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February 24, 2001 - February 25, 2001

Woman stakes claim to world's smallest Gita Sunday, February 25, 2001

VADODARA: It's tiny and fragile. Yet, it's been their most treasured possession. For Jyostnaben Shah's family in Reelwala no Khancho in Bajwada, a tiny Gita, which they claim to be the smallest ever made, has been the most precious object since generations.

It's a 2.5 cms long and 2 cms wide and just one cm thick, and it contains the entire Gita. The book is in the Devnagari script and was handed over to her by her mother Maniben Kalidas Shah.

And, Jyostnaben's sons are now planning to approach the Guinness Book of World Records, staking their claim of possessing the smallest print of the Bhagvat Gita.

According to MS University's Oriental Institute director PI Nanavati, who has inspected the book, "This Gita is about 150 years old." It's known as the "musti-pustika", or a book that can he held in the palm.

"The Gita was given to me by my mother Maniben Shah who died at the age of 104. The Gita was given to her by her mother-in-law Dhaiben Shah," says 65-year-old Jyostnaben Shah. "It's a priceless possession for us and we have been preserving this with a lot of care. However, the pages have turned yellow and the cover has also withered. But, the text can be still read and without the help of a magnifying glass," she adds.

Not only does the book contain the entire text, it also has illustrations of scenes from the Gita like Lord Krishna talking to Arjuna on the battlefield and the book begins with "Atha Gitamahatya".

The book, bound by strings, was written by Sadanand Swami and was priced at two annas. It also has a list of books relating to the Gita. It is an exhaustive list mentioning details like whether the books had footnotes, whether they were printed on glazed paper or "rough" paper and their cost.

'Mysterious gas may be hydrogen sulphide' in Vadodara Sunday, February 25, 2001

VADODARA: The mysterious gas that is haunting citizens here appears to be hydrogen sulphide, says a preliminary report by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board. R R Solanki, currently in charge district collector here, received the report. However, origin of the gas is yet to be established, Solanki said.

Irked by GPCB's inability to find the actual cause of the gas leak despite its presence for more than five days, the Vadodara city Youth Congress Samiti (VYCS) submitted a memorandum to the district collector here on Saturday asking him to take immediate action.

VYCS president Narendra Ravat said the gas emission, in addition to being harmful to citizens, was also dangerous as its source still remained a mystery. He said Vadodara being in the highly industrialised zone needed to have a disaster management plan that was efficient and able to control such gas leaks.

The GPCB had not been able to ascertain the exact contents of the gas yet, nor had it been able to find its source, he said.

"The GPCB has not been able to do much. People in Gorwa, Subhanpura, Navayard, Nizampura, Sama, Race Course, Alkapuri and Gotri too have been affected by this gas. It is causing irritation to throat and eyes, and, if it is hydrogen sulphide, then it could be fatal," he said.

According to Ravat the state administration, including the GPCB, police and the fire brigade, has turned a blind eye to the potential danger the gas poses.

"Last night, the intensity of the gas leak was higher. I immediately called up the police control room on 100. They told me no offence could be registered. I called up fire brigade on 101; they said this was not their job but that of the VMC gas department. The Central Control Room CCR, which is responsible for industrial safety, too, has not found much.

"Despite installing four analysers at different parts of the city the GPCB does not have a conclusive report yet. The board is also supposed to have details regarding all industrial units in the city and the chemicals and gases as well as the industrial waste they generate. How is it possible that they are unable to find the source of the leak?" questions Ravat.

He said Vadodara was an industrial region with a large number of chemical factories, and there was a danger to the city. And, in case of a disaster, either man-made or natural, the city and district areas should be ready to tackle it. He said citizens were worried, especially since the current gas leak was difficult to identify.

According to him a special disaster mitigation plan was required for the city.

Law faculty agitation turns violent at M S University in Vadodara Sunday, February 25, 2001

VADODARA: M S University's law faculty students went on a rampage at the first year LLB lecture theatre, destroying furniture and smashing tube lights here on Friday.

First year LLB students attending lectures were threatened to leave class or face the consequence of breaching a strike call.

The five-day-old agitation turned violent after a section of former student leaders dismissed MSU administration's "compromise" talks and crossed over the democratic line to get things done in their own way. Surprisingly, the method paid off with the administration accepting all demands in principle and immediately implementing a couple of them.

"We have accepted their demands in principle. The students have called off their strike and classes have begun. We did not inform the police because it was an internal matter and we have solved it with the students. The faculty students association general secretary and other elected students' representatives have unanimously said that the strike is called off," law faculty dean S N Parikh.

The students at law faculty had declared indefinite strike against the 'rigid system of evaluation that they said produced more failures'. The students had demanded a liberal checking, introduction of internal tests and allowing law students to sit in exams with Bare Act. Other demands like appearing in winter session semester directly were also put up by the students.

Professor Parikh said that the faculty board of studies would hold a meeting to discuss and formalise the implementation of internal exam, allowing students to carry Bare Act in exam and the issue on winter semester.

"We gave them ample time to look into the demands and accept it. They dragged the issue. This was the last resort to make them understand that we mean business", boasted former student leader known for his notoriety Brijesh Raj. He accused the elected students' representatives of siding with the teachers and being scarred of them. "We had to come in picture because the administration did not relent from its posture", Raj said.

