Bhuj so that the problems of the affected people can be sorted out at the district level itself. Such a course will improve credibility of performance."

The NHRC has asked the state government to concentrate on completing the "enumeration of orphaned children, destitute women and elderly, and draw up a plan of action for providing relief and rehabilitation to people of each of these categories". The government should take special care of the marginalised sections of society, namely the SC/ST. The government should endeavour to ensure that relief for the affected members of this section is adequate and that there is no exploitation.

Pinpointing an instance of discrimination, the NHRC says, "The commission is concerned that the Dalits who have migrated to areas nearer to Bhuj from areas north of the district are being asked to go back. The reason for their migration is that they find better economic opportunities near the district headquarters. The return of the Dalits to their villages should be entirely voluntary." An NHRC source said the recommendation has been "accepted" and the forced eviction stopped.

Taking a serious view of the fact that "recently constructed multi-storey buildings collapsed in different parts of the state, especially Ahmedabad, which is 400 km from the epicentre", the NHRC asked the state government to "look at building by-laws, update them, and, most importantly, ensure proper implementation of the building by-laws".

A four-person group headed by PGJ Nampoothiri, special representative, is already on the job of identifying, community-wise, whether the packages announced by the state government are being equally distributed.

Next month, it expects to start public hearings in different parts of the state's quake-affected areas.

Within two months of its formation, the monitoring group has received thousands of complaints from Jamnagar and Surendranagar districts about lack of proper assessment of quake damage, and poor disbursement.

The group has also identified 160-odd paraplegia patients, mainly in Kutch, who will be bed-ridden for the rest of their lives. "We think paraplegia patients should not be given the same amount of Rs 50,000 as other permanently disabled ones," Sethi said. "There should be a permanent source of monthly allowance for them."

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

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Samata joins hands with NCP, others for by-elections Thursday, August 23, 2001

VADODARA: The Gujarat unit of the Samata Party has joined hands with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Gujarat Congress and Lok Janashakti to form United Opposition of Gujarat (UOG).

Talking to reporters here the Samata Party state unit president Pravinsinh Jadeja, said the newly formed alliance would field candidates for both the Sabarmati Assembly and Sabarkantha Lok Sabha by-elections scheduled for September 20.

In reply to a query he said the state leadership was competent enough to take a decision on the issue of alliance. Former party president Jaya Jaitley has been informed of the decision.

He said the alliance would emerge as third force in the Assembly elections to be held in the state in 2003. The UOG parliamentary board will meet on August 26 to finalise candidates for both the seats.

The party city unit president and deputy mayor, Shailesh Mehta said the NDA convenor and Samata Party leader George Fernandes, Jaya Jaitley and party MP Dr Shambhu Srivastav will visit Vadodara on August 25 to attend a rally to mark completion of one year of the party in the city.

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

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CM ignores minister for a crucial meeting Wednesday, August 22, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel ignored state labour and employment minister Bhupendra Lakhawala for a crucial meeting held here on Monday to organise a populist plan to "generate" nearly one lakh employment as "motivators" for spreading education, for taking care of health-care facilities in the rural areas, and for implementing various agricultural and rural development schemes.

Announced on the Independence Day, the chief minister did not think it worthwhile to call either Lakhawala, who is in Vadodara, or even labour secretary Arjun Singh or employment commissioner Raj Kumar for preparing the scheme.

Held in the presence of officials from labour, agriculture, health and rural development departments, the chief minister asked them to "identify" the areas where employment could be generated. Though the state finance department is believed to have objection to the scheme saying there is "no money to spare" at a time when funds are already in short supply due to quake and drought after-effects, the chief minister insisted it be "implemented" as it was crucial from the political point of view. Each motivator is planned to be given Rs 1,000 a month, a salary much below the minimum wage level.

While the state education department is believed to have come up with the concrete proposal to have motivators for adult education under the continuous education scheme and officials say the Centre "might disburse some money" for the nearly 20,000 to be employed for the purpose, the agriculture, rural development and health departments had no clear idea as to what are the works available for those wanting to be called "motivators".

When contacted, labour and employment department sources said, these are all "rural development schemes" and they are "more concerned with training instead of employment", hence may not have been called.

