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March 12, 2001 - March 13, 2001

US AIDS experts to undertake preliminary survey Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Social advertisements on HIV prevention are few in India. Medical practitioners too have often discriminated against patients here due to their HIV status. These issues need to be addressed said John Sinnott, director Infectious and Tropical Disease University of South Florida.

He along with Eknath Naik of the college of Public Health, department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics University of South Florida, was in Vadodara here on Monday to speak to the city's health care professionals who are working in the field of HIV/AIDS.

The duo is in the city to conduct a preliminary survey for a grant project on Infectious diseases and education. The project is called the Centre for Health and HIV/AIDS Research and Training in India (CHART).

In addition to medical practitioners in Vadodara they have also approached the their counterparts in Mumbai, Pune, Indore and Mysore for similar training programmes for trainers and health workers specialising in HIV/AIDS.

On Sunday Sinnott and Naik also had a meeting with doctors here to discuss "Needs of the community for HIV education, treatment and care".

Vadodara based Indu Health Research Foundation would co-ordinate the activities of CHART here informed Vijay Shah. The University of South Florida would finance the first phase of the training project that might also incorporate research studies.

According to Sinott there is a need to create more awareness on HIV. "Compared to other countries social advertisements on HIV prevention are few here. Television channels like MTV should be asked to air more advertisements with social messages on HIV," he said. "I am here since the past three days but have not seen a single advertisement of condoms or HIV prevention this is important to control the spread of HIV," he said.

Eknath Naik said that the training project is similar to the training that is given to health workers and medical practitioners in 10 states of USA. "It would be a comprehensive training not just on medical aspects and diagnosis but also on counselling, treatment and prevention," he said.

He said that during their discussion with doctors here he found that many medical practitioners themselves are unaware about HIV. "There is a stigma attached to HIV patients and many doctors have reported that they were unable to provide treatment to HIV positive patients due to threats to their job security in the hospitals that they worked," he said.

Sinnott said that as time goes on more and more women would be infected as they have now become a part of the high-risk group and therefore preventive measures are important.

Dr Shah said that Sinnott and Naik also met the SSG hospital superintendent Kamal Pathak and later visited the C A Hospital at Motafofalia, which is funded by an NRI doctor Kiran Shah.

"We shall plan out training programmes as per the prevalence of the problems and the needs of the health providers here," said Naik. He said that not just doctors or health worker but even those who are involved with HIV patients could participate in the training programmes. In Thailand we has a session even for editors of newspapers to highlight the problem of HIV and AIDS there.

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Green card subverts pretty faces, education Tuesday, March 13, 2001

VADODARA: For NRG girls today, looks are not always enough when marriage is in question. With more and more prospective Gujarati grooms looking West for their brides, it's the girl with the green card who's in demand. Pretty faces and education can wait.

Marriage bureaux in the city report that it's an opportunity to settle in the US that many a Gujarati groom is looking for in marriage. The age-old craving for qualified and good-looking girls is often given a go-by if the bride can facilitate his passage to the US. Visa procedures getting stricter has only added to this craze for choosing US-settled girls.

"We have MBAs, engineers, doctors and computer professionals walking in with requests for match-making with girls who possess a green card. They often do not inquire about the girls' looks, qualification and nature. This trend has been on the rise especially among the Patel community as their visa applications are now being rejected by the US administration," says Satish Shah of Sada Mangalam, a marriage bureau in the city.

Shah says he has come across boys ready to marry divorcees, widows and school drop-outs. "What they look for is that she should be a US citizen. Marriage with a green card holder girl will ensure that they can go to the US within six months. Many are even ready to marry a green card holder and wait for a couple of years before they can join her in the US," adds Shah.

"Gujaratis are always in search of an opportunity to go to the United States. For them, US is a land of opportunities, and they want to be there at any cost. They are even ready to compromise on their choice of a life partner if they can go abroad. A girl may not be qualified or beautiful, but if she is a US citizen, she is sure to get a professionally qualified, good-looking Gujarati boy," says SK Anand of Soham Exclusive Marriage Bureau, which deals only with the marriage of NRIs, too feels that the trend of boys looking for girls settled in the US has been on the rise in the city.

"Not only Gujaratis, even qualified boys from other communities are looking for girls with a green card. They are ready to marry even if their 'janamashar' does not match," says JK Gokhale, who runs Chitpawan Brahman Sangh marriage bureau in the city.

"I am an engineer and I don't have a job. I had a good GRE score, but was denied a student visa because I belong to the Patel community. I am ready to marry a US citizen even if she is uneducated," says 25-year-old Mahesh Patel.

