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Sayajibaug zoo is trying to get White Bengal Tigers: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) wants to have a pair of White Bengal Tigers at the Sayajibaug zoo. The zoo did have a white tiger in the past, but that was 30 years ago and that tiger died. VMC is now discussing the idea with of getting white tigers from zoos in other states. The Sayajibaug zoo authorities prefer to get a tiger ‘couple’ in order to facilitate breeding. The necessary breeding facilities will be developed. A major revamping exercise has been undertaken at the zoo and substantial changes are being carried out in the areas housing the lions and the tigers. A five-meter deep moat will separate the lion and tiger enclosures from the viewing area. The animals may be allowed to move around freely, without cages. Barodians will welcome the new round of changes. The zoo has evolved over the years. It was built in 1879. (19-06-2019)
Ahmedabad will launch pilot project to recycle plastic bottles: People in Ahmedabad may soon be able to get paid for depositing used plastic bottles. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) is planning to deploy contractors to collect plastic bottles and operate reverse vending machines. The amount paid to a citizen will depend on the size of the bottle deposited. The city’s ‘output’ of waste is 3,200 metric tonne per day; of this 110 metric tonne is plastic waste. The vending machine contractor is expected to sell the plastic waste to recycling units. The contractor will pay for the bottles and recover his investment by selling the collected plastic waste to recyclers. The bottles can be deposited by anyone – citizens, volunteers, ragpickers, etc. AMC will start this project in a few locations on a pilot basis and expand operations based on its success. (19-06-2019)
Over 28,000 doctors in state participated in strike called by Indian Medical Association: Over 3,000 doctors in Vadodara – private practitioners as well as those in private and government hospitals – participated in the 24-hour strike called by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Monday to protest against the recent attacks on healthcare workers in Bengal. Staff at the SSG Hospital stopped the entry and registration of new patients, but emergency services were not affected. Almost 28,000 doctors from Gujarat joined the nationwide strike call. Doctors also want a nationwide law to curb violence in hospitals, which seeks seven years’ imprisonment for the culprits. (18-06-2019)
Disposal of court cases speeds up in state: There has been a significant increase in the disposing of piled up cases in Gujarat’s courts. If this speed continues it is likely that in the next three years there will be no pending old cases. Gujarat has been the quickest in India in disposing of cases pending for the past 10 years. The National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) figures show that the lower courts in the state disposed of 368,762 cases between 2015 and 2018, while subordinate courts all over India disposed of over 12 lakh such cases. The high rate of disposal of old cases has come about due to several factors: close monitoring of judicial officers at the district level; training and sensitisation of lawyers so that old cases are not dragged on endlessly; role of national lok adalats. Last year, courts in Ahmedabad district disposed of 28,679 cases, followed by Vadodara (21,786), Surat (8,319), Rajkot (6,242) and Jamnagar (5,873). (18-06-2019)
Gujarat to get new estate for industries based on IOT, MI and IT: The Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) is developing a high-tech industrial estate devoted specifically to industries based on IOT (internet of things), MI (machine learning) and IT (information technology). The estate is being built on the GIFT city campus, and 67 IOT companies have already booked space. It is claimed that it will be Gujarat’s first non-polluting GIDC estate. The estate will be helpful for companies in emerging technology areas – Data Sciences, IoT, Blockchain, Industry 4.0, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, M2M (Machine to Machine) and Robotics. GESIA IT Association will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with GIDC to facilitate the successful implementation of this estate and promote it to domestic and international industries. GESIA, the Gujarat Electronics and Software Industries Association, is the premier trade body and the chamber of commerce of the Gujarat IT-ITES industry. (17-06-2019)
Medical services may be affected on Monday: Since the city’s medical practitioners have decided to join the strike call given by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) health services will be affected for 24 hours from Monday (17th June) morning. The strike call is in protest against attacks on doctors in West Bengal. IMA has again pressed its demand for a central law to check violence against healthcare workers in hospitals; they say the law should provide for a minimum prison sentence of seven years. IMA has called for a nationwide withdrawal of non-essential services including OPDs in all healthcare institutions on Monday; emergency and casualty services will be able to function. (17-06-2019)
