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March 28, 2001 - March 28, 2001

Bullion trade had muck under the glitter Wednesday, March 28, 2001

AHMEDABAD: For the man on the street, the bullion market may be a complex matrix, or even an anachronism. However, what's surprising is that even the gold dealers and jewellers, who have been in the market for years, have found the bullion trade puzzling.

Unfortunately, these traders have never bothered to scratch the surface. So long as they were getting their gold at a price, which was much lower than what was available from the Mines and Metal Trading Corporation (MMTC) and other sources, the need to explore the operations was considered unnecessary.

Some of the gold dealers in the market say that in just about one and half year of entering the bullion market, K Lal, a city-based bullion firm which had started on an average daily turnover of Rs 10-12 lakh, had reached a daily turnover of more than Rs 100 crore. It did raise eyebrows, but nothing beyond that.

With K Lal capturing the market, the MMTC saw a dip in its volumes as very few traders lifted gold from them.

In fact, now, with all that has emerged in the bullion market in the last few days, it is the Mines and Metal Trading Corporation (MMTC) which has something to smile about.

Hitherto, their sales volume had been taking a beating as gold dealers in the local market preferred buying gold from gold merchants as their prices were lower by more than Rs 800 (in some cases the difference was as much as Rs 1,000).

Market sources say that, a few months ago, some of the MMTC officials had even questioned K Lal as to how it was able to sell gold at prices lower than market prices.

When 'The Times of India' contacted MMTC officials, they refused to comment on the whole issue, but they admitted that gold off-take from the MMTC had dropped. On being asked whether their sales would now pick up, they said it was yet to be seen whether demand for their gold would surge after the scam.

One thing that the bullion scam has done is pull down volumes on the city bullion market.

"Before the K Lal episode, close to 10,000 Ten Tola (TT) bar to 18,000 TT bar floated in the market. This has come down to hardly 1,000 TT bar to 2,000 TT bar today," says a gold dealer.

Market sources say this has happened because the MMTC and other nominated agencies which can import gold have stopped giving gold against fixed deposit receipt (FDR) and other such securities.

Most of the agencies had been releasing gold against FDR or bank guarantees, which fulfilled criteria set by them. These criteria were: the banks should be a scheduled bank with a networth of Rs 100 crore, a capital adequacy rate of more than 8 per cent and an NPA of less than 10 per cent. They gave a 60-day credit to gold merchants.

However, since the Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank and Classic Bank cases, the MMTC has been allowing only outright purchase. That is, gold is delivery by them only against cash payment. This is keeping a lot of gold dealers out of the market.

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PALANPUR :: Doctors' job no more a noble profession Wednesday, March 28, 2001

PALANPUR: A few unscrupulous doctors here have been the talk of the town this week after some four patients died on Friday in different hospitals of the city. The eye opener incident is largely attributed to blind race for amassing wealth and materialistic desires on the part of a few irresponsible doctors. Kicked by name, fame and wealth, they look forward to and treat their patients if not for any thing else but only as a source of income.

After the incident, TOI contacted several persons including the relatives of some patients and others to take stock of the prevalent situation in some hospitals in the city.

According to a relative of a deceased, "Just after the operation, the doctor went out of the theatre, leaving the patient at the mercy of his nurse. When the patient was taken out of the operation theatre, he (patient) started vomiting while the doctor was busy watching the cricket test match".

In one case, the patient had allegedly died due to heavy dose of anaesthesia while in another, the patient had breathed his last after a fortnight of the operation. In the fourth case, a woman from a nearby village had succumbed due to the negligence of the doctor treating her. However, the matter was allegedly settled by the doctor (underhand dealing) with a relative of the deceased with the help of a local politician.

"These negligent and greedy doctors have reduced the noble profession to a mere source of making fast buck while the poor patients are compelled to pay through their nose", said Hasmukh Patel, a social worker.

In the past Palanpur and Deesa were considered as Mecca of medical profession. A large number of patients from adjacent part of Rajasthan visited these places every day with a hope to get good treatment from the doctors out here and they did get expected results.

In the recent past, few had opened their clinics but are using this noble profession as an instrument to make maximum money to fulfil their materialistic desires. For them a patient is nothing more than a means to extract maximum amount of money.

