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August 9, 2001 - August 9, 2001

Construction industry flexes its muscles in Kutch Thursday, August 9, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
BHUJ/AHMEDABAD: Kutch DSP Vivek Shrivastava received some distress calls on Raksha Bandhan day last week from women complaining that the police had done nothing to book builders, architects and town engineers responsible for the deaths of their near and dear ones.

At least three women were baying for the blood of the builders responsible for the death of their brothers, whom they missed on the day.

But in Kutch district, where the construction industry seems to be much more organised politically than the quake victims, Shrivastava is treading cautiously. On Tuesday most of Bhuj observed a partial bandh against "harassment of builders by the police".

The Kutch Construction and Industries Rehabilitation Federation took out a procession to the DSP's office and several women, many of them family members of builders jailed or wanted by the police for their culpability in the collapse of houses in the quake, went on a hunger strike. They ended their fast only after Shrivastava came out and gave an assurance that any police action would be taken only after detailed investigations.

Unlike Ahmedabad, where there has been no groundswell of support for the nearly 76 builders, architects and civic officials arrested in the wake of the quake, their counterparts in Kutch are giving ample display of their clout.

More so, after the incident two weeks back when the arrest of former chairman of the town planning committee of Bhuj Municipality, Rasik Mehta, raised a political furore with many heavyweights from the district, including industries minister Suresh Mehta, coming out in his support.

Bharat Chothani of the newly set up federation says the police have been harassing builders, architects and others engaged in construction activity, "despite the fact that the quake was only an act of God". Claiming that Rasik Mehta was released on bail due to political pressure from Gandhinagar, he sought similar treatment to at least six other Bhuj builders who are still behind bars.

The Bhuj Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Indian Medical Association also supported the bandh call.

Shrivastava admits that the situation is different in Kutch in comparison to Ahmedabad. "This is a small place where everybody knows each other so it is only natural for the builders to receive support from other sections of trade and industry."

The builders have adopted the stand that while it is all right for the police to initiate action against the guilty in Ahmedabad, which was 350 kms away from the quake epicentre, the same yardstick cannot be applied to Kutch.

"In Ahmedabad some structures withstood the shocks while others could not. In Kutch the intensity of the quake was so severe that even well-constructed buildings crumbled," says Himmat Dama, a member of the federation.

Police officers, however, say that the issue has already been settled by the High Court, which had issued directives in response to a petition filed recently.

The court had ruled that the builders were aware that Kutch was in Zone 5 of seismicity and the buildings needed to be designed and constructed keeping this in mind. The argument that the builders were not aware of it and that some of them had also lost their family members in the quake does not absolve them of their guilt.

So far, the Kutch police have registered 26 cases of death in building collapses and arrested 15 persons, much less than in Ahmedabad.

says Shrivastava, "We are not arresting all the builders responsible for deaths in building collapses. We are arresting only those responsible for faulty designs and those guilty of clearing these plans and issuing completion certificates."

The investigations have been hampered because the National Cement and Building Research Institute, New Delhi, has not sent reports of any of the samples sent from Kutch.

"We are in queue. We have been told that our turn will come only after the testing of samples from Ahmedabad gets over," informs Shrivastava.

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


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VALSAD:::: 4 die as ST bus skids in Valsad Thursday, August 9, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VALSAD: At least four people, including two children, were killed and over 25 injured when the state transport bus in which they were travelling overturned near Chawsala village in Kaprada taluka of Valsad district on Wednesday.

The bus driver reportedly lost control over the steering wheel due to skidding. The bus was going from Kaprada to the interior forest village of Singaltati in Dharampur taluka.

The bodies of Ganesh Dhadvi (10), Sangita Lakhjibhai (7), Somabhai Lakshibhai (30) and Sakwarben Warli (65) were handed over to their relatives. The injured were taken to Kaprada hospital.

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


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Royal Orient gives Palace on Wheels a run for its money Thursday, August 9, 2001

BHARAT DESAI, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: It was modelled along the lines of Palace on Wheels but could never match the popularity of its famous predecessor which is the show-piece of Rajasthan Tourism. But after a slow take-off, The Royal Orient Train, promoted by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL), is finally coming of age.

The 14-saloon train made a rather disappointing start after its launch in February 1995 with its occupancy dropping from 25 per cent in the first year to nearly 15-20 per cent in the next few years. However, after the coaches were refurbished last year and the corporation tied up with some leading tour operators in Europe, things are looking up. In fact, the train made its first profit in the last year netting nearly Rs 1 crore for the TCGL. Indian Railways takes away 72 per cent of profit under the revenue-sharing agreement.

But there is an air of anticipation at TCGL for the arrival of the new season beginning from September when the train resumes its journey after a four-month break. While last year there were only four charters, there have been bookings for eight charters already for this season_September to April_and four more charters are being negotiated.

Says Atanu Chakravarty, managing director of TCGL, "We are not looking only at the profits. The train is the flagship of Gujarat Tourism through which we sell the state to tourists. It is our USP, the most premium product." Chakravarty says that through the train Gujarat gets very good exposure to potential tourists abroad, mainly through word-of-mouth publicity. While the travellers on Palace on Wheels get to see mainly Rajasthan, the Royal Orient offers both Rajasthan and Gujarat in an attractive package.

