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March 24, 2001 - March 24, 2001

Wheels of foreign make `tyre' out local traders Saturday, March 24, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Want to give your four-wheeler a foreign look? With Yokohama, Riken, Michelin, Riken, Pirelli, Bridgestone, Uni-royal, Dunlop, Goodyear, CooperLife Linear or Olympic Sprinter tyres? Wondering where you can get these tyres, which are manufactured in the UK, Germany, Japan, Australia and Brazil? You just have to pop into tyre shops in the city and you can buy yourself new wheels at dirt cheap rates between Rs 500 and Rs 1,300.
But then don't go by the looks for all that the tyres look spanking new, they are not. These wheels are ``engraved and painted black'' by ingenious sellers, who pass them off on to you.

As a result, local traders are a ``tyred'' lot. A large number of these used tyres of foreign make have flooded the city market. Result: sales of new tyres of Indian make have been hit. Tyre traders here allege that these tyres are brought into the country at throwaway prices by people with an import licence. Stating that main dealers are based in Mumbai and Delhi, they claim that these tyres are distributed all over the country.

Take the example of a Sumo jeep. The cost of Indian-manufactured radial tyres of any reputed tyre company comes to around Rs 4,000. Foreign tyres of the same series and size cost between Rs 500 and 1,300, depending on how much they have been used.

Sources in the tyre trade said there are at least half a dozen shops in the city selling foreign tyres. Available cheap, more people prefer these to Indian ones. The sources added that these tyres come cheap because the traders are not paying sales tax and exact octroi before selling them.

Dealers also said that in many cases, there were specialised men appointed by these shops to ``enhance'' the look of these used tyres and make them look new. ``These tyres are engraved here itself and also painted with black paint,'' said a dealer. He also provided the rates that these ``engravers'' charge the shop owners Rs 30 to 40 per tyre.

Visits to two such shops J K Tyre and Santosh Tyres in Saranpur revealed that a wide range of such tyres are available. However, at both shops no receipts were provided for the purchases. Shopkeepers also said they would not provide any written guarantee for the tyres, adding that they would take responsibility for ``any deficiency in the tyre for a period of up to one year, depending on it's condition.''

``These tyres are discarded in other countries and we have dealings with ship companies who bring them to India,'' said Ferozbhai at J K Tyre. He showed at least half a dozen tyres for a jeep with prices ranging between Rs 500 and Rs 1,200.

At the Santosh Tyres godown, there were at least a dozen people with stained clothes and hands. When asked, one of them said that they were painting old tyres. ``Many complain that the tyres look old, so we just paint them black,'' said a youngster employed there.

Imtiazbhai, the owner of the shop, said vehicles in foreign countries are allowed to speed up to 100 km per hour and when the tyres become slightly old, they are discarded. ``Here in India, anything works and thus they are becoming more and more popular,'' he said.

However, traders cautioned that engraving on radial tyres causes them to tear when speeds increase, often resulting in accidents. They said engraving is quite different from retreading, which involves adding extra rubber on old tyres and costs between Rs 200 and Rs 2,000 for scooter tyres to truck tyres.

Deputy Municipal Commissioner T G Jhalavadia, who is in charge of octroi, said whether the tyres are new or old, octroi is charged when they are brought into the city. ``The rates for old tyres may be nominal, but octroi is being charged,'' he stated.

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Mansi Complex hangs like Damocle's sword over shops Saturday, March 24, 2001

AHMEDABAd: Tired of awaiting demolition of the half-collapsed ten-storeyed Mansi Complex, some the shop keepers have, since the past 15 to 20 days, gone ahead and reopened their shops around the Complex.
The Complex, which was badly damaged in the January 26 earthquake killing 38 residents, had shops standing right beside it. Out of the 64 shops, 32 shops were on the ground floor and remaining on the first floor. Out of these, 14 shops were completely destroyed not by the quake but by the Army to gain access into the complex during the rescue operations.

Nearly half of the remaining 50 shops at a distance of three to 60 feet have been reopened by there owners. What has prompted the owners to take such a dangerous decision?

