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April 4, 2001 - April 4, 2001

Kutchi gifts being wrapped up for Clinton Wednesday, April 4, 2001

BHUJ, Kutch: When citizen William Jefferson Clinton returns to his homeland after visiting this part of Gujarat, Kutch might find a place in the drawing room of the Clintons.

Some small gifts are being wrapped for the former president of USA. While it is not known whether citizen Clinton will taste the Gujarati fafda along with his tea, it is quite sure that Hillary and Chelsea would be getting a piece of Kutch.

For Hillary Clinton, Kutch is sending hand made silk cushion covers and wall piece with exquisite embroidery work by Kutchi artisans while daughter Chelsa is getting a small embroidered handbag with intricate designs. The stylish Mr Clinton, however, is not getting the traditional Kutchi outfit. Instead he will be given three books on life, people and culture of Kutch - something that is likely to get a prominent berth in the house of Clintons.

"We thought this would be liked by the Clintons. Books are for Mr Clinton while the rest of the things are for his family. It's beautiful kutchi work and according to us goes down well with Hilary and Chelsa's choice. We hope they like it", says Kutch district collector Anil Mukim.

He had sent students of National Institute of Designing scouting for the appropriate 'gift' to Mr Clinton. After an exhaustive look at handicraft outlets in town, the gifts were picked up from 'Srujan' in Bhujodi.

"The material, colour scheme and the work done on it is elegant, rich and at the same time simple and ethnic. The embroidery, an art where Kutchis specialize, is intricate and very colourful. We are sure this would be liked by Mr Bill Clinton and his family", says NID students' Praveen Mishra and Partho Chakravarthy.

However, Mr Clinton is likely to miss on the famous Kutchi woolen Shawl made in handloom industries here that till the January 26 earth quake were flourishing. In fact, one of the senior bureaucrats from Gandhinagar had called up to check whether the 'Kutchi Shawl' is a part of the gift.

Locals in Bhuj, still not completely recovered from January 26 tragedy, willingly suggests about the kind of welcome and gifts that the former president of United States should be presented. "Mehman Bhagwan ne saman hoe chhee emne agta swagta ma koi kasar na rakhay (Guest is like a God, we should do all that is possible to make him happy)", says Zullesh Mehta, a local here. "I feel that he should be give our traditional Kutchi food. I am sure he would like it more than the Indian kebabs that he is so fond of", Mehta says.

The administration, however, says that the reception, presentation and even the luncheon would be simple. "We have not flown

in any special dishes from outside. What we are offering him is all simple and ethnic things", Mukim said.

But many here feel that it won't be a surprise if Billy actually tastes a dabili (a kind of spicy peanuts sandwich) or buys a small piece of cloth with mirror work and embroidery for Chelsea.

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DHANDHUKA :::: Once in five-days water supply for Dhandhuka Wednesday, April 4, 2001

DHANDHUKA: Call it Mahi pipeline, call it Narmada waters, ask chief minister to inaugurate it or let there be a lot of trumpeting about it but the 40,000-odd people here receive water barely once in four to five days and spend hundreds of rupees every month on buying this precious commodity.

To the dismay of the state government, which has been putting its best foot forward to celebrate the flow of Narmada waters into parched villages and towns of Saurashtra, the people continue to call it Mahisagar and not Narmada waters.

This would be apparent if one visits Dhandhuka, a town where Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel inaugurated the Saurashtra pipeline project, as early as January 15 and celebrated the flow of 'Narmada' waters.

"We don't know whether it is Narmada or Mahi water. But it stinks at times and is full of algae and sediments," say women of Kolivada Naka of Dhandhuka.

Thirty-something Gitaben Prajapati, staying a little further in Parekh Faliyu says, "there are worms in it and it is as bad as gutter water. There are lots of bubble in it and algae too".

Her neighbours join her on her lamentations on water problems. They all agree that there is no fixed schedule for water and it is very erratic. "As such the supply is hardly for 10 to 20 minutes, that too dirty water and it can come at anytime... in the night, in the day...just anytime. If you don't pay attention, you might miss it," they all shout.

People here spend Rs 25 per barrel of water which is brought by converted autorickshaws from faraway wells and bore-wells. Batukbhai Kansariya says, "We don't get water, what we get is slush. By the time clean water starts flowing, the time's up.

People here have devised many means to carry water, apart from the autorickshaws. There are push-carts, there are hand-carts, there are cycles and scooters modified to carry water, reflecting the seriousness of the problem.

To get any conclusive information about water distribution from the municipality here is difficult as it now has an administrator, who is on leave. Mamlatdar JM Raval who is in charge says, "I have been holding charge for the past few days but there has been no complaint of lack of water supply or it being erratic. In fact we are supplying almost three lakh litres of water every day and it is supplied for half-an-hour", while admitting that there is lots of algae in the Mahi-Narmada waters.

Local Assembly member and Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Bharat Pandya, who was also in the town, insists that there is no water problem in Dhandhuka. "There is no water problem and there is enough water. People really don't have any problem but they don't have capacity to store", he says.

Deputy executive engineer of public health sub-division Dhandhuka MR Thakker says that 42 villages under the Bhadar Juth Paani Yojna are being supplied a total of 60 lakh litres of water. He admits to the turbidity problem but assures that there is nothing harmful about it, while offering a glass of water that resembles 'neembu-paani'. Everyone in Dhandhuka has similar water to offer, if one wants to have a sip of 'Narmada' waters.

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Relief camp catches fire; 12 injured Wednesday, April 4, 2001

RAJKOT: In a quake relief camp fire at Balambha on Monday, as many as 12 people received burn injuries and 27 tents were gutted. Two animals were, however, roasted alive as they were tied to the tents.

