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Weight Loss Surgery Costs Can Be Reimbursed: A 124-kg lady in Vadodara went through robotic laparoscopic surgery for morbid obesity in 2014. Her insurance company refused to entertain her claim for the medical expenses of over Rs. 300,000. The company considered the medical procedure to be cosmetic surgery, and therefore not reimbursable. The lady took her case to the consumer dispute redressal forum in Vadodara, maintaining that the Indian Medical Association considers bariatric surgery to be 'gastrointestinal non-cosmetic surgery' rather than plastic surgery. Directing the insurance company to pay up, the consumer court said that morbid obesity is a disease which can lead to several health complications. (12-07-2017)
Gaekwad Family Properties In The News Again: A civil suit has been filed against Samarjitsinh Gaekwad and some other members of the royal family claiming half the share in the properties. The contention is that the property divided between Samarjitsinh and his uncle Sangramsinh Gaekwad is ancestral and not independently owned by anyone. The properties include 39 properties in Vadodara and other parts of India, the Laxmi Vilas Palace, Nazarbaug Palace (which has been demolished), Makarpura Palace, jewellery, valuable furniture, all of it worth thousands of crores. The suit maintains that the kings of the Baroda state were merely the administrators of these properties, not the owners. The petitioners seek that the court should declare all the properties as ancestral and they should be partitioned accordingly. It was only in 2013 that a court settlement led to the properties of the royal Gaekwad family being divided between the families of Samarjitsinh Gaekwad, his uncle Pratapsinh Gaekwad and their sisters. (10-07-2017)
Eateries Should Sell Food By Weight, Not By Dish: A Vadodara based NGO has recently filed a PIL (public interest litigation) asking that the Standards of Weights and Measures Act should be implemented while serving of food at eateries. It said that the court should direct hotels and restaurants to serve food and beverages in standard measures of 100 gm and 100 ml, instead of charging by dish. A pizza, for instance, should not be sold by diameter, but by weight. Following this development, the Mumbai-based Hotel and Restaurant Association (Western India) has approached Gujarat High Court to oppose this demand. The association’s point is that this is not feasible because prices and food standards vary from eatery to eatery. (07-07-2017)
Gujarat Prepares For Assembly Elections: Considering that the Gujarat assembly elections are due this year, the state electoral office has started the routine electoral roll revision drive from July 1. This drive for the summary revision of the electoral rolls will continue till July 31. The final electoral list will be published in September 25. For changes, additions and deletions voters can meet the booth-level officer or visit the state election commission website. There will be three special drives on three consecutive Sundays – July 9, 16 and 23. With the addition of 1,900 new polling booths, the total number of booths this time will be 50,128. The norms stipulate that there should be a maximum of 1,200 voters per booth in rural areas and 1,400 voters in urban areas. The polling booths are currently being scrutinised also according to the following rules: whether voters from a particular residential society or a colony are divided; whether voters have to cross rivers, canals or ravines to reach the booth; whether voters are required to cover more than 2 km to reach the booth; whether the booth is on the first floor or above; whether the booth is located in a police station, hospital, dharmshala or religious structure; whether the office of any political party is located within 200 meters of the booth. (04-07-2017)
GST Enters Commerce Faculty Syllabus: MS University of Baroda is quick off the mark! The Goods and Services Tax (GST) has already been included in the syllabus for bachelors and masters students of the Department of Accounting and Financial Management at the university's Faculty of Commerce. The courses highlight GST rather than VAT, service tax, etc. The Commerce Faculty is making other changes too. The B.Com course will have a more practical bias. Students will also be exposed to IT- based income tax filing. They will learn how to prepare bills, vouchers, slips and cheques and how to manage accounts. (03-07-2017)
Surya Palace Rebrands to Grand Mercure: Surya Palace, Vadodara’s 30-year-old iconic hotel, has been rebranded as ‘Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace’. The first Grand Mercure hotel in Gujarat, it has 146 guest rooms (including five suites), Azure (a multi-cuisine restaurant), Vanilla (a delicatessen), an outdoor pool and a fitness and wellness centre. It is just a two-minute drive from the railway station and 10 minutes from the airport. Piyush Shah, Managing Director of Jindal Hotels Ltd., says, “We are delighted to associate with AccorHotels and rebrand Surya Palace as Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace. Surya Palace has always resonated with Vadodara, its people, art and culture. An appreciation of art and a commitment to elegance are woven throughout the hotel. … (Displayed at the hotel) are sculptures by Nagji Patel in the porch, work of Jyoti Bhatt in the restaurant, the mesmerising ceramic works of P.R. Daroz in the Ballroom, the displays of Padma Vibhushan Prof. K G. Subramanyan’s paintings, and the works of numerous other artists who have been connected with the prestigious MS University’s Faculty of Fine Arts… This not only reflects Vadodara’s cultural heritage but also the deep rooted bond that Surya Palace shares with this city. With this association, we look forward to setting new standards of service excellence in serving the people of Vadodara, and provide a unique dimension for visiting guests to experience this culturally rich and diverse city.”

