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March 1, 2001 - March 1, 2001

Dubai-based Gujarati says Customs obstructed relief Thursday, March 1, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Not everyone who is coming to India to extend help and relief material are going back with sweet memories, forget satisfaction.

Founder of the Dubai Gujarati Samaj and leader of the Indian Association in Gulf, Bharatkumar Shah, who came all the way from Dubai with a ship loaded with 1,600 tonnes of relief material, claims he was a victim of the bureaucracy in the country.

"We brought water, biscuits, blankets, food grains, medicines, PVC sheets, tents and various other eatables. But The Customs officials at the Kandla port insisted on a certification for every product we brought," says Shah.

The 10-member team from the Indian Association in Dubai, which had come to help their countrymen are so exasperated by the harassment at the hands of the Customs officials that they are reconsidering their plan of sending a second ship-load of cement. "Carrying out checking of cargo ships is understandable but such stringent checking of ships which brings relief material is absolutely unnecessary," says Shah.

Ironically, at the Dubai port, all the taxes were exempted and the officials went out of their way to assist a ship which was going with relief material. "And here where the relief is needed, the officials are putting obstacles," he regrets. "When they cannot provide drinking water to their people, how come they have such strict policies regarding checking sealed mineral water bottles," he asks wondering why there are different rules for the Kandla port.

Shah claims that even the Band-Aid and bandage materials were sent to a drug laboratory in Mumbai for checking and only after they certified, were the medical packets unloaded.

In all, 14 communities in Dubai pooled in to provide relief material, which was loaded in the ship. "From Ethiopians to Pakistanis, besides of course Indians, everyone donated generously for the cause, but it is a pity, we had to undergo so much trouble here," rues Shah.

The team already had collected cash worth Rs 5 crore but now they are reconsidering whether to give or not. "We are reconsidering our decision and even if we give, we will direct the funds to NGOs only," maintains Shah.

He claims to have already spoken to the chief minister about the arrogant behaviour of the Customs officials.

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Govt to act against builders of terrace gardens Thursday, March 1, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: State urban development minister Parmanand Khattar said on Wednesday that the government had directed the municipal commissioners of six municipal corporations and urban development authorities to initiate legal action against builders who had created terrace gardens and swimming pools in high-rise buildings.

Speaking to news persons, Khattar said though the civic authorities did not have exact information about such structures, the officials had been asked to verify if any more builders had built such facilities in high-rise buildings.

"Such illegal portions in high-rise buildings were dangerous to the entire structure. The government would first serve notices on such builders. If they did not comply the civic authorities would demolish such portions in the larger interest of occupants."

Senior officials and urban development experts were working on new guidelines for the General Development Control Regulations in the wake of the changed situation, he informed.

Khattar, who was in charge of rescue and relief operations in Anjar, said the people of this ravaged town had agreed to relocation and wished to shift to a new place. According to the present estimate, the district authorities would have to construct 6,000 new houses and at least 700 new shops.

Meanwhile, K V Bhanujan, chief of the task force for rehabilitation programmes, told reporters that the government would have to spend at least Rs 6,000 crore on reconstruction of houses in rural and urban areas.

When asked about the assistance from NGOs in this task, he said this time their contribution would be more than what it was during the Kandla cyclone. He was confident that voluntary agencies would extend full support to the village-adoption project.

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Govt to recruit 3,000 civil engineers Thursday, March 1, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The state government has decided to recruit over 3,000 civil engineers to construct liveable rooms in the 3,000 quake-ravaged villages of Kutch district by June 30 as part of government's plan for creating temporary shelters for victims.

According to a plan chalked out by the state government at a joint meeting of the Rehabilitation Task Force and Disaster Management Authority convened by Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel on Monday, the government would finalise the selection of engineers holding degrees and diplomas in civil engineering under whose supervision new structures would be constructed, in a record time of four months.

The new plan has been worked out hurriedly after Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel announced that the government would construct 8,00,000 houses for victims within three months which came under a lot of flak.

Engineers recruited by the government for this project would be paid monthly salaries and allowances ranging between Rs 3,000 to Rs 3,500, it is learnt. The project will be jointly carried out by the government and people wishing to participate in rehabilitation process.

Three members from each family who have lost their house will be allowed to join the construction work for which they will be paid Rs 40 per day. This employment will be in accordance with the relief manual as Kutch has already been declared scarcity-hit.

When contacted, state roads and buildings minister Nitin Patel said the government was awaiting technical data from survey teams who have already fanned out in the region. Once the report was received, the government would execute the plan for temporary constructions.

He said each family would be allotted eight tin sheets, two cement bags and other construction material free of cost. Cash doles would also be paid to them as part of the rehabilitation package announced last week. Leading experts and consultants have also agreed to assist the government in this rehabilitation programme.

According to Patel, at least six leading cement manufacturers have assured of supply of cement bags at reasonable rates. Other firms will meet requirement for bricks and tin sheets. A local cement manufacturer will start training of masons.

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Youth Congress forces closure of VMC school Thursday, March 1, 2001

VADODARA: The city Youth Congress members forcibly closed down a Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) school at Vishwamitri on Wednesday morning.

Many of the VMC schools were badly damaged in the quake. These schools had started to function from February 5, once they schools were examined by a structural engineer from VMC. "There are numerous cracks in the 30-year-old Babajipura School number 14 building. Even the columns are not intact. Despite this, all the students from standard I to VII are asked to sit in the school and taught," says city Youth Congress president Narendra Rawat. He says that the school even lacks basic amenities like toilets and drinking water facilities.

"Since long the school has been teaching nearly 1,700 students in one room. But now the authorities are playing with the lives of innocent souls. After the earthquake, the VMC officials have kept wooden planks to support the school. Though it has been declared safe for taking classes, a slight tremor can prove to be dangerous for the lives of the students," says Rawat.

On Wednesday, some of the Youth Congress members went to the school, asked the students and teachers to empty the class and locked the school. "Until no alternative arrangement is done for the students, the school will remain closed," added Rawat.

Meanwhile, VMC School board chairman Rajendra Trivedi said he was not aware of the incident. "We have not got any reports from the teachers at Babajipura School number 14 about this incidence. If the city Youth Congress men have indulged in such an act, then its illegal and they need to be punished for their action," says Trivedi.

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Vadodara Muncipal Corporation gears up to tackle 'dry' summer Thursday, March 1, 2001

VADODARA: With the water level at the French well depleting and summer just a month away, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) authorities have got together to ensure that water is taken from the Narmada dam for the city this summer.

City Mayor Bharti Vyas along with other members visited various places from where water can be fetched from the Narmada dam. They also discussed the possibility of taking water through the Mahi river to the French well in Fajalpur. The mayor also visited Devrampura village near Sarsa and the some of the areas near Balashinor.

"Either we take water from the Sardar Sarovar canal which meets Mahi river at Devrampura village or from near Balashinor. Water from Mahi River at Devrampura village can be taken to the French well at Fajalpur. The second spot is a place near Balashinor where the main Narmada canal crosses Mahi Canal. From here water can be taken to the French well," says Vyas.

She said that there were plans to take water directly from the Narmada Canal. "We also visited Rameshwara village which is 10-km away from Ajwa. Water from the Narmada canal that passes through this area can be easily taken to the Ajwa dam," she added.

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