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State grants Rs. 40 crore for new MSU infrastructure: The Gujarat government has sanctioned Rs. 40 crore to improve the infrastructure facilities at MS University of Baroda. Three hostel buildings will be built – for male students, for female students and for foreign students – at a cost of Rs 7.70 crore each. The Polytechnic College building will be expanded at a cost of Rs. 12.5 crore, and Rs. 5 crore will be spent to carry out repairs at the existing hostels for boys and girls. The state government sanctioned the grants after a detailed presentation by university officials at Gandhinagar. The existing hostels – 12 for boys and 4 for girls – are unable to meet the increasing demand. The hostels have  a total capacity of 3,200 students, and 4,000 students have to be squeezed in with the help of bunk beds. Foreign students are presently allowed to use the university’s staff quarters. (21-11-2019)
Plastic waste management centre to be set up at Surat: The Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology (CIPET), run by the Union petroleum ministry, will set up plastic waste management centres in four cities – Surat, Benaras, Bengaluru and Patna. The union government will give a basic grant of Rs. 6 crore for each centre. The Surat Municipal Corporation will help to make the infrastructure on its land and essentially work as a research centre and clear plastic waste from urban spaces. It will be responsible for all activities needed to reduce the harmful effects of plastic waste. The centre will reuse 3 tonnes of plastic waste in its plant, function like an institute to help new start-ups with the new technology and impart training on plastic management. Surat generates 1,800 MT of solid waste daily – and 10 per cent of it is plastic waste. The city recycles about 35 MT of plastic at its plant at Bhatar. (21-11-2019)
Roads are dangerous for pedestrians in Gujarat: The ‘Road Accidents in India - 2018’ report released by the transport research wing of the Union road transport ministry reveals that three pedestrians are killed every day in accidents in Gujarat. Of 7,996 fatalities in 7,176 accidents, 1,170 victims were pedestrians and 130 were cyclists. Pedestrians and cyclists account for 16.25% of the fatalities. Compared to 2017, the pedestrian deaths increased by nearly 19%. According to an official of the Ahmedabad Traffic Consultative Committee, pedestrians are at greater risk in the state. One of the reasons for this is the many encroachments on footpaths which often force pedestrians into the roads and into the path of moving vehicles. All over the world, pedestrians are considered to be the most vulnerable road-user group and their protection is supposed to be given the highest priority. The Motor Vehicle Driving Regulations give the first right to pedestrians at uncontrolled pedestrian crossings, but this provision is neither respected nor enforced. (20-11-2019)
Ahmedabad’s middle-class citizens avoid buses: A study done by students of CEPT University shows that only 11% of middle-class citizens in Ahmedabad regularly use public transport. Another finding is that vehicle ownership has gone up to one vehicle for every two persons. The study involved a survey of 4,800 middle-class households in an area of 150 sq km. An average trip takes about 20 minutes; for shorter trips, two-wheelers are preferred. What discourages people from using buses is the problem of last-mile connectivity. Data available with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) shows that the number of AMTS and BRTS users had gone down by 25%. An average of 6 lakh persons used public transport, even though the public transport network has extended and the number of buses has increased. According to an expert, less than half of the major city roads have footpaths. Also, the parts of the city with smaller block sizes encourage more citizens to walk. Ahmedabad has among the highest per capita two-wheeler numbers in India. The city has at least one vehicle per household. (20-11-2019)
Extended monsoon hits salt production in Gujarat: Gujarat, India’s largest salt producing state, will see a production drop of about 30% because the salt-making window has shrunk by 100 days due to unseasonal rains and the extended monsoon. The average season in Gujarat lasts for 10 months, from September to June. Effectively, the producers will get only five months this year. The state’s output will go down to 150 tonnes in 2019-20, against 230 lakh tonnes the previous year. This has been estimated by the Indian Salt Manufacturers Association (ISMA). The major salt producing centres are in Kutch, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Amreli, south Gujarat, Maliya and Morbi. The consumption of edible salt in India is 90 lakh tonnes, so the low supply this year will not affect edible salt prices, but exports, however, may be adversely affected. (20-11-2019)
