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August 8, 2001 - August 8, 2001

Congress sees hidden agenda in educator-motivator plan Wednesday, August 8, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The state government's plans unfolded in the budget of 2001-2002 to recruit 60,000 Vidya Vyavsay Preraks in schools has raised a stink with the Gujarat Congress suspecting yet another strategy to 'promote' the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the Sabarkantha and Sabarmati by-elections through this move.

While budget discussions are still on in the Assembly, senior Congress leaders have protested against the move on the grounds that the BJP had a hidden agenda in the plan to recruit Vidya Vyavsay Preraks allocating a recurrent budget of Rs 20 crore for the same.

They similarly criticised the plan for Vidya Sahayaks which was launched earlier. This year, the state has plans to recruit 775 more of such sahayaks "for tribal areas" with a monthly salary of Rs 2,500 for a period of six months.

"This plan is tailor-made for Sabarkantha which falls in the tribal belt, and the BJP plans to sabotage the elections there at the expense of the state government by recruiting people from the frontal wing of the Sangh Parivar to these posts," allege Congress leaders on conditions of anonymity.

The budget states the objective of this plan as being "to overcome the problem of illiteracy in Gujarat and keeping in view the problem of unemployment" and states its purpose as being "self-employment and population education".

When contacted, an official from the education department said that it was a supportive measure "which is a part of the state literacy programme of continuing education under the human resource development department where the preraks will function as 'motivators'".

According to this official, "The prerak scheme was only an extension of the Nirantar Shikshan Yojana of the Central government," but declined to elaborate since it was under discussion. About the Vidya Sahayak Yojana, this official said that they were eventually made permanent after six months of service. But the official declined to comment about the criterion for recruitment.

"The actual purpose and motive of this scheme in not clear since the government has already filled up the existing vacancies with the Vidya Sahayaks," points out Congress MLA Siddharth Patel who raised the issue in the Assembly.

Patel says, "There seems to be an ulterior motive in the provision for new Vidya Sahayaks too, which specifically mentions that it is for the Adivasi belt, which is to go to polls soon." According to him, this was not necessary considering the fact that the district-wise allocations for Vidya Sahayaks were already made.

The Congress alleges "that most of the Vidya Sahayaks who were recruited earlier were directly or indirectly associated with the VHP or the Bajrang Dal, and had been taken in with a specific directive."

"By placing these preraks in the schools, the BJP will ensure that they have their people right where the votes are cast. And with certain villages in Sabarkantha completely alien to electronic voting machines, not much is left to the imagination as to what havoc these recruits can play," a senior Congress leader argued. This leader went to the extent of comparing the situation here with that in West Bengal where there were reports of massive stamping at the booths which were in schools. "Since Vidya Sahayaks will be temporary appointments, they won't be liable for any stringent disciplinary action either," observes a Congress source.

"Sixty thousand preraks in 18,000 villages ensures at least three in each village, who will be employed and will work for the party in its propaganda," a senior GPCC vice-president pointed out.

State education minister Anandi Patel could not be contacted for her comments.

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

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Metered power not compulsory: Vala Wednesday, August 8, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: In a major announcement -- that runs contrary to the agreement reached with the Asian Development Bank on introducing, in a phased manner, metered power in the agriculture sector -- Gujarat finance minister Vajubhai Vala declared on Monday that the state government had "never proposed to make metering [of power] compulsory, nor will do so in future".

The ADB's $350-million power sector loan hinges on how fast the state can introduce metered power.

However, Vala, replying to a general debate on the state budget 2001-02, did not commit himself to reducing the higher rates introduced by the state government for supply of non-metered power to the agriculture sector. Responding to a question from a BJP MLA, the finance minister said, "We will look into the matter."

At present, the high rates have been deferred to September 2001, with the state government providing subsidy to the Gujarat Electricity Board to compensate for the loss.

In yet another announcement, also meant to please the rising demand of North Gujarat MLAs led by ex-Narmada development minister Jay Narayan Vyas for supply of Narmada water to the eastern parts of the "neglected" region, Vala said, "The state government has given an in-principle approval to build a canal linking the Narmada canal at Kapadvanj with all major North Gujarat dams. The canal will fill North Gujarat dams with the excess 10 acre ft floor of water available at Narmada dam every year."

When a senior BJP MLA from North Gujarat, Mangalbhai Patel, asked Vala whether any provision had been made in the state budget, Vala said, "We have given an in-principle approval to this project, as well as the project to build the Kadana recharge canal right up to North Gujarat areas. After reviewing the technicalities, work on both will start by next year. The two projects together will save 60 per cent of the power currently going into the agriculture sector to pump out ground water."

Answering queries on imposition of one per cent sales tax on finished diamond products, Vala said, "We had to go in for it to comply with the floor rate of sales tax as agreed with all states. But together with Maharashtra we will seek a reconsideration. In any case, when value-added tax is introduced from April 2002, the matter will be reviewed at the Central level."

Influential BJP MLAs BJP general secretary Gordhan Zadaphia and Saurabh Patel wanted small diamond polishing units, all export-oriented, be protected.

