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April 13, 2001 - April 14, 2001

Anthology of Dalit verses in Gujarati Saturday, April 14, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The 111th birth anniversary of Dalit icon Babasaheb Ambedkar, falling on April 14, has coincided with the publication of an anthology of rare poetry on the architect of the Indian Constitution by some well-known Gujarati poets, including Suresh Dalal, Dalpat Padhiar, Ramesh Parekh and Madankumar Anjaria.

Comprising 84 poems, 10 of them written by Dr Ambedkar himself, published for the first time in Gujarati, it has come out as a special issue of the Gandhinagar-based journal Samajmitra. The issue would soon be brought out as a book.

Though bulk of the poetry is by Gujarati Dalit writers like Dalpat Chauhan, Kisan Sosa, Nirav Patel, Sahil Parmar, BN Vankar and AK Dodia, the more interesting portion is the poetry written by Dr Ambedkar - translated from English - suggests the anger of a young man after he associated himself with the social cause in 1916 against the established Hindu caste-ridden society. While in one poem he calls for a change in religion, in other five he attacks the caste Hindu practice of untouchability.

In sharp contrast is the poem by Suresh Dalal, 'To Babasaheb Ambedkar', where the top-notch Gujarati poet regrets that he has not experienced poverty, nor have insults been hurled over him. Pointing out that he has not traversed through the 'slumdwelling world of sufferings', Dalal says, "I have not even experienced any thought process doubting religion as have considered religion a way of life." Given such circumstances, he admits, he is 'too common a man compared to Babasaheb'.

Gujarat's Dalit poetry, reflected in the collection - as Dalit literature elsewhere in India - suggests that it has still failed to come off the protest mode, refusing to acquire a degree of objectivity. There is an attempt to create a personality cult around Ambedkar, calling him the 'first hope of the rising sun' (Dalpat Chauhan), 'a rare shine' (Kisan Sosa) and a man who brought a 'fresh morning over India'. But on the other, insult is sought to be inflicted on Mahatma Gandhi calling him 'naked, poorly clad', compared to a 'suited' Ambedkar who looked like a 'powerful sunshine'.

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Classic case: Rs 12 cr transferred over phone Friday, April 13, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Investigations into the case involving transfer of money from bullion trader Arvind Dhanjibhai Choksi's account in the Classic Co-operative Bank have established that the Bank had transferred as much as Rs 12 crore to KL Choksi's account on the basis of a mere phone call!

However, speculations on the investigations in this case have come under a cloud for reasons cited as 'political' even as the case was transferred to the city crime branch, barely a week after the complaint was lodged.

Interestingly, the Central Bureau of Investigation had been already pursuing the matter after a complaint was lodged by Punjab National Bank. The CBI had also raided the premises of Arvind Choksi. But, says a senior police official, "it is doubtful whether this case will reach its logical conclusion, since so many agencies are investigating it".

A complaint was lodged at the Naranpura police station on March 27 by Arvind Choksi. In his complaint, Arvind Choksi accused the Classic Co-operative Bank of transferring his balance of Rs 12 crore to another account by way of forged vouchers and wrong entries. Cases of forgery, cheating and conspiracy were registered against the Bank chairman Suresh V Garecha, managing director Dinesh M Shah and manager Dinesh H Turkhiya following the complaint.

Interestingly, even after the police had on record the bank statement of entries, which showed the bank in the wrong, there had been no arrests.

Evidence forwarded by the local police to the crime branch show that Arvind Choksi held a current account in the bank and had reportedly spoken to the Bank on phone to transfer Rs 12 crore to KL Choksi's account against the gold he bought from the latter.

That the Bank carried out the transaction without a banking instrument was violative enough, but investigations have shown that the account did not have an overdraft facility and yet the bank provided an overdraft of around Rs 40 lakh. "Sometimes the bank can use its discretion for an OD in case of old customers," say sources.

