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April 4, 2001 - April 4, 2001

3 banks suspend bullion trade Wednesday, April 4, 2001

The Classic Co-operative Bank crisis has forced three major banks to suspend bullion operations in Gujarat forcing the local bullion dealers and traders to depend on Mumbai for procurement of their gold requirement.

The local bullion market earlier reported a lull after the Rs 70-crore-bullion scam, which was unearthed in the first week of March. It involved fake pay orders issued by cooperative banks to nationalised banks and a couple of foreign banks.

Sources in the banking circles said that as fallout, recently the leading bullion banks, including the State Bank of India, Bank of India and Standard Chartered Bank have suspended their bullion banking operations in the city.

The state’s entire bullion business was conducted from Ahmedabad. The city was known to be controlling over 40 per cent of the country’s bullion trade.

Sources in the banking circles also informed that other Corporation bank, Dena bank, Syndicate bank and Oriental bank of Commerce, among others, had earlier suspended their bullion operations smelling a foul play in the market.

Sources also confirmed that in the present scenario they have stopped bullion trading. However, the officials refused to go on record.

This has led to the crisis for the local bullion dealers and traders Though the demand for gold biscuits (10 tola TT bars) has trickled to 1,000 TT bars per day the traders are finding it difficult to procure them.

While part of the demand for the TT bars is obtained from the MMTC the remaining is said to be met by bringing TT bars from Mumbai. Getting TT bars from Mumbai has been a costly affair for the local bullion traders as the Maharashira goveminent is charging sales tax on them.

As per the sources in the market, the TT bars at present are beeing purchased at a price much higher than the pre-scam penod. The gold TT bars from MMTC and Mumbai bullion market are costing Rs 49,400 per bar against Rs 49,100 before the scam. RBI regional director V S Das when contacted on the issue said that he was not aware of any such development.

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Clinton's visit raises Kutch's hopes for better deal Wednesday, April 4, 2001

'The numbers alone numb the senses -- more than 20,000 dead, 1.7 million injured, one million homeless. More than 1,200 schools were destroyed. More than one million homes must be repaired or rebuilt. For all the work that has been completed, damage estimates still reach above Rs 350 billion. And there is no way of accounting for livelihoods lost and lives disrupted. Nothing can erase the devastating loss of the earthquake. Perhaps the best way to honour those who were lost in this terrible tragedy is to work with the survivors to create a better future.'

Thus wrote former United States president Bill Clinton before embarking on his visit to India.

Clinton's post-presidential social endeavour in Kutch, a remote corner of western India, promises to catalyze a new trend in the undying quest of non-resident Indians to remain connected to their roots. What Jewish Americans did for Israel after World War II, Indian Americans want to do for the land of their birth in 2001. The American India Foundation is a manifestation of this desire.

Clinton's visit, the 'photo-ops' it will give rise to and his active participation as chairman of the AIF may also help to focus some attention back on the devastated people of Kutch, who seem to have dropped off the country's radar after the initial outpouring of grief and assistance.

Sushma Iyengar, secretary of Abhiyaan, a non-governmental organisation, says, "The AIF wants to qualitatively help quake victims. They want to help build shelters for the homeless. Mr Clinton's exact role is not known, but I suppose he wants a personal impression. We will be meeting him in Ahmedabad on April 5 to give him an idea of our work."

Bhuj Collector Anil Mukim told rediff.com, "Mr Clinton is a person who likes to meet people. He will have an opportunity to meet victims of the earthquake. We take this opportunity very positively. The world community came to our help in our hour of need. Now the renowned world leader is coming to visit us; we welcome this."

What about likely protests against the allegedly tardy relief work in the district? "There is no question of that," says Mukim confidently. "The people of Kutch know the value of dignity."

A social worker of Sukhpar village, who didn't want to be named, said, "The President of America is coming with Rs 400 crore! Kutchis should be proud." [Clearly, many are still unaware that Clinton is no longer the president.]

But there are sceptics too. "We must not forget that Clinton is a Democrat and the Republicans are ruling the US. A few Indian Americans who support the Democrats are behind Clinton's visit. The US government has not announced any special help for Kutch. So I think the scope of Clinton's visit is limited. He is coming to oblige his Indian friends in America who might have donated generously to his party or Hillary Clinton's election," remarked Kirty Khatri, editor of Kutch Mitra, a local daily.

But Mahim Pandhi, a writer, was more optimistic: "Who knows, while talking to the quake victims Clinton might rediscover himself and find meaningful career options."

"Another important achievement of Clinton's Kutch exercise will, hopefully, be the creation of a focused, harmonious and cohesive new platform in the chaotic scene of hundreds of Indian socio-political organisations in the US," said the chief of a Bhuj-based organisation that operates on funds sent by American NRIs.

