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November 21, 2001 - November 22, 2001

Archaeologists stumble on possible shipwreck off Bet Dwarka Thursday, November 22, 2001

VADODARA: A Roman period shipwreck off Gujarat coast? It may have taken place, if the recent discovery of historic remains during marine archaeological investigations off Bet Dwarka is confirmed by further exploration.

According to a paper to be read by A S Gaur and Sundaresh of the National Institute of Oceanography, Dona Paula, Goa, at the joint annual conference of the Indian Archaeological Society, the Indian Society for Pre-historic & Quaternary Studies and the Indian History & Culture Society, beginning here on Thursday, "recent offshore explorations near the present jetty have brought to light a few amphora sherds and a lead ingot of the Roman period suggesting a possible Roman period shipwreck."

"If further exploration confirms this, then this will be the first evidence from the India Ocean on the discovery of a Roman period shipwreck," the paper says.

The conference, the biggest conglomeration of archaeologists and experts from related fields, will be inaugurated by Archaeological Survey of India director general Kasturi Gupta Menon and will see a number of papers being read covering archaeology and ancient history of the country.

According to Gaur and Sundaresh, onshore and offshore archaeological explorations in Bet Dwarka have revealed an interesting cultural sequence, which commenced from Proto-historic to modern times.

"During the medieval period, a major portion of the island was occupied and active trade activity has been noticed. A large number of triangular and grapnel stone anchors from Bet Dwarka waters have been recorded. Local fishermen opined that stone anchors were used till very recently," says the paper.

"The presence of a large number of iron canons suggests that the island also witnessed invasions. The explorations in Bet Dwarka island indicate sea level fluctuation since the Proto-historic period and perhaps it continued till the recent past at a historical site which submerges during high tide at present," the paper adds.

Pot sherds from Bet Dwarka indicate that continuous habitation commenced from Proto-historic period and lasted till the present times. The evidence suggest that Bet Dwarka island has played a vital role in trade and commerce of Okhamandal region of Gujarat since the Harappan times, say Gaur and Sundaresh.

Two sites of Proto-historic period have been identified near the Nilkantha Mahadev temple and Balapur village. The important antiquities of this period recovered from the island so far include a seal, three pot sherds with Harappan graffiti, shell artefacts and Harappan and late-Harappan pottery. The important antiquities of the historical period include Kushana coins, amphorae sherds and other pottery.

Among the other papers focusing on the archaeology of Gujarat, includes a thesis trying to find out "Who constructed the Ranki Vav of Patan in north Gujarat?"

The paper suggests that though most scholars have presumed that the step well was constructed by in the memory of Bhimadeva-I Chalukya by his widowed queen Udayamati, "linguistics, historical, ethnographic and architectural evidences indicate that the step well was constructed by Bhimadeva-I himself."

"It was probably completed by queen Udayamati and Karnadeva-I after his death," the paper says. Ranki Vav, the step well at Patan in north Gujarat, is a richly-sculptured and rare monument.

The presumption that it was Udayamati who built the step well stems from the use of the name Ranki Vav referred in the 'Prabandha Chintamani' composed by Merunga Suri in 1304 AD.

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

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Curse of the cow to blame for Keshubhai's fall! Thursday, November 22, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: At least one person believes that the Keshubhhai Patel government was not replaced on the basis of its lack of performance.

Animal Welfare Board of India chairman Justice (Retd) Gumanmal Lodha sent a flutter among reporters on Wednesday when he said, even if half in jest, that the Keshubhai ministry fell because it did not keep it's commitment to protecting 'Gau Mata'.

Justice Lodha was in Ahmedabad to announce a scheme under which 'gaushalas' in the state will be given a grant of up to Rs 5 lakh to improve their facilities.

During the press conference reporters questioned both Lodha and state minister for cow protection Harjivan Patel on why ministers were not taking care of one cow each at their residence, as directed by Keshubhai when he was in power.

Initially, he tried to pacify the reporters by saying that the order was not binding and was merely a request. The reporters, however, remained persistent and asked Lodha what he thought about the state government's commitment to cow protection as it is the only state with a minister for protecting cows.

"One ministry has already fallen because it did not keep its commitment to protecting cows," remarked Lodha.

Lodha was also asked why Gujarat's Animal Welfare Board was shut down and there is no effort to revive it. "I do not know the details but I believe that state should have the board," he replied.