"I am very clear about my choice of a life partner. If I marry a girl from India, she should at least be a graduate. If she is a US citizen, then I am ready to make compromises," says Parag Patel.

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MSU hostel students permitted to install computers Tuesday, March 13, 2001

MS University Halls of Residence has decided in principle to allow students to procure and keep computers in hostels. The decision was taken in a recently convened meeting of hall wardens here.

However, the hostel administration has decided that the hostel inmates will not be allowed to access internet. The administration is evincing reasons of misuse of internet behind not allowing students to access the Net.

The decision has evoked mixed reaction from hostelites. Most students feel that a computer without Net access would be of no use while some feel that students of technology and engineering faculty, especially those enrolled with computer application and computer science programmes will benefit.

The clause that the internet will be misused is resented by the students. Many hostel inmates view this clause as a moral policing. "If a student want to watch pornography, he can get a CD and watch it on the computer and does not need an internet connection for this. Getting access to internet has many advantages too and it is not pornography only that a student is interested in. The administration should stop thinking on behalf or students", said a resident of LBS hall wishing anonymity.

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Team assures Gujarat of maximum Central assistance Monday, March 12, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A Central team, led by National Disaster Management Committee member Anil Sinha, has asssured the Gujarat government that it would recommend even bypassing existing norms for providing maximum Central assistance for the rehabilitation work in the quake-ravaged state.

The 21-member team of Central government officials and experts visited the quake-hit areas of Gujarat and later held discussions with Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, an official release said here on Sunday.

Sinha said assistance of Rs 500 crore from the national calamity fund was released for the immediate assistance of the victims, adding he would suggest enhanced central assistance on a long-term basis in his report for the state.

He said the model of the Disaster Management Act, prepared by the natural calamity management commitee, under the leadership of agriculture minister Nitish Kumar, had submitted its report to the Gujarat government.

The team has suggested setting up of earthquake museum to create awareness among people about the calamity and starting training facility for rescue operations, the release added.

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Amdavadis find respite in open places Monday, March 12, 2001

Never before had been the Law Garden, located in the heart of the city, jostling with so much activity.

Entry to the place has become difficult on holidays.

At the Adalaj step-well site, about 18 km from the city, parking is difficult as the meandering road, till half-a-kilometre from the heritage site, is occupied by vehicles of Amdavadis who throng the place on holidays in search of some respite in open areas, where killer quakes will not be able to inflict much damage.

Gone are the days when Amdavadis were glued to their television sets, watching their favourite mega serials, with eyes skipping blinks, lest they might miss a twist in the tale. Blame it all on the quake.

The fear psychosis which gripped nearly 10,000 families of Ahmedabad have forced them to be anywhere in the city but home. With aftershocks hitting the city every day and newspapers flashing details about predictions and speculations, living in the house has become claustrophobic.

The people are not leaving a single opportunity to hang out, and places like Akshar Dham and Sarita Udhyan of Gandhinagar have become the hub of social activities. Even marriage proposals are being discussed at these places.

For some children, though ironically, the quake had been the best thing that could have happened. For six-year-old Rishi, living at Goel Intercity, it is a gala time because since the last one-and-a-half month he can spent all the time he wants to with his closest friend and classmate Rahul.

Members of the high-rises, who were till a month-and-a-half back were mere acquaintances are now closest of friends and are often seen gathering at parkings till late in the nights, playing antakshari, chatting and even singing hymns. "We had been spending a lot of time talking with our neighbours and singing songs till late in the night," says Ketan Patel living at one of the apartments in Sharnam area.

Residents of many apartments near Nehru Park cross-roads of Vastrapur, sit together after dinner and could be heard singing hymns. The quake has cemented the entire Ahmedabad into one.

While many of them prefer to be in their houses for as little time as possible, many have even decided not to return home and stay at newly rented tenements or at their relatives' places which they think are safe refuges.

However, entertaining relatives now for almost two months is becoming a bit jittery for some. For Hasmukh Patel, who has a tenement of his own at Vastrapur, entertaining seven relatives is kind of taking the smile away from his face.

With the predictions of the last few tremors turning out to be hoax, the fear has slightly settled down. Though the people had been sleeping in their houses with their doors almost open to meet an emergency, they are slightly venturing out and taking risk.

The fact that multiplexes like R-World and City Gold are packed with people shows that they are trying to get back to normalcy. "Yes, I think crowded places is what people are looking forward to as people around you seem to be providing some warmth and confidence," said Mayur Desai who had come to watch a movie with his family members at City Gold on Sunday.

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