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November 8, 2001 - November 9, 2001

Tremors instil fear in Haripar villagers Friday, November 9, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
Ten months after the quake, fear of an impending temblor has terrorised 2,500 inhabitants of Haripar village, located deep inside Gir forests, some of whom have fled the village.

Since the last five weeks, tremors are being felt in the village located at Talal taluka in Junagadh district, as many as 15 to 50 times a day! Though the low intensity tremors measuring below 3 on the Richter scale do little more than widening cracks in houses and rattling utensils, people fear it could be the prelude to a major quake.

Despite the prompt action by the district administration, fear looms large. People recall that last year, when Bhavnagar experienced tremors, these were felt in the Gir (east) region, too.

"It started with frightening sounds from the earth and the land started shaking. Now it's routine. People are afraid to live in their houses. Some of the family members have been sent to houses of relatives elsewhere," says a villager, Mehul Ganatra.

What has really scared the villagers is the increasing number of tremors. Initially, the phenomenon was experienced only in this village, now it is spreading to neighbouring areas, too.

The administration has started a round-the-clock control room in the village and provided emergency rescue and relief facilities. Top officials have visited the place.

The village doesn't fall on any seismic fault line, nor is it in the vicinity of one.

"We know that there is seismic activity. India Meteorology Department people are stationed there monitoring the situation. Events of very low intensity are being registered there. There is no clear pattern, sometimes there are 15 events a day and sometimes up to 50," says Junagadh collector Sunaina Tomar.

The administration has taken contingency measures. Police wireless equipment has been stationed there besides an ambulance and a JCB machine. Revenue, police and panchayat staff have been put on duty.

The IMD has submitted a report on its findings to the state government. It has found that the seismic events at Haripar do not exceed a magnitude of three on the Richter scale.

According to deputy director of the quake control room in Gandhinagar, Gunvant Vaghela, the village falls in Zone-III as per the quake zoning of India. "The IMD scientists believe that most of the seismic energy was released at Bhuj and it will be another 30 to 40 years before any major energy release takes place.

He said the Geological Survey of India will be asked to investigate.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Vyas interprets pipeline water project an 'impractical dream' Friday, November 9, 2001

State government's tearing hurry to lay a network of pipelines in north Gujarat lifting waters from the Narmada main canal to irrigate large areas in Mehsana, Patan, Sabarkantha and Banaskantha districts have encountered resistance from the most unexpected quarters. The former Narmada and irrigation minister, Jaynarayan Vyas, has said that "it would be a cruel joke on the people of north Gujarat to show them another impractical dream with just one and a half years left for the elections".

Vyas has shot off a letter to state finance minister Nitin Patel who has stated that a sum of Rs 175 crore would be set aside from this year's budget for the Rs 3,000-crore project meant to quench north Gujarat's thirst, currently reeling under its third year of scarcity. "A formal order on funding the project will be out in a week," Patel said. The project will be implemented immediately and completed by the end of 2002, he claimed,

Aghast by the rush with which the government has finalised the project, Vyas, who himself hails from north Gujarat, has said the project was extremely costly and impractical. Vyas says the Survey of India has already completed a study pointing towards the feasibility of the link canal that would help irrigate 10,000 sq km area out of a total of 20,000 sq km in north Gujarat. "Some officials having little technical background appear to be misleading the government with alternative plans," he says

However, under the new plan, the blueprint of which is ready, half a dozen huge lakes will be built on the east of the main Narmada canal passing through some north Gujarat areas. The Narmada waters will be pumped in these lakes. Then, a network of pipelines, two metres wide, and two to six of them running parallel to each other, would be connecting these lakes with Dharoi, Dantiwada, Sipu, Manadevpura, Vadgam, Bakrol, Majam, Vatrak, Hathmati, Guhai, Meshvo and Rel dams. Lakhs of cusecs of excess Narmada waters flowing away into sea during monsoon would be used for filling up the dams.

With the pipeline plan taken up, the earlier proposal of building a 182-km-long Narmada link canal starting from a chosen point in Kapadvanj in Kheda district to connect all the major north Gujarat dams stands abandoned. This is what has upset Vyas and reportedly several other BJP leaders from north Gujarat

The view is strong in the Sachivalaya that the pipeline plan could be completed in a year, helping the state BJP to show something concrete to the people of north Gujarat, a region close to the heart of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Already, farmers in the region are getting restive and the Congress president Sonia Gandhi is expected to address a mammoth kisan rally in Mehsana on Friday.