The national board has given the state Rs 3 crore this year instead of the Rs 1 crore that it gives each year. It has been given Rs 10 crore by the Centre from the fund collected to celebrate the 2,600th birth anniversary of Lord Mahavir, which will be distributed among voluntary organisations working for animal welfare.

Organisations working with more than 50 animals will be considered with those recognised by the state government given preference.

Lodha explained that he had increased the grant for the state government considering the recurring drought and in the wake of the January 26 quake which had adversely affected animals in the state.

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

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Another international telephone scam detected Thursday, November 22, 2001

VADODARA: Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) has been dealt with another fatal blow. This time it has lost Rs 40 crore as royalty from incoming international calls.

The city police's latest detection has exposed yet another telephone exchange scam wherein a private operator had procured sophisticated communication system to facilitate incoming telephone calls from the US to Indian homes.

Shailesh Patel, who owns three private telephone exchanges in the city, had obtained 46 mobile telephone lines from AT&T and fixated them on a hi-tech system, hooked up to a communication satellite to receive transmission signals bypassing VSNL's satellite.

This technical arrangement obliterated the role of VSNL that otherwise is the official government agency to route incoming calls from foreign countries. While VSNL approximately charges Rs 80 per minute of every call made from the US, in this case Shailesh Patel's firm, Nandini Communications, charged Re 1 (2 US cents) from those who made the calls.

Patel's strategic partners in New York, Vick and Peterson, charged their customers in the US and transferred a portion of profits as per the arrangement of 2 cents per phone call arrangement with Patel to him in his bank account. The only cost that Patel had to incur was the bills of the 46 mobile phones which was metered as local phone calls.

The clandestine arrangement was struck about 16 months ago and every month about Rs 22-25 lakh were transferred to Patel's account in Karnataka Bank here.

"Patel and his associates used a master patching system to create this illegal international communication channel. VSNL lost royalty revenue of twice the amount earned by Patel through his illegal communication channel," in-charge police commissioner and Special IGP Vadodara range Deepak Swaroop told mediapersons at a press conference on Wednesday.

The police has arrested Patel and two others -- Arpan Jaiswal and Sunil Nigam. Jaiswal and Nigam were employed by Patel to work as operators at his private telephone exchange at Siddharth Complex. The scam was detected by a team of police officials led by crime branch police inspector N K Rathod.

Hinting at larger ramifications of the detection, Swaroop said "There are certain leads in this case which shows that this is just the tip of the iceberg." He termed the detection as one of biggest catch by the city police.

"Everything that has been a part of this crime is well documented. The mobile telephone bills' printouts were sent to the US. These bills were used by the US party to pay back a share of profit as per the 2 cents per phone call arrangement with Patel. We have the details of bank accounts which show that Patel has earned about Rs 5 crore through this deal," PI Rathod said.

Interestingly, the sophisticated communication system was made in Australia, while the other hi-tech technology equipment is believed to be of Israeli make. The entire system including a 30-feet dish antennae, transponder and signal reception set and a host of other technical gadgets was set up by Mike and Peterson's staff who had specially come from New York and stayed in Vadodara for about 15 days last year. The system is worth $50,000 and the cost was borne by the US party.

Patel has revealed in his interrogation that his strategic partners in the US had distributed visiting cards to contact Indians. The offer made to NRIs in US was to facilitate a phone call at one fourth of the existing per minute international telephone call tariff. The deal and the equipment set up at Siddarth Complex facilitated only incoming calls from the US. Patel, who is now in police custody, was the owner of the now defunct C R Sons. Patel also continues to own three private telephone exchanges set up in Avishkar complex in Old Padra road, Siddharth Complex at R C Dutt road and Arun Deep Complex near Race Course Circle.

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

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British visa liaison office to be set up soon Wednesday, November 21, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Britain will take some more time to set up a visa liaison office in Ahmedabad. Speaking to reporters after the function to give away the Shrimati Pushpawati Loomba Charitable Trust scholarships, the British High Commissioner to India Rob Young said they have just received permission from the Centre to set up the office. In the coming months they will train the required officers and then start functioning.

"It is important to know that the office will not be issuing visas," he said. "It will only be accepting applications and providing information on how to get visas. Visa officers may come down once in a while to help people who can't make it to Mumbai, but those will be exceptions." He however refused to give an exact time-frame in which the office will be set up.

