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June 24, 2001 - June 25, 2001

Builders' bail plea hearing on Monday Monday, June 25, 2001

The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD, June 23: The fate of the 34 builders and their associates remained undecided on Friday as the hearing of their bail plea in the Gujarat High Court was adjourned till Monday.

When the matter came up for hearing before Justice D P Buch, advocate Saurin Shah while appearing for the builders submitted that the moment the seismic zone changed, the co-efficient also changed. If Ahmedabad is placed in zone-IV, the entire co-efficient changes.

He gave examples of Koyana earthquake in 1967, after which Koyana was shifted from Zone-I to Zone-IV, and Latur which was not in any seismic zone was placed in Zone-IV.

He argued that under these circumstances seismic zone map cannot be relied upon, as it keeps on changing.

He argued that if we consider the earthquake to be of 7.7 magnitude in Kutch, its radius of 400 km would also include Ahmedabad, so we had the same effect as Bhuj, though it was in Zone-IV.

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

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Police bust ISD telephone racket Monday, June 25, 2001

The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD, June 23: The Satellite police registered an offence on Thursday following a complaint lodged by a telephone department official, Vinod Patel, that illegal ISD connections had been managed by using a dish antennae at Akik Towers on the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway.

Apparently, four units - 807, 808, 810 and 811 - were being used from this tower, opposite Rajpath Club, as the base to connect people abroad at nominal rates through a satellite network using microwave frequency.

While the police have no inkling about the operators, since the rooms were locked and the accused absconding, they said 24 lines were in operation.

The antenna was placed on the 10th floor in room 1109. Most of the calls had been made to the United States, the police said. According to the police, the units on this floor were registered in the name of PC Deshpande from Mumbai.

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

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Legalities delay child labourers-parents reunion Sunday, June 24, 2001

The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD, June 23: Thirteen-year-old Shamsad Hussain clung on to his father for dear life. All pleadings by his present guardians - Childline, a national 24-hour free phone emergency service for distressed children - failed to convince the teenager. After much ado, a tearful farewell separated the child and his parents from remote Sitamarhi district of Bihar.

Shamsad is one among the dozen minor labourers rescued last month from an embroidery unit in Chandola under the Dani Limda police station who are still waiting to be reunited with their families. Standing between them and the family reunion is the long list of legalities that are yet to be thrashed out by the state government machinery.

It's a typical case of so near yet so far for the 12 children - aged between eight and 15 years - nine of whom belong to Muzaffarpur and Sitamarhi districts of Bihar. The remaining three are from villages of UP and West Bengal.

The initiative taken by Samast Bangali Samaj - a local voluntary group based in Ratan Pole in Ahmedabad - brought parents of the nine children hailing from Bihar, UP and West Bengal to Ahmedabad on Monday.

"Ever since they landed here they have been yearning to be with their children, but things are progressing too slowly to their liking. We have put them up at our association office, and are helping them in every possible manner," says Raufbhai Bangali, president of the association.

On Friday, the aggrieved parents from Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh went to the Ahmedabad district collectorate to expedite the "release" of their sons. Their wards had been rescued on May 23 after a tip-off sent members of Childline along with the police to the premises of an embroidery workshop owned by Mohammad Shakeel and Mohammad Hanan at Chandola.

Abid Hussain of Mahua Gachi village in Sitamarhi district of Bihar says: "We live a hand-to-mouth existence working as agriculture labourers for the landed in our village. About a year ago, Shakeel had approached me and others in our village that he would take our children to Ahmedabad and teach them embroidery. Thereafter he would employ them. I thought this was an excellent chance to allow my son Samshad Hussain earn a living and give him a headstart in life."

While the same story is repeated by Shanti Devi, mother of Ranjit, and Mohammed Afzal, father of Mohammed Shamim (8). All the parents repent their decision. "We will never let our children go away from us. They are sons of Bihar and that's where they will grow up," said Shankar Dhobi, whose son Vijay is with Childline. "Just let us have our children back, and we will leave for our villages immediately. We may be poor, but safety of our children is paramount," said Anwar Ali of Mahranya village of UP.

