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Vishawajit Rane says FDA overloaded, recommends random checks


PANAJI: Health minister on Monday said he has recommended random inspections for presence of in instead of the daily checks being conducted at present.
“I think random checks will prove more effective,” Rane said, adding that the proposal has been sent to chief minister Manohar Parrikar for approval.

Rane, who was addressing a press conference, said the directorate of food and drugs administration () — which has been conducting regular checks for presence of the preservative since the import ban on fish was lifted on the midnight of August 3 — is also loaded with other work.

To be able to continue conducting regular checks, they would need a separate department, Rane said. The checks will be conducted anywhere as against the present inspection being carried out only at the border. The minister’s statement comes amid claims by activists that formalin-laced fish still percolates into the state.

Fisheries minister Vinod Palyekar had said that a joint team of the department of fisheries and the directorate of food and drugs would be deputed at the state’s borders to check fish consignments. However, nothing came out of it after the fisheries department said that checking fish was not their duty.

Rane said he will not be responding to claims made by self-made experts and scientists over the formalin in fish controversy. He said the directorate has been following Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) guidelines and using ICAR-CIFT kits to detect the chemical’s presence in fish.

Responding to a question, Rane said his ministry has received a memorandum from traders seeking extension to register with the FDA, which has been forwarded to the government.

The formalin in fish controversy erupted mid-July, four to five days before the commencement of the monsoon session of the assembly. In the face of the public outcry at the time, Parrikar had announced a 15-day ban on import of fish from neighbouring states.

While lifting the ban on fish import, the government had issued circular asking fish traders to register with the FDA with 15 days from August 2.

The health minister said an extension can be granted, but traders will not be exempted from registering themselves with the FDA.

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Motorists unlikely to be charged toll for use of new Zuari bridge


PANAJI: Officials of the public works department () maintain that a decision is yet to be taken on whether should be charged from commuters for use of the new Zuari bridge, once it is ready. But, according to sources, the state government has clearly indicated to the central government right from the start that no toll would be charged for use of the new from users.

“At a meeting, central government officials have been informed that no toll would be taken from commuters for use of the new Zuari bridge, once it is ready, as many Goans regularly travel from south Goa to north Goa and vice-versa. And charging a toll would be an inconvenience to them,” said the source.

A toll plaza has been part of the project from the conceptualisation stage. Accordingly, a toll plaza is being constructed by the project contractor Dilip Buildcon Ltd as per the brief provided to them. But a toll is unlikely to be charged.

Unlike in the case of other central government-funded bridge and road projects in the country, in the case of the new Zuari bridge, this is the only route linking north and south Goa. As there is no alternative route and with the number of locals commuting on the route daily, charging a toll is being seen as infeasible. “The bridge is still under construction.

The issue of toll has not yet been discussed,” said principal chief engineer, PWD, Uttam Parsekar.

All central government-funded projects usually make provision for a toll plaza and, once the project is ready, a fee is charged to recover the huge construction costs that have gone into constructing it. The is also an ambitious project. The central government is spending over Rs 1,500 crore for construction of the new Zuari bridge project.

This is excluding the cost involved in land acquistion of the project.

The project will see the bridge’s approach road begin from near the Bambolim cross on the north Goa side and end at Verna industrial estate on the south Goa side .

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Goa starts new helpline number dedicated to women


PANAJI: A new number dedicated to , , was launched on Monday, at the hands of woman and child development minister Vishwajit Rane.
The three main activities the helpline has been tasked with are advising, rescue and counselling for women in distress.

Additionally, the helpline will offer guidance to women seeking to venture into business. They will also be informed about the various government schemes they can avail of.

The helpline has been launched in association with GVK EMRI which also operates the 108 ambulance service for the state government. The government has also tied-up with Gomantak Lokseva Trust Mahilashram, Assagao, where rescued women will be housed.

Women can face harassment anywhere, be it at home or at work and that 181 aims to to reach out to all helpless women and empower them, Rane said talking about the new service.

Shaila D’Souza, head of women studies department at Goa University, who is associated with the helpline said it is a first-of-its kind service in the state.

Rane further elaborated on plans to introduce a centralised location for the North Goa and South Goa child welfare committees and the ministry of woman and child development .

