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March 19, 2001 - March 19, 2001

Experts for effective water management policies Monday, March 19, 2001

AHMEDABAD: In view of the fast depleting Sabarmati basin, water management experts have advocated harnessing all sources of water, recharging wells and acquifers, and judiciously using roof-top water tanks.

This was discussed at a seminar, 'A participatory approach in water management - a case study of Sabarmati basin' here on Sunday. The seminar was jointly organised by the Water Management Forum and Institution of Engineers (India).

Speaking at the occasion, the former secretary department of Irrigation and the former chairman of the high-power committee on Environment, BJ Vasoya said water, which was abundant in the region during 1950, has become scarce and was going to be the most costly commodity in the year to come. Considering the present scenario, he said it was essential to plan moves in advance and adopt effective water management policies to counter the situation.

Making a presentation during the occasion, VISAT, a non-governmental organisation studying the status of ground water in the Sabarmati Basin, said the present status of basin needs to be identified and an effective distribution plan requires to be implemented taking into consideration the socio-economic status of the various users. "The distribution needs to be planned by assessing the water requirements of various communities at different locations," said the VIKSAT director Srinivas Mudrakartha.

According to the agency, water demand was increasing through out the region due to increasing industrialisation, urbanisation and population which was causing a steady depletion of water in the area.

In addition, the government policy of subsidising power and well drilling resulted in increased access to the resource while reducing incentives for conservation.

The agency said policy incentives for groundwater development coupled with the spread of mechanised pumping technology have created an illusion of plenty by allowing people to use the groundwater resources which have accumulated in the basin over thousands of years in some cases.

Large-scale pollution of water has also lead to its scarcity in region. While the primary source of the pollution is agricultural chemicals sprayed during cultivation along the river bed, a large number of industrial affluent also renders the water of the basin unusable.

Also contamination by fly ash generated by thermal stations along the Sabarmati, washing and dyeing operations along the river bed also pollutes the available water to a large extent.

VISAT points out that given the diverse nature of physical problems across the Sabarmati bed, the solutions to water scarcity and the pollution problems will be different for different users. Further the effectiveness of any water and management solutions depends upon a range of physical, social, economic parameters, which again varies widely across the basin.

Stating that to achieve water management goals for the basin, proper understanding, co-operation and compromise on the part of each other was necessary, VIKSAT says decisions have to arrived at through consensus.

For this the agency says that the Sabarmati river bed need to be divided into three sub-basins for the basis for identifying the stakeholders - the users of the basin water.

"The overarching goal of the forum of different stakeholders and the concerned agencies would be equitable and sustainable development and management of water sources in the Sabarmati," says Mudrakartha.

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Vishwa Gujarati Samaj chief questions Centre's intentions Monday, March 19, 2001

AHMEDABAD: President of the Vishwa Gujarati Samaj in a letter to the prime minister has termed the relief granted to Gujarat in cash and kind as "highly inadequate".

In the wake of Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel returning empty handed from the Centre, Krishnakant Vakharia -- president of the samaj -- has said that the Centre's cold shoulder to the devastation in Gujarat causes great injustice to the state.

"The quake package extended by the Central government comprises Rs 500 crore from National Calamity Fund Assistance to be provided under various central-sponsored schemes for reconstruction of roads, bridges, power installations and exemption from excise in certain items. Easy availability of loans from international and national agencies in addition to a permission to the state government to raise loans from the masses through Quake Relief Bonds are highly inadequate," says Vakharia in his letter.

Pointing at the provision for levy of 2 per cent surcharge on corporate and individual tax, the Samaj says that though the amount collected from this exercise will be deposited in the National Calamity Funds, there is no guarantee that the entire amount will be allotted to Gujarat. The Samaj has demanded that the Government of India should come out with a categorical statement that the entire fund so collected will be handed over to the quake-ravaged state.

"The Centre is aware that damage in quake-affected areas of the state runs in thousands of crores of rupees. Even if the entire collection from Surcharge Tax, which is estimated at Rs 2,000 crore per annum, is invested in repair, rebuilding and restoration of the state will prove to be inadequate. Gujarat requires a minimum of Rs 30,000 crore to get over the damages wrecked on January 26," said Vakharia.

The Samaj has also questioned the Centre's intentions on issue of quake-relief bonds. The letter addressed to the PM says that such bonds and loans from national and international agencies will increase the burden of debt on the people of Gujarat who are already suffering from acute water shortage due to consecutive droughts for two years.

Members of the Samaj have suggested that the government of India pledge the entire collection from surcharge tax to Gujarat as grant and a budgetary provision of Rs 30,000 crore for quake rehabilitation to Gujarat over the next two years.

The letter says that interest-free loans be made available from national financial institutions and that the Central government should bear the burden of interest for loans taken from international funding agencies.

While proposing a tax exemption for five years in the quake-affected areas, the Samaj has demanded special incentives for rebuilding quake-affected areas and for production and export of handicrafts by artisans of Kutch-Saurashtra and North Gujarat.

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Tug-of-war between ruling and Opposition groups leaves the citizens helpless. Monday, March 19, 2001

NADIAD: The ongoing tug-of-war between the ruling and Opposition groups in Nadiad municipality has left the citizens helpless.

