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November 8, 2000 - November 10, 2000

Union, Gujarat ministers charged in riots case Friday, November 10, 2000

AHMEDABAD: Union minister Haren Pathak and Gujarat minister Ashok Bhatt were among the 11 accused who had been formally charged in a court here in connection with the case pertaining to anti-reservation riots in 1985 in which a policeman was killed.

All the accused were present in court of Ahmedabad city civil and sessions Judge Sonia G Gokani for framing of charges on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. The matter was fixed for further hearing on november 23.

The case was registered in April, 1985 in Astodia police station, under various sections of IPC, against 11 people including minister of state for defence Haren Pathak, Gujarat health minister Ashok Bhat and Kiran Shah, brother of transport minister Bimal Shah.

The chargesheet against the accused in the case was submitted by the police in 1996.

Enjoying a slice of the crorepati cake Friday, November 10, 2000

AHMEDABAD: It's not only Bill Clinton who made it a point to mention the crorepati factor in his recent speech during Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to the US, or Zee who aped the much touted game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). The much hyped word is on everybody's lips and the latest fad is either to liken and contrast all things to a crore and a crorepati or to mouth the KBC lingo.

So if it's not a wrought-up Anu Kapoor screaming hysterically about the Ek crore athaees hazaar prize money on Close Up Antakshri, it is mock representations of the game show in various advertisements and events.

Not only has KBC terminology become the new jargon, it has also set a pattern where everything is gauged in terms of a crore. So much so that, prize money offered in competitions in clubs, associations and also in school and college fests, are measured in terms of crore.

Hence, one finds the host gleefully announcing "the contestant has won Rs 10,000, which is equal to one thousandth of a crore!" The prize money in other TV contests and game shows might not be anywhere near a crore, but the hosts do not forget to convert the amount to even a minuscule part of one crore.

More and more advertisements are aping the crorepati style in an effort to prove that their product and offer is the best. From Colgate to Britannia to MTV channel, the model is either on the hot seat giving the number one answer or parroting KBC lingo. Thanks to the game show, quiz books and CDs on general knowledge are already doing brisk business, even those which used to gather dust before the craze started.

Also doing the rounds and proving to be increasingly popular are KBC jokes, mock KBC game shows and tips and advise on kaise banoge crorepati on the net. The jokes, starting from the hilarious Santa\Banta Singh duo to celebrity contestants, are even aimed at the Big B himself.

KBC and Amitabh Bachchan have added new phrases 'Lock kar diya jaye, taala laga diya jaye', 'confident', 'sure', 'pakka', '100 per cent', 'lekin afsos', 'phone-a-friend', 'fifty-fifty', 'lifeline' to our daily vocabulary.

They are the most commonly used phrases now, figuring in school and college goers, chatters, lovers and husband-wife sparrings, boss and employee deliberations, family discussions et al.

In fact, it doesn't sound bizarre when a beleaguered boyfriend in a college canteen is heard shouting at his girl threatening to leave him, "you have used all your three lifelines, you better stick to me now eh," or when family members joke at each other to brush up their general knowledge so that they'll call them up if they ever use the 'phone-a-friend' lifeline!

The seemingly easy questions asked on this hugely popular, megabuck game show has been looked down upon by the critics and keen quizzards who attribute the success of the programme to it's Ra 1 crore prize money. But hate it or love it, one thing's for sure - the KBC phenomenon has touched the average Indian TV viewer like never before. However, time alone will say whether the taal laga diya jaye jargon will actually give way to 'freeze'.

Govt assures ADB on fiscal deficit Friday, November 10, 2000

GANDHINAGAR: The state government has assured the Asian Development Bank that it will reduce fiscal deficit, currently pegged at around 6 per cent of the net state domestic product (NSDP), to 3.5 per cent in six years.

The State Public Finance Reforms Committee is working on a report that envisages generating fresh finances through non-tax revenues. The report is expected to be presented to the ADB by November-end. If satisfied, the Bank might clear the final tranche of $100 million to Gujarat in December.

The Committee is headed by noted economist Dr Manu Shroff.

Reducing the state's fiscal deficit to 2.7 per cent was one of the main conditions for disbursal of the $250-million loan to the state, agreed upon by the government way back in December 1996.

In the light of repeated natural calamities and burden of the Fifth Pay Commission pay scales on the state's finances, the ADB has acknowledged that it would be near impossible to reduce the fiscal deficit to the 2.7 per cent level, said a senior bureaucrat.

"The ADB team on a recent visit to state wanted the government to give them a concrete plan to reduce the deficit to a reasonable level."

Of the $250-million public sector reforms management programme loan, $100 million had been withheld because of the state's failure to fully comply with several ADB conditions.

