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April 12, 2001 - April 13, 2001

Package or separate state, say Kutchis Friday, April 13, 2001

VIRAMGAM: Anil Kumar Darji has lost his mother, father, wife and daughter to the January 26 quake. The single-storey tenement in ward number 10 of Anjar, which used to house Darji's family, was reduced to rubble when a multi-storey apartment beside it fell on top. He was working at a tailoring unit in Saudi Arabia when disaster struck Gujarat. On reaching Anjar in February, Darji was reunited with the sole survivor of his family - his son Viral.

* Kantilal Suthar, a businessman of Anjar, is still grieving. Since January 26 all his efforts to locate his 11-year-old son, Sawan Kumar Kantilal, have ended in futility. His son was part of the Republic Day parade in Anjar where more than 300 students were buried alive. Suthar has been to hospitals in Mumbai, Pune, Nasik and Sabarkantha chasing rumours that quake victims were being treated there. He has employed dumpers, huge earthmovers and heavy equipment to remove rubbles in search of his son, but all in vain.

Both Anil Kumar and Kantilal are homeless, unemployed and frustrated today. They are part of the 700-strong rally which is closing in on Gandhinagar to settle scores for the neglect of Anjar by the state government.

Each night as the padyatra of Group 2001 comes to a halt at a camp in some non-descript place along the highway connecting Gandhinagar to Bhuj, the grieving residents of Anjar, Bhachau and Bhuj huddle together to find solace.

With anger writ large on their faces, the grieving marchers say it's a fight to the finish with the Gujarat government. "Either give us a comprehensive relief package," they demand in unison, "or separate Kutch from rest of Gujarat."

"Kutch has been relegated to an orphaned status for many years now. The district, which sometimes was touted as cyclone-hit or drought-hit by the state government to rake in stupendous sums as donations, has been left to fend for itself even after the devastating earthquake," says Dr Shyam Sunder, a general surgeon practising in Anjar and a leader of this people's movement.

He adds, "More than two-and-a-half months have gone by since the earthquake left Anjar in ruins, but the government has not been able to pay any heed to our woes or even announce a suitable package that would provide respite to the thousands who have been rendered homeless and jobless since January 26."

Bhavika and Upmika, daughters of Ushaben Premji Sarathiya of Anjar, were buried alive in Anjar. They were part of the Republic Day parade. "Both the girls had left home at 7.30 am but they never returned. Our hopes turned futile when their bodies were recovered from under the rubbles that once was Anjar," lamented Sarathiya. It was little solace for her on recovering her daughters' bodies near the Khatri chowk in Anjar. The girls were still holding hands.

Like Sarathiya almost all the rallists have lost their homes and ways of earning a living. "We are being given houses made of GI sheets. In the extreme temperatures living inside these houses made of asbestos sheets is like getting into a blast furnace," said Pushpaben Goswami, who has lost her elder son Rohit (13) to the quake.

Adds Goswami, "Nobody listens to us nor does anybody care. Nevertheless, I am determined to walk on till I reach Gandhinagar. I want to give a piece of my mind to Keshubhai. If he does not listen to us then the Group 2001 will walk all the way to Delhi and demand that Kutch be given a separate entity. We don't want to represent the begging bowl of Gujarat."

They are with a mission, one that will bring an end to years of neglect in Kutch. Says Megji Prajapati who breaks down as he talks about his 13-year-old who died during quake in Anjar, "Even if it be the last thing I do I want to get justice to Kutch. Death of my son will not go in vain."

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Dewang Mehta, Gujarat's Prodigal son, dies in Sydney Thursday, April 12, 2001

Thursday, April 12, 2001 (Sydney):
Dewang Mehta, Gujarat's Prodigal son, dies in Sydney. He was among the Indian IT industry's most well-known faces, and lobbyist for software companies. Mr Mehta was found dead in his hotel room in Sydney. The cause of Mr Mehta's death is not known yet, and the police have not found any evidence of foul play.

Thirty-eight-year-old Mr Mehta was on a trip to Australia as part of a high level delegation of IT experts who had accompanied IT minister, Pramod Mahajan. The most visible and vocal proponent of India's software industry, he was in Sydney with a group of 20 Infotech companies, looking at expanding India's software influence when he died. He was scheduled to catch an early morning flight to India but was found dead by some members of the hotel staff.

