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April 1, 2001 - April 1, 2001

Gangster's arrest may bring land mafia to fore Sunday, April 1, 2001

SURAT: For the city police, the nabbing of Om Prakash Singh of the Chhota Rajan gang in Delhi on March 24 and his interrogations in coordination with the Delhi police could lead to the recovery of more skeletons in the cupboard. The reason: Singh has reportedly been involved in several cases of land grabbings, extortions and murders in this city for the past few years.

Names of some big players of Surat's land mafia are likely to surface the fear of which has forced many to go under ground-at least for the time being. The police have prepared a list of people who are closely associated with Singh in dubious land deals and extortions, according to highly-placed sources.

Describing the arrest as a major catch, a senior police official told The Times of India that Singh was enjoying a higher level of confidence in the Rajan gang and had links in seven major cases of Surat. For past some time, he had been operating from Delhi and its adjoining areas.

As per information given by the team of Surat police officials presently in Delhi, Singh's help was often sought by land sharks of the city in settling deals for a premium. Singh has confessed to be in league with builders and real estate agents of the city.

At one time, he was reportedly close with real estate agent Hans Kamal Grover. Both had been involved in several land deals. Later, because of differences over some deals, both fell out and started operating separately. Singh masterminded the murder of Grover last year with the help of his sharp shooter Nilesh Patel of Mumbai.

The nabbing of Singh has generated a lot of interest among residents of the city. Once the investigating police team returns from Delhi, details would come out leading to vital clues behind some of the most talked about extortion and land dealing cases.

City police commissioner Vineet Kumar Gupta left for Delhi on Saturday on a personal visit but sources say he would assist the investigating officials in interrogating Singh. The city police have asked for transfer of Singh to Surat.

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Farmers urged not to pay GEB bills Sunday, April 1, 2001

VADODARA: Addressing a huge rally in front of Gujarat Electricity Board's (GEB) head office on Saturday, farmers' leader Sharad Joshi urged the state's farmers to refrain from paying up GEB bills till the government conceded their demands on power sector reforms.

Farmers have been demanding withdrawal of power tariff hike and regularity of power supply.

Gujarat Khedut Samaj, a state-level body of farmers, had organised this rally to press their demands on the power sector reforms front. Rallyists came in tractors, trucks and jeeps to attend the rally.

Joshi said GEB staff who were visiting premises for recording the meter-reading should not be allowed to enter houses. They should be meted out the same treatment as would be meted out to a dacoit or a thief, he said.

Joshi said it was possible for farmers to undermine the financial condition of the GEB. He cited the example of Maharashtra where farmers had not been paying up their electricity bills, making it difficult for the state board to meet even the salary expenses of their staff.

Joshi challenged Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel to justify the hike in power tariff by declaring norms fixed for it. Making a bonfire of GEB's consent notice to farmers, Joshi said any notice from the GEB in this regard would receive a similar treatment.

Replying to the charge of subsidised power to farmers, Joshi said farmers were being given poor quality of power during the night when there were no taker for power from other sectors.

Joshi demanded that the farmers be allowed to fix prices of their agricultural produce and that there should not be any restriction on it.

In his speech Gujarat Khedut Samaj president Bipin Desai said their protest was against GEB's failure in supplying assured hours of power to the farm sector and against the 480 per cent hike in power tariff for the farm sector in the power tariff order of the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC) in October last year.

Since Keshubhai had closed doors to negotiations over their demand, the Samaj had no alternative but to intensify their agitation, said Desai. The farm leader said that, as per GERC's power tariff order, the 60 per cent hike would have to be borne by the farm sector, while it was around 4 per cent for high-tension units and around 15 per cent for low-tension units.

Giving details of the agitational programme, Gujarat Khedut Samaj general secretary Vipin Patel said if the GEB had failed to concede their demands, the farmers would intensify their agitation and prevent GEB staff from entering their areas. He called upon the Samaj's Sardar Sena and mahila wing to block the entry of GEB staff to their villages when they arrive for recording meter-readings.

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Builders directed to allocate common plot Sunday, April 1, 2001

RAJKOT: In an order of far-reaching consequences, Lok Pal and district and sessions judge Shirish Toliya has directed Sheth Builders of the Race Course Housing Complex here to repair all the damages in flats, allocate a common plot and construct a compound wall around the complex.

The Race Course Housing Complex shot into prominence soon after the January 26 earthquake. Constructed by Sheth Builders, the business partner of state finance minister Vajubhai Vala, some houses in the complex developed dangerous cracks because of the inferior quality of construction materials.

A police complaint was filed naming the son of Vala as one of the partners of the construction firm. Despite police complaint, no action was taken against errant builders. The matter was then taken up with the Lok Pal by residents of the complex.

The Lok Pal asked the Rajkot Municipal Corporation to send all relevant details by March 5 which was complied. The Gujarat Engineering Research Institute took samples of the controversial buildings.

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Narmada water to reach Gondal today Sunday, April 1, 2001

RAJKOT: Despite Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel all set to 'officially welcome' the Narmada waters at a function to be held in Gondal on Sunday, water woes of the people of the area are far from over.

With the flowing of Narmada waters, problems of Saurashtra are expected to be solved partially. The testing of the Mahi-Pariej scheme has been completed and water will start flowing from Sunday. Rajkot, Gondal, Jetpur, Bhavnagar, and Amreli districts will get Narmada water. Plans are afoot to provide the Narmada water to Junagadh and Keshod too.

Rajkot expects to get 50 lakh gallons of water from the scheme, according to municipal commissioner J P Gupta. If water from Aji-3 also comes in, Rajkot will tide over till monsoon, Gupta added.

However, large number of other areas are demanding water from this scheme, which the Water Supply Board officials say will be hard to meet. Already, the first signs of dissent have come from Dhoraji, where MLA Vithal Radadiya said that if Narmada waters were not released for Jamkandorana, people would forcefully divert the waters from the Fofal dam.

Dhoraji observed bandh and a rally was also taken out through the city to demand water. Demonstrators submitted a memorandum to the mamlatdar. Taluka panchayat president Hansaben Chavda led the rally.

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Rajkot treasury clears 750 bills Sunday, April 1, 2001

RAJKOT: The treasury office of Rajkot cleared as many as 750 bills related to grants, LIC, pay and pension of government employees amounting to Rs 70 crore on Friday and Saturday.

Sources in the treasury office told TOINS that employees had to work till late night to clear these bills and prepare cheques. A special arrangement of staff had to be made to clear the rush.

Some of the bills cleared included Rs 54 crore for the district panchayat and Rs 2 crore for the mamlatdar office besides grants of different departments. Some grants would be released by the state government.

As holidays are falling in a row in the first week of April, the salary cheques have to be prepared. For this, the treasury office would also function on Sunday.

The salary and pension cheques would be released on Sunday after 12.30 pm. This would enable employees to encash their cheques on April 3 when banks open.

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