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January 4, 2001 - January 7, 2001

MSU gears up for NAAC visit, expects a five-star rating Sunday, January 7, 2001

VADODARA: It's a corporate exercise and M S University has geared up to raise its brand equity. On Sunday when UGC's national assessment and accreditation committee (NAAC) team visits MSU campus the varsity fraternity here will turn into a corporate community.

That community will be out on a mission for three days to ensure that when NAAC returns to New Delhi they go back with a vibrant image of MSU. After all its not window curtains in varsity premises that are to be rated it is the MSU education value chain that is to be evaluated. Brand is at stake and the race is for the stars.

"We are expecting a five-star rating", MSU vice-chancellor Anil Kane told media persons on Friday. He said the MSU committee formed for NAAC visit had worked laboriously to prepare the self-assessment report that will be submitted to the to the NAAC.

"The report runs into over 5,000 pages. It's exhaustive and captures the essence of MSU, its academic domain and administration", he said. The report has been prepared by a team of varsity teachers and officials comprising Mayank Dholakia, Debal Dasgupta, Jung Bahadur Rajput, B V Kamath and P D Desai.

Once rated, the NAAC will put the assessment report on the internet. It will also mention brief profiles of MSU departments. Over 100 departments in 13 faculties and three institutes will be screened for their academic and administrative excellence.

"The five-star rating will define the standard and quality of academics. It will symbolise excellence of a university. Similar pattern of rating is adopted by foreign universities," professor Dholakia said. Dholakia has been a member of NAAC committee for four times.

"The students will benefit from the rating given to the varsity. A university's rating or grade will be a benchmark of quality. Something that foreign universities look for when they pick up Indian students", Dholakia said.

NAAC will judge the university on seven criteria - curricular aspect, teaching, learning and evaluation, research, consultancy and extension, physical infrastructure and learning resources, student support and progress, organisation and management and healthy practices. The NAAC rating will be valid for five years.

The MSU has also prepared a detailed programme of the three day NAAC itinerary. A special syndicate meeting was convened on Friday to ensure that the university presents itself as one unit. At present a section of teachers and unions like Baroda University Staff Association and Baroda University Teachers Association are feeling left out.

However, in post-syndicate meetings the conflicts were resolved to a great extend. "We aired our views on this issue. The vice-chancellor has assured us that those who were left out will also be included. He has assured that senate members from respective departments will be present and meet NAAC team during the scheduled visit," syndicate member Nilesh Shukla said.

After the meeting, Kane also appreciated and acknowledged that MSU's image and its expectation of getting a five-star rating was not based only on the exhaustive self-assessment report prepared by a few individuals, but on the contribution of each member of the MSU family, past and present.

Residents here have invested in bore-wells Sunday, January 7, 2001

VADODARA: Warasia residents in order to avoid the internal conflicts arising due to water crises have now invested in a bore-well. They say it has somewhat helped solve the problem of water scarcity. According to the residents in SK Colony and Rupal Society in Warasia, the water they store from the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) pipeline is not enough to last even eight hours.

"Every day there were fights taking place at my home due to water scarcity. My wife used to get angry if children wasted water, while my mother was always complaining," says Sandeep Goplani (name changed) of SK Colony. He admits that many joint families in the society have invested in a bore-well, so that it helps reduce tension at home.

In these societies water comes for 30 minutes in the afternoon. Within 25 minutes they have to store water for drinking and cooking, wash clothes and rinse utensils. "As water was not enough, we stopped washing clothes with soap. But then there were days when there was not enough water to even rinse the clothes," says Bhavika Tahilyani of SK Colony.

The condition of those residing in Rupal Society is no better. "Though we get water for 30 minutes, it's not enough to last the day as the pressure of water is low. But the problem is not as acute as that faced by the SK Colony residents," says Seema Tulsiani of Rupal Society.

Seema says they get water around 4 pm. By following morning, the tank is empty. "There are days when I was forced to borrow water from my neighbour's house to cook. Ultimately, tired of the problems arising due to water scarcity, we were forced to invest nearly Rs 15,000 in a bore-well," says Seema.

But not everyone here is as lucky as Tulsiani. "My husband has refused to invest in a bore-well, as he feels that it would only lead to increase in electricity bills," says Tamanana Ahuja.

(The Times of India is visiting societies in the city every day to identify problems faced by residents due to water scarcity)

CM effects 'temporary' reshuffle Thursday, January 4, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: In what has been described as "a temporary arrangement", Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has handed over the major irrigation projects portfolio to senior Cabinet minister Nitin Patel, in-charge of minor and medium irrigation.

