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February 28, 2001 - February 28, 2001

'Build a stronger Gujarat than before' Wednesday, February 28, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Students all over the state have been worried sick over what will happen to their academic future. Keeping this in mind, the Art of Living Foundation in association with the Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) has taken the initiative to set up schools in the earthquake-affected areas of Gujarat.

At a crowded gathering at AMA campus, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation Sri Sri Ravishankarji inaugurated the first model of the school, on display at the campus.

Designed by Ahmedabad-based architect Kamal Mangaldas, the classroom is made of a steel structure covered with tarpaulin. The structure can be made into a permanent, earthquake-resistant building and a terrace can also be added after removing the tarpaulin.

"There is no point in building structures which are of no use afterwards. Hence we finalised the design which can be of use later on," informed the guruji.

In an attempt to restore normalcy and also to ensure that the academic year of the students is not wasted, the Art of Living Foundation members took the decision of setting up schools in the affected areas.

"One earthquake-resistant classroom costs Rs 11,000 and one school needs at least ten classrooms, which sums up to Rs 1,11,000 per school," said president of AMA Yatindra Sharma appealing to people to donate generously for the noble cause.

The foundation has identified 100 schools which have been demolished and plans to set up schools in the same premises.

On the occasion, guruji handed over seven schools for Rapar taluka through the Gram Swaraj Sangh, Nilpar. AMA member Piyush Desai volunteered to sponsor one school and director of International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Career Development Hina Shah promised to support 20 such class rooms.

Presently, the foundation is focusing on restoring schools in Kutch, Surendranagar, Rajkot and Jamnagar districts.

"The government might come up with its own scheme of constructing schools, but it might take considerable time, even one to one-and-a-half year. What will the students do till then? Hence we decided to start our construction work from Tuesday itself," said co-ordinator of the Ahmedabad branch of the Art of Living Foundation, adding that it takes just three days to set up a school based on their model.

Telling the audience about spiritualism, guruji reasoned natural calamities occur to remind people of the values of love and generosity. "Thousands of people are coming together to rebuild Gujarat. It wouldn't have happened if there were no earthquake," he said.

Hoping that countries like Japan and Germany, which were rebuilt almost from scratch after being bombed, guruji said in the same vein we must rebuild Gujarat again and set an example for all the other states.

Emphasising the need to involve local people in town planning, he said, "While building a new Kutch, we should ensure their ethnicity and their culture is taken into account and not give the responsibility of building to international firms, who may have no idea of the habits of the locals."

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90% Kutch villagers reject relocation Wednesday, February 28, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A comprehensive survey conducted by voluntary agencies at the behest of the Kutch district administration has shown that 85 to 90 per cent of the villagers are against any relocation plans. The feedback has delivered a severe blow to the state government's Rs 1.50 crore per village scheme of 'adoption' of villages by non-government organisations which was entirely based on the assumption that the villages would be relocated.

District officials of Kutch are expected to arrive in Gandhinagar later this week for a detailed presentation before the state government which has been accused of making public schemes without taking officials working on the ground into confidence. Among the various issues which are disconcerting for the district administration are the chief minister's insistence that by June 30 temporary one-room accommodation will be provided to 8 lakh affected families.

The survey done by private organisations and the feed-back that the district administration itself has received have thrown up various ticklish issues that will have to be tackled by the government before it launches itself into an interim and permanent housing plan for the quake ravaged district. The response from 9 out of 10 villagers that they would like to be rehabilitated at the same site may cause problems because the government was thinking in terms of integrating both the interim and permanent structures.

"We had based our calculations on the presumption that most of the one-room temporary structures would use pre-fabricated material which would be used in the permanent two-room structures to be built at the same spot", said one official in Gandhinagar. However, if the temporary structures are to be made ready by June 30 at a relocated place and the permanent structures at the original site of the village, it would not only enhance the cost and logistics but also the time taken.

"Not only will the debris have to be removed but shifting the temporary structures to permanent sites in the coming months will be a headache which all of us would like to avoid", said a senior official co-ordinating relief. Besides, officials said, it is not yet clear if those whose houses have been only slightly damaged will be entitled to all the benefits that the government wants to bestow on the affected persons.

"There are several policy issues which are yet to be addressed, in fact it is a learning process for us also as every day is throwing up new problems, new issues", said an official. In the urban areas, it is not clear whether the tenancy rights of those who were staying in rental accommodation will be honoured once temporary or permanent structures are built.