The TCGL expects this year more occupancy and cash inflows than ever before. And this turn around has been possible mainly through the promotion by Raj Singh, the London-based promoter of Exotic Travels, which is responsible for most of the charters. Singh also promotes the Palace on Wheels, and it was only last year that he entered into a three-year contract with TCGL for promoting the Royal Orient abroad.

The Royal Orient is of course sold as "An experience fit for Kings", and the promoters say it is better appointed than many 5-star hotels and has multi-cuisine restaurants. It transports the tourist through palaces and forts steeped in legends of heroism and chivalry. Plus, the coast of the Arabian Sea and the Gir forest _ the only home of the Asiatic lion in the wild.

The train leaves Delhi every Wednesday and winds its way through Rajasthan and Gujarat and the tourists get to see Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Mehsana, Modhera, Patan, Ahmedabad, Adalaj, Sasan-Gir, Somnath Delwada, Diu, Palitana, Sarkhej, Udaipur and Jaipur before returning back to Delhi the next Wednesday. TCGL has also offered attractive packages for honeymooners and corporate achievers who can either take the whole week-long tour or board the train at Ahmedabad and take a three-day circuit to Modhera, Gir and Diu.

Says Chaula Kuruva, marketing manager for TCGL, "The packages for the Christmas period are entirely booked in advance." Special discounts are available over the normal tariff of $ 200 per day (on twin-sharing basis) during the months of April and September. She said last year one of the charters had to be cancelled because of the earthquake.

The response this year is overwhelming because the tariff is competitively priced over the Palace on Wheels, and the train may just be bringing the TCGL, finally, on the right track.

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


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Jaspal on a rampage, rocks the Cabinet Thursday, August 9, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: Jails and rural housing minister kept up his offensive against the BJP government by directing his attack on Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel at a Cabinet meeting here on Wednesday when he said that the chief minister was "ignoring him even in matters concerning his department".

After the meeting, the chief minister summoned Singh to his Vidhan Sabha office and tried to pacify him.

The Cabinet meeting saw an outburst by Jaspal Singh, who has courted controversy recently by meeting the Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh in New Delhi, as the minister presented before the Cabinet a copy of a report published in a local daily of Vadodara about the lavish bungalow owned by his bete noire - the Gujarat Electricity Board chairman Nalin Bhatt. Singh said reports like these were bringing a bad name to the party at a time when the BJP should be preparing for the elections.

However, the mention of 'elections' drew a remark from the chief minister that "they are still far away". Upset by this remark, Singh said the BJP was slowly losing ground and "you are doing nothing about it , we are just under an illusion that everything is alright".

In fact, sources said, trouble began when the chief minister proposed in the Cabinet meeting the setting up of a Cabinet sub-committee for providing plots of land to the rural poor. A couple of names were thrown up for inclusion in the sub-committee before someone mentioned Singh's name. The chief minister ignored this. When, another minister mentioned Singh's name (because he is minister for rural housing) and the chief minister did not respond, Singh said "the chief minister actually does not recognise me, he does not even remember my name".

Singh went on to say that despite holding the rural housing portfolio, which was so crucial to earthquake rehabilitation, the chief minister had never consulted him on any issue regarding the Kutch earthquake. Singh said he felt quite humiliated with ministers whose portfolios had nothing to do with rehabilitation, were being involved in rehabilitation of quake-hit people. He said his situation was the same even in Vadodara where the BJP which controls the municipal corporation had never taken him in confidence despite he being a four-time MLA from Sayajiganj.

After the Cabinet meeting, the chief minister sent a message to Singh that he would meet him. This gave rise to speculation that the chief minister may even drop Singh or atleast tell him to quit if he felt so stifled in the party and the ministry. However, sources in the chief minister's secretariat said the chief minister wanted to probe Singh further on press reports about his possibility of joining the Samajwadi Party.

Singh reportedly told the chief minister there was nothing of this sort and that he sees nothing wrong in meeting people from other parties. The chief minister couldn't help but agree.

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


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NID workshop on sensory experiences Thursday, August 9, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: The National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad will soon hold a workshop on Dynamic Multi-Sensory Ambience. The concept is new to Ahmedabad and involves using light, sound, smell and other sensory stimuli to alter or even recast ambience.

NID believes that ambience is created by permanent elements like furniture, exhibits and ornamentation apart from sensory experiences like light, sound and smell.

In today's world, where novelty comes at a premium, creating a novel experience is more difficult than it seems. It is for such experiences that people visit theme parks, showrooms, restaurants or even prefer a particular hotel over other, an official release from NID said.

One can create varied types of ambience simply by changing the sensory stimulants without changing the permanent elements, the release said. At the workshop, the two most important sensory stimulants, light and sound, will be covered in detail keeping in mind the latest principles of science about human sensation and perception.

It will also touch upon the basic principles of human sense perception and colour perception. It is open to architects, interior designers, landscape designers advertising professionals and other design professionals.

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


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