The new structure will be constructed at Merces through the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIC). He said that the GSIDC has already been paid Rs 8 crore for the project.

Currently, the child welfare committees of both districts, the juvenile justice board and the office of Apna Ghar — the state-run juvenile correction centre — operate from Merces. “We may shift these offices to the new premises,” Rane said.

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Court slams government for lack of proper checks


PANAJI: Coming down heavily on the state government for lack of regulatory mechanism to control in the state, the high court of Bombay at Goa asked the government to have an “effective enforcement mechanism” in place at the earliest.

“We expect a regulatory mechanism in the form of an enforcement squad with functional boats and complaint forum is established forthwith, to avoid any restraitn order,” said Justices N M Jamdar and Prithviraj K Chavan in response to a PIL filed by Federation of Rainbow Warriors and others.

The court also called for establishment of a flying squad to check whether the stipulations listed by the Goa State Environment Impact Assessment Authority while giving the environmental clearance, are being enforced or not.

‘Board should monitor riverine biodiversity’

It also said the Goa State Biodiversity Board should periodically monitor riverine and riparian biodiversity on a sampling mode. The sand mining season will begin from October 1.

Additional advocate general P Faldessai told the court that an enforcement squad had been formed for six talukas — Pernem, Bardez, Tiswadi, Bicholim, Sattari and Ponda — on August 22, 2013, but is non-functional.

“There is no functional boat. It is obvious the state will not be able to curb illegal sand mining if it does not have an enforcement mechanism in the form of a patrolling squad. The state has also not set up any helpline or complaint platform to receive any information regarding illegal sand mining. In such a state of affairs, how it will deter sand mining is difficult to discern,” the court asked.

Faldessai said the director of mines and geology is in the process of creating an enforcement squad and communication to that effect will be issued on Tuesday. The captain of ports and coastal security police shall accordingly provide functional boats as requested by directorate of mines, the court said.

The matter is fixed for September 12 “for directions”.
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For first time, they get on court, in wheelchair to play basketball


PANAJI: The sight of a has never felt so good for Vishant Nagvekar. Afflicted with polio in both legs since birth, Nagvekar has grown up loving sports all his life but never got a chance to follow his dreams. Until Monday morning, even if it was only on a wheelchair.
The Wheelchair Federation of India (WBFI) introduced the sport to Goa for the first time on Monday, and Vishant, along with 14 others, couldn’t have been happier at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium at Taleigao.

Goan players picked up the finer points of using the wheelchair within an hour

“If we get such opportunities, we can be as good as anyone else. There are hardly any opportunities for the disabled to even exercise in Goa, and now we get to play this sport,” said the 41-year-old Nagvekar, an employee of the state’s tourism department.

Neither Nagvekar, nor anyone else who showed up, have played basketball. Like Nagvekar, a tennis player, and Kuttikar, they all have a sporting connection – largely swimming – but basketball has been alien to people with disabilities in Goa.

“Until now, we’ve not used a wheelchair either,” said Mangesh Kuttikar, an international archer and swimmer who has won plenty of sporting acclaim.

But that’s the least of their worries.

“This is not so difficult sport to learn. We will start with training on how to use the wheelchair on the court, and later movements with the ball. I am sure within the next two days, they will fall in love with the sport,” said WBFI general secretary Kalyani Rajaraman.

Kalyani wasn’t wrong. The Goan players who took to the court for the first time picked up the finer points of using the wheelchair within an hour. There were a few hiccups, like when one of the player tumbled on the court, but by late in the evening, they had a fair idea of how to glide on the court and even handle the ball.

“These coaches are good. They make wheelchair basketball look so simple,” said Nagvekar, pointing at the likes of Lee Roy Simon and Capt Louis George, both of whom have trained under the world’s best wheelchair basketball coaches, including one who has won a medal at the Olympics.

Goa’s wheelchair basketball players have bigger concerns, though.

“What would we do once the two-day workshop is over? We don’t have access to these specialised wheelchairs and there is no way we can afford to buy them,” said Kuttikar.

Each of the 25 wheelchairs which were ferried to the stadium cost Rs 35,000 and have to be imported from London. The WBFI has an understanding with the exporters and managed to buy them at a heavily-discounted price.

