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August 7, 2001 - August 8, 2001

City MLA's meet the CM in Gandhinagar Wednesday, August 8, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: A delegation of BJP legislators and party functionaries from south Gujarat led by Union textiles minister Kashiram Rana on Monday met Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and urged him to accord priority to some of the pending works such as a new airport at Surat and irrigation facilities in the region.
Party legislators conveyed to the CM that some group irrigation schemes sanctioned last year were not implemented. About the airport, Rana said the state government should prepare a new design of the terminal as the earlier plan sent to the civil aviation ministry had not been approved following non-fulfilment of technical specifications.
The chief minister assured the delegation that the government was aware of the problems of south Gujarat and that they would be taken up in a phased manner. The delegation included forest minister Kanjibhai Patel, tribal development minister Mangubhai Patel and senior MLAs including Dhirubhai Gajera and Gulabdas Khasi and Dhansukhbhai Patel.

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

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Coin shortage persist Wednesday, August 8, 2001

RAJKOT : Several parts of Saurashtra continue to experience coin shortage for the past few weeks and the Saurashtra Sankalan Samiti which has begun an agitation on the issue, has asked the RBI authorities to probe the unauthorised 'sale' of coins and exchange of soiled notes in the region.
Samiti convenor Parag Tejura said while the coin shortage continues to affect people in many parts, the exchange of soiled notes in the banks has become a difficult task.
He alleged that while people with a few soiled notes find it difficult to exchange them in banks, 'dealers' in soiled notes come to bank and manage to exchange hundreds of notes. Tejura demanded an inquiry into the racket.
He even appealed to people not to exchange soiled notes with such dealers.
Meanwhile, the samiti members on Monday picketed the bank branches at Challala and on Tuesday, the traders would stage dharna at Bagasara and Babra.

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

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Physical distinctions blur city roads Wednesday, August 8, 2001

VADODARA: Ever tried walking in the city? Gaining a toe-hold on city roads could pose a challenge to even the most consummate prima ballerina.
Sanskar Nagri has some beautiful monuments, gardens, parks and shopping complexes but few well-constructed footpaths.
So, if a citizen wished to walk short distances on foot, the task would be one involving innumerable impediments. One would have to contend with the plethora of encroachments on footpaths, the sheer absence of smooth flooring on them, parked vehicles, garbage dumps, cows and pigs and hawkers. Walking in Vadodara is a challenge.
Walking is possible if there are footpaths. In many city areas there are no pavements at all, they are either taken over by parked vehicles or engulfed in road-widening exercises. Sometimes one can hardly make out the difference between a shop entrance and the footpath road.
In almost all shopping areas in the city, viz. Alkapuri's R C Dutt road, Raopura main road, the M G Road, Mangal and the Nava bazaar, a well-maintained and well constructed footpath is a sight for sore eyes.
Furthermore, many important crossings on the main roads in the city do not have zebra crossings (near the cross-roads on the RC Dutt road, the ever-crowded railway station, ST depot and many other city areas).
"It appears that the city's town planners had no provisions at all for pedestrians," says Smita Ruparel a city resident.
And ironically enough sources in both VUDA and the VMC say that their main concern is construction of roads, pavements are what remains as leftover after the main road (for vehicles) is constructed. "In some city areas, especially old city areas like MG Road, the increasing traffic has forced the authorities to narrow down the footpath," said a senior officer in VUDA.
"It's a ubiquitous problem in Vadodara. When I first came here I wanted to walk around the city to know it better. But when I tried it out, I discovered that it was impossible to walk on footpaths without endangering oneself. I gave up due to uneven roads and opted to use my two-wheeler even for short distances instead," says Rita Upadhyay a resident of Navapura.
"My 10-year-old daughter was recently hurt when she went to the market. To avoid a cow coming headlong at her, she moved to the side and in the process sprained her ankle due to the uneven footpath. Roads are not safe to walk on, but then nor are our pavements safe," she says.
According to R Trivedi, shopping in Alkapuri too is difficult especially if one tries to walk across from one shopping complex to another. "There are footpaths, but they are uneven. At all places there are hawkers and parked vehicles which makes walking very difficult. This is especially so if we come with our children, we have to be specially careful to ensure they do not sprain their ankles," he says.
"There are many tourists, especially foreign tourists, who prefer to walk in the cities they visit, but unlike in other cities most of them avoid walking in Vadodara," says Hitesh Desai, who played host to some French tourists.
He says, "If a person tries to walk for example from the majestic Kirti Mandir towards the Baroda Museum and Picture gallery in Sayajibaug, he would have to walk on the road where hawkers have encroached upon the pavement. Further down this road one has to cross the Vishwamitri bridge where pedestrians have to walk on a narrow lane which has a huge pipe taking over the pedestrian walk. The footpath that was constructed on this bridge during the Gaekwad era has been converted into a road for two-wheelers. This leaves absolutely no place for pedestrians to walk," he complains.
According to him this is the case even on the periphery of the historic Sursagar lake and the majestic Nyay Mandir where footpaths are uneven and taken over by parked vehicles, hawkers and cattle.