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: The Vadodara district legal services authority held a legal literacy camp on Saturday on the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The camp was meant to orient elderly people about their rights and how they can use legal means to tackle abuse. Among the participants were Senior Citizens Association, Baroda Citizens Council and Faith Foundation at Senior Citizens Hall in Karelibaug. (16-06-2019)
Gir National Park closed from June 16 to October 15: The Gir National Park will be closed for domestic and foreign tourists from June 16 to October 15, because this period is the breeding season for many animals. Another reason is that the condition of roads inside the sanctuary forest area during the monsoon becomes unsafe for visitors. Also, the forest department carries out routine maintenance work in the national park before the start of the peak tourist season – November to March. The Gir sanctuary at Sasan in Junagadh district has over 520 Asiatic lions. The only home for Asiatic lions, the sanctuary draws many Indian and foreign tourists. (16-06-2019)
New examination format for class X and class XII: The Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Board (GSHSEB) will adopt a new examination format for class X and class XII from the 2019-20 academic year. The OMR (Optical Marks Reader) system – where 50 per cent marks were for multiple choice questions – has been abolished. In the new system, papers will have 16 marks for completing sentences (filling up blanks), 36 marks for short questions, 19 marks for long questions and six marks for essay-type questions. The new format is for eight subjects of class X and seven subjects of class XII (science). The reason for the change is that mass copying was resorted to in the OMR system. Besides, the OMR system discouraged students from writing longer answers and developing their language skills. (16-06-2019)
Admissions to medical and paramedical courses: The Gujarat government has announced that students who were born in Gujarat and have completed class XII from the state need not submit domicile certificates for admission to medical and paramedical courses. All other students – those who were not born in Gujarat or those who have completed class XII from outside the state – will need to submit domicile certificates. Admissions to medical and paramedical courses will begin shortly. The additional 10% EWS quota will be applicable from this year. Students from the Union territories of Diu, Daman and Dadra Nagar Haveli who passed class XII from the Gujarat education board need not submit domicile certificates. The Gujarat medical admission committee has been allotted 10 seats for the new medical college at Dadra Nagar Haveli. (15-06-2019)
Traffic cops acquire speed guns: Vadodara’s traffic police have now been armed with speed guns to try and curb the nuisance of speeding drivers. Effective from a distance of 70 metres, the speed gun photographs the number plate of the speeding vehicle as well as the driver. In addition to the camera, the speed gun also comes with a printer so that the challan with the photograph can be automatically printed on the spot. Those crossing the designated speed limits will have to pay the fine as soon as they are caught. The speed guns are likely to be used on roads on which drivers tend to be reckless: Chhani to Nizampura, Akota to Jetalpur Road, Karelibaug to VIP Road, Gendigate to Makarpura Road, Champaner Gate to Harni Crossroads, and Old Padra Road to Akshar Chowk. (15-06-2019)
Jantri rates may be revised more frequently: Gujarat may follow the Maharashtra model for the revision of jantri rates – the rates at which stamp duty is collected on property. Gujarat revises the rates after long gaps, while Maharashtra does the revision every year. The state assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had suggested in 2016 that jantri rates should be revised every year and citizens should be allowed to appeal against high or low rates. The jantri rates were changed in 1999, 2007 and 2011. The gap between the jantri and the market rates must be realistic and scientific. The current difference between jantri and actual market rates is 50% in rural areas and 80% in major urban areas. All these discrepancies will be attended to after comprehensive reviews. (14-06-2019)