Similarly, on the demand from the floor to reduce 20 per cent sales tax on molasses, Vala said this had to be introduced because of the floor rate compulsions. "However, we will try to see that the molasses used for industrial purpose alone invites the sales tax, while the one used as fodder does not."

In yet another reply, Vala denied that there was any reversion in the Gokul Gram project for providing village infrastructure. "The total amount has been increase from Rs 141 crore to Rs 174 crore."

Vala dares Cong
Making an emotional statement, state finance minister Vajubhai Vala said in the Assembly that he would "resign from the Cabinet in case any document is produced that proves he, or any of his sons, has any immovable property outside Rajkot".

"I declare on the floor of the House that neither I nor any of my sons own any such property outside Rajkot."

Vala's statement came even as Opposition Congress leaders made indirect references to allegation that "huge property" had been accumulated by Vala in Gujarat.

"I challenge you to produce any document before the House ends, otherwise let Opposition leader Amarsinh Chaudhary resign," Vala said, even as Congress MLAs declared they would produce proof on Tuesday.

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

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273 bodies lie unidentified in Kutch Wednesday, August 8, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: State revenue minister Vajubhai Vala on Monday informed the state Assembly that as many as 273 bodies found from under the debris of collapsed houses in Kutch were still lying unidentified. Efforts were being made to trace the relatives of the victims and give them compensation.

Replying to a host of supplementary questions, the minister assured the House that compensation would be paid to all those who had been registered with either the mamlatdar's office, or who were in the records of the local police authorities.

The minister said the government had appointed a three-member committee of senior IAS officials to detect duplication, if any, in disbursing financial aid to beneficiaries.

Initially, there were some problems, but since the data regarding the aid given to victims had been computerised tracking down duplication wasn't a problem, he said.

The minister said of the 15,553 cases, ex-gratia had been paid out in 11,587 cases in Kutch district.

Replying to a Punjabhai Vansh (Congress) query, the minister said as many as 110 muster clerks in Rajkot and Junagadh districts had been dismissed as they were found involved in irregularities at relief sites. Of these cases, criminal complaints had been filed against seven clerks in Junagadh. In all, 547 cases of irregularities had been reported from various places. Punitive action had been taken against the guilty, he said.

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

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State govt urged to study impact of power reform Wednesday, August 8, 2001

VADODARA: The Sangarsh Samity, comprising members of the GEB staff unions, Engineers' Association and the National Co-ordination Committee of Electricity Employees, has requested Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel to constitute an expert committee to study the impact of reforms in the power sector on six states before adopting the proposed Power Bill-2001 in the state Assembly.

The samity will be supported on its issue of opposition to the Power Reforms Bill by employees and engineers of State Electricity Board (SEBs) of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Goa, declared secretary general of the All-India Power Engineers' Federation Shailendra Dubey.

Six states in the country -- Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan -- have adopted power reforms and it has been alleged that this has proved disastrous.

"Most of these states are now thinking of reversing the decision of initiate reforms in the power sector to revitalise the respective state electricity boards (SEBs), and have realised that the decision was taken in haste," said Dubey.

The Sangarsh Samity has already served an indefinite strike notice on the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) and the state government, protesting against the move to table the Bill during the current Assembly session.

"We will resort to a flash strike as soon as the Bill is adopted in the Assembly, warned secretary general of GEB Engineers' Association NJ Yagnik.
The Gujarat Electricity Industry (Re-organisation and Regulation) Bill, introduced in the last state Assembly session, is likely to adopted in the current session.
Dubey also warned that the federation will not allow states neighbouring Gujarat, like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, to provide assistance in case the strike threat materialises. "We will also not allow employees from these states to be sent to Gujarat on deputation to maintain the power system when GEB employees go on strike," adds Dubey.

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

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AMC alleges land-grabbing Wednesday, August 8, 2001

AHMEDABAD: It's a fight for right for the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. The bone of contention in this case is three plots of land measuring one lakh square yard in Hanspura village of Dashoi taluka.

These plots (71,72, 73) in the area are within the corporation's jurisdiction and yet are not in their control. Standing Committee Chairman Badruddin Sheikh, while demanding nothing short of a CBI investigation into the "illegal transfer" of land belonging to corporation said: "In 1976, these plots of land had been acquired by the state government for laying of gutter lines. Owners of this land, farmers of the area, approached the court and got compensation worth Rs 2.74 lakh. A decade later in 1986, AMC took control of the Sardarnagar Nagar Palika and also of the land therein. In December 1998, however, the power of attorney for these plots was handed over by the owners to a resident of Gandhinagar. The plots were then sold to Keshavlal Patel and Sarika Patel," Sheikh said.

While claiming that the plot of land had been handed over to the individuals without prior permission of the AMC or the collectorate, Sheikh has shot off a letter to the collector of Ahmedabad.

Mayor Himmatsinh Patel said: "This transaction is illegal and we wish to get AMC back its rightful control over these lands. This is not the only case of illegal land-grabbing in the city. I have suggested to the administration of the corporation that the record maintenance system of the estate department be computerised. Thereafter a cell, headed by the commissioner himself, be constituted which would prevent and penalise such instances of land-grabbing in AMC areas."

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

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