Keshubhai will continue to hold the important portfolio of Narmada and Kalpasar projects. The health and family welfare portfolio has been handed over to No 2 in the Cabinet, industries minister Suresh Mehta.

Minister of state for fisheries Babubhai Bokharia will hold additional charge of food and civil supplies. Cattle-breeding and management of temples and 'dharmashalas' has been handed over to minister of state for home Haren Pandya.

Soon after announcing the new portfolios on Wednesday evening, the CM left for Delhi to attend the BJP's two-day national executive meeting.

Earlier, the CM had remarked, "A decision on the Cabinet reshuffle would be taken after the Bharat Barot Committee report on reasons for BJP's debacle in the recent local polls is internally discussed. Nothing will be done before that." He had added, "Though it is the CM's prerogative to expand or reshuffle the Cabinet, I will take into consideration the party's view."

Senior Cabinet ministers interpreted the allotment of portfolios on Wednesday as a clear indication of the CM's unwillingness to go in for a full-scale expansion immediately before the superstitious evil days, kamurta, end on January 15.

On condition of anonymity, a senior minister said, "I do not think there will be any expansion till the assembly session ends in March. He will not want to invite political trouble during the assembly session that begins mid-February."

The minister said, "The CM knows that the January 10 High Court hearing on the Ashok Bhatt case will not close the matter."

Bhatt, who is among the top BJP leaders, is a key political strategists and a loyalist to the CM. Health and family welfare, and food and civil supplies, which have been handed over to Mehta and Bokharia respectively, were with Bhatt before his resignation.

Nitin Patel, who has been given Narmada, is a known opponent of Jaynarayan Vyas.

Keshubhai writes to PM on fodder transportation Thursday, January 4, 2001

VADODARA: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has written to Prime Minister Vajpayee for allowing free transportation of fodder by rail to drought-affected areas of the state.

The state has already finalised contracts for purchase of 18 crore kg of fodder (grass) at Rs 4.25 per kg.

After experiencing difficulties last year in procuring fodder, the state government, this year, has decided to approve it well in advance.

The chairman of the programme implementation committee and in-charge of the eight drought-affected districts, Vijay Rupani, said the CM had also written to Union railways minister Mamata Banerjee on the issue. As many as 12,240 villages of 22 districts are reeling under drought conditions, Rupani said.

During his visit to the city a few months ago, the then minister of state for railways Bangaru Laxman had told TOI that the railway ministry had conceded the state government's request for free transportation of sugarcane fodder from Maharashtra to the drought-hit areas of the state.

It may be recalled that during last year's drought, the prime minister had publicly appealed for the state's drought cause. Responding to his appeal, several states had despatched fodder.Meanwhile, the government has approved a Rs 40-crore master plan for fighting drought in 1,269 villages of Vadodara district.

Stating this, Rupani said for the first time, 'panjarapoles' and 'goshalas' located in urban areas would be given a subsidy of Rs 10 per cattle. Up until now, this subsidy was only available to 'panjarapoles' and 'goshalas' in rural areas.

In a bid to stem malpractices in drought relief work, flying squads will make surprise checks at relief sites, he said.

Rs 25 lakh for safety of Wankaner bore project Thursday, January 4, 2001

RAJKOT: With all the water-supplying dams in Rajkot, namely Aji-1, Nyari-1, Nyari-2, Lalpari and Randerda Talav, going dry the city is completely dependent on the Wankaner bore project.

And for the safety of the project, the Rajkot Municipal Corporation would be spending Rs 25 lakh.

The standing committee of the civic body on Monday sanctioned the money for protecting the Wankaner-Rajkot pipeline. There have been instances in the past of sabotage in the bore project.

The RMC would pay the money to the police for the protection of the pipeline .

It was also decided to give Rs 22.50 lakh to the water supply board for maintaining the bore project. The money has been sanctioned for the October 1999 -June 2000 period.

All the 12 members of the standing committee were present in the meeting. A number of other decisions were taken at the meeting but the thrust was on tackling the impeding water crisis.

Meanwhile, the Aji-1 dam has gone dry. There has been a small patch of water which the civic authorities are keen to use within the next three or four days.

Bhadar dam near Jetpur was the first one to go dry. As a result, plans were drawn to lift water from the Aji-3 dam. However, the project is yet to be implemented.

At present, 130 lakh gallons of water is being lifted from the Wankaner bore scheme and there is a shortfall of almost 20 lakh gallons. Aji-3 is the only source which can yield the requisite shortfall.

Almost 600 societies are presently being served water through tankers and the figure would double by March. The civic authorities are also contemplating water cut to tide over the situation.

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