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April 6, 2001 - April 6, 2001

Adding colours to her life and Clinton's office Friday, April 6, 2001

AHMEDABAD: She was the youngest in the crowd of 'NGOs' who came to hold discussions on earthquake relief with Bill Clinton . Certainly seemed the odd one out , even in this motley gathering which comprised of less of NGOs and more of industrialists and a sprinkling of the media and the social elite.

All of 12, Prutha Desai was very much in the news when the earthquake took place on January 26. The girl got trapped under the Sangemarmar building and her right had to be amputated to extricate her. All through the operation, she was quite conscious as the surgeons sawed through her hand , right from shoulder onwards.

On Thursday , Prutha surprised everyone by presenting two paintings to the former US president . She now has an artificial hand on the right and she has started using her left hand for daily chores, even to paint lovely landscapes. Bill Clinton seemed overwhelmed by the gesture. "Isn't that lovely", he said displaying the two paintings to the gathering. Requesting the participatants at the meeting "to give her a big hand", Clinton said he would put up the painting in his office , or maybe his home. He gave back the girl the second paintings on which he wrote a note "thank you , Prutha".

The little girl, who studies in 7th standard at Mount Carmel, was all smiles as the people applauded her remarkable speedy recovery. Then she took her seat , only to be mobbed by the media which had been surprised why this shy young girl was present at all at a meeting where serious issues on earthquake relief were discussed.

The commissioner of American India Foundation (AIF) , Mukesh 'Mike' Patel , then told Clinton that Dr Daniel H Kim from Stanford University medical centre's department of neuro-surgery was in fact in Ahmedabad today and he would be having a look at the girl's amputed right hand to see if it would function better. Dr Kim, incidently, is a doctor of world repute and had performed microsurgery upon former US vice-president Al Gore's son.

The chairman of Eklavya Foundation, Sunil Handa , took Prutha immediately to Civil Hospital to meet Dr Kim . On inspection , Dr Kim , however , said nothing much could be done now that the hand had been amputated .But he still took some pictures of the artificial hand and said he will explore how the functioning could be improved.

Prutha's father , Bakul Desai , a chemicals trader, said the girl had been trapped in between a fallen beam and a car in the parking lot of Sangemarmar complex. After spending over 30 hours in excruciating pain, she had herself told her parents to get her hand amputated in order to get freedom from the pain. Later , the artificial limb was put in place by Dr Vijay Nayak who has returned from England to settle down in Bhavnagar.Prutha's case was also put up on the internet and had drawn a number of offers from all over the world , including the world-renowned Ottobock (Germany) , which offered to do the prosthesis free of cost.

Desai said Prutha had won several national and international awards in painting over the years , including a silver medal by well-known cartoonist , Shanker, who organises a children's art competition every year. Prutha has now started painting with her left hand and undergoes a half-hour routine four times each day to practice things like lifting a bucket of water, sifting through sand and , of course, doing what she does best - adding colour to her life.

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Surat population registers highest growth Friday, April 6, 2001

SURAT: The city with population figure touching over 28 lakh has registered the highest growth rate in the state as per the provisional data for the Census, 2001, compared to the population of around 15 lakh recorded in the 1991 Census.

But, with only 835 females per 1,000 males - 66 less compared to 901 women recorded a decade ago, the city has registered one of the lowest sex ratios in the state, above only Mehsana and Ahmedabad with 798 and 814 women respectively for every 1,000 men.

Migration of male workers in the last decade to this industrial city from other parts of the country could be one of the reasons for low sex ratio but comparative figures of the last two Census are indicative of traditional social trends on the issue of gender, where preference for a male child still widely prevails, according to social scientists.

However, they attribute the low sex ratio in the industrial city primarily to the influx of outsiders in search of livelihood and observe that the pattern is more or less common to all the industrialised centres in the country, with Surat being no exception.

Says Vidyut Joshi of Centre for Social Studies, "Rapid industrialisation of the city in the last decade has resulted into inflow of male workers, leaving behind their families at their native places. Hence, ratio of male and female does not represent the real picture for any assessment of sex ratio at the region level. But, overall the sex ratio in the country has marked better compared to the figure in the 1991 Census."

However, other reasons too could be assigned for the low sex ratio in this region, according to several social scientists. Sex determination tests, increasing cases of abortions and foeticide and preference for a male child too have contributed for widening the figurative gap between the number of women and men.

