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Rann Utsav, Patang Utsav & Navratri Utsav Festivals: In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the Gujarat government made a lot of effort to attract domestic and foreign tourists to the annual Rann Utsav, Patang Utsav and Navratri Utsav festivals. Over Rs. 42 crore was spent on the exercise, but the attendance was thin: 38,149 domestic tourists and 58 foreign tourists. The spending over the three years was Rs. 10.49 crore, Rs. 11.85 crore and Rs. 20.33 crore. (28-02-2017)
Gujarat Budgets For Assembly Election Exercise: The Gujarat government has earmarked about Rs. 320 crore for the assembly elections which are due this year. This amount is expected to meet the cost of logistics, security arrangements and other poll related activities. A large chunk of the expenditure is on the deployment of staff from different government agencies and the shifting of machinery and electronic voting machines. Roughly 110,000 employees will be deployed for the various election activities. The salary expenditure on permanent Election Commission of India (ECI) staff, the cost of preparing electoral rolls of voters and the cost of voter cards is shared equally by the ECI and the state government. The budgeted amount of Rs. 320 crore does not include the expense of mobilising regular and special police forces; this cost is covered separately by the state home department. (27-02-2017)
Tougher Prohibition Law: The Gujarat government has amended the prohibition law and done away with the leniency provision for first-time offenders which allowed them to render community service and take de-addiction treatment instead of serving a jail sentence. The law provides for a stricter penalty of jail up to six months for the first offence and a minimum sentence of six months which can extend up to two years for second time offenders. For selling, buying, transporting or possessing liquor the offender faces a minimum jail sentence of seven years (maximum 10 years) and a fine of not less than Rs. 5 lakh. At the same time, bhang will no longer be considered an ‘intoxicating drug’ under section 23 of the Gujarat Prohibition Act. It seems that liquor accounts for over 60% of the crimes in Gujarat. (25-02-2017)
Hookah Bars Banned In Gujarat: The Gujarat Assembly has recently approved a bill to ban hookah bars in the state. The new law is an amendment to a central law called the 'Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act-2003' (COTP). The breach of this law can lead to imprisonment of one to three years. It will be considered a cognizable offence and there is a provision for a fine of between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 50,000. (24-02-2017)
Beggar In Mehsana Selected For 'Literacy Hero Award': Khimjibhai Prajapati is a beggar in Mehsana who seeks alms outside temples. His objective, however, is to help underprivileged girls become self-reliant. He uses his ‘income’ to buy school uniforms and books for girls from poor families. Over the years he has spent over Rs. 80,000 towards this cause. He has donated money to primary schools and also a special school for the disabled. Khimjibhai has now been selected by Rotary Club of India for the 'Literacy Hero Award'; he will receive a prize of Rs, 100,000 and a citation. The award ceremony will be in Chennai on March 3. (13-02-2017)
State Government Recruitment Advertisements: The Gujarat High Court has ruled that all state government recruitment advertisements must clearly state that there is a 3 % quota for disabled persons, as required by the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. A PIL had been filed because two recruitment advertisements issued by the Gujarat Subordinate Service Selection Board and Gujarat Panchayat Service Selection Board did not clearly mention this quota. (23-12-2016)
Gujarat’s New Aerospace & Defense Policy: Setting the stage for the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, the state government has announced incentives to attract investments in aerospace and defense sector industries. India is hoping for an investment of US$ 250 billion, and Gujarat wants about 10 to 15% of this pie. Among the incentives in the five-year policy: government land at 50% of Jantri rates; 100% rebate of stamp duty and registration charges levied on land purchased; electricity duty waiver for five years; relief for training of employees. (22-12-2016)
Facelift For District’s Tourist Spots: The Vadodara district administration has drawn up plans to generally spruce up and improve the facilities for tourists at Wadhwana lake, the popular bird-watching spot, as well as Nareshwar and Malsar on the Narmada bank. The Gujarat government has already sanctioned Rs. 10 crore to develop tourist locations in the district. The Wadhwana lake is 50 km from Vadodara, in Dabhoi taluka. Nareshwar is 70 km from Vadodara, and Malsar too is 70 km away. (21-12-2016)
Export Push By Morbi’s Ceramic Industry: At the recent Vibrant Ceramics Expo and Summit 2016 held at Ahmedabad the Morbi Ceramic Association decided to set up warehouses in seven countries. This will make it easier for Morbi’s ceramic tile manufacturers to cater even to small dealers and importers overseas. Morbi is home to India’s largest ceramic cluster. The warehouses will be in USA, Latvia, Oman and Philippines, followed thereafter by Poland, Dubai and Madagascar. (20-12-2016)
‘Driverben – Ek Nayi Pehchaan’: Ahmedabad based NGOs Jan Vikas and Aazad Foundation teach women with vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds to become professional drivers. They run a 6-month training programme called ‘Driverben – Ek Nayi Pehchaan’. The women are helped to get driver’s licences and then jobs as drivers with families in the city. Driving not being a traditional profession, there is initial hesitation, but the NGOs give some assurance about safety at work and the pay is fairly good. All the women are now the sole breadwinners. The training covers grooming, first aid, legal and gender awareness, and elementary car care. (19-12-2016)
Ahmedabad’s Cricket Stadium Will Be World’s Largest: Gujarat Cricket Association’s Sardar Patel Cricket Stadium at Ahmedabad will soon have the world’s largest seating capacity – 110,000 people. The new facilities will include more air-conditioned boxes, better parking, food zones, improved washrooms, etc. The existing stadium had a capacity of only 54,000 people. In comparison, Australia’s Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) can take in 100,024 spectators. The old structure has been brought down and the construction contract for the makeover has been awarded to Larsen & Toubro (L&T). (18-12-2016)
