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March 2, 2001 - March 2, 2001

Cracks leave govt staff on tenterhooks Friday, March 2, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Haunted looks on faces, furtive glances at the walls and at the cracks and always on the toes. Nowadays not even the frantic calls of aayu, aayu is required to announce yet another tremor. Soon as the slightest vibration is felt everybody, from the babus to the sahebs, make a mad rush for the staircases and within seconds are out in the open gripped by the "me-first" rush.

In the aftermath of the quake, level of preparedness for once in certain government offices like the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is unprecedented, albeit for completely different reasons: The Republic Day quake has not only shaken up numerous high-rises of the city it has also left many buildings housing government offices, courts of law and hospitals in a poor condition.

The fallout of this is quite apparent: judges are forced to hold court at their residences, employees of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation are up in arms pressing for immediate relocation of premises while the corporation is looking at construction of a new building for head office, employees at hospitals run by the municipality go to work reluctantly with many portions of the buildings sporting quake-hit looks, even the Sachivalay at Gandhinagar has cracks as constant reminder for those who tread into the imposing building.

As for the AMC shift in premises, even though temporarily, is on the cards. AMC authorities will discuss on this matter with the state government on Friday to finalise the use of Old High Court premises for this purpose.

After repeated checks by structural engineers on the Sardar Patel building (head office of AMC in Danapit) certain portions of the over half-a-century old building were declared to be in the danger zone (G 5 category) and need to be pulled down at the earliest.

"Work to repair this building is on but about 150 employees have to be relocated from the severely damaged parts. We are looking at the Old High Court premises in Navrangpura as a possible alternative," said commissioner K Kailashnathan.

A 10-member strong delegation of the Ahmedabad Municipal Servants' Association had recently approached commissioner K Kailashnathan and deputy mayor Khemchandbhai Solanki demanding an immediate shift in workplace.

"The Sardar Patel corporation building is damaged and dangerous to work in. We cannot wait for another disastrous tremor to strike bringing down the roof on our heads," said general secretary of the association Dinkar Bhatt, adding, "Minor tremors including four big ones measuring 5.9, 5.3, 5 and 4.8 on the Richter scale have been felt in the city since the tremblor. We are no more sure that the old corporation building will hold up with such repeated tremors."

Not even such doubts are in the minds of the policemen housed in the Karanj Bhavan. Deputy commissioners of police Manoj Agrawal (zone II) and BS Jebalia (zone VI) who were assisting the investigating team in collection of samples of concrete of buildings fallen in the earthquake, evacuated their offices at Karanj Bhavan on January 26 itself.

The sturdy-looking, cement-finished Karanj Bhavan in Bhadra which houses the offices of two deputy commissioners, two assistant commissioners and the Karanj police station, shook hard enough to crack and Agrawal moved office to a PWD office in police headquarters while Jebalia moved to another PWD building in Kagdapith.

But the Karanj police station housed in the ground floor continues to function from the Karanj Bhavan. Additional commissioner of police (administration) SP Chitturi told TOI, "The building just has small cracks on the masonry walls which are now undergoing repairs". Chitturi emphasised that the building has suffered no major structural damage. He also confirmed that the building had been examined by the Police Housing Corporation which concluded that it could be used after repairs.

Shift focus to the hospitals and you see cracks yet again. The trauma ward of VS Hospital has got damages in its pillars and beams and its operation theatre had to be shut down for some time and patients had to be shifted to lower storeys for quake fear. At LG hospital the three-storeyed indoor ward building well of the lift has huge vertical cracks. The building had to be vacated after the quake and partial reoccupation began only on Thursday.

Damages in the nine-storeyed Mirzapur court complex has forced the judges to hold court at their residences. But, that's not all as Darshan Kinareewala, a lawyer, has filed a complaint against the municipal commissioner, state chief secretary and other government officials for overlooking flouting of norms during the construction and commissioning of the court complex.

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Sajjad complex builder linked with Abdul Wahab, confirmed. Friday, March 2, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Ahmedabad rural police have confirmed links of Javedhusain Gulamhusain Shaikh, builder of Sajjad complex which collapsed in the quake, with underworld gangster Abdul Wahab Majid Baloch who is now a TADA detenue in the Sabarmati jail.

