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November 21, 2001 - November 21, 2001

Rajkot's smoke signals slow in spreading to other cities Wednesday, November 21, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Three weeks after the Supreme Court (SC) banned smoking in public places, the nonchalant passenger still blows smoke in the face of the cursory symbol of the cigarette crossed in red behind the bus driver's seat or a government building.

Except for Rajkot, where 20 cases of smoking in public buildings have been registered, city police chiefs are still trying to figure out how to effect the ban with a ratio of just one policeman per some 800 people, going by the state of affairs in Ahmedabad. Add to it the vacation that followed with festivals round the corner, and the attendance in police force further dropped.

Moreover, the SC directive has yet to take the shape of a Government Resolution which could uniformly identify what exactly is a 'public place' and how much punishable should the action be. The irony is that a ban on smoking in government buildings already exists and smokers are supposed to be fined Rs 100 for breaking the code. "But who will do it and how?" is the million-dollar question, observes a senior police official.

Rajkot police commissioner Sudhir Sinha took the lead by booking 20 cases violating this directive under Section 188 of the CrPC, which has the law-breaker ending up with either six months in prison or a Rs 1,000 fine or with both! And breaking this law will be a non-bailable offence.

Sinha first got a random check done, issued warnings to the public on November 16 and 17 and then cracked the whip by picking up smokers from cinema halls. Now it is the turn of buses, he says. He clarifies that he has not disallowed smoking in the open even if it is the compound of a government building.

Apparently, some eight places have been identified by the apex court where smoking is to be prohibited _ government and semi-government buildings, PSUs, auditoriums, cinema halls, court buildings, luxury and private buses, railway stations among them.

Surat police commissioner Vineet Kumar Gupta stresses on "deterrence". "This issue cannot be isolated, because concerns like efficacy and attitude have also to be considered," he told TNN.

"We have to evolve a feasible strategy to maximise the impact without compromising," he says. And he notes that he has to do all this with the existing staff.

Talking about manpower, Sinha says that he simply assigned the existing staff an additional job. The routine checks were extended to include cinema halls, buses, government buildings and so on, he says. At Ahmedabad, the implementation of the ban is yet to take off. Says Ahmedabad police commissioner P C Pande, "The places have been identified by the Supreme Court and the no smoking notification is in the process of being issued."

Special inspector general of police (Vadodara range) Deepak Swaroop, who is also in-charge commissioner, wants to avoid the role of a 'headmaster'. If the policemen see anyone violating the notification, they are to "advise" the smoker against it, he says. "Our approach is milder and more educative than penal," he emphasises. According to him, the repeating offender would be hauled up and anyone seen visibly violating the order would face action.

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


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Widows' kids get scholarship Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Source - TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Governor Sunder Singh Bhandari gave away the Shrimati Pushpawati Loomba Trust scholarship to 100 children of widows here on Tuesday. The trust, run by Raj Loomba, a person of Indian origin living in the UK, supports children of widows in India whose monthly income is below Rs 1,500. The function was hosted by the British Council.

Speaking to reporters before the function, Indian chairman on the trust L M Singhvi said the scholarship was one of a kind as Indian families often fell deeper into poverty when the breadwinner died. They identified 50 children each from Ahmedabad and Bhuj to grant the scholarship.

Raj Loomba, after whose mother the trust has been named, said they have been running these scholarships in Orissa and Delhi for the past two years and added Gujarat this year. By January the same will be extended to Rajasthan and Punjab and a few months hence to Karnataka, Haryana and Maharashtra.

Speaking about its structure, Loomba said each recipient would get Rs 650 every month for five years. If the child dropped out, they would stop the funding, ensuring that recipients are monitored. "I have seen the kind of hardship our mother had to face after our father passed away," he said. "And we were financially well-off to afford an education. There are many in India who can't afford to provide education to their children. Our trust will cater to such families."

The trust was set up in 1997 with the first 100 children selected in 1999. The benefits were extended to the children of cyclone-ravaged state of Orissa in January this year.

British High Commissioner to India Rob Young and British Council's India director Edmund Marsden were attended the function.

