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Gujarat cops will have India’s first liquor-hunting dog squad: The Gujarat Police will soon deploy five beagle puppies to form India’s first alcohol-hunting dog squad. The squad will help to sniff out hidden parcels of liquor. Contraband liquor is usually hidden in custom-built compartments in trucks, cars, bikes, and even autorickshaws, and police personnel have to waste a lot of time looking for the liquor. This labour-intensive exercise can be completed by the dogs within minutes. The sanctioned strength of the Gujarat Police dog squad is 186 – beagles, labradors, German shepherds, dobermans, Belgian malinois – and the police are busy ‘recruiting’ more dogs in order to reach that figure. The labradors will be used to catch prohibition offenders. Of the five beagle puppies acquired, four are four months old and one is three months old. Their training will start when they are six months old; the trainers will be special consultants at the police department's Naroda kennel. (12-07-2020)
Ceramic artist Jyotsna Bhatt passes away at 80: Well-known ceramic artist Jyotsna Bhatt passed away peacefully in Vadodara on Saturday. She was 80. Like her artist husband Padma Shri awardee Jyoti Bhatt, she was both a student and a teacher at MS University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. She had moved from Mumbai to Baroda in 1958 as a student of sculpture under famous teachers like the late professor Sankho Chaudhuri. Her husband Jyoti Bhatt was a student of the first batch of Fine Arts. Both subsequently went to New York where she was trained in ceramics at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, and then she started practising sculptural pottery. She taught at MSU and later headed the ceramics department till she retired. Her career spanned over 50 years. (12-07-2020)
Ahmedabad enforces mask and social distancing rules strictly: Officials of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) recently collected fines worth Rs. 800 per minute from people not wearing masks or not maintaining social distancing. AMC teams collected Rs. 9.66 lakh in fines in just two days; of this amount, Rs. 4.18 lakh was collected from pan shops. AMC says that 151 teams are working for approximately 10 hours every day; they catch more than 162 persons per hour for breaching the Covid protocol. (11-07-2020)
Worried state officials review Covid measures: Worried about the increasing incidence of Covid-19 and the inadequate precautions taken by the public regarding the use of masks and social distancing, senior state government and district administration officials held an urgent meeting to review the situation. The chief secretary asked officials to work in synergy with police and other departments and improve Covid-19 containment measures. The actions in 19 districts were reviewed. It is in these districts that the spread of Covid-19 has been rapid. Most of the district administration officials, DDOs and collectors suggested that steeper fines should be imposed for not wearing masks or for violations of social distancing norms. Some officials even asked for measures like partial lockdowns. (11-07-2020)
Registration of power of attorney made compulsory: The President of India has given assent to the Registration (Gujarat Amendment) Bill 2018. The bill aims to prevent misuse of power of attorney for frauds. The state government has notified the act and implemented it, and it will be mandatory to register powers of attorney in the state. In a statement, the Revenue minister said, "It is noticed that when an unregistered power of attorney is used for registration of a sale deed, the person who has executed the power of attorney sometimes refuses to have executed the said power of attorney. Also, the power of attorney has been misused sometimes by the holder of the power of attorney. It is, therefore, considered necessary to amend the existing provision of section 17(1)(f) of the Registration Act, 1098 so as to restrict registration of documents using fraudulent and false power of attorney and also to create a permanent record of such transactions. This new system will reduce frauds and protect rights of citizens." (11-07-2020)
GujCET deferred to August 22: The Gujarat Common Entrance Test (GujCET) has been deferred to August 22 from July 30 due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. This was announced by the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB) in a media statement on Wednesday. More than 1.25 lakh students are expected to participate in the GujCET exams. This is the second time that the exam has been rescheduled due to the pandemic. This exam is held annually for science students seeking admissions in degree engineering and degree and diploma pharmacy courses in government, grant-in-aid and self-financed engineering institutions in the state. GSHSEB conducts GujCET. (10-07-2020)
