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November 2, 2001 - November 2, 2001

155 fishermen return from Pakistan Friday, November 2, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
RAJKOT: As many as 13 Indian boats with 70 fishermen who were languishing in Pakistani jails reached Okha port on Thursday much to the delight of their families. Minister for fisheries Purshottam Solanki was present at the port.

Pakistan had said it was releasing 196 fishermen but at the last moment freed only 155, director of fisheries H P Dave said on phone. The remaining 85 fishermen from this batch could return early Friday for they had already arrived in Indian waters, Dave said adding that the first boat to arrive was identified as Jeevan Jyot.

The fishermen were subjected to medical check up and after immigration formalities they were brought to the shore. A Coasts Guard vessel was also on the high sea giving directions to the fishermen who came with their boats freshly painted.

Soon Indian authorities would release 202 Pakistani fishermen.

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

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State seeks Central aid for security on border Friday, November 2, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
RAJKOT: Chief Minister Narendra Modi has sought Central aid to handle security in the border areas from Kutch to Banaskantha as its porous nature facilitates movement of drugs, weapons and RDX.

Modi submitted a memorandum to home minister L K Advani during his visit to Somnath on Wednesday. For strengthening security along the border, the state needed immediate aid, it stated.

The memorandum said that the open sea border from the Kori creek to Umargaon in South Gujarat was wide open and the state needed high speed patrol boats to protect the sea route and the fishermen from being kidnapped by Pakistani marine agencies.

"The security along the sea route needs to be strengthened on a war-footing", he said adding that in the present situation, terrorists were likely to use the sea route to smuggle in arms and RDX.

The joint patrolling was being done by low speed patrol boats as against the sophisticated boats used by the Pakistanis. Some of the companies in Gujarat were capable of manufacturing such high speed boats.

Giving details of the border fencing, he said the 310 km land border was open and frequented by terrorists. It was vital to seal the border to stop movement of terrorists. The fencing could facilitate better manning of the border, the statement added.

Modi also sought state-of-the-art security system for the Sardar Sarovar project. The state has prepared a pilot project for the same. The SSP was no doubt a state project but should be deemed a Central project and aid given accordingly.

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

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Cops await promotions, govt plans transfers Friday, November 2, 2001

Source : Times News Network
AHMEDABAD: The police fraternity perhaps got a feel of the shape of things to come with the sudden transfer of superintendent of police R B Brahmbhatt from the sensitive border district of Banaskantha to Gandhinagar which was effected immediately on Tuesday night. And this happened when the district was grappling with a security problem, first with the escape of four Pakistanis and then with the getaway of the RDX carriers.

That the four Pakistani nationals had escaped from this district just a day before the transfer and that the RDX passage was not 'effectively intercepted' in the same district, might just be coincidences. Sources in the home department say Brahmbhatt's countdown had begun since some six months back when he had reportedly insisted on being posted as SP of this district after having served as Dy SP, in a term that totalled seven years in one station!

What exactly prompted this isolated decision is an issue of investigation, but it has certainly sent shock waves in the IPS cadre, where some 22 officers from the 1982-83 and the 1986-87 batches are awaiting their promotions for the last two years. These include nine officers from the DIG to IG grade and 13 from the SP to DIG grade apart from six waiting to be made DGs and three waiting to be made Additional DGs. And the common refrain of the ministers in charge of the home department in the past year have been "we will expedite it".

When TNN asked the new minister of state for home Gordhan Zadaphia about the Brahmbhatt episode he said, "hamare yahan to ye sab hota rahta hai" (these things keep happening here).

Seeing the spate of transfers in the IAS cadre effected after Narendra Modi became chief minister, police officers are now speculating if they would meet the same fate under the new dispensation. Many feel "things won't be much different", implying that favouritism, casteist and regional biases will continue to dog the politics of IPS transfers! But all depends on the equations preceding the popular mandate that awaits Modi.

As the officers due for promotions wait impatiently, the state government mulls over appointments to crucial posts like that of DIG (Border range) which handles security issues of the three border districts of Kutch, Patan and Banaskantha and has been vacant for two months.

Incidentally, Brahmbhatt's was not the only isolated transfer, Assistant commissioner of police (crime) Subhash Trivedi was also similarly shifted some months back and has yet to be succeeded, albeit he had spent over two years in this branch.

"The authorities were probably waiting for an opportunity to move Brahmbhatt," observes a senior IPS officer. Earlier there have been instances of IPS officers being moved within months of their posting at a particular station, like Manoj Shashidhar who was moved out of Dangs in 1998 to Banaskantha within a year of his posting when the anti-Christian riots took place and then was moved out of Banaskantha too within the same period.

Superintendent of police Shashikant Trivedi too was moved within Ahmedabad city from Zone I to Zone VI and then rewarded with an independent district (Junagadh), all within six months!

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

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One-fourth Surat diamond units shut Friday, November 2, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
SURAT: Hit hard by the ongoing market recession and the September 11 attacks in US, around 25 per cent of over 10,000 small-scale diamond-processing units of the city will have longer Diwali vacation _ stretched over almost one-and-a-half months beginning this week.

