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June 9, 2001 - June 9, 2001

Ambiguity over quake figures flustered PM Saturday, June 9, 2001

The Times of India
GANDHINAGAR, June 8: Statistical confusion over the number of dead, houses damaged and compensation paid is believed to have perturbed Prime Minister AB Vajpayee.

Officials confirm that during his June 3-4 visit to Kutch, he had asked Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel to look into the reasons for the "considerable delay" in paying out compensation to families of the dead.

He reacted to the large number of complaints he had received in his meeting with voluntary agencies and the Opposition Congress. Officials here suggested that the reason for the PM to get perturbed is not far to seek.

Indeed, the Gujarat government has suddenly woken up to the fact that the number of dead it had reported was not as high as it was believed to be till the PM reached Kutch. Reported deaths till June 1, 2001, were 20,078. After "checking and rechecking" all official records on government computers with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), the figure was found "incorrect".

The new figure, quietly put out a week ago, is about 3,000 less -- 17,103.

Besides, of the 17,103 "finally declared dead", compensation has been paid in 12,596 cases.

Senior DSDMA official P Paneervel told TOI on Thursday, "In as many as 3,776 cases, no applications have yet been filed by the relatives of the dead. Most of them, it seems, belong to the upper middle class families. They have shifted to their relatives in Mumbai, Pune and elsewhere. We are writing letters to them. In another 874 cases, legal disputes are pending; the cases have been referred to the legal aid committee formed by the High Court."

Explaining the reason for the sudden fall in the death-toll, senior minister Nitin Patel, who co-ordinates relief and reconstruction in Kutch, told TOI, "In a large number of cases, the names of the dead were registered simultaneously with the police, the municipality and the local panchayat official. We, therefore, decided to tally all names on computers all over again. In about 3,000 cases, duplication was found. All such duplications were struck off."

Paneervel said, "Most of the cases-more than 1,500-were in Bhachau and Anjar taluka. One of the dead, Ahmed Mohommad Khan's name occurred 15 times in municipality, police and other records. After checking records, we found that there were only two persons of the same name."

He claimed that the list of 17,103 dead is "final". It has in it "two bodies found in debris last week, and is unlikely to be revised drastically again".

Yet another major issue raised by the PM related to early completion of re-survey of damaged houses all over the state. "Whatever the PM said about re-survey should be taken up at the earliest so that compensation is paid out quickly", said Nitin Patel.

"About 200 engineers are currently doing the job, visiting each and every affected taluka. Lakhs of houses have to be covered. Re-survey would take about a month to complete," he added.

Indeed, the PM does not seem to have overlooked the confusion on this score, too. Official figures show that if till May-end the number of "totally destroyed houses", both pucca and kuccha, was 3,70,000, However, early June, the figure was considerably revised downwards -- to exactly 1,97,206. Significantly, in March-end, the figure was 3,38,654.

When asked why the PM was not so appreciative of the work done by the state government while he praised NGO, the CM told newspersons on Wednesday that the PM was just encouraging the NGOs".

As for government work, the "appreciation would follow only after the work is over", the CM asserted.

Meanwhile, a senior official has told TOI, "Union home minister LK Advani was more forthright in his praises for the administration. He said we have done a tremendous job and had undergone unprecedented hardships."

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

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Caste-based discrimination stokes up controversy Saturday, June 9, 2001

The Times of India
GANDHINAGAR, June 8: The National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights' latest effort to internationalise caste-based discrimination as a major issue needing focused attention at the upcoming UN Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in August-September 2001 in Durban, South Africa, has thrown up a fresh round of controversy over a subject that has so far attracted little attention.

After the top-level preparatory committee meeting (prepcomm) at Geneva for the conference (May 21 to June 1), the campaign leadership and the Indian officialdom seem all set to confront each other over the issue.

Led by two Ahmedabad-based Dalit leaders, Pravin Rashtrapal, a Congress MP, and NCDHR convenor Martin Macwan, who runs Dalit NGO Navsarjan Trust, if the issue has already led the government of India to be on the defensive, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has strongly suggested the intention to challenge and fight back. The Centre's position was spelt out by Indian ambassador to the UN at Geneva (permanent mission) Savitri Kunadi, who told the prepcomm meeting that caste cannot be equated with apartheid. But she agreed to include "discrimination on the basis of work and descent" in the UN covenant on human rights.

