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December 9, 2000 - December 10, 2000

Tribals to take part in Surat rally Sunday, December 10, 2000

SURAT: Thousands of tribals from Surat district will participate in a rally in the city on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, in protest against the non-development of the tribal belts and the absence of rehabilitation plan for the oustees of Ukai dam.

According to Father J Steny of Navsarjan Trust, one of the organizers, natives from Umarpara, Songargh, Uchhal, Nizar, Vyara, Mandvi and Mongrol talukas will assemble near Ambedkar statue on the Ring Road on Monday in their traditional costumes and from there the rallyists will march to district collector's office to submit a memorandum of demands.

The demands include basic infrastructural facilities in the villages of these talukas and proper rehabilitation of oustees belonging to 170 villages which were submerged to construct Ukai Dam in the 70's, he said.

Elaborating further, he added that lands in these tribal belts were being grabbed in the name of development, causing destruction of the traditional way of life of these tribals. Lack of alternative employment opportunities had made the life of the natives pathetic, he opined.

According to a press release by the Adivasi Sarvangi Vikas Sangth, Nizar taluka, tribals from the seven talukas would also demand for the traditional self rule in their respective areas.

Govt to construct houses for urban poor Sunday, December 10, 2000

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

Doctors urged not to 'dump' patients testing HIV positive Saturday, December 9, 2000

VADODARA: Raman Patel was asked to undergo a coronary bypass surgery at a private hospital, but during the "routine" blood test Patel was diagnosed as HIV positive. He was immediately asked to go to another hospital.

Seema, who was a few months pregnant, was referred to SSG Hospital after she was diagnosed HIV positive by her gynaecologist who told her it was "better" she opted to go to a government hospital for delivery.

Raju lost his job in a government department after he was tested HIV positive. He later died due to infections and depression.

The above are real-life examples of blatant human rights violation of HIV positive patients.

Though December 1 is celebrated as World AIDS Day, awareness programmes on HIV-AIDS have not discussed the human rights aspect of the problem. Significantly, nine days later, on December 10 Human Rights Day is celebrated the world over.

As per UNAIDS and the Human Rights Commission, HIV should not be treated merely as a medical or a social problem but the legal and human rights aspect of the disease should also be explored.

City-based skin and VD specialist Dr B S Verma, who is also consultant to the NACO and the WHO, says in Gujarat there is blatant discrimination against HIV positive patients. "I recently attended the national conference on 'Human Rights and HIV-AIDS' organised by UNAIDS, UNICEF, and the Human Rights Commission, at Delhi. The main issues discussed in the conference were regarding the rights of HIV patients and the discrimination in health care given to them. Often, patients who were diagnosed with HIV were not given counselling as is mandatory as per NACO guidelines. Also, once tested positive, these patients were discriminated against both in a hospital set-up as well as at their workplaces.

SSG Hospital's department of skin and VD head Dr Yogesh Marfatia says that he receives many HIV positive patients who were asked to leave from private hospitals after they were diagnosed as HIV positive. "Also, no counselling was given to the patient or his family. In many cases they were made to undergo the test more than twice, first through Western blot and later through Elisa, despite the fact that this is not required. Once tested positive, they were 'dumped'," he says.

According to Dr Dulari Gandhi, pregnant women too are similarly discarded. "There are many such cases where women were asked got to SSG Hospital for delivery. Despite the fact that if universal precautions are taken, HIV transmission is not possible there are many private practitioners who are scared and do not admit patients once they are aware of their HIV positive status," she says.

Dr Bharadwaj Desai, a haematologist, says such dumping of pregnant women is especially dangerous as it endangers the life of the child. "If mothers are diagnosed HIV positive, prompt drug therapy for mother and child can help reduce the risk of HIV transmission. According to him, the government policy regarding this should also change. The government diverts an estimated six billion rupees to NGOs which spend it for creating awareness.

"If a part of it is used to provide free drug therapy for pregnant HIV mothers, we can help reduce the number of HIV positive cases," he says.

Gujarat State AIDS Control Society additional director Dr Saxena says he is aware of violation of several NACO guidelines regarding mandatory counselling for HIV testing by private hospitals. "But unless doctors are educated, nothing can be done. There are many private practitioners who ask patients to undergo HIV test without their knowledge. They are scared that an HIV patient may infect them," he says.

Dr Saxena says illegal testing by pathologists and victimisation by private doctors is very common, despite the fact that HIV is not an easily transmissible disease. There are myths about HIV even amongst the medical fraternity, which need to be clarified, he says.

According to Dr Verma, if countries like Thailand and US have been able to control HIV cases, it is mainly due to their AIDS strategies which have tackled the human rights aspects of this disease.

MSU speeds up inquiry in forged letters case Saturday, December 9, 2000

VADODARA: M S University is speeding up its inquiry in M R Vyas case with the varsity contacting the Vadodara Stock Exchange asking it to verify if the letter produced by Vyas was a forged one. The MSU has also decided to write to the Cochin Stock Exchange (CSE) requesting it to verify if its letterhead was also forged.

Vyas, a teacher with commerce faculty's business economics department, has been accused of forging letterheads of the Vadodara and Cochin stock exchanges. The letters obtained by Vyas said that the stock exchanges would publish his 'papers' in their journals. But in a letter to the MSU vice-chancellor Anil Kane, both the stock exchanges claimed that they had not issued any such letters to Vyas. The exchanges had even stopped publishing journals, they claimed.

"We have written to the CSE and approached the VSE here to verify the charges. Once the charges are verified, the university will decide on its course of action", pro vice-chancellor V D Pathak said.

The MSU is expected to appoint a committee or place the case before the syndicate, where Vyas's fate will be decided.

Complaints sent to EC on voting procedures Saturday, December 9, 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.

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