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March 20, 2001 - March 20, 2001

We've learnt to live with tears, say victims Tuesday, March 20, 2001

==> Seventeen-year-old Rekha Trivedi, who belongs to Rapar taluka in Kutch, was admitted to Civil Hospital on January 28. She suffers from a fractured leg and has 20 stiches on her forehead and is here with her mother and a younger brother, who is also injured. She longs to go back home but is unsure of when she will be able to.

==> Fourteen-year-old Hiren Joshi has suffered multiple fractures and is in V S Hospital since Feburary 2. His mother is also in the same hospital, but in a different ward. Residents of Bhachau, they were brought here from Unjha General Hospital and right now, more than going home he longs to see his mother.
The ordeal is still not over for many victims of the devastating Republic Day quake. They have no place to go and no one to turn to. This city is alien to them and the people around them strangers. Around 250 victims from Kutch are housed in hospitals in Ahmedabad and after more than 50 days of the quake, they say they have learnt to live with pain, sorrow and tears. We have no idea of when we will return home, say most of them.

About 200 victims are admitted to Civil Hospital and there are another 50 in the V S Hospital. Surrounded by their relatives, these are people who have lost something or the other be it the life of a loved one or else property.

``With both my legs fractured and stiches on my head, I am helpless and my old mother has to run around asking for help if the need arises. But as everyone around here is in the same boat, everyone helps each other,'' says Zarenaben, who has been in Civil Hospital since January 27. She lost her husband and two children in the quake and longs to be discharged from the hospital so that she can return home to her two-month-old baby and mother-in-law.

Being strangers in the city, relatives of those in hospitals complain of the huge expenditure, saying they have no source to borrow money from in case of an emergency. ``Where are we to get money from? Whatever we had has already been spent?'' questions Kantilal Velji, whose wife is in V S Hospital.

``Patients are being taken care of but we are supposed to look after ourselves. Food and shelter are our main problems. The Government is sending all help to affected areas, but what about us? Should the Government not do something for us?'' questions Ranjibhai Patel, whose wife is also in V S.

The relatives of patients normally sleep in the wards on the floor near the beds. However, if they are compelled to leave the ward, they sleep in the verandas of the hospitals.

``We have no other place to go,'' says Bhupatbhai Kanji, whose son is in V S Hospital ever since the quake. `` The wards are really crowded at times. Some of us have to shift to the verandas as it is impossible to sleep in this heat,'' says Ketuben Jain, who is taking care of her daughter in Civil Hospital.

Just after the quake, many NGOs and other private groups came to these people's aid, but now they have been left to fend for themselves. More than resources, they want someone to support them emotionally. ``We will manage everything else in some way, but we need emotional support,'' says Geetaben Bhatt, whose son is in Civil Hospital.

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`One cannot expect profits from the AMTS' Tuesday, March 20, 2001

With continued losses, the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) remains in the news. It is still to get the Rs 19 crore that the Government owes it, but 53-year-old chairman Surendra Baxi is optimistic. Congress councillor from Kalupur ward, Baxi has been in politics for three decades now. He started out as general secretary of M N Law College, has been secretary of State Youth Congress, and municipal councillor since 1995. Speaking to Meghdoot Sharon, Baxi speaks about problems plaguing the AMTS and how he plans to sort them out.

What is the biggest problem that the AMTS is faced with today?
Undoubtedly, the financial crunch. The AMTS has been incurring losses of around Rs 2 crore a month and this has to be brought down to around Rs 1.25 crore if the AMTS wants to provide good services. One thing must be made clear one should not expect profits from the AMTS. This is a service sector that has to be run while incurring losses. At the most, losses can be minimised.

What is being done to check losses?
The only way is to increase revenue as salaries and allowances cannot be slashed. We have introduced incentive schemes for drivers and conductors who bring in more revenue. Optimum use of existing buses is necessary and we are trying to do that.

Has the revenue picked up after the Congress came to power in the AMC ?
The average daily income of the AMTS has been around Rs 23 lakh since the last few days. Before the quake, it was around Rs 24 lakh, but dropped to Rs 20 lakh after it. Our immediate target is to achieve an average daily income of around Rs 27 lakh, so that the loss can be reduced.

What about the Rs 19 crore that the Government owes the AMTS for ferrying cops ? You claimed after taking over that you would get the money from the Government.
The Congress is pressing for that amount and I have been told that the file has now been moved to the Finance Ministry. That money is the rightful share of the AMTS and we will get it.

