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May 16, 2001 - May 18, 2001

‘National quake surcharge dues should be paid soon’ Friday, May 18, 2001

Gandhinagar, May 17: Opposition leader in the Assembly Amarsinh Chaudhary on Thursday appealed to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that quarterly collection of the surcharge levied on the country to help Gujarat recoup should be given to the state either before or during his visit to the state on June 3.

Speaking to reporters here Mr Chaudhary said, “Despite the passage of three months since earthquake the state is still to receive its rightful due, which is the surcharge levied on the country, and the prime minister should either give it to the state before his visit or should bring it along during his visit.” He said a collection of Rs 400 to Rs 500 crores may have been made by now by way of surcharge which should be disbursed to the state immediately.

Mr Chaudhary said despite tall promises the Centre has disbursed only Rs 900 crores for earthquake relief to the state. “The Prime Minister had during his visit to the state in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake said he is giving a blank cheque to the state and that it is free to fill in any figure as by way of earthquake assistance,” Mr Chaudhary said.

The Opposition leader also accused the state government of misguiding the people by posting the entries of overdrafts to the public ledger accounts. “He said the state government has reflected an amount of Rs 3,500 crores in the public ledger accounts which have been diverted from various heads. If this had not been shown under the PLA the state government would have had to avail an overdraft of Rs 3,500 crores,” Mr Chaudhary said.

Pointing to a statement made by finance minister Vaju Vala that the state government has not taken any overdraft as it still has Rs 200 crores in its treasury Mr Chaudhary said either Mr Vala is not aware of what an overdraft is or else he does not know when it is taken and when it is repaid.

“He said the RBI just gives the limit of the overdraft while the overdraft availed of is appropriated against the daily disbursements of taxes collected,” Mr Chaudhary said.

He accused the state government of initiating a trend of taking overdrafts for administrative purposes leaving the future government to grope with the burden of repaying it. He pointed to the case of Rs 800 crores of the Rs 1,200 crores allocated for the Sardar Sarovar Project which has been reflected in the PLA account and which has been actually spent for the pipelines for the water supply schemes.

He said the sate government is in fact getting works such as roads, bridges, infrastructure development and power projects by giving guarantees to private parties. He also added even the CAG has in its 1999-2000 report observed that a sum of Rs 1,727.38 crores under various heads has been reflected in the PLA. He also reiterated his demand for a white paper on the financial situation in the state.

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

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ISD racket sets VTD back by Rs 100 cr Thursday, May 17, 2001

VADODARA: The city police might have stumbled upon its biggest crime catch in history with the ISD telecom racket that was busted on Monday here allegedly running into Rs 100 crore.

Even as officially the money involved in the ISD racket is being put at over Rs 20 crore senior police officials told The Times of India that the BSNL's Vadodara Telecom District (VTD) might have incurred a revenue loss of over Rs 100 crore between 1995 and 2001.

Police have also traced eight international agents appointed by the gang running the ISD racket at a small house in Manjalpur area. The racket was being run by four VTD employees - R.T. Sharma, Kiran Rana, Shailesh Chandpure, Ketan Joshi and Suresh Mahurkar. These four VTD employees had roped in five persons to run the illegal mini telephone exchange from where ISD calls were commercially offered.

Those employed by the five VTD staff are: Kalpesh Shah, Ashish Modi, Amit Bhatt, Jayesh Patel and Kaushik Patel.

City police prevention of crime branch had arrested Shah, Modi, Bhatt, J Patel, K Patel and Mahurkar on Monday. Sharma, Rana, Chandpure and Joshi are absconding.

"We have got the names and telephone numbers of these agents. They were appointed by the gang who ran this illegal mini telephone exchange. These agents are in the Gulf and Middle-East countries and were contacted personally for their appointments," city police commissioner J Mahapatra told 'The Times of India'.

