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April 3, 2001 - April 3, 2001

Narmada will open door to Saurashtra's development: CM Tuesday, April 3, 2001

RAJKOT: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, addressing a big gathering at Gondal on Monday, said the Narmada water which has reached Saurashtra would open the door to development of the arid region. Now the uncertainty over future of the common man would come to an end.

Welcoming the Narmada water, he said it would be the endeavour of the state government to supply the same to the three districts of Jamnagar, Kutch and Surendranagar by May 31, 2002. The reaching of water was also welcomed at a function organised at Jetpur.

The Narmada water has been brought to Gondal after traversing a distance of nearly 550 km which is almost the same as that between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

The chief minister declared amid thunderous clappings that the state government would not collect water charges from people and farmers but hastened to add, "I only want a sensible use of this water which is precious as well as pious."

He called upon farmers to adopt drip irrigation for which the state government is giving 60 per cent subsidy. Results have shown that drip irrigation has given better yield. "With the Narmada water, people can grow more trees. Farmers should go in for a wider variety of cropping than merely groundnut and cotton," he said.

Keshubhai said that balanced growth of the Saurashtra region is not possible without enough water. Unfortunately, development has been concentrated between Vapi and Ahmedabad and that too on both sides of the rail track.

"If there is sufficient water, development would come and people need not migrate to other places. One of the reasons for population explosion in Surat is the large number of migrant labourers who had come because of the city's development," he said.

The youth of Gujarat, particularly Saurashtra, have the will to prosper but are handicapped because of severe water crisis. Their constructive days for earning are wasted. The state government is committed to stop this thing. It is for this reason that the BJP government has brought the Narmada water so that youth could utilise the wealth of the region. If they are provided water, they would change their attitude towards work which would ultimately benefit the region, said Keshubhai.

The chief minister announced the state government would pay the crop insurance money in cash to farmers within 20 days. He criticised the role of the Opposition members who had taken out rallies and staged dharnas on the issue of crop insurance.

Speaking about earthquake and adverse publicity the state government received in providing relief and rehabilitation, the chief minister assured people of Kutch and other affected areas that they are not alone and that state administration is working for their welfare. He pleaded for some patience on part of those who are agitating for rehabilitation. For the first time, he admitted there was some mistake and delay on part of the state government but that was due to magnitude of deaths and destructions.

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Clinton to meet parents of children killed in quake Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Ahmedabad: FORMER US president Bill Clinton is reported to be keen on meeting the parents of some of the 100 schoolchildren who died in Anjar town of Gujarat in the January 26 earthquake.

The schoolchildren were marching on a narrow lane in a parade to mark India's Republic Day when buildings on either side collapsed on them. Anjar in the Kutch district is about 50 km from Bhuj, the main town of Kutch district that was the epicenter of the devastating quake.

Clinton is visiting Gujarat for two days at the head of a delegation of the American India Foundation (AIF). He is likely to announce the names of some of the 100 villages that the AIF is planning to adopt for reconstruction.

In a statement released by the AIF, Clinton said: "Over the past two months the tireless work of all those involved in the relief effort have proven that the worst natural disaster in India's history has brought out the best in its people. I am returning to India to tour the affected areas to meet with families and relief agencies and to bring new attention to the work that remains. The AIF and I will be working with non-governmental organizations, government agencies and concerned Indians to not just rebuild Gujarat but to rebuild it better."

According to Anil Bhandari, AIF treasurer and executive committee member, "The AIF delegation visiting India plans to get a first hand view of the devastation in Gujarat and provide sustainable support for future while continuing to address immediate relief and rehabilitation efforts."

"We hope that the AIF will bring together the various relief organizations under a single umbrella for harvesting resources for the benefit of the Indian community on a long term basis," he added.

The AIF goal is to utilize private, corporate and academic resources in the US for the rehabilitation of 100 afflicted villages. In the first phase, the foundation will focus on 40 villages.

While providing relief is an immediate priority, the AIF will also seek an exchange of ideas, provide intellectual capital and financial resources for the Indian community's benefit, Bhandari said.