Even after paying a whopping bill, relative of a 70-year-old Bagadiram from Sanchor - a taluka in Rajasthan adjacent to Banaskantha district - who was operated recently, said that they had to cough up an amount close to Rs 50,000. Relatives of 24-year-old Jasoda Bherulal and Pahad Khan (all from Jalore district of Rajasthan) and many others have the same story to tell.

Only recently a relative of a deceased Vasantiben Agrawal filed a case of negligent death. Similarly, in another case a doctor supposed to be involved in removing the kidney of a patient had hit the headlines of local newspapers recently.

However, the majority of the poor hardly dare to fight against the powerful and moneyed people, as a result several cases are buried while others are disposed off by way of personal settlement.

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Disaster mitigation project for city may emerge Wednesday, March 28, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Caught on the wrong foot by the killer quake on January 26, the civic authorities are now looking towards the sixth working group meeting of Asian Urban Disaster Mitigation Programme (AUDMP) being held in the city from Monday for invaluable tips on maintaining high level of preparedness for any eventuality.

Representatives of non-governmental organisations, government agencies and academic institutions from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Laos, Indonesia, China and India are participating in this three-day meeting on "How to make cities in Asia safer before disasters strike." The AUDMP is being jointly organised by the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) and the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC).

The ADPC is a regional resource centre working towards disaster reduction in Asia and the Pacific. Established in 1986, the centre is an important focal point for promoting disaster awareness and the development of local capabilities to foster institutionalised disaster management and mitigation policies.

Efforts of the civic authorities are already paying off. With a motto reading: The next time a disaster strikes the city, Amdavadis would be ready for it, a disaster mitigation project for the city will soon be prepared by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC) of Thailand with assistance of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) and the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT).

Sources in the AMC disclosed that the Ahmedabad Disaster Mitigation Project has got added impetus from the USAID which will extend financial aid for this programme. While efforts are on to get help from the World Bank too, the disaster mitigation project will have regional centres at Rajkot and Surat.

"The first target is to get an emergency response system built into the fabric of Ahmedabad. If ever a disaster strikes, this system will enable rescue operators reach the site with minimum loss of time. The second target is to address long-term necessities for disaster preparedness and safety measures. Under the long-term programme, equipment, technical knowhow and more resources to tackle a disaster like that on the Republic Day will be provided in a more systematic manner," said the AMC sources.

Delivering the keynote address at the AUDMP, municipal commissioner K. Kailashnathan said that while relief and rescue operations in Ahmedabad were best possible under present circumstances with limitations of equipment and resources, there is space for improvement. Kailashnathan said that with proper resources and better equipment aided by a well-established disaster management system, loss of life and devastation could be minimised.

PU Asnani, advisor to the commissioner, said, "The three-day meet will be followed by one-day workshop on 'Urban Risk Reduction in Asia' on March 29 that looks at an integrated approach to disaster management with panel discussions. Senior officials of the state government, civic authorities and CEPT will attend this session which could mark the start of designing a comprehensive disaster mitigation package for Ahmedabad.

The package apart from ensuring deployment of specilised equipment, vehicles and manpower for disaster management will hold regular drills for civic bodies, fire brigade personnel and district administration to minimise response time. Upgradation of hospital services with poly-trauma centres equipped to handle multifarious problems emerging in the aftermath of a disaster and arming all fire stations with adequate heavy-duty machineries and equipments are the other salient features of the package.

Asnani added, "We hope to draw on the experiences shared by the international community at AUDMP. Countries like China, Nepal and Indonesia will have valuable inputs for earthquake-related disaster management. That apart, we are banking on ADPC's help and the session of January 29 to build a safer Ahmedabad."

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Demand for water puts govt in a tight spot Wednesday, March 28, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Narmada water may have reached Rajkot, Dhoraji and Jetpur via pipelines. But the SoS messages received by the Gujarat government from the industrial belt in Vadodara, including from such giants as Indian Petroleum Corporation Ltd (IPCL) and Gujarat Refineries, as also from Gujarat Electricity Board's Wanakbori power plant situated near Mahi crossing, suggest that greater demands for water could be expected in the summer months.

The Central Gujarat's industrial belt demands nearly one-third of water being pumped out of Narmada, putting the state government in a fix.

