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Four new police stations for city: As Vadodara’s city limits keep increasing, so does the number of police stations. Permission has been granted by the state government to form four new police stations: Atladra, Akota, Kumbharwada, Kapurai. Atladra police station will be carved out from the existing Makarpura and Manjalpur police stations. Akota police station will be carved out from the existing Gotri and J.P. Road police stations. Kumbharwada police station will be carved out from the City, Karelibaug and Warasia police stations. Kapurai police station will be made near the national highway 8 that passes near the outskirts of the city. Also, new spots have been identified for the Panigate, Wadi, Makarpura, Manjalpur and cybercrime police stations, where new buildings will be made with better infrastructure. (06-08-2020)
High court questions diktat on charging of school fees: The Gujarat high court on Wednesday quashed the government’s arbitrary decision prohibiting private schools from collecting fees. It asked the state government why it had not waived fees at government institutions, particularly its medical and engineering colleges. It highlighted the double standards so far as fees on students is concerned. The HC asked the government, “If teaching is a noble and charitable cause as stated in the impugned resolution, why does the State not take steps to waive collection of tuition fees of colleges? Why should the waiver not be for all educational institutions, schools and colleges both. For instance there are many medical colleges operated by societies and trusts established by the state. Why should the state not exempt fees at such medical colleges and other private medical and engineering colleges?” The court said that a balance has to be struck between providing children a reasonable education and allowing the schools to stay afloat. At the same time, schools should be aware of the economic instability being faced by parents, the bench said. The court asked the government to try and strike a balance so as to protect the interest of the parents as well as the managements of the private unaided schools. The high court said schools can charge tuition fees which will cover expenditure on salary, establishment and curricular activities and maintenance. (06-08-2020)
Record number of registrations for MSU’s bachelor programmes: MS University has received a record number of over 51,000 online registrations from students seeking admissions to first year (FY) bachelor programmes – BA, BCom and BSc. Out of a total of 51,398 registrations, 39,180 forms have been submitted. A total of 29,086 students have already submitted their fees through the online payment system. The online admission process will continue till August 20. (06-08-2020)
Work begins on gold plating of Lord Shiva statue in Sursagar lake: Work on the gold plating of the 111-foot statue of Lord Shiva in the Sursagar lake has begun. Work on the statue began in 1996 and it was dedicated to the city in 2002; it was christened Sarveshwar Mahadev. The Suvarna Sankalp Foundation was floated with the aim of plating  the idol with gold. Philanthropist Dr. Kiran Patel has donated Rs. 4.5crore for the gold plating work. The statue has a concrete core with copper plates fitted on it from the outside. It was formally handed over to the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) after it was erected. (05-08-2020)
Farmer repaired an old TV to help his daughter to study: According to a recent newspaper report Mr. Shivji Rathwa, a farmer in Haripura-Vadeshiya village of Chhota Udepur district, got a broken old television repaired and bought a DTH service to ensure that his daughter had access to education. The money he spent for this was the money that he had saved to buy fertilizer and seeds for his farm. A lady in Ahmedabad happened to see the newspaper report and immediately donated an LED television and DTH set to the village. The village has a population of 1,000 and its children could not access online and home learning classes due to the absence of affordable and proper mobile connectivity and television sets. The television has reached the village and the gram panchayat has decided to install it either at a hall or at the school in the village so that more children can benefit. The lady also gave money to Mr. Rathwa so that he can buy fertilizer and seeds. (05-08-2020)
55% of Gujarat’s population is below 25 years of age: Did you know that 45% of Gujarat’s population is below the age of 25 years? This figure is according to the data released by the central government’s Sample Registration Survey (SRS) of population for the year 2018. The Census 2011 population report showed the group below 25 years forming 29.3% of the state’s population. The below 25-year groups increased by 15% between 2011 and 2018. The figure for rural areas was 47.4%, and for urban areas 43.2%. The data shows that 55% of the population was below the age of 30 years, and 16% was in the age group of 30-39 years. The SRS found 8% of the population to be in the 60-85 years group, and 0.3% in the above 85-year group. Gujarat’s population is 6.04 crore according to Census 2011. (04-08-2020)
