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April 5, 2001 - April 5, 2001

Quake relief supplies sell in open market Thursday, April 5, 2001

KUTCH: If some government employee in Gujarat comes under some corruption charge, he is likely to be transferred to Kutch region. This is an old custom.

Further, if someone is caught in Kutch itself, he may be shifted to Khadir or Vagad - those godforsaken barren corners of Kutch. But these punishment spots have now become pleasure spots following the arrival of truckloads of quake relief supplies from different countries, if reports coming from Rapar and nearby areas are any indication.

Medical kits from Holland, badami khajur (dates) from Palestine and Afghanistan, Japan's costly tents, kerosene, sugar and rice - almost everything meant for the victims of quake is now openly sold in Rapar at premium rates, says Kutch Mitra, a daily published from Bhuj.

People of the state, and Kutch in particular, were amused by last two weeks of power play between BJP and Congress, inside and outside the state Assembly. Focus was on relief supplies allegedly reaching the homes of some ruling party politicians. Chief Minister angrily denied and challenged Congress leader Amarsinh Chaudhary to prove his allegation or apologise. He did neither.

But you visit Rapar and you will come across an international market there. Even two truckloads of toys for quake-affected children have disappeared. Abdulla Alam, Uka Natha, Lakshmansinh Vaghela, Gagodar's Allarakha Raoma, BJP youth wing's Jagdish Vanol, Vaghji Prajapati, Anopsinh Jadeja and Mahendrasinh Vaghela recounted all the "gobbled up crores worth of goods" on their fingertips to the press.

The Netherlands branch of International Dispensary Association has sent a truckload of medical kits valued at around Rs 45 lakh. You open the kit and a mini-hospital stands before you within minutes. But a doctor on attendance (he has been named by the media) passed on 20 kits worth Rs 9 lakh straight from Rapar to Bhiloda. This happened in front of 50 to 60 injured victims waiting there for treatment. The doctor shouted at them from the truck, "come tomorrow"!

Similarly, Japan had sent 165 Ferino brand big tents for health centres. Thirty tents, valued at Rs 31,000 each, were taken away by three to four officials! Some people from Vagad told the press that some doctors distributed these tents with ten windows each to their staff but they returned them saying they did not need them anymore. So, the tents were finally sold away at Rs 5,000 each in the town itself. You can see those tents outside some houses in Rapar.

Six tonnes of badami khajur meant for the victims came by plane from Palestine and Afghanistan. It landed at Ahmedabad when Bhuj airport had no runway available. Trucks did reach Kutch later on from there but distribution must be "dubious", as yellow packets of this special date, which serves as hunger killer and energy giver even if one eats three or four, are now sold in Rapar at Rs 300 for each packet! Some press persons followed the trail and it was found that part of the stock also went to some officials' homes in Ahmedabad.

The driver who had carried the dates in trucks for the officials, told the press that he also carried 7,000 tarpaulins, 20 trucks of wheat, 5 trucks of rice, half a truckload of sugar and 8 tankers of kerosene out of Kutch to Rajasthan and the rest of Gujarat.

Rapar's international market has become so famous that business parties from Chennai, Mumbai, Surat and Bharuch come here for wholesale deals. Kutch Mitra says that relief commissioner A K Sharma could not be contacted, though he was there for few days with other officials.

Taluka officials told the press that all the goods were recorded on computers, but despite repeated requests, no copies of the lists were made available to the press.

In short, many quake victims are still waiting for relief. Why not an enquiry be instituted in such reports? People will not shy away from telling the truth.

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Quake relief supplies sell in open market Thursday, April 5, 2001

KUTCH: If some government employee in Gujarat comes under some corruption charge, he is likely to be transferred to Kutch region. This is an old custom.

Further, if someone is caught in Kutch itself, he may be shifted to Khadir or Vagad - those godforsaken barren corners of Kutch. But these punishment spots have now become pleasure spots following the arrival of truckloads of quake relief supplies from different countries, if reports coming from Rapar and nearby areas are any indication.

