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Industrial pollution in Vadodara is the highest in Gujarat: The 2018 Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) scores for 100 industrial clusters in India are not quite happy as far as Gujarat is concerned. Vadodara (ranked 5) is among the critically polluted clusters, the others in the state being Ankleshwar (16), Vapi (18), Surat (26), Vatva (36), Rajkot (38), Bhavnagar (64), Ahmedabad (77), Morbi (81) and Junagadh (88). Vadodara is the worst in the state. The principal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has demanded concrete action against the 10 polluted industrial clusters in Gujarat within three months. Concrete action means that the clusters must be brought within the safety parameters. The Gujarat pollution board has also been directed to identify, penalise and close units at these polluted clusters that do not comply with pollution rules. NGT has also asked the authorities to put data from the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS) and the Continuous Water Quality Monitoring Stations (CWQMS) in the public domain. The NGT bench said that “economic development is not to be at the cost of health of the public and in violation of law of the land. Unless the polluting industries tackle the problem they have created, their operations have to be stopped or suspended.” (21-07-2019)
Bad roads are injurious to health: Some doctors at Chandigarh’s Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGIMER) gave their considered opinions on the medical consequences of driving on that city’s bad roads. Bad roads are the same wherever you go and their effects on the human body are the same. The warnings given by the doctors in Chandigarh can apply as well to the roads in Vadodara too. Here is what the doctors say: a major impact of potholed roads is whiplash (neck) injuries because the driver has to brake frequently and suddenly; the spine is strained on a bad road, and this is all the more harmful for someone with spondylitis; when a driver is focused more on potholes than on driving his chances of causing an accident increase; constant jerks can lead to cervical spondylosis and disc prolapse; repeated jerks can cause muscle spasms; bad roads slow down traffic movement and this can lead to stress and acute hypertension; bad roads are harmful for sensitive people, that is, those who are already suffering from some medical problem; bumping your vehicle into a pothole is equivalent to an injury due to falling. A Chandigarh citizen has an interesting suggestion: when there is a road accident there should also be an FIR against the engineers and the contractors who constructed the road. He says that every road should display the names and phone numbers of the contractors and engineers who made it. (21-07-2019)
City’s substance abuse statistics are something to worry about: A substance abuse study conducted by a student of MS University (MSU) shows that 38% of the city’s youth love their liquor. The study, done by Master of Social Work student Rajat Saroha (under the guidance of professor Bhavna Mehta), revealed that alcoholism is prevalent in the young between 18 and 29 years of age. Ninety respondents were involved and the substances covered were tobacco, marijuana and alcohol. Only experts may be able to comment on the methodology of the study and its implications, but the findings are something to worry about.
… 38 % of the young are current consumers of alcohol.
… Only 36% of the respondents never consumed alcohol.
… 64% of the young are currently consuming alcohol or have consumed it in the past.
… Though consumption and sale of marijuana is banned in the country, 12% of the young are currently consuming it.
… 28% of the young are currently consuming tobacco.