Food rates increased on Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto Express trains: The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has revised the food rates applicable for meals on Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto Express, as well as on other Express trains. The morning tea on these trains will cost Rs. 35 (earlier Rs. 15) in the first AC and executive chair car coaches, and Rs. 20 (earlier Rs. 10) in the 2nd AC, 3rd AC and chair car coaches. The rate for morning tea will be Rs. 15 in the sleeper class of Duronto trains. The price of evening tea, which includes snacks, cookies and a pot of tea, has been revised from Rs. 75 to Rs. 140 in the first class and executive cars. These charges were last revised in 2012 and 2013. (19-11-2019)
Andhra Pradesh seeks IIM’s help to curb corruption: The government of Andhra Pradesh is wanting to take the help of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) to curb corruption in the state’s administration. IIM-A will look into the structural issues in the state government’s departments – in relation to corruption – and recommend measures to tackle these issues. The focus will of course be on those government departments that are generally prone to corruption – revenue, police, municipal bodies, etc. Can’t the politicians themselves fix the problem? (19-11-2019)
Sewage treatment plants crippled by electricity costs: There are 170 municipalities across Gujarat and many of them have sewage treatment plants (STPs) which are no longer functioning. These STPs are run using conventional electrical energy. The state government’s urban development department has now launched a pilot project to run STPs in eight municipalities and water treatment plants (WTPs) in 15 towns on solar energy instead of the conventional electrical energy. Most of the STPs in the urban local bodies (ULCs) have been affected by high power bills and poor electricity management. It seems municipalities owe about Rs. 300 crore to state-run power distribution companies. The eight municipalities included in the pilot project treat a total of 1,770 crore litres of water through their STPs. (19-11-2019)
Insurance company rejects claim for restoknee surgery: An Ahmedabad resident went through a restoknee surgery in 2018 to treat osteoarthritis in his right knee. He spent Rs. 3 lakh for the treatment, but the insurance company rejected his claim maintaining that restoknee surgery is an unproven and experimental treatment for which a claim cannot be entertained. The patient approached the Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum in Ahmedabad. The court held that restoknee is not an ordinary therapy but is a surgery undertaken by a specialist doctor in an operation theatre. The insurer was ordered to pay the claim to the patient, plus Rs. 13,000 extra towards compensation for harassment and legal expenditure. (18-11-2019)
GMB and GSFC form joint venture: The state government’s Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and Gujarat State Fertilisers & Chemicals Ltd. (GSFC) have set up a joint venture special purpose vehicle (SPV) – Gujarat Port and Logistics Company Ltd. – to develop ports and logistics facilities. Multimodal logistics parks will be created in Ahmedabad, Surat, Kosamba, Valsad, Rajkot and other appropriate locations. The joint venture may also take up other activities from time to time, as decided by its board. (18-11-2019)
Charotar University introduces paperless examination system: Changa-based Charotar University of Science and Technology (CHARUSAT) has introduced a paperless digital examination system. This has been done for the first time in Gujarat. Over 2,000 first year students have appeared for examinations conducted online. Students are given e-tablets in which hall tickets are provided along with question papers. Answers, given using the tablet, are automatically stored on a cloud platform. The evaluation is online and results can be quickly declared. The examinations were arranged for students of 10 colleges and 1,000 e-tablets were used for the purpose. Student authentication is done with biometrics and iris recognition. Students appearing for different subjects, in diverse fields, can sit for their examinations in the same classroom. Students can also check their answer books online after the examinations. The university will use this system for second and third year students too. (18-11-2019)