Solar power policy extended till December 31: The state energy minister has said that the time frame of ‘Gujarat Solar Power Policy - 2015’ has been extended up to December 31, 2020. Due to the prevailing pandemic situation the state government had announced the Rs. 14,000 crore Gujarat Atma Nirbhar Package, under which the time frames of several policies have been extended. The extension will give a boost to Gujarat’s target to achieve 8,000 MW solar energy production by 2022. (10-07-2020)
Salt consumption increased 40% in two months: Edible salt consumption in Gujarat increased by about 40% in May and June. Due to the Covid crisis the governments distributed crores of ration kits that included one kg salt each. Another reason for the increase in salt consumption is the increase in the number of households regularly using salt for gargling and sanitising vegetables. Kutch manufactures almost three crore tonnes of salt annually, which is 80% of India’s consumption. There are 15 refineries in Gandhidham which refine, package and transport salt. Salt manufacturers say that there is no shortage of salt and enough is available to meet the demand. (09-07-2020)
Surat shopkeepers without masks will be fined Rs. 5,000: The Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has said that shopkeepers who do not wear masks and sell anything to customers will be fined Rs. 5,000. The customers must also have face shields. The corporation has issued a communique to this effect. (09-07-2020)
Ghogha-Dahej Ro-Ro ferry service may re-start after monsoon: Adani Group’s Adani Hazira Ports Pvt. Ltd. (AHPPL) has won the contract to build the temporary infrastructure at Hazira port for re-starting the Ghogha-Dahej Ro-Ro ferry service. The bids were invited by Deendayal Port Trust (DPT) – formerly Kandla Port. DPT has been tasked with re-starting the ferry service and it had invited bidders for the temporary structure which can enable the re-starting of the service. DPT will operate the ferry service as per the shipping ministry's mandate and aims to commence the Ro-Ro operations after the monsoon ends. AHPPL operates a container terminal at Hazira. (09-07-2020)
Fresh bids for MSU’s CCTV surveillance project: MS University will re-initiate the tendering process for its integrated CCTV surveillance project over 4,000 CCTV cameras across seven of its campuses. The project cost was estimated at Rs. five crore. MSU had earlier floated tenders inviting bids for the project, several bids had been received, and seven were found to be acceptable. It was then realised that all the products non-Indian, most of them Chinese. A spokesperson of MSU says that a decision to re-initiate the process with revised specifications has been taken by the university’s syndicate as an effort to promote Indian products especially at a time when self-reliance is being stressed. (08-07-2020)
Many shop-owners want to close by 4 pm: Worried about the spurt in Covid-19 cases a group of traders and shopkeepers is considering the imposition of a deadline of 4 pm on all the shops. The group of shop-owners representing different associations met to discuss the issue. A member of the group said that shoppers have begun thronging the markets and it has become unsafe to do business. The group is trying to create consensus among all the members. Some shop-owners have agreed to close by 4 pm, but others are not in favour of the idea. Since the opening of the lockdown on July 1, there is little evidence of social distancing and many people do not even wear masks. (08-07-2020)
Pollution Control Board streamlines procedures: The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has changed the definition of micro, small, medium and large enterprises in the state and fixed responsibilities for granting approvals for applications by industries. This follows the central government making changes in the micro, small and medium enterprises act on the basis of investment that they have made. The GPCB chairman will grant approvals for applications for large industries, the member secretary will grant approvals for medium enterprises and environmental engineers will grant approvals for small enterprises. These changes will reduce the time in granting approvals to industries and bring in transparency. Some of the applications which the GPCB processes are consent to establish units, consent to operate units, changes in product mix and amendments in existing applications. (08-07-2020)
Hospital association suggests steep fines for not wearing masks: The Ahmedabad Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (AHNA) has written to the Chief Minister of Gujarat suggesting that stringent measures should be imposed for the mandatory use of face masks required to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ahmedabad. The AHNA prescription refers to Kerala where there is talk of penalties of Rs. 10,000 per instance for not wearing masks and mandatory community service for repeated offences. The letter is a response to the rampant violations of the mask-wearing rules. The letter adds: “The penalty of Rs. 200 is not serving any purpose and the actual cost of implementing the rule is costlier than Rs. 200. It has to be enhanced substantially. Enhancing fines has helped in lowering traffic violations.” AHNA feels that this move will not only result in stringent implementation but will also drastically reduce the infection rate. The AHNA president said that international studies show that even if 80% of people wear masks properly, the infection rate can be reduced drastically. (07-07-2020)