Rajesh Bhatt of Childline told TOI: "We will be only too happy to reunite the children with their parents, but first the repatriation process must be okayed by the collectorate. Till all formalities are complete, these children are our responsibility."

To this Raufbhai Bangali says: "My talk with the collector has been very encouraging, and he has promised to help these poor farmers. I have suggested that a six-member team (with two representatives each from district administration, Childline and Samast Bengali Samaj) accompany the parents and their children back home to Bihar, UP and West Bengal."

He adds, "This will ensure safety of the children and completion of formalities like establishing the children and their parents' identities. But, now the need of the hour is to bring this issue to a logical conclusion quickly so that these poor farmers can get back to their agricultural activities along with their children before monsoon sets in."

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

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Bottleneck for disaster management Sunday, June 24, 2001

The Times of India News Service
GANDHINAGAR, June 23: It's now official: there had been considerable confusion in the handling of the earthquake disaster. A top document finds unprecedented overlapping of roles involving Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) and various state departments over quake relief activities.

The document has been prepared by well-known consultants Andersen for the state government and has been presented to the GSDMA.

The document, titled Evolving a Framework for Managing Disaters, says: "There is an urgent need for clarity of entity roles and responsibilities and single-point co-ordination of all matters relating to disaster management."

Pointing at major ambiguities, the document says, currently, disaster management is being handled by the GSDMA "by a mix of political and bureaucratic representatives with Cabinet-level powers". At the same time it is an "independent and autonomous society", though for "administrative purpose it is aligned with the general administrative department (GAD) of the state government." The GSDMA is chaired by the chief minister, while a senior IAS officer is its CEO.

Emphasising that "the nature of continuing support that the state government and the administration provide to the GSDMA remains to be clarified", the document says: "Caution be exercised that political compulsions do not slow down or bias the GASMA."

It wants the state government provide GSDMA with:

* Independence of strategy and operations

* Objectivity of decision making and

* Autonomy for exercising quasi-judicial powers.

The document says the current GSDMA focus is "largely on coordinated relief and reconstruction" and such a short-term perspective in the context of the quake "is likely to lead to a diminishing focus on mitigation in the medium and long term". It underlines, "Recency of quake could create a focus on quakes, though cyclones and droughts affect the state more frequently." Hence, there ought to be a "long-term committment to disaster management, focussing on different types of disasters, not on adhoc response".

Calling lack of "nodal disaster management organisation" as the "most significant bottleneck", the document says there is also a lack of clarity regarding the role of line departments and delegation of powers for managing disasters, the future role of the revenue department that has been handling disasters, and the relationship between the local administration and the nodal agency. It wants the state to study the Centre's model Act on disaster management for states and come up with an enactment.

The document gives several options to restructure the GSDMA. These are: converting it into a think-tank, a disaster management department of the state government, a quasi-government task force, and a nodal agency for disaster management working out all policies and implementing mitigation.

"All these options are under discussion," a senior bureacrat said here on Friday. "One of the options would be accepted within a couple of months by providing the GSDMA with statutory powers."

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

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JUNAGADH:::: Turbid water scares Junagadh citizens Sunday, June 24, 2001

The Times of India News Service
JUNAGADH, June 23: For the past week (after the initial rain stopped) the Junagadh municipality has been supplying turbid water in the town.

So now it is a question not of quantity, but of quality for even after having adequate drinking water, people are facing a problem. And the people are scared! They know not if they have gulped deadly bacteria, thank to the municipality's handiwork.

Municipal president Aarti Joshi admitted that "the filter plant at Upperkot is partially functioning," and they have supplied water in whatever form they could.

About the availability of clean and clear water, she replied that "after some days, when the mud and other sediments settle down at the bottom of the water tanks of Upperkot, it could be possible."

Asked an old-timer: Does it mean the municipality has nothing to do with filtration. They know only one thing and that is somehow the water must be passed through the Upperkot filter plant pipeline, whether filtered or not.

Anyway, it is the responsibility to clear citizens' apprehensions and also ensure supply of safe drinking water, said another citizen.

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

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