Unregistered association cannot make RERA complaint: The Gujarat Real Estate Appellate Tribunal has ruled that a group of residents which wants to file a complaint with the Gujarat Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) against a builder must be a registered association first. In the absence of such registration, the residents or allottees of the houses can file complaints in an individual capacity or through a power of attorney. Residents of a newly constructed housing scheme should insist that the builder must form and register the association as soon as possible so that they can formally file a complaint about the project with RERA. Without a registered association, RERA cannot entertain the complaint of a group. (17-11-2019)
Amusement park to pay VMC for improper use of water connection: The AATAPI Wonderland Theme Park has been asked by Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) to shell out Rs. 86.4 lakh for water used by it from the Ajwa reservoir. This follows a notice issued to it by the civic body regarding an improper water connection from the Ajwa pipeline. It seems that VMC had to provide free water only for the maintenance of the garden at the theme park (the theme park is located where VMC’s Ajwa Garden once stood). VMC pointed out that the theme park also drew water for commercial use from the same connection. VMC assumed that half of the water was used for commercial purposes, calculated the amount accordingly and added a penalty component; this added up to Rs. 86.4 lakh. (17-11-2019)
Surat-Mumbai weekly ferry service starts operations: The Surat-Mumbai weekly ferry service has started operations from Hazira. Mumbai based SSR Marine Services has been approved by the Gujarat Government and the ministry of shipping to operate cruise vessels between Surat and Mumbai. The terminal for the ferry has been built by Essar Bulk Terminal Ltd. (EBTL), a division of port and terminal developer Essar Ports. The ferry will depart from Bandra Worli sealink every Thursday at 5 p.m. and arrive at Hazira on Friday at 9 a.m. On the return trip the ferry will depart from Hazira on Friday at 5 p.m. and reach Bandra Worli sealink at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Unlike other ferries, this is a leisure trip which offers fun throughout the night. The three-deck vessel can handle 250 passengers. The ticket rates are between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 5,000. The Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry has asked the government to restart the Ghogha-Dahej ferry service. (17-11-2019)
Plan for public toilet outside Jewish cemetery scrapped: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) recently decided to construct a public toilet right outside the boundary wall of Nizampura’s Jewish cemetery. Some of the graves in this cemetery date back to 1850 AD. Possibly through someone’s oversight the historical importance of the site and the community’s sentiments were overlooked. The ‘Friends of Israel’ authorities have in fact been trying to turn the site into a heritage spot and perhaps build an Indo-Israel cultural centre there. VMC authorities have subsequently cancelled the toilet project, and the authorities will build a protective wall around the cemetery. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Vadodara have also proposed that a pavilion of peace and friendship can be made here. Under the forthcoming Vadodara-Ashkelon twin city pact, efforts may also be made to build an Indo-Israeli cultural centre at the cemetery. The cemetery is the resting place of the earliest German Jews and the Benne Israelis from the court of the Gaekwads. (16-11-2019)
Police imposters caught in Fatehgunj: Two men dressed up in police uniforms were merrily posing as police personnel and collecting ‘fines’ from commuters on the road near a petrol pump in Nizampura on Friday. They confidently asked the commuters to show documents such as driving licences and PUC certificates. Their act ended when some commuters became suspicious and called in the real cops. The Fatehgunj police reached the spot and arrested the duo. The accused told the cops that they planned the scheme to earn some quick and easy money. Officials are now busy asking the crooks how they managed to get traffic police uniform. (16-11-2019)
Global convention on migratory species at Gandhinagar: Gandhinagar will be the venue for a global convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals from February 17 to 22, 2020. The invitation has been extended by the government of India. In addition to other migratory and endangered species, the Asian elephant and the great Indian bustard will also be discussed for the first time. India will be hosting the international conference for the first time. It will be attended by over 1,500 delegates – representing national governments, international organisations, scientists, conservation groups and wildlife experts. India has sought inclusion of the Asian elephant on the global list of endangered species. Among the several interesting topics to be discussed: light pollution guidelines for wildlife including marine turtles, seabirds and migratory shorebirds; renewable energy and migratory species; power lines and migratory birds; pesticide prevalence; land-use policies. (16-11-2019)
