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April 2, 2001 - April 2, 2001

Lack of relief stokes demand for separate Kutch state Monday, April 2, 2001

News Source: IndiaAbroad.com
Bhuj: The alleged mishandling of relief operations in the quake-devastated Kutch region of Gujarat is flaring the demand for a separate state. And the demand is getting support from several prominent local organizations and individuals, including a former minister and senior Congress legislator.
The quake-stricken people are fast running out of patience and resorting to mass agitations to press for early resettlement and rehabilitation. Last week, they held a protest rally in Bhuj, the district's principal town and also the worst affected in the killer temblor, and are now sitting before the top district administrator's office protesting government apathy.

The Bhuj Punahsthapan Samiti (Bhuj Rehabilitation Committee) started the protest Thursday and says will continue till their goal is achieved. "We would not like to be a part of Gujarat state because injustice is being done to the people of Kutch," A.Y. Akabani, president of the local Lions Club at Bhuj, told IANS.

"Kutch has been neglected for decades. The Gujarat government does not consider us citizens of India. We demand a separate state of Kutch. If this is not possible then at least Kutch should be declared a Union Territory," Akabani added.

"I will not hesitate to support the demand for separate state of Kutch. When my party comes to power, I will press the demand for a separate state," said Urvashi Devi, the Congress Party legislator from Devegadh Baria.

Devi even visited the protest venue in front of the top administrator's office in Bhuj and expressed her solidarity with the Bhuj Rehabilitation Committee. She runs a non-government organization, Vibhas Trust, which has started reconstruction of four villages in Abdasa sub-district of Kutch without waiting for government assistance.

The government's indifference to the woes of the people is only spreading the feeling of being neglected, said local lawyer S.M. Thakkar, accusing the Gujarat government of trying to prevent even external assistance from reaching Kutch.

Thakkar said the Puri Foundation of England offered to adopt Madhavpur village in the area, but a senior government official told the foundation that Madhavpur was flush with remittances from nonresident Indians. The officer advised it to adopt some other village.

"I have been demanding a separate state for long because Kutch has been given step- motherly treatment since independence," said Maharao Paragmalji, the former ruler of Kutch.

He said Kutch has its own distinct identity, and before independence the region even had its own currency. The Kutch region has a major port at Kandla and several other small ports. Though rich in minerals, the region has been neglected by the Gujarat government since the creation of the state in 1960, Paragmalji said.

Akabani also raised the issue of human rights. "Power supply in shops and houses has been disconnected and house owners are not allowed to enter their own houses. This is a gross violation of human rights," he said.

Akabani warned that if quake victims were not rehabilitated immediately, they might stop ministers and other authorities from entering their area. The town of Anjar observed a total closure Thursday in response to a call by Group-2001, an association of local people. As many as 66 people, including 47 women fasted in protest.

Group-2001 is demanding immediate announcement of resettlement package for Anjar and other towns of Kutch. It has threatened to organize a protest march to state capital Gandhinagar, if the state government does not announce relief measures within a week.

The general body meeting of the Bhuj municipality that was convened for the first time after the January 26 quake was abandoned midway Thursday as counselors of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party lashed out at the municipality president for failing to provide relief to victims.

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Lack of relief stokes demand for separate Kutch state Monday, April 2, 2001

News Source: IndiaAbroad.com
Bhuj: The alleged mishandling of relief operations in the quake-devastated Kutch region of Gujarat is flaring the demand for a separate state. And the demand is getting support from several prominent local organizations and individuals, including a former minister and senior Congress legislator.
The quake-stricken people are fast running out of patience and resorting to mass agitations to press for early resettlement and rehabilitation. Last week, they held a protest rally in Bhuj, the district's principal town and also the worst affected in the killer temblor, and are now sitting before the top district administrator's office protesting government apathy.

The Bhuj Punahsthapan Samiti (Bhuj Rehabilitation Committee) started the protest Thursday and says will continue till their goal is achieved. "We would not like to be a part of Gujarat state because injustice is being done to the people of Kutch," A.Y. Akabani, president of the local Lions Club at Bhuj, told IANS.

"Kutch has been neglected for decades. The Gujarat government does not consider us citizens of India. We demand a separate state of Kutch. If this is not possible then at least Kutch should be declared a Union Territory," Akabani added.

"I will not hesitate to support the demand for separate state of Kutch. When my party comes to power, I will press the demand for a separate state," said Urvashi Devi, the Congress Party legislator from Devegadh Baria.

Devi even visited the protest venue in front of the top administrator's office in Bhuj and expressed her solidarity with the Bhuj Rehabilitation Committee. She runs a non-government organization, Vibhas Trust, which has started reconstruction of four villages in Abdasa sub-district of Kutch without waiting for government assistance.