… 11 % of the young had consumed tobacco in the last year but had stopped consuming it. (20-07-2019)
Additional grant for Gujarat’s 40 ‘urban’ MLAs: All of the 40 MLAs from Gujarat’s eight municipal corporations will get additional grants of Rs. 2 crore each to improve roads and other infrastructure. These MLAs from the urban constituencies will get the additional grant from the Roads and Buildings department to repair and construct new roads in their local areas. The amount of Rs. 2 crore will be over and above the Local Area Development grant of Rs. 1.5 crore given to all 182 MLAs. The funds will be made available to the eight urban bodies; they can be used in consultation with the area’s MLA. (20-07-2019)
Vadodara tops the state in noise pollution complaints: The Vadodara city police and the organisers of Ganesh pandals have arrived at an understanding that the decibel levels will be kept low during this festive season. Over 150 pandal organisers attended the meeting called by the police to address this issue. The organisers agreed to reduce the noise pollution caused by DJ music. They also readily agreed to help the police maintain law and order. More organisers agreed to make clay idols and also reduce the height of the idols. The Ganesh idols will be immersed in an artificial pond to be created at the Navlakhi ground. Last year about 8,000 idols were immersed in the artificial pond. Incidentally, the Vadodara police receives the highest number of noise pollution complaints in Gujarat during festivals and in the marriage season. The culprit is usually DJ music. Between June 2018 and July 2019 the police received 5,274 calls complaining about loud DJ music. On an ordinary day 15 to 20 complaints are received daily between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.; in the festive season this number shoots up to 70 complaints daily. (19-07-2019)
City cops will clamp down on noise pollution: The Vadodara city police department has issued a notification requesting citizens to strictly adhere to noise pollution norms. The cops have threatened that strict action will be taken against persons – specially DJs – who violate the noise norms. Loud music in public places – specially near hospitals, schools, residential societies, roads – causes avoidable disturbance to locals, especially children in schools and patients in hospitals. The cops will soon acquire the equipment to check noise pollution levels in any area. According to the police notification, the maximum decibel level allowed in industrial areas is 75 during day time and 70 at night. In commercial zones, the maximum decibel level is 65 in the day and 55 at night. In residential areas, 55 decibels is allowed during the day and 45 at night. In peaceful areas, 50 decibels is the maximum limit during the day and 40 decibels at night. (19-07-2019)
Government will partially fund Vadodara’s city bus service: The Gujarat government has decided to give 50% of the operating cost of new buses procured by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) for the city bus service. The VMC fleet consists of 160 buses and costs about Rs. one crore per month. It pays the bus operator Rs. 18 per km as viability gap funding. The state government will now pay 50% of the cost per kilometre for operating the 10 new buses which have been procured for the city bus service. VMC has also asked for a similar state government contribution for operating the old buses too. (18-07-2019)
I-T notices for 1,113 candidates who fought 2017 Gujarat legislative assembly election: Forty per cent of Gujarat’s 182 MLAs – across party lines – received income tax notices asking them to explain the discrepancies between incomes declared in their returns and their affidavits filed before the 2017 assembly poll. It is for the first time that I-T notices have been sent to so many lawmakers. It seems that the Election Commission of India had asked the I-T department to scrutinise the affidavits. Considering the norms relating to privacy the names of the MLAs have not been made public. The MLAs will of course get time to explain the discrepancies. Further action will be considered only if the explanations given are not satisfactory. A total of 1,113 candidates who fought in the Gujarat legislative assembly election in 2017 have been issued such notices by the I-T department. This includes 74 sitting MLAs. A similar process is on for candidates who contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. (18-07-2019)
Dr. Chavan and Mr. Gangani receive Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar: Dr Pramod Chavan, assistant professor with the department of dramatics at MS University (MSU) and Durgesh Gangani, teaching assistant in MSU’s department of dance have been selected for the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar by the Sangeet Natak Akademi. They are among the 32 artists selected for the award for 2018. Dr. Chavan’s award will be in the field of theatre direction, Mr. Gangani will receive the award in the field of dance (kathak). This award is given to artists below the age of 40 and is meant to encourage outstanding young talents in performing arts. The 2018 awards have been given for the fields of theatre, music, dance, folk and tribal music and dance and puppetry. The prize money is Rs. 25,000. (17-07-2019)
