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June 22, 2001 - June 22, 2001

No trace of American India Foundation largess Friday, June 22, 2001

By Bharat Desai & Anil Pathak, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD, June 21: It is about three months since Hollywood siren Jennifer Lopez made a public appearance at a fund-raising campaign organised by American India Foundation (AIF) for the Gujarat quake victims.

A fortnight after the event, in the first week of April, former US president Clinton visited the quake-affected Kutch in a tour which was known more for its hype than content.

Leading industrialists, who were sporting a philanthropic tag on their sleeve in the post-quake days, fell head over heels to shake hands with Clinton. NGOs moved heaven and earth to get invited to a discussion with Clinton and other AIF members at a an elite Ahmedabad hotel.

AIF, which had raised about $10 million (Rs 47 crore) by then, was talking in terms of raising $50 m (Rs 230 crore). But 75 days after the Clinton visit, nothing much has happened for the quake victims. Not a cent, leave alone the millions of dollars promised by Mike Patel and Co of the AIF has reached them.

One hears about more charity dinners and fund-raising campaigns featuring M C Hammer and Deepak Chopra being organised in the US, but there is nothing on the ground in Kutch to show any transfer of funds.

Says Sushma Iyengar of Kutch Navnirman Abhiyan, a leading network of NGOs engaged in quake rehabilitation, "We have been promised Rs 2 crore for housing by AIF, but so far it has remained just a verbal commitment."

Reema Nanavaty of SEWA, while reacting to a questionnaire on help from AIF says, "We have not received anything from the foundation. SEWA has so far not been invited to participate in any AIF rehabilitation project in Kutch."

A month back, 'The Times of India' had approached Vipul Shukla of Vital Communications, which handled publicity during the Clinton visit, to know more about AIF's plans. He had no clue, but directed TOI to Anita Gupta, a Citibank executive in New York.

A questionnaire to Gupta elicited the response "Thank you for the message, it will take time to collect all the information you have requested for." A reminder sent a fortnight back drew a blank.

Incidentally, top guns of Citibank and McKinsey were active during Clinton's visit because their CEOs, both Indian Americans, had been roped in by AIF.

A clue as to what AIF has actually done for the quake victims was provided by an NGO volunteer. He says AIF plans to send about 18 sons and daughters of NRIs to work with NGOs like SEWA, Kala Raksha, Jan Vikas and Abhiyan to get a first hand experience of the rehabilitation problems. "We told them the youngsters should be Gujarati speaking, otherwise they would be of no use."

The Gujarat government, which had made a presentation before Clinton and AIF, has had no contact with the organisation of late. An AIF team accompanied by members of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had visited Kutch to work out a disaster management plan, but the government is not aware if any decision was taken.

When contacted, Hasmukh Adhia, co-ordinator of the NGOs for village adoption programme, reveals, "We have not received any queries either from AIF or their local representatives pertaining to rehabilitation for which they had shown keen interest and enthusiasm during Clinton's visit."

He affirms that no one from the AIF has approached the chief minister or the CEO of rehabilitation regarding its rehabilitation plans for Kutch. "It is really a big surprise as to why the organisation has preferred to keep silence after all the hype," he remarks.

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


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No trace of American India Foundation largess Friday, June 22, 2001

By Bharat Desai & Anil Pathak, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD, June 21: It is about three months since Hollywood siren Jennifer Lopez made a public appearance at a fund-raising campaign organised by American India Foundation (AIF) for the Gujarat quake victims.

A fortnight after the event, in the first week of April, former US president Clinton visited the quake-affected Kutch in a tour which was known more for its hype than content.

Leading industrialists, who were sporting a philanthropic tag on their sleeve in the post-quake days, fell head over heels to shake hands with Clinton. NGOs moved heaven and earth to get invited to a discussion with Clinton and other AIF members at a an elite Ahmedabad hotel.

AIF, which had raised about $10 million (Rs 47 crore) by then, was talking in terms of raising $50 m (Rs 230 crore). But 75 days after the Clinton visit, nothing much has happened for the quake victims. Not a cent, leave alone the millions of dollars promised by Mike Patel and Co of the AIF has reached them.

One hears about more charity dinners and fund-raising campaigns featuring M C Hammer and Deepak Chopra being organised in the US, but there is nothing on the ground in Kutch to show any transfer of funds.