Mr Mehta gave up a career in chartered accountancy to venture into the world of computer graphics in London from when his life long affair with computers began. For the last six years, Mr Mehta was the President of NASCOM - a lobby group for India's software companies.

Known as India's most successful lobbyist and the guardian angel of the fledgling Indian software industry, Dewang was equally at home with small scale computer manufacturers as well as with the biggest of the big, including Bill Gates, world leaders, prime ministers and presidents. One of the most active supporters of the software industry, men like NR Narayanamurthy and Azim Premji were in his immediate circle of friends. He was also a member of the government's task force on Information Technology.

In the last few months, Dewang Mehta was instrumental in collecting funds from the world's leading Information Technology companies for relief work in earthquake hit Gujarat, his home state.

Dewang was born in Gujarat in 1962. He did his schooling at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan before doing a B.Com from Delhi University. A man of many talents, he was also a chartered, cost and works accountant from UK and a Bachelor of Science with majors in computer graphics from Imperial College in London.

Click here to Issue your tribute to Mr. Devang Mehta


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Gujarat Ministers criticise quake relief steps Thursday, April 12, 2001

GANDHINAGAR, APRIL 11. The dissatisfaction among a section of ministers in Gujarat against the Keshubhai Patel administration came to the fore in the State Cabinet meeting here today with several of them strongly criticising the earthquake and drought relief operations in the State.
The Cabinet meeting was held in the absence of the Chief Minister, who reported sick, with his number two in the Cabinet, Mr. Suresh Mehta, the Industries Minister, chairing the meeting. It was perhaps for the first time that the Cabinet met without the Chief Minister and many of the ministers did not take it kindly.

Some Ministers critical of Mr. Patel's style of functioning wondered why the Cabinet meeting was not postponed if the Chief Minister was unwell. There were many instances in the past when the cabinet meeting had been postponed when the chief minister was sick or had any other important engagement.

The Minister for jails, Mr. Jaspal Singh, and some of his Cabinet colleagues felt that Mr. Patel was ``deliberately'' trying to avoid facing the Cabinet. Incidentally, Mr. Patel's all other engagements for the day including a media conference were cancelled and rescheduled for tomorrow.

Mr. Singh also reportedly took strong exception to the Chief Minister taking decisions concerning various ministries without consulting the concerned Ministers. He pointed out instances where he said decisions concerning his department had been taken by Mr Patel without taking him into confidence.

The Minister of State for Youth and Cultural Affairs, Mr. Mahendra Trivedi, attacking the State administration for its alleged failure to provide relief to the earthquake and drought affected, said they find it difficult to face the people in their respective districts. ``The people are not only abusing us, they are even pelting stones at us if we go out in the districts,'' Mr. Trivedi, who hails from Bhavnagar, reportedly told the meeting. He said if the situation continued like this, ``one day even I will join with the people and hurl stones at the government officials and Ministers coming to Bhavnagar and will be brought to Gandhinagar as an accused instead of as a minister.''

Ridiculing the ruling BJP's ``kar seva'' to help the earthquake- affected to reconstruct their houses, Mr Trivedi reportedly said at least in his district the BJP workers had no guts to come out in the open for the ``kar seva'' for fear of reprisals from the people. He claimed that the reports available from most other districts also indicate that the ``kar seva'' had failed to take off due to the dismal failure of the government to take timely decisions.

The Minister for Social Defence and Prohibition, Mr. Fakirbhai Waghela, who is in charge of Surendranagar district, considered to be the second worst earthquake-hit district after Kutch, said the decisions taken in Gandhinagar were not being implemented in the districts and the Chief Minister had failed to take action against the errant officials.

Describing the government's survey of the earthquake-affected areas as a ``crude joke'' on the people hit by a severe natural calamity, Mr Waghela claimed that most of the people in his district had been paid a paltry sum of Rs 20 or so as compensation against the damages caused by the earthquake. ``I have told my people in the district to refuse to accept such cheques from the government,'' he pointed and suggested that the government should order a re-survey of all the affected areas.