Faceless income tax assessment scheme started: Ahmedabad is among the eight cities selected for the pilot project of the faceless assessment scheme notified in September 2019 by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). The other seven cities are Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi. At national level, 58,319 cases were selected from the cities, out of which 8,701 were assessed without making any additions and in 296 cases the additions were proposed. The scheme will be expanded based on the reviews. Right now less than 2% of the assessments are done through this method. The main feature of this method is that the assessment of a taxpayer from any of the eight cities can be assigned randomly to any officer from any other city. It separates the assessee from the officer, making the system more transparent. All queries are sent to the taxpayers through email. (04-08-2020)
Firm fined for aversion to virtual court proceedings: In a recent case the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) had ordered the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to expedite the hearing. Therefore, NCLT decided on a quick hearing through video conferencing. One of the participants in the case showed aversion to virtual court proceedings and insisted that it be permitted to join the hearing before NCLT as and when physical proceedings are permitted. For this the Gujarat high court imposed a fine of Rs. 10,000 on the firm. Amid the Covid-19 situation when all courts and tribunals work through video conferencing, the judge slapped the penalty on the participant saying that its insistence on physical hearings appeared to be a ploy to delay the hearing. (04-08-2020)
Public transport systems may have to be reimagined: Civic bodies may have to reimagine their public transit systems. Ahmedabad has over 250 BRT AC buses. The metro rail systems are also air-conditioned. Experts will have to rework air-conditioning systems to ensure better ventilation. Cities may have to improve their footpaths and establish better parking facilities, in case there is an increase in the use of personal transport. Interestingly, the sales of petrol and diesel in Gujarat have reached up to 70% and 75% of the pre-Covid levels, while there has been a substantial drop between 73% and 92% in passenger traffic in all forms of public transport. Many citizens are opting for personal transport. Autorickshaws, shared autos, and dial-a-cab operators are running at 30% capacities in Ahmedabad and Surat. City and intercity travel operators are losing crores every month. Over 85% of vehicle inquiries at dealers’ outlets come from people who earlier used cabs or public transport. There is a rise in demand for two-wheelers. In Ahmedabad, Vadodara, and Rajkot sales of cars, bicycles and two-wheelers are increasing. A bicycle shop owner in Vadodara said that the demand is up by 30-40%. In Ahmedabad the bicycle-sharing model has seen a surge in rentals. Covid-19 and the fear of infection in public places is causing changes transport preferences. (03-08-2020)
Gujarat government transfers 58 IPS officers: Several changes have been made in the Gujarat police department. Ashish Bhatia, IPS officer of the 1985 batch and the current Ahmedabad city police commissioner, has been appointed as the Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP). The Gujarat government has issued transfer orders of 58 IPS officers. Sanjay Srivastava is Ahmedabad commissioner of police (CP). Ajay Tomar is CP of Surat. R.B. Brahmbhatt is CP of Vadodara. Abhay Chudasama, IGP, Vadodara range, is now IGP, Gandhinagar range. Anupam Singh Gahlaut, CP of Vadodara is now ADGP, intelligence in Gandhinagar. Mr. Bhatia, the new DGP, is said to have impeccable knowledge of organised crime syndicates and gangs. He is credited with solving a number of terror crimes, including the Ahmedabad serial bomb blasts case. Hailing from Haryana, he completed BE (Mechanical) before joining the Gujarat cadre in 1985 as an assistant superintendent of police (ASP). While being posted as SP in the ATS, he played a key role in nabbing members of the Abdul Latif and Wahab Shaikh gangs after Latif’s arrest. (03-08-2020)
Use of public transport drops in Gujarat’s four major cities: Covid-19 and the resulting fear of travelling by buses, taxis and autorickshaws has hit the public transport business. Public buses in Gujarat’s four major cities – Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot – lost 89% of its passengers. The average number of daily passengers in these four cities before the lockdown on March 23 was 11.52 lakh; that number has dropped to just 1.31 lakh passengers. Ahmedabad lost 90% of its passengers, Surat lost 94%, Rajkot lost 76% and Vadodara lost 73%. (03-08-2020)
