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All habitations in Gujarat not fully covered with water supply: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) conducted a performance audit of the rural drinking water supply programme in Gujarat. The audit revealed that all the 35,996 habitations in the state were not fully covered with water supply. The audit was conducted between March 2018 and August 2018, and it covered the period from 2013 to 2018. As of August 2018, out of 17,843 villages in the state, 8,947 villages had been covered under Narmada canal-based projects and 3,893 villages under the source-based water supply projects.  It had earlier been claimed that as on April 1, 2018 all the 35,996 habitations in the state were fully covered. A fully covered habitation is one in which the average supply of drinking water is equal to or more than 40 litre per capita per day within a distance of 100 metres from the household. A partially covered habitation is one in which the average supply of drinking water is equal or less than 40 litre per capita per day but more than 10 litre per capita per day. An uncovered habitation is one which has never been provided with drinking water supply or supplied with less than 10 litre per capita per day by the government. The CAG report revealed that 18 per cent of the water samples tested during 2013 to 2018 for chemical parameters were found unfit due to excess content of nitrate, fluoride and total dissolved solids. The districts with high contamination of nitrate were Chhota Udepur, Dahod, Banaskantha, Panchmahal and Vadodara. These districts, along with Kheda, were the worst affected by fluoride contamination. (26-09-2020)
You can buy agricultural land for educational purposes: The Gujarat government has passed in the state assembly the Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Land Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020, that will ease the purchase of agricultural land for educational purposes. Prior approval by the district collector – in the form of a non-agriculture certificate – will no longer be required to buy agricultural land for setting up educational institutions like agricultural universities, animal husbandry universities, medical colleges, engineering colleges, etc. The government says that this will open up many opportunities for developments in agriculture, animal husbandry, education and health and also attract more industrial investments to the state. The government has also decided to amend tenancy laws so that land purchased for a bona fide industrial purpose can now be sold for a purpose other than industry as per the provisions of GDCR – if it cannot be used for an industrial purpose. (26-09-2020)
Please do not disturb the beauty of Pratap Vilas Palace: The Indian Railways proposes to build a multi-storey office building in Vadodara next to its other offices in the heritage Pratap Vilas Palace. Many Barodians are opposing this move by the Indian Railways because the palace is a heritage building and any tall structure towering over it will spoil its beauty. The matter has now been raised in the Parliament. Vadodara’s Member of Parliament Ms Ranjan Bhatt informed the Lok Sabha that the Pratap Vilas Palace was gifted to the Indian Railways by the family of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad. It is a heritage building with an elegant campus around it. She demanded that an alternative site should be selected by the Indian Railways for its office project. (25-09-2020)
Advocate fined for smoking in his car during virtual proceedings: An advocate appeared before a Gujarat high court bench in a virtual proceeding, while he was sitting and smoking in his car. A fine of Rs. 10,000 was imposed on the advocate for this transgression. The high court has now directed the Bar Council of Gujarat and the Bar Association of the High Court that their member advocates should attend virtual proceedings from their residences or their offices, and not from open grounds or from a vehicle. Also, they should maintain appropriate sitting posture while addressing the court. Due to the current pandemic the high court is hearing cases through video conferencing. (25-09-2020)
Police commissioner imposes Section 144 in Vadodara: Due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases, the Vadodara police commissioner has imposed Section 144 from September 27 to October 11, 2020. This is a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19. Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) prohibits the assembly of more than four persons. (25-09-2020)
Gujarat police launch anti-drugs toll-free helpline: To fight the trafficking and sale of narcotic drugs in the state, Gujarat police has launched a toll-free helpline – 180023335080. The objective is to get more information about traffickers and peddlers. A new scheme has also been started to reward informers, police officers and personnel who provide information leading to the seizures of drugs and arrest of traffickers. (24-09-2020)
Pandemic hits Vadodara railway division revenues: The Vadodara railway division has usually been a profit making unit for Western Railway, the Vadodara. This year, however, the pandemic hit railway movement severely and triggered a revenue loss of about Rs. 306 crore between April and September. Last year the division had earned a revenue Rs. 891.73 crore during the same time period, compared to Rs. 585.14 this year – 34.38% less. A major portion of the loss is due to reduced passenger revenue. Vadodara is a major junction in the Western Railway network through which more than 230 trains passed in pre-Covid times. The total number of passengers has dropped from 2.78 crore to 2.5 lakh in the last six months. (24-09-2020)
