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January 24, 2001 - January 25, 2001

Israel continues to beckon state's youth Thursday, January 25, 2001

VADODARA: Spring time is round the corner and the picturesque apple and litchi fields of Israel beckon the city's youth. And, violence and strife in Israel caused by the armed struggle have not dampened the spirit of students planning to head to Israel for "on-the-job training" in various fields.

Though violence has been on the rise, the number of students and professionals going to Israel from Vadodara has been going up. While only 10 persons from the whole state had been to Israel in July 1998, the number shot up to 18 in July 1999. This year, as many as 30 people are planning to visit the troubled country.

Friends of Israel, a city-based NGO recognised by the Israel embassy, and the Kibbutz Programme Centre in Israel organise six-month-long trips to Israel for on-the-job training in the fields of agriculture, tourism and hotel management for students and professionals between the ages 18 years and 26 years.

Called the Volunteer Youth Programme, students get to live with the Kibbutz commune, an extraordinary community in Israel comprising professionals and people from all walks of life.

In agriculture, students work in banana, avocados, apple, dates, litchi and orange fields and in green houses and with irrigation systems. Tourism involves working in guest houses, restaurants, nature sites and tourist shops. A student completing a six-month programme gets a certificate of participation.

And, as students combine work, studies and sight-seeing, the violence all around does not seem to bother them. The country is now attracting more interest than the US or Australia.

"I believe in my god and I am confident that nothing will happen to me," says Ketul Prakash, an 11 standard student of a city school, who would be visiting the country soon.

"These trips are for those who can't spend a fortune to go abroad. They pay Rs 40,000 to see a new place, understand its customs and also learn certain important skills," says Nikitin Contractor of Friends of Israel.

"My son wants to be independent and successful in life. Whenever we try to dissuade him from going to Israel, he argues that this visit would open the gate to European countries," says Anthony Garlick, whose son, Molins Anthony, a BCom student, aspires to go to Israel this year.

Some parents say this gives their children an opportunity to visit new places and also understand their culture. "Though I was apprehensive about sending my son to Israel, now, I have reconciled myself to the idea as sending my son abroad. Also, I am not in a position to send him to the US or UK," says Rashmikant Amin. But he says he was not worried about his son Suketu's well being. "There may be tension in Israel but it's purely an internal conflict. There is no risk to the life of foreigners," adds Amin.

For those who just returned from Israel, it was a memorable foreign trip. "The harmony one sees at these holy sites is rare. I personally feel that the situation there is much better than that in Kashmir, where hundreds of innocent people are killed every year. While the Indian government fails to take any action, the Israeli government is quick to act," says Dr Sriniwas Solapurkar, who returned after a three-month stay in Israel.

Neha Chauhan, who's done her diploma in travel and tourism, worked as a volunteer in a hotel and in some factories in Israel. "It was a wonderful experience and met people from all over world. I did hear of the strife in the country but never got to witness it. I had a good time," says Neha.

Lyngdoh alleges nexus of business, politics and bureaucracy Thursday, January 25, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: In a surprise statement, election commissioner J M Lyngdoh has said that the so-called 'Gujarat model' is "characterised by a nexus of business, politics and bureaucracy".

In his inaugural address at a recent workshop at the prestigious National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, which provides foundation training to the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, Indian Police Service and other central services' cadres, Lyngdoh said the nexus had "operated as a joint venture in which everything was negotiable".

A copy of Lyngdoh's inaugural address, brought here from Mussoorie by a bureaucrat who went to the National Academy for attending a professional refresher course, is widely in circulation in the corridors of power, including among several ministers and secretaries.

Warning the cadre attending the training camp "the country ran the danger of going the Gujarat way", Lyngdoh suggested a board be constituted of the Union Public Service Commission, the Chief Vigilance Commission, the Supreme Court and independent persons to stop this from happening.

The state's senior bureaucrats said Lyngdoh's speech had become an obvious reason of discussion among them, but wondered why he chose to make Gujarat a target of attack, particularly at a time when there was "little evidence" of things moving in that direction.

Lyngdoh, who is tipped to be the country's next chief election commissioner after the present CEC's term ends a year from now, said the way in which infrastructure was sought to be built in the country showed the approach was "elitist".

