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August 19, 2001 - August 19, 2001

Vasna residents marooned for two days after downpour Sunday, August 19, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: The Makrand Desai Road in Vasna may be touted as a model road by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), but this year's downpour has left hundreds of dwellers in societies off this road marooned for the last two days.

Hundreds of residents residing on the western side of the road are caught in a piquant situation as the main road leading to these societies is under a couple of feet of water. Water from a pond in Vasna is now flowing on the road.

Residents of Nilambar Park, Prarthna Bungalows, Lakulesh Nagar, Vrindavan Township, Ranchhod Nagar and other societies in the area are now forced to travel through a maze of streets passing through other societies. These streets too are in a dismal state and badly need repairs. They are blaming the VMC for not clearing storm-water drains and turning a blind eye to haphazard construction that has led to blocking of the "kaans" or natural storm water drains. Water overflowing from the Vasna pond normally drains out into this "kaans".

VMC officials point out that a low gradient is responsible for the slow drainage of water from the area. However, a trip to the area reveals that blockage of the storm water drain due to haphazard construction in the area has considerably affected the flow of water by the drain.

For instance, Shikhar Enclave has been constructed right on a storm water drain. A considerable portion of the natural flow of water in the channel is obstructed by the multi-storey building.

Similarly, VMC officials had to dig and remove drainage pipes from the approach way to Heritage Bungalows in the area to clear out the water. Sources said the work was taken up after a visit by the mayor to the affected areas.

While VMC authorities have virtually given up, stating that there was little they could do in this regard, residents point out otherwise. Ashok Trivedi, a resident of Vrindavan Township, said, "This is for the first time that waterlogging has lasted for a couple of days. Earlier, water used to recede within a day's time. This time around it is increasing even after it stopped raining."

The VMC officials might give numerous explanations, but residents blame builders for the state of affairs. Sanjay Patel, a shop owner, pointed out that it was only after some new societies came up on the storm water drain that the problem occurred. "They have blocked the natural passage of water and created problems," Patel said.

Residents of the area now fear that an epidemic might break out due to waterlogging in the area. Rainwater has started mixing with water from sewer tanks in the area and pigs can be seen all around.

Another resident of the area, Dineshbhai Patel, pointed out, "If things do not improve soon, diseases might spread in the area. After water recedes, there is an unbearable stench in the locality."

Commenting on the issue, executive engineer (West Zone) D R Joshi said, "The gradient in the area is very low and it is a flat terrain, making it difficult for water to get drained out. The water level will recede within a day."

When asked regarding obstructions made on storm water drains, Joshi said several of these had been removed. "We will continue with cleaning up of the drains," he said.

Deputy municipal commissioner JM Sevak said the officials had been asked to look into the matter and resolve the crisis soon. "We are waiting for some more details and engineers are working on the problem," he said.

News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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Activist takes up tribals' cause Sunday, August 19, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: Moved by the death of 10 Chhatisgarh tribals, who were driven to eating meat of a dead bullock out of starvation, noted tribal activist and Sahitya Akademi winner, GN Devy, has vowed to skip a meal a day throughout his life.

In a letter to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Devy said he'd vowed to 'mobilise tribals to fight the oppressive situation till such time as there is not even one hunger death among the tribals'.

The letter further says tribals are driven to eating dead animals out of hunger.

"This situation could easily have been averted, if the funds, available for tribal development, had been put to use. Some days back I read a report in a local daily that Gujarat had not used even one rupee from the grants available for tribal development during this financial year.

"A similar situation in Bengal is already being investigated by order of the Calcutta High Court. The tribal development ministry of the Central government has mooted a foodgrains bank scheme, but I understand that its implementation in Orissa has been half hearted and the scheme has more or less failed there. If your government were to bring all the tribal villages under the foodgrains bank scheme in the states with tribal population, leaving out the north-eastern states, the total investments required would not exceed Rs 800 crore (at Rs 65,000 per bank as per the scheme). I, therefore, do not understand why your Government cannot provide food security to the tribals of India," Devy says.

The Korkus of Maharashtra have been dying of malnutrition; the tribal women in Rajasthan and Gujarat are being regularly sold for feeding their hungry families; the sickle cell anaemia (SCA), which already has affected nearly 80 per cent of the tribal population, is further aggravated for want of adequate food, Devy says.

The letter further adds that in Gujarat alone an estimated two lakh persons are awaiting a slow death due to SCA. The condition of de-notified tribals is even worse: besides hunger they have to face persecution as well. If under these circumstances the government remains passive; when even food security cannot be provided what's the use of Independence?" the letter says.

News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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Nitin Patel ushers in E-governance in Mehsana Sunday, August 19, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
MEHSANA: On the 55th Independence Day, small and medium irrigation minister Nitin Patel, who is also the district's in-charge minister opened the E-governance and computerised video conference room under the state-wide area network programme.

Inaugurating the video conferencing room at the public amenities centre at the collectorate, Nitinbhai said his government had taken a vital step towards E-governance by opening such rooms in all districts on the 55th anniversary of independence. This facility, he said, would enable people to interact with the district officials directly without wasting time, money and energy. This could be used at international level, too, he
added.

Nitinbhai claimed that after Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat was the second state to create the facility of e-governance and video conferencing.

Talking of advantages of e-governance in the Information Technology age, Nitinbhai said any citizen could access this facility, irrespective of his or her social or economic status. People need not run from pillar to post for their work. E-governance would end red-tapism and speed up disposal of public works, he hoped. A common man now would be able to keep track of the progress of his redressal petitions.

The minister appealed to bureaucrats to create public awareness about the utility and use of the latest technology. He also expected them to change over to computer culture from the file-culture.

