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July 27, 2001 - July 27, 2001

HC issues notices over Kher wood smuggling Friday, July 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court has issued notices to chief secretary, additional chief secretary, forests and environment, and the range forest officer, Vadodara range, in a public interest litigation filed against illicit felling and smuggling of Kher trees from forest and non-forest areas of south Gujarat.
A division Bench comprising Chief Justice D M Dharmadhikari and justice K R Vyas issued the notices on Wednesday. The notices have been made returnable on August 8, 2001.

The court has asked the RFO of Vadodara range to produce the file of the investigations conducted by him so far in the case.

It was submitted in the petition that forest minister Kanjibhai Patel himself is allegedly providing patronage to this illegal activity by a gang in which his son Sunil Patel is reportedly involved. Under these circumstances, honest and upright forest officers feel helpless and dejected and have been rendered ineffective and awe-stricken.

The petitioner has challenged the legality and validity of the actions of different respondents to prevent the systematic and widespread unauthorised and illicit cutting of Kher trees by organised gangs in active connivance with forest officers, politicians and their protgs.

They include Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, forest minister Kanjibhai Patel, deputy forest minister Prabhatsinh Chauhan, chief secretary, ACS forests, home secretary, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) DPS Verma and chief general manager of Gujarat State Forests Development Corporation (GSFDC) M L Sharma.

The petitioner alleged that despite a confidential letter from deputy minister Chauhan for checking unauthorised cutting and trafficking in the trees and for booking the culprits, Verma neither acted nor answered the letter.

The petitioner said that he had information that Kanjibhai's son Sunil was involved in unauthorised felling and sale of the trees with the help of top forest officers. Particularly, he alleged, with the help of M L Sharma who is the CGM of the GSFDC, Verma and local RFO Pratik Pandya.

He alleged that Pandya has assets and wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income. It was also learnt by the petitioner that Sharma acts as a liaison between the Katha factories and the gangs involved in smuggling Kher wood. Verma was an unseen partner in the clandestine business and has also amassed assets and wealth disproportionate to his known source of income.

Heartwood of Kher tree (acacia catechu) fetches high price as it is used in the making of Katha powder used for Pan and Pan Masala.

The petitioner submitted that it would be possible to control and stop these illegal activities only if the racketeers and their accomplices are brought to book. He demanded a CBI into the whole issue.

He also submitted that if Kher wood felling and smuggling gangs are allowed to operate further, the trees would be extinct from the face of Gujarat soon. The business of cutting and illegally supplying the trees to Katha factories in Haryana and Delhi is very lucrative and cannot be prevented unless stern actions are taken, he said.

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

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FICCI promises more help in Kutch Friday, July 27, 2001

BHUJ: Federation of Indian chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) and its partner Co-operative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) would camp permanently in quake-ravaged Kutch to help people resume their normal activities, a source close to the matter said.
FICCI chairman Chirayu Amin also told a press meeting here on Tuesday that a special project would be formed for the uplift of rural artisans. A marketing linkage has been already established with the US-based Aids to Artisans organisation for this purpose. "We have found Anjar as an ideal location for the project", he added.

Tom Alcedo, the country Director of CARE said that a project team of 30 has been camping in Bhuj and several programmes under the Gujarat Rehabiliation Project has been undertaken, including construction of earthquake and cyclone-proof housing, training in the vocational fields, repairs of dams and construction of community halls. He confessed that 21 villages out of 30 sought to be adopted by FICCI-CARE have decided not to be with the project. "We have requested the district administration to allot us other villages instead", he added. District collector Harsh Chhiber also attended the press meet.

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

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Anand students threaten hunger strike Friday, July 27, 2001

VADODARA: More than 40 students from Anand have threatened to sit on a hunger strike in front of Arena Multimedia office here on August 1. They allege that the computer training organisation's branch in Anand had "discontinued their training programme", leaving them in the lurch.
Forty-two students of the five-year diploma course in applied arts of the Ipcowala Santrampur College of Fine Arts in Anand have met officials of the Arena's regional office here and the Vadodara district collector to apprise them of "their plight". They submitted memoranda warning that if Arena did not return the money collected as course fees by August 1, they would sit on a hunger strike.

"We are all students of applied arts, and we had enrolled for a course in computer designing for value addition to our course. However, the centre in Anand where we enrolled suddenly discontinued the classes about four months ago. We decided to take this extreme step when our requests to officials of Arena fell on deaf ears," said Rakesh Prajapati, one of the students.

"All the students have already paid large portions of their course fees. Many students have even paid to as much as Rs 27,000, but still cannot have their course completed," added another student Kinjal Patel.

According to Prajapati, other students of the centre may also join the 42 students from the arts college during their hungerstrike on August 1.

