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August 7, 2001 - August 7, 2001

BJP MLAs on the offensive in Assembly Tuesday, August 7, 2001

The Times of India News Service
GANDHINAGAR: The simmering dissatisfaction within the Bharatiya Janata Party came to the surface in the state Assembly on Monday when a member, Arvind Patel, hurled an accusation at Speaker Dhirubhai Shah sending shock waves in the House, and subsequently the House had to be adjourned for 15 minutes as the heated exchange continued.
Patel's outburst came during Question Hour when finance minister Vajubhai Vala was being grilled by Subhash Shelat of the Congress followed by Jay Narayan Vyas of BJP who demanded a categorical statement from the government as to why the sales tax target was revised.
Vala maintained that the government had to revise the target as the revenue from sales tax had dropped considerably due to general recession in the market added with severe drought conditions. He said as against the revised target was fixed at Rs 5,880 and the actual recovery was around Rs 5,963 crore. As per the budget of 2000-2001, the sales tax receipts had been estimated at Rs 6,325 crore.
Despite this, MLAs continued their attack alleging that the revision had to be made as the government had failed to recover the tax as per the original target of Rs 6,325 crore. And at one stage even before Speaker asked Patel to raise his query, the angry member shouted "I am being victimised and ignored in the House".
Stunned at the charge directly hinted at him , the Speaker said "This is not proper". Shah said he has been trying his best to accommodate almost all the supplementary questions from both sides and even after such efforts if such a nasty comment was made by a ruling party member, it was not possible for him to conduct the House.
The Speaker then drew the attention of parliamentary affairs minister Suresh Mehta as Arvind Patel did not tender any apology, as was expected. However, Mehta apologised on behalf of the member. Mehta contended that even if Patel wanted to express his wrath, the manner in which it was done was definitely against propriety.
At this stage the Opposition Congress members again started criticising Vala for not giving proper reply to their queries and this led to heated exchange of words.
The Speaker, who was already perturbed by the adverse comment made to him by Patel, adjourned the House for 15 minutes saying it was not possible to run the House in such a chaos.
Immediately after the House was adjourned, Suresh Mehta rushed to Arvind Patel and tried to pacify him. Other senior members like Jay Narayan Vyas and Gordhanbhai Zadaphia were also seen persuading Patel not to go on the offensive.
As if this showdown was not enough another BJP member Jethabhai Bharvad challenged the social justice minister's reply regarding the financial help given to widows and old people by the state government. Even after Fakirbhai Vaghela gave details of the amount paid to the beneficiaries, Bharvad joined the Opposition and alleged that the beneficiaries were taken for a ride by the middle men who were operating in all the districts. He said it was unfortunate that the government was not aware of the racket going on in the scheme.
Vaghela had earlier disclosed that the government has raised the compensation for widows and aged persons. In all a sum of Rs 78 crore has been paid to widows this year as against Rs 54 crore last year.

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

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One to One, Keshubhai and the IAS Tuesday, August 7, 2001

