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March 31, 2001 - April 1, 2001

Check amount of water, Rajkot citizens told Sunday, April 1, 2001

RAJKOT: Virendrasinh Zala, chairman of the water works committee of the Rajkot Municipal Corporation on Saturday advised Rajkot citizens to check if correct amount of water was being supplied by tanker owners, to the area. Two thousand tanker and other vehicles owners are supplying water to various areas of Rajkot.

The civic authorities have made in mandatory for tanker runners to obtain the signature of an responsible person of an area who would certify if correct quantity of water was offloaded in the area.

Estimates say around 280 large buckets can be filled from a tractor carrying 5,000 litres of water. The civic body has also fitted transparent water pipes in 250 tractors.

The water works committee chairman said that at present residents were being supplied 6 lakh gallons of water through tankers and tractors and 12 lakh gallons of water through standposts.

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PMG suggests stamps on leading figures Sunday, April 1, 2001

RAJKOT: Post Master General of Gujarat Miloni Dutta has suggested bringing out postal stamps in memory of leading personalities of Saurashtra like poet Kalapi, literary figure Dulabhaya Kag, writer Dhumketu and cooperative leader Ratubhai Adani.

Talking to reporters here, she said the postal department brings out stamps to commemorate the art, culture, literature, agriculture and scientific inventions.

Twenty postal counters would be opened in Saurashtra where stamp lovers would be supplied collectors' choice through filatelic bureau.

So far, 615 counters have been opened by the bureau. Each stamp brought out by the postal department is supplied to these counters.

The PMG said that leading personalities of Saurashtra have been included in the names for whom stamps have been printed.

These include Narsinh Mehta and Zaverchand Meghani. Besides, a stamp has been printed on Somnath temple.

The Rajkot office of the postal department has proposed bringing out of stamps on poet Kalapi and litterateur Dulabhaya Kag, popularly known as Dulakag.

She said a stamp on Lord Mahavir would be brought out on the occasion of Mahavir Jayanti next month. Measures have been taken to modernise the Rajkot GPO.

A special counter would be opened where international monetary transactions could be carried out, she added.

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Discrepancies brought to notice of LIC authorities Sunday, April 1, 2001

VADODARA: Following a number of complaints received regarding discrepancies in LIC policy procedures, Gujarat State Consumer Protection Council member Ashok Mehta has written to the LIC divisional manager and the zonal manager in Mumbai.

He sought to bring to the notice of the LIC authorities the deceptive and unfair trade practices adopted by LIC agents, says Mehta who is also jury member of the Vadodara District Consumer Grievances Redressal Forum.

He said these practices have been detrimental to the interests of the investors and have in some cases even led to litigation that could have been avoided but for these practices.

"There are many investors who have complained against the LIC development officers and agents who have mislead the customers and have instigated them to recycle loans, which is not legal," says Mehta.

According to him several LIC development officers have sent printed quotation charts offering loans at 10.5 to 12 per cent to the investors with an accompanying advice to recycle the loans by investing in higher interest rates investments.

"These quotation charts are computer-generated and show that if loans are recycled the interest rate differential can be earned by the LIC agents. This is a dangerous trend and an advice that should not have come from a government body like LIC," says Mehta.

In addition to this the LIC agents and officers do not give correct information to the investors and in many cases processing of policies takes months together and the advance premium paid is held by the LIC at zero interest, says Mehta. He says that in most cases two to five per cent extra premium is also charged without giving reasons for the same.

"The consumers are exploited as they are not informed about all LIC policy proposals and in most cases the entire premium is charged. But as per rules only 10 per cent can be charged in the proposal stage as advance deposit," informs Mehta.

He says all these practices amount to "deficiency of services, as consumers (investors) are not informed about the policy rules and regulations. There have also been complaints that the agent network is not friendly and does inform the policyholders about the various certificates that are needed for the policy".

"First they charge the entire premium amount when actually just 10 per cent needs to be paid as advance deposit. Furthermore, they do not process the application for months and this adds to the problems of the investors," he said.

In many cases some investors are charged extra premium payment, however, they reason for charging extra is withheld. "One of the main tenets of the consumer protection act is the right of the consumer to information. Thus, the LIC officers have indulged in several irregularities which are not legal," says Mehta.

He said if these issues are tackled they would to a great extent reduce the number of litigation in courts and also help in curtailing the large number of cases of stoppage of policies midway and surrender or pay up of the policies.

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Red light district continues to function Sunday, April 1, 2001

SURAT: The year - 1867. Place - Mugalsarai, presently known as Muglisara, near Chowk Bazaar in the city. Sailors and traders from 84 countries congregating for fun and fare before embarking on another several months long sea journey. Dancing girls performing 'mujara' happen to be the much sought after for the travellers.