The Aslali police arrested Shaikh on Wednesday afternoon under section 304 (culpable homicide), 338, 308, cheating and criminal conspiracy of the IPC and sections of the Gujarat Flat Ownership act.

Five people died when Sajjad complex collapsed in Juhapura "of which some were Shaikh's relatives", said district superintendent of police (Ahmedabad rural) G C Malik.

According to Malik, "Shaikh is a distant relative of Wahab but how he is related can be confirmed after the interrogations". There are reports that Shaikh is Wahab's brother-in-law.

The Sarkhej police also arrested two accused in the collapse of the Balaji Gold complex in Bopal of which one is the elusive builder Manharbhai alias Dinubhai Jayrambhai Hirpara. The other accused is Naradlal Laljibhai Patel. Samples collected by the Road and Building and forensic science experts from this site, where the first floor sunk into the ground, showed inferior construction material as being the cause of the collapse.

"There does not seem to be any concept of BU (building use) permission here in Bopal", observes Malik. Hirpara and his associate were booked under section 307 420, 468, 471, 337 and sections 120 (B).

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Senior IAS officials transferred Friday, March 2, 2001

AHMEDABAD: In a minor administrative reshuffle the state government on Thursday transferred four senior IAS officials including Gujarat Ecology Commission member secretary CJ Jose who has been shifted to the Centre on deputation for sometime. Jose has been appointed chairman of the Spices Board which is headquartered in Kochi.

Vilasini Ramchnadran, who was with GEB at Vadodara, has been appointed in place of Jose.

Gujarat Electricity Corporation managing director PK Taneja has been asked to hold additional charge of GCEL.

Rajkot district collector A K Rakesh has been shifted as joint secretary forest and environment in place of P S Shah, who has been transferred to home department as joint secretary.

In addition to this, joint secretary in charge of energy and petro-chemicals B B Swain has been appointed regional passport officer in Ahmedabad, an official release said.

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Water supply disrupted in Rajkot Friday, March 2, 2001

RAJKOT: Water supply in the city was disrupted on Thursday for three hours, causing people in the Aji and Jubilee zone to wait endlessly for water.

According to civic body sources, the pumping of water from the Wankaner bore project was disrupted due to breakage in the pipeline and power failure. As a result of this there was shortage of nearly 40 lakh gallons of water. This was despite the fact that the civic body had made arrangements for spare stock of water to meet such eventualities.

The power supply in the bore project area had failed and was restored only at around 7 pm on Wednesday, as a result of which pumping was affected for nearly 10 hours resulting in shortage of water. To add misery to the water supply authorities, the pipeline broke near Padhadhari and due to this there was shortage of another 13 lakh gallons of water.

However, deputy commissioner (techincal) K D Bhalodiya said that the situation was saved from taking a serious turn due to the additional days water cut imposed. He said that pumping has been increased from the bore after Wednesday's problem to meet the requirement. The situation would be normal in a day or two, he added.

Meanwhile, the standing committee of the civic body has decided to pay Rs 17.82 lakh to Gujarat Pollution Control Board. The civic body has to give Rs 1.25 crore to the board. According to committee chairman Ladhabhai Parmar, the decision to give interest relief on house tax and water tax has been extended till March 31.

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Contractors quote lower tanker rates Friday, March 2, 2001

RAJKOT: In a surprise move, water tanker contractors supplying water to Rajkot city and surrounding areas have slashed rates by Rs 14 to Rs 31.60.

Highly placed sources told this correspondent on Thursday that despite a hike in diesel price, higher wage to drivers, cleaners and other expenses, tankers owners have cut rates as compared to last year.

While the rate for 5,000 litres was Rs 84 last year, it has been reduced to Rs 70 this year, which has been also cleared by the standing committee of the municipal corporation. On the other hand, rates for 10,000 and 12,000 litres were Rs 168 and Rs 201.60 last year, which have been reduced to Rs 140 and Rs 170 respectively.

The standing committee also passed a proposal to award contract to private parties to lift garbage and clean roads in wards 21 to 24. For this, the civic body would pay Rs 18.60 lakh to contractors. In addition, the committee has also passed a proposal to pay Rs 15 lakh for cleaning public toilets in wards 1, 3, 4, 5, 13 and 15.

It also decided to donate animals from Rajkot zoo to other zoos in the country. At present, the Surat zoo has sent a request for tiger cubs. They would be sent to Surat soon, committee members said.

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