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November 3, 2000 - November 7, 2000

Couple arrested for forcing children to beg - Surat Tuesday, November 7, 2000

SURAT: A couple who pushed two children into begging in the morning and performing acrobatics in a roadside act by evening was arrested on Saturday. Udhna police made the arrest on a complaint filed by a social worker who rescued and sheltered the children.
The couple, identified as Gendram Naat (29) and Bhagwatiben (27), hailed from the Bilaspur district in Chhatisgarh and resided in the slums near Udhna railway station. The accused confessed in their interrogation that, the parents of both Laxman and Janaki had died a couple of years ago in Madhya Pradesh. The couple initially lured the children by offering them food and clothes but then forcibly brought the children to Surat to earn money. They forced these children to the profession of begging and performing acrobatic feats on the streets to earn their living.

A social worker, Rameshwar Rao, residing in the same locality has alleged in a police complaint that, the accused assaulted the victims Laxman (8) and Janaki (10) if they refused to beg or perform acts.

The police said that, distraught and horrified by the way they were treated, Laxman and Janaki escaped from the clutches of the couple one day and approached Rameshwar. Rameshwar then gave shelter to these innocent children, the police said.

Meanwhile, the children were shifted to Surat juvenile home.

Row over rejected questions - Vadodara Tuesday, November 7, 2000

VADODARA: Rejection of several questions asked by members of the M S University Senate during its meeting on November 9 has raked up a major controversy. Several questions raised by three members on various issues were turned down by the University authorities on ``technical grounds''.
All the questions posed by two Senate members I I Pandya and Harshad Shah were rejected by the authorities. Similarly, out of about 100 questions asked by MSU Students' Union vice-president Parth Joshi, only 15 were selected. The issue came to light when the final agenda for the meeting was circulated amongst some members on Saturday.

Senate members have seen the rejection as a move to scuttle queries which would put the University in an embarrasing position. At the other end, top MSU officials said that the questions were not ``according to the rules''.

Pandya, Reacting to the cancellation of over 100 questions posed by him, said, ``This is the result of the authorities' prejudice towards some people. I have asked questions which will bring to light the failure of the administration on several counts. They obviously do not want this to happen in the Senate meeting.''

Pandya pointed out that some questions pertained to heavily debatable issues like the bad financial performance of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) programme and the status of donations obtained in the last few years. However, Pandya said that he was yet to receive a written intimation regarding the issue.

Harshad Shah, a representative of the non-teaching union in the Senate, said, ``The questions were asked in the format that was followed in the University so far. It is for the first time that I have faced the problem. The language used for asking the questions seems to have been misinterpreted. For instance, aapsho in Gujarati could be used both as a request or an order.''

However, University officials have firmly denied to include the questions as they were not in the proper format.

``All the rules were strictly adhered to by the committee formed to scrutinise the questions. Questions which are vague, irrelevant or not in a request form, as prescribed in the rules, will not be answered,'' said MSU Vice Chancellor Anil Kane.

Kane, who is also the chairman of the committee appointed to scrutinise questions, pointed out that several questions could have been satisfied even outside the meeting. ``We want to bring transparency in the administration, but it seems that the idea is being misused to rake up controversies and disturb the Senate,'' said Kane. Commenting on the argument that the format of questions was similar to that used earlier, Kane said, ``If a wrong tradition has been established it cannot be continued.''

Bear scare leads to panic in Vatva area - Ahmedabad Tuesday, November 7, 2000

AHMEDABAD: Fear gripped residents on the outskirts Vatva village near Narol on Saturday when an animal resembling a bear was spotted in the area late in the evening.
The ferocious-looking animal chased two motorcycle-borne youths before disappearing into the crop at a farm on Vatva-Gamdi village road. The animal, however, has remained elusive with the extensive search by Forest Department and Kamla Nehru Zoological Garden staff yielding no result.

It all began around 7.30 pm on Saturday when some residents of a society on the outskirts of Vatva village spotted an animal resembling a bear. As alarmed residents gathered to have a dekko, the frightened animal scurried off into Adarsh farm, near Gamdi village. Soon more people assembled outside the farm and tried to make the beast come out of the farm. The animal emerged again only to dart into the Gandhi farm nearby.

