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July 5, 2001 - July 6, 2001

JUNAGADH:::: Junagadh to pay Rs 4.33 cr electricity bill Friday, July 6, 2001

The Times of India News Service
JUNAGADH: Hit by resource crunch in the wake of octroi abolition, Junagadh municipality got a shock when the Gujarat Electricity Board slammed Rs 4.33 crore bill to be paid within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the municipality arranged to pay Rs 5 lakhs as the first instalment and Rs 50,000 every day thereafter. The GEB has agreed to this arrangement.

This bill is for the use of the electricity for street light and water supply works. GEB said that it had continually reminded the municipality of it, but to no avail.

Municipal president Aarati Joshi said she was at the collectorate but since the fisheries minister Babubhai Bokhiriya had come to Junagadh she could not meet him.

Joshi said, "Everybody knows that Junagadh municipality has no money. The Gujarat government is responsible for it as it had abolished the octroi, which gave us a reasonable sum to make such payments. So only the state government is going to pay this amount on our behalf."

However, all this week civic officials were on their toes and the citizens were gaping at the way things worked. Some wondered how could the GEB get tough all of a sudden when it was lenient all these two years, notwithstanding the reminders it had sent the civic body.

Theft case: Miscreants broke into an automobile shop near Moti Baugh and Raijee baug area at Junagadh on Friday. and took away cash and goods worth Rs 20,000, Ravi Sharadchandra Thakkar has stated in his complaint with "B" division police station.

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

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MMCB revival scheme notification in 3 days Friday, July 6, 2001

By A Staff Reporter, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: Even as there is widespread cynicism on the ability of the revival committee to mobilise Rs 800 crore from the various co-operative banks in the state for the revival of the Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank (MMCB), the Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank (ADCB) chairman Amit Shah is confident of raising this fund.

He said the notification of the Rs 1,264-crore revival scheme, approved in Delhi last month, will be issued by the Central Registrar of Co-operative Society (CRCS) in the next three days.

"As these co-operative banks' contributions for the revival of MMCB would be from the 25 per cent of the Statutory Liquidity Requirement (SLR) which is kept with the apex co-operative bank, the question of not being able to raise the sum does not arise. All co-operative banks would just be moving their funds from one place to another. Also, there is a default guarantee on the sum by both the central and the state government. This offers enough security to cover their contributions," Shah said.

He said the notification of the scheme is being delayed, as the RBI deputy governor (Urban Bank Department) Jagdish Kapoor retired on June 30, and the new deputy governor would take some time to study and understand the revival scheme.

According to Shah, the notification of the scheme would help in the early release of the Rs 464-crore Deposit Insurance Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) funds, as following such notification any violation of any law would automatically get amended.

"Once the scheme is notified by the CRCS, there would be no need for amendment of any law. The DICGC will be able to release the Rs 464-crore deposit insurance in less than a week after the notification," says Shah.

After the notification, the RBI, the central and state government and the Deposit Insurance Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) will have to issue a circular about the special relaxation of Section 71 G, which would permit investment by co-operative banks into the MMCB.

Shah said the new board - which will comprise of one representative from the central government, two from the state government, one from the ADCB, one from the Gujarat State Co-operative Bank, three from the City Bank and Gujarat Co-operative Bank Federation and two from co-operative banks contributing more than Rs 50 crore - will be formed in another one and a half months. He also ruled out any name-change of the MMCB.

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

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Municipal school teachers siege corporation Friday, July 6, 2001

By Civic Reporter, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: There seems no light at the end of tunnel for academics at 563 municipal schools and for 2,30,000 students of the city with the elected wing of the municipal school board at loggerheads with the administrative wing of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

And, the fall outs are apparent. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation was under siege on Wednesday. Official work came to a grinding halt and senior officials of the civic body made a hasty exit as a huge rally of over 1,500 municipal school teachers marched in.

The teachers were protesting against AMC's move to indict two principals - Rukhiben Rana and Sarojiniben Parmar - of the Rajpur municipal school for the accidental death of an eight-year-old student, Aftab Alam Shiekh. Sheikh had died when a wall of an under-demolition building of municipal school (number 17 and 18) collapsed on him.

The agitators have demanded that the corporation retract its steps and bring the real accused out in the open within a fortnight or face a much bigger rally of 1.2 lakh municipal school students led by 6,000 teachers who have threatened to strike work.

Shouting slogans against the AMC deputy municipal commissioner (administration), who had been entrusted with the job of investigating into the school wall collapse case, the teachers marched in to find a fortified corporation building. Not one exit or entry point was left unmanned by the local policemen and AMC's securitymen. This was to prevent the angry teachers (most of whom were women) from storming into the corporation.

As slogan shouting reached a feverish pitch, a delegation of around 15 teachers were allowed into the AMC premises to submit their memorandum to the deputy municipal commissioner (general), A R Bhatt. Bhatt after hearing the outburst of the teachers said, "I will hand over the memorandum and relay the teachers' sentiments to the commissioner."

However, sources in AMC pointed out that this was a show of strength by the elected members of the municipal school board who felt undermined when the commissioner, K Kailashnathan, had "arbitrarily" decided to close all municipal schools till June 30.

