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February 22, 2001 - February 22, 2001

Two tremors recorded in Gujarat on Thursday Morning Thursday, February 22, 2001

Two tremors, one of which measured 4.6 on the Richter Scale, were recorded in Gujarat Thursday morning, meteorological department sources said in Ahmedabad.

The 4.6 magnitude tremor, recorded at 7.43 am was preceded by a low intensity shock, measuring 3.0, the department sources added.

The city and various parts of state had experienced ten mild tremors on Wednesday.

Complete exams by April 15, directs DEO Thursday, February 22, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The district education officer (DEO) has directed all local private and other primary schools to finish examinations by April 15, 2001.

In an official communiqu dashed off on Tuesday, the office has given strict directions that all schools should immediately draw up the examination schedule and put up the time-table on the school notice board within a week's time before February 27.

The notice comes at a time when speculations are rife that primary students might be given a mass promotion in wake of the disastrous quake taking its toll on school buildings and students alike. Some schools had also reportedly put notices to this effect saying that there will be no exams for students up to standard IV.

Quelling all doubts, the notice has clearly indicated that all exams be completed by April 15. Encouraging school to conduct early exams, the communiqu also gives a go-ahead to schools wishing to take exams as early as in March.

Schools have also been directed to submit a copy of the exam timetable to the DEO office before or on March 5.

US Congressmen stress on involving people, NGOs in rebuilding Thursday, February 22, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A group of four Congressmen from the US House of Representatives left for Bhuj by an American military aircraft on Tuesday afternoon after promising long-term aid from the United States for rebuilding of earthquake devastated Kutch district. They said the rebuilding process should be initiated only after taking the people and grass roots organisations into confidence not only about the location of rebuilding sites but also the designs of houses.

"Now that the event is off the front pages of newspapers and off world television, it is time for Gujarat to find out who your real friends are", the leader of the delegation, Edward R Royce, told newsmen before leaving for Bhuj.

The delegation had a series of meetings with representatives of the Gujarat government, international aid agencies and non-government organisations after arriving here from Mumbai on Monday evening.

Royce, who is also co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, was all praise for the efforts already made by the Gujarat government and said "from what we have heard from people who have seen many disasters, the government here was quick to respond to the crisis."

Royce is here with three other Congressmen - James A McDermott (also co-chairman of the India Caucus), David E Bonior and Joseph R Pitts. The delegation was held up in Ahmedabad on Monday as the military aircraft got stranded in Mumbai due to a technical snag. Instead of leaving for Kutch, as scheduled, they arrived in Ahmedabad to visit a couple of collapsed buildings in the city and also meet the Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.

On Monday evening, they met a delegation from the World Bank, USAID and Asian Development Bank who have been here for a week trying to assess the damage due to the January 26 earthquake. On Tuesday morning, they met representatives of several NGOs involved in the rebuilding of Kutch before leaving for Bhuj by the US military plane which arrived from Mumbai after the snag was repaired.

McDermott said, "the government here has done a wonderful job in responding quickly to the situation, the first phase of the earthquake has been dealt with magnificent style, there may have been initial disorganisation initially because many government officials were also killed".

Bonier described this as a "terrible tragedy" and said they were going to Bhuj to get a better understanding of the ground situation and the need for assistance. He said "from what we hear, the resilience shown by the people is quite strong and we want to assure the people that we are here to ensure help in rebuilding their homes and lives not only in the coming weeks, but months and years".

"It is understandable that people don't want to move from the existing sites, we had the same problem when the earthquake happened in San Francisco in 1969, we have had many floods in US but people keep going back to the same places to build their homes", said Bonior. Asked about how they propose to ensure transparency in the rebuilding process and the utilisation of funds, Royce said "this can be done by involving the people and other grass roots organisations in the process".

A spokesperson for the government here said during their meeting with the chief minister on Monday evening, the Congressmen were asked specifically to facilitate "low-cost loans" from the World Bank and other lenders for rebuilding of Kutch. The Congressmen said they had taken up the issue with the World Bank already.


Co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, James A McDermott said he was driving in his car to San Francisco on January 26 to participate in a Republic Day function organised by Indian-Americans when he heard about the quake on the radio. "Having myself lived through a 6.3 earthquake, I knew what it was to have an earthquake of 6.9 or 7 intensity, it gave me a sick feeling in the stomach, when I reached the function, it was like going to a funeral, the grief out there was palpable, it was a very moving experience ".

A lonely mother in search of a son Thursday, February 22, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Amidst the traditionally clad Kutchi refugees that queue up outside the make-shift community kitchen at Civil Hospital to get their daily fill of lunch, one woman, dressed in a Punjabi salwaar-kameez, a small greasy bag clinging to her chest, comes across as the odd one out. No , she is not hungry . She just wants to know where she can see the list of the injured- or dead- of the Republic day quake.

