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July 8, 2001 - July 8, 2001

Jalod declared cholera hit Sunday, July 8, 2001

The Times of India News Service

VADODARA district collector Bhagyesh Jha has declared the Jalod village in Chhota Udepur taluka as cholera affected under the cholera regulation norms.

Areas that fall in a radius of eight km around the village too have been declared as endangered area. A few weeks ago the Natwarnagar village in Savli and the Panvad village of Kawant taluka too were declared cholera affected.

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

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Historical monument suffers at hands of govt neglect Sunday, July 8, 2001

By Jahnavi Contractor, The Times of India News Service
VADODARA: Despite being an important historical relic dating back more than 350 years -- much before the Gaekwad era -- Bhadra Kacheri today lies in a dilapidated state in the Old City area adjoining the historic kot (fort) wall near Panigate.

A walk around Bhadra Kacheri, which dates back to the period when Vadodara was under Muslim rule, reveals an array of stunning woodwork architecture, parts of which are being stolen. The intricate jharokha, which is a stunning piece of this monument, is gradually being dismantled and a few parts have also been removed.

Until the early 1990s, Bhadra Kacheri used to house the city and rural mamlatdar offices, along with several zilla and panchayat offices. Today, it has become a den where anti-social activities like gambling and liquor 'parties' abound. Ironically, the state prohibition office lies adjoining this building.

"This building, which had also housed Bhadrakali Mata Mandir until a few years ago, is now also a place where expired medicines of the district health department are dumped," says Lalabhai Shyamwala, a resident of the area.

This reporter saw a large consignment of expired medicines, including ORS salts, pregnancy kits and other medicines, dumped at the premises.

In addition, ballot boxes and documents belonging to the department of treasury are also kept here. "We have seen a few of these boxes being taken away and sold to scrap dealers. Similarly, the aluminium foils that were laid on Bhadra Kacheri roof to protect it from rains is also being bundled up to be sold as scrap," says a resident wishing to remain anonymous.

Despite its historical and architectural importance Bhadra Kacheri is neither on the list of protected monuments, nor is it protected or maintained by the VMC. It is waiting to be demolished, says state civil supplies advisory member Manusurkhan Pathan, also a resident here.

"On the one hand the government and the tourism department are trying to attract NRIs and foreign tourists here. Vadodara is a historical and important city with many such monuments, but instead of conserving our heritage for posterity we are allowing it to be damaged further. If the government has no funds for repairs, they can outsource funds from NRIs, or those who are interested in conservation of such monuments," he says.

"A feature of Bhadra Kacheri is the unique wood work architecture. Though the beams are made of wood, they are joined at the base with a stone 'kumbhika'. This architectural tradition mixes influences of the Moghul era, the Maratha and the Rajasthani construction techniques. For a student of architecture and archaeology this structure is an important monument for study," says Dharsinh Barot, who is ex-superintending archaeologist of the state government and had seen Bhadra Kacheri decades ago when it was in a better state.

According to him, lack of will is the main reason for the dilapidation of Bhadra Kacheri, which has a history contemporary to that of the historic 'kot' wall, which is estimated to have been built around AD 1484.

On condition of anonymity a senior official in the state government department of culture said Bhadra Kacheri does not feature on the list of monuments under conservation. "It does deserve a place in the list, so do many other monuments like the Nazarbaug palace, the Nyay Mandir and others. We do not have a say in the matter," he said.

According to him in 1980s, Bhadra Kacheri was in a good condition. "The edges of the wooden beams that hold the structure had eroded and were endangering the structure. But undertaking repairs could have prevented this.

"Most of these old monuments are constructed in such a way that they can be dismantled and once again re-structured after repairs. Bhadra Kacheri could have been saved. But there is no will," he says.

Today, Bhadra Kacheri seems to await total destruction. A part of the ceiling of one of its intricately constructed corridor collapsed a few weeks ago due to rains. Wood-work beams which are constructed on the lines of the traditional woodwork architectural traditions remain intact but need urgent restoration.

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

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ONGC adopts Japanese model for HRD Sunday, July 8, 2001

By A Staff Reporter, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: ONGC has joined a select band of companies with the launch of 'Shramik Project' in its city unit on Thursday. The project was launched by Dr Jauhari Lal, the director (personnel), ONGC.

Shramik stands for System of Human Resources Automated Management of Information for Kaizen (Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning constant improvement). It is an integrated, on-line human resource system where transactions take place through computers.

On the occasion, Lal complimented the western region including the Ahmedabad project for giving a practical shape to the dream, which was conceived two years back. He expressed hope that the implementation of the project will change the mindset of employees and help ONGC to move towards world class system, processes and practices by implementing appropriate HR benchmarks. He said Shramik will help in streamlining systems and procedures, thereby minimising the processing time and administrative cost, improve the level of employee satisfaction and enhance the quality of decision making.

K K Jagati, the executive director, ONGC, Western Offshore Business Unit described the launch of Shramik Project as the dawn of a new era and achievement of another HR milestone.

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

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ACB has teeth, but needs permission to bite! Sunday, July 8, 2001

By Leena Misra, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: There maybe ambitious plans to modernise the Anti-Corruption Bureau, but this prestigious agency that was meant to check corruption in government offices, has been reduced to an agency for trapping lower-rung officials in the corruption dragnet while the bigger culprits roam scot-free.

