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November 23, 2001 - November 23, 2001

Voluntary bodies see red in 'Samras' Friday, November 23, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Chief Minister Modi's pet 'Samras Yojna', to lure villagers into appointing sarpanches uncontested rather than electing them, and thereby winning incentives ranging from Rs 60,000 to Rs 1 lakh for the village, came in for serious criticism from voluntary agencies across the state on Thursday.

They described it as a ploy to suppress the voice of Dalits, women and other backward communities.

"Samras Yojna means that anyone who belongs to the dominating class and has clout, muscle and money will prevail over the oppressed communities. The state government is dangling the carrot of incentives to gain political mileage, but does it realise that by propagating the scheme it is gagging Dalits, women and other marginalised groups who had barely found a voice through panchayat elections?" fumed Gandhian Chunibhai Vaidya representing the Gujarat Loksamiti.

He was addressing a state-level meeting of 60 voluntary agencies who met in the city on Thursday to discuss a plan of action to be adopted in the gram panchayat elections on December 23.

Significantly, the NGOs stated on record that they would not oppose 'samras' only if the Dalits or women were appointed sarpanches through the no-contest scheme.

"Let Dalits and women be elected uncontested. Let the dominating communities support the oppressed classes. If this does not happen, the state government will be accused of murdering democracy," opined Binoy Acharya of Unnati.

Otherwise, too, the state government invited serious condemnation for playing around with democracy and the Constitution by postponing the elections for one and half years.

"Ideally, new office-bearers should be immediately elected after the panchayat's five-year term comes to an end. But the state government has been... postponing elections for as long as one-and-a-half years under the pretence of lack of preparedness because of drought and quake," said Rajesh Bhatt of ASAG.

Meanwhile, voluntary agencies prepared an action plan to create for voter-awareness campaigns in over 1,000 villages to ensure active voter participation and free and fair elections.

The high point of the campaign would be a state-wide training programme for Dalit and woman candidates through satellite communication (Satcom) on Monday.

"A panel of experts will address all issues regarding the elections and interact with candidates from all 25 districts from the studios of the Remote Sensing and Satellite Communication in Gandhinagar," informed Acharya.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Police to scrutinise phone records Friday, November 23, 2001

VADODARA: The city police is scrutinising the printed mobile phone bill records of calls made from US to verify whether anti-nationals or other criminals based outside India had used Shailesh Patel's Nandini Communications illegal communication network that facilitate incoming calls from the US at 2 US cents per minute phone call charge. The development comes in wake of city court remanding Patel and his two associates to five days in police custody on Thursday.

Detection of crime branch economic cell had busted the illegal international telecommunication racket on Wednesday which is supposed to have caused a loss of Rs 40 crore to VSNL. Patel, the main accused in the scam, had set up a sophisticated system at his office in Avishkar Complex on Old Padra road to bypass VSNL's satellite and facilitate incoming calls from the US.

"We are checking the records to find out whether some anti-national elements have taken advantage of this network. We are also trying to gather more details on Patel's strategic partners in the US," DCB inspector N K Rathod told TNN.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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RPO rakes in the moolah with 'tatkal' scheme Friday, November 23, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Two years after its launch, the 'tatkal scheme' has proved to be a major draw among passport seekers in the state, raking in a handsome amount for the passport office.

This year nearly 8000 passports were issued by the Regional Passport Office (RPO) here, till the end of October, under the scheme. It expects to cross the 10,000-mark by the year-end.

The figure shot up by more than 100% compared with the previous year, when a little over 3,500 passports were issued under the scheme. It paid rich dividends to RPO, generated a revenue of Rs 1.40 crore, a quantum jump from last year's Rs 39 lakh.

"We are constantly trying to streamline the process and will make it a truly specialised service," said regional passport officer B B Swain.

Gauging its popularity, RPO has segregated the 'tatkal' section from regular issuance of passports. "But the application is processed only after confirming the genuineness of the case," claimed Swain.

He said once the decentralisation and technical upgradation programme at RPO is through, passports will be issued speedily.

The RPO has obtained permission from the postal department to open extension counters for collecting application forms at Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot.

In the year 2000 RPO received a little more than 1.89 lakh applications and issued 1.46 lakh passports. Till the end of October it received 2.06 lakh applications and issued 1.48 lakh passports.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Aggrieved consumers take on auto giant Friday, November 23, 2001

RAJKOT: A group of 'harassed' consumers hailing from the Saurashtra region has united to take up cudgels against an automobile giant.

They have joined hands to set up the Premier Cars Customers Association to unitedly fight against the Mumbai-based Premier Automobiles and Pal Peugeot which, they allege, are refusing to refund their money after they had cancelled the booking of cars.

The customers have formed the association under the leadership of Suchit Dave, a Rajkot-based advocate, and have so far enrolled 64 members who have moved a consumer forum here.

Dave told 'The Times of India' here on Tuesday that the company had taken deposit money from these customers. However, when the latter wanted to cancel their bookings, the company, which was bound to give back the deposit amount, had not done so.

Interestingly, the customers had approached the consumer forum where they got a favourable verdict. Premier Automobiles was asked by the forum to return the money, but this was not done.

President of the Rajkot District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum H J Dave had, in his order dated December 30, 2000 asked the car manufacturer to refund the deposit of Rs 25,000 along with 10 per cent interest. He had also ordered an additional Rs 7,000 as compensation along with cost.

The cases have now been referred to the Lok Fariad Manch.

'The Times of India' has been provided with a list of 64 persons who are been aggrieved at the attitude of the car manufacturer. The list includes doctors, businessmen and traders.

While some of the complainants are from Rajkot some others hail from towns like Dhoraji, Jetpur, Gondal, Veraval and Dhoraji.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Goghavadar still in a state of siege Friday, November 23, 2001

RAJKOT: Goghavadar continues to simmer, with allegations of police atrocities flying thick and fast.

The small village in Gondal taluka, which witnessed clashes between the Patels and Harijans recently, observed 'bandh' for the sixth consecutive day on Thursday.

Till noon, as many as 15 people from the Patel community had lodged complaints, alleging that their family members were at the receiving end of police wrath. Of the alleged victims 13 are women.

The incident on New Year's day continued to draw politicians in droves to the village even as an uneasy calm prevailed.

Former MP Shivlal Vekaria visited the village on Thursday. He later said in a statement that the issue was simmering for the past 15 years and yet the police, instead of resolving it, had managed to keep it burning.

And when an attack did take place, the men in uniform remained mute witness and did nothing to pacify members of both the communities, he alleged.

Vekaria claimed that during his visit, many people had complained to him about the harassment of Patels by anti-social elements in the village.

According to sources, the rival groups were holding secret meetings to formulate their next plan of action. The Patel community leaders met at a place near Shapar on the outskirts of Rajkot to regroup themselves.

The community leaders feared that more of their members would be arrested and warned that this would lead to spread of more hatred against the Harijans and even the police who, they alleged, was acting in a partisan manner.

The issue is likely to come up prominently when Chief Minister Modi visits Jetpur on the death anniversary of former minister Savji Korat later this week.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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