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December 30, 2000 - December 30, 2000

GEB decides import of Rs 440 cr worth of coal Saturday, December 30, 2000

VADODARA: The Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) has decided to import huge quantity of coal following Coal India Limited's (CIL) failure to provide good quality coal for its coal-based thermal power stations.

These stations are located at Wanakbori, Ukai, Gandhinagar, Sikka and other places in the state. The decision was taken at a board meeting presided over by GEB chairman Nalin Bhatt.

GEB member (administration) JN Singh told 'The Times of India' that the board will import 14.3 lakh metric tonnes of coal worth Rs 440 crore. International bidding have been invited, he added. The board will be importing such a large quantity of coal for the first time.

Bhatt had apprised CIL of the poor quality of coal being supplied to the board that affected generation of power and brought down the plant load factor. As much as 90 per cent of the total power generation in the state is coal-based and GEB buys about 130 lakh tonnes of coal from CIL every year.

Singh said that it has become necessary for GEB to import coal to comply with the directives for cost-cutting and greater efficiency contained in the power tariff order of the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC).

GEB officials feel there are many advantages of using import coal. The calorific value of imported coal is higher than the coal available in the domestic market. Imported coal will lead to considerable improvement in power generation and will have less ash content. The space required to stock such coal can be reduced.

The coal can be brought to ports located in the state which will lower the transportation cost of coal to the power stations as against the cost of transporting coal from mines located 1500 km or more away. Coal import will also benefit the GEB by Rs 200 to Rs 300 crore per annum. The GEB plans to blend imported coal with domestic coal in the ratio of 70:30. GEB's boilers are designed for higher grade coal of 'C' and 'D' grades.

In the past, GEB got more linkage from the Korea-Rewa fields of Southern India Coal Limited (SICL) with about 70 per cent of its requirement coming from this field and the rest from mainline fields - Korba and Kusmunda - of SICL. However, the amount of coal from Korea Rewa got reduced to only 38 per cent. Coal from the mainline is low calorific coal and has high ash content, making it difficult to burn it in boilers.

The GEB has requested the linkage committee to allot maximum coal from Korea-Rewa fields. Bhatt has also requested the chairman and members of CIL to take up this matter with the Centre to ensure allotment of at least 70 per cent of the linkage from Korea Rewa and only 30 per cent from main line for Ukai and Wanakbori thermal stations.

GEB has also requested allotment of 100 per cent linkage from the Korea fields for Gandhinagar and Sikka thermal power stations.

Governor signs yet another Ordinance Saturday, December 30, 2000

GANDHINAGAR: After keeping the state government on tenterhooks for nearly three weeks, Governor S S Bhandari has finally cleared the Gujarat Development Corporations Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2000.

At least twice, the governor is known to have met social empowerment minister Fakirbhai Waghela to know why it was so important that he immediately signed the Ordinance. He wanted to know why it could not wait till the state assembly met in February 2001.

The Ordinance allows the state government to raise Rs 50 crore in authorised capital each for three state corporations. The corporations are: Gujarat SC Development Corporation, Gujarat SEBC Development Corporation and Gujarat ST Development Corporation.

Up until now, the three corporations were authorised to raise up to Rs 10 crore, Rs 15 crore and Rs 20 crore respectively. Fakirbhai is said to have told the governor that the amount was too little and most of it had already been spent. If permission was granted, it was possible to get more Central funding for development till the next assembly session.

A fastidious Bhandari is reported to have sought details such as: amount spent by the three corporations under various heads; funds the three corporations would need against the type of projects they had taken up till the assembly session came into force; and, whether those projects were viable.

After going over the details, he decided to sign the Ordinance on December 23 and dispatched it to the state government on December 26 for it to be made public.

In recent memory, at least three other Ordinances have had to wait for a reluctant Bhandari's perusal. The first was for postponing village panchayat polls before drought was officially declared in the state post-monsoon; the second was for imposition of impact fees for regularising illegal constructions in six metropolitan cities; and the third, the Gas Ordinance allowing government monopoly in laying LNG pipelines worth Rs 2,500 crore, covering 1,500 km across the state.

Those who knew the governor well said Bhandari had feared an 'ordinance raj', though parliamentary affairs minister Suresh Mehta denied this.

