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Work on six-lane 380-km Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway will begin soon: The government has announced that work on the six-lane 380-km Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway will begin in October this year. The project, likely to cost Rs. 44,000 crore, can cut the travel time between the two cities to three hours. Land acquisition for the project has been completed and some tenders to begin work have already been issued. The forest and environment ministry has cleared the project. The expressway route: Thane in Maharashtra, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch and Vadodara in Gujarat. It will ultimately connect to the already existing Ahmedabad-Vadodara expressway. Once the whole project is completed a road trip from Mumbai to Ahmedabad may take about six hours, roughly the same time as that taken by the Shatabdi train. According to a report prepared in 2013, India’s National Highway network is just 2 % of the country’s road network but carries about 40 % of the total traffic. Road transport accounts for 65 % of freight movement and 85 % of passenger traffic. Most of our National Highways are severely congested. Internationally a goods vehicle travels an average of 600-800 km a day, as against 250-300 km in India. Non-urban roads are classified into six categories: Expressways, National Highways, State Highways, Major District Roads, Other District Roads, and Village Roads. (19-09-2017)
Botanical garden at Gotri: Vadodara is likely to get a botanical garden in the vicinity of the Gotri lake. While the lake has already gone through a renovation exercise, it was only recently that the botanical garden proposal was cleared by the standing committee of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC). The project cost will be over Rs. 4.7 crore, for the ground preparation and the civil work. The horticulture and plantation cost will be in addition to this. (16-09-2017)
Nutritive food for anganwadis: Gujarat’s Women & Child Welfare Department, Gujarat Milk Marketing Federation and three dairies have joined hands to provide nutritive foods to over 4.2 million children studying in over 53,000 anaganwadis, pregnant mothers, foster mothers and young girls. Each child will get 125 gms of nutritive food daily and pregnant mothers, foster mothers and young girls will get 145 gms to provide sufficient calories and proteins. A recipe book has also been printed to teach the beneficiaries about the kinds of food items that can be prepared from the take-home-rations. (15-09-2017)
High Speed Rail Training Institute at Vadodara: Indian Railways is setting up a training centre at Vadodara for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project. The centre, which will provide training and skills to the railway and non-railway staff working on the project’s Ahmedabad-Mumbai stretch, will be spread across five hectares on the campus of the National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR). NAIR was earlier known as the Railway Staff College. Vadodara railway station’s platform number 6 will act as the station for the bullet train. Over 4,000 railway technicians will receive training in high-speed track technology at this institute, which is expected to be ready by 2020. At the same time, 300 Indian Railways officials are presently being trained in Japan. (14-09-2017)
‘Value of Money’ contest: Ahmedabad based National Institute of Design (NID) and Kusters Engineering (KE), a company which makes custom-designed currency disintegration systems, had organised a ‘Value of Money’ contest to invite ideas for the re-cycling of the recently demonetised currency notes. Three prizes were to be announced but the responses have been so creative that a fourth prize will also be given. Among the ideas received are the use of the notes in the making of furniture and office articles and as construction materials. The results will be announced on 25th September. The winning ideas will be further developed into commercially viable applications; the initiative will be funded by KE. (06-09-2017)
Ajwa reservoir gates closed after rain in catchment areas reduces: Following steady rain in the catchment areas of the Ajwa reservoir the Vadodara Municipal Corporation had recently opened the 62 gates of the reservoir – after a span of two years – to gradually release water into the Vishwamitri river which passes through Vadodara city. Due to the release of water from Ajwa the river level rose to 8 feet (waterlogging happens in the low-lying parts of the city when the river level rises to 24 feet). Once the purpose of draining out excess water from the reservoir was served the gates were again closed on 4th September with the level at 211.5 feet. Water can be stored in the reservoir up to 214 feet. At 211 feet, the reservoir has enough water to serve Vadodara’s needs for one year. (05-09-2017)
