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March 6, 2001 - March 6, 2001

Exams may be delayed in Gujarat University Tuesday, March 6, 2001

AHMEDABAD: If examinations are being discussed, then controversy is sure to follow. In Gujarat University, so much is the uncertainty what with the two-examination theory that officials claim that even the regular examinations, which are usually held in April, may be delayed.
``There is so much to do and nothing has begun as yet. By this time, meetings of the Academic Council and the Executive Council would have been convened and panels set up,'' says a GU official on condition of anonymity. ``There has not been a single meeting with the Vice-Chancellor who seems to be very busy,'' he adds. However, Vice-Chancellor Naresh Ved has scheduled a meeting with the officials on Monday.

The chaos has ruled supreme ever since the Government put forward the general option as well as proper examination idea. ``University authorities are playing a cat and mouse game. We were expecting to set the ball rolling by this time but not a single meeting has been convened yet,'' says examination committee member Prabodh Bhatt. Meanwhile, Ved was busy meeting Ministers and finalising modalities of the two-exam theory. ``We wish we had been involved in the process. The varsity has been recieving hundreds of calls from principals, teachers, students and concerned officials but we have no answer,'' says an official.

Adding fuel to fire, Gujarat University Affiliated College Principal Association has refused to tow the Government's line. ``We have made our stance clear. We will not follow the Government's unwise decision. The two examinations are not our look out and will be a burden on the entire machinery. We principals have resolved not to do any work on the second examination,'' association secretary A U Patel says.

Students, meanwhile, stay confused. ``We do not know which exam we are eligible for,'' says Suresh Patel, a S Y BCom student of H L Commerce. ``I failed in the first test and had expected to make up in the prelims. Now, with no prelims, I wonder what happens to my future. My principal says I will fail,'' complains Rakesh Barot, a student of R G Science.

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Dreams come true for IIM toppers as they get top jobs Tuesday, March 6, 2001

AHMEDABAD: For IIM graduates, t'is the season to be jolly. The two years of rigorous study at the prestigious institute have finally paid off. Some of the world's best companies have snatched them up even before they can set foot out of campus. For Aseem, Tika, Rajan and Priya toppers of IIM-A this year has proved to be fruitful. After being grilled thoroughly during their placement interviews, the four have bagged dream jobs the minimum salary one can expect is Rs 13 lakh to Rs 14 lakh per annum.
V T Bharadwaj, or Tika as he is called, has been selected by McKinsey & Co, one of the world's leading consultancy companies. With Tika, Aseem Kaul has also been picked up by McKinsey. Rajan Prabhu has found a job with Accenture while Priya B has been chosen by Lehman Brothers. The youngsters replete with the confidence their new-found jobs has given them are overjoyed.

``To be frank, the job with McKinsey is like a dream come true,'' says Aseem while Rajan is ``relieved after putting in so much for two years and getting back results in these three days.''

However, all are unanimous when they say that salary is not the first priority. Working and learning with the international giants is, they feel. ``What was important was getting our dream jobs. Even the companies didn't try to tempt us with better salary packages because its not the most important thing,'' says Aseem. Rajan, meanwhile, is sure that the future can only get better so there are no worries.

They admit that placement days were a roller-coaster ride, full of tension and moments of fear but are happy they fared well. ``Not only was there individual tension but group tension as well. At one moment, there was a friend jumping about a great job while at the other, another was crying for having not fared well enough. We all have been together for two years living and studying together. So it feels quite bad to see a friend lose on to something he so dearly wanted,'' says Tika as Aseem, Rajan and Priya nod agreement.

Speaking about the college, they say it is a place that gives you ``richness of opportunity.'' ``If you make good use of the education imparted to you, you can easily make it to these top companies,'' says Tika. ``Once you have studied at IIMA, you can handle just about any business strategy thrown at you. At an extremely informal level, it prepares you with a can-do attitude,'' says Rajan while Aseem feels that the institute is a ``living example of what a combination of excitement and working with the right people can be.'' ``We worked with some amazing people and learnt a lot,'' he says.

And as each one of them goes his or her way, they look forward to the good break. ``We deserve it,'' they say in unison.

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They can't find the builder, don't know who architect is Tuesday, March 6, 2001

Mehul Oza still can't forget the screams that rent the air as Chandrama Apartments came crashing down behind him on January 26. He and his family were some of the lucky survivors.
Dr Ashok Talati, an eye surgeon could not save his young daughter while 12 other families lost at least two members each.

A month after the quake, both Oza and Talati are trying to come to terms with the tragedy that struck them loved ones dead and homes a pile of rubble. But what hurts more is the attitude of the police which has not yet been able to arrest the builder.

Chandrama Apartments was a four-storyed building in Fatehpura area. When it collapsed on January 26, it left 28 dead and four injured. The Ellisbridge police has so far been able to gather only the name of the builder Pravin D Rajpara while there is no information on who the architect, structural and civil engineers are.

``Almost daily we go to the police station but they give the same reply. `Investigation is on. Builder is not available at his residence. Only the watchman is there.' We did not pay much attention to who the architect or the engineers were at the time of buying the flats now even the police cannot find out who they are,'' says Dr Talati.

Almost all the residents of the apartment feel that the builder should be made to pay back the money or provide alternative accommodation and, thus, his arrest is vital.

``Unless the builder is found, we cannot decide what to do. He only can tell us whether we can expect our money back or whether he will arrange for alternative accommodation for us. We have lost everything and it is difficult to buy a new house under these circumstances,'' says Mehul Oza, a State Government employee who is living on rent now.

The residents are more angry because building inspection teams have opined that the basic load bearing structure was weak. ``The inspection teams told us that the water tank was on the staircase structure which itself was so weak that it caved in first,'' says M Patel, a resident.