Vishwamitri rejuvenation project may be modified: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) wants to make substantial changes in the Vishwamitri rejuvenation project. The civic administration has therefore withdrawn its proposal seeking funding under the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) while it takes a fresh look at the whole project. The initial plans were along the lines of the plans for the development of the riverfront in Ahmedabad, but the ideas were not received favourably by the city’s environment activists who were more concerned with the rejuvenation of the Vishwamitrs’s ecosystem. The project may now be called the Vishwamitri River and Ecosystem Rejuvenation Project, and it will focus on reviving the river’s ecosystem and the flora and fauna on its banks. The issues which will now receive more attention will be prevention of the release of sewage into the river, afforestation along its banks and conservation of the ecosystem. (17-07-2019)
Mumbai mayor’s official vehicle was parked illegally: On Monday the official vehicle of the Mumbai mayor was found parked in a no-parking zone outside a popular eatery between Andheri and Vile Parle. The Mumbai traffic police did not treat the offence lightly and promptly issued a challan to the mayor’s vehicle. This action was taken during the rigorous drive which has been started by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) administration against unauthorised parking. BMC has been imposing stiff fines for vehicles parked illegally, and lakhs of rupees have been collected by way of fines. Vadodara routinely sees several incidents where many immature youngsters, some arrogant citizens and a few overbearing officials brazenly ignore parking regulations. Perhaps the city’s traffic police department should take some inspiration from their counterparts in Mumbai. (16-07-2019)
Ahmedabad is the third most polluted city in India: Ahmedabad ranks the third most polluted city in India in air pollution according to the Central Pollution Control Board. It is third in particulate matter pollution, for particles of up to 10 microns in size or PM10. Dhanbad and Ghaziabad rank first and second. The survey was done under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP). In PM10 pollution the particles, mainly fine dust and smoke particles, are large enough to be trapped in the nose, mouth or throat. In PM2.5 pollution, particulates enter the bloodstream through the respiratory system. Rajkot, Vadodara and Surat have shown an increase in particulate pollution. Vadodara ranks ninth in PM2.5 pollution. A National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) has been launched and comprehensive directions have been issued to implement measures to mitigate air pollution in major cities. (16-07-2019)
Kiran More to coach US cricket team: USA is making a bid to qualify for next year’s T20 international cricket tournament. To prepare for the tournament former Indian wicket-keeper Kiran More has been appointed as the director of cricket and interim coach of the USA national cricket team. Kiran More will take over from the former coach Pubudu Dassanayake of Sri Lanka. He will also help the US Cricket Association to identify talented players and develop cricket in the country, at the junior and senior levels. His activities will include organising matches and camps, developing coaches and setting up tournaments. This will be the first assignment outside India for the 56-year-old veteran who has played 49 test matches and 94 one-day internationals for India. He has also worked with the BCCI as the chief selector. USA Cricket has also appointed former India spinner Sunil Joshi as spin bowling advisor, and Pravin Amre and Kieran Powell as advisors for the batting department. (15-07-2019)
Students to get training in 3D printing technology: The Gujarat Government’s Education Department has signed an MoU with US Institute of 3D Technology, California, USA, to train students in 3D Printing Technology in seven select engineering colleges and technical institutes: Vishwakarma Government College at Chandkheda (Ahmedabad), Government Engineering College (Gandhinagar, Bharuch and Rajkot), i-Hub, MSU Polytechnic (Baroda), and Kalol Government Technical Institute (Kalol). The project will help students, start-ups, professionals and researchers. Those completing the course can aspire for jobs in India and abroad and even start their own enterprises. (15-07-2019)
Transport commissioner revises guidelines for school buses and vehicles: There have been several accidents all over Gujarat involving vans, autorickshaws and buses carrying schoolchildren. Following numerous complaints and news reports, the state transport commissioner has announced revised guidelines for school vehicle operators and drivers:
… School buses and vehicles carrying schoolchildren must be painted yellow.
… School’s name must be painted in large letters on the front and back of the vehicle.
… Driver’s name, address, licence number and telephone number, and the school’s telephone number must be clearly written inside and outside the bus.
… Bus windows must have horizontal bars.
… Bus must have an emergency door and a lock on the door.
… The bus must have a film on the windscreen and glass.
… Speed control gear must be installed in the bus, the speed limit being 40 kmph.
… Bus seats should be made of non-combustible material.
… Bus must be equipped with GPS and a CCTV system.
… Bus must carry first-aid boxes and drinking water.
… Bus must be equipped with a loud alarm system for use in any emergency.
… There must be enough light inside the bus, and activities inside the bus must be visible from the outside.
… Only vehicles notified and duly approved by the department of transportation should be used to carry schoolchildren.
