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December 10, 2000 - December 11, 2000

Govt to construct houses for urban poor : Vala Monday, December 11, 2000

RAJKOT: The state government has decided to sell the surplus land obtained by it following abolition of the Urban Land Ceiling Act and to construct houses with basic amenities for the urban poor from the proceeds of the sale.

This was disclosed by state revenue minister Vajubhai Vala at a meeting of concerned officials which was held here on Friday for preparing a preliminary plan for the disposal of plots of area over 3,000 sq metres, in Rajkot city and its complex, which had been released as surplus land following the abolition of the Urban Land Ceiling Act.

Vala asked the officials to form a joint committee of the collectorate, Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) and Rajkot Urban Development Authority (RUDA) to prepare a report about such plots.

He instructed the district collector to submit the report to the government as early as possible. "The government would construct houses on plots reserved for homestead for poor in urban areas including Rajkot city in the state from the proceeds of the sale of such land through auction," he said.

Giving details about such available land in Rajkot city and in RUDA area, additional district collector K D Kapadia said that 8.85 lakh sq metres land had been obtained from the Rajkot complex including Hadmatia (Bedi), Renki, Thorala, Anandpar (Navagam), Vavdi Para Pipalia, Nyari, Kotharia, Mavdi, Mota Mauva, Nana Mauva, Raiya, Madhapar and Ghanteshwar areas and Rajkot city area. Out of this, 4.31 lakh sq metres of land was encroached by certain unscrupulous elements, he said.

District collector A K Rakesh, municipal commissioner J P Gupta, chief executive officer of RUDA and other officials from collectorate, RMC and RUDA attended the meeting.

Complaints set to EC on voting procedures Monday, December 11, 2000

VADODARA: Many Independent candidates attribute the low voter turnout in the corporation election held recently to the discrepancy in voter list. A group of them, who stood for the VMC elections held here in September, have written to the state and central election commissions as well as President K R Narayan to complain about the discrepancy in voter list in the city.

"In our joint letter, we have said that many citizens in Vadodara were unable to cast their vote as their names were missing from the voter list. In some cases names of dead persons were listed while names of their relatives who are alive were missing," said R O Shah one of the candidates.

According to him, government officials and the records department should visit each household to determine the actual voter list rather than advertise in different media, asking citizens to come forward to ensure that their names exist in the list. If this were not done, dead citizens would not be able to de-register themselves off the voter's list, he added.

The letter also mentions bogus voting on a large scale. "Many were also caught posing as a different person trying to cast a bogus vote. But no action was taken against them," the 25 signatories of the letter claim.

They have also alleged that election officers have not even bothered to check and verify the identity of those who came to vote by tallying the age listed on their voter's list and the age of the person

MBIL sales in Gujarat region likely to grow Sunday, December 10, 2000

AHMEDABAD: Mercedes-Benz India Limited (MBIL) is hoping to achieve a 10 per cent rise in sales in the Gujarat/Rajasthan region for the period January-December 2000 over that in the same period last year.

MBIL sold 48 vehicles (inclusive of the E-class, S-Class, MB van and CVO) in January-December 1999 against about 55 vehicles sold till date this year.

Speaking to The Times of India, general manager (corporate affairs) MBIL Suhas Kadlaskar said Gujarat, which accounts for 7 to 8 per cent of the all-India market, may see the introduction of new models once the auto policy comes into force in April 2001.

"As soon as the new auto policy is in place, we will take decisions on the introduction of new models. These will be introduced in Gujarat as well," he said.

"The Gujarat market has a lot of potential and the sales figures have been very encouraging. The sales volume in Delhi and Mumbai is followed by that in Chandigarh and Gujarat, placing the region in the fourth position in terms of sales," he said.

Corroborating the importance of the Gujarat/Rajasthan region, Cama Motors Limited director Rustom Cama, who happens to represent one of the 10 dealers of Mercedes-Benz cars in India, said: "There might be launch of models around May 2001 following India's entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Advertisement for the same might begin during March/April."

