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March 9, 2001 - March 10, 2001

NGOs active in construction work Saturday, March 10, 2001

Even as the state government is busy finalising the packages for reconstruction of houses in major towns of Kutch, several non-governmental organisations have already begun constructing houses in rural areas.

Work on constructing houses has already commenced in Adhoi town of Anjar taluka. A Haryana-based voluntary organisation run by ex-chief minister Sahibsinh Verma has taken up the work. Some houses will be ready within the next 25 days on the plot of land purchased by the trust.

Principal secretary to chief minister P K Laheri said some other NGOs had also undertaken construction work in villages adopted by them as a part of government's policy, under which both the NGOs and the government would share the costs of building infra-structure facilities.

A foreign-based NGO Noble has also begun work in three villages adopted by them in rural areas. The officials of S Kumar, a leading industrial group, has adopted two villages and started reconstruction work without any help from the government. Another group, CASA has also begun work in villages adopted by the group in Rapar and Anjar talukas.

SEWA has also decided to adopt villages in quake-affected areas of Santalpur and Patan in north Gujarat region. The organisation has already appointed a team of engineers and architects to give final touches to their plan for construction of houses in the villages in collaboration with the government. Work on this project will start shortly, a spokesman for the organisation said.

An Ahmedabad-based NGO run by Vaishnavites led by Jayantibhai Shah has also initiated work on the housing project for rehabilitation of victims in Kabuva village.

Similarly NGOs who have adopted villages in Surendranagar and Rajkot districts have begun work in full swing in Maliya-Miyana and Halvad talukas.

Meanwhile, the Divya Jivan Sangh chief Swami Adhyatamanandji and his followers have decided to construct a hospital in Adipur at the cost of Rs 1.25 crore. The Sangh has also taken up a housing project in Godav and Dokada villages of Bhuj and Mandvi talukas of the district.

According to Swamiji, 200 houses will be constructed in these villages, work for which has already been started. Each house will cost around Rs 1 lakh, he added.

Some others have also taken up the responsibility of distributing food and other commodities. Swami Chidanandji and Swami Premanandji have donated Rs 8 lakh towards this housing project.

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Commerce faculty strike ends Saturday, March 10, 2001

VADODARA: M S University commerce faculty's six-day long strike ended with administration agreeing to change the schedule of annual exams on Thursday.

Commerce faculty administration announced that first year BCom exams will now be conducted on May 14 instead of May 9 while second year and third year BCom exams will be slated on May 18 and 24 respectively.

"We have called off the strike as our demand has been accepted", commerce faculty students association general secretary Amit Gothikar said. A meeting was convened in MSU commerce faculty dean S K Singh's office to resolve the issue.

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Dilemma continues whether to relocate or rebuild Saturday, March 10, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Even as the Gujarat government is getting ready to begin long-term rehabilitation work, there is utter confusion on whether to rebuild the affected towns and villages of Kutch at the same place or to relocate them.

Though relocation seems - from an overall perspective - a more viable option, the government is unable to take a firm view on the matter because of differences among ministers on this matter. Moreover, not more than 10 per cent of villages appear ready for relocation, and there seems to be considerable opposition from local communities in the urban centres on this matter. With panchayat elections been postponed, there is no mechanism to call gram sabhas to arrive at a consensus in villages. Efforts to form village committees with representation from the community, NGOs and officials have not fructified.

The sole exception seems to be Old Anjar where residents now seem to have veered to the idea of relocation.

"The ministers seem to echo the perspective of the dwellers and several Cabinet meetings later no consensus has emerged," said a top level government source.

Relocation seems to be a more viable option, at least in towns, because that obviates the need for removing debris which is proving to be a Herculean task. The towns of Bhuj, Bhachau, Rapar and Anjar, besides the 400-odd villages that have been destroyed more than 70 per cent, have to be rebuilt.

But if the local communities are opposing relocation that is also because of practical reasons. "There is no government policy about legal rights of owners of destroyed houses and this is creating problems and even making many who earlier agreed to relocate to reverse their views," says a senior official. "People fear that the government will take away their old place. Well, the government should, you can't have your old land and also a new land," pointed out an analyst.

"The government has failed to convince people about the need to shift for safety reasons," alleges Gagan Sethi of Janvikav, a voluntary agency involved in Kutch relief in a big way.

