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April 21, 2001 - April 22, 2001

MSU proposes weir across Mahi Sunday, April 22, 2001

VADODARA: MS University has offered to design a weir across Mahi river to stop ingress of sea water. "A weir with the help of concrete sheet piling can be built across the down stream of Mahi river. This could be done within a budget of Rs 10 crore. Such a system will ensure quantity and quality of water will be maintained in a ten km stretch of the river", Kane said.

Interestingly, the ingress of sea water in Mahi river last week had cost dearly to the Vadodara Municipal Corporation and put in jeopardy the French wells put up by the corporation for drawing drinking water for larger parts of the city.

"A weir will ensure that backward flow of sea water does not enter the river. The university is ready to take the responsibility of designing the weir at a no-profit-no-loss basis. If the VMC agrees we can do the job", Kane said. He said that he would supervise the project from the varsity side.

"I had worked for the Singanpur weir cum cause way built across Tapti river in Surat. We can adopt the same model minus the cause way", Kane said.

He proposed that the VMC, GIDC Nandesari estate, IOC, IPCl and GSFC should form a consortium. "The member of this consortium would have to pay equivalent to the amount of water they would draw once the weir is built. The VMC can take over the maintenance job", Kane said. He added that a memorandum of understanding could be signed on the lines of the Singanpur weir cum cause way in Surat.

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Three months from quake, patchwork of devastation remains Sunday, April 22, 2001

By V. Radhika, India Abroad News Service
Bhuj, Apr 21 - As one drives along the highway slicing the Kutch region of Gujarat, the vast tracks of uninhabited land along the road lull you into a picture of apparent normalcy.

Just then, the intermittent images of factories or buildings on the highway that either have nasty cracks or crumbled facades puncture the idyllic vision.

Drive further down into any of the tracks leading into villages and towns and the canvas tents that pockmark the landscape narrate the tale of devastation wrought by nature and the administration's pathetic attempts to cope with the mammoth tragedy. Almost three months after the earthquake shattered in this region of Gujarat on January 26, the affected people are still struggling to rebuild their lives.

And the sluggish response of the administration on the rehabilitation front is going to make this task extremely difficult. In fact, the government is yet to come out with a rehabilitation policy for the towns. While officials cite the massive scale of the tragedy as the reason and are hoping that more organizations will come forward to "adopt" quake-affected areas for rehabilitation, the victims are losing patience.

The rising temperatures are stoking their anger as the heat in makeshift tents is becoming unbearable. Using a newspaper for a fan, Kamlaben says, "When we (adults) are finding it difficult to bear this heat, can you imagine what the children will go through?" Her five-year-old son is down with a heatstroke and dehydration.

In fact, pediatricians in Bhuj are extremely busy these days. Dr. Shanti Patel, who operates from a tent, treats at least 50 babies a day for a variety of ailments, free of cost. In the Red Cross field hospital at Bhuj, pediatrician Gamal Handy, a Palestinian, told IANS she has treated 30 infants for severe dehydration and four or five for heatstroke in the last 10 days alone.

Radhaben, a young mother, weeps, "What do I do to make my child feel cool and comfortable? Our house is reduced to rubble and there are no trees to shield us from the sun." Her village is located about 30 km from Bhuj town. The state government and aid agencies, say doctors, must make the health and welfare of children a top priority.

"They must provide the children with shelters where the temperatures can be regulated to comfortable levels -- at least one large one in every village where the kids can spend the hottest hours," says Dr. Patel. "There should also be more well-equipped field hospitals and mobile clinics for children as well as nutritional schemes for nursing mothers."

But for a government that is still trying to get its act together, it is too tall an order. The relief commissioner at Bhuj, L. Mansingh, says, "The state is not an insurance firm, so we cannot compensate their loss. But we are trying to do our best. Our first priority was temporary shelter. Normally in such disasters government provides tarpaulin and polythene sheets. This is the first disaster of its kind where international relief has come on such a large scale and hence the craze for tents. Since our priority was temporary shelter, we also provided these sheets in addition to tents."