He said, "The Indian corporate sector was non-competitive" and had a "low employment capacity with the exception of the software industry". Environment and ecology were characterised by population pressure "adversely affecting flora and fauna", with "urban waste disposal becoming a major problem".

'Paracetamol lethal for jaundice patients' Thursday, January 25, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Over the past few weeks the Civil Hospital in city has admitted children with aggravated jaundice and on the verge of collapsing.

According to the paediatrics department head, Dr Jayandra Gohil, the conditions of the patients had worsened due to negligence or rather ignorance on the part of doctors who administered paracetamol to control temperature. However, Dr Gohil said, "pain killers like Ibuprofen are most effective in bringing down temperature in a patient suffering from jaundice."

Common antipyretic drugs - paracetamol and nimisulides - are considered good to bring down fever and have no side-effects such as gastric and acidity.

But the biggest disadvantage of the anti-pyretic drugs is its toxicity on liver, says Dr Gohil. So when patients with liver infections or any form of hepatitis or liver dysfunction are administered the drug, these drugs, which are hepatotoxic, tend to increase the intensity of jaundice and liver dysfunction even in normal dosage.

Referring to the two case at Civil hospital, Dr Gohil said the patients were diagnosed as having jaundice and were administered paracetamol due to which the size of their liver increased and jaundice aggravated.

While some doctors may be ignorant, some administer paracetamols to bring down fever in patients with minor jaundice. At times initial stages the jaundice are not very apparent and at times go undetected.

Gujarat's per capita subsidies highest in country: Study Thursday, January 25, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: A policy paper on 'Fiscal Consolidation in Gujarat: An Approach' by Dr Archana Dholakia of Gujarat University has sent alarm bells ringing over the rise in budget-based subsidies. Over the past seven years, budget-based subsidies have gone up nearly two-and-a-half times - from Rs 5,714 crore in 1993 to a whopping Rs 13,128 crore in 2000-01.

The study, attached to the government-sponsored report 'Fiscal Consolidation in Gujarat: A Medium Term Plan', released last week, says the figures are "exclusive of the hidden subsidies given in the form of tax incentives and exemptions".

Of the total subsidies those that "have positive exerternalities in consumption and production have remained less than one-third of the total subsidies", the study says it is the so-called "non-merit subsidies" that form the bulk - Rs 9,285 crore. Terming these also as "negative indirect taxes" that have "remained larger than the positive tax revenue of the state", the study estimates that if corrective measures are not taken, by 2004-05, these would reach a huge Rs 15,137 crore.

Quoting a comparison between 15 major states by a New Delhi-based institute, the study shows Gujarat's per capita subsidy to be the highest, at Rs 1,402, compared to the average of all states of Rs 868. This is because "Gujarat ranks among the lowest in terms of cost recovery rate for publicly provided goods and services", Dr Dholakia says, recommending, "To improve this situation, upward revision in users charges, reduction of political interference, incentives to the departments by re-channelising a part of the income earned by them as an incentive are called for on a priority basis."

The cost recovery rate (CRR) in secondary and higher education in Gujarat is 1.49 per cent, though the all-India CRR, based on the average of 15 states, is 1.74, and of Kerala 3.34. For medical services, state CRR is 1.23, compared to all-India's 1.48 and West Bengal's 3.25. For water supply, the state's CRR is 0.55, while all-India's 5.15 and 15.55 in Maharashtra. For power, the state's CRR is 0.21 per cent, compared to 14.99 all-India and 71.46 in Andhra Pradesh.

For agriculture, the state's CRR is 9, while 14.15 for all-India and 40.46 for Maharashtra. For industry, the state's CRR is 4.42, while India's is 5.82 and Karnataka's is 11.45. Only for irrigation the state's CRR is more than the national average - 11.09, compared to 5.23 all-India, and 13 in UP's case. But the irrigation CRR includes "receipts from agriculture and non-agriculture sectors. If the recovery rate for irrigation water supply for agriculture alone is considered it comes to hardly 1.4 per cent", says Dr Dholakia.

Says Dr Dholakia, "The results show that even if Gujarat reaches the level of average performance of the Indian states in each service, it can generate additional amount of Rs 723 crore per annum by way of revenue receipts from these services. If we consider the set of estimates based on the best achieved recovery rates of different states, the potential of revenue comes to a startling figure of Rs 2,211 crore, which is equivalent to over 40 per cent of fiscal deficit of Rs 5,304 crore in 2000-01."

