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March 16, 2001 - March 17, 2001

'I feel no longer safe in hostel' Saturday, March 17, 2001

VADODARA: I am so agonised by the behaviour of the Munshi Hall hostel warden and house-master that I don't feel like returning to the hostel. At present, I am staying with my local guardian as I no more feel secure in the hostel. I am haunted by unpleasant thoughts and this has affected my studies.

On that unfortunate night, some 70-odd inmates of the hostel complained to the warden BK Bakshi and house-master Vijay Kumar that someone had cut sleeves of blazers belonging to 13 students. So, the warden and house-master called a meeting of the students at 12 am on Thursday at the Basket-ball court. Even the principal and the vice-principal were present. Despite several requests by the students to look into the matter, the school authorities appeared indifferent. They refused to listen to our woes and asked us to back to our rooms.

Everyone was agitated by the attitude adapted by the school authorities and some in anger broke the window panes and tube-lights in the hostel. Though the warden and the house-master were aware of the incidence didn't stop the students nor did they take action against those who broke the discipline of the hostel. After two hours, things became normal and tired with the day's happening everyone went to sleep, ignorant of what was to follow.

I was sleeping peacefully in my sleep when around 4 am I was woken up by fist blows. Though I protested Bakshi and Kumar pulled my hair, slapped me and dragged me out of the hostel to the open road. I was shocked, I just didn't know how to react. Once on the road I realised that I was perhaps the last student to bear brunt of their anger. We were made 'murgha' and asked to stand in the open.

Everyone was shocked. The junior students couldn't react and when some standard XII students tried to question Bakshi and Kumar, they were taken to the police station. Later, the police came and asked us to return to our rooms. Strangely enough, the principal and the vice-principal who stay in the campus didn't interfere when the warden was beating us.

This is the first time I was beaten by someone. Leave alone beating me, my parents have never even used abusive language in front of me. I will never forget this incidence.

Related News - Munshi Hall Hostel Warden, Bakshi, sacked.

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Munshi Hall Hostel warden, Bakshi, sacked Saturday, March 17, 2001

The Munshi Hall Hostel warden was sacked from the house mastership on Friday evening. The school authorities have even asked him to vacate the quarters.

"In a meeting on Friday with parents, students and corporators we resolved the problem. We have removed BK Bakshi from wardenship and have even asked him to vacate the quarters. Now everyone is happy with the situation," said Bhavan's School director V Seshan to The Times of India.

However, he refused to comment on the happenings in the hostel on Wednesday night. "I really don't know what happened on Wednesday night," added Seshan.

"I not really happy. They have given assurance, let's see what happens," says Yogesh Patel, who has lodged a police complaint against warden BK Bakshi and house-master Vijay Kumar.

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Voluntary agencies put caste spin on rehabilitation work Friday, March 16, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Reports suggest that in remote quake-affected areas of Saurashtra, caste and community divide is beginning to play a major role in relief and rehabilitation. The problem has made top state BJP leaders wary of the possibility of social segregation. A senior BJP politician says the tendency is strong among the state's different caste and community organisations, masquerading as "voluntary agencies", to agree to construct houses only for social groups they represent.

The state party leadership is believed to have received a number of letters from Patel, Vaishnav, Brahmin and other social and religious bodies requesting permission to rebuild houses of only the socio-religious groups that they represent. "This has led to a serious problem: We suspect that if this happens, the dispossessed sections of the population, mainly the Dalits and OBCs, would have nobody to care for," a top party leader involved in organising party relief said.

A letter written by a local leader, Nathabhai Lakhubhai Parmar, representing the Dalitvas of Amran village of Jodiya taluka, Jamnagar district, to the district collector, is quoted as saying that despite the fact all huts belonging to the Dalit community have been destroyed, "none of them has been included in the list of destroyed houses surveyed in the village". Amran is a star village: It is here that Union home minister L K Advani stayed overnight in a tent.

Other top politicians visiting Amran post-quake include Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and Union textile minister Kashiram Rana. The letter, signed by seven Dalits - Nathabhai Parmar, Babulal Parmar, Vinodbhai Parmar, Ashokbhai Parmar, Pushpaben Solanki, Kesharben Parmar and Rameshbhai Parmar - blames a senior politician of the area for threatening them with "dire consequence" in case any attempt is made to lodge a complaint against the survey. A copy of the letter has been sent to the CM's Office.

"The situation is same in 26 other villages of the Jodiya taluka, already declared worst-affected," said a social worker Ashok Shrimali, working in Jodiya.

