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April 15, 2001 - April 16, 2001

Free medicine distribution center. Monday, April 16, 2001

NADIAD: The Santram temple, known for its humanitarian activities, has been running a free medicine distribution centre, Santram Nishulka Aushadha Kendra, here under the auspices of the temple since November 1990. It is headed by Narayandasji Maharaj. In all, 1,412 poor people were given free medicine worth Rs. 17,334 in that year. After a decade, by March 2001, as many as 1,20,501 people were provided medicines worth Rs. 45,29,001.

The idea is to help common people without considering caste or creed. As prices of medicine have been spiralling the common people face hardship. For free medicines the doctor's prescription is required. The centre is open three days in a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Honorary services are rendered by devotees like Narendra Bhavsar, Shirish Sheth, Raju Desai, Ketan Bhavsar and Paresh Patel.

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Noble mission Monday, April 16, 2001

BHUJ : Ansoyaben Mahila Mandal, Bhuj, which undertook programmes to train women for self-employment in embroidery stitching, sewing and tuition classes suffered heavy losses in the earthquake. Founded in 1936 it had been instrumental in not only training but providing succour to many girls and women. On the disaster day, it had over 100 women on roll ---training in sewing, stitching and music. Women of poor families benefit from them.

According to Dr Tilottama Jani, the mandal plans to start a primary school in June. The government has already sanctioned it. But the plan has gone awry. The mandal has approached many NGOs for help in cash or kind to restart its activities.

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Innovative sculptor in the city Monday, April 16, 2001

BHUJ: Dharmendragiri of Kera is very busy these days. He is in great demand for he makes religious idols from cement. He first cuts the paper for the figure of idol and then pastes it on the floor, spreads cement over it. This he makes in two halves to be joined later. Since many temples and derasars that collapsed in the earthquake are being renovated, he has many an order on hand. So he has employed ten people. Being cheaper, he gets orders even from places as far as Mehsana.

Besides small idols he makes life-size models, too. He has already made some of legendary local heroes as horse riders of Lakho Phulani and Abda Adbhang, installed at Kewra and Nalia respectively. He colours them with such finesse that one can hardly make out that they are made of cement. Even those who want marble figures prefer these idols obviating their need to go to Jaipur for costly marble idols.

His ingenuity in using cement and creating a fresh job avenue in the village itself is indeed praiseworthy. Looking to the number of temples, old as well as new, as also our penchant for installing idols of heroes, the employment potential in Dharmendragiri's line is enormous.

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No takers for Ajit Jogi's thermal station plan Sunday, April 15, 2001

VADODARA: There are few takers for Chhatisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi's proposal to the Gujarat government on setting up of a coal-based thermal power station in his state.

Raising doubts over the commercial viability of the proposal, state government sources said the return on investment for setting up the station would be low. The total costs will include setting up the power station and laying new transmission lines to the state from Chhatisgarh.

However, sources close to Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel seem to be seriously considering Jogi's proposal. Jogi had made this offer to Patel during his recent visit to Gandhinagar. Jogi was on a visit to the state to adopt Pipaliya village in Rajkot district.

Though the installed capacity of the power station has not been worked out yet, it has been estimated that Rs 5 core will be required for one mega-watt of power. In addition, new 800-KVA transmission lines will have to be laid between the two states that would cost around Rs 500 crore.

The commercial viability of the project is further hampered by the fact that 40 per cent of the generation will go to the farm sector at a cheaper rate.

Detractors of the proposal have also questioned why the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) was not being approached to implement the project. NTPC has already set up a station at Korba in Chhatisgarh and power generated by it is proportionately shared by the beneficiary states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, they pointed out.

Those favouring the proposal say a power-starved state like Gujarat should consider the option so that it helps in meeting the increasing demand for power among various categories of customers.

As part of his offer, Jogi has promised to provide land and water for the thermal power station to be set up near the coal pit head. According to Jogi, the cost per unit of power generation at the proposed station will be 20 paise lower.

Chhatisgarh is a power-surplus state after it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in November last year. A number of coal-based thermal power stations in Madhya Pradesh were transferred to Chhatisgarh, creating a problem of capacity shortage in Madhya Pradesh.

