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May 5, 2001 - May 5, 2001

Caribbean shores beckon medical students Saturday, May 5, 2001

AHMEDABAD: IT recession may have resulted in sudden return of Indian professionals homewards but not so with medical professionals who are sitting pretty in the land of Uncle Sam.

Number of medical students aspiring to go to the US is increasing manifold but getting there is no longer easy. But Dr Amar Motiwala, reportedly the first-ever Gujarati dean of a medical school in an island off Miami coast, feels there is no cause for despair. "I know people in Gujarat are very keen on sending their wards to the US for studying medicine. But actually, it is just the matter of knowing their options right", says Dr Motiwala, head of the SABA University and School of Medicine in the Dutch Caribbean, who is currently on a vacation in the city.

Dr Motiwala says he is surprised to see how a number of people, including doctors, cough up huge amounts for payment seats in medical colleges mushrooming across the country. "It is surprising to learn that the colleges are charging a whopping $70,000-90,000 on NRI seats. But so hell-bent are people on becoming doctors that they even overlook the risk factor which includes the college may or may not be recognised", he points out. Five and half year of studies and passing the mandatory United States Medical Licensure Examinations (USMLE) later, the student may find his dreams stonewalled by visa restrictions.

The easy option being offered by Dr Motiwala is admission in one of the colleges, off mainland US, like SABA. Interestingly, anyone at any age, preferably a science background, can apply. "On analysing the credit points, the student is sent a visa packet. Once enrolled he/she studies for 18 months and gives the USMLE step-I exam. Thereafter, the student is attached with either of the mainland hospitals for residency for yet another 18 months after which he/she sits for the USMLE step-II. If cleared, the student gets a degree in three and half years, two years less than the degree course in India", says Dr Motiwala.

He informs that there are around five medical colleges in Caribbean shores closer to the US and students mostly manage to get jobs in hospitals on merit. At least 25 per cent of student population in his college is Asian.

But like all things, studies in such colleges has a flip side too. When asked if students from these island colleges were give treatment on par with those graduating from established medicine colleges in mainland US, Dr Motiwala remains honest. "Of course, there is bound to be some discrimination but eventually it all depends on the performance of students on an individual basis," he says.

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Octroi withdrawal may hit local bodies Saturday, May 5, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Political realisation is finally setting in on the fallout of abolition of octroi duty from municipalities by the state government from May 1. While the state Congress, officially, is silent over the issue, leaders admit that in one deft stroke the government has clipped the wings of these local self-governments after they voted the BJP out of power.

Rumblings of protests have already started in some quarters , particularly in Vadodara, where the Congress leaders feel the civic bodies have been financially incapacitated with an ulterior motive.

From Tuesday, the state government abolished octroi and promised the 143 municipalities and district and taluka panchayats Rs 194 crore to offset the loss at an incremental rate of seven per cent per year. But the government has not set up escrow account or an independent mechanism where these local self-government can withdraw their money automatically.

The abolition of octroi had been expected for the past couple of years but the government was adamant that it could not support these local self bodies. "Now suddenly when the government has run overdrafts of over Rs 800 crore and has been bogged down with the massive cost of managing the drought and quake rehabilitation, the government finds money to support these bodies", says Congress leader Madhusudhan Mistry.

But many like Mistry are just whining silently while the party as a whole is silent on the issue barring the leadership in Vadodara where almost all municipalities are in Congress control.

Vadodara district panchayat president Ranjitsinh Rathwa has threatened a people's movement, including rasta-roko, to oppose the move as he feels the BJP had taken away the income from the local self governments and there was no guarantee whether the government would disburse funds under the new dispensation with regularity and without discrimination.

VC Trivedi, director of municipalities, says all the municipalities, without exception, are facing a major financial crunch and octroi was their sole income to foot the electricity, water and infrastructure maintenance bills as well as paying salaries. But, he said, the new system could be an advantage if pursued properly.

Hasmukh Patel, spokesman of the state Congress, fears the government will now arm-twist all the non-BJP municipalities and the people will have to suffer. However, he said, the Congress never fought panchayat and nagarpalika elections on the party symbol and so we can't take a stand on this.

The BJP had suffered major political reverses in the elections to district and taluka panchayats and the six municipal corporations which were held last year. Out of the 26 districts, the party lost in all but Porbander. Out of the 143 municipalities, elections for 82 are still to be held and in the remaining the municipalities which are currently in power, the non-BJP parties and independents have a majority stake.

Says executive director of the Municipal Finance Board, M B Parmar, "we are waiting for the guidelines, from now all the money will come from the finance department". He admitted that the municipalities were in bad shape and the daily income from octroi coming directly in its coffers were a great help.

Natwarlal Shah, another Congress leader, says his party had perhaps missed the implications of the abolition of octroi in municipalities. "Soon the drought hit and cash-strapped Congress presidents of the municipalities and panchayats will have to come down on their knees to get grants from the government and then the game of politics will begin. We will soon have pressures for defections and rebellions and I won't be surprised if the BJP takes over control of many of these Congress held bodies through the back door".

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Octroi withdrawal may hit local bodies Saturday, May 5, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Political realisation is finally setting in on the fallout of abolition of octroi duty from municipalities by the state government from May 1. While the state Congress, officially, is silent over the issue, leaders admit that in one deft stroke the government has clipped the wings of these local self-governments after they voted the BJP out of power.

Rumblings of protests have already started in some quarters , particularly in Vadodara, where the Congress leaders feel the civic bodies have been financially incapacitated with an ulterior motive.

From Tuesday, the state government abolished octroi and promised the 143 municipalities and district and taluka panchayats Rs 194 crore to offset the loss at an incremental rate of seven per cent per year. But the government has not set up escrow account or an independent mechanism where these local self-government can withdraw their money automatically.

