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May 10, 2001 - May 11, 2001

Underworld setting bases in Surat? Friday, May 11, 2001

SURAT: With the underworld firmly putting down roots in Surat, the situation is not all that rosy here today. And while experts have been attributing the development to its ethnic population, it is the common man here who has been forced to bear the brunt of the situation.

Consider this: With dusk, a fear psychosis grips the city residents. Industrialists refuse to accept awards to avoid unwanted attention. And to top it all even an ordinary thug is somehow connected to the Chhota Rajan or the Dawood gang.

So how did this happen? Shrikant, a young criminal lawyer of Surat links the mushrooming of the underworld with the law of demand and supply. A 'demand' was created and the underworld was only too happy to provide the muscle power.

The presence of the underworld was unknown till the late 80's, says a former detective crime branch official. The seeds for its growth were sown only after the shethias flourished in the diamond trade and the textile traders decided to pump their money into real estate.

By mid-90s, the capital markets had gone bust and even the shethias, continuing to make money from their core business, started pumping in all their money into real estate by developing Ghoddod Road and the City Light areas.

Hundreds of multi-storeyed apartments and commercial complexes were constructed paving way for a 'real' modern city.

However, in the process, these traders-turned-builders started bending the rules. They needed more land. So in came people like Dhirubhai Thesia, Ashok Vaghani and later Hanskamal Grover and they combined their manipulative skills with the might of the underworld to grab land by intimidating the docile khatris and other landowners of the city.

And while the market was booming, Surat was growing faster than any city in the country, says former assistant commissioner M G Kaneria. But only the underworld had the power to defy market logic and manage land deals at rates far lower than they should have been, he adds.

During investigations, the police found links between 20-odd builders - most of them who took to the construction business only in the last decade and mainly dealt in diamonds and textile - and people like Dilip Maratha, Asif Amdawadi and Farukh Munshi, middlemen like Ashok Vaghani and Hanskamal Grover and dons like Chhota Rajan and his henchmen including Rohit Verma, O P Singh and Santosh Shetty.

Even Vipul Vijay, DIG (Operations) of the Anti-Terrorist Squad and former additional commissioner of Surat, agrees that the city was free of the mafia-builder nexus till the mid-90s.

Barring a few instances of the involvement of the underworld in Ahmedabad and a couple of instances in Vadodara, the state was largely free of the underworld involvement.

But according to Surat police commissioner, V K Gupta, a city with proximity to Mumbai, lots of money and ethnic population was only waiting to fall prey to the underworld.

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It's great, it's grand, but can the city deliver? Friday, May 11, 2001

It is like the pampered brat who just wouldn't grow. A jolly good fellow with a heart of gold. But, a fellow lazy to the core. A century's passed, the new millennium's dawned - but it wouldn't come out of the shadow of its grand ruler, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad.

We are talking about Vadodara, a city immersed in its past, hopelessly out of sync with the "present".

It boasts of the grand Laxmi Vilas Palace, the majestic dome over the MS University building. But, it has yet not been able to upgrade a drainage system laid decades ago by the Maharaja, the Ajwa lake built by him still remains the city's main water source.

The fast growing population (census operators indicate it could touch 18 lakh this time) would have to do with the Gaekwadi sewers, a over-congested old city area, an ever-expanding urban jungle that the present municipal corporation can ill afford to manage.

And, caught in a time wrap, Sayajirao's children still seem to be taking their first tottering steps towards urban governance, trying to shake off the vestiges of a bygone era where the king's subjects lived in peace, happy when they went to bed that his hand was above their heads.

In search of a hero

And, the tale of Vadodara is also the story of over a dozen lakh people in search of a hero. The palace has ceased to inspire, mired as they are in a bitter legal wrangle as two brothers fight over the alleged sale of a gold canon and other family property. The city's politicians have failed them and administrators spent time fighting red tape.

So, when its Ranji team lifted the trophy after 43 years, the city exploded in celebrations. Felicitations were galore. But, the enthusiasm that the win generated among the youngsters was exemplary. Zaheer Khan was an instant hero. Probably, a city without heroes has a star born over its sky.

Limelight, limelight

But, for a city steeped in nostalgia, it is not uncommon that old habits die-hard. For the man is at it again. The maverick former cop, the crowd-baiter and state jail and rural housing minister Jaspal Singh has done it again.

He has slapped people in public and had declared that the Keshubhai government had no moral right to continue in office after the BJP debacle in the civic polls last year. As guardian minister of the district, he told an august gathering during the inauguration of e-governance in Vadodara that computers would not take the government any closer to the people.

He has now refused pension to MLAs, an issue that was hotly debated in the state Capital recently. In a letter to the Speaker, copies of which were reached to all newspaper offices, he expressed his wish to "renounce my right to receive any pension on my retirement as a legislator".

Jaspal's detractors say it could have got him a place in the sun along with veteran Gandhian Mahendra Patel who went on an indefinite fast on the issue. Jaspal, however, believes "the love and affection of the people and the high position bestowed on me by my party, ie the BJP, is ample compensation and reward for whatever services I have rendered".

Is Keshubhai listening ?

Source - The Times of India

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Watching detective serials made mandatory for cops Friday, May 11, 2001

VADODARA: District police have discovered a novel way of improving their detection skills. After making laughing a mandatory exercise, the district police superintendent Keshav Kumar has now asked his staff to watch Discovery Channel's 'medical detectives' every day.

