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July 11, 2001 - July 11, 2001

Power minister to meet GEB reps on Power Reforms Bill Wednesday, July 11, 2001

By Shailesh Pandya, The Times of India News Service
VADODARA: State power and energy minister Kaushik Patel will meet representatives of various associations and unions of Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) on Wednesday to discuss the proposed Power Reforms Bill that is slated to be tabled in the Assembly later this month.

Members of engineers' associations and unions have been demanding that the state government should rush through the Bill and "adopt a wait and watch policy" to study the impact on states that have adopted a policy similar to that proposed by this Bill.

The Bill, which proposes trifurcation of the GEB and establishment of a new commission, was introduced in the last budget session of the Assembly and is likely to be taken up in the session to be held later this month.

Engineers' associations and unions of GEB, that represent the entire staff strength of about 50,000, have been pressing for adoption of a path of restraint. They suggest that Gujarat should watch the performance of private distribution companies in other parts of the country where power reforms have been implemented.

Patel decided to convene the meet after experts in the field of power argued that the state government should discuss and debate the issue before adopting the Bill.

Representatives of associations, unions and experts have been pointing out the disastrous effect of the experimental model tried in Orissa where the power tariff have gone up by 78 per cent.

Leaders of the engineers' association and recognised staff unions of GEB allege that the state government is going ahead with the scheme to make private participation in the energy sector easier.

They also allege that these schemes are framed by foreign experts and bureaucrats who are not well versed with the power development scenario in the state and the country.

According to them, the experimental model tried in Orissa proved disastrous and yielded negative results because of the attitude of private sector participants, who wanted to make the power sector more remunerative for the participants than consumers.

"As private distribution companies will be more interested in profit than in service to the people, it is likely that the tariff will go up. Orissa is clear example where the tariff went up by 78 per cent," they pointed out.

Leaders feel that if GEB was allowed a profit margin similar to that provided to private companies, the board can perform much better.

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


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ADB opens mission, insists on early completion of rehab work Wednesday, July 11, 2001

By Our Special Correspondent, The Times of India News Service
GANDHINAGAR: Asian Development Bank's extended mission office for Gujarat was inaugurated here on Monday. On the occasion, ADB's India resident representative Frank J Polman insisted that the state government must ensure that all housing construction programmes financed by it be completed within two years.

Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, who inaugurated the mission at a formal ceremony, assured the ADB - which is committed to a $500 million loan for quake reconstruction and rehabilitation - that the time-frame would be strictly adhered to. Livelihood, consultancy and building disaster mitigation capacity also form part of the ADB project quake loan.

Polman insisted, "The rehabilitation projects should be implemented at the earliest. We think the work on housing projects should be over within two years." He added, "We have opened the special mission office to specialise and monitor the timely implementation of the projects financed by us. Though the funds have been given to the state government, we would want an involvement of the civil society, especially the village communities affected by the quake, in the implementation process."

Later talking to newspersons Polman said, "We have already disbursed a $75 million advance. We are in the process of calculating how much of the amount has been spent so far in close co-ordination with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, through which all of it had to be spent. We hope to release another $75 million by the year-end." Calling it an "enormous task", the top ADB official added, "$500 million is the biggest amount ever sanctioned to any country."

The ADB's mission, opened in Gandhinagar, would work till the quake reconstruction financed by it is completed. "If by three years' time the entire work is over, we may wind up the office. It has been set up to ensure closer and quicker co-ordination and acceleration of quake relief especially to the poor," Polman said. While the ADB finances rural housing and restoration of power, the World Bank, which finances $400 million for quake work, is looking after urban housing and road reconstruction.

A top-level ADB delegation is expected here from Manila in early August to assess how far the state had gone in implementing the power sector reforms that form part of the conditionality for the energy sector loan of $350 million loan sanctioned last year. Of the $350 million, Polman said, $150 million is programme loan and $200 million is project loan.

"Fifty million dollars of programme loan has been given to the state. The disbursement of another $50 million this year-end would depend on how far has the state met the conditions," Polman said. Refusing to give any assessment of why metering of the farm sector, one of the major conditions, has not been initiated, and whether it would affect the disbursement of the second tranche of the programme loan, Polman said, "Much would depend on the assessment of the ADB mission from Manila."

Suggesting the ADB would be "more realistic" in view of the five disasters having struck the state in four years, he emphasised, "We would have to rework some of our targets for the state, such as the fiscal consolidation plan." He hoped that $900 million pumped in by the ADB and the World Bank would help the state's economy, and the fiscal deficit, which might leap by another 2 per cent this year, might again show signs of coming down after a year.

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


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ADB opens mission, insists on early completion of rehab work Wednesday, July 11, 2001

By Our Special Correspondent, The Times of India News Service
GANDHINAGAR: Asian Development Bank's extended mission office for Gujarat was inaugurated here on Monday. On the occasion, ADB's India resident representative Frank J Polman insisted that the state government must ensure that all housing construction programmes financed by it be completed within two years.

Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, who inaugurated the mission at a formal ceremony, assured the ADB - which is committed to a $500 million loan for quake reconstruction and rehabilitation - that the time-frame would be strictly adhered to. Livelihood, consultancy and building disaster mitigation capacity also form part of the ADB project quake loan.

Polman insisted, "The rehabilitation projects should be implemented at the earliest. We think the work on housing projects should be over within two years." He added, "We have opened the special mission office to specialise and monitor the timely implementation of the projects financed by us. Though the funds have been given to the state government, we would want an involvement of the civil society, especially the village communities affected by the quake, in the implementation process."