This declaration was quickly followed up by the chairman of school board, Ganpat Parmar's, decision to stop academic activities in the 563 municipal schools of the city till the administrative wing of AMC submits safety reports for all the school buildings.

Caught in the crossfire is academics in municipal schools, a senior official of AMC pointed out: "Out of the 262 municipal school buildings, a team of experts on structural engineering had advised major repairs in 101 and demolition of 17. The rest could have got on with their classes with minor repairs."

Parmar on the other hand says: "Since January 26 I have written no less than 170 letters to AMC administrators, state and central governments, but timely action has not been initiated. I have no faith in the administrative wing's capability to sort out this matter quickly, but I am not prepared to endanger my students' lives." Parmar has asked only the principal and vice-principal of the schools to be at the buildings yet to be certified as safe.

But, this decision too is being challenged: "Why should we be the sole souls around in deserted school buildings," asks a principal who did not want to be quoted. She added: "We are not prepared to take the dangers of being inside damaged structures on our own. Either teaching and non-teaching staff attend duties or we too stay off the schools."

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

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Inspection fee for self-financed medical colleges Friday, July 6, 2001

By Health Correspondent, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: The state government has resolved to take bank-guarantee and inspection fee from institutes applying for starting self-financed medical colleges in the state.

A press communiqu issued here on Wednesday informed that the state government has decided upon a fee-structure for inspection committee members inspecting and assessing the various applications and submitting a report to the government.

Accordingly, Rs 50,000 will be charged as inspection fee for inspecting applicants for a self-financed medical college while charges for inspecting applicants for a dental and physiotherapy college will be Rs 30,000 and Rs 20,000 respectively.

Inspection fee apart, applicant institutes will also be required to give a bank guarantee of Rs 2 crore for a medical college and Rs 1 crore for a dental college. The same will be refunded to the institute on completion of course of the first batch.

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

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Red tape blocks funding in Gujarat: ADB Thursday, July 5, 2001

The Times of India News Service
GANDHINAGAR: The Asian Development Bank has told the Gujarat government that one reason why the state is unable to attract private investment in the infrastructure sector in a big way is the lack of a viable single window to attract private parties in viable projects.

Top Secretariat sources revealed that recent meetings with ADB officials, as also its latest "Aide Memoire" on private sector infrastructure financing, showed that the top funding agency had taken strong exception to having too many state-sponsored companies dealing in infrastructure funding.

Over the past three years, half-a-dozen government companies dealing in infrastructure projects with private funding have come up in the state. Working under their respective departments, they are: Gujarat Urban Development Corporation, Gujarat State Road Development Corporation, Gujarat Informatics Ltd, Gujarat Power Company Ltd, Gujarat Water Infrastructure Company Ltd, and Gujarat State Petronet Company Ltd. For ports development, the Gujarat Maritime Board has been doing the job for long.

The ADB has said in its latest "Aide Memoire" on Private Sector Infrastructure Facility-II, prepared for offering a $300-million loan to finance private funding for infrastructure projects for three states, "Gujarat has sectoral SPVs that outsource their requirements."

The other two states that would be getting the proposed loan are Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It has suggested that the Gujarat Infrastructure Board, formed to provide single window, is too weak to deal with private funding.

The "Aide Memoire" says, "States should have separate infrastructure agencies with statutory backing that deal with the private sector, acts as a one-stop facility for co-ordinating approvals, clearances and licences and promotes infrastructure projects.

Both Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have formed these structures. Andhra Pradesh has integrated these functions under the AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation Ltd, while Gujarat has a less efficient structure with an infrastructure board and a number of SPVs with sectoral departments instead of a single window."

During the meetings with government bureaucrats, too, the ADB has been arguing that though Gujarat has passed an infrastructure development Act, the multiplicity of government companies dealing with infrastructure projects does not inspire confidence in investors. The GIDB, formed to provide single window and activated in 1998, does not have teeth to carry projects to their logical conclusion. Currently having recommendatory powers, only government departments through the SPVs can implement the projects.

So far, the state government has refused to buy the ADB argument. "The ADB has always argued that parties have difficulty in getting clearance on land, construction, environment and labour issues because of multiplicity of agencies", said a top official. "If the GIDB were to do all this work, then it would not be able to take up more than one project at a time. By creating SPVs, the state government has been able to divide the job between specialised companies with top experts in management looking into pros and cons of each project", added the official.

The $300-million loan, to be diverted through three different infrastructure finance companies -- ICICI, IL&FS and IDFC -- is likely to be approved by the ADB board in March 2002.

To be given for a period of 20 years for specific projects, with a market interest rate, "Aide Memoire" also wants each sector to have separate regulatory mechanisms for power, roads, ports, airports, telecommunication, etc responsible for preparing master plans and addressing and preventing constraints "such as connectivity in the case of ports and metering in the case of power."

State government officials say, this is putting too many conditions for financing infrastructure projects.

"Huge funds to finance infrastructure projects are already available within India and there is no need to necessarily go in for ADB funds to finance private projects", an official insisted. "The only problem the state is facing is to make infrastructure projects viable and attractive enough for investment. For this, the state can stand guarantee and can even part-finance projects from its budget. Viable market for the available huge debts would have to be created."

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

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