Choksi, who owns a jewellery store by the name of 'Arvindkumar and company' in Manekchowk and is a bullion trader, told the police that when he last checked his current account No 435 at the Classic Co-operative Bank on March 16, it showed a balance of Rs 11,59,81,773. It was against this balance that the Bank transferred Rs 12 crore by pooling in the difference on the basis of what has been recorded as 'tele-talk' in the copy of entries.

Arvind Choksi claimed to have learnt about the transfer when he wrote a cheque for Rs 5 crore in favour of a party overseas, which bounced, police officials told TOI. No where did he mention before the police that he had indeed made that call to the Bank.

What is more intriguing is that the case which was under investigation of the Naranpura police, was given to Assistant Commissioner of Police (B division) PN Barot, and after a couple of days it was transferred to the crime branch.

"We wanted a detailed investigation to be carried out on this which is why it was transferred to the crime branch," says police commissioner PC Pande.

But sources say the move might only delay the investigation, "because the crime branch, with its staff problems, was barely equipped to handle such an investigation", says a senior police official.

What is being hushed up in investigations is Garecha's alleged relations to a senior BJP leader in the Gujarat Assembly. Sources say Garecha's brother had claimed before the police, when the investigations began, that "he was the brother-in-law of the Assembly speaker".

"But this is yet to be established," say police officials. When contacted, assistant commissioner of police (crime) Subhash Trivedi told TOI, "Since the CBI is already investigating the case we decided to only follow them up."

Meanwhile, the main accused, Garecha remains elusive.

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Co-operative dons hope for Madhavpura revival Friday, April 13, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Co-operative bankers in the state haven't given up hopes on Madhavpura even if reports suggest that the bank is doomed.

One among many, who is propounding the revival theory is the Gujarat Urban Co-operative Bank Federation vice-chairman Natwarlal Patel. In spite of being aware that the Statutory Liquidity Requirement (SLR) and cash reserve ratio (CRR) of the MMCB has been completely wiped out, he says that the bank could be revived if close to Rs 700 crore was infused into the bank by the state and central government, and co-operative banks.

Kalupur Commercial Co-operative Bank (KCCB), which has recorded a profit of Rs 43.34 crore this year and had lent Rs 30 crore to MMCB during the run, may not want to individually revive the bank but it may consider to contribute to the revival fund.

This, says a KCCB director could be done by both the state and central government pumping in finance through financial institutions as interest-free loan. Along with this, the co-operative banks could make contribution, which would be directly proportionate to the profits of the banks.

It is also being suggested that if the RBI raised the withdrawal limit to Rs 5,000 per depositor, the dues of close to 1,50,000 depositors would be completely repaid and this would lessen the liability of MMCB to great extent.

According to the KCCB director Dineshbhai M Amin if the MMCB is allowed to go into liquidation then the co-operative movement in the state will suffer a huge jolt.

It is this fear of blow to the co-operative banking sector that is spurring the move to bring the MMCB back to health, the interest of smaller banks is only spin-off factor. Of the 340 co-operative banks in the state, 168 co-operative banks have their deposits with the MMCB.

Of these 168 co-operative bank, on a conservative estimate, more than 60 banks would not survive if the MMCB was officially declared sick. This would inflict a major blow to the co-operative banking sector and would be detrimental to the image of the co-operative banks, in general.

The 340 co-operative banks in the state had close to Rs 13,276 crore deposit as on March 31, 1999, and the advances for that year was close to Rs 8,446 crore. The credit deposit ration was a healthy 64 per cent. Sources say that any impact on the co-operative banking sector would also affect the lending in priority sector, which is close to 84.5 per cent as against 43.5 per cent lending of the nationalised banks in this sector. These figures suggest that the bearing of the co-operative sector on the economy is immense.

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CBI raids MMCB CEO's home Friday, April 13, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Even though the Central Bureau of Investigation is largely unaware of the whereabouts of the Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank chief executive officer Devendra Pandya, sleuths have raided his residential premises here in Ahmedabad.