… Autorickshaws or Maruti vans used to ferry children must be approved by the transport department.
… The maximum carrying capacity is two children per seat for children up to 12 years.
… It is an offence to carry schoolchildren in vehicles with private registration when it is done for a commercial purpose. (14-07-2019)
Seed balls to be sprayed on Vishwamitri river banks: Environment activists plan to spray seed balls on the banks of the Vishwamitri river and the forests near Pavagadh. An aircraft may be used for areas inaccessible by road. Saplings will also be planted. City based Community Science Centre (CSC) has been engaged in seed bombing for several years. Drones have often been used for the exercise. CSC wants to spray about three lakh seeds this time. Schoolchildren have also been roped in to make seed balls for the project. The seeds will be of Babul, Cassia Fistula, Blackberry, Arjun, Harde and Baheda. Seed balls will also be sprayed along the Bhukhi storm water drain on the MS University campus. (14-07-2019)
Overseas Citizen of India at par with NRI for admission to MBBS course: A student who is an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) will be at par with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) for admission to the MBBS course in Gujarat. This was stated by the government in court in response to a petition filed by a 17-year-old girl born in Gujarat and holding a British passport. She was initially denied participation in the admission process for medical courses after she scored 534 marks in the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) this year. She had passed her Class 10 and 12 exams from Gujarat. She had moved the court after the Admission Committee for Professional Undergraduate Medical Educational Courses refused to accept her candidature. The state government will file a detailed reply on the issue on July 15. (14-07-2019)
Malls and multiplexes must not levy parking fees: The Gujarat high court has ruled that under current laws, private malls, multiplexes and commercial complexes cannot levy parking charges on visitors for parking their vehicles in their parking spaces. The court upheld the state government's argument that the General Development Control Regulations (GDCR) do not permit private shopping centres to charge parking fees from visitors. According to the GDCR the commercial complexes must allocate parking spaces for visitors commensurate with the size and kind of commercial activities taking place in the complexes. The court also clarified that mall owners cannot equate their case for levying parking fees with that which is being charged by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and its authorities for allowing parking in open plots owned by it. Soon after the Gujarat high court ruling the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) issued notices to 21 malls and multiplexes asking them not to collect any parking fees. (13-07-2019)
Anti-drone system for state police: The Gujarat police department will purchase an anti-drone radar system to counter the activities of unauthorised unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned aerial systems (UASs). The system – costing about Rs. 5 crore – was put through a trial during the recently concluded Rath Yatra event in Ahmedabad. The system sends warning signals to the police control room when it detects an unauthorised drone. The control room can then cut off signals received by the suspect drone, push it back to its launching base, or even bring it down. The government also plans to buy 12 drones for aerial surveillance of the state’s 1,600-km coastline and over 100 islands. (13-07-2019)
Test firing range planned at Dholera SIR: The Gujarat government’s defence and aerospace advisor says that a firing range for weapons will come up at the Dholera Special Investment Region (DSIR) for the use of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force. It will also be used for testing by private manufacturers of armaments and weapons. This announcement was made at the recent Gujarat Aviation Conclave 2019 organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Ahmedabad. A land plot of about 200 sq km has been reserved for this purpose near the coast. The range will be 5 km wide and 20 km long. (12-07-2019)
Gujarat ranks fifth in India in direct tax collection: Gujarat ranks fifth in India in direct tax collection. In 2018-19 the collection in the state was Rs. 49,021.69 crore; the total for the country was Rs. 11.37 lakh crore. Ahead of Gujarat were Maharashtra (Rs. 4.25 lakh crore), Delhi (Rs. 1.66 lakh crore), Karnataka (Rs. 1.19 lakh crore) and Tamil Nadu (Rs. 74,238.94 crore). India had 46.10 crore PAN holders in the country as on June 28, 2019. Of these PAN holders, 6.31 crore filed income tax returns (ITRs) in the assessment year 2018-19 as (on July 3, 2019). Gujarat has 2.55 crore PAN holders, and 62.27 lakh filed ITRs in the assessment year 2018-19. The income tax department wants to increase the country’s taxpayer base and towards this end it has put in place Non-Filer Monitoring Systems (NMS) to zero in on persons who make high-value financial transactions and yet do not file their income tax returns. (12-07-2019)
