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March 13, 2001 - March 14, 2001

Angry youth Cong workers demand action on GPCB Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Angry youth Congress workers cornered Gujarat Pollution Control Board regional officer K L Kansagara over GPCB's alleged inaction in enforcing notices served to Alembic and Synchromatic industries here on Tuesday.

The two companies were served notices by Vadodara sub divisional magistrate and GPCB for stopping certain units on Friday last. The notice held the said companies responsible emitting certain gases that caused obnoxious smell. GPCB and environment experts had said that the obnoxious gas bothering city residents contained hydrogen sulphide, mercaptan, butyric acid and ammonia.

"The two companies which have been served notices have still not stopped the particular plants responsible for emitting harmful gases. We want to know why the GPCB is not enforcing the notice", YC city unit president Narendra Rawat. He said that the YC has submitted a memorandum to the GPCB raising 11 queries regarding the notice slapped on the two companies.

"We would like to know exact account on basis of which the notice has been served to these companies", Rawat said. He also raised questions regarding enforcement of the notice, whether companies that are emitting these gases have shut down their plants, if environmental norms are violated will the companies be punished as per Article 37 of Pollution Act and whether Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) and Vadodara Municipal Corporation has received directive from GPCB to stop water and electricity supply to these companies if they don't stop their plants. Other questions raised by YC are vis--vis the legal aspects in case of environmental norms violation.

Both Alembic and Synchromatic had denied the allegation that its units were responsible for the obnoxious gas released in atmosphere. The companies had also said that it was not possible to shut plan within seven days as ordered in the notice.

Environmentalists on the district administration's special committee to find out source of the obnoxious gas had said the source was most likely the anaerobic processes run in industries manufacturing biodegradable products. "The obnoxious gas is a mix of hydrogen sulphide, mercaptan, butyric acid, penicillin broth and ammonia. There are certain industries here that could be pinned down for this", professor in environment science at M S University N M Bhatt said.

He said that the source of ammonia was Bakul industry in Gorwa industrial estate. "It manufactures amines. During our visits we have established that ammonia leaks from the factory. We also suspect that Effluent Treatment Plants of some companies do not have proper monitoring and control equipment. They might also be contributing in the release of this obnoxious gas", Bhatt said.

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GCCI writes to Yashwant Sinha, RBI on Madhavpura crisis Wednesday, March 14, 2001

AHMEDABAD : The president of Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Ratanprakash A. Gupta, has in a letter to the Union Finance Minister Yaswant Sinha and RBI governor Bimal Jalan, sought their intervention in the crisis that cooperative banks in Gujarat are facing as a result of the financial trouble faced by the Madhavpura Cooperative Mercantile Bank Limited.

He said the reported guarantees if any issued by a major co-operative bank having scheduled bank status to cover up the share brokers speculative deals etc. has created tremendous panic among small depositors etc. of Ahmedabad city which has inevitably led to run on the co-operative banks for getting the deposits back. Since the said bank so far has paid Rs. 75 crores to depositors but is now unable to pay up further amount for want of liquidity to huge crowd which is accumulating at the branches of the bank, it has closed down various branches and its clearing of cheques has been suspended by RBI for three days.

The spread of this news in the city has created tremendous panic among the common men and small depositors and they have stated run on different cooperative banks also for getting the deposits back, the GCCI pointed out. Such a situation which has arisen due to crisis of confidence is likely to destabilise the cooperative banking sector which has played a vital role in accelerating industrial and commercial growth in Ahmedabad city as well as Gujarat. Any further prolongation of this situatiuon is likely to have far reaching effect on the confidence of the common men on the co-operative banks.

The GCCI said in order to enable the panic stricken cooperative banks to meet payment to depositors, it is highly essential to relax or reduce SLR and CRR requirements with no penalty for default in the matter so that surplus fund available on this count could be utilised for payment to common men and small depositors.

In order to bail out the co-operative banking sector of Ahmedabad city from the present crisis situation, it is highly essential and desirable that immediate and effective steps be taken by the RBI to provide soft loans directly or through banking channels to panic stricken banks on merits.

The GCCI also demanded that the guarantees if any issued by any cooperative bank to cover up the speculative deals of share broker etc. may be held in abeyance for enforcement, so as to restore confidence among the common men.

The GCCI said it is highly essential that the Reserve Bank of India should tighten its vigilance in the matter so that such instances are not repeated in future and common men and the business community are not put to avoidable hardships.

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Rajkot in Brief on 14th March Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Drop in accident rate

The Rajkot district traffic police has been successful in controlling accident rate on highways by 21 per cent compared to 1999.
A statement issued by the traffic police on Tuesday said that 336 traffic offences had been registered in the first two months of year 2000, which dropped to 207 in the current year, for the same period. The traffic police also detained 238 vehicles, 182 cases were registered against owners for not carrying proper documents and Rs 96,250 was collected as fine on the spot, the statement added.

