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July 22, 2001 - July 22, 2001

Education secretary to probe stampede Sunday, July 22, 2001

THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE
GANDHINAGAR: The state government has directed education secretary Varesh Sinha to meet the principals of the schools in congested walled city areas of Ahmedabad and ensure remedial measures to prevent recurrence of such tragedy.

It is learnt from reliable sources that the government would, on receipt of the ongoing inquiry report, take stern measures including demolition of illegal portions in the school complexes. It was found that several school managements had constructed illegal classrooms, and in cases even the premises was hired out for commercial activities.

The officials will also inquire whether the management of Nutan Prakash school had indulged in any violation of rules of the education department or those of the municipal corporation. The inquiring officials have asked the management to submit details of the classrooms and other premises owned by the school trust in the same complex. The authorities will also ascertain whether there were any tenants.

State education minister Anandiben Patel told The Times of India that the government would take necessary remedial measures for the safety of schoolchildren. She said the education secretary will, in consultation with the DEO, convene a meeting of leading citizens of Ahmedabad, including the city mayor and principals of schools, to discuss the issue.

The minister warned that the state government would strictly adhere to the new guidelines prepared after discussions with the concerned people in the city. According to her several schools have constructed new classrooms on the playgrounds meant for students.

The state education department will also take AMC's help to try and find out irregularities in the construction of primary and secondary schools in the walled city.
In case of any illegal constructions obstructing the main entrance, the civic authorities would be asked to clear such obstructions. "We will ask civic authorities to demolish such structures if the managements do not come forward to carry our required alterations."
Meanwhile, state urban development Parmanand Khattar on Thursday convened a meeting of AMC officials to find out whether the corporation had utilised a sum of Rs 5 crore sanctioned by the state government to carry out repairs in primary schools run by the municipal school board.

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


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Education secretary to probe stampede Sunday, July 22, 2001

THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE
GANDHINAGAR: The state government has directed education secretary Varesh Sinha to meet the principals of the schools in congested walled city areas of Ahmedabad and ensure remedial measures to prevent recurrence of such tragedy.

It is learnt from reliable sources that the government would, on receipt of the ongoing inquiry report, take stern measures including demolition of illegal portions in the school complexes. It was found that several school managements had constructed illegal classrooms, and in cases even the premises was hired out for commercial activities.

The officials will also inquire whether the management of Nutan Prakash school had indulged in any violation of rules of the education department or those of the municipal corporation. The inquiring officials have asked the management to submit details of the classrooms and other premises owned by the school trust in the same complex. The authorities will also ascertain whether there were any tenants.

State education minister Anandiben Patel told The Times of India that the government would take necessary remedial measures for the safety of schoolchildren. She said the education secretary will, in consultation with the DEO, convene a meeting of leading citizens of Ahmedabad, including the city mayor and principals of schools, to discuss the issue.

The minister warned that the state government would strictly adhere to the new guidelines prepared after discussions with the concerned people in the city. According to her several schools have constructed new classrooms on the playgrounds meant for students.

The state education department will also take AMC's help to try and find out irregularities in the construction of primary and secondary schools in the walled city.
In case of any illegal constructions obstructing the main entrance, the civic authorities would be asked to clear such obstructions. "We will ask civic authorities to demolish such structures if the managements do not come forward to carry our required alterations."
Meanwhile, state urban development Parmanand Khattar on Thursday convened a meeting of AMC officials to find out whether the corporation had utilised a sum of Rs 5 crore sanctioned by the state government to carry out repairs in primary schools run by the municipal school board.

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


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Technical snags hamper BSNL service Sunday, July 22, 2001

THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE
AHMEDABAD: The euphoria that wireless in local loop (WiLL) phones had generated at the time of its launch is gradually ebbing.

The service could have easily edged out cellular service operators in the city or at least given them a run for their money. But in typical PSU fashion Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited is doing none of these.

Beyond scaring the mobile operators in the state - AT&T and Fascel - into slashing their rates by 35 per cent, BSNL is not doing much to sustain the growth or provide quality service to the subscribers.

After providing just 1168 WiLL connections, the BSNL machinery is clogged with a long waiting list of prospective customers. For the last two months allotment of new lines has been suspended "till new instruments arrive from Delhi". Around 400 instruments are expected before the month-end.

At the same time, the WiLL waiting list, which runs into more than 1,000, is growing, according to BSNL chief general manager P K Chanda.

Gujarat Telecom Circle general manager (operations) H B Shah says to tackle instrument shortage, BSNL has allowed two city agents to import these. "One of them will be finalising the import of 1,000 instruments soon."

Mobile Phone Users Association secretary Sumer Jain, who had thought that WiLL would solve mobile phone users' problems, feels BSNL needs to pull up its socks.

And BSNL's woes do not end here. There have been widespread complaints of technical snags affecting WiLL service. Last Sunday, WiLL subscribers' lines were down for around six hours because its frequency was intervening with that of the cell phones.

Many subscribers also complain of faulty chargers and unavailability of the service in some areas.

Manoj Kucheria, among the first to subscribe to WiLL, has not been able to operate his instrument for the last 10 days because of a faulty charger. His complaint to BSNL officials has not evoked any response.

Kucheria also complains of 'call dropping' and says very often, the phone goes out of range. BSNL attribute 'call dropping' to the fact that it has just three 80-metre towers in the city.

"We will have 10 more towers before the end of this fiscal which will improve our coverage," avers Shah.