"We have no other go but to supply Narmada water to the Vadodara-based plants if the state's economy has to survive", a senior bureaucrat has revealed. Of the 1,000 cusecs pumped out from the Narmada dam by 55-odd pumps, nearly 350 cusecs is just "lost" due to evaporation and seepage by the time the water reaches the Mahi crossing about 150 km away via the Narmada canal. Of the 650 cusecs left to be used, the Pariej lake gets 200 cusecs for the Saurashtra pipelines, and another 200 cusecs is transferred for Ahmedabad and Vadodara.

Of the remaining 250 cusecs, plans were to transfer about 200 cusecs to Central Gujarat tanks so that the area does not suffer from water problem. But with 200 cusecs being demanded by Vadodara's industrial belt and industries of the nearby areas, and another 100 cusecs by the GEB's Wanakbori plant, the strain is very much visible. "One solution is to increase the pumping capacity to 1,500 cusecs, so that surplus waters are available both for industry and irrigation", the bureaucrat said. A policy decision would, however, have to be taken.

Indications are, if the industry's demands are fulfilled, the farmers would start raising their head to ask for Narmada waters to irrigate their dying crops. "Already, there have been innumerable cases of Kheda farmers stealing waters from the Narmada canal to irrigate their farms. Though the law-and-order machinery has been tightened to ensure that such cases are as few as possible, one cannot always stop people from breaking pipelines in Saurashtra, too", a bureaucrat conceded. "The end-users might suffer."

Despite the supply of huge amounts of Narmada water to towns like Botad and Dhandhuka to cities like Rajkot and Amreli, "the intake capacity of many of the towns and cities is insufficient." Though Botad gets 120 litres of water per day per person, the pipelines network in the town is "not good enough to take water every day." The situation is "not very different for Amreli either." An internal zoning system is being blamed for this.

Meanwhile, the state government is going ahead with the plan to build a bypass tunnel at the Narmada dam, permitting it to increase the current flow of waters from 1,000 cusecs to 5,000 cusecs. "The bypass tunnel can be made operation even at the dam's 93 metres height", an official said. "Once this materialises, canal waters would start flowing through the canal main branch and reach right up to Malia via Ahmedabad, Kadi and Bhaskarpura by December. Malia is the nearest point for Kutch", an official pointed out.

The official said this would save the state Rs 1.8 crore each month spent in pumping out waters from the dam by 55 pumps. "In any case, this cost is less than the cost of utilising underground water, as was resorted to in North Gujarat. In North Gujarat, a mere 35 cusecs water can be pumped out spending Rs 1.8 crore of electricity. While here we are pumping out 1,000 cusecs", the official said, adding, "Once this happens, we hope Ahmedabad's AUDA areas too would start getting Narmada water by March."

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44 fasting agitators take ill at Maliya Wednesday, March 28, 2001

RAJKOT: The condition of another 44 fasting agitators at Maliya, demanding new ration cards, deteriorated late on Sunday night. They have been shifted to the Maliya referral hospital, running from a makeshift tent. The agitators were part of the group of 1,200 residents of Maliya on fast since last week. One hundred and fifty-six persons had been hospitalised earlier.

Residents are demanding new ration cards as they have lost them in the quake. However, the Rajkot district administration has not shown any inclination to solve the issue.

Hospital sources said agitators whose condition had deteriorated have been shifted to the hospital from March 20 onwards. Giving details, they said 14 people were treated at the OPD on March 20 and two had to be admitted to the hospital, on March 22, 21 people were treated at the OPD and 14 were admitted, on March 23, 20 were treated at the OPD and 12 were admitted. On March 24, seven were treated at the OPD and 37 were admitted. In all, sixty-six persons had to be admitted to the hospital for treatment, while 90 were allowed to go after treatment.

Meanwhile a report from Anjar on Monday said leading citizens of the town including Dr Shyamsunder, Mulshanker Pandya, Jagdish Vyas and K G Manek sat a on fast in front of the mamlatdar's office recently to highlight the failure of the state government in providing quake relief even two months after the tragedy.

They said people were no longer interested in government help and would launch kar seva from March 27 to lift the debris from the town. The leaders said that even two months after the quake, the government was indecisive about where to put up people. They alleged total lack of co-ordination between the government and relief agencies working in Anjar.

The people of Gandhidham were also upset over the delay in relief and rehabilitation of the quake-affected people. They threatened that if the government failed to give tent and cash doles to affected people by April 8, they would be forced to agitate.

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