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July 11, 2001 - July 11, 2001

Amdavadis meet their 'Waterloo' on city roads Wednesday, July 11, 2001

By Our Civic Reporter, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: In a sharp burst on Monday afternoon, about 20 mm of rainfall landed many Amdavadis in knee-deep water, contradicting authorities' tall claims about storm-water drains.

Life was thrown out of gear in many areas as rainwater inundated busy thoroughfares and under-bridges, as well as flooding low-lying residential neighbourhoods.

The prime victim of Monday's showers was the pre-monsoon action plan, so elaborately drawn up by the civic bodies of Ahmedabad. Only 18.12 mm of rainfall was recorded by rain gauges.

The authorities blamed the Vasna sewage pumping station, which also doubles as a rainwater pumping station during monsoon, for waterlogging as the plant broke down for about half an hour on Monday. However, the explanation did not convince people who feared a heavier spell of rainfall might have left the entire city paralysed, even with the Vasna station working.

The scenes were dime-a-dozen: Cars stuck in catch-pits, marooned and hapless denizens, vehicles being laboriously pushed through an alarmingly waterlogged roads, and localities crying foul over lack of administrative preparedness in areas such as Vejalpur, Satellite and other areas in the jurisdiction of Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA).

"I was working at my office on Ashram Road when my housemaid called up to say that rainwater was seeping through windows and door of my house in Vejalpur. On my way home I countered heavy waterlogging for a long stretch on Satellite Road; eventually, I had to go back as the autorickshaw driver refused to go any further," said Ragini Shah.

Shah's lamentations were reflected on the faces of scores of two-, three- and four-wheel occupants and pedestrians alike who got stranded wherever they were without any road to escape the rising rainwater.

For Amitbhai Patel and his wife, who were looking for a road free of waterlogging, getting into Ahmedabad was more arduous than driving through heavy rain all the way from Anand.

Patel recounted, "It actually may have taken more time than my drive from Anand. The road from Sarkhej highway passing by the APMC building was heavily waterlogged. After manoeuvring through one came across the Vejalpur flyover, the exit point of which resembled a lake. Then again in the Judges Bungalow area, Ramdeo Nagar ... a boat would have been more appropriate than my small Maruti Van."

That apart areas near Rajpath Row Houses, Jivandeep row houses near Sarkhej highway and on the 132-feet road were prey to heavy waterlogging on Monday.

A talk with the AUDA officials revealed that around 1.45 pm the Vasna sewage pumping station had halted operations due to a power cut for around 30 minutes and thus the heavy waterlogging in AUDA areas. An engineer with AUDA revealed: "We are still heavily dependant on AMC for civic amenities. It is through their sewage pumping station that both rainwater and sewage is sucked out to the riverbed. But, since the pumping station failed during heavy rains, this problem cropped up."

Chairman of AUDA, Surendra Patel, had this to say: "A parallel sewage line project was to be completed by AMC (that has been put incharge of implementing this project) for areas outside the corporation's jurisdiction. This was to be completed in 1997. If the pipeline had been in place a large part of Ahmedabad would be saved from these monsoon troubles."

The city engineer of AMC, incharge of the Vasna pumping station, BR Seth told TOI: "It was a brief hiccup and now everything is back to normal as the sewage pumping station is drawing water to full capacity -- 40 lakh gallon per hour. Already water is receding in these areas and life will soon return to normal."

But, assurances apart areas within AMC limits like the Mithakhali square, road running along St. Zavier's school and opposite the Regional Passport Office looked more like waterbodies than busy thoroughfares. Other areas to be heavily affected by the Monday showers were Isanpur, Manekbaug hall and Manekbaug railway crossing.

Eight instances of cave-ins on roads and numerous complaints of waterlogging flowed into AMC's control rooms. Corporation officials were kept on their toes with 14 waterlogged areas in all its five zones. Nine water pumps were pressed into service which were at work till late in the evening.

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


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Another scam surfaces in Vadodara telecom Wednesday, July 11, 2001

By Sajid Shaikh, The Times of India News Service
VADODARA: BSNL's Vadodara Telecom District continues to be vulnerable to scams. Even as the memory of multi-crore ISD scam is still fresh in the minds of thousands of telephone subscribers another scam has surfaced wherein VTD has been wrongly billed for over Rs 70 lakh (approximately).

According to evidence in possession of 'The Times of India', 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 of 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 -- MV Omni, Shah and Patel Associates and Shalini Constructions were awarded the cable laying work. VTD sources said that among the three firms, MV 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.

"The department has been made to cough up Rs 70 lakh for the brick work which was not at all required. It is quite possible that the contractors did not use bricks at all and claimed money for it", said a highly placed source in VTD.