“The rebranding of Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace gives us an opportunity to showcase the brand as the region’s 48th hotel in the growing network and further strengthens our presence in Gujarat as the first upscale property in the state and West India,” said Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels.

Speaking at the launch Rajesh Gopalakrishnan, General Manager, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace, said, “We look forward to setting the benchmark of service excellence with the launch of Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace and provide a unique dimension for guests staying at the property. With a distinctive portfolio of accommodation, dining destinations, MICE facilities, we are set to define new standards in the hospitality industry to cater to the city’s growing tourism and business activities.” (02-07-2017)
Night ‘Patrolling’ By Vadodara Municipal Corporation: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has set up a Grievance Enforcement and Vigilance Branch (GEVB) to ensure that civic problems are being attended to. One method that GEVB will use is that an officer will be deployed after 10 p.m. everyday to ‘patrol’ the city and track the progress of work. The officer will have to ensure that the problems relating to sanitary, engineering and other civic services are successfully resolved. While on patrol, the officer will have to upload the status of the problem on a mobile application appropriately called 'Vigilant Vadodara'. The application enables the officer to upload photographs and map the exact location of a problem. Next day the concerned department will have to act on the problem; if it fails to act on it, then there will be one more incriminating photograph from the same location during the next night patrol. All class one VMC employees have been instructed to download the app. Sounds great in theory. Let us hope that it works successfully on the ground. (02-07-2017)
Limited Wi-Fi Services At 450 Public Locations In City: With the help of Vadodara Smart City Development Ltd. (VSCDL), the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) is getting ready to make limited Wi-Fi services available from poles installed at 450 public spots in the city. VSCDL is the special purpose vehicle (SPV) for implementation of Smart City projects. A public-private partnership (PPP) project, the Wi-Fi facility offers 50MB or 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi, after which free access will be given to government and VMC websites. Beyond this minimum, people will be able to buy more data at competitive rates. The facility will be provided by Indus Towers, and VMC and VSCDL will incur no expenditure. In addition to the Wi-Fi equipment, the poles will also have CCTV cameras, digital billboards, environment sensors, public address systems, emergency call boxes, traffic signals and LED lights. (01-07-2017)
Vadodara Municipal Corporation Prepares For GST: The Goods and Services Tax (GST) will apply in some cases to the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) too. Since the civic body is also in the business of providing several commercial services it too has got itself registered and obtained a GST number. However, the various charges and taxes that it collects under the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations (GPMC) Act will be exempt from GST. The VMC services which will attract GST are, for instance, renting out of municipal auditoriums and community halls, renting out of hoarding sites, land rentals, etc. As far as citizens are concerned, it is not yet clear whether they will have to pay GST on property tax, charges for various purposes like building permissions and different certificates, sanitation charges, street light charges, etc. (30-06-2017)
Subsidy To Buy Battery Operated Two-Wheelers: Students from standard 9 to standard 12 in Gujarat will receive a subsidy of Rs. 10,000 to purchase low-speed battery operated two-wheelers. College students will be eligible for the subsidy for both low-speed and high-speed two-wheelers. This was indicated recently at the Vadodara district collectorate during a meeting organised to popularise battery-operated vehicles and rooftop solar energy schemes. (29-06-2017)