Wankhede stadium may become a tourist attraction: Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium may turn into a tourist attraction. The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) has reacted favourably to the suggestion of the Maharashtra government to develop the iconic Wankhede stadium grounds for tourists. Mumbai has played a prominent role in India’s cricketing history and many cricketers consider the Wankhede stadium as cricket’s spiritual home. The MCA apex council has agreed in principle to work with the state’s tourism department. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) may be drawn up soon will be signed in the coming days to develop the venue so that it becomes an attraction for tourists and cricket fans from around the world. Also being discussed are plans to make a museum of Indian cricket in Mumbai, near the Wankhede stadium. (23-09-2020)
In Covid-19 facilities Gujarat has 75 beds per one lakh population: According to information provided in the Rajya Sabha on September 20 about Covid-19 facilities in India, Gujarat has 75 beds per 1 lakh population. The data was provided by the Union health & family welfare ministry. This was the status as on September 18. The figure is lower than the national average of 118 beds per 1 lakh population. Gujarat ranked 14th in India and overall 23rd in terms of beds per 1,000 population. It seems that, with a large number of patients opting for home isolation, the burden on the formal medical sector is lower now compared to May-June. (23-09-2020)
GIHED-CREDAI announces online property show: The annual property show of GIHED-CREDAI will be organised online this year due to the Covid-19 situation. The virtual property show will be for nine days during the Navratri festival from October 17 to 25. This was announced by the Gujarat Institute of Housing and Estate Developers (GIHED) – the Ahmedabad chapter of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (CREDAI). The virtual expo is likely to feature 60 stalls for real estate developers, allied industries and banking partners. GIHED-CREDAI has organised this show every year since 2005, though this is the first time that it will be online. (23-09-2020)
MS University will partially cut some term fees: MS University (MSU) will waive off fee components collected under selected heads for one term or the current semester between June and December due to virtual teaching because of Covid-19. This decision will benefit nearly 45,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students. The fee reduction varies from Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 4,850 in regular programmes. In post-graduate courses, the fee reduction ranges from Rs. 1,850 to Rs. 7,500. In some select courses, the relief is quite big: Rs. 26,000 less for B Design and M Design courses of fine arts, and  Rs. 21,600 less for MSc in cell and molecular biology. For regular and evening MBA courses of the faculty of management studies, there is reduction ranging from Rs. 6,100 to Rs. 8,000. MSU is the first state university in Gujarat which has partially waived off fees. (22-09-2020)
Many schools are facing a pandemic induced financial crisis: The pandemic seems to have severely affected the education sector hard. The Gujarat Self-Financed School Management Federation says that about 1,000 schools are facing closure. The long period during which schools had remained closed, the furore over fees and the state government considering a cap on fees have all added up to strain the finances of schools. Many school managements have to figure out how to pay salaries and meet overhead expenses. The federation is urging the government to provide an economic relief package. Parents feel that schools incur no expenses when they are closed. School managements say that the only expenditure that reduces is the electricity bill. They still have to pay salaries to their educators and Class IV employees. The major expense is the salary of teachers, which continues even if the school is not functional. One school owner claims that 85% of the expenditure for running a school is of a fixed nature and 10% is variable. The electricity bill is just 2% of the total expenses. The only transportation cost saved is that of fuel. Schools still pay EMIs on vehicles, maintenance, and the salary of drivers. Some schools say they spent money during the lockdown on improving their IT infrastructure and the training of educators. (22-09-2020)
Trial run of Girnar ropeway carried out: A trial run of the Girnar ropeway was done on Sunday near Junagadh at Girnar. The trial run was conducted under the supervision of four engineers from Austria. Only one trolley, without any load, was used for the run. The ropeway connects Bhavnath Taleti and Ambaji Temple – a distance of 2.3 km – in seven minutes. It is supposed to be the biggest ropeway project in Asia. The foundation stone for the project was laid in 2007, when Mr. Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat. The total cost is likely to be Rs. 110 crore. There are 5,000 steps between Bhavnath Taleti and Ambaji Temple. Nine towers have been erected along the stretch, the tallest being 66 metres on the thousandth step of Girnar. Eventually, there will be 24 trolleys – each with a capacity of eight persons – strung along the ropeway. Each run can therefore accommodate 192 passengers. Initially proposed in 1983, the Girnar ropeway ran into several bureaucratic and other hurdles, so construction could begin only in 2017. One hurdle was posed by the apprehensions of palanquin-bearers who carried pilgrims from Bhavnath Taleti to Ambaji Temple. They felt that the ropeway will affect their livelihood, and they went to court. However, the ropeway company offered alternative jobs to the displaced palanquin-bearers as compensation. The project is expected to be completed by October 15, 2020. (21-09-2020)