Vadodara Municipal Corporation may auction land to raise funds: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) may auction land to raise funds. It wants to sell 46 plots to raise Rs. 133 crore. Considering that similar efforts were not quite successful in the past, VMC will change some of the terms. It now proposes to sell the land instead of giving it on a 99-year lease. It also proposes to sell land to government, semi-government and local self-government bodies without going through the auction process. Another proposed change is to give the land at half its price for hospitals and schools. (14-06-2019)
Seaplane tourism poised for take-off in Gujarat: The Gujarat government is moving ahead with its plans to set up waterdromes (water aerodromes) to facilitate seaplane tourism. An obvious requirement is that the site should have the proper water level, even in the dry season. Four sites have been identified: Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad, Dharoi Dam in Mehsana, Shatrunjay Dam in Bhavnagar, and Sardar Sarovar Dam near the Statue of Unity. A water aerodrome is an area of open water that can be used by seaplanes as well as amphibious aircraft to land and take off. Seaplanes are fixed-wing aircraft designed to take off and land on water. The final business model to run seaplane operations still has to be worked out. The possible options are: a venture of the Gujarat government and Airports Authority of India (AAI), or AAI alone, or between investors and the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation. (13-06-2019)
Medicinal benefits of Brahmi: Proteins play a vital role in the human body, from growth and maintenance to balancing biochemicals. However, malfunctioning proteins may lead to diseases like alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, etc. It now appears that the medicinal herb Brahmi can perhaps play a vital role in the case of malfunctioning proteins. This claim is made in a paper published in the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics by a research team from the Laboratory of Forensic Biology & Biotechnology at Gujarat Forensic Sciences University (GFSU). The laboratory experiment suggests that Brahmi can both prevent the process of protein aggregation and also break aggregated proteins and reverse the process. If this is finally confirmed by further studies, Brahmi will be a better alternative than synthetic drugs with their side effects because of its natural origin and higher biocompatibility. Human trials are yet to be conducted. Brahmi has been widely prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners. However, Brahmi must be taken only after proper consultation with doctors. (13-06-2019)
MS University Commerce Faculty will offer 400 more seats: Beginning from this academic year the Faculty of Commerce at MS University (MSU) of Baroda will offer 400 more seats – 200 seats at the main building, 100 seats at the girls college, and 90 seats at M.K. Amin College of Commerce (Padra). The increase is due to the 10% quota for economically weaker sections. MSU will increase seats by 10% in grant-in-aid and self-financed programmes – except in courses like engineering, medicine, management and pharmacy where admissions are through the admission committee for professional courses. (12-06-2019)
Surat has 2,500 high-risk buildings: The Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) may take a fresh look at 2.7 lakh files of illegal constructions approved under the impact fee regulations. In the first round 5,000 files will be re-examined. The desire – or compulsion – to take a fresh look seems to be the consequence of the tragic Takshashila fire. SMC has drawn up a list of high-risk buildings that were regularised after payment of impact fees; these buildings will now be scrutinised again to assess whether they are safe and legal. If there are any doubts, the owners will have to rectify the faults. There are about 2,500 high-risk buildings – textile markets, textile factories, hospitals, shopping arcades, shopping centres, colleges, schools, etc. (12-06-2019)
Buildings older than 30 years may have to get structural stability certificates: Vadodara has recently seen several cases of old buildings collapsing. Following these incidents the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has decided that structures older than 30 years should get a structural stability certificate from a qualified engineer. VMC may possibly use provisions in the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporation (GPMC) Act to insist on a mandatory inspection of buildings older than 30 years by a qualified structural engineer registered with the municipal corporation. A building’s age is calculated from the date of completion or occupancy certificate or the date on which half of it was occupied physically. Corrective repairs, if suggested by the structural engineer, will have to be carried out by the building’s owners or occupants. A completion certificate and a structural stability certificate will have to be obtained after the recommended repairs are carried out. (11-06-2019)
