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November 5, 2001 - November 6, 2001

Relief in sales tax for Kutch industries Tuesday, November 6, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat government has formulated an incentive scheme, including relief in sales tax for industries to revive economic activities in Kutch district devastesd in the earthquake last January.

The scheme was finalised by Chief Minister Narendra Modi at a meerting with Industry Minister Suresh Mehta, who is in charge of Kutch district, and Finance Minister Nitinbhai Patel here on Sunday, an official release said.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during a visit to Kutch, had announced exemption in octroi to industrial units and then Chief Minister Keshubahi Patel had assured that the state government would offer relief in sales tax to the district.

Under the incentive scheme benefits of octroi exemptions will be available to industrial units between July 31, 2001 and July 31, 2003. The relief in sales tax will be available to units established between July 31, 2001 and October 31, 2004.

Provisions have been made for "pipeline units". For this registration of application for small scale unit or medium or big unit must be done till October 31, 2004. Either land should be acquired or offer for land should be made from the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation before October 31, 2004.

These conditions should be fulfilled by October 31, 2004. Besides, a minimum 50 per cent investment of the "project cost" for such units should be made till October 31, 2004 and "commercial production" should be commenced before October 31, 2005.

The duration of the central octroi exemption is for five years. The exemption in sales tax relief, if linked to eligible investment, will be - for eligible investment of Rs 10 crore, sales tax relief will be for five years, for above Rs 10 crore, it will be for seven years and for above Rs 50 crore it will be for 10 years.

Relief in sales tax will be available till the completion of the ceiling fixed on eligible investment. In other words, if eligible concession is not utilised in a stipulated time, then no additional relief will be available for the remaining period.

Sales tax relief will be available in the form of "exemption" or "deferment". Sales tax relief could not be available in a mixed form. However, if in any particular unit the investment is made above Rs 100 crore, then the mixture of sales tax exemption and deferment benefits will be available.

For this, industrial units will have to submit certificates of chartered accountant, which contains details about the purchase of inputs and sale of finished goods. For items which are not covered by the Exim Policy, norms will be determined by the industries commissioner.

The state government has decided to give bennefits of sales tax incentives to those industries which are not covered under central excise notification.

The Chief Minister has expressed confidence that the incentives will revive economic activities in the quake affected Kutch district.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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HC disposes petition on quake relief Monday, November 5, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court has directed the Gujarat State Legal Services Authority to depute a team, including independent advocates, to look into the disbursement of earthquake relief at Siyani village in Surendranagar district. It also asked the government to promptly give relief and rehabilitation packages to the villagers as per the set norms.

The order was passed by a full Bench comprising Chief Justice D M Dharmadhikari, Justice R K Abhichandani and Justice D K Trivedi on Friday based on a public interest litigation filed by quake-hit villagers of Siyani who are yet to receive any relief.

Senior advocate Haroobhai Mehta and advocate E Shailaja appeared for the petitioners. The court directed the disaster cell of the authority to verify the situation in the village and to see to it that the grievances of the villagers are redressed.

The court further ordered that if the packages are not given as per the norms set by the government, they should be promptly given. And the entire exercise has to be completed as early as possible, preferably within three months.

The petitioners had submitted that 500 or more families had not received cash doles though their houses had totally collapsed and that the repeated surveys undertaken to assess the damage have been carried out arbitrarily.

The first survey showed that 330 houses had collapsed, the second showed 127, while the third survey showed that only 41 houses had collapsed! They contended that some houses put in G-5 category had fully collapsed and some are described as partially damaged to reduce compensation.

Complaints were also made on the supply of cement, tin sheets and the second round of food assistance. Despite lots of damage the compensation was paltry, they complained. They submitted that despite drawing the attention of revenue authorities and the district judge, in capacity as Lokpal, their grievances were not solved.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Gujarat caught between subsidy and ADB conditions Monday, November 5, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
The Gujarat government is in a fix over power subsidy to farmers. After having provided an extra subsidy of Rs 660 crore for a year since October 10, 2000 over and above the budgeted Rs 1,100 crore per year, in the name of providing cheap electricity to drought-stricken farmers, it has no clue about where to end. Even as the funds crunch is making the state finance department uneasy, the disbursement of $150 million Asian Development Bank loan for restructuring the state's power sector has also got stuck.

The official date for providing extra subsidy to the Gujarat Electricity Board to "ward off" the impact of scarcity conditions on farmers has come to an end on October 31. Though an announcement was made in the Assembly a couple of months ago that the extra subsidy will continue after October, the government has failed to formalise it yet. State officials have told the political leadership that continuance of the extra subsidy _ Rs 55 crore per month _ has not been taken kindly by the ADB.

Of the $150 million power sector restructuring loan, the state received only $50 million earlier this year. The next tranche of $50 million, which was expected in June, did not come. And there is little possibility that the last tranche of $50 million, which was to be disbursed in December, will be coming. This apart, the ADB had also agreed to give another $250 million loan against specific power projects.

