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April 26, 2001 - April 26, 2001

Private water distribution a booming business Thursday, April 26, 2001

RAJKOT: As the water crisis in Rajkot and its surrounding areas worsens, private waters distributors have been experiencing a boom in their business. In Rajkot city alone, almost 15,000 to 20,000 families purchase water, which according to rough estimates, may touch a staggering Rs 2 crore for the two summer months.

Rajkot Municipal Corporation apparently has no control over this booming water business. In fact, people wonder that if private water distributors can procure water, why cannot the civic authorities - with better infrastructure at its disposal - do it.

According to senior officials of RMC's water supply department, the corporation spends almost Rs 35 crore for water distribution alone, and yet this is not sufficient, leaving people with no option but to procure water from other sources.

Thus, private water distribution is a full-time flourishing business in Rajkot. The lean agriculture season has not deterred people involved in water distribution, as tractors otherwise used in fields have now been deployed to transport water. So is the case with tankers and 'chakdo' owners, who have been feeling the pinch of the recession in the industrial sector.

According to one estimate, private operators sell around 5 lakh gallons of water daily. They travel about 20 to 25 km to procure water from fields, private bores or wells. One operator said he procures 10,000 litres of water for Rs 150, and sells it for Rs 350.

In all this, the commonman ends up spending on an average Rs 1500 to purchase water, whether he likes it or not.

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Checking at relief sites intensified Thursday, April 26, 2001

RAJKOT: Rajkot district collector P N Patel has ordered strict checking at the relief sites due to sudden rise in number of workers at some sites. More than two lakh labourers are presently reported to be working at different relief sites in Rajkot district.

The collector has set up 20 teams of officials who have been asked to conduct surprise checks at relief sites, sources said on Wednesday. They have been asked to start the operation with immediate effect.

Teams have been assigned different sites. The highest number was in Jasdan taluka where over 75,000 persons are said to be working at the relief sites. The teams have been asked to strike simultaneously so that muster clerks are taken off guard. District development officer Mahesh Joshi and the deputy DDO Jayesh Gadhvi had noticed a sudden swell in the number of workers. A random check was ordered, and the reports were found "disturbing".

The collector's office also fears that besides large-scale irregularities in the number of workers, there were chances of irregularities in the work done also. For that purpose, a man from the technical department has also been made a part of the surprise check teams.

Meanwhile, a report from Bhavnagar also said that work at as many as seven sites have been ordered to be closed down with immediate effect after irregularities were detected.

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This wizkid keeps calculator at a distance Thursday, April 26, 2001

RAJKOT: How much is 891x7, 995x6 or 771x9. One may need a calculator to do the multiplication or work out on a piece of paper, but not Vishal Nagani (18), an HSC commerce student at a local school here.

Vishal walked into the TOI office and claimed that he knew tables upto 1,000. And he proved the claim too.

The son of a railway employee at Rajkot, Vishal appeared for the HSC examination this year. "It is a habit with me now. I have never used a calculator all these years," he said. He has memorise arithmetic tables so well that even tutors refer to him for exact answers. The brilliant boy gives credit to his teacher Harshaben Pandya, who used to teach him since he was in first standard. "She encouraged me to learn tables, and by the time I was in IV, I had absolute command over arithmetic tables, Vishal said, adding, "Earlier, I used to think for a moment to get the answer, but not anymore. It is instant answer for any multiplication upto 1,000."

He said he would like to get an entry registered in 'The Limca Books of Records' as that would give him wide recognition. "I would also like to enter into a contest with other students in India. I want to know who is fastest," the boy said with confidence.

When asked when he actually realised he had this enormous skill, he said, "Till long, I did not realise how I was able to memorise so many tables, but subsequent practise made it all look so easy."

Vishal managed just 71 marks in the SSC maths exam. About this he said, "All my arithmetic sums were correct, but I am poor at drawing geometrical figures. That was where I lost marks."

"My mother and friends are a constant source of encouragement to me. They want me to do still better," the boy disclosed.

Talented Vishal plans to take up computer education. If he does so, he'll have more stories to tell soon.

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Retest of TYBCom accounts paper on Sunday Thursday, April 26, 2001

RAJKOT: Saurashtra University vice-chancellor Kanu Mavani said on Wednesday the re-examination of the TYBCom compulsory accounts paper -owing to paper leak on Sunday - would be held on April 29 between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, a high-level probe has been ordered into the leak. No one will be spared, he said adding that the police was also conducting its probe,

In 9,000 candidates would appear for this paper in 41 affiliated colleges.

