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July 3, 2001 - July 4, 2001

Hospital assures court on waiving test charges Wednesday, July 4, 2001

The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology has assured the Gujarat High Court that it will not recover any separate charges from patients for use of heart-lung machine for open heart surgery, exempt charges considering the financial status of patients and assist patients from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.

This was stated by the chief executive officer of the institute in a letter following a public interest litigation challenging the inaction of the state government in purchasing a heart-lung machine for the Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad.

The petition alleged that the inaction was for no other reason but to facilitate the trust or corporate hospitals to trade on sickness and mint money.

After hearing submissions made by assistant government pleader Manisha Lavkumar, a division Bench comprising Chief Justice DM Dharmadhikari and Justice KR Vyas rejected the petition.

Contending the deliberate delay in purchase of equipment and its accessories, petitioner Sanjay Patel claimed that the Civil Hospital is run by the state and has extraordinary facilities for the poor. Considering its requirement the authorities also approved and sanctions budget for the same in 1997, but was never purchased. Even tender notices were issued, but the matter was never pursued further.

Patel submitted that if the machine was installed as per the scheme, many patients would get treatment free of cost and many lives could be saved. The petitioner also sought that the grant be revalidated to install machinery and accessories at Civil Hospital.

The state government had filed an affidavit stating that open-heart surgeries and by-pass surgeries are carried out by the institute run by a private trust and located on the same compound as the Civil Hospital.

It was also stated that the state government had turned the Department of Cardiology at Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad, into an autonomous body run by the state government with an idea of providing better treatment for cardiac ailment, which has two such machines. The institute is equipped, has trained staff and hence there was no need of any more machines, the state submitted.

The court observed that once the state has made a judicious utilisation of available funds for providing better health and medical services, merely because budgetary provisions were made for purchase of equipment, the government cannot be compelled to purchase heart-lung machine.

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

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Cong's anti-BJP meeting boomerangs Wednesday, July 4, 2001

The Times of India News Service
GANDHINAGAR: It was meant to be a convention to devise strategies to drive the BJP out of Gujarat, but the Congress workers' meet called by former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki sent out a clear message to newly elected Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chief Amarsinh Chaudhary instead: You dare not ignore us anymore!

Scheduled exactly a year after the last such convention, and soon after Chaudhary's appointment, Solanki and his men could not keep themselves from spewing venom on the 'rival group', without referring to them directly, of course.

The meeting held outside the Town Hall, though not under the official GPCC banner, was attended by around 3,000 workers on Sunday (never mind the fact that former MP Jagdish Thakore claimed there were 14,750 people!)

For people in New Delhi, Solanki was following Sonia Gandhi's agenda - to strengthen the Congress, but references like "power-brokers within the party", "those running the party like a business house" and "the pawns of the BJP within the party" by the speakers was enough to indicate that the ire was directed against the Ahmed Patel-Chaudhary group.

Former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, who first promised to attend, did not turn up and will now hold a separate meeting of ex-RJPites at Gandhinagar. None of the supporters from the Chaudhary group was seen, and the only sitting MLA present was Udesinh Baria.

Solanki, of course, got a rousing welcome by the workers who had hired drummer-boys to announce his arrival, and in his typical anecdotal oratory, gripped listeners' attention.

The former chief minister first sought to deny all rumours spread about him: that he had threatened Sonia Gandhi that he would launch a new party if not made GPCC president, that he desperately wanted to become a Rajya Sabha MP, and so on.

"I have been thrice president of the GPCC -- when the president was chosen by democratic opinions -- four times chief minister, AICC general-secretary and 12 years Rajya Sabha MP, would I fight for these things?" came Solanki's rhetoric.

"Yes, being GPCC president is important, but not more important than my principles", he asserted.

He called upon party workers to unite and fight the BJP and begin first by making committees at village levels, which was already enshrined in the party's constitution. The obsequious supporters of Solanki, while claiming to have welcomed the decision of the Congress president about Chaudhary's appointment, came up with remarks like, "When Amarsinhbhai became GPCC chief, he went to seek blessings of Madhavsinhbhai", said former Union minister BK Gadhvi.

"If Amarsinh claims that Solanki is my guru, let him promise that whoever are Solanki's children are not his step-children and that he will do justice to them," said Rizwan Usmani. Not mincing any words, he added, "We have already extended a hand to you (Amarsinh), now it is for you to accept it".

Said Surendrasinh Rajput, "Whether brokers of power are within the party or without, we have to fight them."

Former MP Haroobhai Mehta alleged that there were still people in the Congress who "hobnobbed with the BJP". "We have to identify the real Congress and re-establish its old identity as founded by Nehru, Gandhi and Sardar," Mehta said.

"When he (Solanki) has spoken for all sections of society, which section is trying to quietly remove him? They are napunsaks!", remarked Rajput.

Solanki announced his plans to hold more meetings like these at district levels and re-organise the party.

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

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'35% stone work of Ayodhya temple done' Tuesday, July 3, 2001

By Bharat Desai, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: Chandrakant B Sompura should not be too bothered about the delay in the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya which he has designed.

He says he is in the business of designing and building temples, and being a 'neutral person' he is not interested in the politics of it. When he designed the temple in 1990, the total cost was Rs 10 crore and his commission, at 1.5 per cent, was 15 lakh. At current rates, the temple will cost Rs 30 crore. His cut Rs 45 lakh.

The Ahmedabad-based temple architect, who designed the temple two years before the Babri mosque was demolished, says he does not know how long it will take to get clearances before actual construction at the site begins. "I am not involved with the VHP. My job is just to execute the project," he says. Besides, he says, his stone carvers have already completed 35 per cent of their job at the site, and are waiting for the foundation to be laid to start the erection of the structure which will take two years to complete.

