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July 6, 2001 - July 7, 2001

State DDOs meet to discuss e-governance Saturday, July 7, 2001

A staff reporter, The Times of India News Service
VADODARA: A special meeting of all state district development officers and zilla panchayat officials was organised here at the Circuit House to discuss the implementation of e-governance and the Nagrik Adhikar Patra in the state.

Rural housing and village development secretary NV Modi presided over the function, which discussed plans to initiate the e governance concept at the gram panchayat level.

Modi said for computerisation of the state panchayats, each zilla panchayat office would be provided 40 computers and a server. He also said all employees of the panchayat offices would be provided computer training, around 80 per cent staff have already acquired this training. According to him computer hardware for the process is also being installed.

Gram Vikas commissioner CL Meena said those zilla panchayat offices, which have not completed or acquired enough computers, should immediately notify the lacunae and set it right. Vadodara district collector Bhagyesh Jha also attended the function and spoke about the Information Gallery that has been set up at the collectorate office here.

He said the Vadodara district panchayat offices had started the initial computerisation project in 1986. He said Gujarati software too has been installed in addition to a citizens assistance centre.

The National Informatics officer Rajneesh Mahajan was also present on the occasion to brief the zilla panchayat officials about the details of the computerisation project.

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


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PCCF's post: A battle for power Saturday, July 7, 2001

By Shyam Parekh, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: The race to grab the top office of the forest department, that of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, will end in only a few months of power for the successor, thanks to the ongoing bitter internal rivalry.

It's been barely 10 months since DPS Verma took over as the PCCF and the battle for the coveted post has already started once again amongst three senior-most officers, as he retires on July 31.

But surprisingly the senior-most Indian Forest Service officials who are likely successors are due for retirement in a short time of two months to 10 months from now. This leaves not much time for any significant improvement in the way the protected areas are managed in the state.

Besides creating a lot of bad blood in the department, this race has left even their possible successors already vying for the post!

The Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC) which will meet some time this month to choose Verma's successor will have a tough job selecting one, believe senior IFS officials.

As per seniority, chief conservator of forests (social forestry) Ashok Kumar is the next man in line, who has been earlier denied the post though qualified. He is followed by Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam chief conservator of forests Sanat Chavan, who will be retiring in May 2002. Next is the chief conservator of forests (wildlife) G A Patel, retiring in April 2002.

"Whoever is appointed will not have much time in office. Kumar has barely two months to retire. Chavan has the longest term amongst the three with 10 months, while Patel has a month less than him," observes a senior forest official. Despite the little time that these officials will have in office, they are keen to get the post.

And there are good reasons for everyone to vie for the post. It's not just the retirement benefits that increase with the plum post, nor just the power or charm for the position. "He is the link between the state government and the forest department. If he is yielding, he becomes 'helpful' to the politicians and industries, as permissions, plans, policies, implementation, action and transfers, all depend on him. If sincere, he can do a lot to conserve the forests and wildlife, but this is rarely allowed," comments one of them.

The competition for the top post has therefore emerged into a no-holds-barred war. Salvos are fired constantly by different camps to target opponents.

While skeletons of charge-sheets in old cases haunt Kumar, Chavan is tired of denying rumours that he is disinterested-interested in the post, and Patel has a tough time denying that he is pulling strings courtesy Chief Minister's Office, a former forest minister and many an Assembly members.

"Seniority should not be the only criterion. If any one can bring down the levels of corruption in the department, and can control the administration well, he should be the right candidate," says yet another CCF who is gunning for the top post since long.

Kumar, who is hopeful this time, says, "Climbing up by merit and seniority is natural in any service. The government had held a DPC in August 1999 and created two posts of PCCF. But I was denied that chance as the post was downgraded."

Chavan has recently given in writing to the government that he was "very interested in coming back to the department", and rumours that he did not want to come back were not true. He has been posted in the Nigam for the past six years.

However, Patel is tipped to be the strongest of all contenders by virtue of his position as CCF wildlife, the second-most important post in the department.

The records show that most of the incumbents in the PCCF's chair have held the post for a short time only. The Incumbent Chart is witness to the fact that of the five CCFs and 17 PCCFs that the top office has seen, only five have lasted for over two years, the rest have retired in few months.

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


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Farmers defer stir against GEB Friday, July 6, 2001

By Shailesh Pandya, The Times of India News Service
VADODARA: The Gujarat Khedut Samaj has deferred the stir on the issue of introduction of metered power supply to farmers as the state government has offered them subsidised power supply till October 31.

Samaj president Vipin Patel said here on Thursday that if the state government failed to concede their demands by October 31, then they would begin an agitation on November 1, which meant the festival of lights would be cast under a shadow.

Earlier, the samaj had threatened the agitation from July 1 and had set June 30 as deadline.

The Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission's (GERC) power tariff order delivered last October had suggested metering the power supplied to farmers from June. Farmers consenting to the move before April 30 were to be charged 40 paise per unit and 50 paise per unit before June. And if they failed to give consent letters, they were to be charged on horse power basis.

Patel said a farmers' convention recently had opposed the move to have metered power supply and asked members not to allow GEB officials to enter their villages. It also advised them not to pay the bill from November.

The samaj had organised dharna at many electric sub stations.

In response to a specific question, Vipin Patel said the protest would be against GEB's failure to supply assured hours of power supply to the farm sector and also against the 400% hike in power tariff proposed for the farm sector by the GERC.

He said farmers were irritated as they got power at night for it failed to serve any purpose.

First, the samaj had deferred the agitation in view of the January 26 earthquake and this is the second time it has deferred the stir.

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


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HC asks for copy of commissioner's circular Friday, July 6, 2001

By Our Legal Correspondent, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court has asked the government to present before the court a copy of the order of the Rajkot police commissioner which does not allow release of any person on bail or prevents him from being produced before the magistrate before 16 hours of arrest.

Chief Justice D M Dharmadhikari and Justice K R Vyas issued the order on Wednesday following a public interest litigation filed by advocate Pravin Vyas and Bharat Somani of Rajkot.

The petition was moved after there were incidents of harassment of Rajkot citizens by various police stations in the city on the ground that there was an order-circular issued by the commissioner of police not to release any person on bail.

The circular also asked not to produce anyone before magistrate before 16 hours from arrest. Such a circular and action of the police authorities are against the fundamental rights as guaranteed under the Constitution.

The court then asked Anshin Desai, advocate for the petitioner, to give a copy of the petition to government pleader Arun Oza who was present in the court.

The government pleader was also asked to take necessary instructions from the government, and if such a circular was issued, to place a copy before the court and give another copy to the petitioner's advocate.

Oza sought time to take instructions and file a copy of the circular, and the matter was adjourned till July 9.

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


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GSFC may be in bigger mess than expected Friday, July 6, 2001

By Rajiv Shah, The Times of India News Service
GANDHINAGAR: It now appears that the state-run Gujarat State Fertilisers and Chemicals (GSFC) is in a bigger mess than what is indicated by the loss of Rs 224.02 crore for the 2000-2001 financial year.

Highly placed sources say that the company, in its profit and loss account, has not provided for at least Rs 250 crore which should have been treated as "liabilities". If this had been done, GSFC's losses would have been nearer to Rs 475 crore, the sources aver.

"The company's revenue expenditure to the tune of Rs 80 crore has been shown as capital expenditure," says a source. "While this type of non-provisioning is normal, there are two other important items that have remained outside the liabilities list - Rs 30 crore as dues to be paid as electricity duty to the Gujarat Electricity Board and Rs 35.59 crore as dues to be paid to the Gujarat Maritime Board for maintaining the GSFC's captive jetty in Sikka," he adds.

It has now come to light that the GSFC's Rs 1,123-crore ammonia-4 plant in Vadodara was run on a trial basis for two years till it was capitalised in April 2000. "The plant could have been capitalised in 1998 or 1999. One cannot run it for so long like this," informs another source. "The plant could have been capitalised at Rs 700 crore. Over-capitalisation was made to the tune of above Rs 400 crore," he says. This was done deliberately to prevent the entry of political pressure right from the beginning to delay the actual commissioning of these plants, which were set up at an inflated cost in the first place, says a former GSFC official.

As for industrial products, despite the fact that the GSFC managed to sell melamine, of which the company was the only manufacturer, the product was low in quality. "China edged in to become a major competitor. The result is, today, 300 tonnes of the stock is lying in the godown. It's only now that it has occurred to the GSFC management to improve quality," says a source. It is also averred that the company, due to its inefficient ways, bought raw rock phosphate at a price much higher than that prevailing in the market for quite some time, leading to losses.

The sources also say the organisation whose overhead charges, including the salary bill, have been quite high, was unnecessarily sought to be expanded. As an instance, a regional office was opened in Nadiad, though the town is close to the headquarters at Vadodara.

Among other wasteful expenditure, the GSFC has also spawned the Gujarat Agro-processing Company with expensive greenhouses in Dakor to "experiment" in tissue culture in banana and sugarcane. Further the GSFC Science Foundation, created at a cost of Rs 8 crore in 1992, has now been provided with a corpus fund of Rs 12 crore. A new building has also been constructed for this foundation. There was also an unwise move, though now scuttled, to set up an info-tower at the cost of tens of crores.

Yet another example of mismanagement being cited is regarding the GSFC's fertiliser units running at up to 130 per cent capacity. "The Central government fertiliser subsidy to manufacturers to be passed on to consumers was only for production up to cent per cent production capacity. So the company management was foolish to produce at higher than capacity," a source points out.

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


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