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November 11, 2000 - November 14, 2000

IAF helicopter crashes near Lakhpat , 4 survivors found Tuesday, November 14, 2000

RAJKOT/AHMEDABAD: The wreckage of the IAF MI-8 helicopter carrying at least 12 personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) - reported missing over Kutch on Sunday afternoon - was found near Lakhpat in Kutch district. 24 hours after a search was launched for the aircraft, four survivors were found and shifted to Bhuj civil hospital. Hunt for more survivors was on in the Rann of Kutch.

The survivors have been identified as a senior BSF intelligence officer Swaran Singh, BSF inspectors Mohanty and Unni and the pilot who is an IAF personnel. It is not yet known how the IAF helicopter, which was on an aerial patrol of the Rann of Kutch, crashed into the marshy land, about 40 km away from Lakhpat town, at the extreme western tip of the country.

The Kutch District superintendent of police (DSP) A K Singh, who had rushed to the crash site, got the four survivors shifted to the hospital. They were reported to be out of danger. More details of the crash were still awaited. A Home department official in Gandhinagar said: "We are hopeful of finding more survivors, so far there is no report of bodies being found ".

The helicopter had lost radio contact with ground control soon after take off from Koteshwar around 1 p.m. on Sunday. Air base stations in Bhuj and Nalia swung into action for search operations but the helicopter remained untraced till late in the evening and search was supended till this morning.

Top officials including BSF DIG S.C. Yadav and R.S.Chauhan, were on board the helicopter. According to Bhuj IAF sources, the helicopter was somewhere between Lakhpat and Guneri when it lost control. No emergency message was flashed by the pilot.

There was speculation in the services stationed in Kutch throughout the day that the helicopter could have been shot down in retaliation of the downing of the Pakistani spy plane, Altantique, on August 11,1999. All the Pakistani men on board the spy plane were killed.

Ten killed in road accident near Rajkot Tuesday, November 14, 2000

RAJKOT: Ten members of a family were killed and four injured when an autorickshaw in which they were travelling collided with a truck near Bamanbore, about 35 kilometres from here, on the Rajkot-Ahmedabad highway on Sunday.

The occupants of the ill-fated autorickshaw were going to Chotila for a religious ceremony from the nearby Kotharia village when the accident took place.

Eight persons died on the spot, while two others succumbed to their injuries on the way to hospital, police sources said. The injured have been admitted to the civil hospital here.

The deceased have been identified as Vijay Kishorbhai (9), Ravi Kishorbhai (14), Arjan Somabhai (57), Vasuben (30), Jasuben (28), Prakashbhai (35), Hansaben Kishorbhai (35), Shantaben Arjanbhai (55), and Rajesh Ravji, the autorickshaw driver. The identity of an eight-year-old child is yet to be ascertained, the sources said. (PTI)

Bhatt's resignation may mean ministry reshuffle Tuesday, November 14, 2000

GANDHINAGAR: State health and civil supplies minister Ashok Bhatt formally tendered his resignation and, in the process, opened up the possibility of either a ministry reshuffle or expansion.

On his return from Delhi on Sunday morning, Bhatt drove to Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel's residence and put in his papers. The chief minister, talking to newspersons after accepting the minister's resignation, said: "He has resigned on moral grounds. No political pressure of any type has worked on him...I have accepted the resignation after consulting my senior colleagues, industries minister Suresh Mehta and finance minister Vajubhai Vala."

As for a possible Cabinet reshuffle or expansion, he said cryptically, "Nothing can be ruled out at this point of time," refusing to reveal his exact plans.

He has kept the crucial civil supplies and health portfolios with himself for the time being. Keshubhai's statement was in sharp contrast to his categorical statement on Wednesday to the effect that a change in the Cabinet was "out of the question".

In fact, the chief minister is learnt to have already contacted Governor Bhandari in this connection, though exact details are not known.

Despite accepting Bhatt's resignation, Keshubhai emphasised how close he was to one of his most trusted lieutenants. He said Bhatt's political future continued to be bright. "He will continue serving the party as before," the chief minister said, adding, "when a colleague goes out of the Cabinet, albeit for a temporary period, one feels sad about it. We are sure that the court will find him not-guilty and we will be able to take him back as early as possible."

Bhatt had telephonically conveyed to the chief minister his "intention to resign" from the Cabinet from Delhi at about 10.30 pm on Saturday after consulting Prime Minister Vajpayee. "Both minister of state for defence Harin Pathak and I decided to resign as we thought that morally it would be wrong to continue in the respective ministies once charges were framed against us," Bhatt told newspersons on Sunday. He denied that he had had any talk with the BJP's Gujarat in-charge Jana Krishnamurty on the issue.