Surjit Kaur Ramgadhiya has come all the way from Ambala, looking for her son, daughter-in-law and one year old grandson.They are her only relations left in this world. Or , are they? The answer to this question has eluded this desparate mother so far even as she constantly makes enquiries at the collapsed sites, runs from one hospital to another - LG, VS, Civil- she has been to all-peeping into the wards of the injured with a gleam of hope in her eyes, pouring into the list of dead with a silent prayer on her lips. No luck, so far.

"But how can I leave without tracing them? I am a mother, I cannot rest in peace until I get some news about my son - good or bad", she says with a determination rare in a lone woman in a city of strangers.

Surjit's son, Jagdish Ramgadhiya was a clerk in some private enterprise and used to reside in Shrinath Apartments in Maninagar that lies in a heap of rubble now. Where did he work? Who were his friends? She knows nothing. "`Every time I asked for his complete residential and workplace address, he used to dismiss my inquiry saying he was not going to die in Ahmedabad that I will need it", rues Surjit.

Surjit's only contact with her son was the monthy call that Jagdish used to religiously make to her on the tenth of every month. "I knew quake had devastated Ahmedabad on Republic day and was worried but didn't know how to contact him. Helpless, I hoped he will call on the 10th of this month but when the call didn't come, I instinctively knew something was wrong. In two years that he has stayed away from me, never ever has he broken his promise to call", she says.

Disasters, natural or man-made, seem to haunt Surjit who earlier lost her husband to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that broke out after Indira Gandhi's brutal assassination. And now this earthquake...

Surjit would have had a shoulder to cry on in her second son Ranjit, but he too deserted her when the two brothers quarrelled a year back, leaving her with no one to share her grief with.

Of course, there are strangers who are extending her all possible help to locate her missing family. With just 500 Rupees on her when she disembarked at the city railway station, a Sikh family at the behest of the Meghaninagar Gurudwara, has provided her with free shelter and food. A local social worker at Civil Hospital takes her to all hospitals and police-stations for enquiries.

"God has its people everyhwere to help those in need. I don't know how I am going to pay their debt", she says, wiping her moisture laden eyes just as she gets ready to go the LG Hospital once again. "Patelji was saying the authorities have kept pictures of all unclaimed bodies...I should go there and check out", she says firmly.

Court orders inspection of 18 damaged buildings in Ahmedabad Thursday, February 22, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court has ordered an immediate and second inspection of 18 city buildings declared totally damaged in the earthquake by Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT).

The court has, however, left it to the authorities not to give effect to notices issued under CrPC 133 to these building owners, wherever possible for the time being.

A division bench of Gujarat High Court comprising Chief Justice DM Dharmadhikari and Justice PB Majmudar issued an order to this effect on Tuesday, following a public interest litigation filed by advocate Kiran Shah, party in person, on behalf of apartment holders in such buildings.

The 18 buildings include Mansi, Shikhar, Himgiri, Riddhi-Siddhi and others.

The petitioners submitted that several apartment holders are complaining that there has been no proper technical inspection through any team of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) and expressed dissatisfaction with the inspection carried out by the authorities.

The court, found justification in the request that the authorities should arrange second technical inspection of the buildings through the team of CEPT in the earliest possible time. The court asked the authorities that till such inspection is made, where it would be possible not to give effect to the notice served on the apartment holders under Section 133 the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The court however, did not find it proper to issue a mandate or direction in this regard as the same would endanger the life of the passers-by and the adjoining apartment holders.

About the prayer of the petitioners for interim relief for postponement of recovery of the instalments of loans raised by the apartment holders for purchasing the apartments from various financial institutions and banks, the court directed them to approach their financial institutions or bank with a request that deductions from salary may not be insisted upon till the apartment holders get over the current crisis which has arisen from the earthquake.

The state government has been also directed to accommodate the apartment holders of 18 damaged buildings in shelters through its own or non-governmental agencies and as far as possible at a convenient place of their work and educational institutions of their children.

The court had also directed earlier in the same case that the government should not insist on presentation of the ration cards from the earthquake victims if they are not able present the same.

Government pleader Arun Oza appeared for the state government, additional government pleader DN Patel appeared for the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority and MG Nagarkar appeared for the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, while advocate Chhatrapati appeared for the Reserve Bank of India.

HC has also issued notices and joined as parties HDFC, GRUHA finance, National Housing Banks, CEPT and the four insurance companies. Further hearing has been fixed on March 7.

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