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Capacity for Covid care in Vadodara will be raised to 7,000 beds: To keep pace with increasing cases, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) plans to empanel 100 additional private hospitals for Covid-19 care. Facilities in Vadodara city also cater to districts of Central and South Gujarat – Dahod, Panchmahals, Anand, Kheda, Narmada, Bharuch and Chhota Udepur. There are 5,500 beds in government and private hospitals for Covid treatment. This will be increased to 7,000 beds. Vadodara has already empanelled 121 private Covid hospitals with 4,125 beds. (27-11-2020)
Rajkot offers land to Amul for a modern dairy plant: The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) has been offered land by the Rajkot administration for its proposed milk processing plant near the city. GCMMF wanted 60 acres of land to set up a Rs. 500 crore modern dairy plant with a capacity to process 20 lakh litres milk per day (llpd). It will be the largest in the Saurashtra-Kutch area. The plant in Rajkot is important because GCMMF incurs s cost of Rs. 25 lakh daily to transport about 15 llpd of milk from member unions in Saurashtra-Kutch to the GCMMF plant in Gandhinagar and transporting processed products back to Saurashtra-Kutch. The milk quality also gets affected due to the long transit time. There are a few processing plants in the region, but these plants are small and can manufacture only 15 to 20 products. The bigger GCMMF plants can manufacture 200 products. Also, the GCMMF Gandhinagar plant is running at its full capacity, so the Rajkot plant can take over the load from the region. The plant in Rajkot will also give GCMMF logistical advantages as it will be near an airport and major ports like Mundra and Kandla. (27-11-2020)
Police get strict about masks: People in Gujarat paid Rs. 3.9 crore in fines for not wearing masks, between November 15 and 22. A total of 39,000 people in 33 districts were fined Rs. 1,000 each. Rajkot topped the list with about 7,000 people fined. Among the other cities: Surat, 2,573; Vadodara, 2,341; Ahmedabad, 2,089. Police have been directed to be strict also about improperly worn masks. (26-11-2020)
Raise minimum age for smoking to 21 years: A report by the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bangalore says that almost all people who become long-term tobacco users begin smoking while they are adolescents or young adults. Raising the tobacco sales age to 21 may reduce tobacco use initiation and progression to regular smoking. The report recommends that the Union Health Ministry should increase the legal age for tobacco consumption from 18 to 21 years. As many as 14 countries – Ethiopia, Guam, Honduras, Japan, Kuwait, Mongolia, Palau, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, USA, and Uganda – have increased the minimum age to 21 years. (26-11-2020)
Travel from Gujarat to Maharashtra affected by new RT-PCR rules: The Maharashtra government has made it mandatory to produce a negative RT-PCR report upon arrival in the state, and many people travelling from Gujarat have had to cancel or reschedule their trips. Maharashtra has made the RT-PCR tests mandatory 72 hours before departure for fliers and 96 hours before the journey for train passengers. This applies to travellers from Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan and Goa. A large number of tickets from Gujarat to Mumbai were cancelled due to the new rules. Passengers are willing to get the rapid antigen test done because it is convenient and quick. The RT-PCR test is expensive and the reports take time. Inbound tourism into Gujarat has also been affected. (26-11-2020)
Timings changed for visitors at all gardens in Vadodara: Considering the spike in Covid cases, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation has revised the timings for visitors at all the 115 gardens in the city. This is a precautionary measure. The revised timings are from 6 am to 9 am and 4 pm to 7 pm. All the hawkers near the gardens have also been cleared from the respective areas. (25-11-2020)
Palmarosa grass grown in Kutch attracts perfume manufacturers: Many farmers in Kutch district have taken up the cultivation of palmarosa grass, a widely used natural ingredient in the manufacture of perfumes, incense sticks and food flavours. This aromatic cash crop was introduced to the district's farmers by the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) – the plant research laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The weather and soil of Kutch are very suitable for this grass. CIMAP has also trained the farmers to extract oil from this grass. The extracted oil is a substitute for rose, so it is widely used in the cosmetics industry. It is used in soaps, fragrances, chocolates, and also by some pharmaceutical manufacturers. Since it is a natural ingredient for perfume the use of synthetic chemicals can be avoided. The cultivators now make about 15 tonnes of oil every year. The buyers include top international fragrance and flavour manufacturers from Switzerland, USA and Germany. (25-11-2020)