Though his itinerary is being kept a closely guarded secret, according to information available, Clinton is likely to fly to Kutch from New Delhi Wednesday morning. After visiting some of the earthquake-affected areas, he is scheduled to come to Ahmedabad to spend the night. On Thursday, he will meet representatives of non-government organizations (NGOs) before flying to Mumbai to meet captains of Indian industry.

The AIF team will visit New Delhi, Gujarat, Mumbai and Kolkata. Clinton will also travel to the village of Rampur Manhyran in Uttar Pradesh to greet the people there. The delegation will leave for New York on April 10 after hosting a dinner in New Delhi.

News Source-India Abroad News Service

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BJP begins voluntary reconstruction work amid protests Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Bhuj: LEADERS and supporters of Gujarat's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) started kar seva or voluntary work for the rehabilitation of villages in the state's earthquake-devastated Kutch district amid protests Monday.

People in Bhuj, the main town in Kutch district and the epicenter of the January 26 earthquake, blocked traffic, organized sit down protests and shouted slogans as Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, Union Minister for Rural Development M. Venkaiah Naidu and state Industries Minister Suresh Mehta led the volunteers at Sukhpar village, about six kilometers from here in the voluntary reconstruction drive.

They, however, escaped the people's wrath as the volunteer work was confined to the district's rural areas.

Inaugurating the reconstruction works at the village, Patel said: "The works begun today will end only after entire district has been rebuilt. We have received the report from Center for Environment Planning and Technology (CEPT) only yesterday (Sunday), and based on the report, we will announce rehabilitation package for Bhuj, Anjar, Rapar and Bhachau in 15 to 20 days."

Patel also announced a Rs. 14 billion scheme to make the waters of the River Narmada available to Kutch district, adding that it would be implemented within 13 months.

Appreciating the courage and the enterprise of the people in the aftermath of earthquake that left about 25,000 people dead and tens of thousands of people homeless, Naidu ridiculed those criticizing the government's resettlement and rehabilitation efforts.

"People forget that there is nothing like Alladin's genie which can solve all problems overnight," he said.

Calling on all people, including the opposition Congress Party to start similar volunteer work, he announced projects worth more than Rs. 1 billion for the development of Kutch, including programs for watershed development and labor welfare.

More than 3,000 people, including community leaders and elected representatives, attended the function.

News Source-India Abroad News Service

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Gujarat's former royals seek state aid to repair palaces Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Ahmedabad: THE erstwhile rulers and princes in Gujarat have approached the state government for financial assistance to restore the pristine glory of their palaces damaged in the killer earthquake.

They want the government to extend long term soft loans as in most cases the money required to restore and renovate the properties runs into millions of rupees. Left with little income, the former rulers cannot afford to spend this kind of money on their own immediately, they say.

"We have approached the government to help us just as it is helping other citizens. The only difference is that the quantum of assistance we need is far greater. This is because our residences and properties are far bigger," Rao Gopal Singh of Darbargadh Poshina told India Abroad News Service.

At the time of accession to India, there were hundreds of big and small princely states in the Saurashtra region alone. Many of these had big ornate palaces for their rulers. The quake severely damaged the majority of them, particularly in the Rajkot, Surendranagar, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar districts of Saurashtra region and Banaskantha in north Gujarat. The Ranjit Vilas Palace of the former ruler of Kutch, at Bhuj, was rendered uninhabitable.

A massive quake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck Gujarat January 26, killing about 25,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless. Kutch bore the brunt of the devastation.

In a bid to secure state assistance, a group of former rulers and princes have formed the Earthquake Heritage Restoration Task Force. After its maiden meeting in Rajkot, the main city of the Saurashtra region, the task force met Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel at state capital Gandhinagar and submitted a memorandum seeking state financial support.

The former rulers sought subsidy on renovation and restoration expenses and an immediate loan of Rs.500,000 so that essential repairs could be carried out before the monsoon sets in and aggravates the damage.