"We have identified as many as 80 families in the taluka's Jamsar, Bhimkata, Manomora, Bela and Ut-bet villages, which have not been included in the list of those that would be given entitlements."

Though the heads of 80 families are the original residents of the villages, their ration cards or even family members' statements are not being considered as proof of the permanent stay.

"Many of these are Dalits, Bharwads or fishermen," Shrimali, who works for the Ahmedabad-based NGO, Setu, said. "There is a real danger that while Brahmins, Luhanas, Satwaras and even Khawas Muslims would be able to get the housing relief package, the dispossessed would be kept out."

There is yet another danger: In case of a relocation, the fear is strong, the dispossessed sections might be further pushed to the corner, as seen from several villages of Bhachau taluka in Kutch district. In Vondh village, an official here conceded, the land for relocation is being offered to the Dalits next to a village talav, prone to water-logging during monsoon. In Chobari village, the Dalits are being sought to be pushed from the temporarily relocated site of an Ahir landowner.

Quick studies suggest that this is an all-Gujarat phenomenon. One of them, done by Prof Indira Hirway of the Centre for Development Alternatives, shows that the poor have been generally left out of the government surveys. Done in six of the 15 worst affected villages of Jambusar taluka, four of Vagra taluka and two of Amod taluka (all of central Gujarat) suggest that the authorities are "not willing" to include the damaged houses belonging to the poor in the list which are likely to crumble during the coming monsoon.

As a result, the official records of Saran village in Vagra taluka show that four houses and 44 huts have collapsed or are damaged. However, an on-the-spot survey shows that five houses were 50 huts have suffered. In Vora-Samni village, too, the damage is more than what is reported. Three houses have collapsed and 63 damaged, while officially only one has been shown as collapsed and 16 damaged. In Chanchwel, there is no damage recorded for the Indira Awas Yojna houses, but an on-the-spot inquiry suggested 44 houses and 80 huts are damaged.

Prof Hirway says, "The worst-hit in the village are the poor, thrown out of their IAY pucca houses or huts. Though they have lost their shelter, they have not received any tent or alternative shelter. They sleep in the open outside their homes with lucky ones covering themselves with blankets." While in Kutch it is the responsibility of Gandhinagar to look into these issues, in other districts, the local officialdom has to organise relief as in areas other than Kutch the officialdom is intact.

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Commoners' faith in the system shaken once again Friday, March 16, 2001

AHMEDABAD: With the government thrown in a tizzy and the tapes once again exposing the officialdom, the faith of common people in the system lies once again shattered. The Times of India spoke to a cross section of people who expressed shock, disbelief and anger at the developments:

Anupam Chakraborty

Branch manager of Samarth Cash Machines Ltd

Politicians are corrupt. This has been proven time and again. Be it the fodder scam of Laloo Prasad Yadav or bribery case involving former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao or even the Bofors case.

But, I never even dreamt that corruption of such a magnitude could be eating away the Central administration. Even the likes of Harshad Mehtas are overshadowed by this recent scam, which I believe is true. This time politicians, defence personnel, in short all authorities seem to be mired in this crime. Bangaru Laxman can be seen accepting the cash, that's proof enough. Hats off to the investigative journalism that has brought to light such startling facts about our so-called people's representatives running India. I feel that the only way out now is to impose military rule in the country.

Nitinbhai Shah

Photograph laboratory owner

There's no doubt in my mind that the new revelations about politicians are true. The BJP and its allies have been harping on anti-corruption and how the Opposition is full of black sheeps. Now look what their cupboards have revealed. It is like Harshad Mehta syndrome is cutting across party lines and has affected each and every politician in power. But, the saddest part of this whole episode will be that it will have no result, the guilty will go scot-free. The whole system of governance is corrupt and I don't expect the guilty to be taken to task. Politicians today live for money. Public or the electorate's welfare does not figure at all in their list of prorities.

Kalawati Goswami

Member of Jyoti Sangh - an NGO

I don't have much details about the corruption charges against BJP and other senior bureaucrats. But what I do believe is that these corrupt politicians and public representatives should be handed over to the masses for punishment. We had elected them to the helm of affairs so that they look after our well-being and give proper representation to one and all. Now that they have shown their true colours, the electorate should have the authority to punish them as they deem fit. Its a shame that the politicians of today are more interested on self-welfare and filling up their own coffers than taking the country to new frontiers of development and prosperity.