Later talking to newspersons Polman said, "We have already disbursed a $75 million advance. We are in the process of calculating how much of the amount has been spent so far in close co-ordination with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, through which all of it had to be spent. We hope to release another $75 million by the year-end." Calling it an "enormous task", the top ADB official added, "$500 million is the biggest amount ever sanctioned to any country."

The ADB's mission, opened in Gandhinagar, would work till the quake reconstruction financed by it is completed. "If by three years' time the entire work is over, we may wind up the office. It has been set up to ensure closer and quicker co-ordination and acceleration of quake relief especially to the poor," Polman said. While the ADB finances rural housing and restoration of power, the World Bank, which finances $400 million for quake work, is looking after urban housing and road reconstruction.

A top-level ADB delegation is expected here from Manila in early August to assess how far the state had gone in implementing the power sector reforms that form part of the conditionality for the energy sector loan of $350 million loan sanctioned last year. Of the $350 million, Polman said, $150 million is programme loan and $200 million is project loan.

"Fifty million dollars of programme loan has been given to the state. The disbursement of another $50 million this year-end would depend on how far has the state met the conditions," Polman said. Refusing to give any assessment of why metering of the farm sector, one of the major conditions, has not been initiated, and whether it would affect the disbursement of the second tranche of the programme loan, Polman said, "Much would depend on the assessment of the ADB mission from Manila."

Suggesting the ADB would be "more realistic" in view of the five disasters having struck the state in four years, he emphasised, "We would have to rework some of our targets for the state, such as the fiscal consolidation plan." He hoped that $900 million pumped in by the ADB and the World Bank would help the state's economy, and the fiscal deficit, which might leap by another 2 per cent this year, might again show signs of coming down after a year.

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


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VTD had been alerted to vulnerability of exchange Wednesday, July 11, 2001

By A Staff Reporter, The Times of India News Service
VADODARA: Was BSNL's Vadodara Telecom District aware that the Fetex-type exchange it was installing at Makarpura was vulnerable to mischief?

Highly placed sources in the BSNL here said that the quality control department of DoT had cautioned Vadodara Telecom District at the time of Fetex installation at Makarpura that it could be tampered with and that a 'zero' metering was possible. Sources said that such a cautionary remark was made in 1996-97 when Atul Sharma was the divisional engineer of Makarpura exchange. However, Sharma could not be contacted to confirm this.

"Technical people in the department knew that the Fetex exchange was vulnerable to mischief. A word of caution was also put in but attention was not paid to it", said a highly placed BSNL source.

If the investigation into ISD scam is traced back the tampering of Fetex exchange at Makarpura began about the same time when the exchange was installed. Sources said RT Sharma and co. was aware of the loopholes in the Fetex exchange and exploited it. Sharma and his accomplices, Shailesh Chandpure and Kiran Rana, who are still on the run, set up an illegal mini exchange and caused BSNL a loss of over Rs 100 crore by facilitating illegal ISD calls.

According to police data Sharma and co. made Rs 22 crore through the ISD racket in last six years. "Had the VTD taken the cautionary note seriously things would have been very different today", the source said.

For BSNL the ISD scam has been a cause of major embarrassment. Many of its senior officials in VTD have come under the cloud of suspicion. Its public image has taken a battering that too at a time when the organisation is trying its best to put up a corporate image. While the public relations department has little to salvage VTD's image, new emerging evidence in the ISD scam is adding to the organisation's woes.

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


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Police nab gang of pickpockets Wednesday, July 11, 2001

The Surat district police rounded up a gang of pickpockets from Kamrej after intense interrogation and watch stationed on a 10-year-old girl.

On June 13, police sub-inspector B M Desai along with police inspector H S Ninama of the local crime branch, Surat rural were patrolling when they noticed a 10-year-old girl hanging around the Kamrej crossroads with suspicious movements.

When the girl was questioned, she said that she was accompanied by a 60-year-old widow named Kasturiben and another person called Tulva alias Bharat Asharam Chamar (20). She also admitted that he used to pickpocket and steal, after which the police released her to reach her hideout. She was then tailed to the railway station where the old woman and Tulva were arrested.

On interrogation, they revealed that their other accomplices were in Amroli in Surat city. The police on this information arrested the gang. The arrested have been identified as Ashok Asharam Chamar, Mehtabsingh Nathusingh Chamar, Dilawar Singh Makhan Singh Chamar of Bhojpur in Madhya Pradesh.

Missing persons:At least seven more people who reported missing in the last fortnight have not yet returned, according to the city police. Twentytwo-year old Rashmi Prakashbhai Rajput left her home in Ishwar complex in Saraspur on July 5 after her mother admonished her and has not yet returned.

From Anandnagar in Vejalpur, 28-year old Manjulaben Pushpakumar Singh left home with her son Ankit on June 30 and has not yet returned. She is reported to be mentally imbalanced. Thirtyfive year old Prahladbhai Morarbhai Makwana left his home at Gita mandir on June 16 and has not yet returned.

He has 'Alluksha' tattooed on his right arm. The same day Kanubhai Kalidas Jadhav (75) left his home in Saraspur Adarshnagar society and has not yet returned. Abdulrahim Abdul Gani Shaikh (16) of Gomtipur, who suffers from a speech impairment and is physically challenged, left home on June 15 and has not returned.

Twenty-year old Bindiya Kishanbhai Dataniya left her home in Shahibaug on June 21 and did not come back just as 27-year old Bhavin Subhashchandra Dave who left his home in Bhavin society of Naroda and did not return since June 11.

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


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