Work begins on the Lothal maritime museum project: The Rs. 1,500 crore National Maritime Heritage Complex (NMHC) is gradually becoming a reality near the ancient port town of Lothal. The first phase – the Rs. 500 crore maritime heritage complex – is expected to be ready by 2023. Lothal was one of the southernmost cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. Construction of the city began around 2200 BCE. The Gujarat government has transferred about 400 acres of land at Saragwala village, near the Harappan site, about 80 kilometres from Ahmedabad. Bids have been invited for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) work of the maritime heritage complex along with hiring the principal architects and designers for the overall project. It will be along the lines of the Royal Museums Greenwich, UK, Maritime Museum, Australia and Maritime Museum of Singapore, etc. The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Shipping. India has a maritime heritage that is over 5,000 years old, and the country's coastline covers over 7,500 km. Archaeological excavations have discovered the oldest man-made dockyard, over 5,000 years old, in Lothal. The NMHC Project will house the national maritime museum, maritime heritage based theme park, maritime research institute, a nature conservation park and resorts. (25-11-2020)
New Covid guidelines deal another blow to the wedding industry: The Gujarat government has revised its guidelines for weddings and social gatherings. Only 100 guests will now be allowed at weddings, instead of the earlier 200. Many families have been caught by surprise – though they should have allowed for such a possibility – and they will have to re-schedule or entirely cancel events, and curtail guest lists of course. The wedding industry, already hit hard and down to just 5% of its usual business, is taking another blow. (24-11-2020)
Once upon a time, Vadodara had 625 lakes: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Gujarat, among other states, to designate a nodal agency for the conservation of lakes. NGT has intervened because Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and other nagarpalikas have not been particularly serious about preserving their water bodies. NGT has said that the nodal agency should hold its meeting not later than January 31. The tribunal’s principal bench has said that the state is a custodian, under the Public Trust Doctrine, and it has to act as a trustee of the water bodies to protect them for public use and enjoyment for current and future generations. Take a look at some statistics:
… In 2005, the government had notified 44,138 lakes, almost two and half times the number of lakes that are claimed to be desilted under the Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan.
… Almost 1,939 lakes are within urban areas.
… 625 lakes are within the urban limits of Vadodara, the highest in the state.
… In Vadodara's Bapod area alone, 38 lakes are completely silted, 26 have turned into dry pits, 11 lakes have disappeared to build roads, three lakes have been reserved for police housing, district panchayat housing and Sardar Industrial Estate.
… Surat has 330 lakes, Ahmedabad has 61 and Rajkot 9 notified lakes. However, most of these face the danger of disappearing. (24-11-2020)
Supreme Court asks states to submit action plans on Covid control: Reacting to the Covid-19 situation following the festive season and the onset of winter, the Supreme Court asked all states to submit action plans to ensure that the pandemic is controlled, and came down heavily on Gujarat for its illogical restrictions. A bench said: “The situation is alarming... What is the logic behind banning marriage celebrations between 9 pm and 6 am when celebrations can be held in the daytime? How are the authorities sure that congregations in the day will not result in spreading the disease? You explain the logic behind this decision.” It also criticised the state for allowing politicians to take out political rallies and processions. “The state must file an affidavit explaining the logic behind these decisions.” (24-11-2020)
Many bus services cancelled due to curfew in four cities: The Gujarat State Road Transportation Corporation (GSRTC) has cancelled over 1,754 bus services due to the curfew between 9 pm and 6 am in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot.  The cancelled services comprise 450 from Ahmedabad, 378 from Rajkot, 531 from Vadodara and 395 from Surat. However, more buses were being deployed during the day to give some relief to passengers. Long distance buses, which ply during the night, will bypass these four cities and use outer ring roads to pick up and drop passengers from designated spots where GSRTC supervisors have been placed to coordinate operations in the night. (24-11-2020)
Covid admission criteria of Ahmedabad’s private hospitals: The Ahmedabad Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (AHNA) has laid down admission criteria for Covid patients:
... People above 60 years of age, with co-morbidities or associated medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart conditions-IHD or cardiomyopathy, those with post-transplant issues, malignancy, chronic kidney disease, obesity, chronic liver disease, HIV, chronic neurological condition, etc., and those on immuno-suppressive therapy or steroids have been listed under the top criteria.