As far as regular shelters are concerned, Mansingh says, "In rural areas the government has decided that we should facilitate villagers to reconstruct their homes. An assistance of Rs. 50,000, Rs. 70,00 and Rs. 90,000 will be given toward this end."

"We have deliberately chosen to follow a more difficult path in reconstruction and that is that the state will not construct houses (like the Maharashtra government did in Latur in 1993)," he says. "Instead, it will help villagers build their own homes because we saw in Latur that people did not want to move into the houses constructed by the government."

Mansingh also says the government is encouraging non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and corporate firms to adopt villages. But the NGOs say in private that they find the bureaucracy more difficult to handle than the task of rehabilitation.

The government is yet to announce its rehabilitation policy for towns and Mansingh refuses to comment on the delay. While he claims that the work done by the government so far is unparalleled given the extent of devastation, the affected persons have a different story to tell.

Upset and angered by the slack government response, nearly 1,500 people from Anjar, Rapar and Bachau towns of Kutch district began a march to the government secretariat at Gandhinagar. Calling themselves Group 2001, the rallyists -- who included the young and the old, men and women -- traversed 3,000 km on foot before a compromise was reached and they received an assurance that their demands would be "sympathetically considered".

Their demands included a white paper from the government giving details of accounts of funds received so far, how that money has been spent and what more assistance is coming for rehabilitation of the earthquake-affected. Whether the government lives up to its promise remains to be seen.

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Three months from quake, patchwork of devastation remains Sunday, April 22, 2001

By V. Radhika, India Abroad News Service
Bhuj, Apr 21 - As one drives along the highway slicing the Kutch region of Gujarat, the vast tracks of uninhabited land along the road lull you into a picture of apparent normalcy.

Just then, the intermittent images of factories or buildings on the highway that either have nasty cracks or crumbled facades puncture the idyllic vision.

Drive further down into any of the tracks leading into villages and towns and the canvas tents that pockmark the landscape narrate the tale of devastation wrought by nature and the administration's pathetic attempts to cope with the mammoth tragedy. Almost three months after the earthquake shattered in this region of Gujarat on January 26, the affected people are still struggling to rebuild their lives.

And the sluggish response of the administration on the rehabilitation front is going to make this task extremely difficult. In fact, the government is yet to come out with a rehabilitation policy for the towns. While officials cite the massive scale of the tragedy as the reason and are hoping that more organizations will come forward to "adopt" quake-affected areas for rehabilitation, the victims are losing patience.

The rising temperatures are stoking their anger as the heat in makeshift tents is becoming unbearable. Using a newspaper for a fan, Kamlaben says, "When we (adults) are finding it difficult to bear this heat, can you imagine what the children will go through?" Her five-year-old son is down with a heatstroke and dehydration.

In fact, pediatricians in Bhuj are extremely busy these days. Dr. Shanti Patel, who operates from a tent, treats at least 50 babies a day for a variety of ailments, free of cost. In the Red Cross field hospital at Bhuj, pediatrician Gamal Handy, a Palestinian, told IANS she has treated 30 infants for severe dehydration and four or five for heatstroke in the last 10 days alone.

Radhaben, a young mother, weeps, "What do I do to make my child feel cool and comfortable? Our house is reduced to rubble and there are no trees to shield us from the sun." Her village is located about 30 km from Bhuj town. The state government and aid agencies, say doctors, must make the health and welfare of children a top priority.

"They must provide the children with shelters where the temperatures can be regulated to comfortable levels -- at least one large one in every village where the kids can spend the hottest hours," says Dr. Patel. "There should also be more well-equipped field hospitals and mobile clinics for children as well as nutritional schemes for nursing mothers."

But for a government that is still trying to get its act together, it is too tall an order. The relief commissioner at Bhuj, L. Mansingh, says, "The state is not an insurance firm, so we cannot compensate their loss. But we are trying to do our best. Our first priority was temporary shelter. Normally in such disasters government provides tarpaulin and polythene sheets. This is the first disaster of its kind where international relief has come on such a large scale and hence the craze for tents. Since our priority was temporary shelter, we also provided these sheets in addition to tents."

