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March 17, 2001 - March 17, 2001

Bandh observed against Koran desecration Saturday, March 17, 2001

VADODARA: Two photographs on the internet, with captions claiming "activists of the World Hindu Council burning a copy of the Koran", and a fire near a temple caused tension in a number of localities here on Friday.

Large number of shops belonging to a minority community downed shutters in protest even as many logged onto the web site with the pictures by Reuters. People even procured prints of the photographs and circulated amongst themselves. The bandh call was given by the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

Tension was palpable in areas like Salatwada, Nagarwada, Navabazaar Yakutpura, Mandvi, Jamnabai Hospital Khancho and Raopura with members of the community protesting the alleged "burning of a copy of Koran in New Delhi." Police pickets were posted in many parts of the city as a large procession led by members

Meanwhile, a fire near a temple early on Friday morning in Navabazaar area added to the simmering tension. The city unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), claimed that attempts were made to burn the temple down and has called a bandh in the Navabazaar area on Saturday in protest.

According to Madhusudhan Pawar, an autorickshaw driver who filed an FIR with the city police station, he found the temple of Masoba Dada was shrouded in smoke. Pawar was going out around 5 am, when he saw smoke and began shouting.

The fire, emanating from burning jute sacks left near the temple by some unknown people, was doused by residents. Though there was no major damage to the temple or the idol, the incident caused tension in the area. Police picket was posted and sniffer dogs were used to trace the miscreants.

"The fire is a handiwork of some miscreants trying to create tension in the area. The fire was detected early in the morning and we reached the spot soon after. Investigations are on in the incident," says deputy commissioner of police VJ Gautam.

Gautam says that police pickets will continue on Saturday when VHP will enforce a bandh in the Navabazaar area.

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AUDA chief rejects AMC standing committee chairman's proposal Saturday, March 17, 2001

AHMEDABAD: AMC standing committee chairman Badruddin Sheikh at a meeting in Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority's (AUDA) office suggested that action be initiated against guilty officials responsible for building collapses in the fringe areas of Ahmedabad.

Sheikh said like in AMC, the AUDA too should do some soul searching and initiate disciplinary action against officials responsible for inspection and passing of buildings plans. The action, he said, should be taken in context of the collapse of 12 high- and low-rises in AUDA area. At present, about seven multi-storeyed structures fall under the severely damaged category.

AUDA chairman Surendra Patel, who was at the meeting, turned down this suggestion. Patel said that officials of the concerned departments cannot be held responsible for this disaster.

Later while speaking to TOI Sheikh reiterated, "I believe that the guilty should be punished. The AMC has taken disciplinary action against certain officials of the TDO and have initiated ACB investigation into probable cases of corruption. I believe AUDA should do the same."

Sheikh informed that of the 221 housing schemes present in the AUDA area 100 buildings in 42 schemes do not have fire safety measures which is in violation of the High Court's directives.

The AMC standing committee chairman suggested that while the state government should extend financial aid for fitting of fire safety measures in these buildings and that areas under the jurisdiction of AUDA should be divided into three zones, each equipped with a fire fighting station. Sheikh also proposed that henceforth the AUDA should make installation of fire safety measures mandatory before any building plan is passed.

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Question mark on CEPT building inspection Saturday, March 17, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The building inspection certificates for over 5,000 apartments have been completed. Inspection reports, drawn up by the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, too have been distributed. But, for many high-rise and low-rise residents, its like being caught between the devil and the deep sea.

Issued by the AMC and AUDA with CEPT as the nodal agency, the trend-setting certificates (unprecedented in any quake-affected area) graded between 0, G1 to G5 category are now being questioned for their legitimacy.

Consider the example of Anal Apartments in Gulbai Tekra. The CEPT had placed it under G3 category, which suggests moderate structural damage but says that it can be reoccupied after restoration and strengthening. "Structural restoration, seismic strengthening is necessary before reoccupation," experts have suggested as post earthquake action.

Compare that with a parallel inspection done by KRG Consultants: "Its very clear... that extensive and expensive non-destructive testing, restoration, repairing, replacement of soak elements are necessary for rehabilitation of blocks A, B, C and F" of Anal Apartments. In the opinion of KRG Consultants, all the four blocks need to be demolished and reconstructed with better builders, architects and construction material.

"On February 19, a team of structural engineers from CEPT visited the Anal Complex which houses six blocks and 33 flats," said Anilbhai Shah, the secretary of Anal Co-operative Housing Society. "The G3 certificates will fetch us practically no relief dole from the state government, and condition and cracks at blocks B and C have worsened with repeated high-intensity tremors. We will soon write to the commissioner of AMC requesting a recheck of our apartments," said Shah.