"The ADB admitted that one couldn't fix targets. One should see whether the state is moving towards reforming its economy. Its team seemed assured about the other conditions: power sector reforms and efforts to restructure the public sector undertakings. It realised that market conditions were not ripe for full divestment of the state's public sector undertakings," the bureaucrat added.

Race for Surat EXIM city plots hots up Wednesday, November 8, 2000

SURAT: Within a week of the Union commerce and industries ministry's converting the export processing zone (EPZ) into special economic zone (SEZ), owners of around 150 industries have already booked plots in the Sachin GIDC area which is being developed as the Surat EXIM City.

Around 250 plots measuring 1000 sq metres have been earmarked for the Surat EXIM city in the SEZ. According to B G Tamakuwala, in charge of the SEZ here, all plots would be booked within the next few days as formalities for commercial bookings in some cases were in the final stage.

Besides Surat, Kandla, Santa Cruz and Kochi are the other places in the country where EPZs have been converted into SEZs with effect from November 1. This has been done with a view to provide an internationally competitive and conducive environment like in-house custom clearance for export production. The SEZ scheme was announced by the Centre on April 1 this year.

Tamakuwala told The Times of India that all necessary facilities as announced by the Union ministry would be provided to the units being set up in the SEZ. In order to ensure uninterrupted power supply, an express feeder electric station had already been installed by the Gujarat Electricity Board.

To promote export potential by way of a number of incentives to the industries located in these areas, the SEZ would be designated a duty-free enclave equivalent to a foreign territory for the purpose of export and import, he said.

Units in SEZ would have to be positive net foreign exchange earners within three years of commencement of export and import, according to an export-import consultant. He said the per provisions provided in SEZ, duty-free goods could be utilised over five years. For customs and export as well import no separate documentation would be required, he said.

However, the SEZ, being outside the main city is not a favourite choice for several diamond and jewellery exporters. Surat Diamond Manufacturers Association vice-president Pravin Nanavati said the place was earlier known as a diamond industrial park, but the diamond and gem industries remained confined in and around Varachha and Katargram in the city.

The diamond manufacturers had asked for a plot in Katargram in the city for promotion of export of diamond and jewellery, for which the sanction by the state government had been sought, Nanavati informed.

The SEZ would have provisions for sub-contracting facilities for diamond and gem manufacturers which might attract a few to opt for plots in the SEZ, said a leading diamond exporter.

Greenpeace steps up campaign, targets effluent treatment plants Wednesday, November 8, 2000

AHMEDABAD, NOV 8: Greenpeace, a global environmental campaigning organisation, has stepped up its campaign against faulty pollution control technologies in Gujarat and has decided to press for citizens' right to information.
Toxics campaigner of the organisation Nityanand Jayaraman told newspersons here today that the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) had not been coming out with information relating to pollution caused by chemical industries. "People are not aware of the harmful aspect of the discharges by the industry even though they have the right to know the details," added Nityanand.

Apart from this, Greenpeace is asking the GPCB to immediately suspend all work on setting up of new Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) in Gujarat. The organisation has also sought a written assurance that the effluents and sludge from currently operating CETPs will be monitored as well as a written undertaking that action will be taken against polluters.

The activists propose to meet the World Bank president James Wolfensohn during his Gujarat visit and request him to raise the issue of pollution with State Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.

Gujarat has 11 operational CETPs and seven are in the pipeline. The CETP concept was originally promoted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in 1984 to treat effluent from a large number of small and medium scale industries. The first CETP to be constructed in Gujarat was in 1994, by GIDC in Nandesari.

Greenpeace, an international organisation campaigning against polluting industries began their protest way back in 1996 against the State Government as well as the World Bank that funds almost 30 per cent of the national CETP funding. The programme was carried out in the industrial zones of Ankleshwar, Nandesari and Vapi which have nearly 2,000 industrial units.

Greenpeace activists accused the World Bank of double standards and said the bank has declared that it would stop all funding, including those in the pipeline, for such polluting technologies, thereby admitting that all CETPs "fail to address toxic effluents". Ironically, the World Bank is supporting many new CETPs in the country and Gujarat is no exception. They have reportedly pumped in approximately $ 300 billion for the coming projects.

Greenpeace activists said, "The State is on the brink of an environmental disaster, a crisis which has gone beyond repair. Sadly, the Government has turned a deaf ear to all the hue and cry, so much so that the Gujarat Pollution Control Board categorically refused to even divulge information about the `poisons' being discharged into Damanganga river."

According to the activists, the poisons being discharged into the river include lead, chromium, cadmium and copper among others, each having immensely high toxicity.

Greenpeace activists said the persons most affected by toxicity caused by these plants are the fishermen near Vapi and the tribal communities who live around these plants.

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