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November 19, 2001 - November 21, 2001

State to apply brakes on issuing tax-free quake bonds Wednesday, November 21, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Close on the heels of the state government scaling down its loan requirement from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for quake reconstruction work by $550 million, the plan to issue Rs 2,000-crore worth tax-free bonds to fight the calamity is set to meet with a similar fate.

The government has realised that huge loans and bonds would put the exchequer under pressure in the long run.

Finance minister Nitin Patel told 'The Times of India' on Tuesday that the government didn't need to raise tax-free bonds on the scale sanctioned by the Centre last year.

So far, of the Rs 700 crore sanctioned as bonds for the year 2001-02, the state has raised Rs 450 crore. Top Secretariat sources revealed that the figure would not be allowed to cross Rs 500 crore.

As for the rest of the amount, "a decision on the matter will be taken over the next two years in accordance with fresh requirements", said a senior official.

Explained Nitin Patel, "The WB-ADB loan given to the state bears an interest rate of about eight per cent over a period of several decades with the Centre taking care of the exchange rate fluctuation. Hence, the loan is our first preference."

And the Centre is seriously thinking of considering the state's request to convert 70% of the WB-ADB loan into grant instead of the prevailing system of treating 30% of the loan amount as grant.

The bonds on the other carry an interest rate of 9.6% and have to be repaid within a decade.

Meanwhile, top government sources have revealed that enough reasons exist to downsize quake-related expenses. Till now, the total money sanctioned by the state finance department for different quake-related activities comes to Rs 2,650 crore _ Rs 950 crore for the last three months of financial year 2000-01 and Rs 1,700 crore till October in financial year 2001-02.

Out of this, so far Rs 1,200 crore has been sanctioned for the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority which handles all major quake-related activities on behalf of the government. The rest is being handled by different departments, including education, irrigation, industry, health, agriculture and rural development.

However, GSDMA has spent a mere Rs 750 crore. Not without reason, the ADB and the WB together have not disbursed any money after the initial amount of Rs 850 crore handed over to GSDMA through the state finance department.

There are indications that the ADB, realising that Gujarat's loan needs would go down, may divert funds to voluntary agencies involved in quake reconstruction.

A senior official said the ADB may deal "directly with the voluntary agencies".

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

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Modi calls for unity against terror Monday, November 19, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Chief Minister Narendra Modi assailed the Congress for not supporting India's fight against terrorism, instead maintaining a "narrow and negative" approach by opposing POTO.

Speaking on a seminar 'National Solidarity Day against Terrorism' organised by the BJP here on Sunday, Modi said while India was fighting terrorism for three decades, the awakening in the world against terrorism happened only after the September-11 terrorist attack in New York.

He said terrorists were looking at India with an evil eye because the country had declared a relentless war against terrorism in different forms for preservation of Indian culture.

The CM said while the nation was fighting the menace of terrorism unitedly, the Congress party was creating impediments in the government's endeavour to curb terrorism with an iron hand.

Explaining different forms of terrorism, Modi said besides violence, terrorism was raising its ugly head in the form of supply of narcotics and fake currency notes aimed at destroying the social and economic fibre of developing countries.

He said instead of supporting the government stand at this critical juncture, the Congress, which was the oldest political party in the country, was not showing enough maturity in supporting POTO.

Modi called upon BJP workers to create awakening in every nook and corner of the state in favour of the government's efforts to fight terrorism.

Earlier, on Saturday, while speaking at a conference of chief ministers on 'Internal Security' held at New Delhi, Modi called upon the CMs to speak in a united voice against terrorism. He said we should not give the world wrong signals about difference of opinions on the subject.

Stressing on the need to strengthen the legal framework of the law enforcement machinery, he said when we do not hesitate to provide modern weapons to police, we should not hesitate to strengthen the legal framework. It will not be proper to oppose the new law on the ground that some people are likely to misuse it.

He said the Gujarat government fully supported the new ordinance and also supported the "federal investigation agency". He said that the Gujarat government shared the view of the central government and many other states that the current threat to internal security scene warranted such legislation.

Modi pointed out that since the lapse of TADA there was a spurt in terrorist activities, and that the terrorists now had no fear of law. There were institutions in place in the country to take care of misuse of such laws, and hence fears about POTO misuse were misplaced.

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

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State govt committed to terror law Monday, November 19, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The BJP government here is committed to implement the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) "strictly" in the state. This is in view of the state sharing a long border with Pakistan, making it vulnerable to smuggling of arms and ammunition, narcotics and even infiltration via the Rann of Kutch.

Minister of state for home Gordhanbhai Zadaphia, who returned here after a two-day tour of border areas of Kutch, told TNN, "A deterrent Act like POTO is the need of the hour when the country is faced with a twin menace of terrorism and religious extremism."

Zadaphia said that POTO has been enacted after a prolonged debate on combat programme against increasing activities of terrorists and fundamentalists, who are out to destabilise the nation, and therefore a sustained campaign supported by a strong legal framework was required.

To educate people about the provisions of the ordinance, the ruling party has organised a series of programmes in big cities. This is a part of the nation-wide campaign launched by BJP, which was convinced that POTO was the only law which could effectively deal with terrorism.

Expressing surprise over the hue and cry being raised by the Opposition Congress, Zadaphia said, "It was the Congress which first introduced TADA, and after its gross misuse in the 1990s, was forced to scrap it up following strong criticism of the Act from various quarters, and so in these circumstances they have no moral right to oppose POTO."