The government's indifference to the woes of the people is only spreading the feeling of being neglected, said local lawyer S.M. Thakkar, accusing the Gujarat government of trying to prevent even external assistance from reaching Kutch.

Thakkar said the Puri Foundation of England offered to adopt Madhavpur village in the area, but a senior government official told the foundation that Madhavpur was flush with remittances from nonresident Indians. The officer advised it to adopt some other village.

"I have been demanding a separate state for long because Kutch has been given step- motherly treatment since independence," said Maharao Paragmalji, the former ruler of Kutch.

He said Kutch has its own distinct identity, and before independence the region even had its own currency. The Kutch region has a major port at Kandla and several other small ports. Though rich in minerals, the region has been neglected by the Gujarat government since the creation of the state in 1960, Paragmalji said.

Akabani also raised the issue of human rights. "Power supply in shops and houses has been disconnected and house owners are not allowed to enter their own houses. This is a gross violation of human rights," he said.

Akabani warned that if quake victims were not rehabilitated immediately, they might stop ministers and other authorities from entering their area. The town of Anjar observed a total closure Thursday in response to a call by Group-2001, an association of local people. As many as 66 people, including 47 women fasted in protest.

Group-2001 is demanding immediate announcement of resettlement package for Anjar and other towns of Kutch. It has threatened to organize a protest march to state capital Gandhinagar, if the state government does not announce relief measures within a week.

The general body meeting of the Bhuj municipality that was convened for the first time after the January 26 quake was abandoned midway Thursday as counselors of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party lashed out at the municipality president for failing to provide relief to victims.

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Fresh dissidence brews against Gujarat CM Monday, April 2, 2001

New Delhi: In a fresh outburst of dissidence, some Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators have started a campaign against Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, saying rehabilitation work in the quake-hit state is not being carried out properly.
According to a Gujarat official, "A group of unhappy Gujarat leaders, mostly state legislators, is meeting BJP president Jana Krishnamurthy next week to apprise him about the situation in state."

The dissident leaders have started a signature campaign against Patel and claim to have collected 27 signatures so far from among the 166 BJP members of the legislative Assembly.

Most of the legislators at the forefront of the anti-Patel revolt represent the Kutch region where the impact of the earthquake was most devastating. The earthquake rocked Gujarat January 26, claiming more than 25,000 lives and destroying property worth 220 billion.

However, sources close to the chief minister told IANS, "Earthquake rehabilitation is just a pretext to run down the chief minister. In reality there is a tussle for power between the Patels and non-Patels with the BJP." Traditionally, the Patels are a prosperous business community in Gujarat.

According to a BJP leader in Delhi, "The campaign against Patel has been on for the last five months after the BJP failed to perform well in the local bodies elections." But the Central leadership of the BJP has not obliged dissidents and instead asked them to work together, he said.

In the past, Krishnamurthy, who was in charge of the party's Gujarat affairs, has had rushed to the state on several occasions to pacify rebels. As problems within the state unit intensified he constituted a coordination committee to sort out problems.

But anti-Patel legislators said, "The coordination committee came into being almost a month ago and till date there has not been a single meeting."

Sentiments against Patel were also voiced by state leaders at the BJP executive meeting on March 24 and 25 in Delhi. But a lawmaker from Gujarat said, "The legislators and lawmakers are turning against the chief minister to escape public ire. Earthquake-hit people in the Kutch region are still struggling for basic amenities like shelter."

People are angry with political leaders who made tall promises of relief after the earthquake but are yet to deliver. A large number of middle class residents in the state, who lost their homes in the earthquake due to faulty construction, are also upset following reports of nexus between politicians and contractors due to which a lot of illegal construction was allowed in Ahmedabad circumventing building laws.

India Abroad News Service



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Clinton to be Gujarat’s ‘state guest’ Monday, April 2, 2001

News Source: IndiaAbroad
Ahmedabad: Former United States president Bill Clinton will be treated as a state guest and be given a reception befitting that status when he arrives in Gujarat on April 4, according to state government sources.

Clinton will stay at the Hotel Taj Ummed in the state's principal city of Ahmedabad, which is going all out to make him feel like "the most powerful man on the earth once again". American security personnel are taking a round of the places Clinton is expected to visit, the sources said.

Clinton is visiting Gujarat to announce the participation of the American India Foundation (AIF) in the rehabilitation of some of the villages that were destroyed by the January 26 earthquake. Top Indian American community leaders will also accompany him.

According to the AIF, which is organizing Clinton's visit, the former US president will arrive in New Delhi on the night of April 3 and leave for Ahmedabad the next day by a chartered flight. He will spend the next two days going around the earthquake-hit areas in Ahmedabad and Bhuj.

