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December 18, 2000 - December 20, 2000

Lathi-Lilia talukas report rise in kidney ailments Wednesday, December 20, 2000

RAJKOT: Congress leader Khodidas Thakkar has said that 25 cases of kidney diseases were being reported everyday from Lathi-Lilia talukas of drought-prone Amreli. Consumption of polluted water by people of these talukas was causing the problems, according to Thakkar.

Voicing fears that more people would be affected if they had no access to clean water, Thakkar has in a letter to Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, urged him to provide clean drinking water to the people of the affected villages. He said people were forced to drink polluted water as sufficient water was not available from the Kalubhar dam, from which they were being supplied water. He further urged the chief minister to send a team of health experts to these villages to check the spread of such diseases.

According to Thakkar, 25 patients from these villages visit the kidney hospital at Nadiad every day, for treatment of kidney diseases. Thirty per cent of these patients complain of kidney stones. He said some other patients were taking treatment at Rajkot, Surat and Ahmedabad.

Manhunt on in Surat, 250 Oriya workers rounded up Wednesday, December 20, 2000

SURAT: Nearly 250 persons, most of them Oriya migrant workers, have been picked up from various parts of the city as the manhunt launched by the Surat police to trace the killers of the jewellers family did not yield any results. These youth, according to the police, resemble the description given by the sole surviving daughter of Prakash Jain who was killed along with four other members of his family in Pandesara last week.

Even after five days of the murder on early Friday, the city police have failed to come to any conclusive motive behind the killings though the combing operations in Oriya clusters in several parts of the city have been intensified, to trace the killer duo.

Five Oriya youth in their early 20's matching closely the physical descriptions of the two killers, as revealed by the 15-year-old girl Alka Jain, were put through the identity parade but the girl did not give an answer in the affirmative, according to deputy commissioner of police (South) Prafulla Kumar Roushan.

So far, nearly 250 persons with resemblance based on Alka's descriptions have been rounded up from different parts of the city, Roushan said.

A number of Oriya clusters near Bhestan, Bamroli, Amroli, Ashwinikumar Road, Phoolpada, Varachha Road and Sumul Dairy are being monitored by the police.

Police teams have been sent to Orissa, Maharashtra and Rajasthan in search of the killer duo, according to a senior police official.

Rakjot police quiz Prasad, Joshi in match-fixing case Wednesday, December 20, 2000

AHMEDABAD: While the rest of the Indian team players who played against the South Africans in 1996 Titan Cup match in Rajkot ran up telephone bills of Rs 200 to Rs 500 for the one day the team was there, Mohammad Azharuddin's bill was more than Rs 4,600, Rajkot police authorities told TOI.

This has come about in the investigations launched by the Rajkot police following a complaint, the first of its kind in the country, filed by two spectators for cheating and criminal conspiracy against Azhar and Ajay Jadeja a day before the India-Zimbabwe clash last week.

The Rajkot Police questioned Venkatesh Prasad and Sunil Joshi when the Indian team was here last week to play the last one-day international against Zimbabwe .Police also requested the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) to allow questioning of Sachin Tendulkar. However the BCCI through SCA refused permission to Rajkot police on the grounds that the players were gearing up for the final game of the series and police questioning would affect them mentally.

The BCCI, however, has promised that the players would depose against the Rajkot police in future, commissioner Sudhir Sinha said, while confirming this with TOI.

He said Prasad and Joshi were questioned but a full and extensive round of questioning is still to be done. During the preliminary chat with the Rajkot police , the duo have figned ignorance to the ways of match fixing.

They said that they were young and inexperienced as far playing for India was concerned and so they were not aware of things like match fixing. Prasad, police sources said, was trying to imply that he was not important enough member of the team that the skipper and others would involve him in match fixing, if at all.

However, the Rajkot police has collected some evidence which is beyond what is already documented by the CBI. The police said that Azhar ran up phone bills worth more than Rs 4,600 in just one night while the others living in the same hotel - Silver Palace - had bills of Rs 200 to 500.

Sinha said they have identified the phone numbers and when they get a comprehensive list of phone numbers of various persons they would be able to come to some conclusion.

He said the Rajkot police has received a compact disc on various recorded statements which formed the basis for the interim report of CBI. The disc contained statements and evidence of many a people connected with match fixing and which will go a long way in helping the Rajkot police make a chargesheet against the two cricketers.

