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November 22, 2001 - November 22, 2001

VMC hikes deposit, electricity tariff for community halls Thursday, November 22, 2001

VADODARA: Booking Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) community halls for marriages and other purposes might not be a cheap proposition any more. In an attempt to make the functioning of these halls economically viable, the corporation has decided to raise the rates of gas and electricity supplied there along with the deposit.

The corporation has increased the price of electricity and gas connections provided at these halls, popularly called as 'Atithi Gruhs', by Rs 5 per unit. The decision is said to have been taken in wake of the increasing rates of gas and electricity.

Besides the present hike, the decision also authorises the municipal commissioner to revise the rates from time to time. The authority has been vested with the municipal commissioner to take care of any hike in the gas tariff by VMC's gas department or electricity rates by the Gujarat Electricity Board.

Standing Committee chairman Bharat Shah said, "The decision had become unavoidable as the cost of electricity and gas had increased manifold. Also, administrative costs had inflated over a period of time. We needed to do something about this."

Shah said the hike in deposits was minor and would not put much burden on those booking the venues. "Earlier, we used to charge a deposit of Rs 2,500. Now, it has been raised to Rs 3,000 which is very affordable," he said.

The corporation owns about 12 such community halls in different areas of the city. The rates for a shift's booking here vary from Rs 750 to Rs 1,350. Community halls located in some prime areas of the city like Kamati Garden witnesses heavy rush for bookings. These halls are booked well in advance and often lots have to be drawn if more than one person approaches for booking.

The decision will affect plans of people for the ensuing marriage season. While bookings for the marriages in December were made almost three months back, those for the next set of auspicious dates in February are about to begin.

Said Jignesh Shrimali, who plans to get his son married in the same period, "I had planned to go for a corporation guest house as it is not very costly. Now, I will have to do some calculations again and find out whether I can still book one."

The news has definitely made several persons, wishing to book these community halls, apprehensive. It is more likely to affect persons from lower middle and middle class income groups. "While the actual burden on my pocket may not be much, we will have to make last minute adjustments in our budget," said another person wishing to get his daughter married next year.

Sources in the corporation, meanwhile, added that the decision was also taken in the wake of the tight financial condition there. "Every penny counts these days and populist decisions cannot be made. This had to be done when one considers the fact that income has gone down by about 10 per cent," said an official on the condition of anonymity.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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AIDS programme in select schools from next year Thursday, November 22, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Students of select secondary schools in the state will officially have HIV-AIDS and sexual health awareness course in the next academic year, thanks to a bold attempt of the Gujarat State Aids Control Society (GSACS).

The move is part of national programme promoted by National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and will be executed in co-operation with the state education department.

Director of GSACS VC Patel said the plan is to have the coure in class IX and XI of select 30 schools in each district. It has been precluded for X and XII classes as it could interfere with the board examinations.

The decision has been prompted by the fact that over half of the AIDS victims in the country fall in the age group of 15 to 35 years. The scene is no better in Gujarat though its prevalence is well under one per cent, it was increasing nevertheless.

Regarding its implementation, Patel said AIDS society would identify one NGO in each district to initiate the programme in 30 schools each year.

The GSACS aims to cover 1,200 of the 5,000 secondary and higher secondary schools in the first year. Seven districts, including Ahmedabad, have been identified under the programme.

Curiously here, experts are a little skeptical about the response to the pogramme as similar attempt to impart sex education in schools was opposed by fundamentalist outfits in the past. For instance, Ankur School had to pull off the adoloscent education programme at the last minute after in the face of threats from fundamentalist groups.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Robbers strike gold in Rajkot house Thursday, November 22, 2001

RAJKOT: Even as the city is carrying on the hangover of the Diwali festivities and citizens are yet to find their feet in the new year, a group of robbers have struck gold.

The gang broke into the house of one Bhupatbhai Dharamshi Parekh in the Kisan Para area of the city in the wee hours of Wednesday and decamped with jewellery worth Rs 5 lakh and currency to the tune of Rs 56,000.

The stealthy operation was conducted with such clockwork precision that Bhupatbhai and his wife who were sleeping in the same room did not have an inkling of what had befallen them until they woke up from slumber in the morning.