MS University offers certificate course in bonsai: A certificate course on the basics of bonsai will be offered by MS University’s Faculty of Science at the Centre for Lifelong Learning and Extension. The 20-day programme will begin from July 1. The online application form is available on http://office.msubaroda.ac.in/apply. Professor Arun Arya, former head of Department of Environment Studies, will be coordinating the lectures with bonsai experts. Course participants can create their own bonsai plants and also display their collection in exhibitions. No previous expertise is required. Classes are usually in the evening in English, Hindi and Gujarati. (11-06-2019)
Prohibition convictions in dry Gujarat: According to the prison statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau Gujarat – a dry state – had only one inmate convicted under the prohibition Act in 2016. This is the lowest conviction rate among states which have prohibition rules in place. This could perhaps be due to faulty investigations of cases or witnesses turning hostile during trials. In some prohibition cases the fault lies with police for what is called ‘designed FIRs’ – that is, where the accused are shown as having escaped before raids were conducted. Incidentally, Gujarat had the lowest number of inmates convicted for prohibition. Mizoram had the highest number at 72, followed by 21 in Tamil Nadu, six in Bihar and two in West Bengal. (10-06-2019)
Command and control centre launched to monitor Gujarat’s schools: The Gujarat government has now officially launched its central command and control centre to monitor activities at all state schools and state aided schools. The centre will monitor the attendance of students and teachers and receive online reports from inspectors on the scene – all of this in real time. The purpose behind this ‘surveillance’ project is to improve the quality of education and enable accountability through the use of technology. The control centre will oversee a sprawling infrastructure: 2.5 lakh teachers, 70 lakh students, 42,000 government and aided schools, hundreds of block and cluster resource coordinators and school inspectors, budget of Rs. 25,000 crore. The hope is that the command and control centre will enable transparent functioning and increase accountability. (10-06-2019)
Not many government officials will give up their office air conditioners: The District Collector of Umaria district in Madhya Pradesh recently gave up the air conditioners in his office so that they could instead be shifted and installed in all the four Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRC) which come under his jurisdiction. The government-run NRCs are for children suffering from malnutrition and related problems. The District Collector – Swarochish Somavanshi – believes that he can function with a fan, but the suffering children desperately need the air conditioners. He explained his action as follows: "For malnourished children, heat only increases the problem. This is not a generous endeavor. It is my responsibility to ensure the welfare of patients at the centre." The ideal public functionary that he is, he is simply performing his duty. (09-06-2019)
Dinosaur museum inaugurated at Raiyoli: A dinosaur museum and fossil park was inaugurated on 8th June at Raiyoli village – near Balasinor in Mahisagar district – by the Gujarat chief minister Mr. Vijay Rupani. The state will allocate Rs. 10 crore to develop the facility as a tourist destination. Various species of giant dinosaurs were found in Raiyoli around 66 million years back. This site is the world’s third largest fossil site and the second largest dinosaur hatchery. About 10,000 dinosaur eggs had been found at the site. The museum traces dinosaurs from their origins to their ultimate extinction. The facilities include a 10-gallery museum with 3D projection, 360-degree virtual reality presentations, 50 sculptures of dinosaurs, interactive kiosks and gaming consoles. The infrastructure has been created by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd. and a society has been formed to maintain the museum. (09-06-2019)
Roadside parking may be charged in Vadodara: Dealing with the city’s traffic chaos requires that the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) and the police department tackle a variety of problems. One problem that needs a policy level solution is parking. VMC is busy drafting a parking policy, and one idea that is being tossed around is: pay for parking on the roadside. Roadside parking areas may be suitably designated, and parking in such areas may be charged after a specified duration. As this idea takes shape digital parking displays and parking meters may also be introduced. VMC may also appoint a traffic enforcement officer who will be authorised to impound wrongly parked vehicles. (08-06-2019)