For this, the top expert says, subsidies of all kinds should be reduced through measures of enhanced cost recovery for all services provided by government or its agencies, "with particular attention to power, water, education and health. This will also ensure correct pricing of services for preventing waste of scarce real resources such as water and power, stimulate supply response to meet shortages and improve the quality of services."

Water tax doubled; surcharge on octroi proposed in budget Wednesday, January 24, 2001

RAJKOT: Domestic water tax doubled from Rs 20 to Rs 40 per month. Commercial water tax trebled from Rs 40 to Rs 120 per month. 10 per cent surcharge on all octroi items. No new taxes on property. These are some of the highlights of the tax proposals presented by Rajkot Municipal Commissioner J P Gupta to the standing committee chairman Ladhabhai Parmar on Tuesday. The total budget for the year 2001-2002 is Rs 256.55 crore.

Talking to reporters Gupta said the budget was "water-oriented".

Giving details, he said expenses on water was a major drain on the civic finances, with the city's population about to touch the 10 lakh mark and with drought conditions prevailing for the second consecutive year.

A water supply contingency fund of Rs 2 crore and Rs 5 crore for the Narmada-based water supply project has also been proposed, Gupta said.

Water tax had not been increased from 1988 onwards, and with the water supply system becoming expensive, it was imperative to tax water users. Water supply expenses had increased 20 times over the past 12 years. During the last four years, electricity bills for water supply had risen by three times. The total expenses on water supply was 20.85 per cent. With the increase in water tax, the civic body was scheduled to earn a revenue of Rs 7 crore.

Gupta has also proposed rationalisation of octroi rates. To generate more revenue for the civic body, a 10 per cent surcharge has also been asked for. The total income through octroi will be to the tune of Rs 63.25 crore. Two new octroi posts are also proposed to be set up at Jamnagar Road and Gondal Road.

The commissioner has also proposed the widening of the fire tax net. So far fire tax was collected only from industries and high-rises, but Gupta has proposed tax collection from government buildings, cinema houses, hotels, boarding and guest houses. The tax would amount to 1.5 per cent and the revenue earned would be Rs 47 lakh which would be utilised for modernisation of the city fire services.The commissioner has proposed abolition of theatre tax on plays, circus and mobile cinema. But he has proposed to increase tax on cinema houses. Cinema houses, with a capacity of 500 or less, could see a hike in tax to Rs 100 from the existing Rs 15, and cinema houses with a seating capacity of 500 or more could see a hike to Rs 150 from the existing Rs 20.

Further, it has been proposed to convert vehicle tax, into a life-time tax. To tide over the emergency water supply costs, the corporation spent Rs 41.84 crore in 1999-200 which rose to Rs 48.31 crore in 2000-2001. This year's expenses have been marked at Rs 46.05 crore.

Water supply would cost 23 per cent, followed by 18 per cent of conservancy and debt servicing respectively and 6 per cent expenses would be for both health and street lights.

For the first time, the civic body had decided to tax aviation fuel.

Gupta said the income projection for 2001-2002 showed octroi would account for 35 per cent of the total income, while the taxes would bring in 20 per cent of the income, loans would be to the tune of 16 per cent and miscellaneous income would be 11 per cent.

Providing details of the various development schemes planned for the year, the commissioner said that Rs 45 crore was needed to provide underground drainage to areas under ward 21, 22 and 23. have no underground drainage system and to complete the project Another Rs 4 crore would be spent on road repairs and asphalting. A zonal in the western area and four new ward offices have also been planned.

To have a better tax collection, special rebate schemes will be announced. Residents paying their taxes between May 1 to 31 will be entitled a tax rebate of 10 per cent while those paying between June 1 and June 30 would be given a five per cent rebate.

The corporation also plans to grow 20,000 trees this year and 50,000 next year. A sum of Rs 8 crore has been proposed for solid waste management. Two thousand houses will be constructed for the urban poor with help from National Housing Bank and HUDCO. Services of the private sector would be utilised for having pay and park facilities, converting Kalawad Road into a four-track one etc.

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