Swami Vivekananda Art Gallery may be born again at Badamdibaug: The Swami Vivekananda Art Gallery, till recently housed in Badamdibaug, was pulled down to make way for the Central Command and Control Centre (CCCC) of Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC). The plans for the CCCC building had provided for the art gallery to be again revived at the site. However, the CCCC building started functioning and there was no art gallery in it. The city’s artists have been reminding the authorities about the ‘forgotten’ gallery project for over three years now. Someone who matters has finally heard the artists’ complaints and VMC commissioner Ajay Bhadoo now says that an architect has been asked to prepare a design. One bridge has been crossed, but there will be more bridges ahead. (11-07-2019)
More projects sanctioned for Vadodara railway division: The Vadodara railway division has got projects worth Rs. 265 crore in the recent budget. The works sanctioned are: gauge conversion up to Kevadia to help tourists reach the Statue of Unity by train; Rs. 15 crore for gauge conversion with electrification of the 96 km Miyagam-Karjan-Dabhoi Samlaya railway line; Rs. 150 crore for gauge conversion and extension of the 49 km Dabhoi-Chandod line up to Kevadia; gauge conversion of 24 km Samni-Jambusar line, 48 km Jambusar-Vishwamitri line, 53 km Samlaya Timba Road line, 37 km Nadiad-Petlad line and 22 km Petlad-Bhadran line; doubling of 35 km Surat-Kosamba line; doubling of 79 km Anand-Godhra line; segregation of Ahmedabad and Godhra line at Vadodara yard to increase speeds of trains on New Delhi-Mumbai route and Vadodara-Ahmedabad route; augmentation of train watering facilities between platform number one and platform number six at Vadodara railway station; raising or extending cover sheds of platforms of 12 railway stations in Vadodara railway division; installing five lifts for commuters at Vadodara railway station. (11-07-2019)
Safety loopholes at Ahmedabad, Chennai airports: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued a show-cause notice to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International (SVPI) airport in Ahmedabad. The aviation regulator issued the show-cause notice after special inspections were conducted at the airport on July 3 and 4. The inspections revealed that the airport authorities have not taken the appropriate measures to make the airport fit for all-weather operations. DGCA’s aerodrome manual stipulates that the runway friction test must be carried out every month, but this was not done regularly. This test determines whether any part of the runway is slippery when wet. Even when the friction test was carried out the friction values were found to be below the minimum level at a few locations. Other findings: rough surface conditions near a particular stretch of the taxiway; ground water seepage in some places; runway-end safety area undulated in some places; open drainage holes, bitumen waste, electrical trenches and concrete items lying along the runway strip. With 250 flights daily, the airport handled 1.1 crore passengers in 2018-19. A similar show-cause notice has also been issued to Chennai airport. (10-07-2019)
MSU alumnus develops technology to convert organic food waste into biodegradable plastics: A Canadian start-up Genecis Bioindustries Inc. has developed a green technology to convert organic food waste into biodegradable plastics. One of the members of the team is Sudhanshu Soman, a 2013 alumnus of the Chemical Engineering Department of MS University’s Faculty of Technology and Engineering (FTE). The team has won a US patent for the technology. The biodegradable plastics made from food waste as raw material are water soluble and do not have any harmful effects. The start-up has made a demonstration plant that converts 3,000 kg of organic food waste per week into biodegradable plastics – called polyhydroxyalkanoates or PHA (PHAs are polyesters produced in nature by numerous microorganisms, including through bacterial fermentation of sugar or lipids). Replacing conventional petroleum-based plastics, PHA bioplastics reduce greenhouse gas emissions and plastic pollution due to waste accumulation. Incidentally, Sudhanshu is the son of professor Sanjay Soman, who works with the metallurgical and materials engineering department of MS University. (10-07-2019)
