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April 25, 2001 - April 26, 2001

VMC asked to clean up Gorwa lake Thursday, April 26, 2001

VADODARA: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation has been served with a legal notice for its inability to maintain and clean the Gorwa lake. As per the notice, which was served last week, the VMC has been asked to initiate steps to clean up the lake within seven days.

The Beautiful Baroda Council (BCC) a city-based non-government organisation had served the legal notice. BCC director RO Shah said the notice was intended to wake up VMC officials who have been turning a blind eye to the problem of pollution in city lakes, and, in this case, specifically in the Gorwa lake.

"The VMC has allowed leaked or broken drainage lines to flow into Gorwa lake. Garbage too is dumped into the lake. There are many lakes in the city, which are similarly contaminated due to the apathetic attitude of the Corporation. The legal notice has directed the VMC to take steps to clean up the lake within seven days," he says.

"The Gorwa lake was once beautiful, and was used by residents of the area for cleaning purpose and recreation. But now the existing condition has left the lake unfit for use. It resembles an expanse of garbage and muck.

"Though the VMC has started a superficial clean-up of the lake, the problem has not been resolved yet. The lake continues to be dirty. Drainage line of a public toilet in the vicinity continues too flow into the lake," he says.

According to him there are many lakes in the city that are similarly polluted. Legal notices have been served on the VMC commissioner, the ward officer of the area and the deputy commissioner in charge of the zone.

A few years ago a similar PIL had been filed against the VMC for damaging Manjalpur lake. The court had directed the VMC to clean up the lake and prevent drainage water flowing into it. The residents of the area had complained that the stench emanating from the lake was unbearable and caused health problems. The lake had also become an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

However, despite the court asking the VMC to clean and maintain the lake, most lakes of the city remain neglected even today, he said.

In some areas of the city, lakes and natural drainage lines are being filled in. These lead to other problems. Most lakes date back to the time of the Gaekwads. At the time they provided water to citizens. Lakes also helped to control temperature as they served to keep the environment cool during summers.

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GEB to replace 4.5 lakh faulty electric meters Thursday, April 26, 2001

VADODARA: For the first time since its inception four decades ago, the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) will take up a massive task of replacing about 4.5 lakh faulty meters in the state.

According to GEB chairman Nalin Bhatt, this will also help address complaints regarding inflated power bills from consumers, particularly farmers and domestic consumers in Saurashtra and north Gujarat.

Bhatt told 'The Times of India' that the Board has been suffering losses because of faulty meters. The exercise is likely to bring about considerable increase in the revenue of the board, felt Bhatt. GEB has already awarded this work to four manufacturers to be carried out in a time-bound manner. This will prevent transmission and distribution losses, he said.

GEB sources revealed that the consensus was in favour of involving outside agencies for replacement of meters and meter boxes.

Since metering of all consumers, particularly those in the farm sector, is an important task, it appears that there is a broad consensus among various stake-holders like the Government of India, Gujarat government, donor agencies like the Asian Development Bank, GEB consumers other than from the agricultural sector, to initiate this exercise.

Tenders for purchase of 4.5 lakh meters at a cost of Rs 54 crore have been finalised and work on replacement of old meters will start soon. GEB has selected four parties to undertake this work," Bhatt said.

The cost will include replacement of meters and meter boxes and changing the old wires. This will be done on a turn-key basis as it will prove beneficial to GEB, sources said.

While selecting four parties for the job, GEB has taken into account their experience in working with other electricity boards and the Ahmedabad Electricity Company.

After the power tariff order, Bhatt began visiting zonal offices in different parts of the state and addressing staff meetings to gear up the administration to make it more public-oriented for resolving the complaints of the various categories of customers.

Bhatt said transmission and distribution losses in several particular areas of the state will not be tolerated and warned of strict action against those found guilty.

The Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission, in its order, had expressed serious concern over 34 per cent transmission and distribution losses.

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Shikhar, Akshardeep residents slam report Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Ahmedabad: The report of the technical committee, appointed by Gujarat High Court inspect and decide which of the 22 buildings damaged in the earthquake needed to be pulled down, was today slammed by residents of Shikhar Tower and Akshardeep apartment (block C),
who filed petitions saying the report was defective. sketchy and unacceptable
to them.

The report, submitted to the court last week, had categorized these two buildings along with 15 others as those that can be saved after extensive repairs. The report had identified five other buildings for demolition.

However, residents of Shikhar (A,B,C blocks) protested against the report and sat on "dharna" on Satellite Road. When the case came up for hearing today, advocate Mukul Sinha, who appeared for Shikhar residents, submitted before the Division Bench of Chief Justice D M Dharmadhikari and Justice PB Majmudar that the report was not acceptable to the residents who feel that the remaining blocks should be pulled down. Besides, the report was not final and did not take responsibility for its suggestions, he submitted. In fact, the report passed on the responsibility of safety to the structural engineer who takes up repairs, he pointed out.

Besides, Sinha also said the report was faulty as it did not evaluate the safety of these buildings in the context of Their vulnerability to earthquake. The report was totally silent on this aspect, he said. In view of these submissions, Sin ha said the report was not binding on the residents.