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


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City RTO stumbles upon bogus document racket Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Source - BY SAJID SHAIKH, FOR TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: Regional Transport Office here has stumbled upon a major bogus document scam. Preliminary investigation reveal involvement of a group, probably of transporters, which forges RTO documents like vehicle tax receipts, fitness certificate and national permits and pass them as real.

The city police detection of crime branch has took over the investigation and were piecing together evidence which suggested that the racket might have its origins in Chhani, Vadodara's transport hub.

The RTO had come across two cases where transporters used forged documents to evade taxes. It suspects that about 2,200 private goods vehicles plying on Gujarat roads might have procured bogus RTO documents. The RTO here collects approximately Rs 50 crore of taxes per annum, and the use of bogus documents by some transporters was resulting in a major revenue loss.

"We confiscated a set of bogus RTO documents which were produced by a truck driver. We impounded the truck at Makarpura octroi post, but before we could take legal action the goods lorry carrying fish iron-plates was set free by octroi officers present at the spot," regional transport officer D L Pandya told TNN.

This truck (GJ6-U-4773) was impounded by RTO inspector N R Sheth in September. The documents _ national permit and tax receipt _ showed to Sheth by the truck driver were bogus. However, before the RTO could take legal action against the transporter, the octroi staff released the vehicle. This despite RTO officials' seeking the shifting of the impounded vehicle to RTO. Senior RTO officers drew a blank when they questioned the "strange" decision of octroi staff to release a vehicle which could have provided a vital link on the bogus RTO document scam. The octroi department's action of setting the vehicle free also resulted in loss of Rs 80,000 which was due as taxes.

However, it was not long before another goods carrier, a tanker, too produced fake RTO documents. This vehicle (GJ6W-6028) was confiscated at Bhilad. When Bhilad RTO N K Ankleshwariya verified with Vadodara RTO, none of the details mentioned in the forged RTO receipts and the national permit matched. It was found that the tanker had never obtained a national permit, and its taxes were due since 1995. The tanker driver Karamveersingh Mohansingh Minhari was apprehended. Minhari belonged to Chhani in Vadodara.

RTO informed about its second case to the city police. Later, DCB inspector P P Kanani began a separate investigation. While Kanani was not available for comment, senior police officers wishing anonymity said the racket seems to have a local origin but bogus documents might have been supplied to transporters in other districts of Gujarat or even outside Gujarat.

"The culprits have failed to reproduce the exact four-colour printing scheme and other minor identification marks. But only an experienced RTO employee can tell the difference. Mostly such documents pass as originals," said a senior police officer. He said two basic causes keep the bogus RTO document racket going. "It is a method to save taxes, and at the same time earn money by selling the fakes to many transporters who are ready to buy them," the officer said.

* Bogus RTO documents are floated in the transport market, many tranporters have procured bogus documents to evade taxes
* Racket might have its origin in Chhani
* One of the two goods carrier driver that produced forged RTO documents was 'strangely' set free by Vadodara Municipal Corporation's Octroi staff at Makarpura check post
* Investigation is currently being handled by city police detection of crime branch

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


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Politicians rule the roost in Ghoghavadar Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Source - TIMES NEWS NETWORK
RAJKOT: Never to be left behind when it comes to gaining political mileage out of incidents of violence, leaders of all parties have converged on Ghoghavadar village near Gondal, which witnessed clashes between members of the Patel and Harijan communities recently, resulting in the deaths of a Dalit and a police constable.

The incident and the subsequent arrests have clearly assumed political overtones and leaders of the BJP, the Congress and even some claiming to represent the Dalits are targeting the local population and acting as their 'messiah'.

Members of the Patel community told a visiting Congress delegation that while they were for re-establishing peace in the village, the police had acted in a vindictive manner against members of the community.

The Patel Samaj flayed the arrests of so many people belonging to the community. Its leaders called for a unified fight against the police action and unlawful detention of people. The leaders said they would take up the issue at the highest level.

Leaders of the community, on condition of anonymity, said that it was the Harijans who had triggered the violence by attacking Patel households. Yet the police were trying to make out a case which was just the opposite. They also said that some women folk were also taken into custody which amounted to an insult to the whole community.

