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February 3, 2001 - February 5, 2001

Masterplan for rehabilitation of handicraft workers Monday, February 5, 2001

SURAT: Union Textile Minister Kashiram Rana on Sunday said his ministry had worked out a masterplan worth Rs 23 crore for relief and rehabilitation of quake-affected handicraft workers in Gujarat's Kutch region.

He was briefing newspersons, after attending a series of meeting of the newly formed National Disaster Management Committee, involving a group of Central ministers, headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee last week in New Delhi.

All Union ministries were preparing masterplans for relief of quake victims, Rana said.

The textile ministry had arranged for five lakh metres of jute for providing tents and extended material assistance to the task force in Kutch responding to an appeal of Gujarat government, he informed.

Quake damages Mahatma's ancestral house Saturday, February 3, 2001

The ancestral house of Mahatma Gandhi in Porbander, Saurashtra, has been partially damaged in the worst-ever earthquake that rocked the Kutch region of Gujarat on Republic Day.

"The ancestral home of the Father of the Nation has developed some cracks due to the quake, but the overall historical structure is intact," Porbander District Collector M V Joshi told the Press Trust of India.

"Fortunately, Kirti Mandir, the national monument built in the memory of Gandhiji in 1950 adjacent to his birthplace by industrialist Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta is safe," he added.

The house where Kasturba, Gandhi's wife, was born has also developed some cracks, but there is no danger to that structure either, he said.

He said that though only nine people were killed in last week's quake in the district, 80 per cent of the houses in 18 villages had been razed to the ground. "Our prime concern is to provide them with shelter," he added.

Joshi said people have been shifted to temporary tents and all steps were being taken to provide proper sanitation to prevent the outbreak of epidemics. Medical teams are visiting nearby villages at least once a day for routine check-ups of the affected people.

Kutch Collector transferred, Baroda man takes over Saturday, February 3, 2001

Baroda Collector Anil Mukim on Friday took over as the Collector of Kutch after the Gujarat government on Friday transferred incumbent Kamal Dayani to the state Industries Department.

The state government is apparently not happy with the manner in which Dayani, a 1990 batch officer, handled the situation after the January 26 earthquake.

Anil Mukim is a 1985 batch officer whose first posting was as Sub Divisional Magistrate in Bhuj, the headquarters of Kutch, between 1986-89.

Speaking about his priorities, Mukim told, "It is a challenging assignment. I have set out three priorities to tackle the situation."

"The first and immediate priority is to arrange shelter for the quake affected people, tents and blankets."

"In the medium term, we have to plan for the coming summer and monsoon," he said.

"In the long term, we have to rebuild Bhuj," Mukim added.

Shops open in Bhuj for the first time Saturday, February 3, 2001

Saturday morning, Epicentre Bhuj crawled past the immediate aftermath of The Gujarat Tragedy into the future.

For the first time after the quake, Bhid Bazaar was back in business, albeit for a few hours. One spotted ganthia, a typical Gujarati snack, being bought off the store-shelves. "This is a sure sign of people coming to terms with the reality and trying to get on with reconstruction of life," a shop-keeper said.

Shops that survived the deadly tremors were cleaned and the grain market resumed operations.

Lavendru Man Singh, chief coordinator, relief operations, said positive thinking has returned to officials and bureaucrats involved in care. "We have taken some major decisions last night to restore normalcy."

Some commercial banks, he said, will resume work on Saturday. The Bhuj District Bank has erected tents where a few branches (whose buildings were affected) will resume banking operations. Mobile banking services would reopen within a week.

At the Jivapar village, plans are afoot to reopen schools under trees if Saturday is sunny with with clear skies. The last few days have been partly cloudy. Here, the schoolteachers were among those who perished. So Class XII students have been asked to double up as teachers for classes VIII, IX and X.

Meanwhile, the government has postponed the higher secondary school board examinations.

Gandhi Associates, a firm specialising in erecting exhibition halls like those at Delhi's Pragati Maidan, has been asked to pitch temporary stalls. These will help shopkeepers among the quake-hit to resume their businesses.

In keeping with the community-wise pattern of Gujarat society, shamiana experts from Rajasthan are setting up eight makeshift community halls for respective groups. These halls would have toilets and essential electricity fixtures like lights, and will offer gaddars (thick blankets) to survivors.

People who are in a position to make their own arrangements are being encouraged to do so. It is learnt several families are keen to erect temporary shelters of their own near the debris of their households. "They want to maintain a vigil for their remaining belongings," Singh said.

The defence secretary has apparently asked the ministry's tent-making factory in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, to work non-stop and produce adequate number of tents for the survivors in Gujarat.

Although the Bhuj authorities have 300 tents, they are not being used. "Their number is not big enough to take care of the needs of all. We don't want people to fight for the tents," Singh said.

People who want to stay outdoors are provided with thick plastic sheets. Temporary identity cards would be given to survivors so that the incoming aid from international community is not misused.

At the Jubilee Grounds, the Sintex company, maker of pre-fabricated overhead water-tanks, has erected two semi-permanent rooms to be used for treating patients. The company is planning to build 50 rooms in all. Doctors and paramedics tend to about 1,000 patients at the grounds in makeshift shelters.

When ready, the complex will serve as a replacement for the General Hospital that has been laid to waste. Multinational electronics major Philips has donated portable x-ray machines for use in the quake-hit areas.

In the context of concerns about the spread of epidemics, Singh said Bhuj's civic body, riven with internal politics, has not been functioning even before the quake. This has compounded the problem of lack of civic amenities.

After the quake, two senior officials have been asked to oversee municipal works. One of them is Ashwin Mehta, deputy municipal commissioner, Surat.

Surat was once considered one of the filthiest Indian cities. However, the outbreak of plague in 1995 led to a positive transformation in the standards of civic amenities. Officials expect a similar miracle here. "Bhuj will be rebuilt as a model city," Singh said.

Astrologer predicting another quake arrested Saturday, February 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Police on Friday arrested an astrologer here for making dire predictions of another earthquake looming in the quake-ravaged Gujarat.

The grim warning by Ambalal Patel was published on the front pages of prominent regional dailies in Gujarat a week after thousands died in an earthquake which decimated whole cities.

"He was arrested for spreading fear and disturbing the peace," Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel told reporters.

Anywhere between 30,000 to 100,000 are estimated to have died in the earthquake in Gujarat last Friday.

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