He said they were not planning to interrogate Azhar and Jadeja immediately but a team of investigators were leaving for Delhi in a day or two and after they have collect information from the CBI and other agencies and sources the police will call the duo for interrogation. ``An arrest could be done after a month or so,'' commissioner Sinha said.

'Conversion melas' on X'mas planned in Dangs ? Monday, December 18, 2000

AHMEDABAD: Bishop Ezra Sargunam may have left and the state government heaved a sigh of relief but police fears this Christmas may have more fire-works in store.

Top police officials revealed that, at least, two conversion melas would be organised by rival groups on December 25, which could charge the atmosphere enough to trigger a fresh bout of violence in the Dangs.

Sources said the a section of Christian community has chalked out plans to baptise 150 Adivasis on Christmas day.

And on the same day, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has planned a re-conversion mela whose location is not yet known, on the same day. This was revealed by intelligence officials at a meeting to review the Christian issue in Surat and Dangs held in the office of the home secretary V V R Subbarao in Gandhinagar on Thursday.

In the meeting, where Bishop Sargunam case was discussed exhaustively, the intelligence officials threw the bombshell about conversion-reconversion melas planned by rival groups. The report circulated in the meeting said that BJP leader Jayanti Kevat of Navsari was planning the re-conversion mela.

However, Kevat, who is a BJP worker with strong affiliation to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, told TOI that he was not aware of the mela plans. May be it will happen, he said, "but I cannot comment''.

Kevat said that the media should come to Surat and Chhindia and see for themselves what damage Bishop Sargunam has done to the peace of the area. "Their conversion drive needs to be checked and media should help'', he added.

When contacted Subbarao told The Times of India that the issue was discussed and orders have been given to the police to handle the situation carefully and not allow any rabble-rousing by rival groups. He said bandobast has been mounted and like last year we will ensure a peacefull festival in South Gujarat.

Subbarao said no one will be spared and preventive arrests will be made which the police has to decide. He said the police will make preventive arrests as and when required.

Higher education secretaries play musical chairs Monday, December 18, 2000

AHMEDABAD: The chief minister had recently convened a meeting to work out the modalities for a common admission test (CAT) for technical education in the state on the lines of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) in the USA.

The meeting was, however, postponed as the secretary for higher and technical education was not available.

The state government's Gandhinagar Engineering College has not been able to fill up 13 new posts despite being sanctioned in July. A prominent college like the L D College of Engineering has nearly 50 per cent vacancies. The finger against point at the lack of presence of a 'stable' higher education secretary.

The secretary also heads many important committees, like the common act committee. His absence often hinders the functioning the committee.

Despite the growing importance of technical education in Gujarat and the need for a stable executing official, the state has seen at least four secretaries of higher and technical education in the last six months.

Since R Rambhadran was transferred to the general administration department (planning) as he is retiring on December 31, he was replaced by O Ravi who held the post for hardly a month and was promoted and transferred to the Centre. S C Snehi then took over from him but was replaced by Gauri Kumar before he could complete two months.

That it takes an official at least one year to start making an impact, no one denies. "This is especially true for a field like technical education," a senior IAS officer told The Times of India. "You have to gauge national and international trends and then formulate policies. Often there is opposition to the policy and you have to convince your seniors, which takes time. If that is not enough, you have to motivate your staff to take on the challenges of a frequently changing world and all this takes time."

President of the IAS Officers' Association V R S Cowlagi refuted any allegation that most IAS officials are interested in only taking on responsibilities in the Industry and finance departments as they are more prestigious. "There are many IAS officials in Gujarat who would love to work in areas like education," he says.

"Sudhir Mankad was one of them who was as informed as an UNESCO official." Cowlagi adds that some of these earnest officials don't get as much of the spotlight creating the impression that they are few and far between. "These are not persons you will see prominently at parties and public functions. But that does not mean they don't exist.

Rambhadran for instance claims he enjoyed his tenure in higher and technical education. "Because of my deep interest science and technology, I always wanted to be in education," he says. "In fact, I often say I should have been in academics, not in the bureaucracy."

It is also believed that ever since the education portfolio was split in two, with school education going to Anandi Patel and higher and technical education coming to Bharat Barot, the bureaucracy in the two departments have had to face problems of co-ordination and increased political interference.

Sources concur that there is extreme political pressure on the technical education secretary because of which most officials don't want to remain in the hot seat for too long. "Autonomy is a big issue in the higher education department," an official said. "A little elbow room would definitely come in handy."

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