The first announcement of such an office was made by the only Asian minister in the current British government, Keith Vaz, in early 2000. Since then surveys have been conducted and the viability worked out. "The main intention is obviously to reduce the pressure on the British consulate in Mumbai," Young added. "I would expect such an office in Ahmedabad to bring down the pressure by about 20 to 30 per cent."

The office should also help in their effort to get more Indian students to study in Britain. There are about 7,000 Indian students in Britain currently, which they hope to raise to about 12,000 in the next three to four years. Britain will be the second country to set up such an office in Ahmedabad with the United States expected to set up their own Visa Facilitation Centre in the city as well.

The High Commissioner was also not averse to commenting on the war in Afghanistan and terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. "There is nothing like good terrorism and bad terrorism," he said. "Any act of killing innocent civilians in cold blood is called terrorism. The debate between freedom fighters and terrorists is outdated now." Young also accepted that Pakistan today is under no illusion that it can no longer support terrorists. "We condemn all acts of terrorism, including the one in Kashmir."

Speaking about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, he said that they are now moving into the second phase in the battle against terrorism, which includes squeezing out their financial resources.

On the growing business relationship between the two countries, Young said trade between India and Britain reached a record Rs 8 billion this year. About 125 Indian businesses have also set up shop in Britain.

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

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Modi to auction his Diwali gifts Wednesday, November 21, 2001

AHMEDABAD: What kind of gifts a chief minister of a rich state like Gujarat gets on Diwali? The CM Narendra Modi on Tuesday displayed them at his residence for the media. Because: he wants to auction them and give the proceeds for women's education. In the political circles, Modi's "gesture" is seen as a `political gimmick.

Expensive gifts include a crystal clear gem stone, gold plated statuettes and figurines, large and glittering silver mementos depicting Lord Krishna and Arjuna on a chariot, a brass cannon, woollen shawls with intricate embroidery work, a huge set of bow and arrows. They were mere samples of the 167 gifts received by Modi.

Among the articles to be put under the hammer are a huge diamond model, Silver chariots (2), other chariots (3), mementos (7), a sword, a telephone, a brass cannon, shawls (65), headgear (19), a wooden plough, a golden hued flower pot, dancing Shiva idol, Ganesh idols made of brass and stone and a host of other photographs Gods, Goddesses and luminaries from the past.

``Giving the auction proceeds will be my humble contribution to the state exchequer on the auspicious occasion of `labh pancham.' I strongly believe in the trusteeship talked about by Mahatma Gandhi,'' said Modi.

Former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela said: ``This is all a natak. First, he says no advertisements, because they amount to wastage, then he hosts a tamasha for his induction as CM and now this. Even I got gifts, but I quietly gave away the pagdis (turbans), mithai and shawls to the poor or some elders who I met during my village tours.''

Another former CM Madhavsinh Solanki said: ``I have yet to apply my mind.'' (Solanki is recuperating from a bad fall and was in no mood to react)

Modi's immediate predecessor Keshubhai Patel said: "I don't know about this. I avoided taking gifts except sweets and dry-fruits. The gold crown I had got when I went to the Jalaram temple and that too I submitted to the state.''

Modi's gifts have been deposited under the rules laid out by the Toshakhana Act, 1984, that makes it is mandatory for government functionaries to surrender all ``official'' gifts worth more than Rs 500 to the state. They are then valued by a three-member committee consisting of secretaries of finance, industries and roads and buildings. The goodies are then up for grabs at a state-sponsored auction.

Since the Toshakhana rules were framed about 15 years ago, a total of 164 gifts were deposited with the state exchequer (which includes a gold crown handed over by Keshubhai Patel). But, Modi has done some pinch- hitting by depositing 167 Diwali gifts in one go.

But Modi refused to be drawn in any controversy. ``This is not a game of one-upmanship. I do not want to comment what my predecessors did. I strongly believe that I am to act as a representative, a trustee of the electorate and whatever is or will be given to me in this capacity is the state's property.''

The director of accounts and treasury, B.M. Dave, said, ``Of the 164 items handed over by bureaucrats and politicians, 136 have already been auctioned. The three-member committee that fixes the offset price for each to-be-auctioned item will require, at least, a month to complete all the formalities before these 167 gifts are put up for sale.''

``It is difficult to fix a price on these gifts. One has still got to arrive at the off-set rate to kick-off the auction. One hopes they fetch a sizable sum that would further the cause of women's education in the state,'' explained Anil Mukim, additional principal secretary to the CM.

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

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