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April 7, 2001 - April 8, 2001

VASAD:::: Six killed, eight hurt in accident Sunday, April 8, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Six persons, including five women, were killed on the spot and eight others injured, in a head on collision involving a truck and a jeep, near Vasad town in Anand district on Saturday, police said here.

The mishap occurred when the truck rammed the jeep in which the victims were travelling, they said, adding all the six persons died on the spot.

The injured were admitted to S S G Hospital in Baroda, police added.

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Madhavpura just the tip of the iceberg Sunday, April 8, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Madhavpura may have kicked up quite a dust as it collapsed, being the second largest co-operative bank in the state, but financial markets of Gujarat are strewn with epitaphs of several such banks, many of whom went down without a whimper.

The number of banks going into liquidation has shot up drastically over the last two years and it seems that the Registrar of Co-operative Societies (RCS) and the Gujarat government have failed to evolve a mechanism to ensure fiscal discipline that could prevent banks from collapsing.

As against hardly any case of liquidation till 1998, over the last two years, as many as nine banks are in the process of being liquidated.

In 1999, liquidation proceedings were initiated against Ahmedabad's Suprabhat Co-operative Bank, Sarvodaya Co-operative Bank, Harshid Co-operative Bank and Sami Taluka Co-operative Bank.

Last year, liquidation proceedings began against Ahmedabad's Relief Mercantile Co-operative Bank and Veraval's Ratnakar Co-operative Bank.

This year, similar action was started against Ahmedabad's Bhagyalakshmi Co-operative Bank, Sahyog Co-operative Bank, and Veraval's Vibhagya Nagrik Co-operative Bank.

Sources in the co-operative sector say at least a dozen applications for liquidation of co-operative banks in Ahmedabad alone are lying with the RCS office.

One can add to this a list of 93 other banks against whom some kind of inquiry or the other is on for the last two years. In as many as 27 cases, police complaints, too, have been lodged by the RCS office.

But why things are not improving in the sector is anybody's guess. Sources say of the 18 district co-operative banks operating in the state, six were in the red by March 2001.

The RCS office is unable to act for safeguarding the interests of thousands of small investors because of the several political inroads made into the state's co-operative sector. It begins with the election of the board of directors fought on party lines.

It has often been seen that if the ruling party does not enjoy a majority in the board to elect the chairman of its choice, the government uses its nominees to achieve the goal. This is how hard-liner BJP legislator Amit Shah became chairman of Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank last year.

The political appointees ensure haphazard disbursement of funds to trade and commerce lobbies they represent. Funds are even disbursed to religious and charity organisations for deriving political mileage, with no questions asked about the returns. Audit and inspection at regular interval by the RCS office overlook these facts.

Laments a senior auditor of the RCS office, "Even if we put adverse remarks regarding irregularities in our special audit reports directly submitted to the RCS for punitive action, virtually no action is taken thanks to political pressure from the board of directors."

And when irregularities are detected and responsibility fixed, RCS office receives phone calls pleading against 'harassment" of the director or the chairman found guilty.

Grossly understaffed - nearly 600 auditors on its rolls and as many on the panel for all the districts - and other experts, the RCS office says it has to handle as many as 55,000 different types of co-operative societies. It has no separate department for the banking sector (there are 379 co-operative banks in Gujarat).

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Madhavpura Bank holds key to masala traders’ fortunes Saturday, April 7, 2001

Ahmedadabad, April 6: If the spice market once took pride in the fact that one of its traders, Ramesh Parikh, had founded the cash-rich Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank (MMCB), the same traders are in dire straits today with their funds stuck in the troubled bank.

At the Madhavpura spice market in Shahibaug, from which the bank takes its name, almost every trader has borne the brunt of the MMCB imbroglio.
The crisis could not have hit at a worse time, because this is when housewives in the state store up their spices from the wholesale market for the year. ‘‘This is the time we need the money most,’’ says Murlibhai Chhoktani of Natraj Agmark Masala. He said there was hardly any trader in the spice market who did not deal with MMCB’s main branch, located nearby.

Another trader Ashwin Modi expressed the fear that cash-strapped traders would commit suicide if they did not get their funds back. Modi himself has lost Rs 5 lakh in the bank.

‘‘The traders who have bought goods for the season are not able to make their payments,’’ he says. Modi, however, discounted fears that prices would shoot up. ‘‘Traders will dispose of their stock even at lower prices to get money to honour their commitments,’’ he explained.

Though it is difficult to gauge the exact amount of the spice market’s money with the MMCB, sources in the bank said around Rs 100 crore may be in jeopardy. Gujarat Small-Scale Masala Manufacturers’ Association secretary Atul Shah said almost all spice traders in the city had an account in the MMCB.