Suggestion by 'Global IIM Alum Network: The 'Global IIM Alum Network' – a forum of alumni of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) – has sent an open letter to the boards of premier management institutes suggesting that there should be more inclusion of under-represented communities in both research as well as teaching positions. The forum said that the IIMs should be granted autonomy if they agree to have reservations in appointments. It seems that at the faculty level there is less than 3 per cent representation from Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC). According to the forum, "The institutes have experience of teaching SC, ST and OBC students for 60 years and still have not recognised the usefulness of diversity. … All subjects in management stream require an understanding of complex human and social behavior, which comes naturally with a diverse experience". (05-09-2017)
108 Emergency Service completes 10 eventful years in Gujarat: The 108 emergency service in Gujarat completed 10 years on August 29. Starting with 53 ambulances in January 2008 it now has a fleet of 585, and by March 2018 it is expect to grow to 650. Gujarat is the second state where this free emergency service was started. Here are some impressive statistics spanning the decade of activity: 78 lakh health emergencies attended, 1 lakh police service calls attended, 5,000 fire service calls attended. Paramedics have helped in over 75,000 childbirths and saved thousands of lives. Between 3,200 and 5,000 patients are attended daily. The service is also called the GVK EMRI 108 service. GVK EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) is a not-for-profit pioneer in emergency management services which operates in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode. The objective is to deliver comprehensive, speedy, reliable and quality emergency care services. This has been done by establishing an Emergency Response System that coordinates every emergency through a single toll free number 1-0-8 which when called in an emergency ensures prompt communication and activation of a response that includes, assessment of the emergency, dispatch of the ambulances, along with a well trained Emergency Medical Technician to render quality pre-hospital care and transport of the patient to the appropriate health care facility. GVK is a Hyderabad based infrastructure conglomerate involved in diverse sectors including energy, resources, airports, transportation, hospitality and life sciences. The founder chairman is Gunupati Venkata Krishna (hence the abbreviation GVK) Reddy. The 108 Emergency Response Center in Gujarat is located at Kathwada, 15 km from Ahmedabad. (30-08-2017)
Google may tie up with state government in some areas: Some members of Google's public policy division met recently with Gujarat government bureaucrats from various departments to explore areas in which the search engine giant could tie up with the state. Some possible areas: cyber security training for university students, research in educational institutions, labour improvement, development of image libraries, promotion of tourist locations. Several state government departments were involved in the initial discussions: science and technology, industry and mines; sports, youth and culture, labour and employment, agriculture and cooperation, education, etc. A Google research centre in the state was also discussed. Google India is already engaged in some activities in collaboration with the Andhra Pradesh government. (30-08-2017)
Customer paid Rs. 25 for a soft drink bottle with a printed MRP of Rs. 25: This consumer court award pertains to an incident in March 2016. A restaurant in Vadodara charged a customer Rs. 25 for a soft drink bottle which had a price of Rs. 25 printed on it. The extra amount charged was Rs. 9. The customer took the matter to the Vadodara District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum. The restaurant maintained that the extra charge was to cover for the facilities and services. However, the court ruled that the restaurant did not serve the soft drink in a glass and the customer was given the bottle only. The restaurant was asked to deposit Rs. 25,000 with the Consumer Welfare Fund, and also pay Rs. 8,000 to the customer for the harassment and towards legal expenditure. Also, the restaurant will have to refund Rs. 9 (the amount overcharged) with 9% interest! Parliament has enacted the Consumer Protection Act in 1986, but consumers are largely unaware of its implications. It seems that luxury hotels should not charge more than the printed MRP for packaged drinking water.