Civic body measures air quality index in several areas: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has now installed equipment to measure the air quality index (AQI) and the presence of pollutants in the city. The equipment has been installed at several locations in the city. It has been found that the quality of air in some areas is disappointing; these areas have an AQI of more than 200. While the AQI is moderate in most areas, it is poor in Kalali Road and very poor in Gorwa. In addition to the inversion – causing pollutants to be trapped close to the ground – associated with the onset of winter, there are the problems of vehicle emissions and dust generated by ongoing construction and road digging activities. The AQI measuring equipment is claimed to be state-of-the-art and citizens can see the data on their phones. (15-11-2019)
Ahmedabad continues drive against mosquito breeding sites: The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) sealed several educational institutions in the city on Thursday after inspection revealed mosquito breeding sites on their properties. By now AMC health teams have issued notices to 81 schools and colleges after checking 747; fines amounting Rs. 1.57 lakh have been slapped on establishments which took inadequate steps to eliminate mosquito breeding sites. In addition to private institutions AMC also acted against the civic body’s own schools. AMC had organised a major drive in the city’s schools to create awareness about the perils associated with the mosquito menace and vector-borne diseases. Mosquito breeding sites can be anywhere: open water tanks, scrap heaps, cellars, terraces, bird feeders, etc. (15-11-2019)
Maiden journey of cruise from Mumbai to Diu: Over 350 passengers from Mumbai arrived in Diu in the maiden cruise on Thursday. The cruise is India’s first multi-destination cruise, with stops at ports in Mumbai, Goa, Diu, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Muscat. The cruise is expected to carry over 1,600 passengers. It has 837 cabins. The tourism department expects to run at least two trips a month from Mumbai to Diu. The cruise reached Diu at 8 a.m. and left for Mumbai at 6 p.m. (15-11-2019)
Railway line to Statue of Unity will be ready soon: The 78-km railway line between Vadodara and the Statue of Unity (SoU) at Kevadia Colony is likely to be opened on October 31, 2020. The new links which are being laid are the 18-km Dabhoi-Chandod stretch and the 32-km stretch between Chandod and Kevadia Colony. The deadline has been brought forward from December 2020 to October 31, 2020 (the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel). Work is going on for the railway station at Kevadia Colony. The railway station – 5 km from the Statue of Unity – will cost about Rs. 20 crore. (14-11-2019)
Vadodara People’s Heritage Festival begins on November 19: The Vadodara People’s Heritage Festival will celebrate the city’s 508th ‘birthday’ and applaud its heritage during National Heritage Week which is celebrated across India between November 19 and 25. A series of interesting activities – informative exhibitions, heritage and nature walks, rickshaw tours, home museums, illustrated talks, etc. – have been planned. This year there are more than 45 events that Barodians can participate in. The Heritage Week is completely self-sponsored and self-financed. (14-11-2019)
Gujarat will close RTO border check-posts: Gujarat will shut down its 16 Regional Transport Office (RTO) check-posts along its borders with Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh from November 20. The objective is to stop corruption, reduce traffic congestion and promote the ease of doing business. An online system is likely to be introduced to collect taxes and other fees wherever applicable. An online system will of course eliminate traffic jams at check-posts and reduce transportation time. More than 90 lakh vehicles move through the state’s 16 check- posts, and the revenue collected from them is about Rs. 332 crore every year. (14-11-2019)
Gujarat’s maternal mortality rate improved marginally: Gujarat’s maternal mortality rate (MMR) has improved from 6.4 for 2014-16 to 6 for 2015-17. These figures are from the report of the Sample Registration System (SRS) of Census of India. The sample size was 3.65 lakh women in the age group of 15 to 49 years. The national average of MMR was 8.1. Kerala was the best performer with an MMR of 1.9; Uttar Pradesh was the worst with 20.1. (13-11-2019)