When are the two vestibule buses expected to arrive in the city ?
These buses will be on the roads by the second week of April. Rs 40 lakh have already been sanctioned for them and they will help in increasing revenue.

A large number of buses in the AMTS fleet are old and dilapidated. What about them?
Yes, it is true that we are running many buses that are as old as 15 years. But in this budget, funds have been allotted for buying 50 new buses, fitting others with Euro-II engines and even fitting some with CNG engines. If the Government sets up CNG filling stations, we can shift to CNG as fuel.

AMTS drivers are notorious for indiscipline on the roads. How are you tackling that?
After taking over as AMTS chairman, I have been personally taking rounds of the city. A number of drivers and conductors have been issued memos for rash driving, not stopping at bus stands and the like.

Any new things on the anvil for the AMTS ?
Although this will be on an experimental basis, we are thinking of running the service on a joint venture basis with a private party. We will try this on selected routes and see if it works. Also, the numbers and routes of all buses will be painted with flourescent ink so that people can see them at night too.

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Crisis averted at one more co-op bank in city Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Barely had the serpentine queues of depositors vanished from the gates of the city's co-operative banks last week after the Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank's payment crisis, when one more co-operative bank faced a crisis at the RBI clearing house on Saturday.
Sources in the banking industry said that the Classic Co-operative Bank Ltd, which is a clearing sub-agent of the Visnagar Nagrik Sahkari Bank Ltd, a scheduled bank, had an outstanding position in excess of Rs 20 crore at the RBI clearing house on Saturday afternoon.

However, painstaking efforts by top RBI officials ensured that the crisis was averted. A very senior RBI official is said to have supervised the clearing of the bank for more than one hour.

However, other sources said there was no problem as such with the bank's finances, but a pay order was stopped after instructions from the issuing party. Inquiries with the Reserve Bank's urban banks department elicited no response in this connection. The Visnagar and Classic Bank managements were also unavailable for comments. V S Das, the RBI regional director, could not be contacted despite several attempts.

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Water supply twice each day Tuesday, March 20, 2001

People in the city will receive water twice a day from the second week of April. Although Narmada water has reached Raska weir last week, water is still being provided once a day as summer season has not yet fully set in.
Water Supply and Sewerage Committee chairman Liyaqat Ghori said residents of the city will not face water problems this summer. Besides getting water for two hours in the morning, residents will also get water for half an hour in the evening, Ghori said. He added that this will continue until summer ends.

The Raska weir has started receiving 7.5 crore gallons of water on a daily basis from the Narmada river from last week. Officials said during summer months, the Wanakbori reservoir will remain untouched so that there will be adequate water for the remaining part of the year.

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Civic body chalks out action plan before monsoon Tuesday, March 20, 2001

The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has chalked out a comprehensive pre-monsoon action plan to ensure that chances of monsoon related diseases and problems are minimised. Beginning from the first week of April, the two- month exercise will include de-silting of all drainage and storm water pipelines besides cleaning of the city in two phases.
Municipal Commissioner K Kailasnathan presided over a day-long meeting held at the West zone office on Thursday to chalk out the pre-monsoon action plan for the AMC. The Health, Engineering and Estate departments will take up the drive jointly in each of the five municipal zones from the beginning of next month, municipal officials said.

Although implementation of a pre-monsoon action plan is an annual feature, the plan assumes significance this year as officials are still not sure as to what effect the earthquake has had on the storm water pipes, drinking water pipes and drainage pipes that have been laid underground.

AMC Medical Officer of Health (MOH) Dr P K Makwana said existing staff of the AMC safai kamdars and employees of the AMC will be involved in the two-month operation. Makwana added that stress will be laid on slums, pols and chawls, where incidence of diseases as well as water and drainage line leakages is higher than the rest of the city.

The work of de-silting the storm water pipes that open into the Sabarmati at 29 places will however be a major task. Makwana said as far as drainage pipes are concerned, the civic body will carry out de-silting of the major drainage connections, and private residents will have to get their individual drainage lines de-silted.

Meanwhile, in-charge fo the AMC Anti Malaria Cell Dr R R Chhablani said this year round there are little chances of mosquito breeding in the Sabarmati, as the Collectorate opened the Vasna barrage gates on the Sabarmati a fortnight ago, releasing almost all water downstream. ``The Sabarmati bed will remain dry for the summer season,'' he said. Chhablani however added that samples will be taken from all areas where there are drainage or drinking water pipe leakages.

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