Gujarat Skill Development Corporation established: The Gujarat government has joined hands with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to establish Gujarat Skill Development Corporation (GSDC). This move institutionalises a strategic partnership between Gujarat and NSDC to enable private sector investment in skill development in the state through the replication of the national level public-private partnership (PPP) model. A requirement of over 20 lakh skilled workers is projected for Gujarat by 2022. GSDC will play a big role in making these trained workers available in the state. The Gujarat government will hold 25% share in GSDC and NSDC will hold 24%, the remaining 51% shares will be held by 10 private companies from the state (each with 5.1% stake). Of the Rs. 100 crore required as seed fund, the state government has made a provision of Rs. 30 crore in the budget for 2020-21. (02-08-2020)
GCMMF launches Amul ‘Haldi ice cream’: The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), the company that markets Amul products, has launched ‘Haldi ice cream’. The claim is that it contains turmeric, an ingredient known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Sold in 125 ml cups for Rs. 40, the ice cream also has pepper, honey and dry fruits (dates, almond, cashews) – 0.8 percent turmeric, 0.25 percent black pepper, 5.5 percent dates, two percent each of almond and cashews, 6.2 percent of ‘honey ripple syrup’. Amul had already launched Haldi Doodh’ as an immunity booster beverage in April 2020, and that was followed by Amul Tulsi Doodh, Amul Ginger Doodh and Amul Ashwagandha Doodh. Another product due soon is an ‘immuno chakra ice cream’ which will contain turmeric, ginger and tulsi. (02-08-2020)
Night curfew removed from August 1: Following the central government’s announcement of general guidelines for Unlock 3.0, the Gujarat government said that from August 1 night curfew will no longer be in place and shops and establishments will be allowed to remain open longer. From August 1 shops can remain open until 8 pm and restaurants and hotels until 10 pm. The government also warned people and establishments licences of establishments can be cancelled if safety guidelines are violated. Religious functions for festivals will not be allowed in August and if the Covid situation persists like this, festivals such as Navratri will not be observed in the usual manner. (01-08-2020)
Power will cost more: The Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (GUVNL) has increased its fuel price and power purchase adjustment (FPPPA) charge or fuel surcharge for July to September 2020. It directed its four power distribution companies (discoms) to levy a fuel surcharge of Rs. 2 per unit from all categories of consumers, except agricultural, for the July-September quarter as against Rs 1.9 per unit in April-June. It has worked out a fuel surcharge raise of 12 paisa per unit, which is to be recovered from July. It has passed on a 10 paisa increase to consumers as the company does not require Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC) approval to increase fuel surcharge by up to 10 paisa per unit. For the remaining 2 paisa, GERC approval will be sought and if approved by the regulator, it will be levied from the quarter starting October. A power distribution company (discom) collects fuel surcharge from consumers to offset increases or decreases in fuel (coal and gas) cost. The increase of 10 paisa per unit means a combined burden of Rs. 213 crore on more than 1 crore customers in the months of July, August and September. (01-08-2020)
Court says schools and the government must discuss fees again: The Gujarat high court said on Friday that it will set aside the clause in the government resolution prohibiting private schools from collecting tuition fees till they remain closed due to Covid. The bench asked the state government and the schools to negotiate the matter of fees again with an open mind, balancing the interests of the schools with those of the parents. The court also asked the schools to continue online classes which had been stopped recently. The parents also wanted the schools to be restrained from charging for activities that are not taking place at present. (01-08-2020)
Medical college students skip Covid training: The Gujarat government’s health department had recently made it mandatory to impart training to first-year, second-year and third-year students of government and private medical colleges and utilise their services for Covid duties. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) had asked the students of first, second and third year to remain present for training on July 22. When the students failed to turn up, a notice was issued asking them to remain present for training on July 23. A separate training was organised for the final-year students of MBBS between July 28 and July 30. But no student turned up for the training. In a notice issued on Thursday, AMC has threatened to take action against medical students if they failed to turn up for the Covid-19 training session. The civic body said that it is the social responsibility of MBBS students to attend to the patients. (31-07-2020)