Back from Geneva, Rashtrapal has sought Congress president Sonia Gandhi's intervention with Prime Minister AB Vajpayee. "The Opposition has not been consulted while taking up the matter at an international forum and also why none of the Dalit MPs from any party has been included in the commission that is to represent India at the Geneva conference", he told TOI.

In a letter to foreign minister Jaswant Singh, who chairs the Indian commission for Durban, he said, he was "shocked to find that the official Indian delegation prevailed upon the UN secretariat to ensure the removal of the phrase 'discrimination based on caste'."

Meanwhile, the VHP has strongly opposed the NCDHR's stand. Acharya Giriraj Kishore, in a statement, widely in circulation among Dalit NGOs, has said the "UN has no business to consider caste discrimination as form of human rights violation".

Calling caste as denoting "what profession man has adopted" and a part of "ancient customs and system" which "should not be and cannot be abolished by any court". The Acharya believes "it is a violation of human rights to abolish caste" because caste "does not say to anybody to discriminate against each other".

If Macwan has called the Acharya's statement a "slap to 50 years of constitutional guarantee to the Dalits in India", as convenor of the NCDHR, he has written an open letter to all members of the official commission set up by the Central government, saying, "The issue of caste-based discrimination cannot be considered as the sole concern of one section of the Indian population." It should in fact be made into a "national concern".

Addressed, among others, to foreign minister Jaswant Singh and Indian ambassador to the US Abid Husain, who is a member of the Indian commission for Durban, the letter says, "We believe that by blocking any mention of the problem of occupation and descent-based discrimination as caste discrimination, the Indian government is making itself vulnerable to increased criticism by the world community that it is refusing to do anything about a widely known and unacceptable phenomenon."

The letter emphasises, "We do not agree with the Indian position that caste is an internal matter of Indian society, and therefore should not be internationalised. In keeping with its constitution the nation has committed itself to the international human rights regime. We are concerned that eminent diplomat Abid Husein, in his capacity as special papporteur on freedom of speech and expression, has publicly expressed the view that by equating caste with race the Campaign will harm national interests."

Rashtrapal told the Geneva meet, "The Indian government does not enjoy consensus support within the country to deny the inclusion of such a major issue at this conference... A single government should not be able to stand in the way of addressing an issue that affects so many people in so many parts of the world."

Dalits of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, Burakumins of Japan, Osus of Nigeria, Rodiyas of Sri Lanka and certain oppressed communities in Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Madagascar fall under the category.

Rashtrapal said, "There little reason for the government to be so perturbed about an issue when no one is criticising it. The matter should be national concern. We just want to include caste based discrimination in the UN covenant on human rights."

Top world NGOs, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Max Romana, Lutheran World Federation, DanChurchAid, International Movement Against All forms of Radial Discrimination, Minority Rights Group International, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Bakuru Liberation League of Japan and Human Development Organisation of Sri Lanka have backed the NCDHR stand.

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

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Four prisoners escape from Vyara, one killed Saturday, June 9, 2001

Ahmedabad, June 8: Four prisoners escaped, while one was killed and another injured in police firing when they were returning with armed guards from Vyara, near Surat on Friday in the state transport bus.

The incident happened near Ankleshwar near Bharuch at 3.30 PM when the ST bus stopped at Varsha Hotel, just outside Ankleshwar city for refreshments. Totally six prisoners were taken from Vadodara jail to Vyara to be presented at the sessions court on Friday under armed security.

When the passengers were dismounting the bus at the hotel, the prisoners got into a scuffle with the police and in the commotion four of them got away. The police opened fire killing one of the fleeing prisoners on the spot and injuring another, who was taken back to custody.

However, the police were unable to trace the whereabouts of the four absconding prisoners.
The prisoner killed was Shamsher Ali Akbar Khan who was accused under IPC section 396, 201 and 120 (B) for looting at Valod.