According to fire brigade sources, when the tents caught fire, the women and children were in the tents while the elders and male members were sitting outside. The exact cause of the fire could not be ascertained. The condition of three of the injured was stated to be serious.

The sources said that all the belongings salvaged from the debris of the houses were gutted in the fire which took almost three hours to be brought under control.

As many as 40 families were staying in the tents. The Jodiya mamlatdar has made an alternate arrangement of 100 tents for the affected families.

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Teachers protest far-off postings for evaluation Wednesday, April 4, 2001

VADODARA: While students taking board examinations are worried about results, the teachers too have their share of worries to shoulder. The Gujarat Secondary Education Board's (GSEB) decision to send teachers to far off-places for evaluation of answer papers has left many jittery and angry.

Teachers, especially ladies, are objecting to the decision to send them to places far away from home and for long periods.

"The GSEB send us to remote places for evaluation of answer papers. Once they assign the task to us they don't even care to provide proper accommodation, food, water and sanitation facilities," alleged city-based Secondary Teachers' Association president Jayanti Patel.

Teachers say though they had been demanding that they be sent to schools within 100 km of their homes for evaluation, the board has not paid any heed. "If the evaluation centre is within 100 km teachers can commute to the centre and back every day. Staying away from home for a long period creates stress which in turn affects their evaluation work and often many are not able to do full justice to their work," added Patel.

"Last year I was sent to Mahua, which is nearly 60 km from Surat. As transportation was a problem, I was forced to stay in a 'dharmashala' for nearly 20 days. A remote place, there was hardly any mode of communication available. So, I couldn't contact my family members in Vadodara," said Maya Vijayan, a higher secondary teacher at MGM School. She added that in the scorching heat they had to work in rooms with asbestos roofs.

Teachers allege that often GSEB assigns them the work and forgets to take care of their basic needs like food, water and shelter. "Sometimes the teachers are forced to purchase water and food from villagers as the school doesn't have drinking water facility. Add to this, the pain of separation from family," said MGM School secondary teacher Rita John.

Teachers alleged that since it's compulsory for teachers, who are a part of government aided schools, to evaluate SSC and HSC answer-sheets, many use political influence to keep away from their duty while many prefer to avail medical leave for 20 days to avoid going to remote places. "This leads to increased pressure on those undertaking evaluation work," they added.

"If Vadodara teachers are allowed to check the answer-sheets in the city schools, then the number of teachers wanting to evaluate the SSC and HSC answer-sheets would naturally increase. This will not only reduce pressure, but even evaluation will be more accurate," said Refinery English medium secondary teacher LC Joy. She added, " At present, there are times when due to shortage of teachers, a maths teacher is assigned the task of checking an English paper and vice-versa. This naturally affects the results."

" We have demanded to the GSEB that they should select schools which are closer to the railway station, so that teachers can commute. Moreover, teachers above the age of 50 and lady teachers shouldn't be sent to far-off places for paper evaluation," said Higher Secondary Teachers' Association president Kirit Bhatt.

State education minister Anandiben Patel told 'The Times of India', " The zones have been fixed and the teachers have to go to their respective zones for evaluation of SSC and HSC answer-sheets". She said that it is the teacher's duty to check the answer-sheets on time. " We do ensure that they have all facilities. If they feel that they don't have enough facility then they should ask it from us," added Patel.

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Prayers, police, parents on day one of board exams Wednesday, April 4, 2001

VADODARA: City schools wore an unusual look on Tuesday. Instead of a 'chowkidar' on the main gate of the school stood policemen, unlike the regular days when the students carry their bags to the classroom, they had to leave it outside the school gate and strange enough the number of parents in the school were more than the students.

It was the first day of the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) board exams this year. A time of the year when one came across phrases like 'Best of luck', 'Write carefully', 'Carefully read the questions', 'Don't worry, you will score good marks' near the school premises.

While some of the students were trying to recollect the answers, the religious lot were busy chanting their prayers. "I have been anxiously waiting for this day. I have worked hard throughout the year. But at this moment, I feel that I need prayers and best wishes of friends and relatives. I hope I am able to answer all the questions and score excellent marks," said a standard X student Shirish Patel.

"I am confident, as well as anxious. Actually it's a strange feeling. Before coming to the examination centre I was confident. I felt that it was like any other exam. But now after seeing the huge crowd that has gathered here, I am scared and nervous," Renuka Krishna, a standard X student said.

If standard X students were anxious to perform well to ensure admission in to either Science, Commerce or Arts stream, some of the standard XII students behaved as if their life depended on their performance in the board exams.

"I want to become a computer engineer. It's been my childhood dream. Realisation of my dreams depends on my performance in the board exams. I hope the questions are direct and easy," said a standard XII science stream student Ankita Shah. Her friend added, "I have not slept peacefully since last three or four days. I am anxiously waiting for my board exams to get over. And if I perform well in my exams, I have all the more reason to celebrate."

But there some that want to perform well in the exams, so that they can get the gifts their parents have promised them. "I know that my career doesn't depend on my performance in the board exams. But my marks will decide if I will get the new bike my father has promised me," said a standard XII commerce student Akash Patel.

But more than the students it was parent who were anxious, tense and curious. "My son is not feeling well. He has fever since last Sunday. I think the school authorities need to know about it, so that they take care of him. He is already suffering from some sort of psycho-fear that he won't be able to perform well in the exam. I am really worried for him," said a parent P Chaudhary.

"I confident that my son will perform well in the exams. I have come to the school just to boost my son's confidence. He shouldn't feel neglected or lonely," said a parent Prakash Karnik.

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