The abolition of octroi had been expected for the past couple of years but the government was adamant that it could not support these local self bodies. "Now suddenly when the government has run overdrafts of over Rs 800 crore and has been bogged down with the massive cost of managing the drought and quake rehabilitation, the government finds money to support these bodies", says Congress leader Madhusudhan Mistry.

But many like Mistry are just whining silently while the party as a whole is silent on the issue barring the leadership in Vadodara where almost all municipalities are in Congress control.

Vadodara district panchayat president Ranjitsinh Rathwa has threatened a people's movement, including rasta-roko, to oppose the move as he feels the BJP had taken away the income from the local self governments and there was no guarantee whether the government would disburse funds under the new dispensation with regularity and without discrimination.

VC Trivedi, director of municipalities, says all the municipalities, without exception, are facing a major financial crunch and octroi was their sole income to foot the electricity, water and infrastructure maintenance bills as well as paying salaries. But, he said, the new system could be an advantage if pursued properly.

Hasmukh Patel, spokesman of the state Congress, fears the government will now arm-twist all the non-BJP municipalities and the people will have to suffer. However, he said, the Congress never fought panchayat and nagarpalika elections on the party symbol and so we can't take a stand on this.

The BJP had suffered major political reverses in the elections to district and taluka panchayats and the six municipal corporations which were held last year. Out of the 26 districts, the party lost in all but Porbander. Out of the 143 municipalities, elections for 82 are still to be held and in the remaining the municipalities which are currently in power, the non-BJP parties and independents have a majority stake.

Says executive director of the Municipal Finance Board, M B Parmar, "we are waiting for the guidelines, from now all the money will come from the finance department". He admitted that the municipalities were in bad shape and the daily income from octroi coming directly in its coffers were a great help.

Natwarlal Shah, another Congress leader, says his party had perhaps missed the implications of the abolition of octroi in municipalities. "Soon the drought hit and cash-strapped Congress presidents of the municipalities and panchayats will have to come down on their knees to get grants from the government and then the game of politics will begin. We will soon have pressures for defections and rebellions and I won't be surprised if the BJP takes over control of many of these Congress held bodies through the back door".

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Octroi withdrawal may hit local bodies Saturday, May 5, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Political realisation is finally setting in on the fallout of abolition of octroi duty from municipalities by the state government from May 1. While the state Congress, officially, is silent over the issue, leaders admit that in one deft stroke the government has clipped the wings of these local self-governments after they voted the BJP out of power.

Rumblings of protests have already started in some quarters , particularly in Vadodara, where the Congress leaders feel the civic bodies have been financially incapacitated with an ulterior motive.

From Tuesday, the state government abolished octroi and promised the 143 municipalities and district and taluka panchayats Rs 194 crore to offset the loss at an incremental rate of seven per cent per year. But the government has not set up escrow account or an independent mechanism where these local self-government can withdraw their money automatically.

The abolition of octroi had been expected for the past couple of years but the government was adamant that it could not support these local self bodies. "Now suddenly when the government has run overdrafts of over Rs 800 crore and has been bogged down with the massive cost of managing the drought and quake rehabilitation, the government finds money to support these bodies", says Congress leader Madhusudhan Mistry.

But many like Mistry are just whining silently while the party as a whole is silent on the issue barring the leadership in Vadodara where almost all municipalities are in Congress control.

Vadodara district panchayat president Ranjitsinh Rathwa has threatened a people's movement, including rasta-roko, to oppose the move as he feels the BJP had taken away the income from the local self governments and there was no guarantee whether the government would disburse funds under the new dispensation with regularity and without discrimination.

VC Trivedi, director of municipalities, says all the municipalities, without exception, are facing a major financial crunch and octroi was their sole income to foot the electricity, water and infrastructure maintenance bills as well as paying salaries. But, he said, the new system could be an advantage if pursued properly.

Hasmukh Patel, spokesman of the state Congress, fears the government will now arm-twist all the non-BJP municipalities and the people will have to suffer. However, he said, the Congress never fought panchayat and nagarpalika elections on the party symbol and so we can't take a stand on this.

The BJP had suffered major political reverses in the elections to district and taluka panchayats and the six municipal corporations which were held last year. Out of the 26 districts, the party lost in all but Porbander. Out of the 143 municipalities, elections for 82 are still to be held and in the remaining the municipalities which are currently in power, the non-BJP parties and independents have a majority stake.

Says executive director of the Municipal Finance Board, M B Parmar, "we are waiting for the guidelines, from now all the money will come from the finance department". He admitted that the municipalities were in bad shape and the daily income from octroi coming directly in its coffers were a great help.

Natwarlal Shah, another Congress leader, says his party had perhaps missed the implications of the abolition of octroi in municipalities. "Soon the drought hit and cash-strapped Congress presidents of the municipalities and panchayats will have to come down on their knees to get grants from the government and then the game of politics will begin. We will soon have pressures for defections and rebellions and I won't be surprised if the BJP takes over control of many of these Congress held bodies through the back door".

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IAF holds Commanders' Conference Saturday, May 5, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: South Western Air Command (SWAC) held its one-day Commanders' Conference on Friday at Gandhinagar.

Air Marshal VK Bhatia, Air officer commanding in Chief, SWAC chaired the conference. The station commanders of all stations under HQ SWAC from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat areas were present.

The principal Staff officers of HQ SWAC reviewed the operational maintenance and administrative aspects of the command preparedness of each air base with regard to the security environment in the region was deliberated upon and new strategies were chalked out. The station commanders of stations in Gujarat have explained the relief activities undertaken by the stations towards the rehabilitaiton of the earthquake victims. The AOC-in-C assured the commanders of all possible support from SWAC towards the better cause of rehabilitation of the earthquake affected people of Gujarat.

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