The condition of basic facilities provided by the municipality has gone from bad to worse. Nearly 40 per cent of street lights are not functioning for the past six months.

The bad financial condition of the civic body can be gauged from the fact that the local traders have stopped supplying materials to different departments of the municipality on credit as they have not been paid the pending bills since long. To top it all, the important posts of health officer, chief municipal engineer and town development officer have remained vacant for the past many months.

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Lecturer forced to work as a watchman Monday, March 19, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Ramnarayan Yadav's is a story that bad dreams are made of. A postgraduate in history, Yadav (name changed) was selected by the Gujarat Public Service Commission (GPSC) for the post of lecturer a year-and-a-half ago. Despite this, Yadav is forced to earn his livelihood as a night-watchman in a board corporation office of the Central government on Ashram Road!

Yadav owes this irony in his life to the state government that has been obstinately dragging its feet on the issue of giving official appointments over 300 candidates that were selected by the GPSC as lecturers in state government colleges across the state.

Here, even as the committee constituted for seeking justice for these candidates slugs it out with the education department, Yadav is forced to set aside his self-esteem and pamper the management to keep the job of a watchman. "Nobody in my family is educated but I was hopeful that I would be able to pursue higher studies and change the future of my family. But see where I am... a watchman manning an office all night for a paltry Rs 60 everyday. Sometimes I feel ashamed of myself and think of going back but how will I show my face to my family that is under the impression that I am a big professor here", admits Yadav, a native of Uttar Pradesh with a tinge of embarrassment. Yadav is also pulling along as the responsibility of his two younger sisters' marriage rests on him and of course hope, though a bleak one, that justice will eventually prevail!

Ramesh Patel (name changed) has suffered greater irony as in the hope of becoming a lecturer he also lost the job of higher secondary teacher that was being offered to him. "I had got a job in the higher secondary school here but when the news of my getting selected by the GPSC spread, even that was denied to me as it was but apparent I would prefer the job of a lecturer. Why is the government punishing us, why does it not give us our due?", fervently queries young Patel who has reverted back to tilling his parched farmlands in Chanasma in north Gujarat.

Selected by the GPSC from 25,000-odd candidates, these desperate 300 candidates including Yadav and Patel have knocked on almost all possible doors of power including minister for higher education Bharat Barot and Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel only to get verbal promises that never materialise.

Education department officials have reportedly blamed the delay on appointments of adhoc lecturers. "Until it is decided as to what to do with the ad hoc teachers, these selected candidates cannot be given official appointments as the same would result in two people occupying a single post", is the logic put forth for the delay.

But apparently state government's own GR rules that in case where candidates selected by the public service commission are available and have not been given appointments, no ad hoc appointments should be made and if made, the same be immediately declared cancelled. "Why does the government not implement its GR? Why is it protecting unqualified people appointed in ad hoc posts at the cost of deserving candidates? Will the CM and education minister please tell us where our fault lies?", pleads president of the committee of these aggrieved candidates Kamlesh Patel.

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Bhavan's school imbroglio reaches court Monday, March 19, 2001

VADODARA: The Bhavan's School imbroglio is dragged to the courts now with the newly-formed parents' body planning to file a PIL in the Gujarat High Court and a case in the city court on Monday regarding the alleged beating up of students of a hostel of the school.

Students' Help, Awareness, Rights Protection Programme (SHARP), formed by parents of Bhavan's School students soon after a number of students residing in the KM Munshi Hall of residence were beaten up and dragged to the police station by the hostel warden and house master on Thursday, will file a PIL in the Gujarat High Court on Monday.

City-based psychiatrist Yogesh Patel, who will file the case in his capacity as the president of SHARP, said that they would demand an explanation regarding the accusations made by the students.

The PIL will be filed against some officials of the CBSE including its chairman (headquarters), New Delhi, CBSE's regional officer, based in Ajmer and in-charge of schools in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, chairman of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan that runs the school, the Union human resource development ministry and the state home department.

A number of students of the KM Munshi Hall of Bhavan's School were allegedly beaten up by hostel warden BK Bakshi and house-master Vijay Kumar and were taken to the Makarpura police station. The students and parents have been agitating over the issue since Thursday.

"We will plead to the court to ask the state home department to explain why Makarpura police station personnel detain students of the hostel, under which Section were they detained and whether they were allowed to inform their local guardians or lawyer," said Patel.

Patel will also file a case in the city court against as many as five teachers of the school charging them of "trying to accuse him of defaming the school's reputation."

"I will challenge their claim that I was trying to sully the name of the school by instigating students," says Patel.

Meanwhile, Patel alleged that he has been receiving threatening calls from unknown people on Saturday asking him to "keep away from taking up the cause of the students."

Patel has informed city police commissioner J. Mahapatra about the threat calls who directed him to file a complaint with the Gorwa police station. Patel was instrumental in setting up SHARP and spearheading the movement against the school management.

"Someone, identifying himself as a friend of mine, called my clinic in Nizampura and asked me and asked me not to meddle in the students' affairs. While this call was made around 3.30 pm, I received another in the evening. This time, the caller was abusive and threatened me of dire consequences," says Patel.

Related News - 'I feel no longer safe in hostel'

Munshi Hall Hostel warden, Bakshi, sacked

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