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February 20, 2001 - February 20, 2001

Another builder arrested Tuesday, February 20, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The city police arrested one more builder on Sunday. Vijay Mafatlal Solanki, who had built Jashoda Park in Paldi which collapsed in the January 26 killer quake claiming five lives and injuring two persons, was arrested from his residence at Suvidhinath Society in Paldi on Sunday night.

A complaint had been lodged by Darshan Kapadia, a resident, against the builder, structural engineer, architects who work for P Das and associates and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation officials, accusing them of conspiring in approving construction that used inferior quality building material, which led to its collapse.

This takes the total number of arrests to five while three builders have been booked under PASA as the state home ministry decided to invoke this Act to nab builders.

24 villages to be adopted Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Voluntary organisations in Rajkot have decided to adopt 24 villages in the quake-affected areas while the Lions International has also announced to construct primary and high school buildings in the cities affected by the January 26 quake.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting between district collector A K Rakesh and members of the voluntary organisations. As many as 54 representatives of these organisations were present at the meeting.

India should take a leaf out of Kobe quake experience Tuesday, February 20, 2001

AHMEDABAD: While foresight doesn't always help in coping with natural disasters, experiences learnt the hard way by similarly-affected populations prove to be useful hindsight, especially when it comes to rebuilding societies.

Rebuilding a quake-ravaged city is not an easy job and rehabilitation plans made in a hurry, without local participation by affected communities, can lead to awry results. Ask Toyokazu Nakata, member of steering committee, ShaplaNeer, a Tokyo-based NGO, and who was also the chief co-ordinator of the local NGOs co-ordinating team for the Kobe quake relief in January 1995.

"The Kobe municipal government had drafted a rehabilitation plan by March 17, exactly two months after the quake on January 17. However, the plan was not fully acceptable to all citizens in all areas, and therefore could not be implemented in total, even till date. So, when the government fails to take public opinion of affected residents, all plans go to naught," says Nakata, who is here in his new designation as the director of Indian Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Programme formed within the NGO.

While the rich, influential and the young had the courage to defy the Kobe plan, citizens who were dependent on the social dole had no say. Especially affected by the resettlement plans in Kobe, recalls Nakata, were "Senior citizens who were put together in collective buildings spaced at great distances in the suburbs. Used to their previous own community, this resulted in a tremendous sense of alienation and isolation; some in fact committed suicide due to this inhuman stress."

Besides, the "standardised reconstruction programmes in Kobe built up uniform and mechanical towns unattractive for local people, causing outflow or migration of local populations and therefore, hampering swift economic recovery of the localities."

Nakata, who also chairs the Board of Kobe Empowerment Centre, says that India has a simple lesson to be learnt from the bitter Kobe experience.

"Rehabilitation plans should not be drawn in haste and even international donor agencies like ADB or the World Bank should not be allowed to hurry the Indian government to submit such plans. Construction of temporary homes and then rebuilding houses with simple techniques, like a light roof and deep foundation, would go a long way. The most important is, of course the revitalisation of local economies and with the initiative of the local people." Conceding that housing is a "personal, individual issue," Nakata adds, "the government has a social role to pitch in for the economically weaker sections of society, like it did in Kobe, with vulnerable sections required to pay nominal rents for housing."

ShaplaNeer plans to work in the coming months in tandem with local NGOs like the DMI (Disaster Mitigation Institute), co-ordination office of the UNDP. "I came back on Monday morning from Kutch. The extent of devastation is much more here than in Kobe, where 6,400 deaths occurred and about 1,92,706 houses were damaged, with 3.16 lakh people affected."

A month after the Kobe quake, Nakata was instrumental in mobilising citizens to form a steering committee in Amagasaki, where he lived. "The citizens' committee was so powerful that even the government wanted to be a part of the panel," smiles Nakata.

The Kobe committee, which drafted the rehab plan three years after the quake, is still active, having published an Alternative Plan two months ago. While the two places (Kobe and Bhuj) are so different, socially, culturally and economically, "sorrows of the affected people and competing efforts of relief agencies look so familiar," concludes Nakata.