A critic of the Gujarat government quipped, "We hope his visit is not reduced to 'disaster tourism'. If Clinton is successful in selecting the appropriate NGOs and uses his media savvy to attract more money to build more shelters here, he can become a hero of Kutch and a true global leader."

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Clinton's Gujarat visit commences today Wednesday, April 4, 2001

AHMEDABAD: On Wednesday, when Bill Clinton sets his foot on the soil of Gujarat, which shook violently a little over two months ago, Gujaratis settled in the United States will be cheering pulling off a public relations coup of sorts.

The commissioner of the American India Foundation, Mike Patel, which is organising the visit, said, "Clinton's presence in Gujarat will be a great boost to our fund raising efforts for the earthquake victims, if some family plans to give us $5,000 , I am sure they will now be giving $15,000 instead".

And for the Gujarat government , which had been seeing the inflow of funds coming down to a trickle two months after the earthquake, the Clinton visit comes as another opportunity to bring back focus on the extensive devastation caused by the earthquake. Says Dr Sudhir Parikh of the Indian-American National Foundation, "the earthquake has been off the front pages of US newspapers and prime time television for some time now , this visit will again bring the issue to centre stage".

Clinton, who arrived in Delhi on Tuesday evening will reach Bhuj in Kutch at around noon on Wednesday and visit Ratnal and Anjar before reaching Ahmedabad in the evening. On Thursday, he will meet representatives of nine NGOs engaged in earthquake relief and also discuss the channelising of funds from the US to Gujarat with government representatives led by Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.

The fund raising efforts in the USA is being coordinated by the Indian community , especially those of Gujarat origin, who comprise 63 per cent of the total Indian expatriates , according to the latest census figures. Dr Suvas Desai, a trustee of the AIF, said the foundation's immediate aim was to raise $ 20 million for rebuilding of 40 destroyed villages.All this money will be routed to the NGOs working in specific areas of health, education , rebuilding and employment generation . "The ultimate aim is to collect $50 million", he said.

Organisers gave the example of several successful Indian businessmen who had given huge sums for the earthquake victims and responded well to the fund-raising programmes being supported by the likes of Deepak Chopra, M C Hammer and Jennifer Lopez. Clinton himself had agreed to attend the fund-raisers at 6 different venues , the first of which was at Silicon Valley where $7 million were raised. "This tragedy has united the entire Indian community in the US , its not something which affected just the Gujaratis", said Digvijay Gaekwad from Florida.

Mike Patel said in one case, a successful Indian woman, Lata Krishnan had promptly paid the AIF $1million when she heard about the earthquake. "These people have made it pretty big in the US, but they don't forget where they come from ", he said. Asked why the AIF had chosen to support the NGOs , rather than putting the money in the government's relief fund, Patel said, "we are an NGO and we would like to deal with NGOs, but we could fund the government if it comes up with a good project".

The AIF members said they were also lobbying actively with the Congressional Caucus on India for a $100 million assistance to India from the US government. However, for this, the Indian government will have to first write to the US administration seeking financial assistance .The AIF is also banking heavily on powerful organisations like the Asian American Hoteliers Association (AAHA) which owns more than half of the hotels across the USA. AAHA representative, Preeti Patel said the association had already contributed $5 million so far for the earthquake.

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Clinton's Gujarat visit commences today Wednesday, April 4, 2001

AHMEDABAD: On Wednesday, when Bill Clinton sets his foot on the soil of Gujarat, which shook violently a little over two months ago, Gujaratis settled in the United States will be cheering pulling off a public relations coup of sorts.

The commissioner of the American India Foundation, Mike Patel, which is organising the visit, said, "Clinton's presence in Gujarat will be a great boost to our fund raising efforts for the earthquake victims, if some family plans to give us $5,000 , I am sure they will now be giving $15,000 instead".

And for the Gujarat government , which had been seeing the inflow of funds coming down to a trickle two months after the earthquake, the Clinton visit comes as another opportunity to bring back focus on the extensive devastation caused by the earthquake. Says Dr Sudhir Parikh of the Indian-American National Foundation, "the earthquake has been off the front pages of US newspapers and prime time television for some time now , this visit will again bring the issue to centre stage".

Clinton, who arrived in Delhi on Tuesday evening will reach Bhuj in Kutch at around noon on Wednesday and visit Ratnal and Anjar before reaching Ahmedabad in the evening. On Thursday, he will meet representatives of nine NGOs engaged in earthquake relief and also discuss the channelising of funds from the US to Gujarat with government representatives led by Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.