Moreover, single child norm is also catching up among the married couples in the city. But, this holds only when the first child for the young couples happen to be a male one, for keeping the nuclear family size restricted to just three.

This trend is typical in the elite middle class section where preference for a male child is often medically manipulated through sex determination test of the foetus and getting it aborted if not found to be of male sex, says a city-based medical practitioner.

Large number of abortion cases are reported but in absence of any official statistics, it would be difficult to pinpoint any trend towards any preference for keeping family size limited or having only male child, opines a gynaecologist. She adds that in the last few years, a number of clinics have come up with sonography facilities, which assist the desirous in determining the birth of the child only after knowing the sex of the foetus. But, the determination of sex is resorted to only in the case of second or thereafter pregnancies, she informs.

Resorting to medical aid for having a child of preferred sex is a reflection on the gender imbalance in the society. But, on the other hand, for young urban couples, the concept of child raising has assumed new dimensions and more often, one child is thought to be manageable for his all-round development but more than one could be a strain not only on the hard to be found leisure hours but also on the family income for rearing the young children.

The urban social face having a lean towards material gains over earlier traditions rooted in sociological derivations based on economic strength of the family in its sheer size, is the in-thing for many a couple.

"Hum do, hamare do" (we two, our two) - the ideal nuclear family size aimed to put a check on the population explosion in the country in the 1970's and 1980's, has been bereft of sensitisation of gender issue, as this has almost been negated because family planning measures have failed to change the mind set with preference over a male offspring, observes a sociologist.

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VMC ignoring major source of water: Cong Friday, April 6, 2001

VADODARA: At a time when the city is facing a severe water crisis, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has been ignoring a major source of water at hand.

Congress leaders allege that VMC failed to use water from Targol Tank near Bodeli, though the Corporation had spent a fortune to store water.

In order to overcome the water crisis gripping the city, the VMC had purchased water from the state irrigation department in two phases. While water was drawn from the Dev Dam in the first phase, it was Sukhi Dam water that was used during the second phase.

Congress leaders allege that during both these phases, water was collected in the Targol Tank, before it was finally taken to the Ajwa reservoir close to the city. And, this water still remains untapped, thereby not utilisation what has already been paid for, they say.

"Flush with the success of getting water from the Narmada, the VMC just ignored this huge source of water which it had purchased," said Congress corporator Manoj Thakore.

"During the first phase, VMC paid Rs 16 lakh in advance to the irrigation department for drawing 1,847.04 gallon water from the Dev Project, when the water level at the French wells on Mahi river began to drop. Later on, they had to pay 20 paise per thousand litre of water drawn as reservation charge and 30 paise per thousand litre as water charge," added Thakore.

According to reliable sources in the VMC, this water was drawn for nearly two months. "But, as the Dev Canal's head regulator was higher than the river bed level, VMC could draw only 70 per cent water. As rest of the water was to be pumped out, no one cared to take the water," said a VMC official.

Later, in the second phase the VMC decided to purchase water from Sukhi Project, near Chotta Udepur. Generally, farmers use water from Sukhi Dam for irrigation. But this year as there is acute drought, Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel declared that this water shouldn't be used for irrigation purpose.

"Water was carried by the VMC from Sukhi Dam to Dev Dam and from there to the Targol Tank near Bodeli, where this water was stored. It was then channelled to Ajwa reservoir," said an official in the VMC's water department.

"The corporation had also signed a contract with the Vadodara irrigation circle to draw 31,450 lakh gallon water from Sukhi dam. They also paid an advance of Rs 28 lakh for the same, but have drawn only 25,160 lakh gallon water. Nearly 6,290 lakh gallon water is still lying unused in the Targol Tank," alleged Thakore.

Congress leaders claim that water from Sukhi Dam was transferred to the Targol Tank in December last year and the VMC continued to take water from here till mid-February this year. It was in February this year that the state government gave permission to the Corporation to draw water from Narmada.

Even the irrigation department has sent two reminders to the VMC, advising them to draw water from the Targol Tank at the earliest. "VMC officials have not responded to our letters. VMC is yet to pay us Rs 59 lakh," said Baroda Irrigation department superintending engineer PR Modi. Irrigation department officials say that in the letter they have also made it clear that they won't be responsible if water is pilfered from the Targol Tank.

However, municipal commissioner Vilasani Ramchandran told 'The Times of India' that she was not aware of availability of water in the Targol Tank. City engineer BS Trapasia refused to comment on the issue.