If one goes by call rates, WiLL has a distinctive edge over mobile operators. While incoming calls are free, the outgoing ones cost Rs 1.20 (three minutes) and the rental is Rs 400. But faulty planning and what many term "premature launch" has prevented it from capitalising on the price advantage.

Many WiLL subscribers were in for a shock when their first bill came; it was more than their mobile bill! It happened because an oversight resulted in an extra zero inflating many of the bills.

"We have called back these bills and requested the subscribers not to pay till a new bill is issued," says Shah.

Meanwhile, AT&T officials say that their gross addition to the subscriber base - 4,000-5,000 phones a month - has remained steady even after the arrival of WiLL.

But there is yet another competition lurking in the form of Reliance, which has been talking about its plan to launch services in the city in three months. Given the group's financial muscle, shortage of instrument will not come in the way of their services.

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


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City BJP severs ties with Samata Sunday, July 22, 2001

THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE
VADODARA: The BJP has snapped its ties with the Samata Party, which had joined it as its ally after the civic polls last year and helped it form the board in the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC). The decision came after the Samata Party, led by deputy mayor Shailesh Sotta Mehta, voted against the motion during a requisition meeting on Thursday that almost got the BJP out of power in the VMC.

"There is no affiliation with the BJP anymore," BJP city unit chief Shabdsharan Brahmbhatt told The Times of India on Friday. "When the two parties got together after the election last year, they had decided to work with us for the betterment of the city. However, the Samata Party began threatening to pull out of the alliance ever since. There has been no collective responsibility. We have now sent a message to them that no one is indispensable and we can manage on our own. We do not need their support anymore," he added.

There is a palpable sense of being betrayed in the city BJP camp with members feeling that their ally should have expressed doubts over the mayor's leadership and asked for a vote on the issue. City mayor Bharti Vyas had even hinted after the meeting on Thursday that since the deputy mayor did not have faith in her leadership and the party, he was free to severe ties.

The BJP-Samata Party alliance has never been a smooth ride with Sotta threatening to pull out on numerous occasions, the latest being the issue of cholera cases in the city. The BJP, however, managed to pull through this time by roping two Independents - Dilip Kothari and Ranjanben Bhatt - and NCP councillor Nisar Bapu.

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


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'White House' to be refurbished Sunday, July 22, 2001

THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE
VADODARA: The 165-year-old majestic building called the 'White House' located on the M S University campus near the university office will soon be restored to its original glory, and the vice-chancellor's office will soon be shifted to this building.

This is a part of a long-term plan that involves undertaking major repairs, restoration and conservation of the building.

MSU Vice-Chancellor Anil Kane said the White House or the 'Residency Bungalow' as it used to be known in 1840s when it was used to house the British residents of the Baroda State, is a heritage building constructed in 1835.

"The recent earthquake further damaged and accelerated the deterioration that had set in the building. But now, the MSU authorities have agreed to undertake conservation and renovation work at the building in a phased manner. Eminent architect Suryakant Patel would draw out the four-phased programme," he informed.

The building sustained heavy damage during the earthquake and now requires urgent repairs to hold it together. At present the upper floor of the building is unoccupied, however, a part of its lower wing is being used as the security office and as SLET office.

According to Kane, the university has received funds to undertake the repairs. "We have also received a substantial amount as compensation after the earthquake damaged a number of university buildings. We plan to set aside some of this for the White House so that it can be conserved," he said.

The first phase of the project would tackle the urgent repairs that would be needed. The second phase would concentrate on measures required to prevent active deterioration in the building, the third would explore the work needed to maintain the aesthetics of the building and the last would explore further the desirable changes that need to be made informed Kane.

The building itself has an interesting history. "After its construction in 1835 (probably at the behest of the then erstwhile Maharaja of Baroda State), this building was used by Sir James Outram resident of the British rulers and Sir R Meade 'Knight Commander Star of India'. The names of these two British residents is displayed at the building on plaques along with a mark showing the highest flood level that occurred in Vadodara in 1927 monsoons.

Kane said, later after Independence, the building was handed over to the university and until 1960 it was used to house the university office where syndicate and senate meetings were organised. Later when the new university building came up these offices were shifted to the new building.

"Thereafter it was used as residential premises for university professors by constructing partitions within the rooms," he said. Eminent artist Prof Gulam Shaikh who has stayed for over a decade in the White House recalls that it used to be a majestic building and staying there was one of the most wonderful experiences of his life.

"We stayed in three of the four divisions that were made in the building. We stayed in what once used to be the billiards room. It was massive and the large space permitted us to use it as a painting studio. The hall was as large as 35 feet in length and breadth. The tiles were hexagonal, black and golden yellow," he says.

According to him, though the building is of historical importance it was not well maintained even then. "Whenever there was a repair work it was mishandled by workmen who did not understand the techniques use din the olden days. Any patch work that was done was done without regard to the original materials used and this further aggravated the problem," he said.

He added that if the building has to be restored, care should be taken to ensure that only those who are well-trained in old construction methods should handle it.

The building has two large halls on the upper floor amongst which one was probably the dance room says Shaikh.

The ambience of the building too is beautiful. The building stands majestically in the backdrop of the Botanical garden and the convocation ground of the university. "There are still a few vestiges of the British period that remain amongst these include the large bathtubs used during those days," says Kane.

He said soon the newly-refurbished building would be once again used to house the offices of the V-C, the Pro V-C, the registrar and the senate and the syndicate meetings.

The facade of the 165-year-old Residency Bungalow on the MSU campus. Vice-Chancellor Anil Kane looks at the peeling walls of the White House building.

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


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