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Gujarat considering increase in VAT on fuel and gas: The Gujarat government may consider hiking the value added tax (VAT) on petrol, diesel and gas to compensate for the losses in government revenue due to the lockdown. The decision has not yet been made. The government’s revenues have reduced substantially, and it has been borrowing heavily to meet its expenses and pay back existing debt. Due to the loss of income due to the lockdown, several states have increased VAT on petrol, diesel and gas. Gujarat is also contemplating similar steps. Petrol and diesel currently attract a VAT of 17% and 4% cess, while on gas only 15% VAT is applicable. (03-06-2020)
All RTOs will resume work on June 4: All Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) in Gujarat will resume work from June 4. Visitors will have to take online appointments, and they will be allowed inside only 15 minutes prior to their appointment time. Visitors will also have to undergo thermal screening. Those not wearing a mask and not following social distancing norms will not be allowed to enter. For services like change of ownership, cancellation of registration, new permits, etc., where online appointment facility is not available, visitors will have to carry their Aadhar card. Only a limited number of visitors will be allowed every day. For High Security Registration Plates (HSRP), visitors have to take an appointment after 3 p.m. and then visit the RTO. For issuing driving licence, RTOs in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Banaskantha, Mehsana and Bhuj will also remain open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Those whose driving licence expiry date is between March 21 and July 31 can take their driving tests till July 31, 2020, for no extra fees. Industrial Training Institutes and polytechnic institutes that fall in containment zones will not be allowed to issue a learner’s licence. (03-06-2020)
Lockdown constraints affected blood bank stocks: The prolonged lockdown in Gujarat has affected the supplies in the blood banks of the state’s cities. For instance, the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), Ahmedabad district branch, recently was down to just about 20% of the stock normally available. Against 5,000-7,000 units of blood received monthly, IRCS was able to collect only 1,000 units last month; nearly 800 units are required as life saving therapy for thalassemic children alone. Apart from thalassemics and those undergoing surgeries, patients with blood cancer, sickle cell or other blood-related disorders too need a steady blood supply. The depleted blood inventories are the result of the lockdown as well as Covid related apprehensions. College students and office-goers are major blood donors, and offices and colleges were closed. It was also not possible to hold blood donation camps. It was also not possible to hold major blood collection camps. Some organisers have resorted to sending blood collection vans to donors’ doorsteps. (03-06-2020)
Cops are cautious about infection while making arrests: For the time being the Vadodara city police are not resorting to arrests of offenders booked for non-serious crimes. The accused are simply booked and investigations are conducted in the case. Arrests are made only for offences considered to be life threatening. There is a good reason behind this policy; some of the accused booked for two rioting cases tested positive in the last one month, and the police teams involved in the arrests had to be quarantined. While making arrests, cops come in close contact with the accused who may perhaps be infected. They try to avoid the risk of Covid-19 infection in minor cases, for which arrests can be made after the infection threat reduces. It is reasonable that the police department exercises caution to the extent possible. Arrests are made only in rioting, attempt to murder, murder or assault cases. (02-06-2020)
Ahmedabad Jagannath Rath Yatra will be simple: Did you know that the Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad – started in 1878 – is the second biggest procession in India after the one at Puri? This year, however, the pomp and the ceremony will be missing on June 23 because of the prevailing epidemic situation. The Jagannathji Temple trustees have decided that all the pre-event rituals such as Jal Yatra, Netrotsav, Mameru, etc., will be held with very few people present. The procession will have only three chariots with a minimum number of persons accompanying it. It is not yet clear whether elephants will be a part of the procession. Devotees have been requested to witness the procession this year on TV. There may be only 150 persons in the event which usually has lakhs of participants. The temple will be open for devotees only after June 8. (02-06-2020)
Second round of admission for PG medical and dental seats: The second round of admission for postgraduate medical and dental seats in Gujarat – for state quota students once allotment of seats to All-India quota is over – may start after June 20. The second round of admission on PG seats for medical and dental courses for the All-India quota will start from June 3; the final process and confirmation of these seats will be between June 12 and 18. The second round for the state’s quota will be possible only after Gujarat gets its share of seats from the Centre. Nearly 500 students have cancelled their admissions and these seats have fallen vacant. The seats remaining vacant after the second round of All-India quota will also be available for state board’s students in the second round of admission. In all, 362 seats have remained vacant in MD and MS courses, whereas there are 118 vacancies in MDS courses. (02-06-2020)