Government ban on charging school fees comes up before court: The Gujarat state government had said that private schools should not charge tuition fees as long as their premises remain closed for regular classes. The Gujarat high court has remarked that the government cannot place such a blanket ban and the court may interfere in this issue. The bench heard three PILs on the issue of fees by private schools and online education for kids in the pre-primary section. The court decided to hear the issue further on Friday by tagging another petition with these PILs. The petition was filed by the Association of Private Institutions challenging the government resolution passed on July 16, in which the State has adopted the Centre’s guidelines about online education and restrained private schools from charging any fees until schools start physically. Schools are closed due to Covid-19 pandemic. During the hearing the judges said that the court might interfere with the decision so far as fee waiver is concerned. The judges commented that there may be genuine difficulties in some cases, but the government cannot place a blanket ban on fee collection. (31-07-2020)
People advised to avoid mass-scale celebrations of festivals: The Gujarat government will not grant any permission for celebrations on a mass scale during the coming festival season. This is because of the precautions dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The state chief minister said that no permission will be granted for fairs during ‘Saatam Aatham’ and ‘Janmashtami’. Also, Bakri Eid and ‘Samvatsari’ festivals should be low- key. The government  has appealed to all communities and organisers to mobilise public opinion so that crowding at public places is avoided for the safety of all. People should preferably celebrate the festivals at their homes. Regarding the Navratri festival, the chief minister said that the question of granting permissions for organising garbas just does not arise in the current situation. The decision may possibly be reviewed if the Covid-19 situation in the state improves in the state. (30-07-2020)
Government cannot sack a fixed-pay worker without an inquiry: Two assistant motor vehicle inspectors were nabbed by sleuths of the Gujarat state anti-corruption bureau in 2014. They were allegedly accepting bribes at two check posts on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border. They were charged with corrupt practices and dismissed. A court quashed the state government’s termination order. A division bench of the Gujarat high court upheld that decision and has ruled that the state government cannot sack a contracted or fixed-pay employee without a full-fledged departmental inquiry, however serious the charges may be. The state government in an appeal had argued that they were not regular employees but were on fixed-pay contracts, so full-fledged departmental proceedings were not required. The high court said that whenever any charge is levelled and action is found to be stigmatic, a full-scale departmental inquiry deserves to be undertaken irrespective of whether the delinquent is a regular employee or contracted on a fixed salary. (30-07-2020)
First trial run of a train on dedicated freight corridor: On Thursday the dedicated freight corridor will see its first trial run of a train, from Nava Palanpur station in Gujarat to Dorai in Marwar, Rajasthan. It will travel the 350-km distance at an average speed of 100 kmph. Gujarat accounts for 550 km of the 1,540 km Mumbai-Delhi western freight corridor. Gujarat has so far laid tracks across 25 km. Gujarat’s tracks will be connected to the Rewari (Haryana) dedicated freight corridor, so the train which leaves Palanpur can travel up to Rewari without interruption (the Dorai to Rewari track is already operational). In Gujarat work on the corridor is going on and 97% of the land acquisition has been completed. Work on electrification of tracks has also begun. The first trial run of a train within the state will be carried out by the end of 2021. (30-07-2020)
Fine for not wearing a mask raised to Rs. 500: The Gujarat government has decided that the fine for not wearing a mask or for spitting in public places will be raised to Rs. 500 with effect from August 1. The fine is currently Rs. 200, except in Ahmedabad where it is already Rs. 500. It seems that arrangements have been made for Amul parlours to sell the masks for Rs. 2 each (a pack of five for Rs. 10). (29-07-2020)
MBBS students against doing duty as ‘Corona Sahayaks’: Over 145 MBBS students have moved the Gujarat high court against the government’s directive for them to join Covid-19 duty as ‘Corona Sahayaks’; if they do not report for this ‘voluntary’ service their academic sessions will not be granted. The students contend that such ‘voluntarism’ cannot be thrust upon them. If they had been called for voluntary service earlier, they would have joined, but now they have to focus on their studies and examinations. The students objected to the threat of action against them under the Epidemic Disease Act and the Disaster Management Act. They said the work they are required for could be given to health workers, compounders or nurses. (29-07-2020)
More trouble for self-financed schools: The Gujarat government said that self-financed schools will face punitive action if they do not have teachers qualified according to the Right To Education (RTE) norms. March 2019 was the deadline for the schools to follow RTE norms like completion of PTC and BEd studies as eligibility criteria for teachers. The district education officer (DEO) in Ahmedabad has issued a circular regarding this to all schools. (29-07-2020)