In Mehta's view, the number of Ordinances over the years have not gone up. Malaise was in the failure to make regular, more frequent and meaningful assembly sessions a reality in the state.

Already, moves are afoot at the all-India level to raise the number of assembly days to 100, from nearly one-third at present, including Gujarat's which stands at over 100 days.

After authorising the three government corporations to raise more funds, Bhandari, now, is left with no other Ordinance. It is learnt, the state too does not intend to send any new Ordinances to the Raj Bhawan, fearing stern queries. This, despite the fact that some Bills are virtually in the final stage and require a more urgent stamp of approval from the governor. These include a water Bill allowing the state to come up with an independent authority to fix water tariff for different sections of consumers, and the electricity reforms Bill making meters compulsory.

Of the three corporations whose authorised capital has been raised, the SC Development Corporation is said to be the most active. It has not only spent all its authorised capital for this financial year, but has also worked out demands for projects worth Rs 60 crore from the National SC/ST Finance Development Corporation and the National Safai Karmachari Finance and Development Corporation - both Government of India outfits. Nearly 5,000 applications for taking up small projects in dairy, agriculture, horticulture and transport are pending clearance with it. Since 1992, the total confessional loan amount disbursed by the Corporation has been to the tune of Rs 49.75 crore for 7,475 applicants. Of this, 5,304 applications worth Rs 34.31 crore were cleared since the BJP government came to power two years ago.

The Government of India's backward community finance corporations extend term loans for four years at the rate of four per cent per annum to the three state government corporations, which in turn disburse loan to SC, ST and SEBC applications at the rate of seven per cent.

While the state government gives 51 per cent of authorised capital to the three corporations, the Centre provides 49 per cent matching loan.

CM inaugurates water pipeline in Limdi Saturday, December 30, 2000

AHMEDABAD: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel on Thursday alleged that Congress leaders had resorted to the cheap tactic of 'divide and rule' and called upon the people to be vigilant against this attitude.

Addressing a function after inaugurating a new drinking water pipeline for Limbdi town of Surendranagar district, the CM said the water supply and sewerage board had completed the work on 22 km-long pipeline network in a record time of 16 months.

Asserting that his government had taken up on war footing, the on-going projects of drinking water in Saurashtra, he said it has been made possible because of the strong political will of the ruling party to deal with the shortage of water. In the past two years the BJP government has convinced people that it meant business, he said.

Lambasting senior GPCC leaders, who raised hue and cry about the drinking water problem, CM alleged that they were day dreaming about water riots, not knowing the massive efforts put in by the administration to meet the situation arising out of second consecutive drought. The state government, he said, was committed to complete the Bhaskarpura drinking water project, through which 31 cities and 1,755 villages of four districts, including Kutch, will be provided water. The project will cost Rs 1,422 crore.

Water supply minister Narottam Patel, social justice and empowerment minister Fakirbhai Waghela, animal husbandry minister Kiristsinh Rana and senior officials of the water supply and sewerage board were also present on the occasion.

2,800 illegal constructions to be regularised Saturday, December 30, 2000

Under Gujarat regulation of Unauthorised Development Ordinance 2000, issued by state Urban Development Department, unauthorised constructions in municipal corporation and urban development areas of the state will be regularised as per impact fees suggested in Ordinance.

It is estimated that there are approximately 2,800 unauthorised constructions in municipal corporation areas and if all such constructions are regularised by impact fees, corporation may earn about Rs 25 crore through this Ordinance.

According to spokesman of town planning branch of corporation, there are about 3,400 illegal constructions in city, out of which 2,800 constructions are liable for regularisation.

If concerned owners of such unauthorised constructions are prepared to pay impact fees, and even if 500 such cases are taken into consideration, civic body may get Rs 5 crore under minimum impact fee category.

Golden jubilee celebrations: Sheth Kakubhai Jivandas Stree Hunnar Udyog shala, a prominent women education and training institution of Jodiya in Jamnagar district, observed its golden jubilee on Thursday. Tributes were paid to the founder of the institution Rambhaben Ganatra, popularly known at Rambha Faiba. The programme was chaired by Samaj leader Dhirubhai Gholani.