National Forensic Sciences University to be established: On Sunday the Lok Sabha passed a bill to establish a National Forensic Sciences University by upgrading the Gujarat Forensic Sciences University (GFSU). The university will grant degrees and other academic distinctions and will be open to all persons. A bill to upgrade the Raksha Shakti University as an institution of national importance and change its name was also passed by Lok Sabha. The Rashtriya Raksha University (in place of Raksha Shakti University) will be a multi-disciplinary institution to create new knowledge through research and collaboration with different stakeholders. The Raksha Shakti University is a state university, but the Rashtriya Raksha University will be a central institute. (21-09-2020)
Mandatory Covid-19 duty for medical and paramedical students: The state government has issued a circular to deploy for Covid-19 duty all students of government-run medical and paramedical colleges as well as medical colleges associated with Gujarat Medical Education Research (GMERS). Students of second year and above are to be deployed for Covid-19 duties including field surveillance and supervision, infection prevention and control, psycho-social care, nursing assistance and caretaking of patients under home isolation. The notification does not include medical and paramedical students in their first year of undergraduate courses. Gujarat has an acute shortage of frontline medical teams to deal with the pandemic and this move will create an additional frontline task force of one lakh undergraduate students pursuing medical and paramedical studies. (21-09-2020)
Sabarmati riverfront to Statue of Unity by seaplane: India’s first amphibious seaplane service is likely to be inaugurated on October 31, Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary. The service, offered jointly by the Union civil aviation ministry and the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), will be between the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad and the Statue of Unity (SoU) in Kevadia Colony. Low-cost carrier SpiceJet will operate the service and offer four flights a day, with a ticket price of about Rs. 4,800 per person. Four waterdromes are to be built in Gujarat – in Ahmedabad, Kevadia Colony, Shetrunjay dam in Palitana and Dharoi dam in Mehsana. Waterdromes need a minimum water depth of 7 feet. Authorities at the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. will maintain the required depth. The aircraft to be selected will be a DHC-6 or a Quest Kodiak. The service can operate only from sunrise to sunset. (20-09-2020)
Godhra will get a new medical college: The central government has approved the setting up of a new medical college alongside the existing state government hospital at Godhra in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district. The total cost of the medical college will be Rs. 325 crore. During the first year the medical college will have 100 seats. The central government will contribute 60% (Rs. 195 crore) and the state government 40% (Rs. 130 crore). The hospital will be upgraded to a capacity of 300 beds and it will be equipped with all modern facilities. The state government has allotted 20 acres of land for building hostels for medical students. (20-09-2020)
Gujarat ranked as the best state for startups: Gujarat was declared the best performer in the State Startup India Ranking for 2019 announced by the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT). Among the factors which helped Gujarat: a proactive mechanism to identify regulatory issues from disruptive sectors; iCreate, one of the largest startup incubators in the country; the state’s ‘Student Startup and Innovation’ policy. Gujarat topped in 2018 too. The state has more than 4,000 startups, and Ahmedabad has the most startup incubators. Startups are newly emerged fast-growing businesses that try to meet marketplace needs by developing viable business models around innovative products, services, processes or platforms. Gujarat has a scheme for assistance of startups and innovations, allowing startups to leverage financial support of up to Rs. 40 lakhs as seed support. The Student Startup and Innovation Policy (SSIP) extends financial grants to support student innovators and startups. (20-09-2020)
INS Viraat is on its way to Alang’s ship breaking yard: INS Viraat, the Indian Navy’s longest serving warship, has sailed from Mumbai on its way to the Alang ship breaking yard in Bhavnagar district. It is being towed to Alang by a tug boat. INS Viraat was originally a British ship. It was commissioned in the Royal Navy in 1959 as HMS Hermes. India purchased it in 1986, and it was named INS Viraat after being inducted in the Indian Navy. INS Viraat was decommissioned by the Indian Navy in 2017, after 30 years of service. It is the only warship to have served both the UK and the Indian Navy. It will now be sold as scrap. The contract for dismantling the ship has been awarded to Alang-based Shree Ram Group for Rs. 38.54 crore. The customs department, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) will complete their procedures first and only then will it be handed over for dismantling. The Alang facility is the largest ship breaking yard in the world. There were attempts in the past to convert Viraat into a museum or a restaurant, but none of the plans took off. Many people have been saddened by the several unsuccessful attempts to preserve Viraat – and another aircraft carrier, Vikrant – as maritime museums to depict India’s rich naval heritage. It is indeed tragic to see them finally end up as just some pieces of scrap. (19-09-2020)