Funds cleared

The standing committee of the Rajkot Municipal Corporation has cleared a fund of Rs 186 lakh to purchase vehicles for disposal of waste and for better health and hygiene. The municipal commissioner has also been entrusted the work of negotiating with the government to have better solid waste management, civic sources said on Tuesday.

Additional water

Jamnagar city will start getting an additional 30 lakh gallons of water from next week after work on laying the 26-km pipeline joining the Und-1 and Aji-3 dams is completed by the water works department.

4 die in jeep-bus smash

Four people were killed on the spot and eight injured when an State Transport bus and a jeep collided head-on on the Jamnagar-Kalawad Road on Monday night. The injured have been admitted to the G G Hospital at Jamnagar. The ST bus was on its way to Junagadh. While the jeep driver remained unidentified, the three women who were killed were identified as Varshaba Indrasinh (30), Parvatiben Jayantilal (54) and Kantaben Patel (6), police said.

Water connections cut

Rajkot Municipal Corporation officials on Monday disconnected water connections of three people yet to pay their house taxes.

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Govt to distribute cycles to children Tuesday, March 13, 2001

The state government will distribute cycles to children of backward classes on Tuesday under the Saraswati scheme.

A statement issued by the social welfare department of the district panchayat said students of standard 8, 9 and 10 for 1998-99 and 1999-2000 would also be provided cycles.

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Nearly 300 buildings yet to be certified Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Sleeping with an eye open is the only option for the residents of Regency Towers, a high-rise which is a stone's throw away from the remains of Mansi Apartments.

With both Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) and Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology failing to deliver the inspection certificate for their houses, the residents suffer from sleepless nights lest their buildings do a la Mansi.

Wait for the CEPT inspection report, which provide "invaluable" information on condition and status of building after being hit by the quake, has stressed out residents of Shivam Apartments in Vejalpur too. With two "heavily damaged" pillars, the residents without the CEPT inspection certificates are unable to avail the government relief fund meant for repair and retrofitting of buildings in the G3, G4 and G5 categories.Regency and Shivam are just two of the total 300 multi-storeyed buildings in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and AUDA areas whose wait for certification will elongate way beyond expectations. As of now these apartments are "not categorised" and no damage assessment work has been carried out.

The question worrying the residents of these "orphaned" buildings is - who will be the certifying agency as CEPT has apparently washed its hands off these cases.

In most of the cases, teams of structural engineers from the CEPT accompanied by officials of AUDA and AMC visited the buildings in February. But, there is no respite for the residents. They continue to live in fear of the next strong tremor, awaiting building inspection certificate.

"The first two days after the earthquake, we were completely disoriented and terror struck and stayed away from home. When we got back we saw that the builder on his own accord had started repairing some damages on pillars and walls. CEPT visited the buildings but no inspection certificate has reached us, neither do the name of any of the four blocks of Regency Towers figure in the list of inspected buildings," said Ketan Shah, a resident of Regency Towers.

"The problem is that without the inspection report, we do not know what is the status of our buildings or how safe it is to live in. It has been over a month now that we are shuttling between CEPT and AUDA but nobody knows what is the status of our building," lamented Shah.

Residents of Shivam too suffer a similar fate as they are unable to get the government relief amount without CEPT certification. Says P K Dev of Shivam Apartments, "Before we could understand the ramifications, the builder jacketed four to five damaged pillars. We do not know how much the quake damaged our building. Much against my wishes I have been staying away from home with my relatives. Bureaucratic wrangles have thrown my life and that of all families of Shivam Apartments out of gear."

Investigations carried out by The Times of India revealed that the reason behind the non-certification of the 300-odd buildings in the city was the repair work carried out at these buildings. "We were not able to gauge the extent of damage due to the over-enthusiasm of builders and cannot certify such RCC high-rises and low-rises. One suspects that prima facie the builders have succeeded in hiding evidence of the extent of the quake-damage," said an official of AUDA.

As a fall out of failure to certify certain high and low-rises in Ahmedabad, AUDA and AMC are now being flooded with inquiries from terror-struck people who refuse to go back home.

Says Jigish Bhavsar of Premjyot Towers, Subhash Chowk in Memnagar, "Our housing complex has five flats with heavy structural damage in C, D, F and G Blocks. At the site when CEPT officials inspected the buildings on February 4, they assured of putting it under the G 4 category. But, for over 15 days we have been running from pillar to post to get the certificates which inturn would get us the government grant for relief amounts but to no avail."

A similar fate dogs the residents of Shikhar flats in Vejalpur. "Though the D block in our complex collapsed killing 98 persons and quake left all other blocks (A to C) heavily damaged, no gradation has been done. We don't know if the buildings are to be brought down and we will be compensated or we are stuck with our cracked up homes," said Ashish Bhavsar, a resident of C block in Shikhar.

But, there is no respite in near future. "No decision has been taken yet for checking of those buildings which had repair work carried out too soon. While we understand the dilemma of the residents, the mode of testing and grading these apartments are still being finalised," said an AMC official.

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