Quake destroyed the present, survey saheb wrecks future
Mamata rolls out grassroots and celebs
Stock scam reminder to Sinha
SC lifeline for Balco
Calcutta weather

Ahmedabad, March 7: 
Scene 1: A completely destroyed house in Motiboru village belonging to Verambhai Rathod. But Rathod has little chance of getting compensation because he did not have Rs 500 to bribe the government surveyor who could have certified the house “fully damaged”.

Scene 2: A relatively sturdy house, with only a crack on the outer wall, belonging to Premjibhai Chagganbhia Patel in Ganjela village. Patel will get Rs 30,000 as he is close to a local politician. The sarkari surveyor has just declared Patel’s house “extensively damaged”.

In a racket that is as extensive as it is insidious, thousands of poor villagers in Gujarat are being denied compensation for their broken homes merely because they lack the political pull or the monetary muscle needed to get their houses described as damaged.

Though a massive public outcry has forced the government to order reassessment in some places such as the 118 villages of Dholka taluka, others have not been as lucky.

Expressing disgust at the “human vultures”, Naresh Thaker, an Ahmedabad Study Action Group volunteer based in Dholka, says: “The villagers were aghast at the blatant partiality shown by the government surveyors towards those with money and political clout. Not a single house was properly assessed. While many totally destroyed houses did not even figure on the list for compensation, those that were still standing were declared extensively damaged. The villagers have now forced the collector to send another team here.”

It is the same story of greed and distribution of political favours which is repeated in village after village. Of the nearly 30 houses that were totally destroyed in Ganjela, most have been certified “habitable”.

Puroshattambhai’s house has neither wall nor roof, but the “survey saheb” declared it “reparable”. Ask Puroshottam why he let it happen and he wails: “Because I am poor and I did not possess the Rs 500 survey saheb asked for. I don’t even have money to feed my three children, how could I have arranged for such a huge sum?”

Quick to capitalise on the helplessness of the homeless, surveyors are charging anything from Rs 300 to Rs 1,000 to issue certificates detailing damages. The quantum of money offered to them decides the extent of damage “perceived by them”.

Most residents do not even know who the surveyors are or which department they belong to. Jethabhai Dayabhai of Naniboru village says the surveyor who came to his hamlet was from the state crime branch. Others in the same village were told that the surveyors were from the revenue department.

Maheshbhai Vegda of Vataman says the survey saheb who came to his village was “definitely” from the “CID (criminal investigation department)”. “He took Rs 300 from me and said that I would get the compensation of Rs 30,000 sooner than others,” says Vegda.

Others have found a more convenient way to fleece the poor. Two surveyors who came to Vataman asked the entire Harijan community to “collectively” give them Rs 10,000 after which all their work, they were assured, would be done.

The villagers went and complained to deputy collector D.D. Mehta who said he did not know the surveyors in question.

Apart from the money-minting spree of surveyors — genuine and otherwise — residents all over also complain about the way in which surveys are being executed.

Kaushal Verma, an employee with a newspaper, was given a certificate that said his house was in the “G-7” category. He was not told what it meant. Neither was he told about the amount of money he could claim from the government.

“In a knee-jerk reaction, the government sent teachers, municipal staff and sarkari babus, most of them technically ignorant, to assess hundreds of houses,” says Verma. “Most of the time the assessment is arbitrary and without technical reasoning.”

Rajendra Desai, the director of an NGO who has furnished a blueprint to the government detailing the correct ways in which assessments should be made, says: “It is bizarre the way assessments are being made. There is neither technical expertise nor honesty. Everything is topsy-turvy.”

The government, which complains of “an acute shortage of staff”, has now sent a few teams that are technically equipped to continue the assessment process.

J.J. Bhaisjadiya, assistant town development officer of Dhrangadhra taluka, says the new teams are now videographing the damaged houses “so that no one can complain of corruption”. But when asked what would happen to the thousands of assessments already done, he says: “It would be humanly impossible to do the whole thing all over again. Moreover, corruption charges are highly exaggerated. There is no truth.”

But the “truth”, as Laldas Sadhu will explain, lies in his one walled, roofless house in Ganjela that the survey saheb certified as “can be used”.


Calcutta, March 7: 
Mamata Banerjee today tapped her network of filmstars, former bureaucrats and doctors to pick footsoldiers for her poll battle, but faced murmurs of discontent with some candidates, along with the BJP, complaining that their seats are not safe enough.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the candidates are our grassroots workers. I have also tried to select candidates from among film personalities, IAS and IPS officers, doctors, advocates and players,” the Trinamul Congress leader said after releasing the list of candidates.