Drinking water promised for all houses in Gujarat: On Thursday the Gujarat chief minister laid the e-foundation stone for a 24x7 water supply project for Gandhinagar city. The Rs. 229-crore project will ensure that all the people of Gandhinagar will get pure drinking water 24x7 through taps by 2022. The daily water requirement per citizen is 150 litres. Under the ‘Nal Se Jal’ scheme, the state government will supply drinking water to 100 per cent of houses, including those in the tribal areas. The government is determined to provide drinking water to about 24 lakh houses covering all the tribal areas of Gujarat. The chief minister said that the government is committed to ensuring pure drinking water and toilets to all houses in every village of the state. The state will be hand-pump-free. (19-09-2020)
Gender inequality seen among living organ donors too: Guess what? A pan-India study relating to organ donations revealed that there is gender inequality even in this area. Women accounted for 78% of living organ donors in India, but their share among organ recipients was only 19%. The study was done between 2013 and 2019 by Dr. Vivek Kute, a professor at the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Center - Institute of Transplantation Sciences (IKDRC-ITS) and secretary of the Indian Society of Organ Transplantation (ISOT). He says that it is a socio-economic issue that has continued for the past several decades. If a man requires a kidney, the first choice for family is wife or mother. Experts say that a donor of the same gender should be preferred; male organs should be preferred for males because female organs are comparatively smaller, thereby increasing the chances of mismatch. A doctor at the Nadiad-based Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital says that the promotion of cadaver donations can be one way to improve the gender imbalance. Education and financial independence also play a major role. (19-09-2020)
Schemes for purchase of two- and three-wheel electric vehicles: To curb pollution caused by fossil fuels, the Gujarat government has announced new schemes to promote two- and three-wheel electric vehicles. Some features of the policy:
... School students (of class IX and above) and college students who buy electric two-wheelers will get a government subsidy of Rs. 12,000.
... Rickshaw drivers and self-employed persons who buy electric three-wheelers will get a subsidy of Rs 48,000 per vehicle. This will be for individual and institutional beneficiaries.
... To facilitate charging of e-vehicles, 10 public charging stations will be set up in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot at a cost of Rs. 50 lakh.
The government wants 10,000 electric two-wheelers and 5,000 electric three-wheelers on the roads in the current fiscal year. (18-09-2020)
Water level reaches peak capacity at Sardar Sarovar dam: On September 17, the water level in the Sardar Sarovar dam at Kevadia Colony in Narmada district reached the peak capacity of 138.68 metres. Engineers at the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) opened the dam's gates to allow the water to gush down. The dam is getting an inflow of 71,000 cusecs (cubic foot per second) of water; out of this 51,000 cusecs of water is being discharged downstream of the river. Three units of the canal head power house have been made operational. Water storage in the dam is around 5,760 million cubic meters, enough to meet the state’s water requirement for about two years. Around 9,000 villages and 165 nagarpalikas and municipal corporations of Gujarat will benefit from the waters. The dam’s height was increased from 121.92 meters to 138.68 meters in 2017 after approval from the Supreme Court. (18-09-2020)
Motorcyclist runs into a stray cow on the road and dies: A stray cow was sleeping on the road from Vadodara to Waghodia, and a motorcyclist died after crashing into the stray animal. The dead motorcyclist was charged with rash driving. The police did not file a complaint against the cow’s owner for allowing the animal to stray. The owner of the cow has not yet been traced by the police. People in the area complain that the cattle owners just let the animals loose at night, and it is not easy for vehicle drivers to spot them in the dark. The police can register an offence under section 90A of the Gujarat Police Act (for allowing cattle to stray or trespass upon private or public property). (18-09-2020)
SSG Hospital appoints 32 doctors on contractual basis: Vadodara’s SSG Hospital is facing a shortage of doctors due to the increased patient load resulting from the pandemic. The medical establishment in Gujarat has been asking the government to quickly appoint trained doctors in the state-run hospitals to handle the Covid-19 related duties. Now 32 doctors have been appointed at the state-run SSG Hospital. The doctors appointed are those who have finished their postgraduate studies from the Baroda Medical College. The appointments have been made under the National Health Mission (NHM) to strengthen the health infrastructure in view of the current situation. The doctors have been appointed as Class-1 medical professionals on 11 months contract with fixed salary. The appointments have been made according to the guidelines of the state health and family welfare department with clearance from the Vadodara district collector. (17-09-2020)
Kutch will have the world's largest renewable energy park: The Gujarat government says that it is moving with great determination to set up the proposed hybrid park in Kutch. The government has begun the process of allotment of 50,000 hectares of land to various power producing companies for developing a mix of wind and solar projects. Some salient features:
... It will be the world’s largest single-location renewable power generation project.
