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August 19, 2001 - August 19, 2001

War veteran wages lonely battle for his dues Sunday, August 19, 2001

VADODARA: Every time he sees an aircraft piercing the skies, his mind goes back to the Indo-China War of 1962. The sound of jet and the sight of flying machines brighten his eyes. It makes him feel young and inspires him to keep going. Keep fighting.

For 60-year-old B.L. Kotiya, an ex-serviceman who served in the Air Force and was a part of 1962 Indo-China and 1965 Indo-Pak wars, the war is not over.

Life has put him on a different frontier and this time he is fighting a corporate body that has denied him his dues of Rs 1.20 lakh.

Dues that could help him cure his 26-year-old son who suffers from Schizophrenia and provide his wife with better medical treatment to cope with the blood pressure problem.

"Nobody has given me a hearing. They have scant regard for my services to the nation as an Airman. I have approached everybody from chief minister Keshubhai Patel to home minister Haren Pandya but have returned disappointed", Kotiya says.

His fight is against the state PSU, Gujarat Communications and Electronics Ltd (GCEL). After retiring from the Air Force, Kotiya joined GCEL in 1977. He served GCEL in capacity of a senior assistant (stores) and retired in May 1999. He was promised that his dues will be paid to him but denied later.

On August 15, after meeting with disappointment from all sides, Kotiya decided to immolate himself in protest at Bhagatsingh Chowk in city. He wrote to the state government that after his death his dues should be distributed to the earthquake victims in Kutch.

But on the night of August 14, police swooped on his house and detained him. He was relieved from the Makarpura police station only on the evening of August 15.

"I feel it would have been better if I was shot down by the Chinese while I was in an Air Force plane to air drop ammunition for our soldiers fighting in Siachin. At least by dying on the front then, my family would have been better off now," Kotiya says.

Kotiya was also awarded the President's medal for his participation in the two wars. "Even this medal does not move these thick-skinned politicians," Kotiya says, showing his medal. He says for 21 months he has been writing letters to state government and even has lodged a case in the labour court but his problem is far from being solved.

"My son is dying a slow death. I don't know for how long he will live. His mental condition is such that nobody will give him a job. My wife is getting old and is a blood pressure patient. The pension of Rs 865 that I get is not enough to run the household, let alone the treatment of my wife and son," Kotiya says.

Kotiya contends that GCEL is supposed to pay him his dues as per an agreement made between the GCEL management and union on October 5, 1998 and a letter that was issued to him by GCEL on May 22, 1999. "Now they say they will pay me nothing," Kotiya says.

He said that when he tried to argue with one of the general managers in the company he was punched in the face and thrown out of the office. "They broke my tooth and threw me out of the cabin. They even issued orders to break my legs on being seen near the GCEL office. This is the way government treats senior citizens, leave aside ex-servicemen," Kotiya laments.

He has now decided to sit on fast outside Gandhi Nagargruh. "That way at least I will be able to expose how they deal with senior citizens and make them suffer," Kotiya says.

When contacted, GCEL managing director GR Aloria said the allegation made against the company were false. What ever was due to Kotiya has been paid as in the case of other retired employees of the GCEL.

News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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Soldiers' children lose out to domicile rules Sunday, August 19, 2001

SURAT: For 18-year-old Nagesh Mullick (name changed), the hope of getting into one of the polytechnic institutes of the state got shattered recently. After being shortlisted, he got a regret note from the authorities that he could not be admitted as he was not a domicile of Gujarat.

Reason being, he had to accompany his father, an ex-defence personnel, through all his postings at different locations in several states in a service span of over 24 years.

His father after serving the Indian Army for over two decades with several outstation postings, including the one in Sri Lanka with the Indian Peace Keeping Force, is finding hard to identify a state of his own.

He as such has nothing to lose, but his children have been left in a 'stateless' status, which means being deprived of certain privileges in terms of education and jobs.

Born and brought up at Kharagpur in West Bengal, followed by a long stint with the Indian Army, after retirement from the services, Nagesh's father got a job in the telecom department with the posting at Surat.

Today, Nagesh and his elder brother have no domicile status in the state, as both of them could not complete 10 years of uninterrupted stay in Gujarat at a time when they could have been bracketed with the locals to be considered for admission and even for jobs in defence services from Gujarat quota.