Advocate Kamal Trivedi, who appeared for the residents of Akshardeep (block C), argued on similar lines. He pointed out that since the report says that detailed investigations will still have to be carried out on the 17 buildings, it meant that the committee did not Cary out a detailed investigation. Besides, the report says that whoever carries out repairs will assume total responsibility for the building’s safety. Trivedi wanted to know who would give such a guarantee.

Advocate Girish Patel, who appeared for the Gujarat State Legal Services Authority, was more harsh in his criticism of the report. He said he had never seen such a sketchy report. "It is a waste of time," he added. He said the report should not be accepted at face value, and instead should be pat to scrutiny. When it was suggested that this was a tentative report, he snapped, "Can there be a tentative report in such a serious matter?"

After the arguments, it was suggested that residents of the 17 buildings should get reports from individual experts on the basis of which they will file the compensation claim with the State Government. Advocate General S N Shelat was asked what would be the State Government stand if residents want their buildings to be demolished on the basis of their own individual report.

The court adjourned hearing to Wednesday so that Shelat could make the State Government's stand clear.

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High Court asks details from MMCB administrator Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday directed S Ramchandran, administrator of Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank (MMCB), to remain personally present in court on April 26 with a list of the bank’s depositors, borrowers and details of insurance coverage of Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC).

The direction was issued by a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D M Dharmadhikari and Justice PB Majmudar in a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking directions to authorities to take action against those involved in the Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank (MMCB) scam, frame a scheme to return the deposit-holders’ money, recover the bank’s dues, and revive the bank.

The PIL, filed by the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and Nav-Gujarat Banks Customers Protection Council, was admitted by the Bench last week. Besides the State Government and Centre, the petitioners have joined as parties the Central Registrar of Cooperative Societies, State Registrar of Co-operatives, Deposit Insurance & Credit Guarantee Corporation of India, Central Bureau of investigation, MMCB and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Senior advocate D D Vvas, counsel for the petitioners, also alleged that it was the duty of the Reserve Bank of India to ensure that the MMCB abided by banking rules. In-spite of finding out about the situation as early as 1998 through an audit report carried out by it, the RBI did not take any action. The PR even alleged that the RBI should not have put an embargo on the premature withdrawal of full deposits from the bank.

Besides, it was the duty of the State Government to take action in the crisis, but it failed to do so. The petitioner said that though the CBI is investigating the case, it is not probing the bank’s fraudulent activities in Ahmedabad and other areas. Besides, the petitioners also pointed out that both the State Government and RBI were passing the buck to each other. Also, no serious effort was being made by the authorities to recover the advances made by the bank, it was contended.

About the bank’s shady dealings, the petitioners alleged that the bank had given out advances without proper verification or security, and even issued pay-orders to other banks without verifying the balance in the account of the party concerned. The petitioners also wanted to know how the bank issued pay-orders to disgraced broker Ketan Parekh.

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Gujarat government gives quake victims option on relocation Wednesday, April 25, 2001

By Ashraf Sayed, India Abroad News Service

Ahmedabad, Apr 24 - Old Anjar town will be shifted to a new site and Rapar will be rehabilitated at its original site while two other major towns of the earthquake-ravaged Kutch district - Bhuj and Bhachau - will be given time-bound options for their rehabilitation and the resettlement of their residents, the Gujarat government said Tuesday.

These packages were given their final shape by the state government Tuesday after a nearly three-month-long fierce controversy over shifting of the towns and villages and their rehabilitation. The delay had prompted the residents of Kutch to undertake a march from Anjar to Ahmedabad earlier this month to pressurize the Keshubhai Patel government to end the agonizing "uncertainties" over the rehabilitation program.

Performing a complete somersault on the previous announcement of building more than 800,000 one-room houses and relocating the four towns, Patel told reporters after a five-hour-long cabinet meeting that his government would now assist the quake-affected people in cash and kind to rebuild their houses and also provide infrastructure facilities.

He said that the packages for the four towns were likely to cost Rs. 12.79 billion, including Rs. 3.85 billion for housing, Rs. 2.6 billion for soft loans to residents, Rs. 2.7 billion for infrastructure facilities and Rs. 1.9 billion for the health and educational sectors.

Patel said that the government had now decided to set up a separate urban area development authority for the four towns which will each be allocated Rs. 5 million for proper town planning and to provide modern urban facilities. The rehabilitation packages would be completely "flexible" and give the people the option to stay at their old places or to move out to new sites.

The Gujarat Disaster Management Authority, which has been given the powers a ministry, took nearly three months deliberating details of the resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) packages in view of conflicting views prevailing not only among the quake-hit people of four towns but also among senior bureaucrats and ministers.

Replying to a spate of questions, the chief minister said that it was premature to give the exact financial implications of the R&R packages for all quake-hit regions in the state. "But constrains on the financial front will not be allowed to jeopardize the implementation of various packages. Moreover, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Central government and various national and international agencies have already made firm commitments to rehabilitate the quake-hit people," Patel said.

According to conservative estimates of senior officials associated with the various relief packages, the entire R&R program might take one-and-a-half year to two years to implement as it required not only a complete survey of structures damaged in the quake but also the planning of roads, water supply, sewerage, banks, markets and other establishments.

Before carrying out relocation work, the government will conduct a soil testing checks and undertake seismological surveys to ensure the safety of the people being relocated.

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