The Education Minister, Ms Anandiben Patel, was equally critical of the Government's failure to start repairing of the damaged school buildings. Pointing out that the schools had to be closed down in the state since the January 26 earthquake bringing the academic activities to a standstill, she said there was little chance of the schools re-opening in time even after the summer vacation because not a single damaged school has so far been repaired. ``Not a brick had been laid on the damaged schools,'' she regretted.

When the roads and building minister tried to intervene on behalf of the Chief Minister, he was reportedly shot down by some other Ministers. ``You may have been promised a deputy chief minister's berth, do not try to defend Keshubhai,'' Mr. Singh reportedly told Mr. Patel.

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Gujarat Ministers criticise quake relief steps Thursday, April 12, 2001

GANDHINAGAR, APRIL 11. The dissatisfaction among a section of ministers in Gujarat against the Keshubhai Patel administration came to the fore in the State Cabinet meeting here today with several of them strongly criticising the earthquake and drought relief operations in the State.
The Cabinet meeting was held in the absence of the Chief Minister, who reported sick, with his number two in the Cabinet, Mr. Suresh Mehta, the Industries Minister, chairing the meeting. It was perhaps for the first time that the Cabinet met without the Chief Minister and many of the ministers did not take it kindly.

Some Ministers critical of Mr. Patel's style of functioning wondered why the Cabinet meeting was not postponed if the Chief Minister was unwell. There were many instances in the past when the cabinet meeting had been postponed when the chief minister was sick or had any other important engagement.

The Minister for jails, Mr. Jaspal Singh, and some of his Cabinet colleagues felt that Mr. Patel was ``deliberately'' trying to avoid facing the Cabinet. Incidentally, Mr. Patel's all other engagements for the day including a media conference were cancelled and rescheduled for tomorrow.

Mr. Singh also reportedly took strong exception to the Chief Minister taking decisions concerning various ministries without consulting the concerned Ministers. He pointed out instances where he said decisions concerning his department had been taken by Mr Patel without taking him into confidence.

The Minister of State for Youth and Cultural Affairs, Mr. Mahendra Trivedi, attacking the State administration for its alleged failure to provide relief to the earthquake and drought affected, said they find it difficult to face the people in their respective districts. ``The people are not only abusing us, they are even pelting stones at us if we go out in the districts,'' Mr. Trivedi, who hails from Bhavnagar, reportedly told the meeting. He said if the situation continued like this, ``one day even I will join with the people and hurl stones at the government officials and Ministers coming to Bhavnagar and will be brought to Gandhinagar as an accused instead of as a minister.''

Ridiculing the ruling BJP's ``kar seva'' to help the earthquake- affected to reconstruct their houses, Mr Trivedi reportedly said at least in his district the BJP workers had no guts to come out in the open for the ``kar seva'' for fear of reprisals from the people. He claimed that the reports available from most other districts also indicate that the ``kar seva'' had failed to take off due to the dismal failure of the government to take timely decisions.

The Minister for Social Defence and Prohibition, Mr. Fakirbhai Waghela, who is in charge of Surendranagar district, considered to be the second worst earthquake-hit district after Kutch, said the decisions taken in Gandhinagar were not being implemented in the districts and the Chief Minister had failed to take action against the errant officials.

Describing the government's survey of the earthquake-affected areas as a ``crude joke'' on the people hit by a severe natural calamity, Mr Waghela claimed that most of the people in his district had been paid a paltry sum of Rs 20 or so as compensation against the damages caused by the earthquake. ``I have told my people in the district to refuse to accept such cheques from the government,'' he pointed and suggested that the government should order a re-survey of all the affected areas.

The Education Minister, Ms Anandiben Patel, was equally critical of the Government's failure to start repairing of the damaged school buildings. Pointing out that the schools had to be closed down in the state since the January 26 earthquake bringing the academic activities to a standstill, she said there was little chance of the schools re-opening in time even after the summer vacation because not a single damaged school has so far been repaired. ``Not a brick had been laid on the damaged schools,'' she regretted.

When the roads and building minister tried to intervene on behalf of the Chief Minister, he was reportedly shot down by some other Ministers. ``You may have been promised a deputy chief minister's berth, do not try to defend Keshubhai,'' Mr. Singh reportedly told Mr. Patel.

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Co-operative dons hope for Madhavpura revival Thursday, April 12, 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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