One school of thought among officials is that the state government should not go in for pre-fabricated structures as an interim arrangement. Instead , rain-proof tents should be provided . "This will ensure that the temporary challenge is overcome immediately and the administration can entirely focus on the major issue - that of providing permanent quake-proof housing". This will remove any discontentment among the populace about the delay in providing temporary accommodation which, if it is pre-fabricated, will take at least another three to four months." If the survivors are staying in tents there will be a pressure on the administration to provide permanent structures quickly, if the temporary structures are good enough the pressure will be off", said one official.

However, this view is discounted by those who say that living in tents could be a torture during the long hot summer in Kutch. Besides, the rains could further make these tent towns a hellish experience for the residents even though the rainfall in Kutch is quite scanty.

Officials across the board are however rattled by Keshubhai's pronouncements that 8 lakh "liveable structures" by June 30. As one official put it "we don't know how he has arrived at this figure of 8 lakh , what he means by liveable structures and how he is going to achieve this , we feel that instead of making these pronouncements which would raise expectations and be counter-productive, the chief minister should focus on clearing all the policy issues which are getting delayed".

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M S University polytechnic strike called off Wednesday, February 28, 2001

VADODARA: The strike by agitating M S University polytechnic students was called off after the administration and the agitators settled for a compromise formula on Monday.

The MSU administration relented from its posture and gave an assurance that the post-HSC students who have been given grace marks in their exams will not carry the grace remark in their final marksheets.

However, the university made it clear that no additional marks would be added only the word 'grace' would be removed considering the future prospects of certain students. The decision has been taken in case of post-HSC civil engineering diploma students who had got grace marks in the Public Health Administration (PHA) subject.

Post-HSC students had alleged that a section of teachers had discriminated against them and deliberately failed them or given grace marks in PHA. The students had subsequently declared a strike and demanded reconsideration.

"We have resolved the issue. No additional marks will be given but the remark grace will be deleted from the final marksheet", pro vice-chancellor V D Pathak said. He, however, added that the discrimination allegation was not justified as the students who had got grace marks had thin attendance in practicals and theory classes conducted in the college. "Compared to post-SSC students the post HSC students had attended fewer practicals and theory classes", Pathak said.

MSU students union general secretary Bharat Dangar, however, alleged that the attendance record was tampered with. "A section of teachers had tampered with the attendance record to prove that what they did was justified," he said.

Earlier, faculty of technology and engineering (FTE) had also decided to join the polytechnic strike. However, the strike call in FTE was only partially successful.

Dates revised: MSU commerce faculty is likely to revise the schedule of final exams for first, second and third year BCom exams. The revised schedule may have FY exams on March 24 instead of March 9, SY exams on March 12 instead of 18 and TY exam on March 19 instead of 24.

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Rail budget populist: GCCI Wednesday, February 28, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has termed the rail budget proposals people-centric and society-centric, lacking in ingredients that would give an impetus to railway growth.

In a press release on Monday, the GCCI said despite making provision for substantial development and modernisation of the Railways, the ministry had not increased fare and had resorted to only a moderate hike in freight rates - ranging between two to three per cent - on most goods except essential commodities and urea.

The initiative to resort to austerity measures to whip up Rs 850 crore in savings in the current financial year and the proposal to save Rs 865 crore in 2001-02 has been welcomed. It said that it should be continued in successive years too.

The two per cent increase in freight rate of coal, iron and steel and three per cent of other commodities excluding essential commodities and urea, have also been welcomed. Nonetheless, it said this coupled with imposition of one per cent congestion surcharge would be inflationary. Increase in the freight rate of coal would result in hike in electricity charges in Gujarat, as coal has to be transported from Bengal and Bihar.

The chamber has also appreciated the introduction of new trains between Indore and Gandhinagar via Ahmedabad.

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60 safai workers relieved of jobs Wednesday, February 28, 2001

RAJKOT: Sixty part-time safai workers were relieved of their jobs on Tuesday after Mayor Ashok Dangar found irregularities in the muster roll of such workers during a surprise check.

Dangar called a meeting of sanitary inspectors and warned them to check against irregularities in future. He said a list of safai workers absent for a long time should be prepared and action taken against them if they did not have a valid reason for taking leave.

During a surprise visit to ward number 5, the mayor found that 35 safai workers who had taken 'French leave' had been marked present in the muster. The mayor took up the matter in his hands after residents complained to the ward office about unhygenic conditions prevailing in their ward.

A close look at the muster revealed that six safai workers had been on leave for a long time but no action had been initiated against them.

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