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December 22, 2000 - December 24, 2000

Ahmedabad-Vadodara freeway to be completed by '03 Sunday, December 24, 2000

AHMEDABAD: Picture this: Year 2003, the speedometer of your car reads 175 kmph as you rocket on a smooth, unhindered stretch of four-lane expressway, overtaking goods-laden trucks on the way and touching the limits of Vadodara in less than an hour's time. You are left wondering whether you're still in Gujarat or been transported to the US.

This is no figment of imagination or a speedster's day dream. The first expressway to be conceived in India, one that will link Ahmedabad to Vadodara, will soon be a reality.

Ever since the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) took charge of this project in August, 2000, work on a 43.4-km stretch of the Ahmedabad-Nadiad section has been progressing steadily. The first phase of the expressway (Ahmedabad-Nadiad) is being handled by an Indonesia-based company, PT Samber Mitra Jaya, under a contract of Rs 134 crore.

Contract for the Rs 240-crore second phase, stretching between Nadiad and Vadodara (50 km), is also likely to be awarded during the current financial year. While the first section is scheduled to be completed by mid-2002, the second phase will have a deadline of two years from the date of the contractual agreement. For every month saved in completing the contract before the expiry of deadline, NHAI will extend a lucrative incentive of Rs 1 crore per month (not to exceed Rs 6 crore) to the contractors.

The expressway, which was conceived way back in 1984-85, went through a phase of controversies before work came to a standstill in 1991. Though work on the major bridges connecting the expressway continued, the main road contractor was expelled in 1994. Since then, India's first (proposed) expressway had been lying unattended and subjected to vagaries of nature.

The expressway, which is now seeing construction work begin anew, will begin at Yashoda Chowkri in Vatwa, go through an interchange at Nadiad (which will be fitted with small fly-overs, restaurants, motels, parking plots) and terminate at Vadodara.

"The project will be completed within a period of three years from now. The Ahmedabad-Nadiad section will be thrown open for public use by mid-2002," informed NHAI project director M Chandrashekhar.

The expressway is part of the Delhi-Mumbai section of the Golden Quardilator project of NHAI. The Golden Quardilator proposes to connect Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai and Mumbai through a 5,952-km stretch of four-lane highway.

With minimum speed limit of 100 km, this four-lane expressway will ensure that one can traverse 93.4 km in less than an hour. With protective boundaries running all along the superhighway to prevent any trespassers or obstructions, its unique geometrics will ensure that there are almost no curves or turns to enable maximum visibility and no breakage in speed.

The 31-metre-wide Ahmedabad-Vadodara freeway, which promises safety and speed, will have "a riding surface which is better than any other national or state highway". In addition, patrol cars will ensure that vehicles using the freeway do not go below the specified speed limits or violate lane-driving. All those found lagging in speed will be escorted out of the freeway while any unauthorised entrant (pedestrian or local residents) will be considered as legal offenders.

Other services on the expressway will be a 'spanner patrol' to keep the road free of broken-down vehicles and for their repair work. Ambulances will also be kept at readiness to tend to accident victims.

But, before you get on to the freeway and zoom off to your destination a fee will have to be paid to a special purpose vehicle (SPV), a body formed by the government to look after maintenance and commercial aspects of the highway. Fees for use of the expressway will be collected at the gateway (already under construction at the site) by the SPV.

"Though it is a NHAI-funded project, the Ahmedabad-Vadodara expressway will be treated as a private road. While trespassers will be prosecuted, the users will have to pay for its services. An SPV will be created soon for this purpose," said an NHAI official.

BJP may rope in sacked minister for party work Sunday, December 24, 2000

AHMEDABAD: Jana Krishnamurthy, national BJP vice-president and in-charge of Gujarat affairs, on Friday lauded the stance of sacked Narmada minister Jaynarayan Vyas that he was prepared to work as a "dedicated and committed party worker with the same spirit as a minister earlier".

Krishnamurthy, who arrived here on a four-day visit to the state, to participate in the state executive committee told a news conference that he had a detailed discussion with the minister who has already apologised for his utterances. The state unit of party will soon decide as to whether he should be absorbed in the organisational work. He said that he would also discuss the issue with senior leaders of the party including Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.

The senior BJP leader said that since his arrival here on Thursday he has met several ministers and party functionaries but has not heard of any dissidence within the party organisation or of any crisis in the government. "We have received representation from party leaders and workers and they would be discussed threadbare in next two days during the meetings."

He denied that industries minister Suresh Mehta had complained when he met him for two hours at his residence on Thursday night." Mehta has not uttered a word regarding dissidence brewing in the state unit." However he expressed his surprise over the anti-government statements made by cultural activities minister Mahendra Trivedi. "We will definitely look into the complaints regarding the organisation and the government and take remedial measures to further strengthen the organisation and also tone up the administration."

The BJP leader admitted that the communication gap at various levels had resulted in the party's debacle in panchayat and civic elections. The Bharat Barot committee, appointed by the state BJP, which was entrusted the task of examining the factors that led to drubbing was expected to submit its report by this week. After going through the recommendations of this fact-finding committee, an action plan would be executed to bridge the gap between party and the government, if it was suggested.