From there, he will travel to Mumbai on the evening of April 5 for a two-day visit to meet political leaders and captains of Indian industry.

On April 7, he will leave for Kolkata to pay homage to late Mother Teresa at her Missionaries of Charity headquarters in that city. He will then arrive in New Delhi on the same day where Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will host a dinner for him.

The AIF is planning to adopt 100 quake-devastated villages of Gujarat. Clinton is expected to announce the names of 40 villages where the foundation will begin its work soon.

Kutch district bore the brunt of the January 26 quake that ravaged this western Indian state. The quake killed about 25,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless. Ahmedabad was the next most affected city where about 700 people died and dozens of building collapsed.

The police still does not have much idea of the kind of security blanket that has to be provided to the former president.

"We only have a sketchy picture of his program in Ahmedabad. As a past president Mr Clinton is entitled to a tight security ring, but we will be able to provide him and his entourage with that even if we are informed of his programs two days in advance," Ahmedabad police commissioner P.C. Pande told India Abroad News Service.

"There was a slight confusion about the security classification of a former president. After all an ex-president does not visit you so often," Himanshu Bhatt, Kutch additional superintendent of police, said on telephone.

The hotel management is trying to get Clinton's likes and dislikes before finalizing the menu for him. It is even willing to import a few things to prepare a menu that will impress its most celebrated guest so far. Gujarati cuisine is likely to be showcased in a big way.

Clinton has traveled to several American cities to raise finds for the earthquake victims. Several community leaders accompanied him on his fund-raising tour.

The delegation to India includes Anil Bhandri, Sabeer Bhatia, P.C. Chatterjee, Vikram Chatwal, Deepak Chopra, Suvas Desai, Rohit Desai, Vishaka Desai, Gururaj Deshpande, Naren Gupta, Rajat Gupta, Vinod Gupta, Kailash Joshi, Victor Menezes, Mike Patel, C.K. Prahlad, Bhimsen Rao, Kanwal Rekhi and Krishna Srinivas. It is not yet known as to how many of these will visit Gujarat along with Clinton.

This will be Clinton's second visit to India. He had paid a state visit to India last year.

The AIF is a grouping of Indian Americans that harnesses the management expertise, financial resources and entrepreneurship of the community in the US for the benefit of India. The foundation's immediate aim is to improve the social and community infrastructure in India by working for rehabilitation of Gujarat.

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Gujarat govt yet to finalize Clinton's itinerary Monday, April 2, 2001

News Source - IndiaAbroad
Just a week remains before the arrival of former US president Bill Clinton for a tour of earthquake-devastated Gujarat, but the state government is yet to finalize his itinerary.

Even the police do not have a clue yet to the kind of security that has to be provided for the former president.

All that is known so far is that Clinton will arrive in Ahmedabad on the morning of April 4 and visit a few areas affected by the January 26 earthquake. He is scheduled to fly to Bhuj in Kutch district the next day where he is likely to announce aid to the American Indian Foundation that is planning to adopt 100 quake-hit villages for rehabilitation.

Kutch district bore the brunt of the quake that ravaged several parts of Gujarat. The tremor killed about 25,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless. Ahmedabad was the next most affected city, where some 700 people died and dozens of building collapsed.

"At the moment we have a sketchy picture of his program in Ahmedabad. The external affairs and the home ministries are yet to give us directions on the security arrangements," Ahmedabad police commissioner P.C. Pande told India Abroad News Service.

"As a past president, Mr. Clinton is entitled to a tight security ring. We will be able to provide him and his entourage with that even if we are informed of his program two days in advance," Pande said.

"There was slight confusion about the security classification of a former president. After all, an ex-president does not visit you so often," Himanshu Bhatt, Kutch additional superintendent of police, told IANS over the telephone.

"However, now that we have the intimation of his visit we will make the necessary security arrangement for him and his convoy in consultation with the US security officers who are likely to come here in a few days," Bhatt said. He was officially informed of Clinton's visit Tuesday evening.

Though a detailed itinerary is yet to be sent to the district police, Bhatt said delayed communication would not be a problem. "We had only six hours to set up the highest security cordon for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee when he visited Bhuj in the wake of the quake. In Mr. Clinton's case we have more than a week," he said.

Indians settled in the United States are working to make the former president's India visit a resounding success. Mike Patel, commissioner of the president's Advisory Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, is reaching here Thursday at the head of a team to finalize Clinton's program.

Clinton has traveled to American cities to raise funds for the quake victims. Several Indian community leaders accompanied him on his fundraising tour. Some of them will come to India along with Clinton.

This will be Clinton's second visit to India. He had paid a state visit to India in March last year.

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