Amendments made to Disturbed Areas Act: The Gujarat Assembly has passed a bill to bring amendments to the Disturbed Areas Act – the Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provisions for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act, 1991 – which prohibits the transfer of immovable property in ‘disturbed areas’ of the state. One major proposed amendment to the Act seeks to increase the punishment for breach of the law to imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of not less than Rs. 1 lakh. The state government regulates the sale and transfer of immovable properties by notifying areas as ‘disturbed areas’ in order to check the polarisation of a particular community in a particular area which may be prone to communal riots and violence. In many cases properties are still being transferred violating the provisions of the Act, so now the amendment has enlarged the scope of the term ‘transfer’ to include sale, gift, exchange, lease or taking possession of property by way of power of attorney, through Transfer of Property Act, etc. If a person redevelops his property for his own use in a disturbed area, he need not take permission from the Collector, but if he wants to redevelop the property and then transfer a part of it to some other person, then he must take the permission. (09-07-2019)
Delhi experiments with bike ambulances: The Delhi government started a bike ambulance service in February 2019, as a pilot project. The service received 2,000 emergency calls in its first four months. Except for 32% of the cases where patients were not found at the location from which the emergency call was made, the service was successfully provided. These ambulances are called first responder vehicles (FRVs) and their main purpose is to quickly attend to patients in jhuggi jhopri (JJ) clusters and other congested areas which the large conventional ambulances cannot easily reach. Each FRV – there are 16 deployed in the pilot project – is equipped with a portable oxygen cylinder, first-aid kit, dressing material, air splints, GPS and a communication device. When the service number is called, both the FRV as well as the regular ambulance leave at the same time. The bike ambulance reaches the patient first and does what is necessary till the regular ambulance arrives. The FRV does not transport patients. The pilot project, costing Rs. 40 lakh, will be monitored for a year. (09-07-2019)
This electric vehicle is a motorcycle which looks like a bicycle: Three Pune based entrepreneurs – Sachin Jadhav, Anand Mohan and Vivek Gupta of a start-up called Polarity – are working on a pedal-assisted electric vehicle (EV) that looks like a bicycle but acts like a motorcycle. The vehicle’s battery can last about 80 km before it needs a recharge. The bike can reach a speed of 100 kmph. Pedalling is easy after it gains momentum. The battery disconnects electricity to the motor when pedalling starts, and this saves energy. Polarity will launch six products, all single-seater personal mobility vehicles (PMV). The bikes are easy to disassemble and can be packed into the boot of a car. Deliveries are likely to start by the end of 2019. (08-07-2019)
Opportunity for professional tax payers to regularise their payments: The Gujarat State Finance Department has announced a scheme to exempt professional tax payers from fine and interests. The scheme, applicable to those who come under the tax net but remain out of its purview, will be in force from June 1 to August 31, 2019. It applies to small factory owners, traders, employers and professionals working under the jurisdiction of local self-government units ranging from gram panchayats to municipal corporations. The scheme also exempts employers, professionals and traders from fine and disciplinary action if they get enrolled by August 31, 2019. Employers who have not registered for professional tax and have not paid the tax can do that during this period. (08-07-2019)
State will get two new airports: The central government’s ministry of civil aviation has sanctioned Rs. 7,737 crore for the Hirasar and Dholera airports in Gujarat. The Hirasar airport near Rajkot will get Rs. 2,654 crore, and the Dholera international airport in Ahmedabad district will get Rs. 5,083 crore. Work on the Dholera airport should begin by 2020. Airstrip development has already started for the Hirasar airport. The Hirasar airport is being developed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Gujarat government. For the Dholera airport a joint venture special purpose vehicle (SPV) has been formed between AAI and the Gujarat government. The Dholera airport will also cater to the increasing demand in Ahmedabad. The Hirasar airport near Rajkot can service the needs of people in 11 districts of Saurashtra. (07-07-2019)
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