Chhatisgarh being a tribal and backward state, wants proper utilisation of its natural resources which could help generate revenue and lead to overall development of Chhatisgarh. This may be one of the reasons behind Jogi's proposal.

Opponents of the project, however, point out that Gujarat should look closer home as it has huge deposits of lignite which it has not fully tapped yet.

No decision has been taken on setting up of a lignite-based thermal station at Akrimota in Saurashtra.

Power experts argue that it would be in the interest of the state to utilise its own resources before venturing elsewhere to tap resources for power generation.

Jogi had made a similar offer to the governments of New Delhi and Rajasthan, both ruled by the Congress.

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He came, he saw, he's fumbling (MMCB case) Sunday, April 15, 2001

AHMEDABAD: S Ramchandran may not have bargained for the situation he is in today when he agreed to become the administrator of Madhavpura Mercantile Commercial Bank three weeks ago. A retired general manager of Bank of India, Ramchandran must have felt privileged that the Reserve Bank of India had reposed faith in him to rescue a bank in trouble.

But trouble is hardly the word to describe the mess in which Madhavpura and, consequently, Ramchandran, find themselves in. When he was appointed administrator, even the RBI had a vague idea of how much the bank had been hit by the stock market crash. Figures of Rs 200 crore were being bandied about unofficially by those in the 'know' of things. Not much, they said, for the second largest co-operative bank in the state with deposits of around Rs 1500 crore. And Ramchandran, happy to come out of retirement, was talking about turning around the bank in a year.

Now, of course, it appears that the bank cannot be salvaged, what with over Rs 1000 crore gone down the Ketan Parekh drain. The wisdom of the RBI in bringing a retired nationalised bank official, who had no exposure to the co-operative sector, is itself in question as Ramchandran seems to be still at a loose end while conducting the day to day functioning of the sick bank.

"He seems to be a nice person, too nice in fact, for such situations", says a Madhavpura bank official. "The problem is we are not here to find out who is nice and who is not. Our problem is our money and as far as money goes, Ramchandran has refused to divulge any information under the guise of secrecy", says chairman of the Navgujarat Bank Customers Protection Council, Jitu Shah.

Shah met Ramchandran on Tuesday but claims the latter had no answers to his queries. "The man just draws a blank look forcing one to believe that he, the administrator himself, is unaware of what is happening and has transpired in the past".

Says the Council's secretary, Shivkumar Agrawal, fears that in the absence of a strong administrator, the former chief executive officer of Madhavpura, Devendra Pandya, may have succeeded in destroying all evidence which could have framed him and the bank's chairman, Ramesh Parikh. In fact, for nearly two weeks after the scam broke out, Pandya was very much functioning from the office and was calling the shots as far as the petrified staff were concerned. "Ramchandran couldn't do anything as long as Pandya was around, now that Pandya has absconded, he does not seem to know what to do next", said Agarwal .

The vice-chairman of the Gujarat Urban Co-operative Banks Federation, Natubhai Patel, says, "I am a former director of Madhavpura and I consider myself one of the most informed person on co-operative banking in Gujarat, but when I offered to meet him (Ramchandran) to explain him what had gone wrong with the bank, he simply refused to meet me".

Sources said after the initial 'honeymoon period' between the RBI and Ramchandran, things had started to sour between the administrator and the RBI's regional director VS Das. Ramchandran had earlier stayed in the RBI guest house but had to later shift to the Bank of India guest house after a while as he was told to move out. Even his salary has not been fixed by the RBI because the central bank says the money would come from the state government and the salary would be fixed by the registrar for co-operative societies of the state.

"Basically, the appointment of a retired official, who has nothing to lose, as administrator is itself questionable because the person would have a vested interest in prolonging things and enjoy the benefits for a long period of time", says a former RBI official, who refused to be named. What was needed under the circumstances, say some co-operative bankers, was a dynamic person who could have taken decisions and have an excellent equation with both the RCS and RBI. In Ramchandran's case, he is not sure about his own position, much less about Madhavpura.

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