Identity of Covid-19 patients will now not be declared: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has now decided not to release details such as name, address, gender, age and area of Covid-19 positive patients. The bulletin of VMC stated that, as per the directives of centre and state government, details of the positive patients will not be released as it results in violation of privacy of patients and also leads to legal complications. VMC will continue micro-zoning, active screening and surveillance of new areas as usual. Citizens may increase usage of the Aarogya Setu mobile application which will continue issuing alerts. (01-06-2020)
Gujarat removes several lockdown restrictions: The Gujarat government has released guidelines for the operations of shops, establishments and offices across the state effective June 1. The operating hours for shops and offices have been extended and the odd-even formula has been removed. Malls, hotels and restaurants will be allowed to resume operations from June 8 in accordance with the MHA guidelines. Sanitisation norms will have to be followed and staff will have to be trained on upgraded standard operating procedures wherever necessary. From Monday, economic activity outside containment areas can continue until 7 p.m. instead of 4 p.m. Also, the night curfew timings have been changed; the revised timings are 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. GSRTC buses will now operate across the state, and city bus services will commence with 50 per cent capacity. People will be able to ride pillion on two-wheelers and three persons will be allowed in small cars, while four will be allowed in bigger cars. However, only family members can ride pillion. Swimming pools, public gardens, zoos, water parks, beaches and places of tourist interest will remained closed until further directions. Even banks, including those in containment zones, will function with full capacity. Religious places, hotels and restaurants, malls will be allowed to open from June 8 after Standard Operating Procedures are prepared. The Standard Operating Procedure for cinemas, restaurants and malls will be announced in the coming week. Educational institutions will remain closed in June. No relaxations have been granted in containment zones. Wearing masks will be mandatory in public places and any violation will attract a penalty. (31-05-2020)
A specific law is needed for domestic workers: The Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar (GNLU) and National Commission for Women (NCW) recently organised a virtual regional consultation on ‘Reviewing Laws Related to Inter-State Women Migrant Workers’. Delivering the inaugural address GNLU Director Dr. Shanthakumar said that domestic workers are excluded from the purview of labour legislation for several reasons. Over 80 per cent of domestic workers are women, and many of them are migrant. They come from backward areas and vulnerable sections of the society, mostly illiterate, and, as a result, they fall prey to many malpractices such as inadequate wages, long working hours, lack of job security and ssexual exploitation. There should be integrated legislation to protect their rights. One of the speakers, Justice Sujata V. Manohar, retired Supreme Court judge, said, “In the colonial era, the law was seen as an instrument of control. This needs to change. Law should be seen as an instrument of empowerment… The government should devise ways of strengthening rural women so they need not migrate to urban areas…” (31-05-2020)
UGC asks three institutes to avoid using the ‘university’ tag: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has directed three educational institutes in Gujarat to avoid using the word ‘university’ with their name in any manner. It released the list of 127 institutions of higher education which have been declared as ‘deemed-to-be universities’. The list includes Ahmedabad-based Gujarat Vidyapith and two Vadodara-based institutes – the National Rail and Transportation Institute (NRTI) having its campus at Lalbaug, and Sumandeep Vidyapeeth having its campus at Waghodia. UGC has asked the institutes not to add the tag ‘university’ in their advertisements, website, website addresses, e-mail addresses, letterheads, communications, hoardings, etc., failing which the commission will take necessary action. Instead, the institution may mention the word ‘Deemed to be University’ within parenthesis. No institution, whether a corporate body or not, other than a university established or incorporated by, or under a central act, a provincial act or a state act shall be entitled to have the word ‘university’ associated with its name in any manner whatsoever. (30-05-2020)
Gujarat may offer relief package worth Rs. 5,000 crore: The Gujarat government plans to offer a major relief package – perhaps worth Rs. 5,000 crore – to revive the state’s economy. Likely to be announced soon, it will offer direct financial benefits and reform-led benefits. The package will provide a boost to sectors which generate employment in large numbers, sectors like agriculture, MSME, service sector, real estate and small businesses. All the departments, like agriculture and cooperation, industry and mines, urban development, panchayat and rural development, energy and petrochemicals, labour and employment have been asked to provide direct and reform-oriented benefits to industry, business, agriculture and other sectors of the economy. There will be direct interest subsidy as well tax concessions for various industries and businesses and direct financial and other incentives for farmers, the unorganised sector. etc. (30-05-2020)