"What else can we do but to reopen our shops? We have to get back to our normal lives. Even though we do fear that the remaining part of the tower may fall on us, we have to reopen the shops after all it's the question of our bread and butter," says Govind Patel, whose shop is just three feet away from the damaged tower.

The shopkeepers have filed a petition in the High Court, demanding the tower's demolition. But, with no substantial progress, they are in an aggressive mood.

Dr Dudhita, whose dispensary is on the first floor which is badly damaged, says: "God only knows why is the Government delaying the order of demolishing the building? More deaths, probably. All they have done is studied the different reports and formed one committee after another, but no one from the Government came to see how precariously the building stands."

No only have they lost business for all these days, but also customers.

"One look at the building and no one would prefer to come here. We have lost a lot of customers. The sooner they demolish the building, the better. At least, our customers would return," says Dashrat Patel, who owns a paan shop there.

Meanwhile, the shopkeepers whose shops were demolished during the rescue operation have their own woes. They were promised compensation, but have yet to recieve a dime.

Says Bharat Patel, whose shop had been demolished during the rescue operations: "We have filed complaints with the AUDA, Collector's Office and have also sent copies of the same to the Chief Minister, but all in vain. We had invested all our money in the shop and now have been left with nothing at all. We cannot even think of a new venture till we get the compensation."

As of now, the shop keepers can do nothing much but await the High Court's green signal to demolish the building and with it their fears.

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Trust to immerse ashes of quake victims at Prayag on March 26 Saturday, March 24, 2001

AHMEDABAD: On Thursday morning, ashes of over 3,800 quake victims were carried by members of Sadvichar Parivar to Prayaag where they will be immersed at Triveni Sangam on March 26, three months after the disastrous quake.
The scene at the Kalupur railway station refreshed the horrid memories of the quake among relatives and friends who had come to see off the members at the station. "Swami Adhyatmanandji chanted prayers and every body sang Ram bhajans," said Haribhai Panchal, president and founder of Sadvichar Parivar, a 52-year-old trust.

"We sent our vehicles to 18 villages in Kutch from where they collected asthis of almost 4,000 victims. "These asthis will be taken, free of cost to Prayag and immersed amidst religious chants," Panchal adds. The Sadvichar Parivar had also immersed the ashes of the victims on February 24 on the Maha Amavasya day in Haridwar.

The trust sends ashes of over 10,000 demised from Gujarat to Haridwar and Prayaag every year for the past five decades. "We were established in 1948 when we immersed the ashes of Gandhiji and then Pandit Nehru and this is done for purely humanitarian purposes," Panchal adds.

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Govt to introduce Bill to check power thefts Saturday, March 24, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: State energy minister Kaushikbhai Patel on Friday announced in the Assembly that the government was contemplating enacting a special law to check power theft at Gujarat Electricity Board units in the state. Members of the ruling party had made strong a demand in the House.

Replying to an hour-long debate on a statutory resolution aimed at raising GEB's loan limit to Rs 8,000 from the existing Rs 5,000 crore, the minister said the increase in the borrowing capacity was essential as the GEB had undertaken massive expansion of its network in the state. A draft Bill would be prepared shortly.

Patel said the GEB has plans to increase installed capacity of 8013 MW to 12,000 MW by 2003. For that huge, the Board required huge amounts. Referring to complaints made by ruling party members regarding power theft in rural and urban areas, the minister said the GEB's flying squads have recovered penalty to the tune of Rs 150 crore in past one year, which was a record.

In order to arm GEB with more powers the government was also contemplating introducing provisions in the new Act that would act as a deterrent to law breakers.

The minister said GEB installations had suffered heavy losses following the earthquake. The GEB staff had always risen to the occasion and this time too GEB employees had restored power within days of the calamity. The ruling party members, including Vasanbhai Ahir from Kutch and Ashok Bhatt, were all praises for the Board which had restored power to more than 900 villages in less than 10 days.

Patel said the government had directed GEB officials to implement 16 recommendations made by the state electricity regulatory commission to further tone up the Board's efficiency, increase power generation and check transmission and distribution losses, which, according to experts, were highest in the country.