Scooter-sharing industry prospering in India: India is the number one country in the world in the scooter-sharing industry. The country has a fleet size of over 20,000 scooters available on rent, and almost the entire fleet is in Bengaluru. The reasons for the growth of scooters in Bengaluru are traffic congestion and the flexibility of two-wheelers to weave in and out of traffic. A German manufacturer of electric scooters says that Bengaluru is perhaps the world’s scooter sharing capital. Against India’s 20,000 scooters available on rent the other significant players are Spain (13,520), France (8,200) and Italy (5,150). There was a 164 per cent increase in 2019 in the number of scooters in the scooter-sharing industry; almost half of this growth was in India. While most scooters in this sector outside India are electricity powered, scooters in India usually run on petrol. (13-11-2019)
Hostel likely at Sama indoor sports complex: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation Sports Promotion Foundation (VSPF) – a joint venture of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation and Sports Authority of Gujarat for the sports complexes in Vadodara – is planning to build a hostel facility at the Sama indoor sports complex. In the 2018-19 budget VSPF was given funds to the tune of Rs. 6.7 crore to make a suitably designed hostel for sportspersons coming to the city for a variety of sports events. (13-11-2019)
Gujarat will encourage international cruises: International cruise ships may soon come calling at several tourist locations along Gujarat’s long coastline. Some spots on the tourist list are Dwarka, Somnath and Porbandar. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala and Lakshadweep are among the important cruise destinations identified by the ministry of shipping. It is likely that Angriya cruises will shortly start operations between Mumbai and Diu. Cruise services are also proposed between Dahej and Mumbai. A cruise circuit linking Porbandar, Dwarka, Veraval, Diu and Daman is being considered. The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) has issued tenders for the construction of cruise terminals at the five ports of Mundra, Mandvi, Okha, Veraval and Jamnagar. The ministry is working on e-visas, on-arrival visas at these locations and single e-landing cards with validity at all ports along the cruise itinerary. (12-11-2019)
Unholy ‘collaboration’ between pathology laboratory and doctor: Recent reports describe an unholy ‘collaboration’ between a shady pathology laboratory employee and a private doctor who is perhaps deficient in ethics – medical or otherwise. The laboratory is in Vadu village of Padra taluka; it seems that it has three branches in Vadodara.  An audio clip has surfaced in which the laboratory employee offers a 40 % commission to the doctor, and even suggests that the pathology report can be tailored to the doctor’s desire – typhoid, malaria or any other ailment of the doctor’s choice. Vadodara district health officials have now of course sealed the laboratory. Not surprisingly, not too many people are surprised or excessively shocked by this story. It is a sad reflection of the times that most people feel that ‘such things happen quite frequently’. Perhaps the ‘ailment of choice’ pathology report may be a bit surprising, but the commission bit is nothing new. (12-11-2019)
MS University may hire a private agency to improve its ratings: MS University (MSU) has decided to float bids and hire a private professional agency for proper documentation in order to improve its National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) ranking and scores. MSU will soon have to go through the NAAC re-accreditation process. NAAC is the autonomous body of the University Grants Commission that accreditates all higher education institutes in India. MSU also wants to improve its scores in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) which is released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). MSU’s tender notice states that the purpose is to provide support for getting and improving NAAC accreditation and improving scores in various rating systems (NIRF, GSIRF, THE, QS, etc). (12-11-2019)
Fire breaks out at Centre Square Mall, controlled quickly: A fire broke out on Sunday evening at Centre Square Mall near the Rhino Circle (Genda Circle). The fire affected a fashion store on the mall’s ground floor. While the blaze was quickly contained and the mall was completely evacuated, smoke continued to come out of the shop. There were no injuries reported. All movie shows at the mall’s multiplex were cancelled and the cinema halls were urgently evacuated. The reason why the fire was controlled immediately was that the fire control system was fully functional and the water sprinklers did their job. The cause of the fire is not yet known. (11-11-2019)
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