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March 3, 2001 - March 3, 2001

Fake currency racket thrives in the city Saturday, March 3, 2001

SURAT: Had it not been the refusal to accept the somewhat differently looking currency note of Rs 100 denomination by the provision store keeper in Kosamba on Feb 16 offered by one labourer, perhaps the racket dealing in counterfeit notes would still have continued in the city and the district areas.

The tip-off from the shopkeeper led the local police to nab the mastermind Harish Dhula Patel and his 14 associates so far from different locations in the Varachha area of the city. Fake notes amounting to about Rs 6 lakh had also been recovered from them.

Disclosing the modus operandi, Surat district rural police superintendent K L N Rao told The Times of India that the gang operated in a planned manner. First to produce the fake notes of Rs 100 and Rs 50 denominations and then targetting the illiterate workers on the outskirts of the city who can't make out the difference between the real and the fake ones.

Rao said that Patel, a medical compounder but known as doctor among the locals at Varachha, was arrested by the city police for the same offence in March last year but when released from the jail, he again got into the fake notes racket.

Interrogations revealed that real notes of Rs 100 and Rs 50 in series of numbers ending with 01 to 020 were photocopied on coloured photocopy machines and then on each note a silver line was drawn using a pen to make it 'authentic', Rao said.

The currency notes were packed with bands or threads serially as if to create an impression these notes bearing serialised numbers were genuine. And to avoid any suspicion these notes were never handed in more than one packed ones containing 10 to 20 notes to the middlemen who were enegaged for tranasacting the notes to those needed, the superintendent stated.

The middlemen who could arrange for transacting the fake notes were given a commission for the services, he said. Explaining further, he said that the associates of Patel would find out persons in need of money and then fake notes used to be given in exchange of an amount in real currency but half the value of the printed ones on the fake ones.

The business of fake currency had been going on in the city and in other parts of the district where it was easy to hand over the fake notes to poor workers who were not educated enough to feel the difference and without knowing they become the most convenient conduits, Rao informed.

It is being feared that there could be several such organised gangs in the city engaged in such rackets of transacting in fake currency notes. A massive operation has been launched by the rural and city police in the district, said a senior police official. Only a few days ago three persons were nabbed by the city police reportedly dealing in fake currency notes of Rs 500 denominations.

Looking to the way the gang operated, it could be a matter of detailed investigations to unearth similar gangs but often the floating migrant labour population in this city being the target group for transaction of fake currency notes, the information often did not surface, Rao said.

Moreover, to verify the authenticity of the notes is often difficult as only infra-red machines in operation in some of the banks in the city could be able to identify the fake ones, Rao said.

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Ahmed Patel flays Taliban for destroying historical heritage Saturday, March 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Congress member of parliament in the Rajya Sabha Ahmed Patel has criticised the Taliban fiat on the destruction of the historical heritage of Afghanistan, calling it a "religious and cultural vandalism".

In a press release on Friday, Patel said the action "was not sane" and destruction of the 2000-year-old statue of Gautam Buddha, the finest and greatest example of human creativity, by using mortars and tanks was beyond comprehension.

"The Taliban should have been proud that Afghanistan was a land where such priceless heritage of human civilisation had stood and had remained preserved for two millenniums," Patel pointed out.

"The Taliban had undertaken its destruction in the name of Islam. It is nothing less than religious and cultural vandalism," he said.

Patel appealed to other Islamic nations to exert pressure on the Taliban to desist from this act of madness.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders have also condemned the destruction of Buddha statue by the Taliban regime.

In a joint statement, Dilip Trivedi and P G Jyotikarji, described it as genocide of culture.

The act of vandalism indulged in by Mullah Mohammed Omar was not only insult of Budhism but also that of Hinduism which had a rich history of culture and civilisation, they said.

The Muslim clerics in India should come out openly in condemning the Talibans, they demanded.

Meanwhile, Bajrang Dal leaders Ranchhodbhai Bharvad and Jayantibhai Patel have announced that the Dal workers would burn an effigy of the Taliban mullah at the Income-Tax circle on Saturday evening.

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Collectorate asks for missing files in AMC Saturday, March 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: It's the case of missing files revisited. This time though it is not the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority but its more illustrious counterpart the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

Two files from the total list of 56 (pertaining to collapsed buildings in the corporation area) complete with associated documents submitted to the collectorate for police investigations have either "gone missing" or were never "passed on."

On Friday, collector K Srinivas shot off a letter to the AMC drawing its attention to the absence of building files of Setu Apartment in Ambawadi and Pujan Apartment in Maninagar.

"A total of 56 building plans along with names of concerned architects, builders, structural engineers and other documents relating to the land acquirement and agreement with apartment owners were supposedly submitted to the collectorate just a few days after the earthquake, when investigations into the role of builders in collapse of city buildings started," said a source in the Ahmedabad Collectorate.

"But, as investigations are progressing satisfactorily with the police having arrested 32 builders and their associates till date, we find that two files are missing. Our enquiries have revealed that the files were not placed in our custody at all," the source added.

AMC Commissioner K Kailashnathan, on the other hand, explained, "These files are of buildings which date back to the late 70s and there was some difficulty in locating them. But, I have already asked officials of the department concerned to hand over Setu and Pujan files at the earliest."

But, this is not the first instance when important files have been misplaced or have gone missing from the labyrinths of a civic body. Days after the investigations against city builders began, police sleuths disclosed that of the 12 building files to be submitted by AUDA some were found to be "missing". The files contained original building plans and documents like land ownership, affidavits citing the names of people involved in the land use and of course the names of builders, developers, architects and structural engineers.

