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February 8, 2001 - February 8, 2001

Postal department opens mobile counters Thursday, February 8, 2001

VADODARA: With the demand for postal services, especially money orders and postal savings bank high in the earthquake affected areas of Rajkot, Surendranagar and Kutch, the postal department has started mobile post offices in all areas where post office buildings have been destroyed.

In addition to putting into service the postal mobile vans, it has also set up postal tents at all the affected areas. A special extension counter for processing the forms of the postal life insurance claims has also been started in Bhuj.

Anurag Priyadarshi an official of the control room at the Ahmedabad chief post master general office said that the earthquake has damaged most of the 68 postal offices in Kutch and three buildings had to be shifted in Ahmedabad too. Other areas too have suffered extensive damage. He said that postal tents have come up in almost all of these areas baring Bhachau and Samkhiyana village.

"An extension counter of the postal life insurance has been set up at Bhuj for undertaking speedy processing of application forms for insurance claims. We are also trying to normalise our postal savings bank network in all the villages in these areas. Our network of savings bank in all of these regions is very high and the demand for this service is also high as people are now in need for money," he said.

Hybrid mail service which combines the electronic and traditional mail service is also being provided free of charge to people in all the earthquake affected areas.

Giving more information about the badly affected earthquake areas Vadodara circle, Post Mater General (PMG) D K Budki said that alternative arrangements have been made to cater to the demand for postal services in most of these areas with help of mobile postal vans.

"The postal services in these areas would be catered to by mobile postal vehicles. These vehicles would travel to all the villages and towns of the earthquake affected areas including the remote areas," he said. According to him, baring the postal savings bank services, all other 'Over the Counter' services have been started in remote villages through these mobile vans.

Priyadarshi said that mobile vans too are being sent to interior villages with facility to receive and send postal services. According to him all postal records of savings bank accounts have been salvaged from the debris and none of the important records would be allowed to get lost.

However, an official source said that normalisation of services would take some time as many people are displaced in these areas. In some interior villages crane shave not reached yet. "We have started services in all of the affected areas. In many places residents are dead or missing. In such cases delivery of letters would be difficult. All registered and speed post letters would be retained by the postal department if the postal authorities are unable to find the person it is addressed to," he said.

According to the postal department officials the demand for postal services in the earthquake-affected areas is very high. These areas have a large number of small and large industrial units as well migrant workers from Northern and Southern states, therefore postal services in this region are pressurised throughout the year even under normal circumstances.

According to Budki the use of mobile postal services was common especially in olden days when network between villages was not as advanced as it is today. "Earlier camels were used in Rajasthan to deliver and receive mail. In J-K shikaras or house boats were used while bicycles were used in several other rural areas," he informed.

* Mobile postal services started in earthquake-affected areas.

* Increase in demand for money orders and postal savings bank account use in these areas

* More than 68 postal offices in Bhuj alone are destroyed

City's water project in doldrums Thursday, February 8, 2001

RAJKOT: The Aji-3 project, which was to supply 30 lakh gallons of water per day to Rajkot city by February, has run into trouble due to the quake.

The January 26 temblor has led to diversion of men and material from the project to relief and rescue operations.

Only 20 per cent of the project work has been completed so far. Sources in the Rajkot Municipal Corporation told The Times of India on Wednesday that the civic body, which was to lay a 14-km pipeline, had so far laid just 3.5 km of pipeline.

What is even more alarming is that the pipes for the remaining 10.5 km have not reached Rajkot yet, while all other sources like Nyari-2, Nyari-1, Aji-1, Lalpari and Randerda have gone dry. The city is just banking on the water from Wankaner bore project and Aji-3.

Meanwhile, the civic authorities have checked the quality of water from the Wankaner bore in the wake of the quake. The quality was found to be satisfactory.

Special trains to cater to extra rush Thursday, February 8, 2001

VADODARA: The Western Railway administration has decided to extend 971A/972A Mumbai Central-Ahmedabad-Mumbai Central tri-weekly special trains up to February 28 to clear the extra rush of passengers.

The 105/106 Chennai-Egmore-Jodhpur (weekly) special train would also be extended up to March 7.

A express special train would be run between Vadodara-Dakor and back on February 8 with the rake of Valsad-Vadodara Intercity Express. The train would depart from Vadodara at 10.55 am. Arrive at Anand at 11.40 and at Dakor at 12.25. From Dakor the train would depart at 3.35 pm, arrive at Anand at 4.15 pm and reach Vadodara at 5.20 pm.

Labourers migrate in large numbers Thursday, February 8, 2001

RAJKOT: The January 26 earthquake has led to a large-scale migration of labourers, belonging to other parts of the country, from Rajkot and nearby areas.

They were mainly employed in the foundry industry, Soni Bazaar and hotels in the city. As a result, economic activity in the region has virtually come to a standstill.

Sources in Soni Bazaar, which employs a large number of artisans from West Bengal and other states, told this correspondent that almost 7,000 workers had left Rajkot for their homelands.

Similarly, around 4,000 workers employed in the foundry industry in the city have fled their workplace.

The Nepalese youth engaged in the various hotels and restaurants in the city have also left Rajkot, as a result of which the industry is facing severe shortage of trained staff.

However, the sources say that once the situation stabilises in Rajkot, the workers would return.

Rajkot Engineering Association president Pravin Garala told this correspondent that there were an estimated 950 foundry units in an around Rajkot and labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra were employed in them. "They have all left as a result of which the functioning of the foundry industry has been badly affected," he said.

He said that the units in the industrial estates were already caught in a severe recession and the quake had further pushed them to the wall. It would take them another three to four months to get back on the rail, he added.

Meanwhile, some of the industrial buildings in the city have developed cracks which is dangerous due to the constant rumbling of machines. Some of the factories have also lost their tin sheds.

The total loss in the Aji industrial area near Rajkot is estimated to be around Rs 2.56 crore.

Sources in the district industries centre told The Times of India that as many as 56 industrial units in the Aji Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation managed estate had suffered damage. Out of these, four units had been completely damaged while another 15 to 20 were in a dilapidated condition and would have to be demolished completely.

The damaged units were manufacturing products including oil engines, auto parts, watch cases and heat treatment plants.

The GIDC association has informed the industries commissioner about the extent of damage to the sheds and has sought additional credit facilities and sanction of loans to rebuilt these.

Tent schools to start functioning soon Thursday, February 8, 2001

RAJKOT: The district administration here has decided to start make-shift schools in tents. With about 1,000 school-rooms completely damaged and 3,000 partially damaged in the quake, a decision has been taken to guard students' education.

Collector A K Rakesh said on Wednesday that the tent schools would start functioning soon.

Speaking of post quake conditions in Morbi, the collector said there were little chances of bodies being recovered from the debris. Some local residents had asked relief teams not to remove the rubble saying they would manage on their own and try to locate their valuables from it.

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