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

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Amarsinh frowns at unofficial meets Wednesday, August 22, 2001


HMEDABAD: Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chief Amarsinh Chaudhary took serious note of the designs by the Madhavsinh Solanki group to project him in bad light, at the mammoth meeting to felicitate him at the Gymkhana grounds in Borsad on Monday.

The meeting was hosted by the Youth Congress to commemorate the birth anniversary of the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and was also attended by Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel.

According to reports, Chaudhary said the Congress should take "serious note of the unofficial functions organised by certain people under the party banner". He was hinting at former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki who organised a meeting of party members on the same pretext at Surat city and his son, Bharatsinh who conducted a rally around Borsad which coincided with the Amarsinh-Ahmed Patel meeting.

Former MLA Shaktisinh Gohil is learnt to have taken a dig at Bharatsinh and said that "visiting MLAs should not be tolerated in the party". Of course, he did not name him in public.

Bharatsinh is learnt to have conducted a rally comprising at least 50 vehicles and moved around the villages of Kheda addressing the public and finally got back to Borsad, which he represents in the assembly. His rally was reportedly attended by around 700 supporters. But neither he nor his people came to the Amarsinh meet which is said to have drawn at least 15,000 people.

Sources say, Ahmed Patel was less direct in his address and did not refer to party matters but concentrated more on national and international issues. He delved into the failures of the BJP government on the Jammu-Kashmir front, corruption in government, Kargil conflict and the Vajpayee-Musharraf talks.

Earlier too, Ahmed Patel had camped at Borsad and addressed several meetings trying to win people over in favour of the "real Congress" as they see things now.

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

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Royal idol-maker carries tradition into 21st century Tuesday, August 21, 2001

VADODARA: It was a wish Maharaja Sayajirao III made - to shun violence and be totally religious. And, six decades ago, master craftsman Krishnarao Chavan, stopped making Ganesha that showed the deity killing the 'Sindrasur'.

"The Maharajas of the Baroda state always worshipped Ganesha idol that showed the elephant god vanquishing the evil "rakshas" with one of his tusks. When Pratapsinhrao became the Maharaja, he wanted to respect Sayajirao's sentiments and changed the idol," says Mansingh Chavan, who continues the family tradition of crafting the Ganesha idol for the Gaekwad royal family.

As he provides finishing touches to the three-foot idol that would be worshipped at the Laxmi Vilas Palace on Ganesh Chaturthi on Wednesday, Mansingh recalls how Pratapsinhrao invited Brahmins from Kashi way back in 1939 to decide on a new idol that would be "more solemn".

"The Maharaja had also asked artists and artisans in the city to provide him sketches of Ganesha idols. They were then asked to show models to the Maharaja. It was the model designed by my father that caught the fancy of the Maharaja and the Brahmins from Kashi. It marked a major change in the family tradition. For the first time, the royal family was using a different Ganesha idol," says Mansingh, who makes idols along with his brothers - Lalsingh and Pradip - at their studio in the Khanderao Market area.

The idol has not been changed since 1939. Even, all other idols that Mansingh makes today are modelled on the one made for the royal family. "There are many idol makers who are making fancy idols. But, I will never deviate from the model my father made according to the wishes of the Maharaja. I won't do it even for money," says Mansingh.

"It's a 'swayambhu' idol, made from one big lump of clay. The clay is brought all the way from Bhavnagar. We begin making the idol from 'akshay tritia' and it will be carried to the palace on Wednesday at the auspicious hour. A 'palkhi' will carry the idol exactly at 9.30 am," he adds.

Mansingh took over the family tradition after his father died in 1987. However, his family history is interesting - Mansingh's grandfather was the "senapati" to Maharaja Sayajirao's army after he came from Maharashtra. "But, there was an artistic trait inherent in him. Though he was a soldier, he would do excellent embroidery work in his spare time. My father inherited this trait. He not only made the Ganesha but is also the architect of the Kirti Stambh on Rah Mahal Road and the Sayajirao bust in Alkapuri," says Mansingh.

He recalls an incident when Pratapsinhrao had come to their studio to have a look at the Ganesha idol. "There was a clay watch on the wall made by my father. Incidentally, it was 7 pm then and even the watch showed 7 pm. Pratapsinhrao thought it was a real watch. He gave my father a prize of Rs 25. It was a great honour for him," he says.

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

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