* Encroachments on footpaths.
* Cattle and garbage heaps leave no place for pedestrians to walk on.
* Vehicles parked on footpath.
* Lack of zebra crossings at main cross-roads in the city.
* Badly laid footpaths.

K K Shah VUDA chairman:
There are plans made to construct roads in the city. These follow certain guidelines. There are specifications for the width of the pavement of the roads. But per se there is no plan for a pavement alone. Sometimes the pavements in the city are damaged and uneven and can injure a person walking on them. But the repair and maintenance of footpaths is the responsibility of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation.

Who to complain
VMC's complaint cell: 434216

Madan Jhampa Road is virtually taken over by shopkeepers who display their wares. Such a sight is common to the entire city.

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

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Sonia's please-all panel may pushback Amarsinh's position Tuesday, August 7, 2001

The Times of India
AHMEDABAD: Sonia Gandhi could not give Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee five presidents, so she gave it a steering committee.

The announcement on Thursday of a six-member steering committee that would "work towards strengthening the party for future elections" did not come as a surprise, considering the fact that the faction leaders were pulling the party in five different directions. Not to miss the factions within factions, as one saw in the case of the Janata Dal group torn by Narhari Amin and Urmila Patel loyalists!

The committee comprises Madhavsinh Solanki, Ahmed Patel, Shankersinh Vaghela, Amarsinh Chaudhary, Urmila Patel and General secretary in charge of Gujarat, Kamal Nath, who will be the convenor.

Clearly, Sonia Gandhi does not want to take any chances, especially, after reports that one of the more formidable leaders among them and new entrant into the Congress, Shankersinh Vaghela, had got restless and had reportedly held parleys with the Nationalist Congress Party around June. His supporters, of course, call these meetings "routine", and Vaghela himself has denied any chances of his launching a new front.

Yet, the unusually long time that the party high command took to arrive at a suitable candidate for heading the GPCC, and the kind of scenes witnessed at the person-to-person meetings of partymen with Kamal Nath before the appointment, betrayed the lack of solidarity even in times of crisis.

"This committee will be empowered to take decisions on issues of party policies also," says a Congress vice-president.

But partymen are reading a lot into this development, which marks a precedent in the party's history. It will be not just party policies, but also appointments, recruitment and penalties that the committee will eventually take upon itself.

Senior Congress men believe that this will bring about a system of checks and balances within the party, with one rival faction maintaining a check on the other faction. It also suggests that neither faction will be empowered to hold conventions (like Vaghela and Solanki did) without clearance from the committee.

"Never before has a committee been so constituted to run a party, indicating a supercession of the party's state chief," observes a senior leader of the Congress.

Chaudhary loyalists vehemently deny that their leader's "wings have been clipped", rather they assert that Chaudhary would still have an upper hand. But ask them "how", and they fumble for an answer.

Interestingly, while Vaghela, Solanki and Urmila stand to gain -- since they will now have a say in party affairs -- the losers here are Ahmed Patel and Chaudhary, who have been at the helm of affairs thus far.

The development, coming as it does, on the eve of the Sabarmati and Sabarkantha constituency by-elections, shows that Sonia finally means business in Gujarat. And Kamal Nath's visit to Vadodara to launch the first phase of the training programmes for party workers, along with MP Kapil Sibal, will only put things in black and white.

"Yes, we used to have local steering committees earlier, but never did it comprise an AICC delegate," observes a party functionary.

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

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Cong demands more time to discuss budget Tuesday, August 7, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Congress is learnt to have demanded more discussion time to discuss the budget in the Assembly, following an observation that the government had considered every sitting in the Assembly as "one day" even if there were two sittings in a day.

Senior Congress leader Madhusudan Mistry, in a letter to Speaker Dhirubhai Shah, said that while the days of discussion stated in the tentative agenda were mentioned as 14, the actual time allotted for discussion was much shorter.

The letter, a copy of which was made available to the TOI, notes that four days had been allotted for general discussion, and 11 had been allocated for requisitioned discussion on the tentative agenda.

According to him, August 7, 9 and 14 have been slated for discussion "on requisition" and they each have two sittings, each of which has been counted as one day, thus bringing the total number of discussion to 11 (inclusive of the voting day). This was against the fact that 14 days had been shown as discussion days on the tentative agenda.

He pointed out that the definition of a day should not be confused with a sitting. Mistry notes "the government has always seen to it that the discussion time on the budget is restricted". He points out that it was against the established principles of accountability to allow so little time for budgetary discussions when it involved crores of rupees.

"The public cannot directly question the government on financial matters and this can be done only in budgetary discussions. So it is not right on the government's part to count one sitting on the budget as one day," Mistry notes.

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

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