The police do not rule the hand of some known persons in the incident.

According to police inspector Chhelbhai Trivedi of the A division, the house was burgled between midnight and 7.15 am. The dog squad was pressed into service and fingerprint experts also visited the spot.

Bhupatbhai said in his complaint that while he and his wife were fast asleep, someone broke open the iron grill on the rear of the house and entered.

The keys of the wardrobe inside which the cash and jewellery had been kept was lying on a table which made things easy for the desperadoes.

Bhupatbhai said the jewellery lost included gold and pearl bangles, rings and a pendent. The couple stays alone in the house.

Police sub inspector J J Dhranga, who has been given charge of the investigations, said that the role of somebody, who was aware that the jewellery was being stored inside the wardrobe, was being probed.

It was yet to be ascertained if the couple had employed any servants. Further investigation are on, Dhranga added.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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RMC gets cracking on property tax front Thursday, November 22, 2001

RAJKOT: In a desperate bid to bridge the gap between its ambitious targets and actual collection, the estate department of the Rajkot Municipal Corporation on Wednesday decided to shift the operation into top gear.

Deputy commissioner and in-charge officer of the tax department, Anil Rathod, told The Times of India that any person who had a dispute regarding his house tax bill would first have to pay 75 per cent of the bill amount after which the issue would be taken up for scrutiny.

ectricity Board and the telephone department also had such provisions for resolving disputes and asserted that the civic body was perfectly justified in setting such stringent terms.

Rathod said it had also been decided that a dispute once heard and decided upon by a competent official would be final even if the property owner is unhappy with the ruling.

The deputy commissioner said that the commissioner would pass the necessary orders after which the decision would be implemented with immediate effect.

He said there were 700 cases related to property tax disputes and a sum of nearly Rs 20 lakh was held up as a result of this.

Rathod said that a three-pronged approach had been adopted to tackle non-payment of property tax.

One step would be auction of property for which taxes have not been paid for a long time and the outstanding amount is very high. The auctions would now be conducted in December instead of March.

He said as man as five properties had been identified for auction which would be done in the middle of December.

Rathod said out of the total tax recovery target of Rs 35.50 crore, the department had collected just Rs 17.50 crore. However, this was Rs 2.5 crore more than what was collected last year.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Cong-ruled civic body fails to provide water Thursday, November 22, 2001

RAJKOT: The worst fears of the residents of newly-merged areas of the city, who are facing an acute water crisis, have come true.

When the ruling Congress at the Rajkot Municipal Corporation had promised the residents that they would receive piped water supply soon after Diwali, many of them had greeted the news with scepticism.

A minority, however, had pinned their hopes on the party keeping its word and were anxiously waiting for the water to begin flowing from the taps. But the sceptical majority was proved right with no trace of water a week after Diwali.

The residents of the three new wards are now feeling let down and frustrated by the inaction on the part of the civic body. These areas were merged into the civic body in early 1998.

Interestingly, even as these areas awaited their first connection, as many as 2000 connections were doled out in the old Rajkot areas. And all along, the civic authorities maintained a stoic silence when residents who had been 'sanctioned' tap connections queried them on the delay.

Sources in the water works department told 'The Times of India' on Wednesday that almost 40 per cent of the work still remains unfinished. Only after this is completed can these areas receive water supply. They would not risk a guess on when this would happen.

The civic body had planned to supply water to around 20,000 people in these areas. However, seeing the slackness in the civic body's approach to the project, only 5000 people filled the application form.

A senior engineer in the RMC's water works department said that the work was in progress and had been entrusted to private contractors. The civic body hopes to provide water connections to almost 10,000 people. But even the work on laying the pipeline is yet to be completed.

The engineer also revealed that the RMC's plans to regularise 'ghost' tap connections had flopped.

Meanwhile, the failure of the civic body to reach water to the newly-merged areas has come as a boon to owners of water tankers that are making as many as 900 trips even during these winter months.

The situation is bound to worsen by the year-end when more and more water sources will dry up and the RMC will have to once gain depend on Wankaner bore water supply.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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