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February 19, 2001 - February 20, 2001

Giddy? It's perhaps a ringing ear Tuesday, February 20, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Thirty-year-old Savita Kumar is worried sick about the mysterious giddiness she is suffering from these days. It started on Black Friday when she suddenly fell unconscious on the floor while trying to escape the devastating quake that rocked her seventh-floor apartment in Satellite, forcing her fear-struck husband and two kids to abandon the idea of fleeing and try helping her regain consciousness instead.

"I have these terrible spells of giddiness throughout the day. If they continue, I fear I will put my life and that of my family in danger in case another quake strikes", says Savita voicing her concern.

Savita's mysterious ailment is not isolated. Alarmed by this constant feeling of giddiness for the past fifteen days now, 40-year-old Surjit Singh has got almost all medical tests done including cardiograms and blood and urine analysis in his desperate pursuit to get to the root-cause of this sudden illness.

"All tests are normal and doctor says it might be a post-quake psychological manifestation but I am no paranoid ... This recurrent giddiness is a real illness", Surjit complains informing he cannot even drive his car to work because of the severity of the problem.

Post-quake, physicians are flooded with patients complaining non-specified giddiness that has been stubbornly persisting since the big quake. While an anxious few are insisting that doctors carry out detailed investigation to diagnose growing hypertension or worse, an impending heart failure, doctors refrain it is all in the mind or, maybe, ears!

Says ENT (ears, nose, throat) specialist Dr Ajay Shah, "Post-quake, earth is constantly vibrating causing imbalance in the fluid in the inner part of the ear. Constant giddiness in a number of patients is resultant of this disturbance, the condition medically recognised as Vertigo".

Dr Shah warns that in a few extra-sensitive patients, imbalance afflicted by an earthquake of a higher magnitude like the one that rocked on Republic Day, can result in precipitation of small salt-like crystals. "Until these salt granules remain in the fluid, Vertigo will persist, sometimes for as long as six weeks to three months".

Vertigo is found especially in people who are motion-sensitive and are susceptible to movements like racing cars, trains or buses and of course shaking earth now. Given the way physicians are flooded with patients complaining about non-specified giddiness, sense of heaviness and tingling numbness, vibrating earth seems to have taken its toll on quite a few sensitive ones.

"There are at least 10-12 patients complaining serious giddiness everyday. The number is very high considering that not all patients might be reporting the sudden illness to doctors", concedes physician Dr Hitesh Parikh.

He attaches serious concern to the problem considering the fact that a number of patients are mistaking it as definite symptoms of heart disease and getting obsessed about monitoring blood pressure or unnecessarily undergoing specialised tests like cardiogram and stress tests!

Curiously, not all cases of giddiness are being attributed to vestibulo-cochlear imbalance of salt deposition in the inner ear. "Just 20 per cent cases are genuine cases of vertigo due to ear-fluid imbalance. Rest all are psychological", refrains Dr Parikh who points out that earthquake put people under massive psychological stress like undue anxiety or fear-psychosis.

"Constant after-shocks might result in extended ear-related vertigo but it is usually self-healing. On the other hand, one should remain cautious about stress or anxiety related giddiness that can sometimes prove fatal," says Dr Shah.

Shelters for quake-hit before monsoon: Keshubhai Monday, February 19, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel on Sunday said the state government was committed to provide temporary shelters to the earthquake victims in Kutch and other parts of Saurashtra and the task would be completed before onset of monsoon.

Addressing a function at Chandni Chowk in Delhi, where some models of temporary shelters were also displayed, Keshubhai said rehabilitation work had been undertaken as a mass campaign involving government machinery and scores of NGOs, who had marshalled all resources at their disposal to help the quake-affected people.

"The government has so far provided 37,000 big tents and 53,000 tarpaulin tents to the affected people," he said adding that efforts were on to procure more tents to accommodate the victims.

Lashing out at the Opposition criticism of the relief operations, the CM asserted that "such attempts were aimed at frustrating the earthquake victims. Despite such a major tragedy there was no mass exodus from the quake-hit areas and this had amply proved that the people were satisfied with the relief material being provided to them by the government and NGOs.