Pavagadh temple to open from Tuesday: The Mahakali temple on Pavagadh hill will open for the first time after lockdown on Tuesday morning. The temple had closed on March 20. The temple will remain open daily from 6 am to 7.30 pm but devotees will have to wear face masks and maintain social distancing. The temple trust has banned offerings like coconut, and ‘prasad’ will not be given. Children below the age of 10 years and adults above the age of 65 years will not be allowed. Also, pregnant ladies and physically challenged persons have been advised to avoid visiting the temple for now. The body temperature of visitors will be taken. The ropeway will be functional. (06-07-2020)
CA Foundation exams deferred till November: The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has deferred all exams including the one for the CA Foundation and decided to merge them with the exams that are scheduled in November. The normal schedule for exams for the CA Foundation course was in May, but ICAI had postponed it till July. Now all the exams have been postponed till November. Those students who were expected to take exams in May will not have to pay registration fees in November. Students will be required to apply afresh for exams in November, and they can opt for the exam centre again. The Centre has ordered all education institutes to be closed till July 31, so the exams cannot be held in July. About 3 lakh students take the CA exams every year. (06-07-2020)
Live tracking of Vadodara’s city buses: The Vadodara city bus service has now implemented Integrated Transport Management System (ITMS) as a Smart City initiative. Bus users will now be able to easily get information on the movement of their buses, and there will be several other improvements too. There will be live tracking of buses on VMC’s official mobile application and website. The estimated time of arrival of buses will soon be displayed at bus stands. ITMS has been facilitated in 75 city buses; it will be launched in the remaining 75 buses in the second phase. The buses are being equipped with CCTVs, Passenger Information System (PIS) displays, panic buttons, driver display units and GPS tracking. The CCTVs and panic buttons will enhance passenger safety. If a bus changes its route or skips a bus stop, officials monitoring the service will be alerted. The system will ensure that drivers drive safely and do not exceed speed limits. (05-07-2020)
Car manufacturer ordered to refund price of car: A consumer court in Surat has ordered a car manufacturer and its local dealer in Surat to return the price of a car after holding both of them responsible for deficiency in after-sales service. The court also ordered that the customer should be paid an additional sum of Rs. 1.62 lakh towards auto-rickshaw fare because he was deprived of the use of his car for over four years. The car's price was Rs. 13.37 lakh, but since the customer had used it for 15 days, he was held entitled to Rs. 13 lakh with 8% interest. (05-07-2020)
Urban local body polls in Gujarat will not have e-voting option: Voters will not have the online voting option in this year’s urban local body polls in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar. The option has been discontinued by the Gujarat state election commission (SEC). The contract with the private company providing the software and support for online voting has ended. With the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) contract ending, the SEC consulted National Informatics Centre (NIC) for the e-voting project. NIC said it was experimenting with online voting systems for the Election Commission of India (ECI). So the SEC will wait until the NIC develops a new online voting system. The online voting system was first used in Gujarat in the 2010 urban local body elections, and then in the 2011 and 2015 local body polls. The response to e-voting was not particularly encouraging, largely because the process of registering as an electronic voter and the process of e-voting itself were complex. The SEC had paid Rs. 26 crore to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) for software development. Also, Rs. six crore was spent on promoting the concept of e-voting. (05-07-2020)