But, some others had doubts on the evidences gathered by

Harin Vyas (62)

Retired branch manager of Indian Overseas Bank

I saw video clippings on television of what claims to be evidence against top leaders of our country. I am not convinced. It seems to be a fabricated story aided by trick video photography and fuelled by the Congress. When this alleged unholy episode of bribery was on at the Imperial Hotel, Priya Ranjan Dasgupta had raised this issue in the Lok Sabha. This seems more than a coincidence to me and my theory of doctored evidence is based on this. However, right now Laxman's move to resign will send wrong signals and there's no need to panic. Nobody should resign right away, rather a thorough investigation should be carried out by CBI and the guilty should be punished.

Deepakbhai Kahar

Canara Bank employee

The clippings could very well be result of trick photography. Now a days anything is possible with the help of hi-tech computer softwares. That a leader like Bangaru Laxman who enjoys national fame can stoop to strike a multi-crore deal by accepting a paltry sum of Rs 1 lakh is hard to believe. My way of thinking is further assisted by the hazy video quality. And that only proof of Jaya Jaitley's involvement in the issue is her voice which could be copied by any good mimic.

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Quake, stock market crash, and now run on banks Friday, March 16, 2001

AHMEDABAD: On January 26, Dimple Mehta was forced on to the streets when the ill-fated Shikhar Apartments came crashing down in the killer quake. Barely a month-and-half later, Mehta finds himself shaken by yet another quake, this time a financial one.

With savings worth Rs 20,000, his last anchor to remain afloat in the post-quake crisis, locked away in the now cash-strapped Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank, Mehta is at his wits ends as to how to cope with the unending saga of misery and mental agony that life has become.

Mehta is one among thousands of Amdavadis who suddenly find themselves caught between not one, not two but three crisis - earthquake devastation compounded by the crashing stock markets and now the run on the scheduled and co-operative banks.

The endless queues before the co-operative banks' branches in the city had many survivors of the earthquake for whom the nightmare which started on January 26 never seems to end. And with Gujarat having the largest per-capita investment in the stock markets, the financial blow came much before the banking crisis.

"In these two months, life has become a constant struggle for survival. Barely does one try to come out of one crisis, another comes crashing straight on your head," rues an Income-Tax employee faced with the predicament of supporting a family of six without a roof on his head and not a penny in savings to fall back on.

Little did Diren Patel realise, when his apartment Swapna Siddha was badly damaged in the earthquake, that his woes were just beginning. The tumble in the capital market did not leave his family unscathed either.

The quake destroyed the office where his brother used to work and even the school, where his father worked, temporarily closed down, adding to the financial crisis. "Extreme demands of landlords and monetary requirements for repair had already left us in deep crisis. And now the problem of co-operative banks has left us mentally drained," said Patel.

Patel said all the savings of his family were deposited in the co-operative banks in the city. "We have a locker in the ADC Bank and my family members have accounts in Madhavpura as well as Kalupur Bank," Patel said. His younger brother Rohit had queued up at the Satellite Branch of Madhavpura Bank for the whole day only to return empty-handed.

Cloth merchant Suresh Hingrajani (name changed) has gone into acute depression and considers death as the only escape route from the mess that his life has become in the past two months. "What is left on this earth for me now. I have lost my house and now earnings of my entire life have gone down the drain. How will I marry my two daughters? I see no answers..... the only option is death," he confessed at the Sabarmati General Hospital.

Suresh has apparently lost lakhs in the scrips of a television network. Neck-deep in financial debts, his only solace was fixed deposits worth a few lakh, certificates of which are stashed away in the lockers of the Madhavpur Mercantile Bank. With the bank downing its shutters, his lifeline to emerge winner out of the financial mess stands temporarily snapped, a fact that his stressed out brain refuses to accept. "I have advised his family to put him under observation at the hospital because of his suicidal tendencies, but apparently they are in no position to afford hospitalisation costs," conceded psychiatrist Mrugesh Vaishnav.

"The trust of the people stands badly shaken. This fresh bout of panic is bound to compound the insecurity left by the quake. While a few people will emerge stronger, a large number might simply give in to the depressions attached with such insecurities about life and money," says psychologist Hansal Bhachech.

Says another psychiatrist Vinod Goyal, "For many earthquake victims, the pressures of more financial losses are becoming too much to handle. Every time they try to piece their lives together, some new problem crops up. But, we must admire the resilience of the people. Some of them must be cracking up inside."

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