Keshubhai said the government had so far disbursed cash doles worth Rs 100 crore.

State govt demands 2,775 cr from Centre Monday, February 19, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The state government's memorandum, to be submitted to the Centre on Sunday, has insisted that the Government of India disburse Rs 2,775 crore till March 31, 2001 out of a total requirement of Rs 14,454 crore to fight the quake aftermath.

Of this, the main requirement for the housing sector alone is Rs 10,000 crore, out of which, the memorandum says, Rs 1,600 crore be given for the current financial year alone. Another Rs 5,500 crore might be given a little later. For emergency relief, Rs 650 crore would be required till March-end.

The memorandum says in all 3.3 lakh houses would have to be reconstructed and another 6 lakh would have to be repaired. While the 229 "worst affected villages" would require Rs 1,000 crore, the four municipalities of Bhuj, Anjar, Rapar and Bhachau would require another Rs 1,000 crore.

Rest of the amount would be needed for other social and infrastructure facilities and immediate relief.

The memorandum, which Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel would be handing over to the all-party disaster management committee meeting on Sunday, says that the state government requires the disbursement immediately as it faces a severe "financial crunch" mainly on account of "reduction in Central devolution as a result of the award of the 11th Finance Commission and the additional expenditure required to be incurred because of the second successive drought".

The memorandum says, "When the annual plan of 2000-01 was settled by the Planning Commission, it was indicated that the state would be getting Rs 2,077 crore out of the Central taxes". However, because of the formula suggested by the 11th Finance Commission, the state's share out of the "shareable pool has been reduced from four to 2.8 per cent resulting in actual devolution during the current year falling to Rs 1,525 crore".

Similarly, the memorandum says, the Planning Commission and the Union finance ministry had indicated that the Centre's share in the calamity relief fund would be Rs 175 crore, which has now been reduced to Rs 121 crore. "Thus, as against the indicated share of Rs 2,279 crore, Gujarat would now be getting Rs 1,646 crore, resulting in a shortfall of Rs 663 crore," it says.

Pointing out that due to the drought for the second consecutive year putting additional strain on the state's resources, the state government has incurred an expenditure of Rs 370 crore on drought relief till December 2000, the memorandum stresses that in the remaining three months of the current financial year alone the expenditure would be another Rs 395 crore. "Thus, expenditure on scarcity relief during the financial year would be Rs 766 crore as against the provision of Rs 169 crore," the memorandum laments.

Further, the memorandum regrets that the Centre refused to accept the state government request to extend the repayment of ways and means advance, totalling Rs 550 crore, and instead "deducted Rs 450 crore from its grants and even from the Asian Development Bank loan, putting further burden on the state's cash flow". Then, the state was forced to go in for a HUDCO loan of Rs 560 crore for taking drinking water from south Gujarat to Saurashtra by pipeline.

HRD minister announces scheme for quake-affected school children Monday, February 19, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Union Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi on Sunday announced that at least 10,000 school children of earthquake-hit areas of Kutch and Saurashtra would be absorbed into 41 central schools located in Gujarat.

Addressing a news conference on his return from Anjar and Bhachau talukas, Joshi said that annual examinations of all the higher education institutes would be held as per schedule. In case of students of central schools in the quake-hit areas, annual examinations could be held after two weeks. Students of these schools could opt for centres of their choice, he added.

The Central government has already offered a package of Rs 150 crore for revival of educational activities and for reconstruction of school and college buildings that had collapsed in Kutch, Jamnagar, Surendranagar, Rajkot and Ahmedabad. He assured that the Central government would provide more financial assistance if the state government put up its rehabilitation plan for educational institutes.

The Central government's institutions and agencies attached to the HRD ministry had been directed to liberalise norms, if need be, while attending to requirements of earthquake victims.

In addition, the state government had been allocated Rs 50 crore for setting up new schools as a part of a centrally sponsored "Education for all" programme. Under this project, schools would be set up in Rajkot and Patan districts and would be made quake-resistant.