Earlier, collector A S Patel said it was a proud occasion for the district to get the information gallery cum public amenities centre built at a cost of Rs. 1.50 lakh inaugurated on the 55th anniversary of independence. He said people's applications would be accepted at the centre and a computer would provide a receipt of each application. Now, the people will not have to go to different departments for submission of their grievances or complaints. This would be a great benefit of the central registration system at the pubic facility centre, Patel said.

He further said 75 employees had undergone behavioural training to equip them with a new perception of administration which entailed computer friendliness on them.

Later Nitinbhai had video-conferencing session with IT minister Bimal Shah at Kheda and with water minister Narottam Patel at Surat with whom he had an interesting chat on the progress of the project of Narmada waters for North Gujarat.

News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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Festival week ends with estimated Rs.20-cr turnover Sunday, August 19, 2001

BY NARANDAS THACKER, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
RAJKOT: The usual refrain is 'tahevar pachhi avjo' (come after festivals). For full five days, all activities ground to a halt come what may.

The people in Rajkot, and for that matter in Saurashtra as a whole, do it in style --- to enjoy the 'people's mela' as they call it. From last Friday, all work was suspended, be it at shopping centres, grain market, government offices or anywhere else.

But, it is the economics of the festival, which is indeed interesting. According to rough calculations, the turnover in the past five days is put at Rs.20 crore.

This includes the transport, shopping , eating out, mandap service, lighting, sanitation and sundry items.

Nearly 20 lakh people from Rajkot and its 30 km periphery thronged five festival fairs --- three in Rajkot town, one each at Ratanpar, 15 km from Rajkot and Ishwaria Mahadev on the city outskirts. The daily turn-out of merry-makers was two lakh daily at the Shastri Maidan and one lakh each at Virani school ground and Bal Bhavan and 50,000 each at Ratanpar and Ishwaria Mahadev taking the total to 20 lakh.

The Lok Mela samiti, headed by Collector, has been getting a surplus of Rs .20 to 25 lakh at the end of the show. This year's figure is anybody's guess, but it may surpass the previous figures, if the people's turn-out is any indication.

The stall holders say the season is 'very good'. On an average, one person spends Rs.100 in terms of to and fro transport, eating, shopping etc.,. A visit to the mela by a family of five could cost anywhere between Rs.400 and 500.

The figures of the estimated turn-over also include the cost of the infrastructure and facilities provided by the government and semi-government agencies like Rajkot Municipal Corporation and the Gujarat Electricity Board

A three-wheeler, known as Chhakda, was seen carrying as many as 30 people on board! Risky business indeed! But those in upbeat mood, won't bother. Such scenes were common everywhere the traffic was chaotic, on the Rajkot-Ratanpar road as well as Rajkot-Ishwaria Mahadev Road, with scores of vehicles having broken down on the way.

Of all the fairs the ones at Ratanpar and Ishweria attracted the religious-minded, mostly middle-aged and elderly as well as rural segment. whereas the three in Rajkot beckoned people from all age groups, mostly young. It was a time for couples to move around hand-in-hand.

Folk fairs are organised at 325 places every year in Saurashtra in the wake of monsoon. The principal attractions are Tarnetar in Surendranagar district and Madhavpur in Porbandar district..

As against the upbeat mood in Rajkot and surrounding places, the mood in the earth-quake affected Kutch, Morbi-Malia in Rajkot district, Jodia-Dhrol in Jamnagar district is rather sullen.

It is a mini-vacation, not only for government employees, students but also for workers in factories and in markets as well. And, of late, there is a trend among the upwardly mobile to avoid the rush and go out of Rajkot for a week. They include doctors, businessmen, industrialists. They favourite places are the Diu island, Mount Abu and Mehsana water park. Of course, some prefer Goa, Matheran, or Mahabaleshwar.

News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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Surat excise office registers bumper crop Sunday, August 19, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
SURAT: Routine checks and intensified 'nakabandis' besides delegating more powers to officers at divisional levels in the Central Excise and Customs, Surat-II, to curb evasion of excise duty in the region covering Surat, Navsari, Valsad, Dangs and union territories of Daman, Dadra and Nagar Haveli seem to have paid off.

According to excise commissioner Anant Ram, with the revamping of the anti-evasion machinery during 2000-2001, 136 cases of offence were booked against industrial units falling under the jurisdiction of the commissionerate. The cases involved duty evasion of Rs 65.59 crore, as against the target fixed at Rs 40 crores for the year, registering an increase of over 64 per cent.

Talking to 'The Times of India', he claimed that the Surat-II commissionerate had topped the list for the highest recovery of anti-evasion duty by other commissionerates in the state during the year.
During 2000-2001, the Surat-II commissionerate had realised Rs 1,408 crores as against Rs 1,210 crores in 1999-2000, the commissioner said.

During the current year (upto July), the total spot recovery of Rs 1.40 crores was effected as against Rs 77 lakhs during the corresponding period of the last financial year, he added.

Despite general industrial recession, the commissionerate had been maintaining an upward trend in terms of not only achieving the targets fixed for the year but also registering a substantial increase over the previous year, he said, adding that the commissionerate so far has achieved more than 15 per cent increase in revenue earning during the year.

In view of strengthening the measures to prompt and encourage the assesses, several open house meetings are to be held at different locations under the commissionerate where grievances could be addressed, he said. For this, senior level officers have been instructed to attend periodical meetings with the general public, to solve their problems at the spot, he added.

According to Ram, the recently introduced system of excise audit was successfully implemented through a systematic and comprehensive audit programme in the commissionerate. Under this scheme, around 13 objections were raised, involving duty amount of Rs 4.95 crores along with a spot recovery of Rs 3 lakhs. About 104 units were subjected to audit and a total number of 101 paras were raised involving around Rs 3.10 crore.

News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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