Disclosing names of the agents, detection of crime branch economic cell police inspector NK Rathod said one Salim was appointed as an agent in Saudi Arabia. Similarly, in Muscat David, Geeta, Suresh and Jhonny were appointed. In Kuwait Babubhai and Sobha worked as agents, PI Rathod said.

Mahapatra said the agents fed the gang here with a list of Indians in Gulf countries their names and telephone numbers. "They also supplied the local gang a list of telephone numbers and addresses of relatives of those people employed in Gulf countries", Mahapatra said. He added that the 'two parties (caller and called)' were given fixed time slots by the international agents. The agents, said Mahapatra, were given code words by the local gang to identify them and their respective customers in particular countries.

Mahapatra also said the money charged to the international callers and their relatives here was transacted through 'hawala'.

"Over Rs 20 crore had been transacted through hawala in last six years through this system", he said. Rathod said the billing amount was routed to the local gang through Mumbai.

"The Vishnu Kanti Angadiya Pedhi in city here was their official courier and brought them the hawala money from Mumbai", Rathod said.

Giving details of the billing system adopted by the local gang Rathod said the ISD calls were sold for Rs 200 per 10-minute slot. "They charged Rs 200 for 10 minutes from the Indian parties. This rate was fixed irrespective of timing or the countries were the call was made. The agents in Middle East and Gulf countries had their own system of commission and charging their customers. The agent charged 20 per cent less than the billing rates of their respective countries. They pocketed 80 per cent of which a part was routed through Hawala to the local gang here", Rathod said.

Prevention of crime branch police inspector Kiritsinh Jhala meanwhile is scouting telephone exchange offices here to get more details on the four absconding VTD employees.

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

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Keshubhai Patel inspects rehabilitation work in Kutch Wednesday, May 16, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel said voluntary organisations keen on participating in reconstruction programme in the earthquake devastated rural sector should commence their project work by May 20.

"State government would start payment of assistance for houses to the earthquake-affected people under package two, if the voluntary organisations did not honour the cut off date", an official release quoting Patel said.

Patel, who was on a two-day visit to Kutch to inspect the rehabilitation work, said development of border district would be accelerated with the arrival of Narmada water through the pipeline next summer, it said.

The chief minister visited villages of Raidhanpur, Dhaneti, Sugaria, Dudhai and Ambardi villages during his tour, the release added.

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

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Ex-minister protests ban on import of 300 items Wednesday, May 16, 2001

BARODA: Former union commerce minister Shantibhai Patel has demanded withdrawal of Centre's decision to ban import of 300 items at the ports in Gujarat, saying it will have an adverse impact on the economy of the state which is already hit by twin calamities of drought and earthquake.

"I am greatly disturbed after learning of issuance of notification by the Union government in this regard earlier this month as it seems this has been done with a clear motive of damaging the interests of the progressive state of Gujarat", Patel said.

"How did the Union commerce ministry headed by Murasoli Maran think of banning import of 300 items from Gujarat ports when all the ports including Kandla, Bedi, Mundra, Pipavav and other private ports are fully equipped to handle them", he said adding, "I fail to understand the logic behind it".

This will result in escalation of prices as it will increase the transportation cost from Mumbai port.

"Because of this ban, the prices of oil tins has gone up by Rs 40 per tin", Patel said.

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

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Survey on orphan children in quake-hit area Wednesday, May 16, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: A survey, conducted by the Directorate of Social Defence (DSD), has identified 317 orphan and 676 single parent children in the 17 earthquake-hit districts of Gujarat.

Out of these, 312 children are staying with their close relatives and five children are under institutional care, an official release said.

The DSD, which conducted the survey in cooperation with the non-governmental organisations, has complete information about the children, including their own as well as their guardians' photographs to prevent any unauthorised transfer.

The scheme of foster parents, earlier implemented in six cities of Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Baroda and Jamnagar, has been extended to the earthquake-affected talukas also.

The monthly maintenance assistance of Rs 350 to children under foster parents' management scheme has been revised to Rs 500, it added.

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

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