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July 14, 2001 - July 14, 2001

Amarsinh who? Congress what? Saturday, July 14, 2001

By Kingshuk Nag, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: Has the Congress in Gujarat all but withered away? If you are surprised to hear the question, consider the following facts.

Early this week came the curious revelation that the son of the state's forest minister had been booked by none other than the forest department for his alleged hand in illegal felling and transportation of forest produce.

Both the father and the son have, of course, denied the charges and claimed the latter has been framed. It is quite possible that the son may be innocent, but the matter is still under examination.

In the meanwhile you would have expected the major Opposition party to create a furore. After all, matters like this do not surface every other day. But all we have heard was a whimper from state Congress president Amarsinh Chaudhary. He said somewhere that the forest minister must go. Nothing more.

Of course, Chaudhary cannot be expected to raise a hue and cry on this matter; he was himself alleged to have been involved in a similar case a few years ago. But what about other state Congress leaders?

In the week following the unveiling of the Tehelka tapes, a senior BJP MP told this correspondent rather contemptuously: "These Congress chaps are absolutely useless. If we were in their place you would have seen the way we unleashed our campaign."

He was talking of Congressmen in Gujarat who were making an apology of an attempt to embarrass the government. The same was the case when the Madhavpura scam broke out.

But try telling Congress leaders of the state that they look like a passenger train destined for nowhere, and you will probably provoke violent reactions similar to what principals of Ahmedabad colleges got from NSUI activists on Thursday. For the record, the NSUI is student wing of the Congress.

Ever since the Congress captured power in the panchayat elections last year, party leaders have been on cloud nine. It is a foregone conclusion that we will come to power with a thumping majority in the next Assembly election, is what Congress men have been asserting since then. The Keshubhai government is so corrupt and everybody is so fed up with them that nobody will vote for the BJP, they aver.

But is this something that is so certain? Performance-wise Keshubhai has little to write home about. Neither is the government expected to qualitatively improve its performance over the remaining period of its life. But elections are not fought on performance alone. If your competitor looks worse than you, then chances are that you might be voted back, whatever be your performance. Ask the Left Front in Calcutta and they might reveal how replacing Jyoti Basu with Buddhadeb Bhattacharya a few months before the election gave the LF a brand new image, one which shone compared with the rabble-rousing Mamata Banerjee.

The Congress could well be hurt the most by party worthy Shankersinh Vaghela. A former RSS man, the highly-ambitious Vaghela has never had full acceptability in the Congress. And if the grapevine is to be believed, he is feeling restive ever since Amarsinh was anointed the state party boss.

There is nothing more that Vaghela the former chief minister can expect from the party. It is possible that he might leave the party and form a third front. That could well be the last nail in the coffin of Gujarat Congress.

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


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Cholera, gastro cases on rise in city Saturday, July 14, 2001

The Times of India News Service
VADODARA: With the rains showing no signs of abating, the city has recorded a sharp rise in number of cholera, gastro-enteritis and jaundice cases.

As many as five cases of cholera and 55 cases of jaundice have been officially identified in the city till date. Many villages in the district too have been hit by cholera.

Though the first case of cholera was reported last Friday, it took almost a week for the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) to initiate a plan to combat the growing epidemic of gastro-enteritis and cholera in the city. And, the steps were taken only after the state government declared the city "cholera-threatened" on Wednesday.

Vadodara residents here complain that had it not been for the government declaration, the VMC would not have embarked on the cleanliness operation that has now started in city areas. "They should have foreseen this problem when they first saw the large number of gastro-enteritis cases being reported not only in city hospitals but also in the VMC dispensaries weeks ago," says municipal corporator Manoj Thakore.

However, even 24 hours after the VMC issued guidelines on maintaining hygiene standards and a list of do's and don'ts for citizens, there was little effort on its part to ensure that they are followed.

An investigation by TOI team revealed that the VMC was itself flouting the norms with the civic body allowing rain water to remain stagnant on the roof of its own building on Khanderao Market. One of the water storage tanks was also found to be open on the roof.