... The second criteria has patients with persistent fever of more than 101 F for more than three days followed by those with oxygen saturation (SPO2) less than 94 per cent on room air, irrespective of age.
... The other admission criteria includes patients with significant breathing discomfort and increased respiratory rate irrespective of age and those with features suggestive of non-lung complications such as drowsiness and chest pain, irrespective of age.
The final decision regarding admission is of the treating doctor and these will remain broad guidelines as it is difficult to list all the conditions for which admission may be required. (23-11-2020)
Bulk drugs park in Jambusar may attract investment of Rs. 11,000 crore: The Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) expects an investment of about Rs. 11,100 crore in the proposed bulk drugs park at Jambusar in Bharuch district. Gujarat has over 3,300 pharmaceuticals units and the state is among the leaders in the manufacturing of drugs. The bulk drugs park, spread over 815 hectares, will include Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (APIs), formulations and vaccine manufacturing companies, both local and global. It will also have surgical component manufacturers and research and R&D testing laboratories. If the park gets assistance from the central government under the scheme for promotion of bulk drugs parks, the state government will be eligible to receive 70% of the project cost in the form of grant-in-aid up to a maximum of Rs. 1,000 crore for the creation of common infrastructure facilities. (23-11-2020)
The Wishing Factory gets two blood transfusion centres: The Wishing Factory (TWF) is a Vadodara based NGO that is dedicated to the care of thalassaemia, sickle cell anaemia and haemophilia patients. TWF has now received funding of Rs. 32 lakh from the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) – under its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme – to start two new centres, at Zydus Medical College and Hospital at Dahod in Gujarat and at Shree Jawahar Hospital at Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. These two districts do not have any blood transfusion centre. Dahod has 50 thalassaemia patients and 150 patients with sickle cell anaemia, and Jaisalmer has 85 thalassaemia patients and 120 patients with sickle cell anaemia. At present, patients in Dahod have to travel to Vadodara at least once every month for blood transfusion. Patients in Jodhpur and Bikaner districts will also benefit from the Jaisalmer centre. Both centres will be able to cater to eight patients in a day. (23-11-2020)
Authorities get strict with shops violating Covid norms: It is rather late, but better late than never. The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has again begun to get strict with establishments violating pandemic related guidelines. Over 30 shops were sealed by VMC on Saturday, after conducting extensive checking throughout the city. Public address systems were used to make announcements and create awareness. Many shops gave written undertakings that they would follow the norms, so they were allowed to open again. If the shops again violate the norms, their licences will be cancelled and they will not be allowed to remain in business. VMC collected over Rs. 50,000 as fines from mask rule violators. (22-11-2020)
GIDC announces 12 new industrial estates in the state: The Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) has announced the establishment of 12 new industrial estates in the state. The 12 estates may house 5,000 to 6,000 units. Land acquisition has been completed for most of these estates. GIDC expects overseas and domestic investments of about Rs. 29,000 crore at these industrial estates over the next three years. In addition to this, GIDC expects another Rs. 20,000 crore of investments in the next two to three years in its proposed sector-specific industrial clusters: the Japan Industrial Township (Sanand-III), Bulk Drugs Park at Jambusar near Bharuch, and Medical Devices Park near Rajkot. (22-11-2020)
Government notifies stipend for Covid helpers: To meet the increased pandemic related requirement for helping hands at government hospitals, the Gujarat government has issued a notification fixing the stipend for ‘Covid helpers’ including all medical students along with nursing and microbiology students. The notification states that final year students of MBBS, BDS, BAMS, BHMS, Physiotherapy, BSc (Nursing) and BSc (microbiology) will get Rs. 15,000 stipend. Students, apart from those in the final year, will get Rs. 10,000. Their duties will be required till March 31, 2021. (22-11-2020)
925 MBBS students who have completed studies must report to AMC: A notification issued by the Gujarat state health commissioner has asked the 925 MBBS students who have completed their study, but have not completed their mandatory hospital service, to report to Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) within two days. Their services will be taken under an 11-month contract invoking the provisions of the Epidemics Act. Those passing out this year will be deployed in hospital duty under their bond contract. If the doctors do not obey the orders, the respective district collectors will initiate action. Of the 925 doctors’ postings, Dahod (253), Chhota Udepur (168) and Narmada (101) consisted of 56% of the total doctors who have not reported on duty. The replacement for existing doctors and paramedical staff is crucial to prevent the staff from Covid duty fatigue. (21-11-2020)
Too many collisions with parked vehicles on India’s roads: Collisions with parked vehicles are not rare accidents on India’s roads. The number of persons killed in such accidents went up from 2,317 in 2017 to 4,780 in 2018 and 5,086 in 2019. According to the road transport ministry’s Road Accidents in India report, the states with a substantial number of such accidents are UP, Haryana and Punjab. Experts point to several factors behind these accidents:
… Absence of a robust highway patrol or police system.