He admits, former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao had called him in early 1992, on hearing that he was the architect of the temple, on how the temple could be built without disturbing the area on which the Babri Masjid stood. "I told him it could be done by giving a walk-way from the entrance, and building the temple 30 feet away from the disputed place."

However, then the VHP leaders met him and insisted that the plan should necessarily include the area on which the Babri Masjid existed, because this was the actual Ram janmabhumi. "The VHP leaders told me that Lord Ram was born on a cot measuring 3 feet by 6 feet, and that place was important for Hindus. Building a temple 30 feet away or 300 miles away would mean the same thing, but not the real thing."

Sompura comes from a family of temple architects who derive their name from the Somnath temple which, he says, was originally built by Chandra (Moon) to please Lord Shiva. In fact, it was his grandfather, late Prabhashanker Sompura, who rebuilt the Somnath temple on the instructions of Vallabhbhai Patel after the country attained Independence. When his father, who was on an assignment to renovate the Badrinath temple died in an accident in 1968, Sompura, who was then a first-year student of the School of Architecture here, was told by his grandpa to drop out and help him in his temple construction work. "My grandfather had a dislike for modern architecture. He told me 'what's the use of studying to make these box-like buildings'".

Since then, Sompura has built at least 100 temples spread across India and abroad. Some of his prestigious projects include the imposing Swaminarayan Akshardham in Gandhinagar, a series of temples built by the Birlas, Shiv temple in Singapore, several temples in the US and the Swaminarayan temple in London which features in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest stone temple outside India without cement and iron.

He said the VHP got to know of him from the Birlas and had approached him in the late 1980s to design the Ayodhya temple. In 1990, when the plan was ready, VHP leaders like Ashok Singhal visited his house at Pathik Society to have a close look at it and suggest some changes, which were incorporated. The plan, as it stands today, involves a structure which is 132-feet high, 270-feet long and 126-feet wide. There are 212 pillars in the structure and some 2,75,000 cubic feet of stone - granite, marble and Bansipaharpur stone - will go into its construction.

The foundation for the temple will itself take about six months, and the total time for erecting the structure will take two years. When will that start? He doesn't know, and gives the question a shrug. He has projects in Detroit and New Jersey to stay busy anyway.

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

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NHRC chief given details of rehab work Tuesday, July 3, 2001

The Times of India News Service
GANDHINAGAR: National Human Rights Commission chairman Justice J S Verma was given a detailed presentation by the state government of the relief and rehabilitation works carried out in the earthquake-affected areas during his visit to Gujarat.

Justice Verma held discussions with the officials, including chief secretary G Subba Rao and others. Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) CEO P K Misra highlighted the magnitude of damage and devastation, which was the worst calamity in recent times. The state government said it had mobilised thousands of personnel, equipment and material to cope with the challenges of rescue and relief. It also brought out the role played by the NGOs, other state governments, the Central government and the international community.

The presentation showed how a number of packages for reconstruction of houses and economic revival had been announced within a short time. About 2.3 lakh families (against about 2 lakh whose houses have collapsed) have been covered by the above measures.

Intensive efforts have been made to restored economic infrastructure like water supply, electricity and communication. A number of packages have been announced to ensure revival of the economic activity. These include agriculture, salt workers and small and cottage industries, other industries etc. It was pointed out that in order to facilitate construction work and to ensure earthquake resistant design, over 3700 engineers have been trained and over 24,000 masons have been trained and provided with tool kits.

So far the first instalment of housing has been paid to about 8.5 lakh families, the amount being about Rs 500 crore.

An official spokesman said, "It was pointed out that what has been achieved in five months has no parallel anywhere in the country or elsewhere." The spokesman said the NHRC chairman expressed his satisfaction about the performance by the state government agencies.

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

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Reopening of municipal schools put on hold again Tuesday, July 3, 2001

By Civic Reporter, The Times of India news Service
AHMEDABAD: Municipal schools of the city will not reopen on Monday as per schedule. Restart of academic activities at the municipal schools was yet again put on hold, this time for an indefinite period, by the municipal school board committee on Saturday.

Chairman of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation's school board said, "No academic activity will take place in any of the 262 municipal school buildings in Ahmedabad till the corporation authorities certify them as safe. We cannot have our students killed in incidents like the one at Rajpur municipal school on June 26 in which Aftab Alam Sheikh (8) was killed."

This is the third postponement of municipal school reopening eversince June 15. The school has reopened after a quake-extended vacation on June 11 but just four days later partial collapse of a school building resulted in suspension of all academic activities in municipal schools till June 20. The date was then pushed back jointly by the corporation authorities and Parmar to June 25.

On June 26 schools reopened only to close down with the commissioner pushing the date back to June 30. Parmar says: "I do not think they will be able to make any difference by June 30 and therefore it is more prudent to wait till all is well with the buildings before restarting educational activities."

Sources however pointed out that Parmar's decision was motivated by the commissioner's "arbitrary" move to push back reopening date without consulting the board and also because the inquiry constituted into the incident has accused school board staff of being morally responsible for the death of Alam.

"For five months I have been pleading with AMC authorities and the state government for repair of the damaged buildings. Even now it is more of a fire-fighting exercise on part of the authorities and officials of the engineering department. This is more than apparent from the fact that they have accused two principals, an education supervisor and the administrative officer of school board for the Rajpur school wall collapse. I am going to wait for the police investigation and the enquiry being conducted by the school board members to conclude before taking a decision on the issue," said Parmar.

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

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