"We have sold about 84 of the S-Class model in September this year. We had a one-time batch for the first time this year and most of the cars in this category have been pre-sold and delivered within a month. We have also retailed about 50 units of the E-Class in a month," said Cama.

The S-Class, costing around Rs 60 lakh, was launched in the region in August this year. The E-Class costs about 35 to 40 lakh across the country on the road.

On an average, the local dealer sells around three to four cars per month, projecting a rather confident picture of the market in the region. His range of customers extend from tobacco merchants, agriculturists to big names among corporates. "In fact, the corporates account for about 10 to 15 per cent of our total sales," added the dealer.

On any further investment planned for the region, Kadlaskar said: "The company has already invested Rs 600 crore at its production facility at Pune. This is quite sufficient for meeting the current sales volumes. For Gujarat and Rajasthan, we have a dealership arrangement and so there seems to be no need for any extra investment."

On whether the automobile sector slump has had any adverse effect on Mercedes-Benz, manager (corporate affairs) MBIL Reeta Philip said: "We have not been affected by the auto sector slump and the company is one of the fastest growing in the luxury segment in India."

"Our buyers are a largely insulated lot. The market is moderately conservative like that in Mumbai. So, the impact of the slump has been negligible. It is the mid-sized segment which has been hit hard," added Cama.

Hi-tech illumination: Pyro is in vogue Sunday, December 10, 2000

AHMEDABAD: AMONG the 'in things' this marriage season, pyro-work is topping the tables. Though traditional fireworks still rule the market, various pyro-techniques have picked up in the recent months. Be it multi-coloured aerial shells, logos and letters in fireworks, confetti bursts, anars, fire-balls or ground set pieces, pyro works of all kinds are finding their ways into Gujarati marriage celebrations.

"After Diwali, marriage season is the time when the demand for fire-works is immense. Of late, however, more number of people are turning to pyro-techniques," informed Dharmesh K. of International Fireworks and Pyro-techniques.

There are around 20 to 25 fireworks wholesalers in the city, but only a handful provide pyro-techniques. "Till last year, we used to invite pyro experts from Mumbai, but now this technique is available in Ahmedabad too," says Jaydeep Mehta of True Innovations, an event management company.

Including pyro technique is cheaper in Ahmedabad than in Mumbai. "The electricity or gas based pyro-works are also safer and more spectacular than the traditional fireworks. It can cost anything between Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000 and can last as long as five hours or as short as one minute. The budget is higher for bigger events," informs Dharmesh. According to him, in the days to come, the technique will be even cheaper in Ahmedabad.

However, Atul Kapoor of SOI says that the city has a long way to go before it can compete with the range of pyros available in Mumbai. But there's one thing that everyone agrees: Amdavadis are showing preference to pyro techniques, when it comes to hi-tech illumination.

Bharuch explodes with visitors Sunday, December 10, 2000

BHARUCH: A large congregation has descended on this town to celebrate the 80th birthday of the renowned seer Dada Pandurang Athwale. Lakhs of people are pouring in from all parts of the country for the mega event organised by the Swadhyaya Parivar.

The religious philosophy of Dada has impressed and influenced all spheres of life and the same can be seen at Kadod near Bharuch where Atishi Vandna programme to felicitate Dada has been organised.

Close to two million people are expected on Sunday for the celebration. The sailors have constructed a bridge with boats on river Narmada, where Dada will have a abhishek of water from 111 rivers of the world. This is the first ever occasion of its kind.

The extraordinary arrangement have been made without the help of government machinery. The farmers of 20 villages have cut down their crops 20 days before this programme out of their respect to Dada and their eagerness to participate in the programme. Around 1,000 fishermen and boatsmen are camping at Kadod and Shuklatirth village for ferrying the devotees.

All the followers and visitors can view the entire program on closed circuit television sets and a giant screen. There are more than 500 chefs who will prepare a simple food for all visitors. For the foreign visitors an arrangement has been done right from the Vadodara airport with to and fro transport facilities. The 10,000 homes of 20 villages will turn into a Dharmashala, where more than 2-3 lakh people will stay.

More than one lakh vehicles are expected for which parking area of 15 acres has been occupied, 3 km away from the pandal.

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