The memorandum said they were ready to make the palaces, many of them closely held and guarded by the occupants, more open to the public. The government could start museums there after restoration and renovation and collect gate money to recover costs, it said.

As the government ponders over their demand to save what are essentially private properties, former Union minister and prince of Wankaner Yuvraj Digvijay Singhji said it should extend assistance simply because "these palaces are the nation's heritage and if not helped they would disappear".

"The state of Gujarat is the inheritor of the princely states that existed at the time of independence. It is the state's ethical and moral duty to protect and maintain these historical buildings," said Singhji, who is the chairman and convener of the task force.

Singhji said the task force was more worried about the damage to darbargadhs (princely properties owned by the aristocracy, descendants of the former rulers).

"Palaces and forts requiring repair may be fewer than 20, but there are hundreds of darbargadhs in Saurashtra and Kutch. The rajas (kings) who own the palaces are mostly well off...but the occupants of darbargadhs really need government support for restoration," he said.

Many of these darbargadhs house government offices too. Singhji wants these palaces, forts and darbargadhs declared heritage buildings for their architectural, historical and cultural importance.

Congress Party legislator and former princess of Devgadh Baria Urvashi Devi agrees. "If the properties are not being used for residential purposes, the state government ought to aid occupants as it will be beyond them to carry out repairs. But if they are used for commercial purposes then maybe they can be extended loan which they will be able to repay over a period of time," she said.

Urvashi Devi cited the example of palaces of the former ruler of Kutch, Maharao Paragmulji. His three palaces at Bhuj and Mandvi have suffered extensive damage. "Paragmulji is living in a tent today and I don't think an individual can fork out the millions required to renovate and restore these palaces," she said.

News Source - India Abroad News Service

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Govt offered help in repairing damaged monuments Tuesday, April 3, 2001

VADODARA: The Indian Archaeological Society (IAS), a Delhi-based organisation, has approached the state ministry for youth culture and sports with proposals to restore around eight state protected monuments that were damaged in the recent earthquake. They have estimated a cost of about Rs 15 crore for the restoration of these structures, some of which have been badly damaged.

D I Krishnani, one of the archaeologists who is on the national list of conservators of the IAS, said that amongst these eight monuments are the Navlakha temple in Ghumli (Jamnagar), four monuments in Kandhkot Bhuj, Bhujia Kothar in Jamnagar, Shiv temple at Kera and the Khambhalena caves at Rajkot.

The IAS has estimated that around Rs 15 crore might be required for the restoration work on these monuments, he said. According to Krishnani the focus so far had been on restoration of the monuments that were protected by the central Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), however, these other monuments too need to be taken care of. He said that the ministry of culture has shown an active interest in restoration of these monuments, however nothing has been finalised yet.

Krishnani, who retired as conservationist from the Archaeological Survey of India, was in Vadodara recently when the PWD invited him to help in the repair work of the 107-year-old Nyay Mandir that was damaged in the earthquake.

He has also played an important role in the excavation of the Rani ni Vav at Patan and in conservation and restoration of several important monuments in Gujarat when he was with the ASI.

Speaking about the Nyay Mandir he says the building is one of its kind and needs to be conserved and protected. "The Nyay Mandir has not been announced as a protected monument, but due to its unique architecture it is a heritage structure that needs conservation.

"One of the unique aspects of this magnificent structure is that the brick tiles that have been used to decorate its outer walls are peculiar. They are not seen in any other buildings in this area and it is evident that they were imported when it was constructed 107 years ago," he said.

According to Krishnani the main problem with the Nyay Mandir is that it has been used extensively over the years, but no maintenance or conservation efforts have been made. "There are several water seepage and other problems in the Nyay Mandir which should be brought to the notice of the authorities so that it can be corrected. For example, the overhead water tank of Nyay Mandir is loaded with higher capacity than what is required.

"The extra load is weakening the foundations of the building. The tanks are positioned on girders, which are attached to the walls, due to the weight these girders have bent and have weakened the walls," he said.

According to him a chemical cleaning process needs to be done so that the building can be conserved.

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