… Careless and illegal parking on highways.
… Lax enforcement of road safety regulations.
… Casual attitude of those who violate rules and laws.
… Improperly certified drivers. (21-11-2020)
Night curfew imposed in Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot from Saturday: The Gujarat government has decided to impose night curfew from 9 pm to 6 am in Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot from Saturday (November 21) in a bid to break the infection transmission chain. (20-11-2020)
Schools and colleges will not reopen from November 23: The decision to reopen schools and colleges from November 23 has been revoked by the Gujarat government. This decision follows the rising number of Covid-19 cases and the anticipated second wave. Parents and school managements had been demanding that the reopening of schools should be postponed till the Covid-19 situation is under control. The All Gujarat Vali Mandal had wanted schools closed for at least two months more or till a Covid-19 vaccine is made available in the market. Schools were shut down in March and they have remained closed ever since. The new date for reopening educational institutions will be taken later. (20-11-2020)
Careless behaviour invites curfew in Ahmedabad: A two-day curfew was announced for Ahmedabad – from 9 pm on Friday to 6 am on Monday. Only shops selling milk and medicines will be open. This is a preventive step and also to ensure that people follow the safety measures to control the sudden spike in coronavirus cases in the city. Surveillance has been increased substantially The Gujarat chief minister said that there were no plans to impose a complete lockdown in the state. Citizens need to be careful, wear masks, maintain social distancing, wash hands regularly and stay away from rumours. A central team of experts, led by the director of the National Centre of Disease Control (NCDC), will visit Gujarat to review the situation and support the efforts towards containment, surveillance, testing, infection prevention and control.
Public health experts mention several reasons for this situation becoming critical:
... People have abandoned caution during the festival days.
... People have forgotten hard-learned lessons.
... Social distancing has been missing in commercial establishments.
... Mask etiquette has been thrown out of the window.
... The shopping streets have been dangerously overcrowded with people.’ (20-11-2020)
Train connectivity to Statue of Unity: The railway board has given in-principle approval to extend three trains to Kevadia Colony and also start two new trains.
… The 12927/12928 Vadodara-Mumbai Express, the 20903/20904 Vadodara-Varanasi Mahamana Express and the 20905/20906 Vadodara-Rewa Mahamana Express will be extended to Kevadia after commissioning the new Pratapnagar-Kevadia section.
… Two MEMU trains will be started between the Pratapnagar railway station in Vadodara and Kevadia Colony.
… The trains may also connect Dabhoi. (20-11-2020)
GSFC helps apple farmers in Himachal Pradesh: Vadodara based Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC) has indigenously manufactured three fertilizers – Liquid Boronated Calcium Nitrate, Ammonium Sulphate and Nutri+ – formulated specially for apple plantations in Himachal Pradesh. GSFC will work closely with the Himachal Pradesh State Co-operative Marketing and Consumers Federation Ltd. (HIMFED) to help its farming community. With an output of Rs. 4,000 crore, Himachal is India’s second-highest apple producing state. (20-11-2020)
Indefinite night curfew imposed in Ahmedabad: The Gujarat government has imposed an indefinite night curfew in Ahmedabad from November 20. The curfew, between 9 pm and 6 am, will remain in operation till further orders. This decision has been taken following a steep surge in Covid cases during the festival days. In another decision, 1,300 more Covid beds will be added to the existing 7,500 beds capacity in the city’s government and private hospitals. (19-11-2020)
Mask compulsory inside personal or official vehicles: A lawyer in Delhi was fined Rs. 500 for not wearing a mask while travelling alone in his private vehicle. He filed a petition challenging the imposition of the fine. The Delhi government defended its decision before the Delhi High Court to make wearing of masks compulsory in personal or official vehicles and said that a personal vehicle cannot be said to be a ‘private zone’. Referring to a Supreme Court judgment in 2019 in a case pertaining to drunken driving, the government said the Supreme Court has held that a car or any other private passenger vehicle ‘shall be deemed to be a public place in view of the fact that when a private vehicle is passing through a public road, it cannot be accepted that the public have no access to it. It is true that the public may not have access to such a private vehicle as a matter of right but the public have the opportunity to approach the private vehicle while it is on the public road.’ The court was also told the decision to make masks compulsory in public places was taken in April as part of the measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 and the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) guidelines are “very clear cut” that “any person” moving around in his personal or official vehicle must wear masks compulsorily. The case has been adjourned for hearing on January 7. (19-11-2020)
A few sobering truths on World Toilet Day: 4.2 billion people lack safe sanitation.