The fund raising efforts in the USA is being coordinated by the Indian community , especially those of Gujarat origin, who comprise 63 per cent of the total Indian expatriates , according to the latest census figures. Dr Suvas Desai, a trustee of the AIF, said the foundation's immediate aim was to raise $ 20 million for rebuilding of 40 destroyed villages.All this money will be routed to the NGOs working in specific areas of health, education , rebuilding and employment generation . "The ultimate aim is to collect $50 million", he said.

Organisers gave the example of several successful Indian businessmen who had given huge sums for the earthquake victims and responded well to the fund-raising programmes being supported by the likes of Deepak Chopra, M C Hammer and Jennifer Lopez. Clinton himself had agreed to attend the fund-raisers at 6 different venues , the first of which was at Silicon Valley where $7 million were raised. "This tragedy has united the entire Indian community in the US , its not something which affected just the Gujaratis", said Digvijay Gaekwad from Florida.

Mike Patel said in one case, a successful Indian woman, Lata Krishnan had promptly paid the AIF $1million when she heard about the earthquake. "These people have made it pretty big in the US, but they don't forget where they come from ", he said. Asked why the AIF had chosen to support the NGOs , rather than putting the money in the government's relief fund, Patel said, "we are an NGO and we would like to deal with NGOs, but we could fund the government if it comes up with a good project".

The AIF members said they were also lobbying actively with the Congressional Caucus on India for a $100 million assistance to India from the US government. However, for this, the Indian government will have to first write to the US administration seeking financial assistance .The AIF is also banking heavily on powerful organisations like the Asian American Hoteliers Association (AAHA) which owns more than half of the hotels across the USA. AAHA representative, Preeti Patel said the association had already contributed $5 million so far for the earthquake.

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A memorial that'll go when Clinton does Wednesday, April 4, 2001

ANJAR, Kutch: When William Jefferson Clinton unveils on Wednesday a plaque in memory of 200 primary school children who perished in Anjar on January 26 while marching in the Republic Day parade, the former US president will unwittingly become part of a controversy raging here.

'Billton', as some Kutchis call him, will not be aware that the memorial that he would be unveiling in what was Khatri Chowk will be removed hours after he leaves Anjar.

That is because the memorial, a 3-by-3 feet plaque, has been erected on a piece of land that was once a Kutchi handicrafts shop, owned by Hanif Khatri. And Khatri is furious that the administration did not seek his permission before installing the plaque.

"I am not a spoil sport," Khatri told The Times of India. "These people want to make a show for Bill Clinton and when he will give the money, they will siphon it and the people of Anjar will not get anything," he alleged.

According to Hanif Khatri, the memorial is being raised where he once had a shop and the administration did not have the "courtesy" to seek his permission. "I was in New Anjar township and someone told me that the government was occupying my land so I rushed to the site in Khatri chowk and discovered this plaque to my horror," Khatri said.

Hanif Khatri protested vociferously when Deputy Collector Rajendra Sarvaiya came visiting. Initially, Sarvaiya tried to impress upon Khatri that after the earthquake, the land claims had become null and void, and anyway Khatri would get land for resettlement elswhere.

However, Khatri contested that till the government comes up with a rehabilitation package, he continues to own the land. A few arguments later Sarvaiya gave up. "Okay, we will demolish the memorial after Bill leaves and then make a proper memorial somewhere else," he told Khatri and repeated these words for the benefit of these correspondents of The Times of India, who were present at the site. However after publication of this story, what will be the government's stand is not known.

Says Hanif's elder brother, Haji Ismayil, ``We have 16 shops and as many houses. We loved the children and we would like to donate land to raise a memorial but this is not the way. The mason just walked in with spade and bricks and built a memorial plaque without consulting us. This is not done.''

However, the gimmick is not going down well with the people of Anjar who are fed up with the government's handling of post-quake relief. Says Bhagwanji Varu, a 73-year-old communist party worker, "They are trying to build a memorial of deceit."

Varu, who claims to have waved black flags when Jawaharlal Nehru came after the 1956 quake that razed Anjar, said, "I will shout at Bill."

"So what if he is former president of a super power. Let Vajpayee and Keshubhai play up to him, the people of Anjar will not."

Says Jaishil Siddhpura, trustee of Anjar Group 2001, a people's movement for rehabilitation of Anjar, "The government is using Bhuj, Bhachau and Anjar as show pieces, they beg on our behalf and siphon away the funds sent for relief."

Jhaverben B Prajapati lost his 13-year-old son, Dharmesh, in that Republic Day rally. He says the manner in which the government was preparing the memorial only for Clinton's visit was distasteful. "This cannot be a memorial for my patriot son, it may be a gimmick to appease politicians," he said.

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