MS University forms special cell to hold exams: MS University has constituted an 11-member cell to deal with the grievances of students regarding examinations and academic activities. The ‘Covid-19: Examinations/Academic Activities Cell’ has been formed following directions from the state government’s education department. The cell will also manage the entire examination system from planning to implementation stage, including issuing guidelines and protocols. All faculty deans, college principals and heads of institutions under the university have also been asked to constitute similar cells at faculty, college and institution levels within two days. The faculty-level cells will provide support to the centralized cell of the university. The university has decided to conduct examinations of final year students from July 20. Those students who are unable to take the examinations in July will be allowed to appear in October. (29-05-2020)
Consider plastic units as continuous process industries: The Gujarat State Plastic Manufacturers Association (GSPMA) has suggested to the state government that plastic extrusion and reprocessing units – specially extrusion and reprocessing units – should be considered continuous process industries and allowed to operate 24 hours a day subject to all the lockdown guidelines. Extrusion and reprocessing units need to heat machines for two to three hours before starting production. The amount of plastic wastage and electricity consumption increases every time the machine is heated. Given the limited working hours and time consumed in restarting operations, units are able to run the machines only for six hours, which reduces capacity utilisation to just 15%. If they run continuously they will be able to reduce wastage and electricity cost and increase capacity utilisation by 40%. Gujarat is home to 12,000 out of the 55,000 plastic products making units in India. (29-05-2020)
Gujarat’s marriage season was unusually restrained: March and April are supposed to be the peak wedding season in Gujarat but, for obvious reasons, not this year. It seems that over 30,000 weddings have either been cancelled or postponed because of the lockdown and the new regulations. Several people have chosen to have smaller weddings, to the extent permitted by the prevailing rules. The restaurant and hospitality industries, as well as all the other related businesses, have been hit hard. Even temples are out of bounds because of the social distancing and related norms. In several areas very small gatherings are permitted, but not too many couples want to give upon the usual celebrations. A few couples have opted for court marriages for now, to be followed perhaps later by a more elaborate ceremony. (28-05-2020)
MSU exams for final year students only: MS University has decided that it will conduct only final year exams. Exams will be conducted for final year students of undergraduate programmes and students of both years of postgraduate programmes. The exam session will start from July 20 for which a detailed time-table and syllabus will be declared by June 5. If ATKT (allowed to keep term) exams of such students are pending, the exams will also be conducted by the university. Only those topics which were taught till March 14 will be considered in the syllabus for the exams. The topics which were taught to students through online classes during the lockdown will not be included in the exam syllabus. Exams will be conducted in three shifts in a day; before each shift the classrooms will be sanitised. Outstation students who cannot reach Vadodara for the exams can appear for special exams that will be held in October. Exams of first, second year and third year students of Faculty of Technology and Engineering and Faculty of Pharmacy will not be held. Average of 50% marks of their internal exams and 50% marks of their previous semester will be declared as result. In case, a candidate wants to enhance his/her academic performance, he or she can appear for the exam in October. Those students who have failed in their internal exams or their previous semester end exams, will be promoted on the condition that they will have to clear exams in October. (28-05-2020)
In Gujarat 15.5% of school children had high BP: Nearly 15.5% of 2,324 school children in Gujarat – between 5 and 15 years old – whose systolic and diastolic blood pressures were measured, were found to have hypertension. The majority with hypertension were in the 9 to 12 years age group. Hypertension was found in 26.5% of children studied in Haryana, 29.3% in Manipur and 9.7% in Goa. Overall, 23% of the children studied had hypertension. The study covered 14,957 school-going children from the urban and rural areas of Haryana, Manipur and Goa, apart from Gujarat. The average results showed that 13.6% of kids had systolic hypertension, 15.3% had diastolic hypertension while 5.9% of children had both. The researchers found that in all the four states a common trend was seen, where prevalence of hypertension was seen to decline with age, especially in boys. Going from 5-year-olds to 15-year-olds, prevalence of hypertension fell from 33% to 16.3% in boys and from 30.1% to 23% in girls. Of the 14,957 children, prevalence of hypertension was 29.9% in children from rich families, 19% in children from poorer sections, and 9.9% in mixed groups. Major factors for hypertension in children from the higher income group apart from obesity were psychosocial stress and greater intake of salt and processed foods. (28-05-2020)