Officials of the investigating agency swooped down on Pandya's house and recovered voluminous documents which they termed as incriminating. They also recovered floppies containing data pertaining to the bank scam, through which hundreds of crores of rupees of public money, was siphoned out into the share markets.

Meanwhile the CBI is interrogating prime accused and bank chairman Ramesh Parikh and leading share broker Ketan Parikh, who according to the agency had channelised public money illegally, by virtue of being close to the former. The CBI has been granted an extension to interrogate the accused in remand till Thursday.

The agency has traced transactions to the tune of over Rs 30 crore which have gone from the MMCB through Ramesh Parikh to Ketan Parikh. Ketan, who drives a Toyota Lexus and has a huge farmhouse spread over a few acres in the suburbs of Mumbai, besides his other assets, has 19 accounts in the Mandvi branch of MMCB in Mumbai, where a large portion of the siphoned money is believed to have gone.

While large volumes of incriminating documents have already been seized from various residential and office premises of the two accused, CBI sought more time to quiz them in remand to trace further links and fate of crores worth public money which were sucked out of the market.

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13,133 villages declared drought hit Friday, April 13, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The increasing intensity of drought in the state is becoming more evident with each passing day even as the Gujarat government claimed on Thursday that nearly 14,35,422 people were already working at 2,734 drought relief sites.

A senior government official of the state relief commissionerate said as summer approaches, the "figure would cross the 20-lakh mark soon". At the peak of last year's drought, nearly 15 lakh persons were engaged in relief works.

Giving the reason for the sharp rise in relief workers, the official, talking to newspersons after a top-level meeting with state finance and revenue minister Vajubhai Vala on the drought situation, said, "Initially, we had declared 12,240 villages as drought-affected in our drought documents presented to the Central government. However, after we revised our norms of declaring a village drought-hit, the number has gone up to 13,133." Gujarat has a total of 18,200 villages.

The norm for declaring a village drought-affected was "considerably liberalised" by including even a 6.2 anna-village - a decades old official measurement for assessing the economy of a village - as drought-affected as against six anna villages being part of it.

"If 569 extra villages were included in the list when the norm was changed a few weeks ago, other villages were also added as the anna assessment for the rabi season took place," the official said.

Despite the increasing grimness on the drought front, the state admitted that it was facing a severe financial crunch to fight the calamity, which was made to play second fiddle in wake of the quake.

In fact, the quake being the main priority, a bulk of Central funds was channelled towards dealing with its aftermath.

Already, the government was forced to introduce the food-for-work programme at relief sites. "We are giving 13 kg of wheat and three kg of rice and deducting the funds to be given to each relief worker from the wages he would be getting at the end of every week", the official underlined.

Though the government had demanded hundreds of crores from the Centre as drought relief before the quake struck the state, the official conceded, so far it has received a mere Rs 85 crore. "This is over and above Rs 169 crore we got as part of Gujarat's share from the National Calamity and Contingency Fund", the official pointed out, adding, "We expect the Prime Minister's Relief Fund to release Rs 29 crore more -- Rs 20 crore for laying pipelines in the urban areas and Rs 9 crore for making handicraft work as part of relief work operations."

The main relief work is being done in the Panchmahals district with 2.85 lakh relief workers, followed by 2.58 lakh at Dahod, 1.48 lakh in Sabarkantha, 1.44 lakh in Bhavnagar, 1.21 lakh in Rajkot, 1.18 lakh in Amreli, and 1.11 lakh in Surendranagar. The official indicated that the state was getting lot of "indirect help" from the Centre. "So far, 208 trips have been undertaken by the Indian Railway trains to bring fodder from UP, Maharashtra and South Gujarat", he emphasised.

"We have also procured 3.9 crore kg of cattle feed from the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation and 7.5 crore kg of fodder," the official said.

Yet, the financial crunch is coming in the way of laying pipelines as an emergency measure. Thus, of the Rs 45 crore contract for pumping out 13,000 cusecs of water from the Narmada dam for providing drinking water to Vadodara, Ahmedabad and several Saurashtra areas, only Rs 5 crore have so far been paid.

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