(The following are excerpts from https://www.un.org/en/observances/toilet-day)
Over half of the global population or 4.2 billion people lack safe sanitation and around 297,000 children under five – more than 800 every day – die annually from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor hygiene, poor sanitation or unsafe drinking water. Without safely managed, sustainable sanitation, people often have no choice but to use unreliable, inadequate toilets or practise open defecation. Even where toilets exist, overflows and leaks from pipes and septic systems, and dumping or improper treatment, can mean untreated human waste gets out into the environment and spreads deadly and chronic diseases such as cholera and intestinal worms. In a bid to help break taboos around toilets and make sanitation for all a global development priority, the United Nations designated 19 November as World Toilet Day. The resolution declaring the Day titled "Sanitation for All" was adopted on 24 July, 2013, and urged UN Member States and relevant stakeholders to encourage behavioural change and the implementation of policies to increase access to sanitation among the poor, along with a call to end the practice of open-air defecation, which it deemed extremely harmful to public health. Sanitation is also a question of basic dignity and women safety, who should not risk being victims of rape and abuse because of lack of access to a toilet that offers privacy. The resolution also recognizes the role that civil society and non-governmental organizations play in raising awareness of this issue. It also calls on countries to approach sanitation in a much broader context that includes hygiene promotion, the provision of basic sanitation services, and sewerage and wastewater treatment and reuse in the context of integrated water management.
Did you know?
... Over half of the global population or 4.2 billion people lack safe sanitation.
... 40% – or three billion people – of the global population live without basic handwashing facilities with soap and water available at home.
... Around 297,000 children under five – more than 800 every day – die annually from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor hygiene, poor sanitation or unsafe drinking water.
... Globally, 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.
... By 2050, up to 5.7 billion people could be living in areas where water is scarce for at least one month a year, creating unprecedented competition for water. (19-11-2020)
Healthcare devices address societal problems: The Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation awards – instituted by scientist R.A. Mashelkar in memory of his mother – recognise scientific innovations that address societal problems. The 2020 awards awards have been given for two healthcare products:
... Dozee is a contactless health monitor that can track heartbeat, respiration, sleep and stress-recovery, with medical-grade 98.4 percent accuracy. It gives continuous respiration data, without the need of wires or any technical expertise. Dozee can be placed under the mattress of a regular hospital bed. It is a contact-free monitoring system that gathers a patient’s vital parameters by using the Ballistocardiography (BCG) technology. It has been developed by Turtle Shell Technologies.
... Savemom is an IOT based maternal health care solution that promises to effectively address the malady of poor maternal healthcare in the remote regions of India. It is a device which caters to continuous monitoring of expectant and young mothers along with their infants. The device collects physiological parameters of the expectant mother and shares the same with the doctors, who can then take timely medical decisions in case of emergencies or complications. It has been developed by JioVio Healthcare. (18-11-2020)
Chhath puja celebrations not permitted at public places in Delhi: The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) had recently instructed officials to ensure that the Chhath puja celebration is not performed at public places, river banks and temples this year in view of the pandemic. The officials were directed to take strict action against people not following COVID-19 protocols. Chhath puja is celebrated in the capital mostly by people from Eastern UP, Bihar and parts of Jharkhand; such people constitute over 30% of the city’s population. The two-day festival (Nov 20-21) is usually at a water body like a river, a pond or a tank. The ban was legally challenged. The Delhi High Court has dismissed the petition challenging the ban. The court said, “It appears the petitioner is not alive to COVID-19 situation in Delhi. Any such permission if granted would necessarily result in such function turning into a super spreader. The right to health must be respected first.” (18-11-2020)
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