The injured prisoner is Mohammed Karim Shaukat Ali who is co-accused with Shamsher Ali for looting. The four who escaped include Suraj Pal Jagrup, Shamlal Shamraj, Mohbin Ahmed Mohammed Kidrish, Mohammed Nazir Khan Mohammed Ali Khan. None of the police men were injured in the scuffle.

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

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Pasa convict escapes, constables booked Saturday, June 9, 2001

Ahmedabad, June 8: A prisoner, who was being treated at Civil Hospital for fits escaped in the wee hours while police constables slept away on Friday morning. The prisoner Rakesh Vallabh, who was booked under Pasa, was sent from Rakjot to Ahmedabad to be jailed here.

He became ill and had severe fits so he was admitted to G 1 ward of the Civil Hospital. His wife who had come to attend on him with him at the hospital when he ran away. Later, she too disappeared along with him.

When contacted, police officials seemed to be surprised about how he managed to run away when he wasn’t even able to walk properly due to the illness. Shahibaug police has lodged an offence against the two constables who were on duty when the incident allegedly happened.

The were booked for negligence of duty under IPC Section 224 and 225. The police has also lodged an offence against the wife of the prisoner for allegedly assisting him to escape. In all, there was one head constable and three constables on duty guarding the prisoner when he ran away with his wife.

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

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Tit for Tat: BJP, Congress play partners in crime Saturday, June 9, 2001

Ahmedabad, June 8: The offices of mayor Himmatsingh Patel, Badruddin Sheikh, chairman of the standing committee, deputy mayor, Khemchand Solanki, the leader of Opposition, Dharmendrasingh Shah, the Opposition party’s (BJP’s) office and the security supervisor, B.S. Shethi’s office were ransacked today in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

The main AMC office was vibrating with slogans like “hai hai Congress,” when the BJP workers were ransacking the offices and thereafter counter-slogans like “tanashahi nahi chalegi…bhajap hai hai” when the Congress workers were retaliating in the same manner.

The problem apparently started with the BJP adopting an offensive strategy against the annulment of the resolution calling for the renaming of the city as “Karnavati.”

However, the mayor said that the decision taken by the standing committee is based on the fact that the Central government had already rejected the proposal and as such, it was just a routine thing. “In fact, the BJP leaders at the Centre and the state are to be blamed for the resolution being scuttled, it is not within our powers,” he added.

While the BJP staged a walkout from the standing committee on Thursday, the party seemed to be interested in creating a problem over the issue on Friday. About 60 workers of the BJP came with a letter of protest. The Congress city committee meeting was scheduled at 4 pm and all the Congress leaders were attending the meeting except Mr Solanki.

According to the mayor, the BJP leaders assured the security that they were just going to present a memorandum and the gate (which was closed for security reasons) should be opened to let them in. When the security guards opened the gates all the workers rushed in and started banging at the mayor’s door, which was locked.

They ransacked the reception counter breaking chairs, telephones and the tabletop glass and then gheraoed Mr Solanki. They also ransacked Mr Sheikh’s office. The deputy mayor was the only Congress leader in the premises and had to feel the burnt of the BJP protest.

He was very perturbed by the incident and told the reporters “I was all alone here to face the protest. I feel it is the moral responsibility of the mayor to be present in the office at a time like this.”

When the ransacking was over, the BJP workers gathered in the compound and started shouting anti-Congress slogans. As the news started spreading, the Congress workers started coming in and seeing the state of offices, they got agitated at the lack of security and the BJP action.

The mood for revenge took over the workers and statements like “dekhadi daishu” and “aapne kai bangdi nathi pehri” firmed the resolve of the workers who had gathered round the mayor’s office.They rushed down and started breaking BJP office and the leader’s office.

They removed Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s photograph from Mr Shah’s office and tore it. Feeling that the security was inefficient and in cahoots with the BJP, they then ransacked Mr Shethi’s office. The Congress workers then went down and started shouting slogans at the BJP workers.

The situation became tense but the security was able to disperse the workers. In the FIR filed by BJP corporator Manjula Patadia, she has accused Congress corporators Dinesh Sharma, Imran Khedawala and Jowahar Bhatia of hooliganism and violence under IPC Section 394, 452, 427, 294 (B). In her complaint, she has stated that she lost her gold chain worth Rs 6,000 in the scuffle.

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

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