Dilapidated residential buildings can be redeveloped: The state urban development and urban housing department has amended the General Development Control Regulations (GDCR) 2017 to allow redevelopment of dilapidated residential buildings in congested areas. Under the 2017 rules, this was not permitted. Thousands of owners of such buildings in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot and other cities will now benefit by this change. The new GR will apply in case of redevelopment for DW-3 type of residential buildings where the redevelopment of existing number of dwelling units is not permissible under the GDCR 2017. Buildings which are more than 25 years old on the day of application for redevelopment, or declared dilapidated by a competent authority, will be allowed. Residential buildings which are declared dilapidated by a committee of the municipal corporation or any urban development authority or town planning officers and other competent authorities will be eligible for redevelopment. A dwelling unit having carpet area less than 40 square metres may be redeveloped as dwelling unit of up to 40 square metres. In case of dwelling units having existing carpet area of more than 40 square metres, redevelopment will be allowed equal to the existing carpet area. The maximum number of individual dwelling units should not exceed the existing authorised number of dwelling units. Additional FSI more than the above will be charged at 40% of the open land of jantri rate. Parking restrictions will be relaxed, but fire and structural safety norms will have to be followed. There will be a restriction of five years on sale of the redeveloped unit by the original owners. (04-07-2020)
Medical, dental exams postponed at all Gujarat universities: Exams for medical, paramedical and dental courses at all universities have been postponed by the state government. All exams for graduate and postgraduate courses of the medical faculty have been postponed, for about ten days, according to the office of the commissioner of health, medical services and medical education. The exams will be rescheduled once the standard operating procedure is issued by the ministry of human resource development. (04-07-2020)
School children to take tests from home: The state education department has directed all government-run, grant-in aid and private schools in the state to conduct exams for primary school students in the last week of July. The periodic evaluation test is meant to check the progress of the children and will be conducted from the comfort of their homes under the supervision of the parents. The test will be on the main language and maths. Each test will be of 25 marks and the schools will have to make arrangements to ensure that question papers reach the students’ homes by July 28 at the latest. The parents have to submit the answer sheets to the schools by July 31. The question papers will carry five questions of five marks each. To ensure that the new academic session is not affected by the pandemic, the government had initiated a ‘Home Learning’ programme. Students are provided ‘weekly learning material’ through various social media platforms. Schools have been shut since March due to the Covid pandemic and school students have been promoted en masse for the 2019-20 academic year. (03-07-2020)
MS University defers all exams for now: MS University (MSU) has announced that it will defer for now all exams that were to begin from July 20. The university had planned to conduct multiple choice-based online exams for its students. The MSU announcement came after the state education minister said that all exams which were to be conducted by the universities in Gujarat will be postponed. MSU officials said that new dates for the exams of final year, final semester and post-graduate courses will be declared after receiving any new orders from the state education department. (03-07-2020)
Government will develop Nature Related Activities Centre: The Gujarat Island Development Authority has decided to develop Pirotan Island in the Gulf of Kutch as a Nature Related Activities Centre, including corals and bird watching spots. It was also decided to form the Bet Dwarka Island Development Authority for the all-round development of the island – which is of great archaeological interest – and develop the Dwarka Industrial Training Institute (ITI) as a Marine Skill Training Centre. This group of islands has a lot of tourist potential. The Gujarat Island Development Authority was constituted in August last year for the integrated development of about 144 big and small islands, called ‘Bet’ in Gujarat, along the 1,600 km long coastline of the state. (03-07-2020)
Unlock 2 in place, several relaxations announced: On Wednesday, Gujarat opened up a little more to enter the sixth phase of lockdown – Unlock 2 – which will be effective till July 31. Shops, hotels and restaurants will be allowed to remain open longer. Shops can be open till 8 pm and hotels and restaurants till 9 pm. Restaurants wanted permission to operate till 11pm. Curfew will continue, but the timings will be from 10 pm to 5 am. Other restrictions on hotels, restaurants, educational institutes, religious places and transport facilities will be the same as in Unlock 1. Educational institutes, except for their administrative offices, will remain closed, but online or distance learning will continue. Gymnasiums and swimming pools will continue to be closed. GSRTC bus services will operate across the state and at depots decided earlier in Ahmedabad. As earlier, sports complexes and stadia will be permitted to open but spectators and large gatherings will not be allowed. There will be no ban on telecasting. Auto rickshaws, cabs and private cars will be allowed to run with driver plus 2 others (three passengers in larger cars). Only essential services will be allowed in containment and micro-containment zones across Gujarat between 7 am and 7 pm. Workers, employees and shop owners whose shops or homes are in containment or micro-containment zones will not be allowed to leave the place. (02-07-2020)