Hundreds of ex-servicemen like Nagesh, who have settled in Gujarat after serving the defence forces, are struggling to establish their domicile for getting registered at employment exchanges or getting admission and jobs for their children.

Says Lt Col (Retd) A.K.S. Dudani, "Instead of giving access to certain facilities, retired personnel in Gujarat are being bogged down by the unfair rules. An ex-serviceman hailing from Punjab now settled down in Gujarat feels discriminated due to the prevailing norms."

There should be a kind of arrangement from the defence authorities to prevail upon the state governments to make them have access to basic things like education facilities and jobs on par with the locals, he says.

When asked, Surat district welfare officer Kishoresinh Gohil said that the education is a state subject and in matters pertaining to the admission, the domicile status is of prime consideration here. When confronted further, he refused to comment on it.

Generally, students opt for professional courses after Class XII when one is around 17 years of age, but it is very difficult to spend 10 years at a stretch in Gujarat or any state for that matter, as serving in services by their fathers must have entailed several postings at regular intervals across the country and even sometimes abroad, says Captain (Retd) B.S. Jha.

When a serviceman retires, he is in his mid- or late 30s, having teenage school-going children. In that situation, how can a student complete 10 years of stay for being eligible for domicile for admission to educational institutions after Class XII, he observes.

Not only this, lack of domicile status also prevents them from being selected for defence jobs from the quota allotted to Gujarat state, on the basis of the population. Notably, the quota meant for the state is often not filled, he informs.

In other states, too, there are time restrictions for domicile status, but they vary from three to five years and most of the time, the ex-defence personnel are given relaxation in this regard by the concerned authorities in many states.

Several representations in the past many years to district welfare boards, Directorate of Sainik Welfare and Resettlement (Gujarat) in Ahmedabad and Directorate of Resettlement in New Delhi by scores of ex-servicemen with an appeal to do away with the time restrictions for domicile status in Gujarat at least for their children, are to get a favourable reply.

Often applications get routed to 'concerned' departments with a note to look into the matter, according to an aggrieved father.

Meanwhile, for thousands of ex-servicemen, the agony on the part of their children in being outcast in their own country is something not a happy memory to go along with their patriotic zeal that most of them still cherish even after retirement from the services.

News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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UGC accreditation for state eligibility test Sunday, August 19, 2001

VADODARA: The University Grants Commission has granted accreditation to the Gujarat State Lecturers Eligibility Test to be conducted by the MS University, which is the nodal centre.

Sources said the move would benefit lecturers who until recently could not give the exams in Gujarati.

"Though the UGC delayed the accreditation it would now help the state universities to implement the UGC norms," said sources confirming that the university authorities were informed of the accreditation here on Saturday.

Sources also said until recently the state's lecturers had to give the test in English or Hindi at the national level in absence of the state level test. Many lecturers from the Gujarati medium too could not give the test as it was possible to give it in Gujarati.

"The accreditation would benefit the entire teaching community in Gujarat. The state government has selected MS University as the nodal centre and tests would be conducted in seven other centres in the state," they said.

The authorities have so far zeroed down to 25 subjects in which the SET tests would be conducted. The tests would be formatted on the lines of the National Eligibility Test. Funds for staff too have been sanctioned and the centre is ready to start operations they informed.

News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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Glass reinforced plastic boats for fishing soon Sunday, August 19, 2001

GANDHINAGR: The state government has decided to go for production of glass reinforced plastic (GRP) boats for fishing, as wooden fishing boats have been found to be unhygienic and has resulted in sharp decline of export to European Union, which has imposed a ban on import of fishes from India.

Making this announcement in the state Assembly, fisheries minister Babubhai Bokhiria said that the government has entered into an agreement of technology transfer with Hellematic company of the UK for manufacture of GRP boats at Alcock Ashdown, a state-owned company engaged in production of ships.

He said the project will cost around Rs 8.50 crore out of which Rs 3 crore has been deposited with Alcock Ashdown as equity share. As per the agreement, each boat will be built at a cost of Rs 32 lakh.

The government has made an allocation of Rs 1.25 crore in the annual budget for this purpose, he added.

