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February 10, 2001 - February 12, 2001

Sonia to visit Kutch, Saurashtra Monday, February 12, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Congress president Sonia Gandhi will begin a three-day tour of quake-hit Kutch and Saurashtra regions of Gujarat from Sunday.

She would extensively tour quake-hit villages and towns in Kutch and Saurashtra and observe relief and rehabilition work being carried out by various organisations, a party release said here.

The Congress president would visit relief camps set up by the party, it said adding she would also impress upon the Congress ruled states to adopt quake-hit villages for reconstruction.

No discrimination in distribution of relief: Mr. Advani Monday, February 12, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Union home minister L K Advani asserted on Sunday that there was no discrimination in distribution of relief material to the earthquake victims in Gujarat.

Praising the efforts of voluntary agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) in reaching relief to the quake-hit, Advani told reporters at a relief camp here that people, irrespective of their background, were helping each other in the hour of tragedy.

He said the Centre and Gujarat government were jointly trying to work out a concrete reconstruction and rehabilitation plan for the people who have been rendered homeless.

Stating that tentage could not be an alternative to housing, he said the new model of houses for quake-hit areas should be such that they stood the test of the vagaries of nature, including earthquakes.

During his fifth visit to the quake-ravaged parts of Gujarat since January 26, Advani went to Chiloda village in his Lok Sabha constituency of Gandhinagar on Sunday.

He also visited a relief camp in the Gujarat University campus here.

Later in the evening, Advani held a meeting with legislators, officials of Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Ahmedabad district collectorate, various departments of Gujarat government and experts and engineers from the Centre for Evironment Planning and Technology.

Pilot killed in MiG 21 crash Monday, February 12, 2001

BHUJ: A MiG 21 crashed near Nalia Air Force base, close to the India-Pakistan border, some 100 km from here on Saturday killing the pilot, Air Force sources said on Sunday.

The pilot, flying officer A S Gill, was undertaking a routine flight when the crash occurred, they said.

A court of inquiry had been ordered into the crash, the sources said. (PTI)

Maruti Udhyog Limited hands over 25 vehicles for relief Monday, February 12, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Corporates seem to be outdoing each other when it comes to helping quake-affected people. Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL), for instance, in association with their dealers and vendors has donated 25 Maruti Suzuki Omni ambulances.

The ambulances are specially designed to meet requirements of relief measures being carried out for the earthquake-hit people in Bhuj and other affected areas.

In a small function held at Gandhinagar, Maruti Udyog Limited's deputy general manager Kishor Jani, director Pramukh Nanda and Cargo Motors' general manager Ravi Suri handed over the keys of the vehicles to the state industry and health minister Suresh Mehta.

This is besides donating 5,000 blankets and essential medicines needed by the affected people.

Keshubhai's missive to Central ministers Saturday, February 10, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has shot off a 10-page-long letter to all Central ministers, apprising them of the Gujarat administration's "alert response" to the "unprecedented challenge" arising out of the January 26 earthquake.

The letter - which, in fact, is a stiff reply to criticism from "media and some people from outside the system" who have "emphasised the need for greater co-ordination" - says the state government's efforts should be "evaluated in the context of widespread damage, total loss of telecommunications, three public holidays and long distances involved in mobilising and rushing aid".

Faxed to the ministers a couple of days ago, the letter admits, "If emergencies are responded with full force, there may be deviations from standard plans. If the nature and the extent of calamity is unprecedented, the response should naturally be distinct and creative. No disaster management plan would have envisaged requiring 8,000 units of machinery in a single district of Kutch. The cost of machinery moved works out to more than Rs 250 crore."

The letter - sent amid speculations in the corridors of power about a possible change in leadership, with sources close to the CM, too, agreeing that "Keshubhai might face trouble if rehabilitation operations do not go smoothly" - says, "The state government was naturally shocked to find such a massive requirement of heavy equipment without which it was not possible to clear high-rise and concrete structures that had fallen. In 1,016 villages and eight cities the number of damaged houses, of which more than 50 per cent are mostly collapsed, has exceeded four lakh."

Suggesting that he was forced to place "facts on records so that the people in the administration who have put in their best notwithstanding personal tragedies do not suffer from low morale", the CM justifies his decision to place No 2 in the bureaucracy, G Subba Rao, in charge of a five-member team to Bhuj "within six hours of the event".

Subba Rao is known to have been removed from Bhuj after industries minister Suresh Mehta, No 2 in government hierarchy, threatened to withdraw from relief operations of Kutch if the top bureaucrat was not removed.

Pointing out that the "total collapse of telecommunications system not only in Kutch but all over the state" had made it impossible for officials to talk even "within the city of Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar", the letter says this resulted in a "major handicap in obtaining and guiding rescue and relief operations". He personally had to give directions "through the police communications system ... for two days as there was no other way of getting information or giving direction".

Insisting that the government "immediately swung into action and mobilised all available resources", with all officials' having been recalled from holidays, the CM believes that this "helped in mobilising manpower", with "many volunteering to work on relief operations. This category also includes a large number of doctors, engineers, retired government officials, religious and voluntary organisations".

However, he did not recall that the Gandhinagar Secretariat had worn a deserted look for three days after the quake.

The letter underlines, "In the history of our country, such material damage has taken place for the first time and it has been the most intense in Kutch, which suffered big cyclones in 1998, 1999, and a drought in 2000-01. Gujarat suffered as many as seven major natural calamities in four years".

The letter also does not mention what exactly the state government had planned for disaster management.

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