While ministers, MPs and MLAs come and go, they are called the permanent rulers of the country. Everybody, including politicians, is in awe of them, and some, in fact, may also be a wee bit jealous. And, in the good old days, in many states, leading politicians also sought them as sons-in-law. Yes, we are talking of the ubiquitous tribe of IAS.
But these days, Keshubhai is a bit miffed with them. Although the IAS Association has sought an appointment with him, Keshubhai is keeping them waiting. The appointment is a courtesy call by the new office-bearers of the association. Keshubhai is upset because word has reached him that the new president has asked his tribesmen to stop co-operating with ministers and complying with their orders.
Actually, IAS officers tell us, the new president, Fateh Jassol, had said something else. The grapevine probably distorted the statement. But obviously without getting an appointment these IAS bigwigs cannot explain this to the chief minister.
Shivling in minister's fridge
Purshottam Solanki is an unknown name in the state BJP government. Despite being a deputy minister, in charge of labour and employment, no file ever reaches him. Yet, he is the least bothered. Indicted in the Srikrishna Commission report for his role in the Mumbai communal riots of 1992-93, he claims to be a deeply religious man. So religious that, last week, when his family members found a shivling-like shape developing in the refrigerator, he was promptly called from the state Assembly, which was in session.
Solanki did not wait for the session to conclude. He rushed home. In the fridge he also found an object resembling the nag devta. He took out both -- the shivling and the nag devta -- and performed a pooja.
"Purshottambhai wanted to go to Amarnath this season. But owing to preoccupactions (?) in Gandhinagar, he could not go. The Gods have been kind. He has been compensated in a small way," said an aide.
It's a different thing that while the Amarnath shivling never melts, the one formed in Solanki's fridge melted even as he was performing the pooja!
Talking through the hat
Ministers are known to make declarations without proper homework. And indifferent officials care little to provide them with proper facts.
Last week, one such declaration was made by irrigation minister Nitin Patel in the Assembly, where he said the state government was 'studying' a proposal to divert Mahi water from Kadana dam, in Central Gujarat, to fill up the dams in North Gujarat.
The senior minister was ignorant of a 1967 agreement between Rajasthan and Gujarat wherein Gujarat had agreed to give Mahi water to Rajasthan after the Narmada dam had been built. The agreement was formally signed between irrigation ministers of the two states -- Ram Niwas Mirdha and Vijay Kumar Trivedi.
When Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was the Rajasthan CM, he, too, had reminded the state government about the agreement. Many North Gujarat MLAs from the BJP say Patel is harming the cause of the region, to which he belongs.
Such vague promises have been made in the past, too. When Chimanbhai Patel was the Gujarat CM, he toyed with the idea of constructing a dam on Anas river, in Rajasthan, for getting waters for North Gujarat. It remained a political ploy.
Scientific temper re-packaged?
The Congress under Jawaharlal Nehru had taken pride in being a party with a scientific temper. Gujarat Congress stalwarts such as Jivraj Mehta, Hitendra Desai and Madhavsinh Solanki had favoured rational thinking as the mainstay of their philosophy.
However, now, that philosophy seems to have undergone a paradigm shift. No longer the scientific temper, but vague superstition seems to be weighing on the minds of Congress leaders and cadres.
Typically, Raghavji Patel, a senior Congress MLA, declared on the floor of the Assembly last week that "evil omens like two cyclones, two floods, two droughts and a terrible earthquake have been the result of the BJP rule in Gujarat".
Top Congress leaders sat out the aslant reasoning, with none complaining. Even Opposition leader Amarsinh Chaudhary did not bother. He was in his Assembly chamber, listening to the speech on a close-circuit TV. How could he? Recently he had declared openly that the quake was the "nature's fury over the BJP rule in Gujarat". The BJP rulers are not behind in such shallow arguments. Says senior minister Nitin Patel: "Gujarat upar Congress ni najar lagi gayee chhe (All this is the result of the Congress' evil eyes over Gujarat)."
IT stops ticking
Few have noticed it. Industries minister Suresh Mehta has meticulously kept both the CM and the CM's dream to make Gujarat an IT-friendly state out of his chamber. A soft dissident Mehta is often found taking satisfaction in forms of protest that have little significance.
While all his colleagues have kept a Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertiliser Corporation decorative piece picturing the GNFC Infotower as the "dream of chief minister Keshubhai Patel" with a CM's photograph inscribed and a working watch ticking in their chambers, Mehta has not. He has kept the decorative piece in his PA's room. Yet another GNFC Infotower decorative piece hangs where his clerks and typists sit. The second clock has even stopped ticking; it has a broken hand. No one has taken care to repair it.
Indeed, Mehta knows the reality -- the GNFC Infotower, in Ahmedabad, has remained, to date, a dead investment. Few IT companies have set up units in it because of its poor infrastructure and high rentals. Perhaps, Mehta is unhappy on another count. Though he is industries minister, the CM does not think IT is an industry. IT forms a separate department under the CM. And Mehta has no say in it!
Congress versus Congress
Sabarmati Assembly by-polls have made the Congress active. Not against the BJP, at least thus far.
Congress leaders' effort is instead focused on how to pull one other's legs. Narhari Amin, a well-known Congress leader, who was defeated by dissident BJP MLA Yatin Oza in the 1998 Assembly polls, is the likely candidate.
Oza resigned from the BJP last year, making Amin confident that he could now be elected.
Till very recently his chances looked bright. But no more. Ever since it has been made known that the Congress high command is thinking of making Amin as the Congress Legislature Party leader, the rivals have become over-active. Aspirants to the CLP leader's post include Naresh Rawal, Jassu Barad, Mohansinh Rathwa who feel they have been in the Assembly for long and should be given the chance.
Rawal had even camped in Delhi for several days to plead his case.
But having failed, they have decided, jointly, to make the by-polls difficult for Amin. They have aligned with the Madhavsinh Solanki group, a long-time Amin rival, for support. Belonging to the powerful Patel community, Amin was once deputy chief minister. With Congress seeking to revive itself in the state, it will indeed need the support of the politically most active caste.