Residents of three-storeyed Tulsi-Shyam Apartment in Vastrapur too are unhappy with CEPT gradation of G1. Wide cracks on walls, columns and beams have been frightening the few who continue to stay in the "damaged" structure. "We have no one to turn to and have to stay in this death trap. This gradation will fetch us no compensation from the state government. None of the occupants of Tulsi-Shyam are rich enough to get the expensive repair work done," said Kanakben Rawal, one of the few occupants in the 15-flat Tulsi-Shyam Apartments.

Another three-storeyed building Navdeep Apartments near the Income Tax Circle has been put under G3, with moderate structural damage, by structural engineers officiating on behalf of AMC and CEPT.

Not convinced with this gradation, the residents got a second opinion from KBM Engineering Research Laboratory. Ultrasonic pulse velocity test and rebound hammer test carried out puts the flats in doubtful category.

The estimated compressive strength of pillars and concrete ranged between 1.79 N/mm square and 8.54 N/mm square. Ideal compressive strength as put down by the Gujarat Housing Board General Technical Specifications for building works should be between 15 N/mm square and 20 N/mm square.

Says Kantibhai Shawla, a resident of Navdeep, "The CEPT engineers did not have any equipment to test the strength of the building and thus we are now stuck with a G3 category instead of the requisite G5. We have already spent Rs 1.5 lakh on repairs. A proper damage assessment could have ensured a government grant for rebuilding our damaged homes."

"We have been flooded with requests to run a second check on buildings which have already been inspected and graded by CEPT," says Amit Bhatt, a civil engineer and partner of Ila Consultants.

"For example we checked Yashpal Apartments near Vijay Char Rasta, which has 48 flats and 225 families. While CEPT has put this building in the G3 category, we found that the structural damage to the building has rendered it unsafe for occupation," adds Bhatt. Fear-struck residents of Yashpal Apartments have written to city mayor and municipal commissioner for his intervention in the matter.

"We were rendered once homeless on January 26. Now for the second time this stage of indecisiveness on whether or not to take CEPT for its word, is keeping us away from our homes," says Pannalal Shah, a flat-owner of Yashpal.

The advisor to the AMC commissioner, P U Asnani, says "Technical opinions of experts are often different. The CEPT-co-ordinated exercise to check 5,000 buildings was on the basis of rapid assessment through visual inspection. But, the scientific system of gradation devised by experts from all over India like Dr Anand Arya, is fool proof. Tests carried out with specialised equipment by private firms may only be slightly different than the conclusions drawn by the teams of structural engineers who inspected the RCC structures in Ahmedabad. This means a building put in the G3 category cannot jump to G4 or vice-versa after a second opinion."

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Junagadh municipality budget presented Saturday, March 17, 2001

JUNAGADH: The annual budget of the Junagadh municipality was presented on Thursday. Thirty-nine out of the 40 members were present in the meeting held at Town Hall.

The budget estimates the income for the new year to be Rs 17.4 crore. Rs 5.4 crore have been allocated for road-repairing work and construction of gutters.

Ranmal Sisodiya, Kirit Parekh and Razak Maheeda of the Opposition criticised the new budget for 'lacking direction'.

Commits suicide: Geeta Navghan (16) of Jamat Khana Chhaya area in Porbander committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling fan on Thursday. The reason for the suicide is still unknown and the police are investigating the case.

Cheating complaint: Industrialist Ramniklal Gajjar has complained to the Porbander police that share-broker Raju Gokani, having his office on the Liberty Road, has cheated him. Gokani had received an amount of Rs 1.1 lakh from Gajjar for delivering the shares of Reliance. But, even after a year, Gokani failed to return the money or give the shares to Gajjar, the complaint alleged.

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Rajkot in brief on 16th March Saturday, March 17, 2001

Veraval-Patan budget passed

The budget for the Veraval-Patan joint nagarpalika was passed amidst acrimonious scenes. The Congress staged a walkout from the civic body after one of its member was suspended.

The party has filed a complaint with the collector for having passed the budget without any discussion. They claimed that the ruling BJP did not have the required strength to pass the budget.

Relief cleared

The state government has put Tankara and Padhadhari in earthquake zone 4 and cleared relief aid for them. The residents had to agitate to get the aid given to villages of other areas put in the same category.

Charas trafficking

Interrogation of people involved in charas trafficking has revealed that the charas came from Nepal. A Nepali policeman, identified as Dhanbahadur, is also said to be involved.

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