Vegetarian Barodian Served Non-Vegetarian Food On International Flight: A resident of Subhanpura in Vadodara, a strict vegetarian, was given chicken by mistake on a Korean Airlines flight. The upset passenger fought a six-year battle in the consumer court and asked for Rs. 300,000 for the resulting mental agony and Rs. 50,000 towards legal expenditure; he also wanted the airline to be fined Rs. 100,000. The award from the consumer court: $40 for the mistake and Rs. 1000 towards litigation costs. The airline did not get a stiffer punishment because the mistake was unintentional and it was not aware that the passenger’s religious sentiments would be hurt. The incident happened on a flight from San Francisco to Mumbai in 2010. (26-08-2017)
Proposal to have a separate department at MS University to run courses in ayurveda and yoga: A syndicate member has proposed that MS University should have a new department to run courses in ayurveda and yoga. Syndicate approval is awaited, following which the state government can be approached for the required permissions. MSU may also try to revive the Sheth Ujamsinh Pitambaras Ayurvedic Research Unit (SUPARU) on the Baroda Medical College campus. SUPARU was started by ayurveda acharya Sheth Ujamsinh from Patan (earlier a part of Baroda state) who created a corpus fund to sustain ayurvedic practice and research. He had donated the facility to Baroda Medical College and Sayaji Ruganalay. Hence, it is handled by MSU. (24-08-2017)
Fire in hotel kitchen at Fatehgunj: A fire broke out in the kitchen of the Blue Lagoon Hotel in Fatehgunj on Wednesday morning. During a frying process the flames somehow touched the exhaust chimney duct and the resulting fire could not be controlled by the fire extinguishers. The fire brigade was called in and the blaze was quickly brought under control. There were no injuries. The hotel authorities have been instructed by the fire brigade to make some urgent changes to prevent such incidents in future. The hotel’s kitchen has been closed until the necessary changes are carried out. (24-08-2017)
Inter-State Badminton Tournament Begins: Teams from Maharashtra, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat are taking part in the four-day west zone inter-state badminton championship 2017 which commenced in Vadodara on 22nd August. Organised by the Baroda Badminton Association (BBA), the tournament venue is the badminton courts on the grounds of the Laxmi Vilas Palace. Each of the states is being represented by 25 players. This tournament has come to the city after a gap of 27 years. (22-08-2017)
NavKaushalya Savitaben Amin Institute for Girls and Women launches ‘cooking lab’: Vadodara based NavKaushalya Savitaben Amin Institute for Girls and Women has recently launched a ‘cooking lab’. Partly funded for one year by the CSR authority of Gujarat, the cooking lab’s objective is to provide hands-on training to enable ladies to cook healthy, hygienic and tasty vegetarian food economically and efficiently. It is hoped that some of the ladies will eventually develop into confident entrepreneurs in the food and related industries. NavKaushalya Institute provides training in vocational courses to girls and women to ensure their livelihood and independence. Run by Navrachana Education Society, it seeks to inspire girls from socially disadvantaged backgrounds who are presently out-of-school to get back into school. It was established in 2014. (19-08-2017)
Vadodara Will Have Gujarat's Highest Flag Mast: Vadodara is about to get the highest flag mast in Gujarat. The 67-meter flag mast is expected to be in place at the Sama pond by Independence Day (15th August). The height of the flag mast is awaiting clearance from the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) also plans to set up a ‘flag park’, at the same location; this park will display flags from all the countries of the world. This year the state level Independence Day celebrations will be held in Vadodara. The current Gujarat record for flag mast height is held by the 61-meter flag mast at Mundra port in Kutch. (11-08-2017)
Vadodara’s Smart City Command Centre Approved: A proposal to set up an Integrated City Command and Control Centre (ICCCC) has been approved by Vadodara Smart City Development Ltd. (VSCDL), a special purpose vehicle formed for Smart City projects in Vadodara. VSCDL and the city police have done some pilot testing of the systems. This Rs. 83 crore project will involve the mobilisation of CCTV cameras and other equipment (environment sensors, public address systems, emergency call boxes, automatic number plate readers, etc) all over the city. The city’s existing systems will be merged with this CCTV network. This system has been developed by (n)Code Solutions, a division of state promoted Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd. (GNFC). The Command Centre will also be used for real time monitoring of situations in emergencies. (21-07-2017)
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)
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