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June 3, 2001 - June 4, 2001

Bhuj, the ghost town that was Monday, June 4, 2001

By Nilanjana Bhaduri Jha, Times Internet Network

BHUJ: The ghost town of four months ago is under siege. With hotels and guest houses overflowing, it is back to sleeping in cars for some. Bhuj, more than half of which was rendered unlivable by the quake, is finding it difficult to accommodate the huge influx of people for the Prime Minister's much-hyped Kutch tour.

Apart from the large entourage expected with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, hordes of mediapersons, government officials and police personnel have been arriving here for the past two days.

The ones who came late were turned away by hotels and guest houses and people were scurrying to make arrangements for accommodation till the early hours of Sunday morning.

Hotels, with business bleak usually, seized the opportunity. With many guests expected late on Sunday morning, the hotels on Saturday night were offering rooms with the proviso that they be vacated before 8 a.m.

Few other options available, many people agreed, reconciled to spending the day outside and hope for a miracle by nightfall on Sunday.

The other options were even less attractive, driving to and from Gandhidham, over 50 km away, being one. The other, stay out under the stars or in cars, reminiscent of the days after the quake when everyone slept out.

The hot debate is whether the situation was worse when Clinton visited Bhuj. Most agree that the Vajpayee visit has managed to upstage the Clinton sojourn.

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


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Bhuj, the ghost town that was Monday, June 4, 2001

By Nilanjana Bhaduri Jha, Times Internet Network

BHUJ: The ghost town of four months ago is under siege. With hotels and guest houses overflowing, it is back to sleeping in cars for some. Bhuj, more than half of which was rendered unlivable by the quake, is finding it difficult to accommodate the huge influx of people for the Prime Minister's much-hyped Kutch tour.

Apart from the large entourage expected with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, hordes of mediapersons, government officials and police personnel have been arriving here for the past two days.

The ones who came late were turned away by hotels and guest houses and people were scurrying to make arrangements for accommodation till the early hours of Sunday morning.

Hotels, with business bleak usually, seized the opportunity. With many guests expected late on Sunday morning, the hotels on Saturday night were offering rooms with the proviso that they be vacated before 8 a.m.

Few other options available, many people agreed, reconciled to spending the day outside and hope for a miracle by nightfall on Sunday.

The other options were even less attractive, driving to and from Gandhidham, over 50 km away, being one. The other, stay out under the stars or in cars, reminiscent of the days after the quake when everyone slept out.

The hot debate is whether the situation was worse when Clinton visited Bhuj. Most agree that the Vajpayee visit has managed to upstage the Clinton sojourn.

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


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PM announces tax holiday for Kutch Monday, June 4, 2001

By Nilanjana Bhaduri Jha, Times Internet Network

BHUJ: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Sunday announced a tax holiday for quake-devastated Kutch district, even as he gently chided the Gujarat government for slow work after the tragedy.

The Prime Minister kicked off his packed Kutch visit by laying the foundation stone for a 500-bed hospital, inaugurating the New Bhuj-Gandhidham Broad Gauge rail line and flagging off an extended Kutch Express.

Addressing a public meeting after the all-rolled-into-one function, Vajpayee announced a five-year Plan holiday for Kutch exempting all produce in the district from excise duty.

Earlier, Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel said if the Centre gave Kutch a tax holiday, the Gujarat government would match it with a sales-tax-free regime for equal time.

Sugar coating the bitter, Vajpayee said though a lot had been done after the quake, more effort was needed. Though he appreciated the Gujarat government's efforts saying rehabilitation was a very difficult and sensitive task, he said laxity in rehabilitation work needed to be removed.

He pointed out that debris was yet to be cleared from a lot of places and suggested that a deadline be set and met for the task.

Inviting complaints with the promise that they would be attended to, the Prime Minister said certain observations of a team of ministers which had visited the state had already been brought to the notice of the Gujarat government.

He, however, added that any delay in relief reaching the people should not be attributed to considerations like caste or community.

Vajpayee, whose address was punctuated with disturbance from a section of the audience, took a swipe at a loud Congress demonstration on his way to the venue, observing that a long-standing aspiration to see black flags waved at him had been realised here. He exhorted the Opposition to fight battles during the elections and to come forward and help in the hour of need.

The Congress and some organisations demanding a reworked rehabilitation package had called for bandh in Bhuj and Anjar. While in Bhuj, there was more of a carnival atmosphere, reports from Anjar said the bandh was near total.

Earlier, while Union home minister L K Advani and Gujarat Governor Sunder Singh Bhandari refused to speak, urging the Prime Minister to do so instead, Keshubhai Patel and Gujarat industries minister Suresh Mehta sought Central help and a tax holiday for Kutch.

Patel promised the people of Bhuj that every village would be supplied Narmada water through pipelines within a year and a half. He also said the state was focussing not only at rehabilitation, but also at re-employment.

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


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Vajpayee announces five-year excise exemption for Kutch Monday, June 4, 2001

NDTV
Sunday, June 3, 2001 (Bhuj): Atal Behari Vajpayee was greeted in Bhuj by protestors who wanted to draw his attention to earthquake relief and rehabilitation work. The Prime Minister's arrival at the Bhuj airbase was a tame affair. But as his motorcade moved out, it was met by masses of Congress protestors with black flags.

Criticism over shoddy relief and rehabilitation work in Gujarat, four months after a devastating earthquake, is not being voiced by only political opponents. People in Bhuj speak in equally critical tones about the BJP government in Gujarat and want the Centre to come to their rescue.

"A region like Kutch, which is very rich, constitutes about one-fourth of Gujarat and being a border district requires a lot of attention of the central government. If it is not directly under the control of the central government I think the expectations of Kutcchis and Kutch too cannot be met," says a resident in the quake-ravaged area.

Despite criticism coming from all quarters -- the people, the NGOs, the funding organizations -- the Prime Minister gave a clean chit to the Gujarat government. Mr Vajpayee said, "There had been a demand from the people and the government here that Kutch has been through a lot due to the earthquake. People said that there should be concessions and appeals were made. Therefore the Central Government has decided to give rebates for five years in excise and sales taxes." He added that the duties on intermediate items would also be removed.

It was Mr Vajpayee's second visit to the state after the January 26 earthquake that destroyed large parts of Gujarat. But for the people who are still without a permanent roof over their heads, it would bring little relief as the rainy season approaches.
Source - NDTV

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Vajpayee to flag off Kutch Express on Sunday Sunday, June 3, 2001

The Times of India
AHMEDABAD: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would flag off the Kutch Express on Sunday on the newly-constructed Gandhidham-Bhuj broad gauge section from Bhuj.

The event would also mark the inauguration of the broad gauge link between Bhuj and rest of the country, an official release said here on Saturday.

Railway minister Nitish Kumar would also be present at the function, it said.

The conversion of the route from metre toad gauge would help faster and direct movement of passengers and freight from Bhuj to Mumbai, the release added. (PTI)

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


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