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May 8, 2001 - May 9, 2001

'Co-ordination can reduce highway crimes' Wednesday, May 9, 2001

SURAT: With the arrest of three persons last week from Ahmedabad, Surat district police claims to have busted an Indore-based inter-state gang, reportedly involved in hijacking a truck loaded with fabrics worth Rs 14 lakh from Mumbai on April 1 at Surat-Bharuch border.

According to Surat district superintendent of police K L N Rao, a police team has been sent to Indore for further investigations. He said that the truck was intercepted near Surat-Bharuch border by the two vehicles that were following it and the driver and the cleaner were forcibly taken to Navasari, where they were thrown on the wayside with their hands and legs tied with a rope.

The truck with the goods was taken to Ahmedabad and the goods were kept in a godown in Sayonar complex near Sarkhej, he added. The two victims had informed the Navasari police and the case was later transferred to Surat district police, as the offence was committed in its jurisdiction, Rao informed.

Acting on the informations given by the driver and the cleaner, the local police team was sent to Ahmedabad and there they located the godown and the truck, which was by then modified to conceal its original identity. Three persons Harshad Prajapati, Vikram and Kundan were nabbed from Ahmedabad who had already sold parts of the goods to the tune of Rs 5 lakh to one Kirtibhai in Ahmedabad with the help of one middleman Ghanshyam, a known philanthropist, Rao informed.

Preliminary interrogations revealed that an Indore-based interstate gang run by Kamal Jit Singh, Sukhdev Singh and one Sardar were behind this and in similar other offences on NH 8, the district superintendent of police said.

It may be mentioned here that sometime back, a driver and a cleaner of a truck were found murdered near Chhani police station area in Vadodara district.

As such, police officials maintain that crimes of all sorts have been on the rise on NH 8, particularly on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad section. Earlier the state highway police used to monitor the highways in the state but for the last six months, the portion of highway falling under a district is being looked after by the respective district police.

So far, due to lack of centralised co-ordination among various agencies, the NH 8 - with one of the heaviest traffic in the country on its stretch from Mumbai to Ahmedabad - has over the years become a passage for all sorts of crimes from small thefts to robbery, most of which remain under wraps. Often the crimes committed are being reported after a long gap, thus allowing the culprits to escape.

Often the gangs on the highway operate with sets of different registration plates and also with sets of documents to prove that the vehicle bearing a number has papers to substantiate it, Rao said. Heavy traffic movements on the highway make it difficult to physically inspect a vehicle. Any detention would mean traffic jams on the highway, said a senior official. A better co-ordination is required to nab the culprits on the highway, Rao admitted.

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Rajkot to have modern burns hospital Wednesday, May 9, 2001

RAJKOT: Union minister of state for heavy industries Vallabh Kathiria said on Monday that Rajkot would soon have an ultra-modern burns hospital with air-conditioned wards.

Addressing a meeting after inaugurating the telemedicine centre at civil hospital here, Kathiria said efforts were also being made to ensure that private practitioners who were experts in their field of medicine, would also offer their services to the poor.

Kathiria said the need for a modern burns hospital was felt as such cases were on the rise in the Saurashtra region.

Giving details of the hospital, the minister said it would be set up at a cost of Rs 25 lakh and would have 15 to 20 beds. Work on the hospital would be taken up soon and it would be ready within a year's time, the minister said.

Giving details of the telemedicine centre, Kathiria said henceforth, patients would not have to go to Ahmedabad or Mumbai for seeking expert opinion on their disease. With the new system in operation, the local doctor would transmit the reports and the expert at the other give his opinion right away.

"Gone are the days of referring patients to experts," remarked Kathiria. However, the patients would have to pay for the service. He, however, hastened to add that the fee would be nominal and even the poor could afford it.

Medical superintendent of civil hospital Bipin Parmar said the telemedicine centre had received equipment worth Rs 40 Lakh and Kathiria had announced a grant of Rs 10 lakh from the MP's fund.

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Middlemen's delight is commoners' plight Wednesday, May 9, 2001

VADODARA: "Without an agent it would be very difficult to get anything done in this office. If you want to get your work done fast, in time and without hassles get hold of an agent ... well let me suggest you one," says one of the many clerks sitting between dusty columns of files in the Regional Transport Office here at Warasia.

What the clerk said to a 21-year-old student, Mahesh Jhadav, who had sought his assistance for getting driving licence sums up the common perception - if it is the RTO no work can be done without middlemen. Little surprising then that almost half of the clerks working in the administration section of the RTO allegedly also double up as agents.

