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November 10, 2001 - November 11, 2001

Surat fire stations on alert for Diwali Sunday, November 11, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
SURAT: Even though Diwali is still a week away, cases of fire break outs due to crackers have started trickling from various parts of the city to the fire stations. In the last few days, there has been as many as four to five calls relating to fires due to crackers.

Keeping this in mind, all fire stations in the city have been put on alert in view of high chances of fire break outs, particularly in congested residential areas and in over 300 slum pockets on the occasion of Diwali. An average 25 calls relating to fire break outs were received on Diwali last year. Over 30 cases of severe burn injuries were registered in 10 New Civil Hospital alone.

According to Surat Municipal Corporation's deputy chief fire officer S K Acharya, this year, stress has been laid to the response time to attend to any fire cases in the city by the fire stations. For this, the workforce comprising over 500 firemen, drivers and officers have been allocated shift duty of 12 hours each, so that time taken after getting information and rushing to the site of the accident could be minimised substantially, he said.

Earlier, the firemen were on round-the-clock duty. But, since April, they have been given shift duty and instructed to be alert, so that rushing out from the station doesn't involve much time, Acharya said.

Since the areas in the newly developed parts of the city have been planned systematically, there won't be any difficulty on the part of the firemen to discharge their duty in case of any emergency, he informed. But, slums with congested lanes pose a problem, he said.

Twenty-nine fire fighters, each having 4,500-litre water capacity, have been readied at strategic points. Besides, several water tankers have been stationed. At times, more water is needed instantly to extinguish the fire, therefore storage of water is maintained at different places, Acharya informed.

All 400 firecracker shops have been allowed to do business after ensuring that each of them has two fire extinguishers, water barrels and dry sands in buckets, he said. Plans are underway to create awareness among people about precautions to be taken to make the festival free from any fire mishaps, he added.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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SGCCI requests tax relief, subsidised power Sunday, November 11, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
SURAT: Tax relief for textile and diamond processing units, low tariff for electricity and steps to speed up setting up of the proposed garment park were some of the requests figured in a representation made to the state finance minister Nitin Patel by the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI) on Friday.

SGCCI president Praful Shah told TNN that they submitted the memorandum to the minister, detailing the problems faced by the textile and diamond industries in the city.

He said the one per cent sales tax imposed on the diamond industry should be revoked. The industries in the city should get subsidised electricity as in the case of industries in Silvasa and Maharashtra. High tariff for power is an impediment the industries here face, he said.

Shah said they appealed to the minister to speed up setting up of the proposed garment park. He said for the development of industries here, the airport should be made operational at the earliest. The minister assured the SGCCI and representatives of the industries that all necessary steps would be taken in this regard, he said.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Sonia's 15 minutes recharges Congress Saturday, November 10, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
MEHSANA: In her 15-minute emotionally-charged speech in chaste Hindi on Friday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi gave at least two lakh farmers of north Gujarat the feeling that the Congress was for the farmers, with the farmers and against everything that the BJP had done to make their lives miserable.

Addressing a massive gathering outside Mehsana town, Sonia struck an instant chord with the people by telling them how her late husband Rajiv Gandhi was fully aware of the water problem in north Gujarat and had therefore launched the Water Technology Mission. She was accompanied by AICC general secretary Kamal Nath.

"I was with him (Rajiv) when he had toured north Gujarat districts during the drought," she recalled. She then said, "The BJP does not have the intention nor the vision to solve the problem."

"India is dependent on agriculture. And if farmers are in trouble and if they aren't happy, the country can certainly not be happy," she said.

Earlier, farmers of Mehsana presented Sonia with mementoes, of which one was a plough which she raised to express her solidarity with the tillers of land.

On the dais with her were GPCC chief Amarsinh Chaudhary, former chief ministers Shankersinh Vaghela and Madhavsinh Solanki, Mehsana MP Atmaram Patel, Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel and Urmila Patel.

"I am fully aware of your problems, and there are no signs of any improvement in the state of affairs with the BJP's policies at the Centre."

On the controversial Bt gene cotton issue, Sonia said, "First, with the permission of the state government you are asked to plant acres and acres of Bt gene cotton, and then you are asked to burn it! There seems to be no co-ordination between the Centre and the state."

She termed as an "unfortunate irony" that farmers were treated in such a manner even when the Union textile minister was from Gujarat. "Your real friend is somebody who is with you when you are in trouble," she said. "It is very sad that farmers here are compelled to commit suicide on account of the not looking after them," she said.

Referring to the collapse of the Mehsana dairy co-operative as also Mehsana industries, she said the BJP was to blame. "I am told, at least 40 per cent of the industries have closed down," she went on.

Veiled attacks on the saffron rulers came with her references to "the state supporting fundamentalist forces who were spreading venom in the country". "The job of a leader is to put out fires and not ignite them," she said.