In close competition with the Central Bureau of Investigation (Gandhinagar)'s anti-corruption branch, the ACB, sources say, has only since the last two years graduated into a bureau that began to peek into the 'benami' properties and homes of government officials and booked cases of disproportionate assets instead of indulging merely in traps.

But even then, the ACB has not been able to trap the big fish thanks to the rules that make it mandatory for the bureau to seek permissions from the state government to sanction the requisitions for such inquiries, which rarely happen.

The other thing that certain officials here are upset about is the "leaking" of reports about the ACB moves from sources in the government, which usually happens in the case of class I officials since the inquiry has to be intimated to the government. "If inquiries get leaked out, we don't find anything from their homes, only documentary evidence remains," says an official.

Now the bureau plans to purchase sophisticated equipment like spy cameras, close-circuit television and wireless recorders which would be sensitive upto a kilometre to make the traps more effective. The ACB conducts about 40 successful traps in a month.

Last week, the ACB went as far as trapping the joint commissioner of Foods and Drugs taking bribe in the precincts of the Sachivalaya, but that's it. According to ACB director R N Bhattacharya, "It is the officials who the commonman comes in contact with that matter, and hence we are concerned about these cases."

His argument is that if corruption is rooted out at that level, then the public faces less harassment and the incumbents of these offices are more wary.

Since the oath of secrecy is extremely important for the ACB, officials here pride in the fact that, "Investigations which have been solely handled by us, using our own intelligence, have rarely failed. And the culprits are nailed."

But there are cases where the investigations have taken upto 16 years, as also a case where the accused has fled abroad! In fact, the minimum time that a case under ACB investigation takes is 2-3 months, says an official.

According to sources, at least 200 complaints have come to the ACB against gazetted officers till March this year which have yet to be inquired into.

Sources confide, "Officers above the rank of joint secretary in the state government cannot be touched by the ACB without the permission of the government. And these permissions are very difficult to come by."

Contrarily, sanctions for prosecution have hastened following a High Court directive, with only 46 cases in backlog till date. However, if inquiries are directed by the vigilance commissioner, they do not require sanctioning from the government. At present, the ACB is involved in around 25 such inquiries of higher level officers, some of who are class I officers.

And most of the time even if a case is initiated, by the time the investigations begin, the accused gets tipped off and the evidence is tampered with, say officials.

Take the case of Kabhai Chauhan. It is over a year since the case of this police inspector's disproportionate assets were made public, but the ACB has not filed any case so far and investigations are still on. "We work like the CBI. First collect evidence and then lodge cases to arrest the accused," says an official.

* Complaints received till March 31, 2001: 500

* 46 cases pending till March 31 for sanction from the government for prosecution

* Cases pending in courts till March 31, 2001: 1,400 (of which over 1,200 have been pending for over a year).

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

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School board panel indicts officials of AMC's engg dept Sunday, July 8, 2001

The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: Elected members of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation's school board have swung the needle of suspicion - over death of eight-year-old student Aftab Alam Sheikh in the Rajpur school wall collapse last month - back to the administrative wing.

The two-member committee - Dinesh Rawal and Jagdish Bhavsar - of the municipal school board submitted their investigation report on Friday and indicted officials of the engineering department of AMC and the contractors employed by them to demolish the damaged school building.

The inquiry report - third in this case - is in stark contrast to the investigation carried out by the deputy municipal commissioner (administration) Vinay Vyasa. Vyasa had found employees of the school board - two principals of municipal schools (17 and 18), education supervisor and the administrative officer - responsible for the mishap that put off the reopening of municipal schools for the third consecutive time since the Republic Day quake.

Jagdish Bhavsar said: "Five months have passed since the quake, and only on May 23 (after a school collapsed in Maninagar and a staircase of another in Meghaninagar broke) did the administrative wing shake itself out of its reverie and decided to start demolishing school buildings."

He added, "But, this too was done without informing the board or the school officials. I have in my possession a letter dated June 25 which lists out 10 to-be-demolished school buildings. It says that demolition work would begin from June 25. The contractors on the day of Rath Yatra started demolishing without informing the principals who protested because they had not been officially intimated."

The investigators of school board revealed that at AMC's west zone office in Usmanpura a meeting had finalised the contractors to handle the demolition of municipal school building on June 22. "Then why the delay in informing the school board?" Bhavsar asked.

The chairman of municipal school board committee, Ganpat Parmar said that the school principals were just doing their duty and cannot be held responsible for Aftab's death. After considering the investigations done by police (who found the contractor responsible for shoddy job), by the board and AMC administration Parmar said: "I will not take any action against my board employees because two of the three investigations point towards the contractor and logically towards the employers of the contractor. This is an administrative lapse and innocent cannot be penalised."

The school board has sent their inquiry report to the commissioner and the mayor for suitable action against responsible officers in the engineering department for delay in repair or demolition of schools "that caused the mishap on June 26."

Dinesh Rawal, of the school board, added: "Since last five years I have cried myself hoarse that repair and maintenance of municipal schools were not up to the mark. That did not change much. For months and even years together the students of municipal schools who belong to the lower and middle strata of society have been neglected by the corporation's administration and even forced to sit out in the open."

Rawal alleged, "The school buildings are in a broken down condition because of non-maintenance over the last decade. Who else but the administration of AMC is responsible for turning a blind eye to the maintenance of infrastructure for the municipal education system. After the mishap, when its time to own up to their responsibility, the administrative officers of AMC are trying to turn innocent people into scapegoats."

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

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