Trinamul will contest 228 of the 294 seats. It has conceded 39 seats to BJP.

Rumblings of discontent swept through Trinamul. Former footballer Prasun Banerjee, who has been nominated from Behala (West), decided to opt out of the fray and demanded a safe seat.

Idris Ali, the former Congress leader who has been nominated from Baduria, said he will not contest unless he is allocated Deganga. “I have been nursing the constituency for over a year. I’ve informed Mamata I will not contest the polls,” he said.

The BJP, too, is not happy with the seats given to it. The party has demanded an exchange of constituencies, saying Trinamul has not conceded “enough safe seats”.

Mamata conceded there were a large number of aspirants for party tickets. “I could not satisfy everybody,” she said.

Actress Madhabi Mukherjee has been pitted against chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Jadavpur. Retired IPS officer Ranjit Mukherjee will take on finance minister Asim Dasgupta in Kharda. Former CPM leader Sujit Bose will fight his mentor Subhas Chakraborty at Belgachia East. Former Congress leader Sougata Roy has been pitted against PWD minister Kshiti Goswami in Dhakuria.

As many as 16 doctors find a place on the poll list. Besides Prasun, football coach Amal Dutta will contest from Shyampur.

Mamata has not fielded candidates in six seats, ostensibly to ensure the victory of pro-mahajot Congress legislators. She has also decided against contesting the Sujapur and Kaliachak seats, likely to be contested by A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s sister and brother. Satya Narayan Bajaj, Forward Bloc candidate from Jorasanko, joined Trinamul and was named the party nominee for the seat.


New Delhi, March 7: 
The ghost of Harshad Mehta today returned to haunt Parliament as members in both Houses expressed concern at the dipping sensex, forcing finance minister Yashwant Sinha to give an assurance that the “integrity” of the market was not in danger.

“I want to assure the House that the stock market is not being manipulated in any way by any group belonging to one cartel or the other,” Sinha told the Lok Sabha after Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy raised the matter.

The finance minister’s statement soothed a jittery stock market in Mumbai, but it was sucked into a fresh controversy around Bombay Stock Exchange president Anand Rathi.

Rathi offered to step down following allegations that he had used his position to gain privileged information about members of the exchange who are leading market players.

The information gathered is alleged to have been passed around, causing the run on the market that began last Friday and continued into this week immediately after presentation of the much-applauded budget.

Denying the charges, Rathi said he was prepared to stand aside to face investigation by the market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), already conducting a probe into what its sees as “unusual” price movements and the role of some market players.

The finance minister came under fire from the entire Opposition today — even MPs of his own party, the BJP, asked him to furnish details and allay apprehensions about the market.

“There is no possibility of any payment crisis and Sebi has launched a full inquiry into irregularities in the banking sector,” said Sinha.

The “irregularities” mentioned refer to at least one bank having lent too much to brokers.

Taking the cue from Sinha’s assurance, government-owned institutions like the UTI and the LIC became aggressive buyers on the market, helping the sensitive index close almost 49 points higher. Sinha certified Sebi as a “strong regulator” and said he would share the information with the House as soon as the inquiry was over. “The government then and now has fully implemented the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (which probed the securities scam),” he added.

Jaipal Reddy had told the House that the stock market had reached “dizzying” heights after the budget, but had suddenly plummeted to “fathomless depths” because of manipulations by broker Ketan Parekh.

“The market is in turmoil. Our banks, investors, especially small-scale investors, are in jeopardy,” he said. Reddy alleged that Parekh was running his own “sensex” which had plummeted to a 52-week low.


New Delhi, March 7: 
The Supreme Court has restrained the Chhattisgarh government from disrupting the flow of essential services to Balco’s plant and township at Korba.

The court also directed the state police chief to ensure that employees who want to report for work at the strike-hit plant are not stopped. The state has been asked to provide protection to all managers and workers.

The state government had threatened to cut off power and water supply to the plant.

In a surprise gesture, the striking workers today offered to let skeleton staff resume work to prevent damage to machinery.




Maximum: 33.1°C (0)
Minimum: 19.1°C (-1)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 92%
Minimum: 29%


Mainly clear sky. Maximum temperature likely to be around 33°C.
Sunrise: 5.56 am
Sunset: 5.38 pm;

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