Medical kits from Holland, badami khajur (dates) from Palestine and Afghanistan, Japan's costly tents, kerosene, sugar and rice - almost everything meant for the victims of quake is now openly sold in Rapar at premium rates, says Kutch Mitra, a daily published from Bhuj.

People of the state, and Kutch in particular, were amused by last two weeks of power play between BJP and Congress, inside and outside the state Assembly. Focus was on relief supplies allegedly reaching the homes of some ruling party politicians. Chief Minister angrily denied and challenged Congress leader Amarsinh Chaudhary to prove his allegation or apologise. He did neither.

But you visit Rapar and you will come across an international market there. Even two truckloads of toys for quake-affected children have disappeared. Abdulla Alam, Uka Natha, Lakshmansinh Vaghela, Gagodar's Allarakha Raoma, BJP youth wing's Jagdish Vanol, Vaghji Prajapati, Anopsinh Jadeja and Mahendrasinh Vaghela recounted all the "gobbled up crores worth of goods" on their fingertips to the press.

The Netherlands branch of International Dispensary Association has sent a truckload of medical kits valued at around Rs 45 lakh. You open the kit and a mini-hospital stands before you within minutes. But a doctor on attendance (he has been named by the media) passed on 20 kits worth Rs 9 lakh straight from Rapar to Bhiloda. This happened in front of 50 to 60 injured victims waiting there for treatment. The doctor shouted at them from the truck, "come tomorrow"!

Similarly, Japan had sent 165 Ferino brand big tents for health centres. Thirty tents, valued at Rs 31,000 each, were taken away by three to four officials! Some people from Vagad told the press that some doctors distributed these tents with ten windows each to their staff but they returned them saying they did not need them anymore. So, the tents were finally sold away at Rs 5,000 each in the town itself. You can see those tents outside some houses in Rapar.

Six tonnes of badami khajur meant for the victims came by plane from Palestine and Afghanistan. It landed at Ahmedabad when Bhuj airport had no runway available. Trucks did reach Kutch later on from there but distribution must be "dubious", as yellow packets of this special date, which serves as hunger killer and energy giver even if one eats three or four, are now sold in Rapar at Rs 300 for each packet! Some press persons followed the trail and it was found that part of the stock also went to some officials' homes in Ahmedabad.

The driver who had carried the dates in trucks for the officials, told the press that he also carried 7,000 tarpaulins, 20 trucks of wheat, 5 trucks of rice, half a truckload of sugar and 8 tankers of kerosene out of Kutch to Rajasthan and the rest of Gujarat.

Rapar's international market has become so famous that business parties from Chennai, Mumbai, Surat and Bharuch come here for wholesale deals. Kutch Mitra says that relief commissioner A K Sharma could not be contacted, though he was there for few days with other officials.

Taluka officials told the press that all the goods were recorded on computers, but despite repeated requests, no copies of the lists were made available to the press.

In short, many quake victims are still waiting for relief. Why not an enquiry be instituted in such reports? People will not shy away from telling the truth.

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Bandh observed in Dhrol over quake survey Thursday, April 5, 2001

RAJKOT: The Jamnagar district administration on Wednesday faced the wrath of people of Dhrol taluka for conducting survey of the damaged properties in the region in an haphazard manner. Dhrol was one of the few regions in Jamnagar which had suffered extensive damage in the January 26 killer quake and no proper survey was done of the quake-affected areas.

Complete bandh and chakkajam was observed in the entire region. Tension prevailed in the entire Dhrol taluka, as people came out on the streets and stopped traffic on the Dhrol-Rajkot highway. People also shouted slogans against the Jamnagar district administration for conducting survey of the quake-affected areas in an haphazard manner.

A rally was also organised at Gandhi Chowk at around 11 am on Wednesday, after which they marched to the mamlatdar's office and submitted a memorandum. The rally was led by Dhrol legislator Raghavji Patel.

Residents of neighbouring villages like Latipar, Vakiya and Parva have decided not to withdraw the chakkajam till a concrete assurance is given by Jamnagar district authorities. The situation got tense after the villagers started flocking towards the taluka headquarters at Dhrol.