Two youths who were visiting the farm owners, spotted the animal near the main gate of the farm. According to farm watchman Sambhaji Rao, the animal chased the youths, forcing them to speed away in the direction of the farm house. ``It chased them for some distance before disappearing into the crop,'' he said. According to Rao, the animal was about three feet tall.

Meanwhile, panicky residents tried in vain to contact the zoo and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation control room. Someone finally managed to contact Standing Committee chairman Badruddin Sheikh, who asked zoo officials to capture the animal. However, the zoo staff declined, saying the bear was a Schedule I animal according to the Wildlife Act and only the Forest Department could take action in the matter.

Forest Department officials were contacted and Forest Minister Kanjibhai Patel directed them do the needful. Zoo staff had also reached the site. By this time, it was around 11.30 pm. However, a search launched for the animal proved futile. ``We scoured the crop with torches, but found nothing,'' said deputy zoo superintendent B G Patel. The zoo staff and Forest Department team went again in the morning, but found no trace of the animal. But farm watchman Rao said there were pug marks near the gate.

However, Forest officials are not sure it was a bear. Said conservator of forest (social forestry), Ahmedabad Circle, A K Sharma, ``It is very unlikely that it was a bear. But I have asked my staff to check the pug marks.'' He said it was likely that the animal might have been a honey badger, a stocky burrowing mammal with a black and white-striped head. It was very uncommon to spot bears here, he added.

The honey badger is known in Gujarati as `ghorkhodiyu' (grave-digger). ``It looks like a bear and is found near burial grounds and villages,'' Sharma said, adding that the animal is nocturnal. However, it can sometimes get aggressive and even chase people, he said. Though there is little chance of finding the animal again, the Forest Department has stationed a team there.

But deputy zoo superintendent Dr Patel said his staff had found pug marks, which resembled those of a bear. ``We have put bricks on the pug marks to preserve them,'' he said.

VMC to evolve ways to solve water crisis Friday, November 3, 2000

VADODARA: With water supply scene worsening every passing day in the city, Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) seems to have pressed the panic button. Realising the gravity of the situation, the corporation held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to tackle the situation.
The meeting was chaired by Mayor Bhartiben Vyas and was attended by Deputy Mayor Sailesh Mehta and Standing Committee Chairman, Shabdhsharan Bhrambhatt.

What has necessitated the meeting was the fear that supply will worsen in the next few days as water transferred from the Kadana dam could only suffice for the next few days. VMC officials admitted that the situation was expected to worsen from November 6. ``Even on Wednesday, the corporation was able to supply water twice a day as water was transferred from Kadana Dam and it will suffice the needs of the people during the next few days,'' said the official.

Standing Committee Chairman said that there were problems during Diwali but water supply will not be a problem for the people at least for the next few days. Mehta said that there were areas like Panchwati in Gorwa which were suffering problems during the last few days. He suggested that instead of supplying water during late evenings, the administration should take steps to supply water with adequate pressure only during the day.

During the meeting, several suggestions through which the water crisis could be tackled with the available resources were made. Vyas suggested that complaints which were taken note of during the Fajalpur crisis should be considered and steps taken-up during that time should also be studied again.

She also suggested that the pipelines should be cleaned on a regular basis. Brahmbhatt meanwhile suggested that the corporation was consuming a lot of electricity and paying for it as well, instead the corporation should decide to have its own captive power project.

Meanwhile on Tuesday the fire brigade had to supply as many as 29 tankers in various parts of the city.

Rajkot mayor carries out surprise check Friday, November 3, 2000

RAJKOT: In a surprise inspection at the Rajkot Municipal Corporation office on Thursday, Mayor Ashok Dangar found that 187 employees had not reached the office on time. He had ordered that the muster be closed at 10.30 am.

The surprise check on the corporation employees follows complaints about tardiness against some members. Interestingly, among the late-comers was a union leader.

Corporation sources said the list of absentees included four members of the health department, two from legal department, four from water works, nine from lighting, seven from ADM department, two from Bhadar cell department, 11 from accounts, 12 from building and encroachments department, 12 from octroi, one from election department, and three from garden department.

It was also detected that some senior officials had not even signed the muster. In some cases, attendance had not been recorded for two consecutive days.

The mayor has asked the municipal commissioner to take appropriate disciplinary action against the errant staff.

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