On the fallout of the international situation on this border state, Sonia said, "The situation is volatile and we too are against terrorism, but this does not mean that the innocent people should die like this. This is a problem concerning the entire humanity."

There were also references to "certain people in the country" who she said "wanted to take advantage of the international situation", and so the nation must be extremely alert.

"This is our sankalp, lakshya and manzil," she said. And the hearts went out to her as she ended with "Happy Diwali, and Happy Id."

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Oil mafia behind fire at ONGC's ; Naik Saturday, November 10, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
PAKHAJAN (Bharuch district): Union petroleum minister Ram Naik on Friday said an "oil mafia" was operating in the region, and also hinted of a "conspiracy" in pilferage of oil from ONGC wells and pipelines.

Naik was here to inspect the fire at well no. 345 of the ONGC at its Gandhar oil field which has been raging since October 30. He also announced the setting up of a high-level inquiry which will also look into the "possible involvement of ONGC and other government officials."

"This fire has led us to believe that there is much more than what is
visible, and the issue is much bigger. The problems with petroleum products are not limited to adulteration alone," said Naik.

The minister added that if necessary, investigations in the oil racket may be handed over to CBI. "However, we are in no hurry to do this," Naik said, adding that he would request Chief Minister Narendra Modi to hand over the investigations to an officer of Inspector-General rank. "This is necessary to look into the criminal aspect of the incident and for proper investigations in the matter," he said.

Naik revealed that two of the five hoses used in pilfering oil from the well were found in the backyard of a 'dargah' near here. Three other hoses were fitted in the well by the miscreants to fill three tankers when the fire took place.

Meanwhile, Naik said that the high-level inquiry committee to be appointed would submit its report in three months. The committee will look into the reasons for the fire, as well as role of officers of ONGC and other agencies in the pilferage. Also, it would investigate the present fire-fighting measures at the oil field.

At a macro level, the committee will suggest means to improve the security and safety of ONGC properties across the country. "Several such properties exist across the country. We are taking this (Pakhajan fire) as a symbolic incident for the over-all review of security measures," Naik said.

He also said that international fire-fighting standards would be introduced at ONGC. "We will take all possible steps in this direction," Naik said.

In an oblique reference to terrorist activities, Naik said his ministry would co-ordinate with Coast Guard, home ministry and the defence ministry to ensure safety of its establishments on the coastline. "The coastline is sensitive, and several industries are located there," he said.

Naik said the present fire had caused ONGC a loss of Rs 5 crore. He said this included expenses incurred to extinguish the fire as well as production losses, the latter amounting to about Rs 12.5 lakh per day.

Naik added that the recent incident had shown that ONGC was technically capable of handling major fires. "There was no buck-passing. Complete cohesion was visible in the entire operation," Naik said.

Meanwhile, the fire at the well was extinguished on Friday morning by experts of ONGC's crisis management group. ONGC general manager (operations) A K Sood said the blaze was put off as the main valve of the Christmas tree apparatus on the well was functioning well. "The firemen could reach the apparatus once the temperature went down due to constant cooling. The valve was then turned off," he said.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Kumhars of matka capital busy making diyas for Diwali Saturday, November 10, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
VADODARA: It could well be termed Gujarat's 'matka capital'. But, as Diwali approaches, the kumhars of Wadu, about 30 km from here, get busy making diyas rather than what they are known for in far of places _ their special matkas.

This little village of about 60 kumhar families, who have been handed down the tradition of making matkas for generations, produces about 30,000 matkas per house every day.

But, come Diwali, and the potter's wheel churns out diyas of many shapes and sizes to light up homes across the state.

What has made Wadu famous is the quality of its clay that makes its matkas and diyas stand apart. "We get our mati from the village pond which is of a very good quality. We have been using this clay for ages and kumhars from other villages are not allowed to take clay from our pond," says Manilal Prajapati, the busiest kumhar in Wadu.

Manilal's telephone does not seem to stop ringing as orders pour in from as far as Surat, Valsad and Billimora. The kumhars work for eight months at a stretch starting from the Ganpati festival. The making of matkas and diyas include an arduous process of getting shaping the clay on the potter's wheel, firing it in the bhatti and giving it a coat of colour.

The kumhars of Wadu fiercely guard their pond, as the clay from it 'fetches them their daily bread'.

"Documents were given by the Gaekwads to our ancestors to protect the pond. The documents say that the pond cannot be closed down for any reason and its clay is to be used by the kumhars of the Wadu. This was done to provide us a source of income. We don't even pay for the clay that we dig out. The only expenditure we incur is that of carrying the clay from the pond to the workshops in the backyards of our houses," says Manilal.

"The matka business fetches us about Rs 15 to Rs 20 lakh a year and our matkas are much sought after in Maharashtra too," he says.

"The clay here is definitely much different from what you find in other places. For example, the clay in Halol is more sandy. The colours we use also make our products attractive," adds Manilal.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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