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

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Umta residents seek custody of Jain temple Friday, July 27, 2001

MEHSANA: When in 1906 three Jain idols were unearthed near Rajgadhi Timba which were later enshrined in a hundred year old Svetambar 'dehrasar' perhaps nobody had an inkling that almost after a century the ancient `timba' at Umrta --- a hamlet near Visnagar --- would throw up a full-fledged Jain temple.
The discovery of the temple supposed to have been buried nearly 800 years ago has strengthened the claims of Mehsana and Patan to be the land with an inexhaustible treasure of ancient glory buried in its belly.

While traversing the hilly pathways of Umta, said to be 1600 years old, rising like a phoenix from the ashes it was reduced to twice one can smell the antiquity in the air and feel it while walking on its sands and trampling the precious stones which speak volumes of its glory.

The first concerted excavation of the site began this April on Mahavir Jayanti after resolving the dispute between Svetambars and Digambers. During the 30-foot deep excavation before it was suspended due to monsoon, 75 Jain sculptures were retrieved. Most of them were said to be Svetambari. One could see for oneself the architectural excellence of the structure of the bare temple showing signs of the ravages of time and excavation.

A joint committee of Svetambers and Digambers has undertaken the responsibility of the excavation. Its member Vimal Shah said that in 1985 the 'pachhit' (the rear wall of the temple) revealed itself when the construction of Rajgadhi. The 25 ft high wall stood there with exquisitely chiselled sculptures of various goddesses, Gandharvas and Kamasutra images These chiselling suggested that they belonged to the Solanki era i.e., the 12th or 13th century. In fact, one of the retrieved idols carried an inscription of Vikram Samvat 1240.

The fascinating 50 ft high site of Rajgadhi spread in an area of 100 metres in all the four sides in the middle of Umta belatedly caught the attention of GASI which began the excavation in 1987 under the supervision of a specialist from Nottingham University Adleson. However, it soon abandoned the work on the site saying that it had no archaeological value and that the department did not have funds to excavate such massive site.

In 1993, Svetamber Moortipujak Sangh took the responsibility of funds and began the cleaning and sweeping the site under the supervision of the state archaeological department which seemed disinterested. The joint committee was constituted two years ago.

According to a legend over 800 years ago the people of Umta had buried the temple systematically to protect it from the invaders' brutalities. And 250 years later a darbar Ummat Sinh Rana is said to have built a Rajgadhi on the mound under which the temple was buried. The Rajgadhi was destroyed in a fire when in 1726 the Maratha darbar Kuntaji Bande burnt the village. In 1890 Sayajirao Gaekwad built a school on the ruins. When the dilapidated school building was being demolished in 1985, the back wall of the ancient temple was discovered.

When the reporter asked GASI director Y S Rawat about the apathy of his department towards the Umta site he said that since he had joined recently he was not much aware of the facts. He, however, added that he was sad that a precious site was left to the mercy of the locals. Gehlot of ASI Vadodara confirmed that the GASI had abandoned the project due to paucity of funds.

The committee and the villagers want the site to legally belong to them. Digamber member of the committee A B Shah said since the department took no interest in protecting, funding or digging the site the government had no business to keep its finger in the pie. Svetamber member K K Shah said the committee would like to build a new temple at the site where the Svetamber and Digamber idols would be kept separately for daily 'puja'. He also said ornaments weighing over two kg of gold with 95 per cent purity retrieved from the ruins were in the custody of the district treasury. The committee has spent about Rs 8 lakh to excavate the site and a like sum would be needed to complete the work.

The committee managed to bring the Governor to the site early this month and appealed him to help them in acquiring the site which could enable them to offer daily puja. Temporarily all the 75 idols which include one of Saraswati have been kept in a room on the campus of Kharid Vechan Sangh in the village and a pujari performs daily 'puja' to them.

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

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Constable held for taking bribe of 10 bucks Friday, July 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A constable from the Naranpura police station was arrested for accepting a bribe of Rs 10 from a loading rickshawallah.
Acting on an information, ACB police inspector KK Patel organised a decoy in a loading rickshaw driven by one Rupchand Kesaji Prajapati who was also taken into confidence.

When the rickshaw approached the Nirnaynagar garnala, police constable Laxmanbhai Gagubhai Bharwad intercepted it, had a word with Prajapati and then demanded Rs 10 as bribe. And he did not initiate any action against the driver.

The constable was arrested by the ACB squad waiting nearby. In another case a talati cum secretary of Takrama village of Olpaad taluka in Surat was held for accepting a bribe of Rs 3,000.

A complaint was lodged by Mahendrabhai Nagarbhai Patel who had bought seven acres of land and wanted his wife and son's name included in the ownership deed. He approached the talati-cum-secretary of the Takrama village in Surat district, Muljibhai Patel and gave him the photocopies of the documents and application for the same.

Some reminders later, Patel agreed to do the job for Rs 4,000 as illegal gratification. The amount was bargained down to Rs 3,000 after which Mahendrabhai lodged a complaint with the ACB.

The talati who had readied the papers was caught accepting the money.

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

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