Says Sushma Iyengar of Kutch Navnirman Abhiyan, a leading network of NGOs engaged in quake rehabilitation, "We have been promised Rs 2 crore for housing by AIF, but so far it has remained just a verbal commitment."

Reema Nanavaty of SEWA, while reacting to a questionnaire on help from AIF says, "We have not received anything from the foundation. SEWA has so far not been invited to participate in any AIF rehabilitation project in Kutch."

A month back, 'The Times of India' had approached Vipul Shukla of Vital Communications, which handled publicity during the Clinton visit, to know more about AIF's plans. He had no clue, but directed TOI to Anita Gupta, a Citibank executive in New York.

A questionnaire to Gupta elicited the response "Thank you for the message, it will take time to collect all the information you have requested for." A reminder sent a fortnight back drew a blank.

Incidentally, top guns of Citibank and McKinsey were active during Clinton's visit because their CEOs, both Indian Americans, had been roped in by AIF.

A clue as to what AIF has actually done for the quake victims was provided by an NGO volunteer. He says AIF plans to send about 18 sons and daughters of NRIs to work with NGOs like SEWA, Kala Raksha, Jan Vikas and Abhiyan to get a first hand experience of the rehabilitation problems. "We told them the youngsters should be Gujarati speaking, otherwise they would be of no use."

The Gujarat government, which had made a presentation before Clinton and AIF, has had no contact with the organisation of late. An AIF team accompanied by members of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had visited Kutch to work out a disaster management plan, but the government is not aware if any decision was taken.

When contacted, Hasmukh Adhia, co-ordinator of the NGOs for village adoption programme, reveals, "We have not received any queries either from AIF or their local representatives pertaining to rehabilitation for which they had shown keen interest and enthusiasm during Clinton's visit."

He affirms that no one from the AIF has approached the chief minister or the CEO of rehabilitation regarding its rehabilitation plans for Kutch. "It is really a big surprise as to why the organisation has preferred to keep silence after all the hype," he remarks.

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


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Pilgrim’s progress: Authorities charged up Friday, June 22, 2001

AsianAge
Ahmedabad, June 20: The city is gearing up for the Rathyatra with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, temple authorities, police and citizens’ groups working in coordination with each other. Joint rounds and meetings between these authorities are going on to ensure a smooth celebration.

Talking to The Asian Age, one of the officials of Jagannath Temple Trust, Mr Dhiren Rawal told that no loudspeakers will be a part of the celebrations due to the earthquake. Moreover, in all, 78 buildings were demolished in part or in toto as they were unsafe and on the route of the Rathyatra.

Mr J.G. Hingrajia, deputy municipal commissioner, central zone, said that 100 buildings were identified as unsafe. Later on 12 more buildings were added to the list. In all there are 12 buildings that are still controversial and the AMC has decided not to take any action except deploying police officials for security reasons.

Meanwhile, precautionary public notices at 600 points will be put up to warn the people not to gather in huge numbers under such buildings. Also, 40 AMC personnel will be stationed at 6 different points on the Rathyatra route to take care of any emergency that might arise. They will be divided into six-member teams with four supervisory engineers and each team will have proper equipment to handle a building collapse.

Meanwhile, meetings of various citizens’ groups to are being held regularly to maintain peace and harmony at the time of Rathyatra. The temple authorities have also geared p to celebrate Rathyatra.

Recounting one of the incidents, Mr Rawal said, once Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, popularly known as the frontier Gandhi, visited the city in 1969 after he was released from the prison of Pakistan. While he was in the city, communal riots broke out and he organised a padyatra to ease the tension among the two communities in the city.

The padyatra started and reached the Jagannath temple where Khan expressed his desire to visit the temple as he had heard a lot about it. But he was sceptical as he was a Muslim. As he started moving in the opposite direction of the temple, a loud voice of mahant Sevadasji came from behind and asked Khan to come in the temple.

“Don’t feel awkward, Lord Jagannath is waiting for you, there is no discrimination in his court,” he said. Everybody present there including Khan was moved by the gesture and the incident had a lasting effect on the mindset of people. This further strengthened the symbolic value of Rathyatra as propagating religious harmony.