Skywalk Near Railway Station May Be Dismantled: The skywalk near the Vadodara railway station is likely to be dismantled soon. The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has more or less taken a decision to this effect. Ever since this skywalk came up in 2010, it always looked like an ill-conceived idea, and was eventually under-maintained, under-cleaned and under-utilised. A showcase project ended up as a sorry spectacle. It was a great place for stray dogs and the occasional homeless person. The skywalk’s cost was almost Rs. 1.9 crore, and there is little to show for it. Now that the area around the railway station is going through a major makeover, the skywalk may appear to the planners to be a redundant eyesore which needs to be removed. It seems that VMC wants to re-erect this skywalk at some other location. Hopefully, the civic body will select a better contractor for the relocation project. (28-06-2017)
High-Security Registration Plates Compulsory For All Vehicles: The Gujarat state transport department has announced that the old number plates on all vehicles must be replaced by the new high-security registration plates (HSRPs) latest by September end. The rates have also been fixed: Rs. 150 for four-wheelers and Rs. 89 for two-wheelers. After the deadline, the department will issue challans to vehicle owners who do not have HSRP number plates. The agencies fitting the new number plates have been instructed to make the facility available at 1,000 dealer locations in Gujarat. (27-06-2017)
Three More Ponds To Be Spruced Up: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation is moving in fits and starts with its plans to develop about 30 ponds in the city. Work on some ponds has already been completed, more or less. Next on the list are the Tarsali, Bapod and Masiya ponds, the respective development budgets being Rs. 2.9 crore, Rs. 1.4 crore and Rs. 71 lakh. The concrete proposals for these ponds will be put up shortly before the standing committee. The work involves clearing the unauthorised constructions around the ponds, deepening the ponds, strengthening the embankments, building walkways and railings and setting up the illumination systems. (27-06-2017)
Students Rush For Admission To MS University: There is a rush of students seeking admission to MS University of Baroda for the 2017-18 academic year. The number of online registrations has crossed 37,000, as against 30,000 applications last year. With the forms being priced between Rs. 300 and Rs. 700, the university has raked in about Rs. 1.3 crore by way of form fees. The highest number of applications (over 9,000) has been for the first year Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com) course. Over 8,600 students applied for the first year Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) course. (26-06-2017)
Gujarati Film Fraternity Formed: Gujarati Film Fraternity (GFF) has been formed recently at Ahmedabad to represent the concerns of its members from the regional film industry. With Hetal Thakkar as president, Arvind Vegda as executive president and Abhilash Ghoda as general secretary, it has got 1,500 members and expects to have about 5,000 in all. Among the items on the agenda are: special concessions, relaxations in GST rates, subsidy rules, cinema policy, etc. Formal elections are scheduled for June 2018. According to some estimates, Gujarati audiences spend Rs. 600 crore annually on watching films. (25-06-2017)
International Flights At Vadodara Airport: The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is exploring the feasibility of expanding the airstrip at the Vadodara airport so that international flight operations can also be handled. The integrated terminal at the airport was inaugurated last year, but the runway is not long enough for large aircraft. The aircraft used by international carriers need an airstrip of 3,350 metres (11,000 feet), but the existing airstrip is of 2,600 metres (8,000 feet). The Vadodara airport is the second green airport in India. It handles about 12 domestic flights daily. Extra land will have to be acquired around the airport to extend the airstrip. The Ahmedabad airport, which handles around 20 international flights daily, has a runway length of 3,503 metres. (25-06-2017)
Food & Drug Control Administration Pulls Up Several Manufacturers: Gujarat Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) has issued show cause notices to several manufacturers of products that claimed to cure impotence, diabetes, obesity, cancer, etc. The FDCA action followed representations by Ahmedabad based Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC). The companies have been restrained from marketing and selling the products. It seems that the advertisements of these products violated the provisions of Drugs and Magic Remedies(Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954. (22-06-2017)