Policemen in all the 18 police stations in the district, Pratapnagar headquarters and local crime branch are sent the schedule of telecast of 'medical detectives' on Discovery Channel. The schedule is sent as a part of their daily instruction. Kumar has also asked his deputy BL Parmar to ensure that the staff takes interest and watches the series.

"It's a fantastic series. World's most baffling crimes and their detection are featured. The series is extremely informative and educative. There is a lot to learn and absorb from the series for policemen", Kumar said.

He said watching 'medical detectives' was mandatory for his policemen. "I have deputed an officer to keep tab on when the series is being telecast. The deputy superintendent of police (headquarters) sends the time schedule to all units/police stations. The response from my staff is encouraging", Kumar said.

"The idea has definitely interested policemen. Moreover the fact that the series is dubbed in Hindi has augured well for the staff," Parmar said. He added watching the series exposes policemen to new developments in the field of crime detection.

Kumar, on the other hand, said more of his men are exposed to such serials better were the chances that they would use some tips or leads of detection as shown in the televised programme. "How simple evidence or clue leads to the detection of crime is splendidly shown on camera with minute explanation. When a policemen watches this it sticks on and stays in his mind. Somewhere they remember what is being shown and might use the method of style when a similar crime happens in their jurisdiction", Kumar said.

Special Inspector General of Police (Vadodara range) Deepak Swaroop applauded Kumar's efforts. "It is a good human resources development initiative. It has done well for his men. A motivated and inspired policemen will do the task of ten", Swaroop said.

Kumar interprets his directive to his staff of watching Discovery's crime-related programme as providing a stimulus that might work as precursor and compel police to think differently. "This is also the way to make them do something creative, something that will hold their interest. In course of doing so we are, in a way, multiplying their thinking abilities", Kumar said.

He added that such initiatives ultimately result in multiplication of the force. "I don't think there is dearth of staff. On the contrary I am of the opinion that we have adequate staff. The need is to make the optimal use of their abilities and energies. Human resources development plays a major role here and all our current efforts in the district are based on this factor", Kumar said.

Kumar is also contemplating procuring tapes of the detective programmes shown on Discovery and National Geographic channels and screening them during training sessions. "I am trying to get the original tapes of such programmes. However, if I don't get the original ones I don't mind screening recorded tapes during training session", he said. He added the district police intended to make a resources base of such television programmes that can help educate policemen.

The district police staff here seem to have liked the idea. Said a circle police inspector: "Watching such programmes is a great learning. It has influenced my thinking and approach towards a crime. It has definitely benefited me".

Source - The Times of India

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Police begin probe in Jain suicide case Friday, May 11, 2001

VADODARA: Police have started investigation into the mysterious circumstances under which Dr Kaushal Jain (32) was found dead in his Maruti car at Chhayapuri cross-roads near GSFC late on Monday night.

Dr Jain and his wife Tejal were leaving for Hotel Toral on NH8 when the former complained of a severe head ache and took some painkiller.

Tejal in her statement to the Chhani police said her husband was having severe headache for the past many days and was taking some drug. The police however have not been able to find out what drug Dr Jain had consumed. Autopsy report meanwhile confirmed that Dr Jain had died of poisoning.

"The couple had come to their Chhani clinic at 9 pm on Monday to check one of their patient. They had left the clinic for Toral hotel when this incident happened", said investigating police sub inspector P H Tadvi. He said the police were probing whether there was some unrest between the husband and wife. "So far we have not come across any such thing. However the investigation is still going on," Tadvi said.

The Chhani police have lodged a complaint of accidental death. Tejal is an MBBS doctor and the couple lived in a joint family at Jaishantoshi Nagar in Karelibaug.

Boy kills himself: A 20-year-old boy Raju Rohit hung himself at his residence in Badiadev Society in Panigate on Tuesday. Police suspect that the boy killed himself out of frustration because of unemployment.

Suicide bid: One Nilesh Jayanti Patel consumed pesticide on MS University arts faculty campus and tried to commit suicide on Tuesday. He was rushed to SSG Hospital were his condition is reported to be serious. Patel is a resident of Radhavpura village near Kayovarohan.

Source - The Times of India

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Gujarat opposes Central restrictions on imports through ports Thursday, May 10, 2001

Gandhinagar: Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has opposed a Central government move to restrict the import of more than 300 items through the country's ports.

In a strongly worded letter sent to New Delhi, Patel said the Union commerce ministry's decision to debar ports from importing goods would cause huge revenue losses, especially for Gujarat that is largely a port-based economy.

Gujarat has a 1,600-km-long coastline, the largest in the country. More than a dozen small and big ports dot it.

Patel said his government had invested nearly Rs.100 billion to develop ports and terminals in the state and the purpose of this investment would be lost following the ban.

The Kandla and Mundra ports in Gujarat's Kutch district will be badly affected by the ban. The Kandla port imports various agro-based items, including edible oil. About 1.7 million tons of edible oil is imported through Kandla annually.

The restrictions would lead to cost escalation of many commodities, besides causing loss in terms of employment to transporters and laborers.

Alleging that Gujarat was being given "step-motherly treatment" by various Central government departments, Patel pointed out that only recently the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had indicated that it would withdraw its staff from the airports at Surat, Keshod and Deesa.

Many trade and business organizations in the state, including the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have asked Patel to prevail upon the Central government to withdraw its "highly undesirable decision."

Suresh Mehta, the state's Industries Minister, who hails from Kutch district, and Gujarat Maritime Board officials have also complained to Patel that New Delhi's decision was not only "irrational" but also would retard the future expansion program of many ports in the state.

Source: India Abroad News Service

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