Secondly, the Congress was hooked up with appeasing the minorities and therefore, perhaps party leaders were opposing POTO completely. But, instead of protesting, the Congress should build its opinion after consulting the party's legal experts, who were secretly favouring the provisions of POTO to handle terrorism, he said.

Lashing out at the Congress for its doublespeak on the Act, the minister said at national level the Congress was opposing POTO while in some states like Maharashtra where Congress is in power, Acts like Maharashtra Prevention of Organised Crimes has been enacted to firmly deal with mafia gangs.

While referring to the pros and cons of the ordinance that is yet to be introduced in the Parliament, Zadaphia said, "POTO is a must to win the battle against terrorism, and even Law Commission of India has suggested the need for such a law."

To a query whether the state government would go for a separate legislation if POTO is not passed by the Parliament, the minister said, "It is too early to comment on this issue at this stage."

The minister said the state government would set up designated courts for implementation of POTO, which is meant for checking all types of terrorism. Those harbouring terrorists, and even those possessing illegal arms and ammunition will not be spared from the dragnet of this law, he added.

Meanwhile, the first phase of the public campaign in favour of POTO undertaken by the BJP in the state on Sunday evoked good response at meetings held in six cities including Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar.

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

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Centre's indifference hits GEB hard Monday, November 19, 2001

VADODARA: The state government is reportedly miffed over the Centre's indifference towards its demand on rationalisation of freight on indigenous coal and duty structure on imported coal.

Representations to the Prime Minister and Union railway and power ministries have not been able to elicit any response. Gujarat power and energy minister Kaushik Patel had also raised this demand in the Chief Ministers' conference held in New Delhi in March this year.

With limited potential for hydro-electric power, Gujarat has to depend on thermal power projects based on indigenous coal. The quality of coal that the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) receives, is also an area of concern along with freight, which constitutes major chunk of the landed cost. All these lead to high cost of power generation.

The state government feels that a policy to rationalise freight on indigenous coal and also rationalise the duty Structure on imported coal needs to be framed.

One of the reasons for the fuel cost per unit of GEB being high is the high freight cost for transportation of coal. Sources point out that this is a fallout of subsidising other sectors and shifting the burden on power-house coal traffic. It is estimated that the coal sector is made to bear as much as Rs 2,800 crore due to subsidies provided to other sectors.

Compared to the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) and the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board (MPSEB), the cost of railway transportation of coal to GEB is very high due to the long distances (average 1,300 km) involved in transporting from the Southern India Coal Limited colliery to power stations in the state.

Earlier, GEB used to acquire coal from Western Coal Limited for its Ukai thermal power station. Though the distance between the two places is only 700 km, this was discontinued resulting in additional transportation cost burden of Rs 100 crore per annum.

"Compared to MSEB, GEB pays Rs 740 crore more for transportation of the same quantity of coal and Rs 959 crore compared to MPSEB. The thus made by GEB following implementation of the proposed rationalisation could have helped the consumers as it would have resulted in a tariff reduction of 40 to 60 paisa per KWH," said GEB chief Nalin Bhatt.

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

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Police to set up 'juvenile units' in districts Monday, November 19, 2001

VADODARA: The state police has decided to follow the 'Prayas model' in dealing with "juveniles in conflict with law".

The police are not only in the process of redefining the treatment to children involved in crimes, but also aims to fulfil the social objective of providing shelter, care and protection to millions of homeless, orphan and lost children.

While the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, ratified recently by both Houses of Parliament, provides the framework of the new mission of police, the Prayas model of childcare, protection and empowerment is the guiding force to achieve the noble objective.

"We will be providing policemen special training to handle juveniles in conflict with law. The idea is to sensitise police. We want to bring out the social man, the father and the care taker that lives beneath the 'khakhi' uniform and help him make better citizens of children", said Additional Director General of Police (training) S S Khandvawala told TNN.

Khandvawala and Vadodara senior superintendent of police (SSP) Keshav Kumar had recently visited New Delhi to have first hand knowledge about working of Prayas. "We had gone to see how the concept works and we must admit that what Prayas has achieved is amazing. We want to do a similar job here", Kumar said.

Prayas was started in 1988 in response to a devastating fire in one of slum areas of Delhi to take care of children who had lost homes and parents. From a modest beginning of taking care of 25 children when incepted, Prayas now reaches out to about 85,000 children and has set up centres such as Institute of Juvenile Justice, Prayas Children's Home, Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre, Naya Prayas, Anupam Prayas, Prayas Health Service, Prayas Observation Home For Boys, Childline, Astha Prayas, Bihar Voluntary Co-ordinating Agency, Prayas Jan Shikshan Sansthan and Prayas Sneh Samuday Project - Gujarat.

"We have a concept, a model and there are millions needy children. If Gujarat takes the initiative we will be reaching out to many more children who need us. We already have Prayas Sneh Samudaya Project going on in Kharoi village of Bhachau taluka", Kanth said.

Prayas, he said, works for children fighting a daily battle for survival as rag pickers, shoeshine boys, street vendors, domestic help, or even beggars. Children living on and off the streets at the mercy of the elements of nature, criminal and drug addicts. Many of these children are subjected to violence, abuse and exploitation, which initially results in disorientation and delinquency ending up in a life of crime, resulting in social disintegration, Kanth said.

Meanwhile, state home ministry and ministry for social justice and empowerment has shown keen interest in the project. Senior police officials are contemplating to impart training in accordance with the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.

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

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