Some of the missing AUDA documents include those of Sundervan in Ranip, where reportedly a 'different plan' was submitted to the authorities, Himgiri Apartment in Vastrapur, Sajjad in Sarkhej and Giriraj in Vejalpur. This apart AUDA had also submitted a duplicate of the original file of Mansi apartment.

When contacted in this regard, the police commissioner PC Pande had agreed that some of the building files were missing and had assured, "We will book those responsible for destroying evidence". That is if it could be proven that there was wilful destruction of evidence.

Senior officials of AUDA had explained that "a fire that had 'broken out' in the record room of our office during the riots of 1991. The inferno had burnt to ashes many files containing building plans including some of those concerning the 12 buildings which crumbled to pieces (like Mansi) on January 26."

Some unidentified miscreants were accused of burning vital files and a few two-wheelers parked at the AUDA building premises. Ever since, the authority had not been unable to maintain a records room since then and the building plans were in absolute disarray till 1998. For about six years the authority functioned without a regularised record room and, thus, many a file were stacked up and forgotten about in the offices of various planning assistants' of AUDA. Thus those building projects which were given the green signal between the period of 1992-1997 have not left too many telltale signs to track them by.

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AMC rushes to finalise tax-free non-convertible debentures Saturday, March 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Haste is the key word in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation as it runs against time to breath life into the second avatar of the path-breaking non-convertible debentures launched in 1998.

First step in this direction was taken on Friday with AMC's Standing Committee passing the issue of General Obligation bond worth Rs 100 crore. The next clearance that this bond, which the corporation wishes to float "latest by March", requires is from the Central government. The Rs 100 crore bond (non-convertible debentures) is part of a Rs 300-crore water and sewerage project drawn up by the corporation to spruce up the infrastructure of a city awaiting megacity status.

Like in 1998, when the AMC earned accolades as a trend-setter -- the first municipal corporation in India to issue public bonds based on an enviable AA(SO) rating by CRISIL, this time too the corporation will be the first in India to raise money from the public with tax-free public bonds.

But, before that can happen the AMC will be kept on its toes with a large number of criteria to go through. To start with the corporation requires to go through re-evaluation of CRISIL rating for corporation the corporation is also to be done before the end of financial year 2000-2001. By the time these procedures are completed the corporation also will need to talk to prospective investors like large financial institutions for the tax-free bonds prime. With no public notice or advertisement expected to market this avatar of AMC's public bond the corporation is working overtime to get its act together before the self-imposed March deadline expires.

"Completion of these time-taking yet essential formalities before March is important. Start of the new financial year will have our prospective investors, especially the large financial institutions that we are looking at, reading to put in their money on investment opportunities," said a senior official of AMC.

Call it optimism but the AMC also feels that it can convince the Central government to part with Rs 100 crore of tax-free bonds for Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation alone. "The Centre has announced that Rs 200 crore as tax-exempted public bonds can be raised by public bodies across the country. We hope to get permission to float bonds worth Rs 100 crore in Ahmedabad itself," said the commissioner K. Kailashnathan.

Unlike the public bonds issued in 1998 the new ones will not be marketed and will be sold by "word of mouth." The other major change could be the proposed 10-year period for the new debentures instead of the seven, as in 1998. The bonds will hold out interest rate ranging around 9.5 per cent (as compared to the 14 per cent of 1998) which is expected to draw good response as its premium will be tax-free.

"The new bonds are in the general option category and thus no public announcements are required. We will approach individual prospective investors and deals will be struck in private. What however does remain similar to the 1998 issue of public bond is that a minimum of Rs 5,000 worth of bonds (at Rs 1,000 each) will have to be procured by every investor," said a senior official of AMC.

The corporation is also quite sure of retaining its AA(Structured Obligation) CRISIL rating. "The recent general budget has hiked the octroi charges on certain white goods which could rake in Rs 50 to 60 crores, the impact fee is expected to bring in Rs 25 crore and the AMC also could get a grant of Rs 100 crore from the Finance Commission as per the 74th Amendment of the Constitution," informed a source in AMC.

With things looking quite "rosy" for AMC in the eve of bond-issue, the corporation has the other contributors for the rest of Rs 300 crore lined up.

Says chairman of standing committee, Badruddin Sheikh, "We expect to borrow Rs 140 crore from various institutions while the corporation itself will contribute the remaining Rs 60 crore. This Rs 300 crore water and sewerage project (with special emphasis on augmenting the storm water drainage) will meet all infrastructural demands of the people: a right foot forward towards the megacity status to Ahmedabad."

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Six more builders arrested in city Saturday, March 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The city police arrested six more builders of the Jashoda Park, Divyalaya, Tagore Park and 15 August Avenue Apartments on Friday, taking the total number of arrests of builders and their associates to 33.

Late on Thursday, the Ellisbridge police arrested Dilip Mafatlal Solanki, brother of Vijay Solanki who built Jashoda Park Apartments in Paldi where five people had died and two were injured. Vijay was arrested sometime back.

On Friday, the police arrested Yunus Nabibhai Bagadia who built Tagore Park in Paldi. The building had collapsed, killing eight people.

The Maninagar police descended on three builders of the Divyalaya Apartments - Mihir Jagdishbhai Shah, Suketu Vinodchandra Gandhi and Kartikbhai Gunvantbhai Pasawala on Friday. The apartments had collapsed killing 10 people and injuring 11.

The Maninagar police also arrested Nandubhai Manilal Shah who built 15 August Avenue Apartments which had sunk some four floors in the ground, killing three people and injuring eight.

Meanwhile, Satish Nyalchand Shah who built Shikhar where 98 people had died, is still on the run.

The police had reportedly alerted the Vadodara and Surat police after they got a tip-off that Shah was probably hiding there. But, when the police reached the suspected hideout, Shah had given them the slip, sources told The Times of India.

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