But Parmanand Khattar, urban development minister thinks that the affected urban centres must at least be shifted. "We must convince the local communities that there is no alternative to shifting. I have done this for Old Anjar. I have obtained an undertaking from leaders of the five main communities that they would like to shift. The local Muslim religious leader has passed a fatwa that those who do not wish to shift might go to other towns. Old Anjar was congested. Its byroads were too narrow to allow anyone to escape unhurt during a quake. Broad roads with single-storey buildings are impossible in Old Anjar. Nearly 6,000 new houses would have to be constructed."

But Khattar is not sure whether his view will prevail in the state Cabinet. Though he thinks that similar effort should be made in other cities and towns too. He says, "We cannot force matters on local people. The Cabinet will take a final decision on what to do if people do not wish to shift."

Officials predict that overall it would be a mixed package. Old Bhuj, for instance, could be rebuilt at the same site with horizontal expansion to ensure broad roads and single-storey buildings. Similar expansion would take place for Bhachau and Rapar.

Other than the issue of land rights, the main reason for people refusing to shift is economic. For instance, goldsmiths have been traditionally living above the shop they owned. "They are not sure what alternatives they would get in case they shift", Sethi said.

Though in the absence of gram sabhas no consensus can be obtained for villages, the general view emerging is that rebuilding them at the same spot is not a problem. This is because rubble clearance is fairly easy compared to cities.

The problem is that in these circumstances, the view of the upper caste prevails in village after village. In Bhachau taluka's two villages, Vondh and Chobari, for instance, the landless have been placed in vulnerable areas. In Vondh, they are living in the open on a plot of land belonging to an Ahir landowner, as no government land is available. The landowner now wants the landless to vacate. In Chobari, they have been shifted to a village pond area, which will face waterlogging during monsoon. Upper caste people, on the other hand, have temporarily shifted to the agricultural land they own.

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World Vision plans massive rehab for Gujarat. Saturday, March 10, 2001

An NGO, World Vision, plans to undertake a $9.1 million massive rehabilitation programme for over three to five years in the last of its four-phase relief work in Gujarat.

Besides from within the country, the funds had come from Australia, Austria, Bosnia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom and the United States, World Vision representatives
told reporters Friday.

They said World Vision had already taken up the task of reconstruction in Gujarat in the first three phases with its teams carrying out a seven-day Emergency Relief Package for 19,628 families in 72 two villages in Bhuj and Bhachau taluks.

The package contained survival kits of food and water, tarpaulins and blankets.

In the 30-day stabilisation package in the second phase, which had begun on February 15, relief comprising 30 kg of rice, three kg of wheat, two litres of oil and two kilos of jaggery were distributed to the quake survivers.

This was followed by distribution of a family kit of clothes, utensils and shelter material.

The representatives said 15,472 families were covered in the second phase till March 2.

In the third phase, which will be of a 90-day duration, volunteers would distribute food for two months, provide psycho-social support for villagers, take up repair work of their existing water systems and provide tents for over 15,000 families.

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More than 50 jaundice cases reported in city Friday, March 9, 2001

AHMEDABAD: More than 50 cases of jaundice have been reported from Gomtipur area of the city. Those affected are being treated at the Civil Hospital, Shardaben Hospital and the Bapunagar General Hospital, AMC Health Department officials said. Almost 200 cases of jaundice have been reported from the area in the past three months. While cases of jaundice in the area came to light four days ago, about 20 persons were admitted to hospitals on Wednesday and five more cases were reported on Thursday.
Most of the affected are residents of Doctor ni chawli, Moti ni chawli and chawls surrounding Usha theatre in Gomtipur. Of the five cases reported on Thursday, two are from Asarwa, with one case each from Potaliya, Naroda and Saraspura. However, the condition of all those admitted in hospitals is reported to be stable. AMC Medical Officer of Health (MOH) Dr P K Makwana said on Thursday that water contamination could be the most probable cause for the outbreak of jaundice. He added that department officials had also started taking samples of eatables sold in the area.

Deputy Municipal Commissioner T G Zalawadia (East Zone), however, added that it was still not clear whether there was any contamination in the drinking water. ``Perhaps the people could have eaten contaminated food at some place,'' he felt, but added that attempts were on to trace the exact cause of the outbreak.

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