"You just have to pay an extra nominal sum ... that's it. Your job would be done. Now it is up to you. You have the option of coming directly or through an agent," the clerk says knowing that the student is almost convinced. Jhadav gives in and hands over the application form to an agent suggested by the clerk. In 40 minutes Jhadav gets a smart card, a sleek computerised driving licence on a plastic card.

For entrants in the RTO campus there is an unwritten code to follow. Whether it be your driving licence, passing or registration of new bought cars and motor bikes, a middlemen is a must. In absence of a middleman, as many respondents told 'The Times of India', getting your work done at RTO is a long and tiresome process.

No wonder then there are some 100-odd agents hovering around the RTO, looking for applicants and getting them as easily. Though the RTO officers and inspectors deny any deals or tacit understanding with agents or middlemen there is a seeming nexus.

Agents wishing anonymity say they have an understanding with RTO people and even pay some amount to them from the fees they charge their customers. "It's commission that we pay them per applicant. The amount of commission varies according to the nature of work," says an agent who has been in the business for past 15 years.

"For a two-wheeler and autorickshaw licence the commission that we pay them is Rs 50, for a car licence it is Rs 75, for a truck licence it is Rs 150 and for passing the commission is Rs 200," the agent says. He said an agent countersigns on the form so that the official concerned in the RTO can recognise the initial and at the end of the day settle the deal.

RTO officials vehemently deny the claim. "There is no role of middlemen. People have this wrong belief that we don't do their job without a middlemen. We never tell them to go to agents. On the contrary we encourage them to come to us directly," says RTO inspector Joshi. He quotes the example of one MO Shah who had applied for an international licence and got it in 45 minutes. "I did not go through any middlemen. I took the form, filled it and submitted necessary documents. I got the smart card international licence in an hour's time," Shah said.

Many applicants, on the other hand, say when they come to the RTO they don't get the right guidance. "Most of the RTO staff is agitated. They don't want to satisfy our queries. We have to run from one window to the other. While we stand in queue we see that these middlemen do not have any restriction. They enter the office from the staff entry point, walk right to the table of the official concerned and get work done in seconds while we have to wait in long queues for hours to get the same job done," says 32-year-old school teacher Rashmi Patel.

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Girl held for vehicle theft Tuesday, May 8, 2001

VADODARA: For the first time in the history of city crime, one 16-year-old girl was arrested for lifting vehicles. The girl, who comes from a well to do family, has confessed to stealing a Kinetic Honda and a Luna.

Sayajigunj police said they arrested the girl while she was trying to steal a vehicle from the MS University campus on Monday. "The girl hails from well to do family who has perhaps fallen in bad company and committed this crime. This is her first offence. We have tried to counsel the girl and her family," Sayajigunj police inspector R Patel told TOI. A case has been registered under Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code.

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Fatehgunj PO slams door on students Tuesday, May 8, 2001

VADODARA: Anxious students of secondary and higher secondary schools here were denied entry into the Fatehgunj post office on Monday. The students had approached the post office to get their results that had been posted by their schools.

Students said their results were lying with the Fatehgunj post office since Thursday. Doors of Fatehgunj post office however were closed on students even as they repeatedly requested the authorities. Post department officials say the post office was closed because of a central government holiday.

Some post office officials also threatened the students to leave premises. Students, on the other hand, said the Fatehgunj post office was insensitive towards them.

"They say it is a holiday and hence they would not give us our results. We have been coming here since Thursday and they have been treating us badly. In the morning, when some girls came they let them enter the office and gave them their results. However, they are denying us entry," said standard VII student of Nutan Vidyalaya Jigar Patel.

"I am very curious to know my results. I pleaded with them to show me my result, but they scolded me and drew me out of the premises," said standard VIII student of Jeevan Chetna school Dharmesh Prajapati.

Shailesh Rajput, a class XI student of T R Patel Vidyalaya was also treated badly. "I have to fill my standard XII admission form on Tuesday. If I don't get my result today I will be in soup. I explained to them this but they didn't listen," Rajput said.

"We heard government employees are lazy. Today we saw that. To give us our result is a 10-minute job for them but despite that they would not do it because they don't want to work on a holiday," said standard IX student of TR Patel Vidyalaya. Said another standard VIII student, Ranjit Rajput: "They were also students once. Don't they know how a student feels when his result is declared. We have nurtured this image of the postman knocking at our door and handing us our report card with a smile. Here, we are knocking at their doors and they are shutting them in our face," Rajput said.

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