The MMCB crisis has also cast its shadow on the Naroda wholesale fruit market, the traders of which did most of their dealings with MMCB’s Naroda branch.

Naroda Fruit Merchants’ Association president Lachhmandas Rohra said at least 50 traders had accounts in the MMCB, and that the turnover of the industry has gone down significantly because of this. ‘‘The traders had around Rs 2 crore in their collective current accounts at MMCB,’’ he said.
Commission agent Kadabbhai Fruitwallah said that since his own money was tied up with the MMCB, he had to borrow to pay the farmers from whom he had purchased goods. The commission agents were not receiving payment from traders, he said and added that his turnover had gone down by 50 per cent since the crisis began.

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Clinton came, he saw and conquered the hearts of people in Gujarat Saturday, April 7, 2001

Ahmedabad: Former US president Bill Clinton came, he saw and conquered the hearts of people in Gujarat's quake-ravaged Kutch district with his inimitable charm, raising expectations that his visit would give a much-needed impetus to rehabilitation efforts for victims of the January 26 temblor.

Clinton, however, insisted that he had merely come to "look, listen and learn," so that the American India Foundation (AIF), which had raised "several million dollars," could decide how best it could help the victims of the quake, described as the greatest natural disaster in India's history.

Even that was enough for some of the thousands who have been rendered homeless by the quake and have been waiting for months for the government to start relief and rehabilitation programs in their villages.

Solanki Murje, a law student who traveled 200 km to get a glimpse of Clinton at Anjar, said his visit would galvanize relief operations. "The government has failed miserably in helping the people. I'm sure Clinton will be able to do something for us," he told IANS.

At several places in Bhuj, Anjar and Ratnal where Clinton interacted with the people, quake victims insisted that any relief material or funds collected by the AIF or other foreign groups should be given to local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the arid Kutch region and not to the government.

"I have no faith in the government. All that it has given to the quake victims is Rs.600 and some metal sheets for reconstructing their houses. Clinton should make sure that funds are given directly to quake victims or to NGOs," said Jitendra Bhatt, 34, an Anjar resident who lost his home in the quake.

Prominent NGOs involved with the rehabilitation of the quake victims, too, were enthusiastic in endorsing Clinton's visit as a move that could give a fillip to the programs. Bhaskar Niranjani, the coordinator of Kutch Navnirman Abhiyan (Kutch Reconstruction Initiative), said Clinton's visit would benefit Gujarat, as it would create a greater awareness about the problems till being faced by the quake victims in India and abroad. "When Clinton returns to the US, I'm sure he will take concrete steps for providing relief to the quake victims," Niranjani told IANS.

Binoy Acharya, the coordinator of Unnati, another NGO working with the people of Bhachau, a village that was devastated by the quake, said: "Clinton met the people of Kutch and got a first-hand picture of their problems during his short visit. This was not a trip organized by the government of either India or the US; it was facilitated by Americans of Indian origin, who have been doing a lot for the quake victims," he said. "Clinton came because he wanted to sympathize with the people of Kutch and that alone makes the visit significant," he added.

Clinton's whistle stop tour of quake-ravaged Ratnal, Anjar and Bhuj evoked many memories of his colorful romp through rural Rajasthan during his official visit a little over a year ago, as he broke through security cordons to shake hands and share a few words with people who had gathered hours before his arrival at several venues.

The trip to Gujarat, however, was not an entirely happy experience. Clinton looked visibly moved by his interaction with survivors of the quake, even refusing to eat during his stopover at a Red Cross-run hospital at Bhuj.

"I am shaken up. I can't find the right words. It's so depressing," AIF officials quoted Clinton as saying.

News Source-India Abroad News Service

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Western Railway starts special trains to Chandod. Saturday, April 7, 2001

VADODARA: In order to clear extra rush during Chaitri Poonam fair at Chandod on Sunday and to aid pilgrims on the Pratapnagar, Dabhoi and Chandod route, Western Railway has introduced special trains to Chandod.

The special train will start on Saturday from Dabhoi at 8.10 pm and will reach Chandod at 8.55 pm. For return journey, the train will leave Chandod at 9.30 pm. Another train will leave Pratapnagar on Saturday at 10 pm, will reach Dabhoi at 11.10 pm and arrive at Chandod at 12.45 am. The same train will start in the return direction at 2 am.

Another train will start from Dabhoi on Sunday at 11.55 am and reach Chandod at 12.35 pm. Later the same train will start from Chandod at 12.50 pm and arrive Dabhoi at 1.30 pm.

Moreover, an express special train will run between Vadodara and Dakor on Sunday. The train will start from Vadodara at 10.55 am, reach Anand at 11.40 am and Dakor at 12.25 am.

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