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February 14, 2001 - February 15, 2001

Cong to raise relief material issue in Parliament Thursday, February 15, 2001

MORBI: Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi said that the quake-affected people of Morbi and Maliya had not received any relief material and the issue would be raised during the Budget session of the Parliament.

Talking to reporters at Morbi and at Jamnagar airport on Wednesday, the Congress president said, "The people have not received anything so far. The state government has failed miserably to give timely help to the people".

Asked whether this was a criminal negligence of the state government, the Congress president shot back, "That is not the point. The point is that the government has failed all-round. Had the Congress been in power we would have ensured there was equitable distribution of relief material".

"Though the Congress is in no mood to politicise the issue of relief material we will definitely seek an explanation from the central government during the Budget session of Parliament," she said in reply to another question.

Vice-president of the GPCC and Rajkot city Congress president Manohersinh Jadeja, in a statement, told Gandhi that "someone more responsible should be made incharge of the disaster management committee and not the chief minister of Gujarat". Jadeja also highlighted the partiality in the distribution of relief material and payment of cash doles to the affected people. "The technical survey was defective, unjustified and time consuming," Jadeja said in the statement.

Jadeja also brought to the notice of the Congress president the slackness of the state administration in giving cash doles. He said that ration cards should not be the sole criteria for cash doles. "Those whose names have not been separated on account of default of the administration should not be made to suffer," he said in the statement.

Regiment sets up memorial at Anjar Thursday, February 15, 2001

RAJKOT: The raising day of a regiment is usually celebrated with fanfare. Not this time for the 237 Engineering Regiment, now stationed at Anjar. Their raising day on February 12 was a simple and sombre affair.

Talking to this correspondent over phone from Anjar, commanding officer Colonel Rajesh Tyagi said the 35th raising day was a day not to rejoice but to grieve those who died in the killer quake.

The regiment has built a memorial at the town hall in memory of the those killed in the January 26 earthquake, he said.

The members of the regiment gathered at their base camp in Anjar on February 12 and offered prayers in memory of the dead and for peace to return to the troubled place. The entire regiment then went to the memorial and offered condolence to the people who had lost their near and dear ones.

The regiment has so far rescued five people from under the debris and retrieved 271 dead bodies. The men of the regiment also helped the people to get back the valuables lying in their houses.

The regiment has helped the local authorities in clearing the roads and even demolishing unsafe houses.

Tyagi said it was decided by the regiment on the raising day that every year henceforward, jawans of the regiment would remain present at Anjar on February 12 and be part of the local population in their grief. "The bonding with Anjar is everlasting," Tyagi said.

Steep cost of rebuilding may keep builders away Thursday, February 15, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Now that the government has come out with the rehabilitation package for villages which have suffered 70 per cent damage or more, the cost involved may force many private agencies, which had previously shown interest in adopting villages or partnering with the government, to opt out. If they don't decide to completely opt out, then they would tie-up with other agencies to share the cost.

In the package announced by the government on Tuesday, the government has worked out a cost of Rs 3 crore for the complete rehabilitation of a single village. This, it has said, would be shared on a 50:50 basis by it with the private agency, thereby transferring a cost Rs 1.5 crore per village to the private agency.

Many corporates and non-government organisations (NGOs) claim that this inhibitive cost may dissuade many of them from entering into a partnership with the government.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which was considering adopting 35 villages, may see its list shrink a bit due to the cost involved. On the basis of Rs 1.5 crore per village, the confederation would have to incur a cost of Rs 52.5 crore on 35 villages in Bhachau. This may compel some its members to reconsider their decision.

"We had not firmed up our decision on number of villages to be 'adopted' as we were waiting for the government to come out with the package to assess the actual financial implication of the reconstruction work. Now that the government has come out with the cost, we will be ready with our appeal letter, which will be shot off to our members by tomorrow," says CII Gujarat senior director Sunil Parekh.

Many NGOs, which see themselves playing a role in the long-term rehabilitation, also find the cost a bit on the higher side.

"The current government policy eliminates NGOs in playing a major role as the fund requirement has been pegged at a very high level. Our involvement would be in the long-term sustainable development of the region. This would involve integrated effort in providing drinking water, educational, livelihood and medical needs of the villages in the region. We would certainly not like to play the contractor," says Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) general secretary Rima Nanavati.

The Gujarat Industrial Investment Corporation (GIIC) managing director Hasmukh Adia, who is co-ordinating the NGOs work at the state-level says that the cost of reconstruction may be high but major corporates may pool together their resources to carry out complete rehabilitation in the worst affected areas (250 villages).

Adia says that the cost of rehabilitation for the villages, which have been partially damaged (750), will be much lower. According government officials, the rehabilitation would be a three-way partnership between the corporates, NGOs and the government. The government, along with providing financial assistance, would be playing the role of regulator, while corporates would be implementing agency and the NGOs would assess the needs and would assist in drawing up rehabilitation plan.

"Many of the NGOs may look for donors. What I see happening is that most of the corporate houses would tie-up with NGOs as they are already aware of the peculiarities of the communities, which dwell in the region. The implementation of the rehabilitation programme would be undertaken by the corporates," says Adia.

CII has already tied up with Kutch Abhiyan for a base-line survey on the needs of the communities affected in Bachau. Parekh says that once the villages to be taken for rehabilitation are identified they would begin the process of designing the prototype of a model villages, along with this, the confederation would also begin the process of acquisition of land.

The state government has, until now, received project proposals from 58 agencies for rehabilitation.

New construction banned in Rajkot Wednesday, February 14, 2001

RAJKOT: The Rajkot Municipal Corporation authorities have imposed a ban on any new construction in Rajkot with immediate effect.

Municipal commissioner J P Gupta said on Tuesday that no building plan would be cleared till further orders.

The step has been taken keeping in mind the new construction guidelines which are to be introduced in view of the killer quake of January 26.

As a result of the ban, about 250 applications for construction of high-rise buildings and even single-storeyed houses have been put in the cold storage for the time being, the commissioner said adding only repairing work would be allowed in the city.

Sources in the town planning department told The Times of India that there was a big question mark on the illegal structures that would have been otherwise regularised after taking the impact fee. Most of the illegal structures were of poor construction quality.

In Rajkot alone, 270 applications for regularisation of illegal structures had been submitted.

Kutch police to crack whip on errant builders Wednesday, February 14, 2001

RAJKOT: Kutch DSP Vivek Shrivastav has said that the police would collect samples of crumbled houses and send them for testing to ascertain the material used in the construction was of inferior quality.

He also assured of a thorough probe into the complaints lodged by people regarding the quality of construction in their flats.

Shrivastav said there had been numerous complaints of nexus of builders, officials and politicians in construction business and the police would investigate this.

He also said that death due to unsound or illegal construction was a crime under Section 304 of the IPC. But, keeping in mind the widespread devastation in Kutch, any application by the people would be treated as complaint, he added.

All such complaints would be investigated and the samples of the cement and concrete would be collected from the site and sent to the Public Works Department and even to the Forensic Science Laboratory, he said.

"If it is proved that the quality of work is inferior, action would be taken and wherever necessary the police would be the complainant," he said.

Meanwhile, 65 traders of the Bhid Bazar in Bhuj have lodged a police complaint that goods worth Rs 1.36 crore were stolen from the Bazar, which has been razed by the quake.

They have said in the complaint that goods including foodgrains, dal and masalas have been stolen from the damaged shops.

The police, however, claim that goods worth more than Rs one core could not be taken away by any smaller means of transport and would need trucks. But since almost all tucks coming to Bhuj and Kutch were those of relief material, it would be ascertained where the goods could have gone, the police said.

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