Over 30 lakh migrant workers leave Gujarat: Over 30 lakh migrant workers left Gujarat for their home states between May 1 and 27. Another two to three lakh are expected to leave soon. It is only natural that such a mass exodus should severely hurt industrial activity in the state. Over 974 Shramik special trains took over 15.58 lakh migrants to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, etc. Another 9.50 lakh workers went by buses to Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. There were many others – possibly three lakh – who left on foot, bicycle and other vehicles without registering. Within Gujarat too the migration of workers continued from one district to another; people left Surat, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, etc., to return to districts such as Bhavnagar, Amreli, Jamnagar, Dahod and Narmada. (28-05-2020)
Work seekers under MNREGA double in Gujarat: Gujarat’s villages are experiencing a sudden increase in the number of people seeking work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). The reason for this is that the Covid-19 lockdown has triggered a reverse migration – from the cities to the villages. The number of villagers seeking work under the MNREGA scheme has doubled from three lakh in May 2019 to seven lakh in May 2020. Officials expect this figure to rise to 10 lakh. Government figures show that this year, 1.14 lakh workers have already joined work in rural areas under MNREGA projects; the corresponding figure for May 2019 was 21,727 workers. So far, 6,592 village panchayats have started different projects in 33 districts under MNREGA. Usually, only one-fourth of the job cards are filled for MNREGA projects. The entire scheme is funded by the central government. (27-05-2020)
Lockdown affects Gujarat’s fishing industry: The lockdown has meant that Gujarat’s fishermen have lost a major portion of the summer fishing season. To add to this problem, the annual ban on fishing for two months comes into force from June 1. The state fisheries department has issued a notification to the effect that all fishing with motorised boats will be banned from June 1 to July 31. Only non-mechanized boats will be allowed to operate. Although fishing was allowed to resume from mid-April, the lack of a logistics chain meant that fishing was very limited. About 75,000 fishermen, working on 15,000 trawlers, are employed in Gujarat’s fishing industry. After the lockdown was announced, fishermen associations decided that the fishermen will stay in their trawlers, a few kilometres off the coast. (27-05-2020)
Gujarat likely to announce new industrial policy: The Gujarat government is likely to announce, in June, a new industrial policy for 2020-2025 to attract new investment and generate jobs. The term of the industrial policy 2015-2020, which ended in December-January, was extended by six months until June this year. The focus of the new policy will be on the renewable energy industry as well as other emerging industries. The government will also focus heavily on attracting Japanese, American and European industries which are trying to shift base from China and give them plug and play facilities in Gujarat. The government has also decided to offer large chunks of land on long-term leases at nominal rates, so that industries can quickly begin production. It is expected that the benefits offered in the current industrial policy will continue. (26-05-2020)
Semester exams for final year students from June 25: The Gujarat government announced that the terminal examinations will be held from June 25 for undergraduate students in their final semester as well as for second and fourth semester post-graduate students. In cases where the situation is not normal due to Covid-19, a new scheme called Merit Based Progression will grade undergraduate students – excluding final semester candidates – based on performance in previous semester and internal exam marks. If a candidate wants to enhance his academic performance, he can appear for the semester exam in the next term. The terminal exam will be held by maintaining social distancing, safety and other health measures. The academic session 2020-21 will commence from August 1 for old students and from September 1 for fresh students. (25-05-2020)
College admissions to start from June 15: Admissions for all college courses – except those under the Admission Committee for Professional Courses (ACPC) – will begin from June 15. The admission process will be carried out for 90% of the available seats. The remaining seats will be allocated after CBSE and other board exam results. Online forms for Class 12 science students who cleared Gujarat board exams will be available from May 26. The new academic session will begin from June 21 for students of semesters 3, 5 and 7. Classes will be conducted online till the situation becomes normal. The academic session for Semester-1 students for undergraduate and postgraduate courses will commence from August 1. Only students who have got 45% marks in science subjects (physics, chemistry and mathematics) are eligible for admission in engineering courses. (25-05-2020)
Vacation in educational institutes of UTs extended: The summer vacation in private and government-aided schools, colleges, coaching classes and training institutes in the union territories of Daman, Dadra and Nagar Haveli (DNH) and Diu has been extended till June 7. A notification along these lines has been issued by the directorate of education of Daman, DNH and Diu. The summer vacation in schools was earlier meant to be from April 15 to May 16. (25-05-2020)
Diamond units in Ahmedabad can start production: The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) says that diamond industries (cutting and polishing) and processing houses in the city – except in the 11 containment zones – can now commence production. The relaxation to the diamond and processing houses will be subject to the standard operating procedure issued by the industries department. (25-05-2020)