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Kutchi shawls have mesmerising effect on Bill Friday, April 6, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Former US president Bill Clinton on Thursday evinced keen interest in traditional Kutchi embroidered shawls and other handicraft items he was presented with by Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and assured all possible assistance for marketing these abroad.

During a brief chat with Union minister for textiles Kashiram Rana, soon after a video presentation by the state government, Clinton told him that "we will help to market these items in the US and help the artisans".

While appreciating the traditional art of Kutch, Clinton said the NGOs in US could definitely arrange for marketing such items and asked Rana to write to him or the American India Foundation for opening special outlets for selling these items.

Pointing at his silk tie, Clinton told Rana that he had purchased it from Heathrow airport where he had seen some embroidered work from India.

Rana said on reaching New Delhi he would send a team of officials from the handloom and handicraft directorate to Kutch for exploring the possibility of exporting traditional Kutch items to the US.

Clinton made searching queries on the adverse impact of the quake on the livelihood of lakhs of artisans in the region. Rana told him that the government planned to spend Rs 10 crore for revival of the handloom and handicraft sector which had suffered major losses. In all Rs 28 crore had been sanctioned for artisans, weavers and other self-employed workers of Kutch and Saurashtra.

Rana, while speaking to 'The Times of India', said he apprised Clinton of the fact that the government had already set up four craft development centres, including one at Anjar which the former had visited on Wednesday. The other centres had been opened at Dhamdka near Bhuj and Bhachau where more than 5,000 artisan families live.

Clinton also had a word of appreciation for the screen-printing designs made by students of the National Institute of Fashion technology in Gandhinagar.
News Source - The Times of India

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Babudom sidelines elected bodies in Kutch Friday, April 6, 2001

BHUJ: Last week the Bhuj taluka panchayat held its general meeting and the members paid condolences to the quake-affected, passed the annual budget and resolved to meet again to discuss how to tackle the natural calamity that struck the district more than two months ago.

Surprising but this is true. The administration of one of the worst- hit talukas in the country did not meet till last week despite the tragedy that has left over 20,000 people dead in the state.

But this is not a sad commentry on the way things happen in these parts of the state, says taluka panchayat vice-president Rupabhai Chaadh. This is a true story of how a democracy has been crushed under the weight of a terrible natural disaster.

While on the one hand people, internatioal organisations and NGOs have decided to help residents of Kutch directly by not involving the government, on the other the government has done what it has been doing for years-relying on babus to go out and fight when the chips are down.

So we have liaison officers for Anjar, Rapar, Bhachau, Bhuj, district collectors, local MLAs, ministers, relief commissionerate people, Suresh Mehta, Ashok Bhatt, Mukesh Parikh, a clutch of powerfull, who is working at the behest of Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, but no one is asking the elected representatives of the people. They are nowhere in the picture.

So when Bill Clinton came with his entourage of 40 journalists from the US and many more white-skinned scribes from Europe, their common refrain was "nothing has changed from the days after earthquake." Said a correspondent of The Washington Post during the Clinton press briefs, "Two months after the quake I expected a smile if not anything else but the government has not been able to bring even that leave alone houses, schools, hospitals or removing debris."

Says a angry Chaadh, "Democracy is for peace times and not when there is a war. So the taluka and district panchayat presidents and chairmen of various district and taluka panchayat boards have lived through two and a half months without any responsibility, charge or obligation."

Says Laxmanbhai B Dangar, member of the district panchayat and community leader from Lodai, "All these 180 villages in the district made me a member of the panchayat but as of today my only headache is that of Lodai."

And this has had a terrible effect on the post-quake management with junior engineers, TDOs, DDOs, talatis and liaison officers ruling the roost, ordering galvanised sheets when no one is accepting them and playing havoc with lives of people of Bhuj district.

"No one listens to us," says Jana Hamir, a resident of Khengarpara. There is so much debris to clear and the work started only last week. By the time the whole village is cleared it would be monsoon and one will have to wait till winter to start rebuilding houses.

From clearing debris to fodder for animals, who are falling like nine pins, to handing over cash doles and new ration cards, people have a complaint for almost everything. But, as Hamir said, there is no one to listen to.

Because, says Dangar, these people complain to leaders they have votes for as they know that Babus will not listen to them. The Babus don't have a obligation or attachment, just work and that too the government style, so the people feel unrepresented.

News Source - The Times of India

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