Though a ban has been ordered on sale of cut fruits, a number of fruit vendors sold cut fruits openly right in front of the VMC office, with flies and insects feeding on them.

Despite sprinkling of DDT powder at various waterlogged areas, these efforts seemed to be falling short of the requirement intermittent showers washed away the DDT. Water collected around heaps of uncleared garbage were seen at the VMC-owned Padmavati Shopping centre, especially in its underground parking space, as well as the Khanderao market premises.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Congress in the VMC has been alleging that the corporation has tried to under-report cases of cholera. "There were many cases reported to the VMC dispensaries but these were sent away and not given prompt treatment. It is possible that there might have been many more cases that were ignored," says leader of the Opposition in the VMC Dalsukh Prajapati.

VMC health officer Dr Dhurandhar Pathak denies the charge that there was a delay in initiating the action plan to combat the diseases. He also denied charges of under-reporting of cases in VMC-run hospitals.

"We began the drive from July 3 itself. The first case of cholera was confirmed just two days ago and we immediately took preventive action," he claims. However, records at the Jamnabai General Hospital revealed that the first confirmed case of cholera was recorded on July 6.

According to the VMC, cases of cholera have been mainly from the eastern part of the city including Rana Vas, Pitamber Pole, Koyali Faliyu, Jamdar Mohalla, Yakutpura and Hathikhana.

"The VMC officials began cleaning choked drainage lines only after the monsoon has set in. This should have been completed before the monsoons set in," says Thakore who believed that the slow efforts of the VMC that kicked off here on Friday would not be able to make an immediate impact.

Thirty-four Congress corporators, along with Samata Party corporators, have now issued a demand in writing to the city mayor, asking her to immediately call a special requisition meeting to discuss the deteriorating health situation in the city and the remedial measures that need to taken to ensure clean drinking water.

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


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Cholera, gastro cases on rise in city Saturday, July 14, 2001

The Times of India News Service
VADODARA: With the rains showing no signs of abating, the city has recorded a sharp rise in number of cholera, gastro-enteritis and jaundice cases.

As many as five cases of cholera and 55 cases of jaundice have been officially identified in the city till date. Many villages in the district too have been hit by cholera.

Though the first case of cholera was reported last Friday, it took almost a week for the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) to initiate a plan to combat the growing epidemic of gastro-enteritis and cholera in the city. And, the steps were taken only after the state government declared the city "cholera-threatened" on Wednesday.

Vadodara residents here complain that had it not been for the government declaration, the VMC would not have embarked on the cleanliness operation that has now started in city areas. "They should have foreseen this problem when they first saw the large number of gastro-enteritis cases being reported not only in city hospitals but also in the VMC dispensaries weeks ago," says municipal corporator Manoj Thakore.

However, even 24 hours after the VMC issued guidelines on maintaining hygiene standards and a list of do's and don'ts for citizens, there was little effort on its part to ensure that they are followed.

An investigation by TOI team revealed that the VMC was itself flouting the norms with the civic body allowing rain water to remain stagnant on the roof of its own building on Khanderao Market. One of the water storage tanks was also found to be open on the roof.

Though a ban has been ordered on sale of cut fruits, a number of fruit vendors sold cut fruits openly right in front of the VMC office, with flies and insects feeding on them.

Despite sprinkling of DDT powder at various waterlogged areas, these efforts seemed to be falling short of the requirement intermittent showers washed away the DDT. Water collected around heaps of uncleared garbage were seen at the VMC-owned Padmavati Shopping centre, especially in its underground parking space, as well as the Khanderao market premises.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Congress in the VMC has been alleging that the corporation has tried to under-report cases of cholera. "There were many cases reported to the VMC dispensaries but these were sent away and not given prompt treatment. It is possible that there might have been many more cases that were ignored," says leader of the Opposition in the VMC Dalsukh Prajapati.

