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March 27, 2001 - March 27, 2001

Bank holidays in row will hit business: RCCI Tuesday, March 27, 2001

RAJKOT: The Rajkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) president Dhirubhai Vithlani has said that too many bank holidays in the beginning of April would have a negative effect on the trade and industry apart from common people.

Vithlani, in a statement here, has said there were five holidays beginning from April 1. Officials of the State Bank of India have called for a strike on April 4. "That means banks would function for just two out of eight days between April 1 and 8 which is not good," he added.

The chamber president said the bank officials have timed their strike in such a way that they are able to get a long holiday together. "If the SBI employees go on strike on April 4, they would just need to take a day's casual leave on April 7 to be able to enjoy a five-day holiday. And that would be apart from holidays on April 1 and 2," he said.

Vithlani said if the nation wants to stand in international competition, the government should not allow banks, one of the main pillars of the economy, to remain closed for too many days in a particular month. Such long closures would affect banking transactions, monetary movement and the salaried class.

He requested the Union finance minister to stop such unjustified closure of banks. He also urged the RBI governor to ask banks to function normally during holidays. "Bank staff have always claimed full salaries during strike period," added Vithlani.

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Kutch artisans at a loss Tuesday, March 27, 2001

About 1,200 traditional craftswomen and 2,800 other workers associated with the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS) are at a loss because business has gone down by 40 per cent ever since the January 26 earthquake. The building they used to function from Bhuj is in shambles and the owner of the building has asked them to vacate the premises.
They have, however, managed to promote the production of art work and embroidary since they need to provide work to the poor, scattered artisans spread over a few villages in and around Bhuj. The organisation has extended their functioning to new villages after the earthquake with the aim to provide a source of income to the artisans there.

The KMVS supplies cloth and thread to the artisans and later collects the finished product to market them in other places. The artisans get money according to the work they complete. The artisans who were exploited by the middlemen till now, are being guided by the Sangathan, and have also organised.

Five of the artisans had come to Rajkot with some of the art work they managed to salvage, mainly the ones that were with the KMVS. A three-day exhibition-cum-sale of their work was organised at Rajkot by the Rotary Club. The artisans said they just cant stand and wait for the Government help everytime. So far they have received only Rs 2000 and a tin tent, said Saraben from Khavda village who works on pottery.

The villages where the KMVS had been working even before the earthquake are Khavda, Bhujodi, Bhirandiara, Dhrobana, Rudramata and Bhuj. They have been helping artisans involved in embroidery, leather work, mirror and pottery to get the wage component decided by themselves for their work. The tribes, thus helped are the Ahirs, Mutwas, Jats, Meghavals Sodhas and many more from the interior villages of Kutch, who have their own unique art work to be proud of.

Each of these tribes have a different style of embroidery and their specific patterns. Most of the products made with `pakko embroidery.' Some are even made of patch work and quilting. The products these artisans produce from their humble dwellings are pouches, wall hangings, dolls, leather hangings and photo-frames.

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Nightmare still continues for quake-scarred people Tuesday, March 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The tears have dried up, but the ugly scars refuse to go away. Two months after the January 26 temblor killed their loved ones, led to the collapse of their houses and turned their lives upside down, the nightmare is still not over for many in the city. About 750 people lost their lives, 1,200 were injured and property worth Rs 1,000 crore was damaged in the devastating quake.
Today, hundreds are still living away from their homes or what used to be their homes two months ago. They have moved into rented accommodations or are putting up at relatives. Many who recovered from the initial shock are going into relapse as reality sinks in. Two months later, more than 500 families are still homeless because their apartments have either collapsed or have become too dangerous to live in. ``Some are even putting up at relief camps like Visamo of the Calorex Foundation. Others I know of have sent families away,'' says Krishnakant Oza, who lost his house in Chandrama Apartment.

With high-rise buildings having suffered the most damage, almost every family is waging a personal battle to bring life back to normal. The district administration did disburse compensation of Rs 5 crore to families of those killed, but those who lost their homes are losing hope by the day getting compensation. The list of members of the Ahmedabad Earthquake-Affected Peoples' Association and the Ahmedabad Home Losers Association grows longer as desperate people try to seek solace by forming their own groups to fight for their rights. As public anger spilled over, members even blocked traffic on Ashram Road in a desperate attempt to draw attention to their plight. ``The fact is all these people are now on their own. The Government has done its bit, but who will return their homes?'' asks Deepak Babaria of the Ahmedabad Earthquake-Affected Peoples' Association.

The Government has announced a rehabilitation package according to which compensation will be provided to those who lost their homes depending on their size. But for those who put their lifetime savings into their dream houses, the part compensation is little consolation.

Mercifully, the aftershocks which kept people scared and nervous subsided after February 25, bringing some peace of mind. Even as the builders left people to their fate, the CEPT took up the task of inspecting buildings and reporting whether they were safe for habitation or not. However, a month after the survey and following suggestions and counter-suggestions by many experts, most residents are getting repairs of their buildings done on their own.

Significantly, 73 builders responsible for more than 50 building collapses and the death of over 700 people are behind bars now. After days of drama, wanted builders like Satish Shah of Shikhar Apartment gave themselves up. That may be some consolation for families who lost members or homes but with the heat turned off the police, the investigation seems to have stagnated. Architects and structural engineers as well as errant officials of the AMC and AUDA are still scot-free. The police are filing chargesheets against accused builders but awaits the reports from NCCBM, which may nail them. The city still bears the ugly marks of the 50 seconds.

