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March 22, 2001 - March 23, 2001

Birla group company rises to the occasion Friday, March 23, 2001

JAMNAGAR: With relief help pouring in from different organisations, NGOs and companies for the quake-affected areas of the state, Birla's VXL Ltd (Digjam) has had its own share of contribution in the same.

Birla's VXL Ltd had taken up relief and restoration activities in quake-affected areas of Kutch and Jamnagar districts right from the second day of the January 26 killer quake.

In Bhuj, Mandvi and Bhachau talukas of Kutch district, the company had provided foodgrains, clothes and other essential materials to those families who were rendered homeless in the quake. The company had spent about Rs 40 lakh for relief.

As suggested by the chief minister, the company had also undertaken relief work in Jodiya taluka of Jamnagar district and adopted the worst-affected Kerali village by providing all essential need materials. The relief and restoration work by company's officials is still continuing. Kerali village, which has about 1,200 people, lost almost all the houses in the killer quake.

On the very second day of the quake, the company had sent two ambulances, well-equipped with medicines and other needy equipment for emergency treatment, to the quake-hit Kutch district.

The S K Birla group of charitable trust and industries started relief operation with Arya-Dharma Seva Trust.

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Birla group company rises to the occasion Friday, March 23, 2001

JAMNAGAR: With relief help pouring in from different organisations, NGOs and companies for the quake-affected areas of the state, Birla's VXL Ltd (Digjam) has had its own share of contribution in the same.

Birla's VXL Ltd had taken up relief and restoration activities in quake-affected areas of Kutch and Jamnagar districts right from the second day of the January 26 killer quake.

In Bhuj, Mandvi and Bhachau talukas of Kutch district, the company had provided foodgrains, clothes and other essential materials to those families who were rendered homeless in the quake. The company had spent about Rs 40 lakh for relief.

As suggested by the chief minister, the company had also undertaken relief work in Jodiya taluka of Jamnagar district and adopted the worst-affected Kerali village by providing all essential need materials. The relief and restoration work by company's officials is still continuing. Kerali village, which has about 1,200 people, lost almost all the houses in the killer quake.

On the very second day of the quake, the company had sent two ambulances, well-equipped with medicines and other needy equipment for emergency treatment, to the quake-hit Kutch district.

The S K Birla group of charitable trust and industries started relief operation with Arya-Dharma Seva Trust.

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MSU celebrates World Water Day Friday, March 23, 2001

VADODARA: Water Resources Engineering and Management Institute (WREMI) of the MS University will install a Rs 47-crore grip irrigation system in Mehsana district.

WREMI deputy director DT Shete informed that the project will be funded by the Asian Development Bank. WREMI was a part of the World Water Day celebrations on Thursday at the university, organised by the department of home science extension and communication.

Dramas were staged and exhibition of posters and flip charts was organised on themes like watershed management.

WREMI director G S Parthsarathy said, "India will shortly overtake China as the most-populous country in the world and this will bring with it lot of problems and difficulties. We have to increase our agricultural production, and thus water will play an important role in future''.

This year, the municipal corporation had demanded Narmada water for urban areas; as a result demand for irrigation could not be met, said Parthsarathy.

"N M Sadguru Water and Development Foundation evaluated WREMI as a Project Implementation Agency (PIA). They found that our project on development of water resources and proper utilisation of water resources with in project areas have yielded very good result in many ways, like increase in crop production, cropping intensity and increase in ground water level," said Shete.

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GEB to construct quake-proof substations Friday, March 23, 2001

VADODARA: The Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) is perhaps the first state electricity board (SEB) in the country to take up construction of the quake-proof electric substations in Kutch, GEB chairman Nalin Bhatt told 'The Times of India'.

About 45 electric substations in the district were either completely destroyed, or badly damaged, in the killer quake. Around 255 rural feeder lines, transmission and distribution lines were also badly damaged in the quake.

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Earthquake pushes drought on the back burner Thursday, March 22, 2001

The earthquake on January 26 in Gujarat came just five days before the state government was to launch drought relief works in nearly 12,240 villages which have been declared drought-hit this year. And nearly two months after the quake, with the entire government machinery still focused on quake relief, it appears that drought is still on the back burner.

This is the second year in running that almost two-thirds of the state is in the grip of a famine. In fact, the number of drought-affected villages declared by the government in December was about 4,000 more than what it had declared last year. Many towns in Saurashtra are still getting water supply only once a week. And with the mercury inching closer to the 40 degree Celsius mark with each passing day, there are still no signs of relief works being started in most famished areas affected or unaffected by the quake.

Official records however state that 3 lakh persons are engaged in drought relief works, a claim disputed by the Opposition which says that even though this figure is suspect, the number of relief works should have been much more this year considering the fact that the number of drought-affected villages has also gone up by almost 50 per cent. The collector of Panchmahals, one of the worst-affected district, Jayanti S Ravi says nearly 94,000 persons were presently employed in 229 drought relief works in the district. "The drought is definitely worse than last year", she said. The figures show that while almost all areas are crying out for drought relief works, one-third of the works have been started only in Panchmahals.

During the last one week, bandhs over water and drought issue have been organised in Saurashtra towns of Bagasara and Gondal and many more protests are being planned in the coming days, even in the chief minister's home district of Junagadh, as water gets scarce and employment opportunities also dry up. And now towns in central and north Gujarat are also up in arms over the government's apathy towards drought after the earthquake.

Last year, four starvation deaths (all denied by the government) were reported, particularly in Sabarkantha and the NGOs and Opposition are warning that if the drift continues, there could be many more this year.

The Eklavya Sangathan organised a massive demonstration of representatives from Sabarkantha, Panchmahals, Dahod, Banaskantha, Chhota Udepur and Pavijetpur areas of Vadodara district in Gandhinagar on Tuesday demanding immediate start of relief works, provision of drinking water and fodder and regular availability of grains in the drought-affected areas.

The issue figured in the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday when Congress members raised slogans in the Assembly demanding starting of relief works in the drought-affected areas. Leader of Opposition Amarsinh Chaudhary alleged that the government had failed to start adequate relief works and the situation was very bad in the scarcity-hit areas. It was a matter of shame for the ruling BJP that their own partymen had to launch agitation demanding opening of relief works, he said, adding that he had received a letter to this effect from Vav taluka BJP chief.

"The government has deliberately ignored the drought situation because of the earthquake. As a result while thousands have died due to earthquake, many more will die due to starvation", said Madhusudan Mistry of Eklavya. He said in some areas the level of malnutrition among people had gone up. The administration in Kutch and other quake-affected districts had announced that rebuilding after quake would involve people and these would be treated as relief works. However, this had not happened in the absence of a clear policy direction from the government.

Sources in the government said that at the peak of last year's drought, there were at a time 15 lakh persons engaged in drought relief works, being paid an average daily wage of Rs 40. The amount being spent on drought relief works every day only on wages was Rs 6 crore at its peak in the summer of 2000. If the government opens relief works on a full scale now, it would end up spending about Rs 500 crore on wages by the time the monsoon comes. With the state's economy battered badly by the quake, where is the money for drought?

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