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

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Disaster management plan being worked out Tuesday, August 7, 2001

SURAT: To have a comprehensive topographic map with emphasis on wind direction and approach roads for rescue and relief measures in case of any industrial disaster, an action plan under crisis management for all hazardous industrial and chemical units in Hazira, Sachin, Pandesara, Songarh and Kakarapar is being chalked out by the district administration in co-ordination with several agencies, both in public and private sectors.
With details of industries about their locations, the entry and exit points, types of chemicals and gases being used or produced by them and the nearby areas with demographic composition and surrounding topography, a rescue map is being prepared with the help of satellite in association with the state government, according to additional district collector Manoj Daxini.
A decision to this effect was taken by the district crisis management group, comprising representatives of industries and authorities from government agencies, in its meeting held this week at the district collectorate, Daxini informed.
All the industries in the district have been put under three groups with those in Hazira and Olpad being in one group, industrial units in Sachin and Pandesara in other while those located at Songarh, Kakarapara and other parts of the district have been kept in the third one, he said.
The existing measures in around 22 major industries in the district, to tide over any crisis due to any industrial disaster in these industries are also being under study for additional enforcement with regard to rescue and relief measures, Daxini elaborated. For effectiveness, mock drills by the industries would be conducted more frequently, he said.
For the draft of the action plan, a committee was also constituted with representatives from the district administration and the office of the district factory inspector. Besides, several other committees are to be formed subsequently for creating awareness among the general public with a number of measures for them as per the proposed action plan, he said.
As part of the plan, for better co-operation appeals would be made to the general mass in the district by the collector for equipping themselves with the know-how to tide over any crisis due to natural or industrial disasters, Daxini informed.
It had also been decided to form groups comprising representatives from industries and government agencies to look after exclusive aspects, like health of the affected persons during disaster and rescue measures, he stated.
Existing preparedness on the part of the industries were also reviewed by the district crisis group, comprising city and district police officials, district development officer, authorities from the irrigation and flood control department, Surat Municipal Corporation and representatives from the industries, Daxini said.
Even existing facilities at the Civil Hospital and the fire brigade in the district were also examined, keeping in view of any further need to have a better co-ordinated efforts among the agencies in times of emergency due to natural or industrial disasters, he added.
The agencies assigned with the task of framing comprehensive measures for disaster management would include the SMC, SUDA, Magadalla Port Authority, RTO, irrigation department, factory inspector and S V R College of Engineering, he said.

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Physical distinctions blur city roads Tuesday, August 7, 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.

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PALANPUR:::: Kanodar makes a name in jeep reconditioning workshops Tuesday, August 7, 2001

BY PRAMOD PANWAR, The Times of India News Service
PALANPUR: Unlike other villages that came under the domain of the Nawab of Palanpur state, Kanodar has certain privileges.

Located on the main Ahmedabad- Delhi highway it is known for its hard-working populace. Any wonder Kanodar had carved out a niche for itself with its export of handloom and textile products even in olden days. In fact, old-timers recall how Kanodari goods were prized in Afghanistan, Iran and the Persian Gulf states. Of course, things have changed considerably since then.

What strikes one at Kanodar is the presence of veiled women with majority of them being Shia Muslims, popularly known as Momins or Mumans.

Hard work and entrepreneurship have helped them to make jeeps out of junk. While the automobile industry is restructuring models to make four-wheelers more comfortable and likeable to high-tech imports, Kanodar is catering to the needs of the middle class. About 50 workshops located on both sides of the highway on a stretch 10-km from here, have been beckoning the middle class segment.

The workshop owners pick up jeeps from government and semi-government agencies and at auctions all over India, especially from junk bazaars in Delhi, U.P., MP and Maharashtra. The vehicles are reconditioned, the registration number transferred in customer's name and a no objection certificate obtained from the RTO to take the vehicle out of the state. Around 40 workshops cater to jeeps, and half-a-dozen handle tractors and light vehicles, like auto-rickshaws and two-wheelers.

The customers come here from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, says IsubBhai Musa, an expert broker of reconditioned
jeeps. However, there is a slump in sales now, he adds.

Haze Rasulbhai of Badarpura village is considered a pioneer of the auto industry in the village for he set up the first workshop in 1967. Since then over 50 workshops have come up in the village. While a score of them provide all kinds of spare parts even cheaper and in good quality, garage owner from Kheda district who frequently visits the Auto Bazar here claims that "What we do not get in Ahmedabad or in other big cities can be had here. Being a small place it is compact and the things are easily available at reasonably competitive rates. Almost every dealer is personally known to us. So there is hardly the fear of being cheated.

Moreover replacement of parts is no problem here. According to Yashin Chaudhary who has invested Rs.3l lakh in manufacturing unit of spare parts claims that 150 to 200 jeeps have been reconditioned and every year from Kanodar at least 100 jeeps speed out to other states.

Another workshop owner Rasulbhai says with the advent of new jeep models and availability of vehicles on instalment or finance schemes, the sale of their vehicles has gone down by half.

Several workshops have the capacity to convert a petrol-run model into a diesel-run one.

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

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