Vadodara airport may resume operations soon: The Vadodara airport may resume working after a gap of about 60 days. The airport may have to handle eight flight movements towards Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru – though it is not clear whether flights to Mumbai will be permitted by the Maharashtra government. The Vadodara airport authorities are in the process of drawing up new travel protocols in view of the current public health situation. Based on the standard operating protocol (SOP) issued by Airports Authority of India (AAI), a mock drill with the new set of rules was held on Friday. The airport usually handled 26 flight movements daily. The last commercial flight was on March 22. (24-05-2020)
Movement of migrant labourers hurts industries: The movement of migrant labourers from Gujarat to their home states has dealt a severe blow to many industrial units in the state. Due to labour shortage, several units cannot resume production even after the lockdown has been eased. For instance, in Sanand Industrial Estate about 100 units have still not been able to start. Also, the lack of public transport prevents workers from commuting to work. Migrants account for 70% of the workforce in many industries. Out of about 900 ceramic tiles manufacturing units, only 120 units have been able to start operations. The Morbi ceramic industry employs around 4 lakh workers and 60% of them are migrants. Ceramic production in Morbi is at about 15% of its normal capacity. (24-05-2020)
Saurashtra to get Narmada water: The Gujarat government will supply water for irrigation in the summer months to Saurashtra under the SAUNI scheme. The government said that 25 reservoirs, 120 lakes and 400 check dams will be filled with water from the Narmada canal. This will also result in a rise of the groundwater level. The reservoirs, lakes, and check dams in Saurashtra and Kutch region will be filled with an estimated 4,000 million cubic feet of water from Narmada river during the summer. The process is being carried out in three phases. SAUNI (Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation (SAUNI) is a project to fill major dams by diverting floodwaters overflowing from the Sardar Dam across the Narmada river to the drought areas. The project acts as a linking project where the water will be filled in irrigation dams that are already equipped with canal networks. (24-05-2020)
‘National Weather Services from IMD’ launched: The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has launched ‘National Weather Services from IMD’ on the existing Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance (UMANG) mobile application. All major weather services provided by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), including updates on current temperatures, rainfall, week-long forecast and weather warnings will now be available online on an app. The free app offers seven major meteorological services – current weather, city forecast, rainfall information, warnings, nowcast, cyclone updates and tourism forecast. Users can avail information on current weather for 150 Indian cities and it is near real-time information that is updated eight times a day. The app also supplies city-based weather forecasts, while seven-day advance forecasts of 450 cities are shared via this app. This app will provide rainfall updates at district and state levels, offered on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Upon choosing a desired district, the user will be provided with actual and normal rainfall for the selected period. Nowcast has been an important forecast issued by the IMD, which alerts people about immediate weather happenings. Nowcast is commonly issued for thunderstorm, rainfall, dust storm, lightning, among others, usually over a short period of time and over a specific geographical location. Nowcasts are valid for up to six hours and are issued from time to time, as per requirement. (23-05-2020)
VMC warns against spraying disinfectants on people: An advisory from Vadodara Municipal Corporation warns people of the dangers of directly spraying disinfectants on people and points to the mental trauma it can cause to a person. It also cautions against thoughtlessly using chlorine and sodium hypochlorite – two popular chemical disinfectants. Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has urged people to avoid falling for misleading information about spraying disinfectants on people. The advisory states, “Spraying disinfectant on people or groups, under any circumstances, is injurious to physical and mental health. Spraying disinfectants on a Covid-19 patient does not kill the virus in any case because it is inside a person’s body.” Spraying chlorine on a person could cause burns on the skin and eyes, and the fumes can lead to nausea and vomiting. Inhalation of sodium hypochlorite can cause blisters in the throat as well as bronchospasms. (22-05-2020)
Bhailal Amin General Hospital shuts down briefly: The administrators of Bhailal Amin General Hospital (BAGH) have decided to temporarily close it down to ensure that all employees are 'pool tested' and the premises are disinfected. Located at Gorwa in Vadodara, BAGH is also a dedicated Covid-19 hospital. Some staff members of the hospital had tested positive. The management said it is undecided whether it will reopen as a Covid-19 centre on May 28. A VMC committee did not find any lapse in the hospital arrangements. (22-05-2020)
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