Following several measures initiated by the Board, plant load factor of up to 75 per cent has been achieved. The minister informed the House that GEB had started using imported coal as fuel for Wanakbori and Gandhinagar thermal power plants and, in coming days, more power plants would be supplied imported coal.

Referring to representations made by members from Saurashtra and Kutch that the GEB should, in view of the quake damage, be asked to give new power connections to agriculturists, Patel said, "We have already achieved a new target of providing 30,000 new connections instead of 20,000 earlier." It was a big task to clear the backlog of around 2,00,000 applications for new connection from the agriculture sector.

To a query over erratic power supply to the agriculture sector in peak hours of the season, Patel assured the members that power would be supplied for more than 12 hours for the agriculture sector and this new schedule would continue till June.

Majority of the 16 members who participated in the debate on the motion demanded the GEB overhaul its transmission and distribution system so that the losses were not passed on to consumers.

State finance minister Vajubhai Vala said the GEB had to be strengthened to cope with the increasing requirement of power. He said earlier Congress governments had not raised the debt limits while the BJP government had now raised it to Rs 8,000 crore.

Unless more power was generated by the GEB, the state would not be able to match the state's progress.

He said the state government had encouraged private participation for power generation. As a result, the private players had installed plants with a capacity of 1500 MW in past few years.

Later, the House unanimously passed the resolution.

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Cong turn down mayor's invitation to Kevadiya Saturday, March 24, 2001

VADODARA: City Mayor Bharti Vyas's invitation to elected public representatives of the Congress in the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) to visit the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) dam site at Kevadiya along with BJP corporators on Friday has been turned down.

Congress corporators termed the Kevadiya visit as 'mayor's picnic' at a time when the state is still grappling with multiple crises, like an impending drought on the one hand and devastation brought on by January 26 earthquake. Congress leaders called Vyas's Kevadiya picnic plan a cruel joke played on people who are suffering because of natural disasters worsened by an 'apathetic administration'.

Sources said that Vyas had decided to take VMC corporators to Kevadia Colony on Friday, to show them how water is drawn from Narmada Dam and brought to the city.

Congress leaders, however, said the BJP was indulging in gimmicks and had completely failed in handling the water crisis. "The problem of water scarcity have aggravated in the last five years because of the indifferent attitude of the BJP government. Even now, they are more interested in going out on a picnic to Kevadia Colony rather than find ways to solve the water problem in the city," says leader of Opposition in VMC Dalsukh Prajapati.

"We won't leave our people in the lurch and go out on a party with the mayor. Our demand is that instead of taking water from the Narmada River to Ajwa reservoir, water should be taken from Narmada River to Mahi River," said Prajapati. He said that only 1.35 crore gallon water can be stored in the Ajwa reservoir, while nearly 4.5 crore gallon water can be stored in the four French well in the Mahi River.

The Congress leaders say that 1.35 crore-gallon water stored in Ajwa reservoir won't even last a month. "Each time we tried presenting the real picture before the mayor, she said that under such a situation, the VMC will draw water from the newly constructed tube-wells. But unfortunately, the water from the tube-well is saline and can't be used for drinking purpose," said Prajapati.

Congress labelled the mayor as 'stubborn' and 'disinterested' in the development of the city. "She can't think beyond her party. She forgets that she is a mayor of the city and not a representative of a party. She is more interested in pleasing the party rather than work for the welfare of the people in the city," said Parajapati. He added that if the mayor continues to have a detached attitude towards the problem of water scarcity, soon the situation in Vadodara would be similar to that in Saurashtra.

"In the past we had told the mayor that we were ready to go along with the ruling party to Gandhinagar, to request the state government to allow us to take water from Narmada river to Mahi. But she didn't try to convince the state government nor did she pay heed to our advice," said Congress leader Chirag Zaveri. He said, "We are always ready to work for the welfare of the city, but the very thought of going out for a picnic when the whole city is gripped by severe water crisis disgusts me."

The Congress leaders are demanding that all the Corporators be informed about the water condition in the city. "Nearly one-third of the Corporators are with us. We need to be informed about the steps taken to solve the water crisis in the city," added Zaveri.

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