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November 18, 2000 - November 25, 2000

4 killed, 30 injured as bus plunges into ravine Saturday, November 25, 2000

VALSAD: Four people were killed and more than 30 others injured when the state corporation owned bus in which they were travelling, slipped into 30-feet deep ravine near Dabkhal village in Kaprada taluka of the district on Thursday.

According to the state transport officials, the incident occurred around 3.30 pm when the bus driver while trying to prevent a head-on collision with a jeep coming uphill from Dharampur side, plunged his truck into the ravine.

The injured, including the driver and conductor, were rushed to the primary health centre in Kaprada and later shifted to the civil hospital in Valsad.

While one tribal woman and two other passengers, who had received head injuries, are still under observation at the civil hospital here, 15 other passengers have been discharged by the hospital authorities, informed state transport senior official P K Patel while speaking to The Times of India.

State transport officials said that while the modalities for the accident claims were being worked out, an interim relief of Rs 10,000 was offered to the relatives of the three deceased passengers who were the residents of the state. Whereas, relatives of the fourth deceased, belonging to the neighbouring Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, were offered 'incidental expenses' of Rs 500 to transport the dead body to their village.

Bhavnagar, Amreli to get Narmada waters by February . Saturday, November 25, 2000

RAJKOT: Narmada development minister Jay Narayan Vyas announced here on Friday that the Narmada waters would reach Bhavnagar and Amreli by February 15. However, Rajkot would have to wait till February 2002.

Talking to reporters here to allay doubts of the people of Saurashtra, Vyas said that Bhavnagar would get 10 crore litres and Amreli seven crore litres of water. "This would suffice their needs," he said in reply to a question.

According to Vyas, six talukas of Surendranagar, five of Bhavnagar and two of Rajkot would be irrigated by the Narmada. He denied any plan to lift the waters through high-powered pumps. "It was physically and financially not possible," he said. The project could cater to 4,877 villages in Saurashtra.

The Narmada canal work was the biggest in the world -- 458 km long. It would carry 40,000 cusecs of water. The Saurashtra branch canal was 106 km long.

Talking of the present status of work on the SSP, he said that the work was being speeded up further. He denied that Rs 12,000 crore would be needed for it. "Instead we need only Rs 650 crore to complete the project. Four turbines have reached the dam site and the 250 MV power house would be ready in two years."

Once completed, the project could irrigate 19 lakh hectares of land, increase food output by Rs 1800 crore, provide 1450 MV of power. Besides, 8215 villages and 135 towns would get water and it could check the salinity ingress in Saurashtra.

If its water need was not attended to, Gujarat's social and economic growth could be hampered, he warned. Painting a frightening picture of the impending drought in the state, he said it would be worse as this year 5.75 per cent of water was available while last year the figure was 14.86 per cent. The groundwater level was dropping by 10 ft every year and there was a big question mark on the quality of water being supplied to the people.

It was nature's gift that out of 185 rivers in Gujarat only eight were perennial and they were located in the 20 per cent area of the state. Thus 80 per cent of the area was left with just 20 per cent water. "So there is no alternative but to transport water from the 20 per cent area," he said.

A slide-show "Narmada Yojana---Trishna No Ant" showed how the environmentalist lobby had been feeding half-baked stories to the people. He threatened legal action if media indulged in false propaganda on the Narmada issue. He blamed the English press for playing into the hands of the so-called environment lobby. He had encountered Medha Patkar many times and would do so again when the opportunity came up.

HSD scam may touch Rs 1000-crore mark: Court Saturday, November 25, 2000

AHMEDABAD: Observing that the high speed diesel (HSD) scam involving public sector oil companies may even touch the Rs 1000-crore mark, a special court on Friday extended the CBI remand of the Indian Oil Corporation general manager and the prime accused Rajiv Shastri by another three days.

"It is a huge scam ... and considering the fact that he is a very senior official, he should be properly questioned in police custody rather than in free atmosphere", the court observed.

Special Judge AJ Bhatt extended the remand of Shastri, till Monday, after the CBI submitted that some more incriminating documents had been seized by the investigating agency on Friday morning, regarding which Shastri needed to be further questioned in custody.

The judge said "Initially it seemed that the scam may be of the order of Rs 100 crore but now it appears that it may cross Rs 900 crore or even Rs 1000 crore". The court, which had earlier granted four days remand of Shastri for the CBI, agreed that the time granted was not adequate.

Owing to the information obtained from the accused during interrogation more documents had been recovered from the ministry of petroleum and natural gas. Shastri needed to be confronted with the voluminous documents recovered which had been seized recently and also with those seized in connection with the case, the investigating agency in its remand plea said.

The CBI also submitted that the agency needed to verify the statements made by accused Shastri in connection with the conspiracy. It said other incriminating documents were yet to be recovered which were to be identified by the accused.

The HSD scam came to light in May when the CBI raided offices of several PSUs in Gujarat and found that subsidised HSD provided to hundreds of companies was actually being siphoned off into the open market. Many of these companies were found to be entirely bogus and non-existent and yet they had been cleared for HSD with concessional sales tax. Most of these companies used to sell the HSD in the open market at a much higher rate.

Of the 21 officials arrested in this connection so far, six are oil company officials . The CBI had also conducted raids in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where subsidised HSD was taken by bogus companies.

The scam is expected to have nation-wide ramifications, according to the CBI sources.

National Institute of Jewellery Design set up. Saturday, November 18, 2000

The National Institute of Jewellery Design would be a centre of excellence in design and a fountainhead of information, according to its chief executive officer, Santosh Kumar.

He was speaking after the inauguration of the institute here on Friday by Industries Minister Suresh Mehta at a function organised by its promoter Dhirajba Gordhandas Zaveri Education and Research Foundation, engaged in transforming the Indian jewellery industry through education and information.

The institute would not only be a source of design and information, but also be involved in manufacturing and sale of designer jewellery, he told reporters.

A bigger building of the institute would be set up in Gandhinagar at a cost of Rs 22 crore, Kumar said.

The institute would offer a range of academic and career options for aspirants and further the prospects of design, craft, gemology, technology and enterpreneurship within the industry.

It would offer a three-year course for the students going for manufacturing, sales and innovations.

A jewellery design exhibition was also organised by Dinesh Zaveri, founder of the Dhirajba Foundation on the occasion. (PTI)

HC orders sealing of IAS, IPS officers houses. Saturday, November 18, 2000

The Gujarat High Court has directed the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) to seal unoccupied houses and rented houses built on plots given by AUDA on lease for residential purposes to IAS and IPS officers in the state.

A division bench, comprising Justice B C Patel and Justice R R Tripathi, on Thursday passed an interim order in the case of Sumangalam Cooperative Housing Society of Bodakdev area on the drive-in road of the city. The directive was issued by the High Court suo motu to AUDA.

AUDA had allotted residential plots of land to IAS and IPS officers on a lease of 90 years, which had been rented on commercial purposes.

There were 54 plots of land allotted by AUDA in Sumangalam Cooperative Housing Society.

The High Court also directed AUDA that whereever they had given let their bangalows or houses, the rent should be collected by AUDA and kept in a separate account.

The court ordered that henceforth no permission be given for any kind of construction on the plots of the officers.

An AUDA spokesman said no action had been initiated by AUDA against erring officers as the copy of the court order has not been received by it yet. (PTI)

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