The precariously hanging staircases and concrete slabs of Mansi Complex and Shikhar Apartments have became places of attraction. And 95 per cent of the high-rises now show of patched-up cracks and freshly jacketed pillars. There are more frightening scars elsewhere in the numerous city hospitals many survivors with amputated limbs are still recovering.

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Special - Nightmare still continues for quake-scarred people Tuesday, March 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The tears have dried up, but the ugly scars refuse to go away. Two months after the January 26 temblor killed their loved ones, led to the collapse of their houses and turned their lives upside down, the nightmare is still not over for many in the city. About 750 people lost their lives, 1,200 were injured and property worth Rs 1,000 crore was damaged in the devastating quake.
Today, hundreds are still living away from their homes or what used to be their homes two months ago. They have moved into rented accommodations or are putting up at relatives. Many who recovered from the initial shock are going into relapse as reality sinks in. Two months later, more than 500 families are still homeless because their apartments have either collapsed or have become too dangerous to live in. ``Some are even putting up at relief camps like Visamo of the Calorex Foundation. Others I know of have sent families away,'' says Krishnakant Oza, who lost his house in Chandrama Apartment.

With high-rise buildings having suffered the most damage, almost every family is waging a personal battle to bring life back to normal. The district administration did disburse compensation of Rs 5 crore to families of those killed, but those who lost their homes are losing hope by the day getting compensation. The list of members of the Ahmedabad Earthquake-Affected Peoples' Association and the Ahmedabad Home Losers Association grows longer as desperate people try to seek solace by forming their own groups to fight for their rights. As public anger spilled over, members even blocked traffic on Ashram Road in a desperate attempt to draw attention to their plight. ``The fact is all these people are now on their own. The Government has done its bit, but who will return their homes?'' asks Deepak Babaria of the Ahmedabad Earthquake-Affected Peoples' Association.

The Government has announced a rehabilitation package according to which compensation will be provided to those who lost their homes depending on their size. But for those who put their lifetime savings into their dream houses, the part compensation is little consolation.

Mercifully, the aftershocks which kept people scared and nervous subsided after February 25, bringing some peace of mind. Even as the builders left people to their fate, the CEPT took up the task of inspecting buildings and reporting whether they were safe for habitation or not. However, a month after the survey and following suggestions and counter-suggestions by many experts, most residents are getting repairs of their buildings done on their own.

Significantly, 73 builders responsible for more than 50 building collapses and the death of over 700 people are behind bars now. After days of drama, wanted builders like Satish Shah of Shikhar Apartment gave themselves up. That may be some consolation for families who lost members or homes but with the heat turned off the police, the investigation seems to have stagnated. Architects and structural engineers as well as errant officials of the AMC and AUDA are still scot-free. The police are filing chargesheets against accused builders but awaits the reports from NCCBM, which may nail them. The city still bears the ugly marks of the 50 seconds.

The precariously hanging staircases and concrete slabs of Mansi Complex and Shikhar Apartments have became places of attraction. And 95 per cent of the high-rises now show of patched-up cracks and freshly jacketed pillars. There are more frightening scars elsewhere in the numerous city hospitals many survivors with amputated limbs are still recovering.

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'I had all I could ask for,today there is nothing left' Tuesday, March 27, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Two months after his dream home went down, taking with it his wife and 20-year-old son, P S Sukumaran has changed completely. To forget the agony and pain that engulfed him after his family was killed when Shantanu Apartments in Maninagar collapsed on January 26, Sukumar turned to God and religion.
``Today I am alive only because of the blessings of Mata Amritanandamayi. She willed that I and my daughter live. I even heard that she was aware that a devastating quake was to strike Gujarat, but kept it to herself believing that one should allow nature to take it's own course,'' he says.

Since the quake, Sukumar has found solace in her teachings, satsangs and bhajans. And it is in chanting her name that he finds peace. A jeweller, Sukumar, was in his shop when the quake rattled Ahmedabad. ``My son, P S Sunil Kumar, had left for home five minutes ago. The moment they felt the tremor, my daughter Lakshmi and son Sunil rushed out. My wife was in the bathroom so Sunil went back. He was coming down when the house collapsed,'' he recalls. His wife's body was found on the staircase a day after the quake, while the son's body was found five days later.

``He was crushed under our house balcony,'' recalls Sukumar, pain in his eyes. ``I was there for five days looking into the debris, searching for my son. I saw people coming and looting things from the debris. A girl came from Gandhinagar claiming to be our neighbour's relative. She picked up a lot of things and left. Later did we realise that they had no relatives in Gandhinagar,'' reminisces Sukumar.

Life became easier when he spoke on the phone to the Mata, he says. In order to alleviate the pain, he ``completely submitted'' to Amma, as she is popularly called. ``I wanted to submerge my son's and wife's ashes in the sea opposite her ashram so immediately left for Kerala. Here I had an audience with Amma for two hours after which I felt relieved. Amma decided to adopt my daughter and provide her education and take care of her,'' says Sukumar.

Upon his return, Sukumar was handed over the compensation cheque for his wife and son. ``I have lost everything. In monetary terms it would translate to Rs 25-30 lakh. All that we could have even salvaged was stolen,'' he says.

Today, two months after the quake, he lives with a friend. ``I go to the shop and do nothing. There is no aim in life now. The pain remains, I still remember my complete home. I had everything one could ask for wealth, a loving and caring wife, a brilliant son, talented daughter and lots of happiness. Today there is nothing. I simply exist and pass one day after the other,'' says Sukumar, finality in his voice.

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