Ghoghavadar, in the meanwhile, presents a picture of uneasy calm. A death-like silence greets visitors to the village which has seen large-scale migration by people from both the communities, following the police crackdown.

Dy.SP VM Chauhan, the investigating officer, told 'The Times of India' on Tuesday that the entire village wore a deserted look and the few people who had stayed back were confined to their homes. Not a soul was venturing out on to the streets.

Special IGP P L Jani and Rajkot rural DSP Ajay Tomar also visited the city.

When asked about the large-scale arrests, mostly of people belonging to the Patel community, in the affected areas, the senior officers said, "The crowd was in a volatile mood and to prevent any further escalation of violence in the already tense situation, the police resorted to arrests."

The duo claimed that the crowd had lethal weapons and had the police not swung into action, more bodies would have been lying on the streets of Ghoghavadar. They defended their action saying the police had exercised restraint by not firing on the rampaging mob even though the force lost one of its men in the process.

Police officers at the village told 'The Times of India' that it was after a gap of 16 years that the issue of removing garbage from near a 'mandir' had flared up. At that time, too, two people were killed in the violence.

The police have registered a complaint against both the groups and seized some of the arms used in the attack. The situation in the village continues to be tense but under control, Tomar said.

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


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RTO rakes in big money for registration numbers of choice Wednesday, November 21, 2001

BY SACHIN SHARMA, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: Vehicle registration numbers might be just an identification mark or a legal compulsion for some. However, for some others having particular numbers is a craze or even a status symbol.

Taking full advantage of this craze is the transport department, which has taken a decision to charge Rs 500 from a person if he wanted to have a number of his choice. The department is earning around Rs 1.75 lakh a month by "selling off" these numbers.

The reasons for choosing a particular number vary from just making a vehicle stand out to superstition. Some others make numerological calculations before selecting the registration number of their vehicle.

The race for having a number of choice worsens to such an extent on some occasions that the department has to invite offers if two or more persons seek the same number. For instance a person offered just over Rs 16,000 to have the number GJ-6-AG-7777. The AG series for registration of vehicles had opened in the month of October.

Having all four identical digits on one's registration plate seems to be greatest craze. This is followed by the demand for three or two identical digits like 111, 222, 333 or 11, 22, 33 and so on. Multiples of ten, single digits, 786 or numbers with 786 as the last three digits are other favourites.

Jayprakash Nair, a businessman, has three vehicles with the number 5007. The reason for choosing the particular number is the fact that the total of the digits is three. "We chose the registration number of the first vehicle on this basis. It proved lucky and since then we have purchased other vehicles with the same number," Nair said.

For others the reason is simply that their vehicle must stand out in the crowd of several others moving around on the roads. Said R Goel, who owns a motorbike flashing 777 on its registration plate, "I had to make a lot of efforts to get this number. However, it is worth the trouble as my motorcycle not stands out. I do not plan to sell it off despite the fact that it is very old. In fact, I just got it renovated."

Nirman Joshi, who deals in computers, recently purchased a van with the number 9866. Joshi already owns a motorbike with the same number. He said that he chose the number for the sake of similarity. "I wanted that both my vehicles must have the same numbers," he said.

Sources said that several business houses and persons in the city insisted on having the same number for vehicles owned by them. According to RTO officials, they insist for the same number as it has either proved lucky or believed to be auspicious.

The move for charging people for allotting number of choice has proved to be a good move for earning some money. In October this year, the department had earned Rs 2.7 lakh by this way. In September the collection was Rs 1.33 lakh while that in August it was Rs 1.67 lakh.

Vadodara Regional Transport Officer, D L Pandya, pointed out that the earnings were high when a new series was opened. "The AG series opened in October and hence the collections were high. As time passes by and most of the numbers are taken, the earnings drop," Pandya said.

Pandya pointed out that the craze for numbers of choice was lesser in Vadodara as compared to Ahmedabad. "I remember collecting about Rs 12 lakh there in a month by the allotment of numbers of choice. The case is the same with Surat, where people are willing to spend a lot of money for registration numbers," Pandya said.

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


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