"All our demands are legitimate. There are cases were a student has been failed for six times for just one mark! The system here is ancient and it is time to change it if not overhaul", said former faculty general secretary Prakash Prajapati.

Interestingly, instead of the elected student leaders of the faculty it was the old guard of student leaders who dictated terms both to the administration and the elected representatives.

Earlier on Thursday MSU vice-chancellor Anil Kane had called the law faculty student leaders to resolve the matter peacefully. There are two versions of what transpired in the discussion. According to the first version the MSU administration seemingly convinced elected students' representatives. The second version is that the other student leaders who accompanied the elected representatives interpreted the discussion as wastage of time and planned for Friday's action.

Investors duped of Rs 1.5 lakh in Pudra taluka Sunday, February 25, 2001

VADODARA: District police have registered an offence against four persons for duping people of Rs 1.50 lakh in Padra taluka here.

According to Padra Police Inspector Rajendrasinh Rana the four accused, identified as P Sanmugam, P Kumartevar, Manikundan Pramod and Subramanyan Manaswamy Pillai, had opened a shop under the banner of Deepam Traders and offered household items at half the market price.

"These people had put up banners in the town saying they will offer all household items at half the rates. They called this a scheme where people have to invest there money for 21 days and on the 22nd day the investors would get the household item they wanted at slashed price," Rana said.

He said that he had doubted Deepam Traders' intention from the very beginning and had called them to the police station. "I had taken their names and sent it for verification to the Tamil Nadu police. I am still awaiting the reply. I had also warned the people of Padra not to fall prey to Deepam Traders", Rana said. He said that he had not allowed Deepam Traders to open their shop in the town.

However, Deepam Traders got a permission from the Padra Municipality and opened its shop in Mochi Bazar. Later, PI Rana received a fax message from a Gujarat High Court judge. "The letter mentioned that is should not unlawfully keep P Sanmugam in custody. I went to Ahmedabad to clarify on the issue. Simultaneously, Deepam Traders had filed a suit in the sessions' court at Vadodara. I answered that as well", PI Rana said.

Incidentally, in February PI Rana went on a 15-day leave. "They found this a good opportunity and fled from Padra along with the money they had got from people," Rana said.

Sources said the absconders may have fled with a booty running into lakhs of rupees. The four absconders belong to Tanzor district of Tamil Nadu.

'Locals must be involved in rehabilitation process' Saturday, February 24, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Not many would be surprised if an earthquake hits Latur today, and many of the specially designed 'quake-proof' houses collapse. The new construction and extensions done after the houses were handed over to the victims have nothing to do with the seismology of the region.

This apathy can perhaps be explained by the fact that Sharad Pawar's government did not find it necessary to involve the people of the region in the process of rehabilitation. They were mere spectators as houses were built for them, perhaps the worst method, experts say, of rehabilitation.

In fact, for many Latur is a living example of bad rehabilitation. "Pawar had called a meeting of all the top contractors in the state and distributed villages to build houses," says architect Rajendra Dave who has worked extensively in Latur. "That fortunately did not happen because the World Bank stepped in with its stringent norms."

Dave is afraid that such mistakes can easily be repeated in Kutch and Saurashtra if the state government, in a rush of adrenaline, goes in for building houses without using local material and people, apart from remaining sensitive to their cultural ethos. Such fears are fuelled by the chief minister making statements of providing eight lakh homes by June, a perfect case for pre-fabricated homes.

Among the basic flaws in houses in Latur were they had no room for a granary, so essential in rural homes, the windows were too large bring in heat unlike the small windows in traditional homes and there was no vent for the smoke in the kitchen. There are in other words totally unsuitable for their lifestyle and climate.

"In fact, I hate the word adoption," says former ruler of Dhrangadra Siddhrajsinhji, who like Dave, is planning to educate villagers in Surendranagar to insist on a voice in the rehabilitation process. "You adopt a helpless orphan. You can't adopt a village, a people. This is a typical American approach to giving. The Indian tradition of giving on the other hand is with your palms pointing upwards; thanking the recipient for giving an opportunity to serve him."

The erstwhile ruler is dead against pre-fabricated concrete homes because it defeats the very purpose it aims to serve. "The idea should be to transfer earthquake technology to the region and that is only possible if local masons and artisans are involved. This won't happen with pre-fabricated houses."

The government on the other hand is banking on the special Building Centres it plans to set up around the state in collaboration with Housing and Urban Development Corporation (Hudco). "The government will set up 31 centres around the state which will provide quake-resistant technology," says Hudco regional chief C P Bhaskar Menon. "We can provide both financial help as well as expert advise." The focus of these centres is expected to remain in the Kutch region.

The state government's roads and building secretary H P Jamdar insists they are planning to make brick-and-mortar structures as part of their rehabilitation package, using local material and labour as far as possible. "Even if NGOs and MNCs take on rebuilding work, they will have to follow specific guidelines and lay-outs specified by the government," he says. "We don't want differences to crop up between villages." Jamdar believes the Building Centres will provide the interface between the government and the people.

What the homeless are asking for is a little flexibility and a voice in their own rehabilitation, where they are not asked to sit in a corner quietly while their homes are bring rebuilt. As Siddhrajsinhji puts it, "You can't have one prefabricated kit for a nomad, a farmer and an artisan. After all, each has separate needs which can't be ignored if you want to rebuild an entire society, not just houses."

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