Mumbai-based Gholani family donated Rs 15 lakh to the institution. A souvenir was also released on the occasion.

Managing trustee of the institution Shantaben Bhagden, while speaking about the achievements of the institution, said founder Rambhaben started the institution with a meagre amount of Rs 745, fifty years ago. Various extra-curricular activities, besides regular education are undertaken at the institute with an aim to instil confidence in the students. Trustees of the institution, Mumbai-based Ramnikbhai Desai and Dhirubhai Sheth were facilitated for their contributions.

Security measures: A red alert was sounded at various sensitive pockets and also on the coastal line of the district, on occasion of Ramzan Id. Following the Red Fort episode at New Delhi, security measures have been strengthened at the Salaya port, Dwarka temple and prominent industrial units. Plain dress policemen were posted at railway and bus stations. However, no untoward incident was recorded from the district during the celebrations.

Internet banking catching on in city Saturday, December 30, 2000

AHMEDABAD: First it was 'anytime' banking with the ubiquitous ATM, and now, it is 'anywhere' banking with Net-banking. PC penetration in Ahmedabad may be much lower compared to Bangalore and Hyderabad but Net-banking is catching the fancy of the account-holder in the city with private banks like ICICI Bank, HDFC, Global Trust Bank and UTI aggressively pushing this mode of banking.

"Net-banking is attractive for banks in every way. The man-hour involved is much less, it also eases overcrowding at banks. It is specially attractive as its cost of transaction per customer is lower than both across-the-counter and ATM banking. The average cost of transaction per customer through across-the-counter comes to Rs 1.10 while ATM transaction cost us 35 paise. In comparison, internet banking proves to be very cost-effective with just 15 paise cost for each transaction," says ICICI branch manager Raghunath Tiwari.

At the ICICI branch in the city, nine out ten account holders, who fill the form, go in for Net-banking and even though, it had introduced Net-banking way back in 1996, it is only lately that it is pushing this mode of banking in Gujarat. HDFC, on the other hand, began Net-banking only in 1999 but has already drawn up plans to popularise this banking system in the city.

Apart from installing an exclusive PC in the banking hall for a demo, it has drawn up plans to equip every ATM booth across the city with a PC to encourage Net-banking. And Net-banking may not be on the priority list of Citibank but last month, along with Compaq, it organised a 15-day workshop to familiarise their account holders with Net-banking.

"We have a tie-up with Compaq, where our account holders are offered discount on the purchase of Compaq computers," says Citibank relationship manager Swapnil Mishra.

HSBC has still to accelerate its Net-banking systems. However, it has introduced Net-banking among its staff and will be launching its Net-banking services by the end of January next year.

"We are presently testing waters. We want to have a proper system in place before we formally launch this service," says HSBC retail asset officer Ganesh Iyer.

In terms of number of Net-bank account holders, ICICI is today the highest in the city. Of the one million retail customers that it has, one lakh of them are Net-account holders. In Ahmedabad, it has issued H pin numbers (code number for Net account) to 10,000 account holders. For its corporate Net-banking product - corporate Infinity - the bank has already registered 150 corporates.

UTI has close on 4,000 Net-account holder in the state, of which, 1,300 Net account holders are based in the city. Citibank has issued 500 H pin number since the introduction of this banking mode in the city.

To cater to Net-account holders, these banks are building a sound system to take the load in the peak hour and provide security systems to safeguard against hacking and other such hazards. ICICI has a dedicated cable line from an ISP in the city for its Net-banking.

"We already have 11 ATMs in the city for cash transactions; for non-cash transactions the bank plans to set up a PC at every ATM booth in the city. We want to bring up the number of ATM in the city to 35 ATMs by the December 31," says Tiwari.

To ensure a secure environment for carrying out banking activities on the internet, banks will have to put up a sound security system. ICICI has a multi-layered security architecture comprising firewalls, filtering routers, encryption and digital certification that ensure account information is protected from unauthorised access.

Almost all banks have a 128-byte encryption. ICICI Bank has engaged a US firm for technical audit. "Hacking of internet accounts is quite widespread in the US but such incidences have not yet happened in India," says UTI Bank vice-president Sarabjit Bajaj.

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