Bricks are placed transversely and longitudinally for mechanical protection of cables. However, in case of 10 and 20 pair capacity cables bricks are not necessary.

VP Lal was the AGM while KM Suvera was Divisional Engineer Rural (west) in 1999. "This matter pertains to 1999. I will have to refer to the files to check the exact contents of the work order. But if it is mentioned that bricks are not required and despite that the contractors have used them and charged the department for the same it amounts to wrong billing", Lal said.

Suvera could not be contacted for his reaction. 'The Times of India' tried repeatedly to reach him on his office telephone. Sources said information about excessive billing had reached outgoing VTD general manager Rakesh Babu who had reportedly instructed vigilance officer SB Chhonkar to investigate the matter. However this could not be confirmed with Chhonkar. TOI phone calls to Chhonkar on his office number were not answered.

Meanwhile, area manager (rural) MN Upadhyay said the work order mentioning the non-use of bricks in 10 and 20 pair capacity cables was time-specific. "That was limited to that period. We had to issue such a notice because there was shortage of bricks. Otherwise the department has this provision of using bricks for mechanical protection for all cables irrespective of their capacity", Upadhyay said.

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


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Keshubhai attends BJP CMs' meet in Delhi Wednesday, July 11, 2001

The Times of India News Service
GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel on Tuesday presented a detailed note on the economic agenda of the BJP being pursued by his government at a meeting of BJP chief ministers convened by BJP president Jana Krishnamurthy at party's central headquarters in New Delhi.

It is learnt that the chief minister talked about the hurdles being faced by the state government in the form of successive natural calamities which have had a telling effect on the financial condition of the state government. The general recession in the market too had made matters worse.

Despite the given situation the state government had resisted from imposing new taxes, and had managed governance by mopping up additional sources through effective recovery of sales tax and other taxes. The government also had successfully handled the rehabilitation in 1,000 earthquake-shattered villages of Kutch and Saurashtra. Earlier, it had also laid a major drinking water pipeline at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore to supply water to parched areas of Saurashtra.

The chief minister appealed to the Centre that it should concede to the state's long-pending demand of hike in royalty on the crude oil produced in the state as government was burdened by the huge expenses on rehabilitation in Kutch. State finance minister Vajubhai Vala also attended the meeting.

It is believed that Keshubhai on his return from New Delhi would try to explain to his colleagues and senior officials about the party's agenda announced by Krishnamurthy at the meet. The meeting of BJP chief ministers held in New Delhi is a precursor to the coming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, and in Gujarat by the end of 2002.

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


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A Cong conspiracy, alleges Kanjibhai Wednesday, July 11, 2001

The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: Forests and environment minister Kanjibhai Patel has blamed the Congress and his political opponents for dragging his son's name into the kherwood smuggling episode. He described it as a conspiracy to tarnish his career and adversely affect the morale of forest officials.

In a statement issued here on Monday, Patel said, "Some people with vested interests have hatched this conspiracy in league with the wood smugglers, who dislike my good political career and clean image".

He also said that he had represented before the chief minister to get this investigated in any manner, including with the Central Bureau of Investigation. Patel also said that he was willing to face any consequences if his son's involvement was proved.

On the allegations on range forest officer Pratik Pandya, he said that Pandya was one of the most upright officers and has successfully wiped out the powerful gang of kher smugglers from Chikhli area, and therefore the people opposing him could have entered his name in the evidences.

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


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MSU students leaders protest against payment seat proposal Wednesday, July 11, 2001

By A Staff Reporter, The Times of India News Service
VADODARA: MS University student leaders burnt effigy of state minister of higher education Bharat Barot near DN Hall cricket ground on Monday.

Student leaders called Barot a 'greedy' minister who was selling 'education' in the name of self-financed colleges. Student leaders were protesting over MSU's proposal to convert some seats in commerce into payment seats and charge Rs 6000 as term fees from those who take admission on these seats.

"Barot knows that the days of his government are numbered. He knows that he wouldn't be a minister again and wants to cash in on the opportunity. This is why he has sanctioning a self-financed colleges", said angry student leaders.

They argued that education was state's primary responsibility and one can't expect all people to dole out huge sum of money as fees for getting admissions. "Everybody is not rich. Even today majority of the people in our state are either poor or hail from the middle class", said former MSU students union vice president Amar Dhomse. He suspected that there was a design in minting money in the name of payment seats.

"First they deliberately gave a very high HSC result. Then they trumpeted 'not having enough seats in colleges'. Later, very swiftly, they propagated this theory of solving the admission problem through self-financed colleges", Dhomse said.

He said student leaders would continue demonstrating their protests against the blatant commercialisation of higher education.

Student leaders burn effigy of state minister of higher education Bharat Barot near DN Hall cricket ground on MS University campus on Monday.

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


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