Another resident who lost three members of his family rues that the government resolution on providing financial assistance to those who lost their homes has been delayed due to which they were all put through a lot of hardship. ``The builder is absconding so we cannot even approach him to make alternative arrangements. After all, we paid through our noses for these homes. I think it is going to take a long time before we can all put our lives back on track,'' she says.

Ellisbridge police inspector J J Patel says the police are looking for builder Pravin Rajpara. ``We have very sketchy information on him or his business interests. Police investigations have so far revealed that the top floor of the four-storey building which had penthouses was totally illegal but we don't know who the architect is. There is no one at his house in Vasna except the watchman who doesn't know anything. There is no clue.''

But residents are not willing to take this and allege that the police is taking the investigation easy. ``We have told them that the builder's sister lives in the city but it seems they have not bothered to inquire there. Also, Rajpara hails from Amreli district but no police team has been sent to his native place to inquire,'' says one resident. The Ellisbridge police, however, maintain that they are leaving no stone unturned to arrest him.

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Panels to monitor repair work on quake-hit dams Tuesday, March 6, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat government has agreed to the World Bank condition of setting up two expert panels for "repairing, reconstructing and restoring" 245 small and medium dams of Saurashtra and Kutch damaged in the January 26 earthquake at a cost of Rs 418 crore ($90 million).

The deal was finalised at a top-level meeting state finance department officials had with a World Bank team in New Delhi on Saturday evening.

"The negotiations took place for a $400-million loan which it has already said it would give", a senior bureaucrat said. "The World Bank is now bothered about putting up scores of conditionalities to ensure that the loan amount it is planning to give is utilised properly, in accordance with the actual requirements."

Setting up two dam safety panels, which would also monitor the work on the dams hit by the quake, is only one of the conditionalities. Others would be known in due course.

The World Bank is being requested to give as much soft loan as possible with a liberal package.

"We would know the exact amount of how much of the $400 million would be soft loan after the World Bank board meeting in mid-March," state economic affairs secretary Sudhir Mankad, the main negotiator, said.

"We would know the exact conditionalities also later on", he added, admitting, "Bank officials have not indicated any debt repayment moratorium period, already fixed by the Asian Development Bank for seven years."

The state government set up an experts committee led by Dr YK Murthy, former chairman of the Central Water Commission, five days ago with World Bank consultations to carry out survey of all the dams of the quake-hit areas.

The committee, which includes specialists like Dr Bharat Singh, Dr GN Tandon, Dr AS Arya would now be split into two, would now be split into two groups separately monitoring Kutch and Saurashtra banks. Murthy has been consultant to 80 per cent of the dams built in India, including the Narmada.

According to preliminary investigations by the committee, of the 245 dams hit, 185 are in Kutch and 60 in Saurashtra. "Mainly the earthen dams built in the 1960s and 1970s and those that have not been constructed as per quake specifications have been hit", the bureaucrat pointed out. "The dams built after 1991 took into account revised standards, based on the principle that these should be three times stronger than ordinarily supposed to be. The number of people that might die if a dam bursts would be very high."

The main dams that have been particularly badly hit in western Kutch are: Kaswati, right at the epicentre, Tappar, Rudramata, Suvi, Fategadh and Shivlekha. The dams badly hit in northern Saurashtra are Machchu-2, Und, Limdi-Bhogavo and Sosia. "The experts committee has found that dams in the radius of 125 km of the epicentre have been particularly badly hit. There have been significant longitudinal and transverse cracks and settlement of the earthworks as also slippage", the bureaucrat said.

The Gujarat government "Memorandum" to the Government of India submitted in mid-February says that Kutch's "five medium and 14 minor irrigation dams are severely damaged. As for Saurashtra, nine medium dams have been "severely damaged". It stresses, all these would need to be repaired before June 2001, i.e. onset of monsoon.

The "memorandum" significantly says, "due to the quake, wide gaps are likely to be created between concrete/masonry and the earthen dam. As water was fortunately not present in these dams, the earthen dam was not washed away. There is an urgent need to investigate the critical joints of all these dams. Effective measures should be taken to regulate the flow of water into reservoirs to avert any unforeseen destruction of the dams."

The "Memorandum" also does not rule out the "possibility of cracks in the basement of the reservoirs." It warns, "As this will result in the total seepage of stored water underground, there is a need to investigate and provide treatment to the basement of the reservoirs." The stress is also on the need to have fresh seismographic equipment at 16 different places under the Narmada water resources and water supply department, including at Ukai, Vadodara, Sanjali, Madhuban and Dharoi.

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69 dams in the Saurastra region damaged in earthquake Tuesday, March 6, 2001

RAJKOT: Sixty-nine dams have been damaged in the quake in the Saurashtra region. The total damage has been placed at Rs 70 crore by officials.

Sources in the irrigation department said that while some dams had developed cracks, parapet walls of other dams had been damaged while others needed a fresh coast of plaster.

The Rajkot irrigation circle controls 28 dams and the damages have been placed at around Rs 36 crore. This includes the Nyari-2 site where the top portion of the dam, the canal lining and the parapet walls have been damaged. The wireless cabin at the dam site has also been damaged.

Dams in Jamnagar and Surendranagar, which also fall under the Rajkot circle, have also been damaged. These include damages of Rs 239 lakh for earthen works, Rs 69 lakh for canal works and Rs 59 lakh for buildings and other items.

Damages at dams like Bhadar have been put at Rs 14 lakh, Machhu-1 Rs 18 lakh, Machhu-2 Rs 33 lakh, Und-1 Rs 375 lakh and Brahmni dam Rs 12 lakh. Forty-one minor irrigation dams have also suffered considerable damages.

Technical engineers and experts have called for caution and said that these damages have to be rectified at the earliest.

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