Gujarat added the highest wind power generation capacity in 2019-20: Gujarat has once again added the highest capacity in India for wind power generation in 2019-20. New wind power generation capacity of 1,468MW was added between April 2019 and March 2020. The data has been compiled by Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association and Indian Wind Energy Association. Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra occupy the second and third ranks. India saw the installation of 2,118MW in fiscal 2020, and 70% of this was in Gujarat. Gujarat’s total wind power generation capacity has increased to 7,542 MW, which is the second-highest after Tamil Nadu’s 9,304MW. India’s total installed wind power capacity was 37,744MW as on March 31, 2020. (28-07-2020)
Live streaming of court proceedings likely soon: As soon as a two-judge committee finalises the modalities, the Gujarat high court will stream its court proceedings live for people including media persons. Once the committee report is received, further action to allow access to the public at large including media persons of print digital and electronic media will be finalised. The court had recently heard a PIL filed by a law student who sought public access to the virtual hearings and urged that necessary rules should be framed for live streaming. The student had cited examples of supreme courts of various countries and the high courts in different states of India that are live streaming court proceedings because they have started hearing through video conferencing due to the pandemic. (28-07-2020)
Patan will have a unique garden to honour Kargil heroes: Patan district will be home to a fairly innovative memorial to honour heroes of the 1991 Kargil war. The memorial will be in the form of a 10,000-square-metre garden developed by using the Miyawaki technique pioneered by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. It is being developed in 21 stretches as a tribute to 21 martyrs who lost their lives in the war. The foundation stone for the garden was laid on Sunday marking the 21st anniversary of Kargil Vijay Diwas. During the day 4,500 saplings of 51 species were planted. The Prayash Welfare Foundation, which is involved in this effort, said that 11,111 trees will be planted in the garden. The Miyawaki technique helps build dense, native forests popularised as mini forests. The approach is supposed to ensure that plant growth is ten times faster and the resulting plantation is 30 times denser than usual. Dozens of native species are planted in the same area, close to each other, which ensures that the plants receive sunlight only from the top, and grow upwards rather than sideways. It requires very little space (a minimum of 20 square feet), plants grow ten times faster, and the forest becomes maintenance-free in three years! (27-07-2020)
Online classes will resume from Monday in Gujarat: The Federation of Self-Financed Schools in Gujarat has changed its decision to stop online learning. Online education for students will resume from Monday after a brief break. The federation has 15,000 member schools covering about 27 lakh students and 7.5 lakh teachers. The matter of fee collection during the Covid-19 lockdown period still remains unresolved between the schools and the Gujarat government. In a notification, the state education department had directed self-financed schools to not collect fees for the lockdown period till the schools reopen physically. The government has also directed schools not to hike fees for the 2020-21 academic year. (26-07-2020)
All schools must have playgrounds: The Gujarat government’s education department has asked all district primary education officers (DPEOs) to ensure that every school has a playground. They should start to allot land for schools in their areas that do not have playgrounds. It seems that 40% of schools do not have playgrounds on their campuses. In Ahmedabad alone, 1,200 private schools do not have playgrounds. The education department is compiling information about government and private land plots that can be used for creating playgrounds. Private schools will be instructed to create such playgrounds on their own. The playground size should be 800 square metres in urban areas and 1,500 square metres in rural centres. (26-07-2020)
Water usage rose in Ahmedabad during Covid-19 crisis: During the Covid-19 lockdown municipal water consumption in Ahmedabad rose by 15%. This is in spite of the fact that there was a mass exodus of 2.6 lakh migrant workers from the city, 4.75 lakh commercial properties and 680 industrial units suspended operations, and schools were closed. About 35% of the city’s 691 slum and chawl clusters were almost empty during March, April and May. Authorities believe that the increase in water consumption was a result of people washing hands and taking baths more frequently due to the greater emphasis on hygiene. (26-07-2020)
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