... Total proposed capacity: 40,000 MW.
... The objective of the hybrid park is to maximize the utilization of land and the transmission network.
... It is expected to be completed in five years.
... The power producing companies are: Adani Green Energy Ltd (AGEL), Sarjan Realities, Gujarat Industries Power Company Ltd (GIPCL), Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Ltd (GSECL), and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).  
... Over 20,000 hectares of land in the park – over and above the area offered to companies – has been offered to Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) for generating 3,000 MW wind power. (17-09-2020)
Hospitals build oxygen tanks to tackle shortage: Oxygen is a part of the primary therapy for Covid-19 patients. Health department officials have asked district collectors to ensure a green corridor for oxygen transporting vehicles. Medical oxygen – a crucial weapon in the treatment of Covid-19 – has of late been in short supply and many hospitals (including Vadodara’s SSG Hospital and GMERS Hospital) have been forced to quickly create bulk vacuum-insulated storage tank facilities. The demand cannot be fully met by cylinders alone. Not too many private hospitals have such facilities because of several mandatory requirements: an open space of specific dimensions, safety norms, an explosives licence, etc. This situation has been tackled in another way by a small hospital in Ahmedabad which has become self-sufficient by generating its own oxygen for patients. Epic Hospital has set up an oxygen concentrator plant which generates oxygen from the air, purifies it and supplies it for use in ICUs. It can generate the equivalent of 90 oxygen cylinders in 24 hours. The plant supplies a steady oxygen supply without the issues attached with cylinders and oxygen tanks. (16-09-2020)
CNG terminal to be set up at Bhavnagar port: The Bhavnagar port will be the site for Gujarat’s first compressed natural gas (CNG) terminal. With a capacity of 15 lakh tonnes, it will be set up at cost of Rs. 1,900 crore by a consortium of developers, including Padmanabh Mafatlal Group and one from the Netherlands. Infrastructural facilities will be set up on the shore for CNG transportation. On completion, Bhavnagar port’s annual cargo capacity will increase to 9 million metric tonnes (MMT). Gujarat will then be the only state to have terminals for both CNG and LNG (with LNG terminals at Dahej and Hazira). Employment opportunities will increase in Bhavnagar and surrounding areas in logistics, transportation and warehousing. (16-09-2020)
Water aerodromes will be ready next month: The Gujarat government is working towards getting seaplane services started on October 31 to mark the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Construction of the water aerodromes has started at the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad and near the Sardar Sarovar dam in Kevadia Colony. The project is being executed by the Inland Waterways Authority of India and the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation. The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) has given 2,000 square metres of land for the water aerodrome near the Sardar Sarovar dam. Water aerodromes may also be built – at Shetrunjay dam in Palitana and Dharoi dam in Mehsana. The state government will handle the operation and maintenance of the water aerodromes. (15-09-2020)
Eateries sealed in Ahmedabad for breaching corona norms: Joint Enforcement Team (JET) officials of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation sealed 40 eateries for violating social distancing and mask norms. The officials reacted after they were alerted by a senior IAS officer who happened to see people milling around these eateries. The JET officials promptly sealed the eateries and imposed heavy fines. Even the staff members were breaching rules. It is the responsibility of establishment owners to ensure that all customers follow Covid norms. Vadodara too needs strict monitoring and action for such violations. The authorities do not need to wait for a wake-up call from some IAS officer. (15-09-2020)
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