Rumour-Mongering Video Was Mischievous: After the India-Pakistan Champions Trophy cricket match on Sunday, a mischievous video started circulating online. It showed two youngsters on a motorcycle driving along the Akota-Dandia Bazar bridge waving a flag; the accompanying message suggested that the flag was Pakistani. The police quickly debunked the video, saying that the flag was in fact a religious flag and that the video was shot several months earlier during a religious occasion. The police also said that the video does not show the beams for the solar panels which have been recently erected on the bridge. Very rightly, the police department has now warned rumour-mongers of serious consequences if they indulge in such activities which can create communal tensions. (20-06-2017)
Dig Up The Roads To Lay The Water Lines: The roads department of Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) builds a new road, and a few weeks or months later the drainage department digs it up to do its own thing, and then after some time the water department wakes up and and digs afresh to attend to its own agenda. Believe it or not, it seems that these three departments of the same organisation do not have a formal mechanism to talk with each other and co-ordinate their activities so that the same road can undergo three separate operations at more or less the same time. VMC has now decided to set up an inter-department coordination cell to ensure that roads are not dug up again and again. Along with its own departments, VMC has also roped in the other habitual road-digging offenders – telecom, power and gas companies. The coordination cell is expected to be in place by July 2017. Once the cell is in place, only the cell will decide when a road has to be dug up, unless the road decides to cave in on its own. (18-06-2017)
Complaints Against Private Schools: If you want to complain about private schools, you can do so now to the Vadodara zonal fee regulation committee which has been formed by the state government under the Gujarat Self-Financed School (Regulation of Fees) Act 2017. Headed by a retired judge, the committee may also take suo moto action against private schools if the complaints have substance. The upper limits of fees that private schools can charge are: Rs 15,000 for primary, Rs 25,000 for secondary and Rs 27,000 for higher secondary level. (18-06-2017)
Recognition For MSU Alumnus: The Sangeet Natak Akademi has announced that the Akademi Ratna award will be given to Dr. Sunil Kothari, 83, at a special ceremony in October. Dr. Kothari obtained Ph.D in Dance from MS University of Baroda in 1977, the first one to do so from the Department of Dance. His Ph.D, on the subject of 'Dance drama traditions of South India and Natya Shastra', was done under the guidance of late professor Anjali Mehr. A native of Matar in Gujarat’s Kheda district, he is an acclaimed dance historian and critic. His career included a stint as Professor and Head of the Dance Department at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. He helped start the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was a trained chartered accountant who gradually drifted to dance. He received the Padma Shri in 2001. (28-05-2017)
Punjab National Bank Tries ‘Gandhigiri’ With Loan Defaulters: Troubled by loan defaulters who refuse to pay up, the Punjab National Bank resorted to a bit of ‘Gandhigiri’. Some staff members from the bank’s 15 branches in Vadodara went to the homes of errant customers with flowers and posters saying 'Paisa Vapas Karo'. It was hoped that the customers would respond to this public embarrassment by paying up without any further delay. (27-05-2017)
MSU’s B.Sc Chemistry Course To Start At Padra: Students at Padra’s M.K. Amin Arts & Science College will now be able take MS University’s B.Sc Chemistry course. MSU will offer the course to 120 students in the higher-payment category; it has made a budget provision of Rs. 70 lakh for this activity. The online admission process will go on till June 3, and the course is expected to start on June 17. About 70 per cent of the seats will be reserved for students from Vadodara city and district, 20 per cent for students from other parts of Gujarat, and the remaining 10 per cent for students from other states. Chemistry, physics, mathematics, geology and botany will be offered as subsidiary subjects; communication skills, management and Gujarati will be offered as foundation subjects. (25-05-2017)