Vyas says the project would need 1,200 MW of electricity for lifting waters to the dams, considerably more than what the link canal would need. He insists, "No such alternative plans should be taken up without concrete study and discussions with experts and representatives from north Gujarat."

Even senior BJP MLA from the region Arvind Patel is of the view that Nitin Patel is under the influence of the "Saurashtra lobby" which does not want scarce state funds to be diverted to north Gujarat for solving water problems. Of the 2,174 tanks built in the state under the BJP rule, north Gujarat got a mere 328. This at a time when Rs 230 crore were spent on 14,841 check-dams, which have all gone to Saurashtra!

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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HC stops Centre from initiating proceedings Friday, November 9, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
Gujarat High Court has directed the Centre not to initiate proceedings for coercive recovery of excise duty from Rajpipla Social Service Society which had purchased two multi-utility vehicles for relief and rehabilitation work in Kutch.

A division Bench comprising Chief Justice Dharmadhikari and Justice Ravi R Tripathi posted the matter for further hearing on December 12.

The Society submitted before the bench that the Kutch collector had rejected its application for issuing a utilisation certificate and exemption of the excise duty for the vehicles.

It was submitted that the application was rejected on the ground that legal aid and counselling to the quake-affected does not amount to rehabilitation and reconstruction.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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No decision yet on population Bill: Bhatt Friday, November 9, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
Gujarat health minister Ashok Bhatt declared here on Wednesday that the Narendra Modi government has "not taken any decision on whether to bring a law on population control." Pointing out that the final nod by Modi in the controversial matter would be required before coming up with any law in the Assembly, Bhatt said, "I have decided to place new draft population policy for final approval to the Cabinet."

The thrust of the previous Keshubhai government, which was bent on coming up with the law and twice took a Cabinet decision on it, was sought to be watered down even by Suresh Mehta. A Keshubhai opponent, Mehta, who held the additional charge of health, told the Assembly a couple of months ago that the proposed Bill would not contain any disincentives to the families with more than two children. It would only confine itself to incentives.

Bhatt's new stance came even as the United Nations Fund for Population Agency made it clear here on Wednesday that it sharply disagreed with the concept of population-control, and instead believed in population stabilisation. UNFPA regional programme co-ordinator Aravind Pulikkal told TNN after a news conference, called here for releasing the latest World Population Report 2001, that "all UN agencies, not just the UNFPA, are against any law on population as it is against human reproductive rights."

Pulikkal told newspersons that the phrase 'population control' was given up at the 1994 World Population Conference in Cairo, and India too was a signatory to the document which dropped it. The new phrase was 'population stabilisation', he said, adding that "the main issue is to increase the health of the infant and the mother and improve the quality of life. That would automatically stabilise population. How to provide quality services is the main direction one should adopt."

Pointing out that China had already started relaxing its birth-control norm realising that the law on population control did not help, Pulikkal said, "Reduction in the infant mortality rate goes a long way in stabilising population." He emphasised, "It is necessary to view environment from a population and development perspective. Poverty and high consumption levels, both adversely impact the environment. Poverty has always been associated with large families and high fertility."

Bhatt said the state's draft population policy follows exactly the same perspective and he was "not going to make any changes in it". The draft policy, approved under Bhatt's stewardship when he was health minister under Keshubhai before resigning in 2000, said, "The family welfare programme will be changed from the population control focus, with sterilisation as the major objective driven by targets and incentives, to a comprehensive reproductive and child health programme."

The UNFPA has provided the state with a Rs 30-crore fund for decreasing child mortality rate from the current 63 per 1,000 to 16 in Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, Dahod, Kutch and Surendranagar. Bhatt has pleaded that the programme be extended to other districts with as much amount for five more districts. "Surveys show, 95 per cent women know about family planning. Yet, only in those districts where infant mortality had gone down had things improved. In Jamnagar, it is already 45, while in a Gandhinagar village it was found to be as low as 11 in a survey by an IIM professor," Bhatt said.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Encroachments removed in Rakhiyal Thursday, November 8, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
AHMEDABAD: The anti-encroachment squad of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation on Tuesday cleared the road connecting Kalandhari Masjid and Maulana Azad Chowk of encroachments.

In a drive that continued throughout the day, the AMC removed 190 shops scattered over 670 metres of the road which is a part of the 132-feet road.

Deputy municipal commissioner in-charge of east zone, TG Zhalawadia, said, "Nearly 25 feet of the 60 feet wide road had been encroached upon by these retail shops and commercial units. The area near Rakhiyal Square has been freed of all encroachers."

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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