"We were thinking in this direction for the last couple of days," Bhatt, who has been chargesheeted for participating in the 1985 riots, claimed. However, he denied that any pressure from the National Democratic Alliance partners was brought to bear in the matter. "We are not guilty. We were not present at the time of the riots. Even the inquiry commission appointed to look into the matter has given us a clean chit," he said.

"Even the Congress in the state has been quiet in the matter. One senior Congress High Court advocate has even offered to fight my case," Bhatt pointed out.

He said he was feeling "much relieved" after resigning. "I am happy after leaving a high post. I will get an opportunity to serve the people."

Reacting to Bhatt's resignation, industries minister Suresh Mehta said, "Ever since 1975, we have worked together. I am sure he will emerge clear from the ordeal through which he is passing. I much appreciate his moral gesture to resign. This is how a public person should react. I would also have done the same thing."

But he refused to comment on the merit of the case in which Bhatt was involved. "I have not studied it," Mehta, a known opponent of the chief minister, said.

Meanwhile, sources close to the chief minister revealed that Union defence minister George Fernandes wanted his junior colleague Harin Pathak out on the ground that the latter's 'tainted' record might send out wrong signals to the defence forces. "Fernandes was under pressure from the defence forces," sources quoted knowledgeable persons in Delhi as saying. "Once Harin Pathak went, Bhatt had to follow suit, he had no choice," they added.

Retired citizens turn local heroes Saturday, November 11, 2000

Old is gold, and there couldn't be a better place in the city than Dandiya Bazaar to get a feel of this adage. A group of old men, now enjoying a retired life, has been slowly bringing about a change in the lives of the people in the area.

They are using their professional skills to lend a helping hand - be it repairing a motorcycle that's stopped on way or getting a loan for staring a business or getting a birth certificate from the VMC.

Seventy-two-year-old Madhusudan Borse never misses his early morning and late evening sessions with his friends who gather near 'Ladki ka Pul'. "We try to be helpful to people and see that they are not in trouble," says Borse.

Borse, who was a superintendent with the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation, has helped many people stranded in Dandiya Bazaar with a malfunctioning motorcycle or car. "We often find people finding it difficult to start their two-wheelers after they get caught in the water-logged streets during the monsoons. I use my technical skills to repair cars and two-wheelers so that people can go about their work," adds Borse.

Retired manager of a nationalised bank, Sharad Kemkar is often busy, trying to arrange for loans. With experience in banking, he helps people fill in forms and meet the right people for personal loans.

Narendra Kemkar, though a retired employee of Sarabhai, is well-versed with the functioning of the VMC. He has helped many people from the area by guiding them to right officials to get services like birth certificates, getting a plan passed or even lodging a complaint.

Others like Madhusudan Chitre, Manik Kimple and Ramesh Kemkar, who throng the Ladki ka Pul with Borse regularly, are of great help to people in distress. They have often guided people coming for medical help by sending them to the "right" doctor according to his paying capability. Often, these people have requested doctors of the area to lower their fees if a patient was economically weak.

They have earned the respect of the Dandiya Bazaar people. Now away from the busy schedules and daily office life, these good Samaritans have chosen to keep themselves busy. And, the people of the area couldn't have asked for more.

Interview with VJ Gautam, Dy Commissioner of Police Saturday, November 11, 2000

Q: Dandia Bazaar area is plagued with the presence of a widespread country liquor racket that has been running for years. Comment.

A: The police are aware of the racket and periodic raids are carried out to control the menace.

Residents complain that these raids often prove to be ineffective with these traders coming back soon after the police jeeps leave the spot.

The residents who are complaining never speak out against this. We hardly get any complaints from residents of the area which makes our job difficult. Nobody comes forward with any evidence or information.

Why have the police not been able to wipe out this menace?

There are many factors involved. As I have said, hardly any complaints are received. Then, this illegal trade is carried out by keeping women in the forefront. While men stay indoors, women do the selling. This makes it difficult for the police to take any strong action; besides, keeping women in custody for long is also a problem.

Have the police tried to stop this practice?

It's more a social issue than a purely law and order problem, and has to be dealt with at the roots. People are drawn into this due to poverty, and then gets drawn into the whirlpool of big money and greed. There is a need to create awareness among them and also provide an alternative means of income. The police are thinking of working with social groups to achieve this.

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