Startup Summit At Vadodara: MS University has organised the Sayaji Startup Summit from June 1 to 10 for budding entrepreneurs as well as for existing companies who want to present innovative ideas for the benefit of prospective investors. The sectors likely to be covered are education, sports, health care, IT, e-commerce, internet of things (IOT), robotics, electronics, agriculture, infrastructure, social entrepreneurship, textile, tourism, media and entertainment, food and beverages. Among the startups which have registered are 25 ideation based, 30 student startups and 130 mainline startups. The summit has been organised by MSU's Institute of Leadership and Governance and Yug Foundation. (24-05-2017)
Table Tennis Tournament: The Table Tennis Association of Baroda (TTAB) has announced that the 1st Open Baroda Major Ranking Table Tennis Tournament will be held at its MSU Centre between 2nd and 4th June. There will be 14 events for male and female participants between 12 years and 60 years. TTAB’s MSU Centre has the latest internationally approved facilities, including synthetic flooring. Participants will be from schools, colleges, institutions and clubs. Those interested should register before May 28. (23-05-2017)
World Environment Day: World Environment Day, June 5, will be celebrated by MS University of Baroda in association with the local chapter of the Institution of Engineers and SOCLEEN (Society for Clean Environment). An on-the-spot drawing and painting competition for school and college students will be held on 4th June at MSU's Faculty of Science. On 5th June, a seminar at Vasvik Auditorium (Race Course Circle) will feature experts from the state forest department, industries and Central Pollution Control Board. The 2017 United Nations theme for World Environment Day is related to Conservation of Natural Resources. (22-05-2017)
Cleaning Sursagar Lake: Sursagar Lake continues to be among the more polluted ponds in Gujarat. The lake has more than its share of plaster of Paris (PoP) and sludge. It was suggested that the lake has to be emptied before it can be rid of all the pollutants; this calls for draining out 260 million litres of water. No contractor was prepared to take on this task. An alternative solution being proposed is to drill on the bed of the pond and then suck out the debris and sludge. This solution may cost Rs. 70 million. The Vadodara Municipal Corporation wants to beautify Sursagar Lake and develop it as a recreational area; it has budgeted Rs. 25 crore for this activity. (20-05-2017)
City's 'Gates' Are Being Restored: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation is working with restoration contractors to spruce up Panigate, Gendigate, Mandvi and Champaner Darwaza. The estimated cost of the restoration work is Rs. 98 for Panigate, Rs. 96 lakh for Gendigate, Rs. 1.2 crore for Mandvi, and Rs. 91 lakh for Champaner Darwaza. Work on the Laheripura Darwaza was done with the help of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The work of the restoration contractors is likely to be supervised by ASI. (20-05-2017)
Thalassemia Test Compulsory For New MS University Students: Blood testing for thalassemia has been made compulsory for all new entrants to MS University of Baroda (MSU) from this academic year. If a prospective entrant has already been tested earlier, the test will not have to be repeated. The purpose behind this decision is to make students aware about thalassemia and the precautionary measures that need to be taken if someone has the condition. MSU has roped in the Indian Red Cross Society to conduct the blood test at a concessional rate of Rs. 150. Students are also free to get the test done in any private pathological laboratory. (16-05-2017)
Artworks From Scrap: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) and the Faculty of Fine Arts of MS University of Baroda (MSU) had recently joined hands to organise sculpture camps. During these camps artists made artworks from scrap materials, wood and stone. The camps saw enthusiastic participation of artists, and about 75 sculptures have been installed in various public areas of the city. Encouraged by the success, VMC has planned more such camps and, in future, artists from all over India may be invited to participate. (16-05-2017)
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