As far as regular shelters are concerned, Mansingh says, "In rural areas the government has decided that we should facilitate villagers to reconstruct their homes. An assistance of Rs. 50,000, Rs. 70,00 and Rs. 90,000 will be given toward this end."

"We have deliberately chosen to follow a more difficult path in reconstruction and that is that the state will not construct houses (like the Maharashtra government did in Latur in 1993)," he says. "Instead, it will help villagers build their own homes because we saw in Latur that people did not want to move into the houses constructed by the government."

Mansingh also says the government is encouraging non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and corporate firms to adopt villages. But the NGOs say in private that they find the bureaucracy more difficult to handle than the task of rehabilitation.

The government is yet to announce its rehabilitation policy for towns and Mansingh refuses to comment on the delay. While he claims that the work done by the government so far is unparalleled given the extent of devastation, the affected persons have a different story to tell.

Upset and angered by the slack government response, nearly 1,500 people from Anjar, Rapar and Bachau towns of Kutch district began a march to the government secretariat at Gandhinagar. Calling themselves Group 2001, the rallyists -- who included the young and the old, men and women -- traversed 3,000 km on foot before a compromise was reached and they received an assurance that their demands would be "sympathetically considered".

Their demands included a white paper from the government giving details of accounts of funds received so far, how that money has been spent and what more assistance is coming for rehabilitation of the earthquake-affected. Whether the government lives up to its promise remains to be seen.

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Major reshuffle in state bureaucracy Saturday, April 21, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: In a major reshuffle that would satisfy the persistent demand put forward by a powerful group of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers, top bureaucrat A W P David has been shifted from the key General Administration Department. An officer of the rank of additional chief secretary (ACS), David, belonging to the 1966 batch, was pushed out to the agriculture department.

David's transfer took place after several IAS officers made strong representations over the last several days to Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel that he was "targeting" officials by initiating inquiries against them. Complainants told TOI in confidence that inquires were initiated against as many as 33 IAS officers.

In fact, several IAS officers are learnt to have given a veiled warning to the CM that if the govt did not transfer David, they would not give their stamp of approval for any major decision. David, when contacted, said that his transfer was a routine one, "since I had completed three-and-a-half years in this assignment". Analysts, however, said that it was David who was being "targeted" by those not comfortable with the inquiries.

In other transfers, A P Mishra, CEO, Gujarat Disaster Management Authority, has been freed of the additional charge of agriculture. David's place has been taken over by Ashok Bhatia, an IAS officer of the 1965 batch, retiring in December 2001. A non-controversial officer, Bhatia was head of the health department, which now goes to S K Nanda, till now managing director, Gujarat State Finance Corporation.

G P Joshi, MS, Gujarat State Drinking Water Infrastructure Corporation Ltd, takes over in Nanda's place. Atanu Chakraborty, commissioner of higher education, replaces Joshi. VN Vora, secretary, Gujarat Public Service Commission, is the new commissioner, higher education.

G R Virdi, principal secretary, social justice and empowerment department, has been placed in charge of revenue department (appeals). He replaces R M Acharya, principal secretary, who moves over to departments earlier held by Virdi.

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Migration begins from border areas of Kutch Saturday, April 21, 2001

RAJKOT: People from border villages of Kutch have started migrating as no government aid is forthcoming even three months after the quake. No rehabilitation work has been undertaken yet in any of the quake-affected areas.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh workers, returning from border villages of Dhrobaba, Kuran, Khavda and Dinara told this correspondent that abject poverty, unemployment and lack of any kind of help from the government was forcing people to migrate.

Volunteers further said anti-national elements from across the border were taking advantage of the situation. They feared that the situation could turn volatile if not checked immediately.

Volunteers said even though 90 per cent of the houses in the area had been destroyed completely, not a single elected representative had cared to visit the affected areas so far. Volunteers said that galvanised sheets sent by the state government had reached only upto Khavda. Not a single cement bag had reached the interior villages, they said.

The Seva Bharati organisation had decided to lend a helping hand to rehabilitate people in these areas. Under the first phase of the rehabilitation, eight bhungas would be constructed for 26 Harijan families, in the area.

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