Glass Powder Coated Manja Banned: The use of Chinese nylon thread has been banned by the Ahmedabad Police Commissionerate during the forthcoming uttarayan festival. The National Green Tribunal has imposed a nationwide ban on the procurement, sale and use of glass powder coated manja. Last year the government had banned the use of tukal in order to prevent accidental fires. Most of the prepared manja comes from Surat and Bareilly. There is not much clarity about which alternative threads will be used for kite flying. Also, people wonder whether the ban can be strictly enforced. (17-12-2016)
Tajpura’s Narayan Eye Hospital May Offer Some Services In Vadodara: The Shree Narayan Eye Hospital at Tajpura near Pavagadh may sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) to offer some of its services to Barodians at Vadodara. This hospital, which was started in Panchmahal district in 1976 by the followers of Saint Narayan Bapu, carries out thousands of eye operations every year, free of cost, and it provides free post-operative care and medicines. It also arranges transport for patients from Vadodara, Godhra, Derol and Halol. If an understanding is reached with VMC, the Shree Narayan Eye Hospital will provide some of its primary services at Vadodara’s Urban Health Centres. Wherever needed, patients will be transported free of cost to the hospital at Tajpura. (16-12-2016)
Medical Facilities In Interior Areas: In order to improve medical facilities and deal with the shortage of medical professionals in less developed areas the Gujarat government plans to start six brownfield self-financed medical colleges in Tapi, Dahod, Panchmahals, Banaskantha, Bharuch and Amreli districts. Some government hospitals in these areas will be upgraded following the public-private partnership model. The government also plans to encourage private greenfield medical colleges which adhere to the rules of the Medical Council of India (MCI). If successfully implemented, this new policy will double the number of seats in medical colleges by 2022 and reduce the doctor-patient ratio in hospitals from 1:2000 to 1:1000. Financial subsidy of up to Rs. 75 crore will be given to greenfield medical colleges with 300-bed hospitals in rural areas and around 50% of this will be given to brownfield medical college hospitals. Private diagnostic centres and super-specialty hospitals or centres which want to provide services in tribal and under-developed areas will get funds up to 30% of the cost. The government will bear 50% of the land cost if the promoter does not have land. (15-12-2016)
2017 Gujarat Assembly Polls: The Election Commission of India (EC) conducted an enrollment drive during September-October 2016 to finalise the electoral rolls before the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls. It added 967,000 first-time voters to the rolls. The EC expects to add about 2 million new voters to the 42 million already on its rolls. The drive seeks to especially rope in more voters in the 18-19 and 20-29 age groups. The 18-19 age group is currently only 1.33 percent of the state’s 42 million registered voters. According to the Census 2011 figures there are about 2.45 million eligible voters in the 18-19 age group; however, only about 370,000 of them are in the electoral rolls. (24-11-2016)
Maruti Suzuki To Set Up Industrial Training Centre In Mehsana: Maruti Suzuki plans to establish an industrial training centre in Mehsana to create a pool of skilled manpower. It wil train 300 young persons to learn Japanese shop floor practices. The centre, to be called 'Japan-India Institute of Manufacturing' (JIM), is expected to be operational by August 1917. Maruti will make an initial investment of Rs. 3.2 crore. (18-11-2016)
Gujarat Launches Generic Medicine Shops: The Gujarat government has started 52 generic medicine shops in the state. The shops, to be called Deendayal Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendras, are meant to provide generic, affordable and quality medicines. The shops will sell government-certified medicines at about 10 % of the cost of branded medicines. Medical implant materials will also be sold. Another 500 such shops are in the pipeline. To start with, about 1,000 drugs will be sold, 500 of which are in the essential drugs list. The second phase will roll out 2000 drugs. (15-11-2016)
Two-Wheeler Taxis May Be Allowed In Gujarat: A few companies have asked the Gujarat government to permit them to run two-wheeler taxis in the state. Considering the heavy traffic congestion the idea is worth considering, and the concerned departments have approved it in principle. As in all such matters, the decision is pending, and it is likely to be positive. The state has thus far permitted only three-wheeler and four-wheeler taxi services. Two-wheeler taxis are compratively more convenient and cause less road congestion. The state transport department is presently working on the details of the proposal. (14-09-2016)
Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit In 2017: The 8th edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit will be held from January 10 to 13, 2017, at Mahatma Mandir, Gandhinagar. Started in 2003, the summit provides a forum for exchanging ideas, sharing knowledge, networking, exploring business opportunities and signing cooperation agreements and partnerships. The focus this year is ‘Sustainable Economic and Social Development’. Sprawling over 125,000 sq mts, the exhibition will feature the latest trends, technologies, products and services across sectors. The government has identified 202 projects, covering over 20 sectors, to be discussed with prospective investors. The criteria for selecting the projects are location, manpower availability, infrastructure, etc. For instance, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Vadodara can be attractive for electronic hardware projects, Banaskantha and Patan for solar power plants, Junagadh and Kodinar for conventional power projects, etc. Other areas include aerospace, defence, automobiles and ancillaries, energy and power, heavy engineering, chemicals and petrochemicals, etc. Industrial Extension Bureau is the nodal agency for organising the summit and consulting firm Ernst & Young (E&Y) will also be involved. (13-09-2016)
Pokemon Go Away Please: An Ahmedabad citizen has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Gujarat High Court against the makers of the location based augmented reality game Pokemon Go. His objection is that the placing of Pokemon in places of religious worship may offend some people’s sentiments. What he wants is that the game should be banned in India. Many countries have asked that the game’s developers should not include certain locations – for instance, memorials, cemeteries, scenes of genocides or tragedies, abandoned minefields, etc. The game has not been officially launched in India. (09-09-2016)
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