Gandhidham steadily recovering from after effects of earthquake Tuesday, February 20, 2001

GANDHIDHAM: After sustaining large-scale destruction in terms of loss of human life and property in Kutch district, Gandhidham-the major port town of Gujarat-and its surrounding areas are steadily recovering from after effects of the earthquake.

The Kandla Port Trust, department of telecommunications and the railways have been able to restore near-normalcy in their functioning but the state government machinery has not been able to satisfy people because of inept handling of the situation.

In the Kandla Port Trust area, authorities have taken all precautions in running the loading and off-loading operations.

The Western Railway had restored normalcy in Kandla and Gandhidham areas within a few days after cyclone lashed the district some two years ago. The restoration of railway lines within a span of three years is a major achievement.

In this year's earthquake, the railway suffered loss of over Rs 30 crore as many stations, quarters, bridges, electric signals and other property were damaged.

The railway had sent an officer on special duty (rescue, relief and restoration), KC Meghvanshi, from Jaipur who is camping here along with area manager SS Gupta.

The railway managed to restore the broad gauge line within three days and the metre gauge line within five days after the earthquake. The normal passenger traffic was resumed on January 31.

The damaged stations include Gandhidham, Bhachau, Chirai, Samakhiyali, Kidiyanagar, Adesar and Ratnal. Some of these have been damaged completely. The quick restoration of rail traffic in Kutch was necessary as it facilitated timely despatch of relief materials.

The rail link between Ratnal and Bhuj, which was snapped because of damage caused to a bridge, was restored on a war footing on February 3. The sense of duty by rail employees was visible despite the fact that eight people related to them had died in the quake.

After railway minister Mamata Banerjee visited the area, authorities received tents from Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW), Varanasi, which were pitched in different places for providing temporary shelters to the affected people.

The telecommunications department restored nearly 18,000 dead phone lines in the affected areas within a few days and almost 90 per cent lines became operational.

However, the department is facing a peculiar problem. Bulldozers deployed for removal of debris have damaged underground cables.

Despite telephone employees' request to exercise caution, crane and bulldozer operators did not respond. Bulldozers have damaged three phone cables of 2,500, 1,200 and 800 lines respectively.Nearly 1,300 lines of private telephone exchanges damaged during the earthquake are yet to be restored.

While the Western Railway acted very fast in bringing relief materials, the state government officials failed to take a quick decision on evolving a policy for distribution of relief materials which increased the misery of the quake-affected.

For days, wagons loaded with relief materials brought from different parts of the country were kept lying.

Till date, the state authorities are unable to decide on measures to handle the post-quake situation in Gandhidham and surrounding areas.

This is evident from the fact that in a short span of three weeks, three officials have been changed by the state government to handle the relief operations.

First AK Luke was brought here. Within a few days he was replaced by GL Bhagat. He too was shifted the other day and AK Nigam was brought in his place.

Gandhidham and surrounding areas have plenty of relief materials but labourers are not available for removal of debris and construction work.

In Khavda-one of the worst-affected areas-essential items are yet to reach the quake-affected people.

Two policemen attacked Tuesday, February 20, 2001

VADODARA: Two policemen and one brother of a police inspector serving in Surat were injured in two separate incidents of attempted loot in district here.

Police sources said that two constables with Kayovarohan police station Khengar Veera and Heera Mansingh were attacked by looters on the Uvarpura-Kayovarohan road. The attackers had put barbed wire on two sides of the road to stop the constables who were on a motorbike. Khengar Veera was rushed to SSG Hospital in a critical condition.

In the other incident, one Ramsinh Rathod was attacked by four assailants at Bamroli Railway Crossing near Bodeli. Rathod was on a motorbike when he was attacked. His brother Bhanuprasad was riding another motorbike and was following him when Rathod was attacked. The four assailants, however, fled by the time Bhanuprasad.

The district police is yet another swift action arrested the assailants who are identified as Arjan Degan Parmar, Jeetu Masaria Vaja, Jilu Bachu Vaja and Mano Vaja. All the four belong to Una taluka of Junagadh and were working as farm labourers in Bamroli here.

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