VMC health officer Dr Dhurandhar Pathak denies the charge that there was a delay in initiating the action plan to combat the diseases. He also denied charges of under-reporting of cases in VMC-run hospitals.

"We began the drive from July 3 itself. The first case of cholera was confirmed just two days ago and we immediately took preventive action," he claims. However, records at the Jamnabai General Hospital revealed that the first confirmed case of cholera was recorded on July 6.

According to the VMC, cases of cholera have been mainly from the eastern part of the city including Rana Vas, Pitamber Pole, Koyali Faliyu, Jamdar Mohalla, Yakutpura and Hathikhana.

"The VMC officials began cleaning choked drainage lines only after the monsoon has set in. This should have been completed before the monsoons set in," says Thakore who believed that the slow efforts of the VMC that kicked off here on Friday would not be able to make an immediate impact.

Thirty-four Congress corporators, along with Samata Party corporators, have now issued a demand in writing to the city mayor, asking her to immediately call a special requisition meeting to discuss the deteriorating health situation in the city and the remedial measures that need to taken to ensure clean drinking water.

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


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Shifting of lions from Gir draw legislator's ire Saturday, July 14, 2001

The Times of India News Service
RAJKOT: The Junagadh legislator Mahendra Mashru has threatened to launch a public awareness drive on the decision of the Central Forest Department to shift the Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh.

He said on Friday the issue would be raised in the Assembly session.

Mashru said there could be no question of shifting Gir lions from Sasan as it was the pride of the state and no power could shift them. He has met forest minister Kanjibhai Patel and said that no effort should be made to shift the wild animals. He also asked the forest minister to ensure thatall steps are taken to see to it that not a single lion is shifted to Kunu forest n the neighbouring state.

According to Mashru, the forest in Kunu was narrower than the Gir sanctuary which has already been notified as a national sanctuary. Besides the climate and atmosphere in MP was unsuitable for the lions and might even endanger them.

The Central forest department has given an 'imaginary fear' that the Gir lions may be extinct if not shifted. However, the recent census of lions had shown an increase in numbers which proves that the Gir was best suited for the king of the jungle, Mashru said ridiculing the department's claim. There was no guarantee that the Kunu forest would not be target of infections and if Gir could be affected, Kunu forest too could be infected. The legislator termed the idea of shifting the lions as a 'brainwave' of a forest official in which Gujarat would be the loser. So every effort would be made to save these lions from going out of the Gir lions. For this the people of the state would unite and stand firmly behind the Gir lions, he claimed.

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


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Two-member team to probe VTD scam Saturday, July 14, 2001

By a Staff Reporter, The Times of India News Service
VADODARA: BSNL has instituted an inquiry in the alleged scam of Rs 70 lakh excessive billing by a private cable contractor. The inquiry is being held by a two-member departmental vigilance team.

It was learnt that the vigilance team had come from the Centre. However, this could not be confirmed.

'The Times of India' had exposed that a private firm in the business of laying underground cables, had charged money for using bricks in 800 km cable work undertaken in rural area in 1999.

The firm had allegedly violated the work order issued by DoT which mentioned that 'in rural area the cables of 10 and 20 pairs capacities may be laid without bricks'. This work order (MM/Tender-85/Bricks/98-99/50) was issued on November 12, 1999 and was signed by the then assistant general manager (Material Management & Computer). The actual work was completed on November 21, 2000.

Despite clear instruction from the AGM, the contractors claimed bills mentioning that they had used bricks for the 800 km cable work undertaken in rural areas of the VTD. The contractors charged Rs 8 per metre for using bricks. The total charges for brick work comes to around 70 lakh, while the overall bill stood at Rs 2.1 crore.

Three private firms -- M V Omni, Shah and Patel Associates and Shalini Constructions -- were awarded the cable laying work. VTD sources said among the three firms, M V Omni is not claiming bills for brick work while the other two have been charging department for using bricks in 10 and 20 pairs capacity cables.

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


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