Following the terrorists attacks on WTC and the diamond trade centres in Manhattan, a major slump has crept into the demand for processed precious metals in the international markets, particularly the US _ which is considered a major buyer of Indian diamonds, gems and jewellery, and accounts for over 50 per cent of the total export of precious metals from India.

According to trade experts, no substantial advance-trade commitments have taken place since September 11, and even payment on previous deals have got blocked due to factors involving multilateral trade obligations remaining unfulfilled.

Repercussions in Surat have manifested themselves in shutting down of many small-scale diamond units as also workers being hinted of lay-offs under the guise of an unusually long Diwali vacation.

According to Surat Diamond Manufacturers' Association president Praveen Nanavati, small unit owners are not going in for fresh stocks of rough diamonds for processing. In fact, there is an glut of processed diamonds with the local units here, as a result of which many small unit owners are facing a severe financial crunch, Nanavati said.

Some such units are paying up workers before formally declaring a Diwali vacation. However, sources said no decision had yet been taken as to whether all units would declare an early vacation. Overproduction and decrease in demand in the domestic markets may trigger the need to extend the vacation.

But, while small traders are suffering due to surplus stock of rough diamonds, the major traders are reeling under non-recovery of deals from markets, both at home and abroad. According to sources, what promised to be a festive season with good business during October, has turned out to be a period when diamond traders have not been able to finalise any deals at all, sources said.

Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council president Sanjay Kothari said if things didn't improve, exporters would have to explore markets in European and other countries rather than keeping fingers crossed in anticipation of improved situation in the US.

The silver lining, however, may be the fact that people in the US and other countries might prefer to invest in diamonds and precious metals as the stock markets have crashed there.

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

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'Bt gene cotton can affect TB patients' Friday, November 2, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
AHMEDABAD: Going by the claims of researchers, a seemingly harmless genetically-engineered cotton plant can build resistance against antibiotics like streptomycin and spectinomycin and make treatment of diseases like tuberculosis and gonorrhoea less effective.

Though the probability is small, a copy of the streptomycin or spectinomycin resistance gene contained in the transgenic seeds as a marker gene, can be transferred to human pathogens such as the tuberculosis mycobacterium and neisseria gonorrhoea, the bacterium responsible for gonorrhoea.

The 'aad' gene, which confers resistance to the antibiotics streptomycin and spectinomycin, is present in both Bollgard (insect-protected) and Roundup Ready (herbicide tolerant) transgenic cottons.

"Risk is a composite of probability of occurrence and consequences. However, the potential consequences of such transfer are grave, particularly with respect to streptomycin and tuberculosis in India. It is for this reason that medical societies and governments around the world have called for the phase out of the use of antibiotic resistance genes," believes scientific advisor of the environmental organisation Greenpeace International, Doreen Stabinsky.

In her recent scientific presentation before the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Union government, she feared that such a phenomenon could not be ruled out.

Researchers believe that as these antibiotic marker genes are present in every cell of the engineered plant, when such food is ingested, the antibiotic resistance gene is also ingested. Such genes can be transferred to bacteria in the guts of animals or humans, or to bacteria in the environment, and diseases could become resistant to many important antibiotic drugs.

In case of cotton; cotton-seed oil, cattle feed, clinical cotton, tampons, sanitary napkins, diapers, dressing bandage and other cotton can play the culprit.

With one TB patient dying every minute in India, TB prevalence of 250 patients in one lakh individuals _ and streptomycin one of the cheapest antibiotics being administered to over one-third of patients _ consequences can be serious for India.

Ahmedabad City TB Control Society member secretary Dr Jeetendra Adhia says, "Streptomycin resistance can play havoc in India, where we succeed in finding 250 patients per lakh, though there could be many more patients. Being cheap and effective, it is used largely in re-treatment of TB."

The principle use of streptomycin is as a second-line drug for tuberculosis. But it is in the treatment of gonorrhoea that spectinomycin is most important. It is the drug of choice for treating strains of N gonorrhoea already resistant to penicillin and third generation cephalosporins, especially during pregnancy.

Gujarat University department of biotechnology head Dr Y K Agarwal, however, alleviates such fear. "Such incidents are not known. Besides a combination therapy of much more advanced drugs is prescribed for TB. However, all precaution should be taken."

Geneticists Dr Jayesh Sheth and Dr Frenny Sheth do not rule out spread of resistance to the streptomycin if such products are consumed.

"Though streptomycin is not very commonly used, we should still be cautious about growing such seeds. They should be grown for some time in isolations and their effect should be studied."

The European Union rejected permission to sell trangenic seeds in Europe in 1999. In the United Kingdom, the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities recommended that such genes should be phased out as swiftly as possible.

Once dubbed as a biotech success story, a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt gene), was first transplanted into corn and then into cotton, for controlling cotton bollworms. This bacterium produces a crystalline (cry) protein which breaks down the intestinal lining of many species of insects, causing death.

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

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