Too many Barodians refuse to wear masks: Going by what we see on the roads and shopping areas in Vadodara, Barodians are not very fond of wearing masks. The authorities have caught and fined 2,256 people since June 1 for not wearing masks while in public places. This works out to only 75 people per day. Masks are a critical safeguard against Covid transmission, but police officials say that people give silly excuses when asked why they do not wear masks: the mask was forgotten in a hurry, they are just close to home, the mask is torn, etc. Perhaps the cops should just stop listening to the excuses and quickly fine the offender. Also, catching only 75 mask-less persons a day is just not enough to make a substantial difference. The cops can easily catch about 2,000 persons in just two hours by merely stationing only 10 teams of four cops each at about 10 different places – near shops, near small restaurants, near tea shops, etc. To repeat: 10 teams of four cops each at 10 locations can catch 200 offenders per team in only two hours, which means a total of 2,000 persons in two hours. (The writer of this short piece single-handedly spotted 50 persons in one hour at one popular location on Jetalpur Road.) These 10 teams of cops should be on foot in crowded locations, and not bother about vehicle-borne mask-less people (who can be monitored by the traffic cops). (01-07-2020)
Hard times for the food delivery business: According to some reports food deliveries and takeaways from restaurants and eateries are not picking up. It seems that they are only 10% of the pre-Covid figures. Pre-lockdown Ahmedabad saw 75,000 food deliveries daily, and today they are down to only 4.000; this is an estimate by Food Entrepreneurs' Alliance (FEA). The situation is not very different in Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara. Basically, people are a bit cautious about consuming outside food. Dine-in services have not yet started in full force. Cloud kitchens – which operate on the takeaway-only model – are in an equally poor shape. Part of the reason for this state of affairs was the restriction in timings imposed on the restaurants until now. (01-07-2020)
Dengue related medical expenses reimbursed to patient: The United India Insurance Company Ltd and MD India Healthcare TPA Pvt Ltd were pulled up by a consumer court in Vadodara for rejecting the claim of a client whose son was hospitalised for dengue. It seems that the insurer and the third-party administrator (TPA) felt that dengue needs no hospitalization and can be cured by outpatient department (OPD) treatment. The insurer turned down the claim of Rs. 13,783 put forward by the client whose son was admitted at BAPS Shastriji Maharaj Hospital in Atladara in November 2017. After the company rejected the claim, the client approached the Vadodara District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum to claim the money spent on medical treatment as well as compensation for mental harassment. The court directed the insurers to reimburse the entire medical expense along with 8% interest and Rs 2,500 as compensation. (30-06-2020)
Rainwater harvesting systems set up in 1,000 schools: About 1,000 government schools in Vadodara district have been equipped with low-cost rainwater harvesting systems. Assuming that the district sees an average monsoon this year, the rainwater harvesting systems can help to save about 10 crore litres of rainwater which can otherwise disappear down the drains. All primary and secondary schools are now equipped with the system. The project was started in September 2019 and was completed within just nine months. Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), schools receive grants of between Rs. 3 lakh and Rs. 5 lakh for installing the rainwater harvesting systems. It is estimated that usually only 8 % of rainwater was harvested, and the balance 92% simply went down the drains. (29-06-2020)
Pune Municipal Corporation approves e-bike rental project: The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) plans to launch a rent-an-e-bike project – with the help of a private company – in the civic jurisdiction. The objective is to check air pollution. The PMC City Improvement Committee (CIC) has allowed Vtro Motors Pvt Ltd to provide the facility. Citizens can rent an e-bike for an hour, a day or a month from various stations to be set up across the city. The cost will be 90 paise per km to Rs. 4 per km to commute in the city. There will be 500 charging stations where at least 10 e-bikes can be charged at a time. The plan still needs approval from the Standing Committee and the General Body of the PMC. (29-06-2020)
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