A top bureaucrat said, with only one of the six mooted projects _ the Hazira 157 MW project conceived by the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation _ having reached financial closure, a question mark has been put over the $250 million ADB loan. A Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board document says this is because there is no movement towards privatising the power distribution sector, nor any willingness to implement the new tariff policy devised by the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC).

The projects unable to make any progress beyond the letter of intent are: 250 MW at Akrimota in Kutch costing Rs 1,186 crore, 500 MW at Jamnagar by Reliance costing Rs 2,538 crore, 1,675 MW barge-mounted projects by Scan American Energy costing Rs 6,000 crore, 375 MW at Ghogha in Bhavnagar at the cost of Rs 1,352 crore and at Dhuvaran in Kheda at the cost of 340 crore. The government is failing to provide any financial security package to them, says the GIDB document, even as the state's power needs keep on increasing.

When contacted, state energy minister Kaushik Patel said the ADB "understands" the state is facing a third year of scarcity, adding, "We would need to continue providing cheaper power to the farmers by giving subsidy to the GEB for another year." The state has asked the GERC to understand the farmers' plight and reduce the new tariff of Rs 1,680 per horse-power motor per year, up from the earlier Rs 500 per HP. The commission is yet to reply back.

Kaushik claimed that the state is fulfilling the ADB conditionalities by restructuring the Gandhinagar power units, introducing the Bill in the Assembly for corporatising the power sector and motivating farmers to opt for metres. "But clearly, we just cannot leave the farmers in the lurch right now. We would have to continue giving extra subsidy over and above the cap approved by the ADB at Rs 1,100 crore per year," he said.

But insiders say these lame excuses cannot convince the ADB. A senior government official who was at Manila about a fortnight ago was told by ADB officials that the Electricity Bill was introduced in the Assembly in March 2001 and yet no discussions have taken place in the Assembly for political consensus on the matter. On the other hand, the government is continuing to provide more and more subsidy instead of reducing it, which has further violated the ADB conditions for loan.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Viral fever cases on rise in Surat Monday, November 5, 2001

SURAT: Bad weather conditions with wild fluctuations in temperatures ranging up to 20 degree Celsius are leaving more and more people in the city affected with viral diseases, say doctors.

Over 60 per cent of the patients visiting clinics are diagnosed to be infected with viral diseases with secondary symptoms like sore throat, severe bodyache and other complications, they said.

High temperature during the day and low temperatures in the night cause many of the viral diseases, says Shailesh Gandhi, president of the General Practitioners' Association. Viral fever is characterised by spells of fever which may last for even eight days. Dr Ranchhod Patel of Mukhi's Hospital said apart from viral fever, cases of falciparum malaria are also fairly frequent. Many of these are relapses, he said.

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Surtis anticipate happy 'ponk' eating Monday, November 5, 2001

SURAT: For Surtis happy days (read eating) are here again with 'ponk' ready to hit the market in the next few days. After savouring the richness of 'ghari' on the occasion of 'Chandni Padva' on Friday, the city keenly awaits to savour 'ponk', a variety of roasted mild millet cultivated only in the coastal areas near Hazira.

So much is the fascination of Surtis for the locally-grown 'ponk' that many make it point to gift them to relatives across the state or even outside. Even political dinner diplomacy during winter are known to include deliberations over 'ponk'.

'Ponk' is eaten with great relish all over the state and people look forward to community 'ponk' parties. The area near Adajan bus depot in the city takes the look of a fair during winters with families coming in droves to enjoy 'ponk' and 'ponk' preparations like 'ponk pakoras'. 'Ponk' is traditionally eaten with 'limbu-mari' and 'teekhi sev'. Many such 'ponk' centres spring up in the city during this time of the year.

Available during winter, 'ponk' is made by roasting a particular variety of 'jowar' called 'vani'.

Janak Patel, convenor of Ichhapore Khedut Samaj, said the land bordering Tapi, from Adajan to Bhatpore, is ideal for growing 'vani'. The soil here is a mixture of clay and sand, known as 'koradu', he said, adding that it has a very high moisture-retaining capacity -- the primary need for growing 'vani'.

'Ponkh' grown here fetches a higher price for its better quality and taste. The Bardoli variety of 'ponk' is considered inferior to the variety grown along the banks of Tapi in Surat. But many a times, both the varieties are mixed by marketers to gain extra profits.

Of late, land under 'vani' cultivation has shrunk considerably with houses being constructed right up to Pal village. Within the city itself, about 10 kilometres of land around Hazira is under 'ponk' cultivation now.

One grudge farmers here have is that GIDC has taken up a huge chunk of land which in lying vacant for the past 15 years. The villagers lament the fact that neither GIDC has made any use of the land nor is it available to them for cultivation.

"The land has been declared flood-prone by the collector and hence it has been lying unused," said Patel. If the state of affairs remain the same as it is today, he fears that people of Gujarat will not be able to have any 'ponk' next year due to the lack of fertile land for 'vani' cultivation.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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