For the Goan players who took to the wheelchair for the first time, the state government is their best hope. At the opening of the workshop, secretary (sports) J Ashok Kumar and executive director of the Sports Authority of Goa V M Prabhu Desai both promised “unstinted support.” They’ve walked the talk so far, providing all facilities at the exorbitantly-charged Shyama Prasad Indoor Stadium for free, besides arranging for the lodging and boarding of all participants.

“This is the best (facility) we have had,” admitted Kalyani, who landed in Goa after launching the sport in Manipur and Mizoram.

Goa is the 19th state where the sport has been introduced since WBFI was formed in 2014. Now, WBFI wants Goa to put together a 10-member team for the championships next month, and should anyone from Goa show promise, they could even find a place in the Indian team for the Asian championships in Thailand.

For Vishant and Co, the sky is now the limit. Being in a wheelchair and holding the ball has never felt so good.

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Dasara royalty to Wadiyars uncalled for: Historian


MYSURU: Historian Nanjaraja Urs on Friday expressed his reservations at the state government giving royalty to the during Dasara festival.
Urs who has obtained details from the district administration regarding the royalty amount paid by the state government to the royal family from 2011-12 to 2016-17 through RTI said that in five years the government has paid Rs 1.36 crore to the royal family.

“Officials say that as per tradition, royalty is being paid to the family. But it is illegal and the state government should immediately stop this practice as it is tantamount to the government giving bribe to the royal family,” he said and requested the government to give the royalty amount to Kodagu relief fund.

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Condition of JNNURM houses woeful, residents fear for their lives


MYSURU: It was a novel, and indeed noble, endeavor undertaken jointly by the state and central governments with the aim to provide housing to the poor and underprivileged sections of the society. However, the condition of the () housing complexes in the city, is indicative of the massive gap between planning and execution. The massive cracks that have developed on the roof of many apartments, coupled with the vulnerability of the structures, is posing a direct and very real threat to the safety of the inhabitants.
In fact, some of the inhabitants are claiming that the ‘kuchha’ they lived in before moving into these houses were better.

The houses constructed under JnNURM in Ekalavyanagar were handed over to the beneficiaries nine months ago. That cracks that have developed in these structures attest to the shoddy quality of work. What is worse is that window panes, and doors have been blown away by gusty winds. Clogged drains and water seepage are the other problems that the residents are facing.

Manjunath, one of the residents, rued that the houses were coming apart within a year of their moving in. “The ceiling has developed cracks, and the drains are blocked,” he said.

Another resident Suresh said that the fragility of the structures was very worrisome. “We are afraid when it might collapse,” said Suresh.

The situation is not different at the housing complexes completed a few years ago in Bannimantap, Yadavgiri.

The failure of the officials at the (KSDB) to address the residents’ woes has only aggravated the problem. “When we approach the officials, they just dismiss us,” said Rajeshwari, a resident at the JnNURM complex in Bannimantap.

Nethravathi, also a resident in the Bannimantap complex, expressed helplessness at the lack of official concern, and the generally apathetic attitude they were forced to contend with on a regular basis. “We don’t know whom to approach. Politicians visit us only during elections, and give us false assurances, and visit us before polls again,” she said.

Hanumaiah, a civic worker has been living in constant fear of the roof of his house collapsing ever since he noticed cracks on the ceiling. “There are massive cracks on the ceiling, and walls of my house. I fear for the lives of my wife, and two daughters, who stay home most of the time. When we approach the authorities, they shun us, and ask us to look into the repair work ourselves. The families that reside in these complexes lead a hand-to-mouth existence, and are in no position to foot bills for repair,” said Hanumaiah.

KSDB executive engineer Kapini Gowda promised to look into the problems of the residents. “Earlier, there were no provisions to repair these homes. Now, the board has drawn an action plan to ensure that the houses are safe to dwell in. We will receive approval by the end of September and solve all problems,” Gowda told TOI.

Queried if action would be taken against contractors found guilty of having executed substandard work, Gowda said, “In the case of projects coming under the defect liability period, the contractors will have to attend to the repair work.”

The JnNURM complexes had triggered controversy when the construction of the buildings was undertaken with loans availed from HUDCO banks, which offered rates of interest higher than that of nationalised banks.

– (By Shivendra Urs)

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