While referring to the allegations of irregularities in Pipavav port contract signed with a firm as part of privatisation of 10 ports, the minister, denying the charges made by Naresh Rawal, said that the firm has paid all its installments to the government as per the schedule.

He said that the decision was taken by the erstwhile Rashtriya Janata Party regime supported by the Congress.

With the damage caused due to the January 26 killer quake, he said the government has made a provision of Rs 71 lakh in the budget for repair and reconstruction of fishing terminals at Mangrol, Veraval and Porbander ports. The Central government has sanctioned Rs 49 lakh towards the damage of around Rs 1.2 crore to the structures.

While giving details of the progress in handling cargo traffic at 10 major and medium ports being commercialised under the new policy of ports development, the minister said that the cargo traffic would touch 814 million tonnes by the end of this year as against the meagre 15.89 MT in 1995 when the new port policy was introduced.

Referring to the point raised by Daulatbhai Desai regarding harassment to fishermen from south Gujarat at Bhau Cha Dhakka, a fisheries harbour developed by the Government of India, the minister said that the matter has been taken up with the Maharashtra government.

Regarding the work for the development of Jakhau fisheries harbour, the minister said that the first phase of the project was over at a cost of Rs 26 crore. The component of Central assistance is Rs 11.43 crore, he said.

The fisheries department has reached saturation point by achieving production of 17 lakh tonnes of fishes. To produce the prawn variety of fish, the government has allocated 956 acres of land on Saurashtra coast as per the Supreme Court order.

To avail the required technical staff for the marine industry, the government has asked some of the private firms to start institutes on the lines of one set up in Cochin.

News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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Tobacco products banned in Gujarat jails Sunday, August 19, 2001

VADODARA: Watching prisoners smoke or snatch 'bidis' or cigarettes from fellow prisoners might be a common sight in movies. But such scenes have become rare in real life prisons of the state.

The prisons department in the state has recently implemented a decision to disallow consumption of tobacco products in prisons. Despite prevalence of tobacco dependence among prisoners, the decision is yet to receive a negative backlash.

According to officials in the prison department, the move was made after it was found that the incidence of tobacco addiction among prisoners was very high. Interestingly, groceries inside the jail used to stock tobacco products.

The practice has been done away with and prisoners are now prohibited from consuming tobacco products on jail premises. The restriction, however, does not apply to prisoners alone. Even the jail staff is prohibited from consuming tobacco on the jail premises.

Minister for jails and rural housing Jaspal Singh said the decision was in line with the idea of banning smoking in public places. "One the one hand, we were talking about the welfare of prisoners, on the other, they were allowed to consume tobacco inside jails. It was a paradox and we could not have allowed it to continue," Singh pointed out.

Singh said the department had started extensive campaign for persuading the inmates to quit addictions. "They should not suffer while tobacco companies become rich," he added.

Prison officials say the restriction has been in place for quite some time now, but there has been little resistance to it. "In the initial phase, there was some clamour. However, things are fine now. We have become very strict and inmates are frisked after their arrival from court hearings. Any tobacco product found on them is confiscated," said additional director general of police (prison) H.R. Gehlot.

Gehlot added that prisoners ended up spending hard-earned money on cigarettes or gutkhas. "They would work hard in the prison and earn some money, but end up spending it on tobacco products. The decision will stop this menace," he said.

Organisations working for welfare of prisoners have welcomed the decision. They say it's had a positive impact.

"There is some resistance and prisoners admit that they attempt to sneak in tobacco products. However, de-addiction drives and stress management is being used to help them get rid of the habit," said administrator of Alkapuri unit of Brahmakumaris, Dr Niranjana.

Brahmakumari's had conducted an eight-week spiritual camp at Vadodara Central Jail. The camp concentrated on de-addiction for one week.

Dr Niranjana said the addiction problems of prisoners were often related to stress. "The prisoners are constantly worried about their family and other related things outside the jail. This leads to stress which often results in addiction," she said.

The jail authorities are now contemplating running similar camps for an extended period. "The programme on spirituality was conducted both in Ahmedabad and Vadodara. We plan to extend the same for the benefit of the prisoners," Gehlot said.

"There have been no major problems since we banned consumption of tobacco products. The prisoners are complying with the rules," said jail superintendent Narendrasinh Jhala.

News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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