Asked if the examination could be cancelled, he said the leaked paper had not reached all centres. So there was no question of cancelling the examination.

He had seen on Tuesday the strong room where the papers were kept before distribution. Employees who had taken these papers were being questioned.

For some centres like Una, Kodinar and Savarkundla, question papers are sent the night before the examination. The paper could have been leaked on the way.

There were no excuses for the leak but efforts were being made to prevent its recurrence.

In 1992, a paper had leaked and a peon of the examination branch was suspended. During earlier leaks police complaints were lodged and action initiated but with no result.

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Company 'defrauds' investors of Rs 1.5 crore Thursday, April 26, 2001

VADODARA: This might be the first of its kind scam of duping small-time investors in the region. Or so is the impression in the stock market here.

A company called Fortune Industries Limited (not related to Fortune Infotech) had floated public issues, signed a memorandum of understanding with its investors promising them to buy back the shares at a premium and issued cheques that bounced.

Investors, about 250 in Vadodara and many more in Surat and other parts of the city, even far off in Jabalpur and Assam, lost their hard-earned money. According to one estimate, investors lost over Rs 1.5 crore in Fortune Industries Limited (FIL). FIL sold shares at Rs 10 and signed an MoU with investors to buy them back at Rs 12 per share.

It is also alleged that FIL had fooled investors by saying that it was a public limited company in 1996 though it was not listed on the regional stock exchange.

"There is no company like Fortune Industries Limited listed on the Vadodara Stock Exchange (VSE)," head of scrip listing with VSE Dishant Sagvaria confirmed.

VSE vice-president Pankaj Bhargav said if a company is not listed and still claims to be a public limited company it is breach of legal norms and amounts to fraud. "For any company with its head office in Selvassa or Surat VSE is the regional stock exchange. By not getting listed the company is not giving the investor an opportunity to exit. In that case there can be a case lodged against such a company," Bhargav said.

Interestingly some investors had lodged complaints when the cheques issued to them bounced. In 1997, one Madan Trikamdas Kukkar of Surat had filed a criminal complaint with Chowkbazar police station on July 14, 1997.

"I had bought 30,000 shares of FIL. However, I was neither issued the share certificates nor any advance cheque was given to me. My investment was Rs 3 lakh. I had lodged a complaint and later a compromise was struck with FIL", Kukkar told 'The Times of India'. He said that even after compromise the amount he was given was less than the principal amount of his investment.

Many investors had similar complaints. Hemant Kumar Sharma of Jabalpur was issued a cheque of Rs 30,000 against his purchase of FIL shares. Sonal and Anant Thar of Surat were issued a Bank of Baroda cheque of Rs 1.50 lakh.

Similarly, Bhupendralal Shah of Surendranagar and Kamlesh Joshi of Mumbai were issued a cheque of Rs 30,000 each. Sunil Rajnikant Baxi, another investor had purchased 1,000 shares of FIL and issued an advance cheque of Rs 10,000 at the time of signing the MoU. Cheques issued to all the above mentioned investors had bounced.

"Almost all investors lost their money in FIL. They did a compromise but the money that was paid to us was less than our investments," said a city-based investor wishing anonymity.

At the time of issue, FIL had declared that its head office is in Selvassa and corporate office in Surat. Investors, however, allege that these offices do not exist.

FIL had involved a brokering firm Streamline Management and Finstock Limited to arbiter the transaction of shares. Umesh Dangarwala, who was then one of the directors with Streamline, had signed cheques issued to investors at the time of signing the MoU. Dangarwala was also the chartered accountant for FIL. The MoU was signed by one of the directors of FIL -- Mrugesh Jani. The other directors of FIL were Kandharb Jani and Nilanjan Jani.

"FIL was my client than. I knew the company directors and hence issued cheques to investors as a guarantor in goodwill. Now FIL is not my client nor I have anything to do with Streamline", Dangarwala said. TOI's attempts to contact Mrugesh Jani were futile.

Dangarwala nonetheless refuted the allegation that investors were deliberately duped. "FIL had good intentions. However, due to crash in the market it could not live up to the expectation of investors. FIL itself incurred huge losses. Also FIL has settled the grievances of most of its investors," Dangarwala said. He refuted the claim that 'many' investors were duped. "I was the CA for FIL. I can confirm that there were not more than 18 investors in the company," he said.

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