The history might have lost its leafs over the years but the remains of the past glare even today, though with a radical change. Sounds of gunghroo and tabla have been replaced by the sound of an emptiness and dancing has given way to flesh trade in the place which is known for some years now as 'Muglalsara Chakla Bazaar' - the only identified red light area in the state with around 600 sex workers at any given point of time.

Proximity to sea brought mercantile trade to Surat long back and the city made its name as the port city around the globe. But with changing of the coastline and Mumbai becoming a major port, the decline in one of the oldest profession, too, took place.

Hence, for many, question of survival got answered into the commercialisation of basic instinct which since then has been the main commercial activity at Muglisara.

Things went on for years at their own pace till the city administrators seriously deliberated in the late 90s to consign the Chakla Bazaar to the final realm of history.

In 1999, the then city police commissioner Kuldip Sharma issued a notification to all the inhabitants of the Chakla Bazaar engaged in commercial sex to stop their trade. Forces were reportedly put in use and all the sex workers, estimated around 800 in number, left the place due to fear of police brutality.

But, the question of survival forced these sex workers to fight against the notification of the city police. The battle was taken to the Gujarat High Court and petitions challenging the notification were filed on behalf of them by Delhi-based Akhil Bharatiya Patita Uthan Sansthan.

On being informed, officials from the National Human Rights Commission too visited the area and the district authorities were asked to ensure rehabilitation measures for the displaced sex workers.

Says deputy commissioner of police (north) A K Pandaya, "For ages these sex workers have been at this place. Without any positive approach on the part of authorities for alternative means of livelihood for them, it would be difficult to put a stop on the flesh trade. In their operations, many groups are reported to be shielding them through 'haftas' - commission paid for protection."

Pandaya informed that on Thursday the city police received a notice from the Supreme Court in response to a petition filed by the sex workers of the city for welfare of their children.

Efforts by the district administration to train the sex workers in some gainful profession like candle-making and tailoring did attract some of them initially but anticipated low returns made them to abandon the attempt. As such, they returned to where they belonged earlier with the help of several social groups which raised a hue and cry over violation of human rights.

Concerned at reported unsafe behaviour of sex workers, the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has provided a health-care centre along with an 'aganwadi' at Chakla Bazaar recently, says SMC deputy commissioner of health I C Patel.

Around 10 of the sex workers have been reported to be HIV positive, sources revealed.

Condom depots have been set up along with imparting of training in negotiation skills to ask the visitors to use contraceptives for prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, Desai stated.

But, the recent 'mela' organised by sex workers in Kolkata has made a lasting impression on those from Chakla Bazaar who went there and returned with new vigour and zeal to organise themselves for better health-care measures, among other things, she said.

Now, after sharing the experience of peer groups, selling condoms at subsidised price to the clients is the uppermost on their agenda containing several reforms planned by them, according to Desai.

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Behind every ‘guilty’ builder there sure is a ‘tearful’ wife Saturday, March 31, 2001

Ahmedabad: Even as builders in Ahmedabad are receiving flak after the earthquake, distressed wives of builders and the Gujarat Institute of Housing and Estate developers are planning to approach the National Human Rights Commission for ‘justice’.

"We feel extremely vindicated by the Gujarat government stand, which is simply nailing private builders. The earthquake was a natural calamity however, for vested interests, the government is nailing private builders in Ahmedabad.
Over 65 of them are languishing in judicial custody for over 45 days now. The action of the government is against the principles of natural justice," claimed the wives who were showcased here on Friday.

About half-a-dozen family members of the builders who claimed that the detention of their husbands, fathers and father in laws were "motivated," "biased" and "undemocratic."
With anguish on their faces and tears in their eyes, wives and mothers narrated tales of how their "innocent" husbands and sons were "wrongly booked" by the police.

The Institution of Housing and Estate developers claimed that over 10,000 buildings in Gujarat had "claimed" the lives of innocent people when they collapsed or were in the Republic Day quake.
"But only Ahmedabad builders are being singled out," they said adding that "only two multi storeyed buildings had collapsed" in the city and the rest were all low rises. The wife of a Muslim builder, who has been arrested for the Tagore Park, Paldi case said that her husband did not figure anywhere. "He was just not involved.

There are no documents also to prove his involvement. The building collapsed because of two illegal penthouses. Still the police has arrested my husband and father in law," Mrs Gagadiya said.
The association, which organised a haphazard presentation of facts, said that it was sad that no builder anywhere other than Ahmedabad was being booked by the government. "Hundreds of government-built structures too have collapsed killing several people.

Even the defence colonies have collapsed in Kutch killing hundreds of people. Why aren’t they booked under IPC clause 304 unlike the Ahmedabad builders," they questioned.

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