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March 8, 2001 - March 9, 2001

Race Course case -- Vajubhai Vala, finance minister, issues defamation notice Friday, March 9, 2001

RAJKOT: State Finance Minister Vajubhai Vala has slapped a Rs 1-crore defamation notice on two complainants in the Race Course Park case. The notices were served to Ashok Dhruv and H K Shah.
President of Race Course Park Society Rajendrasinh Gohil said the Finance Minister has served defamation notices of Rs 1 crore against Dhruv and Shah. In the notice, Vala said by naming him and his son Ketan Vala in the complaint, the two complainants had tried to defame them. Vala said as he was in the public eye, the complaint had damaged his image.

Reacting to the notice, Gohil said the entire society was with Dhruv and Shah, but since it was an individual notice, the two would reply. He said there are about 500 residents who have shown readiness to become complainants. About Vala, Gohil said, ``if Vala was nowhere involved what was the need for him to take the entire episode on him.'' Shah and Dhruv had not gone to the Press to give statements, and had not given interviews, so how did they defame him, he questioned.

Gohil further said the corporation has said there were two common plots for the society. The society has a charitable trust and hence the corporation should hand them the plots. At present there is no common plot -- one of the plot shown in the plan is built up, while the other has a charitable school Saraswati Shishumandir.

He said the corporation was misleading the court by showing two common plots. In 1960, when the land was transferred from a agriculture land to non agriculture land two common plots were reserved, but in 1994 under the Urban Land Ceiling provisions, when buildings were constructed, the builder manipulated things and got sanction for one common plot, which does not exist right now.

DCP Narsinh Komar said he has sent a detailed report to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) and has requested them to carry out investigation regarding construction of Race Course Park. He said "unlike Ahmedabad where the buildings have collapsed we cannot take samples, we will have to use scientific methods like ultrasonic testing."

He said GERI, which has a branch in Rajkot, does not have equipment to carry out tests and hence had requested their head office in Vadodara to send a team for investigations.

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Thalassemia makes their life a living hell Friday, March 9, 2001

RAJKOT: The world celebrates Women's Day on March 8. But for these women, there is no celebration. Suffering from thalassemia, the disorder has left behind a social stigma which refuses to go away.
Thalassemia is a hereditary blood disorder and afflicted can either be a minor or a major. A thalassemia minor is no threat to his or her own self except he or she gets married to another minor. In such a case, their children will be thalassemia minor, which is bad news.

A thalassemia major suffers from a number of health problems and does not live for more than 15 or 16 years if not provided with adequate medical help. Less haemoglobin is produced due to this disorder and treatment includes blood transfusion and medication quite expensive. The excess iron gets deposited in the heart, liver and endocrine gland and there is a problem of social acceptance and a normal life.

Indira Jani, who is in charge of counselling under Thalassemia Control and Prevention campaign in Gujarat said there are numerous cases of physical and mental abuse of women in Saurashtra region who unfortunately give birth to thalassemia major children.

``Making women, specially unmarried girls, aware of the disorder which is spreading at an alarming rate is how we can control the fatal disorder. An aware woman is the best guard against this disorder which is a threat to the region,'' she elaborated.

Following a thorough awareness programme, the spread of the disorder can be checked as two tests make it possible to identify who is suffering from it. Usually the preliminary screening test that does not cost much is advised for a doubtful case at the centre that operates from LIFE building on Race Course Road.

Once the disorder is identified in a person, the counsellor advises that a family screening be carried out. To quote Dr Mukesh Desai from the Indian Medical Scientific Research Foundation, ``The organisation is working on the awareness and counselling so as to minimise the spread and stop it from developing into a major crisis.''

Once a pregnant woman tests positive and her husband is also in the same category, normal advice would be to go for a pre-natal test for the baby to find out whether it is a major case or not. A major case is a sure signal for termination of pregnancy while a minor case calls for future counselling. The group that has been working in this area since 1993 has come across an alarming trend of a steady increase in the major cases.

On an average 150 new cases of thalassemia majors are reported every year. ``The mission of the group is,'' according to Dr Sushmita Dave, the director under whom the Thalassaemia Prevention and Control Progamme is carried out, "to eradicate the disorder from Saurashtra-Kutch region by the year 2010. So far around 70,000 people have been screened for the disorder."

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Factory owners protest against excise duty hike Thursday, March 8, 2001

Rajkot: The ball bearing, tyres and ready-made garments producers have also supported the nation-wide strike from Wednesday. The strike was to protest against the withdrawal of Small Scale Industries (SSI) exemption and imposing of 16 per cent central excise duty in the budget.
As a part of the protest under Rajkot Engineering Association president Pravin Garala, the factory owners submitted a memorandum to Rajkot District Collector P N Patel. The manufacturers in their memorandum have requested the MLAs and MPs of Saurashtra to convey their problem to Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha. If their demands were not met, they have threatened to intensify the strike.

The SSIs manufacturing ball and roller bearings from Rajasthan, Punjab, Delhi and other parts of the country will also join the agitation.

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Five more builders held in city Thursday, March 8, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Five more builders were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the collapse of two multi-storeyed buildings in the city on January 26 earthquake which together left 42 persons dead and injuries to eight others.

The arrest of Shantanu Aparment (Maninagar area) builders K R Patel, R N Patel, R R Patel and L R Patel and of M D Gajjar, builder of Shakti Apartment (Kankaria area) on Wednesday brought the tally of those held for faulty constructions under criminal and other charges to 50, police sources said.

While 40 persons had died following the collapse of Shantanu, two were killed when Shakti Apartment also crumbled on the same day apparently because of their poor quality constructions, they said.

Meanwhile, state home minister Haren Pandya has said the accused builders would be tried in a special court to be set up in Ahmedabad soon.

Over 725 persons were killed in Ahmedabad when 75 multi-storeyed buildings collapsed under the impact of the quake, Pandya said in Delhi on Wednesday.

The accused have been charged under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 420 (cheating) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

Besides, orders for preventive detention of some builders under the provisions of the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA) have also been passed.

A reward of Rs one lakh has been declared for any information leading to the arrest of an absconding builder.

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Cong opposes relocation of ravaged villages, towns Thursday, March 8, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat Mahila Congress (GMC) on Wednesday opposed the state government's plan to relocate the villages and towns of Kutch and Saurashtra regions devastated in the January 26 earthquake.

"Relocation should not be done because a majority of the people in these villages and towns are against it", GMC president Shantaben Chavda said on telephone from Rajkot.

Flaying the state administration for "not removing debris" from these villages and towns, she alleged that the administration had more or less "called off" the debris clearance operation and it could be dangerous.

Citing the situation in Malia, Wakaner and Morbi talukas of Rajkot district, she said the piled up debris of devastated houses and buildings had become a "repulsive sight".

The Congress leader expressed doubts about the state government's claim that it would build around eight lakh temporary shelters for the quake-affected people before the monsoon.

"When nothing is happening, how will one make so many houses (temporary) in such a short a time?" she said.

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