Parul University gets a humanoid robot: ‘Mitra’ is the name of the first indigenously built, five-feet-tall humanoid robot of Parul University near Vadodara. ‘Mitra’ talks with visitors at the Parul campus and offers basic information about the courses and the admission procedures. The humanoid robot was developed by Bengaluru-based Invento Robotics. Bought by Parul for over Rs. 11 lakh, the robot does an eight-hour shift on the campus and performs a variety of functions – guiding visitors, registering new students, giving directions, etc. It keeps photographic records of all those who interact with it. It also gives practical experience to the students of robotics. (08-06-2019)
Ahmedabad’s streets should be cattle-free soon: The drive undertaken by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to fix Radio Frequency Identification Data (RFID) tags in cattle has produced encouraging results. AMC expects to make the streets of Ahmedabad cattle-free by the end of 2019. The city has 50,000 cattle, and 27,000 cattle are registered with AMC. The cost of fixing each RFID tag – Rs. 200 – is paid by the cattle owner. The RFID tags have an in-built unique identification number to allow the civic body to track the movements of stray cattle. The tags also help to keep count of the number of times a particular animal has been impounded, so that its owner can be penalised accordingly. (07-06-2019)
Navratri vacation for schools and colleges cancelled: Following representations from many educational bodies as well as parents the Gujarat government has decided to scrap the eight-day Navratri vacation for state-run and private schools and colleges in the state. It was felt that the vacation is not really necessary. Also, many schools run in the afternoon and very few run in the morning. The government also decided not to extend the summer vacation in the state-run schools. (07-06-2019)
Vadodara Municipal Corporation restates ‘green’ plans: The World Environment Day – June 5 – is an occasion for many ‘green’ initiatives to be announced, or restated. Here are some of the ideas which the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) floated, or re-floated, this year:

Green mobility project:
This public-private partnership project will use shared electric two-wheelers (scooters and cycles) which citizens can rent. It is proposed to start in the area adjacent to the MS University campus near the railway station and also on the campus itself. Access to the service will be through a mobile application, and payment will be made digitally. The vendors selected for the project will need to invest about Rs. 40 to 50 lakh initially. VMC plans to expand the service to cover other city areas, using 5,000 vehicles eventually.

Ground water recharging project:
A special purpose vehicle will fund the ground water recharging project. Work on three deep water recharge wells with filtration chambers will begin in the city soon. The wells will be at Sir Sayajirao Nagargruh in Akota, Concorde Building in Alkapuri and near Dashama Lake in Subhanpura. The civic body will spend Rs. 15.58 lakh on each recharge facility.

Project to process plastic waste:
VMC will collect, transport and recycle 50 metric tonnes of plastic waste. An agency appointed by VMC will collect the waste and process it. The project cost is estimated to be about Rs. five crore. Establishments must segregate their waste and call a toll-free number to for it to be collected. (06-06-2019)
Pollution is no less an offence than murder: National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel said at a recent event in Ahmedabad that about 50,000 people are killed by air pollution in Gujarat every year. He was speaking at an event to celebrate World Environment Day. He said that online monitoring by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) indicated that the air pollution in 102 Indian cities had, on average, never been below the acceptable limits over the last five years. He further said that poor compliance with waste management regulations played a big part in increasing air pollution. According to him, no state in India is compliant with waste management rules and regulations. Pollution, he said, is no less an offence than murder. (06-06-2019)
Dramatic reduction in pollution caused by Morbi-Wankaner ceramics units: In March this year the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered the immediate shutdown of all ceramics units running on coal gasifiers in the Morbi-Wankaner area. They were asked to switch to natural gas if they wanted to operate. This area, India’s largest ceramics cluster, is now turning out to be the country’s largest hub for the consumption of natural gas. The National Green Tribunal deserves to be thanked for this outcome. Almost half of the 900 units in Morbi were running on coal, and now all but 60 have made the switch to natural gas. In a month gas consumption doubled from 2.5 million metric standard cubic metres a day (mmscmd); it is likely to rise to 8.5 mmscmd soon. The reduction in pollution levels has been dramatic. (05-06-2019)
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