The residents complained that those who had suffered 100 percent damage in their buildings, the survey assessment figures were however, pegged at just 25 percent. On the other hand some of the official buildings have been shown as having suffered major damages. The buildings where the assessment have been undermined belongs to poor people, said Patel while speaking to The Times of India. There are as many as 42 such villages in the taluka.

The local population have made representations to the district administration, the chief minister, the chief secretary, the revenue minister and even the local MP, yet no action has been taken to rectify the figures of damages.

A huge contingent of police force have been deployed at Dhrol and in the interior villages to avoid any untoward incident from taking place, especially with the Muharram festival round the corner.

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Cars to consumer forum presidents draws flak Thursday, April 5, 2001

VADODARA: The state government's decision to provide Maruti Zen cars to 25 district consumer forum presidents at a cost of Rs 90 lakh has been criticised by the State Consumer Protection Council member Ashok Mehta. He says the money could have been used for setting up more divisional benches to dispose of over 12,000 pending cases in various consumer forums of the state.

Mehta has shared this opinion with other members of the State Consumer Protection Council. "While, on the one hand, the government talks of cutting costs it has spent more than Rs 90 lakh on buying cars and would spent further on maintenance of these cars. Instead the government should have used the amount to set up more divisions in the district forums that have a large backlog of cases," says Mehta who is also jury member of the Vadodara District Consumer Grievances Redressal Forum.

Lawyers specialising in the Consumer Protection Act have demanded from time to time that legal procedures of the district forums should be simplified and more than one division should be started in the district so that the backlog of cases can be resolved quickly.

According to Mehta most district forums in the state require more staff so that the additional cases can be resolved. Moreover, there are five district forums that of Junagadh, Jamnagar, Kutch, Himatnagar and Bharuch where the post of the president has not been filled in yet.

Mehta says there are other measures too that can taken to expedite the court procedures speedily. "If complaints are accepted in the form of affidavits when they first filed then cases of misuse of legal machinery can be curtailed. At present the case is admitted as an affidavit only after notice is issued to the opponents and they react to it," he says.

He said the primary scrutinisation of the complaints should be undertaken at the time of the admission itself so that the complainant does not waste time money and effort in pursuing a case that does not fall in the territorial jurisdiction of the district forum he said.

He opined that the government should not have invested money in buying cars for presidents who do not have to undertake any official tours.

However, many lawyers say that the need to provide cars to presidents was one their long-standing demands in addition to that of having more division benches to cater to the huge backlog of pending cases. Advocate Rekha Desai says, "We had in fact asked the state government to provide such sops to forum presidents. As per rules only a retired district judge or a person qualified to be a district judge, such as an assistant district judge, can be given presidentship of the consumer forum.

"But this post is not favoured by many, as it does not have the sops that come with the post of the district judge, that of a car and residential quarters. It is good that the state government gives such sop to consumer forum presidents," says Desai.

She said that the government also needs to appoint qualified staff for the court work. "At present the zilla panchayat staff are being diverted to the consumer forum. But they are unaware of legal matters and therefore find it difficult to grasp the work as easily as the staff who work in other courts," she said.

Due to this the pressure on the presidents mount as they have to train staff in legal matters. Even if retired clerks from courts are appointed the legal procedures can be processed quicker she said.

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JAMNAGAR :::: GAIL denies gas leakage reports Thursday, April 5, 2001

JAMNAGAR: The Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) officials on Wednesday clarified that no gas leakage had taken place in the city and its surrounding areas on Tuesday as reported by some local newspapers.

Fog in the atmosphere had sent shock waves among people who feared it was due to gas leakage in the GAIL pipelines which pass from near the city.

The local newspapers had reported the fog in the sky was due to gas leakage near Mokarvada village.

GAIL's HR manager N K Raju said the reports were baseless and the same was confirmed by the findings of the fire brigade of the Jamnagar Municipal Corporation.

The GAIL, Raju said, being one of the 'Nav Ratna' companies of the Union government, had taken all safety measures and it had recently received a number of awards for maintenance and safety of its pipelines.

The GAIL pipeline, he said, had sectionalising valve section every 15-20 km for monitoring the pressure of LPG and its substations reported the same round the clock.

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