The Central government's women and child welfare department has sanctioned Rs 2.83 crore for supplementing the state government's efforts in distributing nutritious food for women and children in the affected areas.

The HRD ministry has also cleared a proposal for setting up 5,000 new 'anganwadis' for children in the affected region. Besides this, 50 short stay homes for the destitute would be built for rehabilitating widows. As many as 10 girls' hostels would be constructed. More than 200 cr ches would be opened.

Referring to the problems being faced by the Bhuj engineering college, the minister said that they would be temporarily accommodated in Ahmedabad, and the state government would redress their grievances at the earliest. The Central government had already decided to build a new educational complex in Bhuj where engineering, pharmacy and other colleges would be housed.

Experts of the various geological institutions of the Central government are analysing details of the tremors with sophisticated equipment. On the basis of their report the government would formulate remedial measures to be implemented in case of future earthquakes.

The government will also design a drill that schools would have to adhere to as a precautionary measure. The NCC and Scouts would be entrusted with this responsibility.

He said that the government had also decided to dispatch 1,000 water purifying units to process brackish water into safe drinking water for schoolchildren. Some units have already been installed in Kutch.

Meanwhile, the minister had a detailed discussion with senior state and Central government officials about implementation of the Rs 150 crore package for Gujarat. Education minister Anandiben Patel and higher education minister Bharat Barot were also present.

Impact fee for illegal buildings should go: Arya Monday, February 19, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Impact fee is the worst kind of proposition to regularise illegal buildings and should be scrapped completely, feels Bureau of Indian Standards for Earthquake Engineering chairman Professor Anand Arya.

Arya, who was in Ahmedabad for a day, spoke to TOI over phone in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

From his observations about Gujarat, one gathers that the seismic zone compliance codes "have never been used here despite the lessons learnt from the Anjar earthquake of 1956".

He observes that to a very large extent ignorance about codes of compliance for seismic zones was responsible for the damages to buildings in Gujarat. "The damage would have been 10 per cent of what it is now had these codes been followed," Arya notes.

He compared the impact fee to the 'compound fee' being collected in the north and suggested that it be scrapped. Taking a cue from the Delhi government which is to issue a notification to modify the laws to adopt the codes, the Gujarat government too is drafting a notification to modify its building bye-laws to include the provisions in the ISS code especially in the new buildings, informed Arya.

"There is a transparent checklist to be drawn up about the architectural plans of buildings and the kind of repairs and strengthening needed here," he added. There is also a separate plan to be drawn up for developing the old city in Ahmedabad. Prof Arya is in the process of formulating a set of guidelines on a retrofitting plan for Ahmedabad which continues to remain in seismic zone III while Kutch is in seismic zone V.

"There seems to be a general apathy about these precautionary measures because people have a mindset that this will not happen to me," he feels.

According to him the codes to include seismic zone compliance were upgraded and reviewed from time to time and incorporated in the Indian Standard Specifications last in 1993, but since codes are not mandatory, the local bodies tend to ignore them.

From his extensive tour of Gujarat, he noticed that only some of the Central government buildings built by the Central Roads and Buildings department had complied with this code and that too "on their own initiative". "This could be because they and incumbents of the Military Engineering Service are among those who are members of the code making body," he says.

To complaints reported from local authorities on the failure of the Central government to issue a notification to this effect, Arya says, "the Centre does no such thing, the states and local bodies are supposed to remain abreast of what is happening".

Comparing the situation with the Orissa cyclone, he said that now after the earthquake the Centre had become proactive and the Delhi government had hastened the process of issuing a notification to modify the laws to adopt the code.

Prof Arya denied that he had said anything definite about earthquakes on his last visit, but clarified that "one cannot know after how many generations an earthquake can occur". Asked about the close interval of its recurrence in El Salvador, he said, "one cannot say, there can be two earthquakes, one in Gujarat and one in Assam, one just cannot say..." According to him, the acceleration recorded from the accelerograph stationed in Ahmedabad measured 101 cms/sec/sec.

He informed that even the 1993 code was under revision and would be divided into five separate standards after observations from the Mexico and Kobe earthquakes.

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