Krishnamurthy said that on reaching New Delhi he would take up the drought issue with the Centre. The BJP leader alleged that the Congress had failed to tarnish the image of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and create a rift between alliance partners of National Democratic Alliance.

MS varsity V-C to retire Sunday, December 24, 2000

VADODARA: M S University vice-chancellor Anil Kane has decided to retire. Kane, who has been credited with curbing the student leaders menace on campus and creating cordial relations between elected student representatives and varsity administration, has planned to hang his boots - in a farm.

"I have decided to retire. I have bought a piece of land on the banks of river Mahi. I will do farming their and cultivate a variety of plant and tree species," Kane told The Times of India. He said he has invested about Rs 10 lakh out of his savings for purchasing the land and its development.

"I want to set up a small rural development centre. The focus will be on agriculture. I also want to put up a small workshop that can do repair works for tractors and other equipment used for farming", Kane said. He added that he would provide run the rural development centre in his farm at a no profit no loss basis.

"I would like to invite people who are interested in agriculture, horticulture and cultivation of other trees and plants," he said. Kane observed that he had decided from a very early stage that he would retire and live the life of a farmer.

"I will live in peace at my farm. I will provide help and services to the farmers of the adjoining villages in knowing about how to get loans for agriculture, setting small grain shops and repairing their tractors," Kane said. He added that villages had always inspired him.

"I came from a village and I would like to go back to one. The land I have bought is near Amrol village here," he said. Incidentally, Kane's three-year term as MSU vice chancellor is getting over next year.

Power board plans to replace meters in five zones Sunday, December 24, 2000

VADODARA: In a bid to check its transmission and distribution losses, the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) will take up the work on replacement of meters and meter boxes in the five zones located in Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Mehsana and Bhavnagar, a reliable source of the GEB said here on Friday.

The source said it is part of implementation of 16 directives contained in the power tariff order of the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Authority (GERC) announced in October last. As per the GERC order, T&D losses are estimated at 34.32 per cent. Due to this, energy worth crores of rupees is lost. This includes loss of energy in the lines due to technical reasons and non-technical reasons - primarily theft or pilferage of energy.

The percentage of T&D losses reported from Saurashtra and North Gujarat is more than any other regions in the state, and the GEB is determined to curb it, the source said.

The tenders for purchase of 2.5 lakh meters at a total cost of Rs 25 crore have been finalised and work on replacement of old meters with new meters and replacement of wires if needed is to start soon.

The entire work has to be carried out in a time-bound manner and if the party which is awarded this contract fails to complete it in the scheduled time, it will be penalised. The entire turnkey job is to be undertaken by parties which have been selected for the job.

Narmada hero paid for his temper Friday, December 22, 2000

AHMEDABAD: The sacking of Narmada minister Jaynarayan Vyas would come as a rude shock to many of his admirers who saw in him a rare BJP politician who was erudite and educated. But it was also true that this bureaucrat-turned-politician had made more enemies than friends within a short span of 10 years in politics.

Vyas will, however, be missed by the state as far as the Sardar Sarovar Project is concerned because he was the state's answer to the likes of Arundhati Roy and Medha Patkar, and had taken on them at various national and international platforms, matching them both in aggression and articulation. The fate of the international forum on water, which Vyas proposed to hold some time in January by inviting water experts from all over the world to create an opinion in favour of the Narmada project, is not known thus far.

In a ministerial Cabinet which lacks real talent, Vyas was indeed an exception, having been a former executive director of Index-B before plunging into active politics in 1989 along with a host of other professionals who were fancied by the BJP. However, a former bureaucrat himself, he could not get along with his colleagues in the bureaucracy after becoming minister, and rubbed many officials the wrong way even at Cabinet meetings. Former managing director of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam C K Koshy was the latest in a string of bureaucrats who could not get along well with the minister.

It's not surprising that none of the BJP dissidents in the state are coming out in support of Vyas, and the reason for this, according to his own colleagues, was his snooty demeanour which created a distance not only between him and his colleagues but also the ordinary BJP worker. In many respects, Vyas could never behave like the run-of-the-mill politician, and always had an opinion which he liked to express, often not going down well with some people.

A management consultant who used to run Saket Consultancy which had some leading companies as its clients, Vyas was known to a competent professional who used his expertise in raising funds for the Narmada project, and even garnering support for the SSP at the national and international level. However, critics argued that he concentrated power in his hands and left certain decisions to a coterie of officials whose reputation was not entirely clean.

Vyas had a string of grievances with the chief minister which led him to skip Cabinet meetings and also those on irrigation convened by the chief minister. Some said these differences were over trivial issues like transfer of his personal security guard, though others believed these were only superficial reasons for a deeper sense of mistrust between the two. Though he had patched up with the chief minister of late, there was an undercurrent of tension which manifested itself at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The rest, as they say, is history.

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