“The Rathyatra is a symbol of India’s multi-cultural identity and it should be celebrated with full joy irrespective of religious identity,” said the mahant of the temple, Rameshwardasji Maharaj.

News Source : The AsianAge Ahmedabad Edition [ The coolest Newspaper for city ]


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Eco friendly? Baroda citizens turn to nature Friday, June 22, 2001

By Hitarth Pandya, AsianAge
Vadodara, June 20: If the social forestry department of the state is to be believed, the citizens of Vadodara have realised the importance of trees. With the onset of monsoon a record number of government and non-government organisations have started approaching the department to collect saplings matching their preferences.

Mr R M. Patel, deputy conservator of social forestry division speaking to The Asian Age said, “The officials from the social forestry department are happy to see this unprecedented change in the psyche of people living in Vadodara. The department is not only aiming to gear up the plantation work, but is also envisaging a higher survival rate for the plants. The attitude of people towards ecology in the rural and urban areas has completely changed.

This change can be accounted to the successful implementation of programmes like the Van Mahotsav scheme. Van Mahotsav is a tree plantation programme that has been initiated by the department of social forestry and that it has gained popularity among government and non-government agencies working in the field of conservation of forests.”

Telling about the difficulties faced by the department in some of the rural and urban areas Mr Patel said, “The department has tried its level best to bring in awareness among people regarding their perception for nature. While undertaking plantation projects, we faced a lot of problems in rural and urban areas. On one hand we were required to educate people to grow more trees, on the other we had to make them learn ways and means to ensure the survival of the saplings. To avoid confusion the department has subsequently floated separate schemes for rural and urban areas. The rural economy is dependent on nature, and the distribution of saplings on one hand helps in the conservation of nature, on the other, provides economic help to the villagers.” He added, “In the city limits we will focus on growing trees like neem, banyan , pipal and khijdo which are the most suited ones.”

Commenting on the ideology that the social forestry department will plan in the days to come Mr Patel said, “The department is planning to plant approximately 23.65 lakh saplings in the current year. We do not want the saplings to die, and that is why we are trying to educate people about the scientific techniques used in growing saplings.”

Other officials from the social forestry department however hold different opinions. An official from the department said, “It is surprising to see that after the huge plantation spree carried out by the department, only 20 percent of saplings, planted last year could survive. The drought is responsible for this sorry state of affairs. When most of the villagers were finding it difficult to get drinking water, it was difficult to convince them to nurture saplings.”

News Source : The AsianAge Ahmedabad Edition [ The coolest Newspaper for city ]


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Banking on alternative means Friday, June 22, 2001

AsianAge
Ahmedabad June 20: The Union finance ministry has finally taken the decision in principle to revive the beleaguered Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank. Chief minister Keshubhai Patel had a deatiled discussion with Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha in Delhi on Wednesday. Union home minister L K Advani, who represets Gujarat in the Parliament was also present in the meeting.

This decision was taken in view of the recommendation of the committee appointed by the central registrar for cooperatives that it is possible to revive the Madhavpura bank if necessary induction of funds by other cooperative banks of Gujarat, as promised by them, and also from the depositors insurance scheme, is made available.

In the meeting it was decided to frame a scheme keeping certain parameters like top priority to be given to re-payment of small depositors having deposits of Rs 1 lakh, proper restructuring of the management structure of the bank to be ensured to restore investors’ confidence.

The parametres also include that new management should take effective steps to ensure recovery of advances made to the various debtors of the bank, including Ketan Parekh group and no one should be spared in this effort.

They have also decided that the scheme will provide reorganisation of the Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative bank in an appropriate legal structure. In view of the opinion of the RBI that the revival of the bank is a commercially viable proposition, the central registrar of cooperation in consultation with RBI and additional solicitor general Kirit N Rawal, agreed to prepare the scheme.

Economic advisor to Keshubhai Patel, Mr S K Shelat, said that co-operative banks of Gujarat will invest Rs 800 crore in MMCB revival.

The Central and state governments have agreed to provide guarantee for an amount of Rs 800 crore to various cooperative banks in the ratio of 70 to 30 between the Central and the state governments.

Mr Shelat further informed that the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation of India will release around Rs 464 crores for repayment to small depositors covered under the insurance scheme.

News Source : The AsianAge Ahmedabad Edition [ The coolest Newspaper for city ]


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