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Virtual midnight mass this year on Christmas Eve: Due to pandemic related precautions and restrictions the Christian community in Gujarat will be celebrating the midnight mass virtually this year. Celebrations will be organised online; the midnight mass will be telecast online on the eve of Christmas. The live telecast will be done on platforms like Zoom and YouTube on the night of December 24. Christians have decided not to gather at churches for offering prayers. There is a night curfew in the four major cities of the state. (20-12-2020)
Dav Whatmore opts out as coach of Baroda Ranji team: Former Australian cricketer Dav Whatmore, who was hired as the head coach of the Ranji team by Baroda Cricket Association (BCA), will not be taking up the assignment. This news has come just three weeks ahead of the national T20 cricket tournament. The reason for Whatmore opting out: immigration embargo on travelling to India on business visa due to Covid restrictions on travel. The Baroda team will now have to play without an experienced full-time coach in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Tournament that is scheduled in January 2021. BCA has decided to appoint assistant coach Prabhakar Bairgond as the head coach. Former India player Munaf Patel, who is the mentor of the senior Baroda team, may guide the players as well. (19-12-2020)
Toxic waste dumped secretly into Vishwamitri: The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) recently caught five persons for secretly dumping toxic acidic waste into the Vishwamitri river. They were using a flexible hose pipeline to dump the waste. The Vishwamitri passes through the heart of Vadodara city. It is home to a large population of crocodiles. An FIR has been lodged against the culprits. The complaint was initially made by the sarpanches of three gram panchayats – Karali, Khalipur and Maretha. A stretch of nearly eight km from Vadsar to Maretha has been badly affected. The water samples taken here had high pH levels. In addition to polluting the river, the toxic waste adversely affects the farms, the cattle, the birds and the crocodile population along this stretch. (19-12-2020)
Many unsure whether a lone car driver must wear a mask: Many people in Gujarat are not too sure about whether a person driving alone in his car should be booked for not wearing a mask. Even police personnel have differing opinions. Still, many cops are convinced that the instructions are quite clear: every person seen driving a vehicle without a mask must be booked and fined. The rules should perhaps be made clearer. (18-12-2020)
Surat company introduces laser marking of natural diamonds: Just like gold has the BIS hallmark, can diamonds too have some kind of authentication to boost consumer confidence? To reassure people who want to buy authentic natural diamonds – and not get duped by lab-grown fakes – Surat diamantaire Gourav Sethi has introduced a standard marking system of diamonds and diamond-studded jewellery. He has set up a diamond testing centre at Mahidhapura for laser inscribing and tagging diamonds and jewellery with ‘naturalmark’. It is claimed that this standard marking system is similar to hallmarking of gold with the BIS logo. The Indian Bullion Jewellers Association (IBJA) said that a system of laser marking can help to increase the sale of diamonds and diamond jewellery. (18-12-2020)
Astrophysicist Pankaj Joshi elected as TWAS fellow: Dr. Pankaj Joshi, astrophysicist and cosmologist, has been elected as a Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). He is presently the provost of Charusat University in Changa, Anand. Dr. Joshi has also been a senior professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). He has made fundamental contributions in black hole physics, gravitation and cosmology. His work has been reported in more than 200 research papers in international journals and monographs. Apart from Dr. Joshi, in the field of physics, a senior professor from Physical Research Laboratory, Srubabati Goswami, has also been elected this year as a TWAS fellow. TWAS is a UNESCO programme based in Italy. A pre-eminent academy of sciences it is dedicated to the promotion of science, with over 1,100 members representing the best of science in developing countries. Its members include 15 Nobel laureates. It was founded in 1983 by Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam (physics 1979) on the premise that developing nations, by building strength in science and engineering, can build the knowledge and skills to address such challenges as hunger, disease and poverty. (18-12-2020)
High court stops construction by railways in palace garden: The Gujarat high court on Wednesday stopped the ministry of railways from undertaking any construction activity at Rajabaug garden in the Pratap Vilas Palace compound. The railways have a plan to construct an office building of the National Rail and Transportation Institute (NRTI) on the sprawling lawns of Rajabaug opposite the palace.  The interim order was passed after Vadodara-based Heritage Trust filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against the railway ministry, Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. and National Academy of Indian Railways. Heritage Trust works to conserve monuments and ancient structures of the city and surrounding districts. The Gujarat government has already allocated 31 acres of land in Waghodia taluka for this project. Also, the petition said the makeshift arrangement will permanently destroy the beauty and the ambience of the palace. Besides, the Government of India’s 1954 and 1981 notifications say that there is a special need for protection and preservation of monuments yet to be declared as ‘protected’. Accepting the argument that the railways’ action will destroy the beauty of the 106-year-old palace and the ground opposite it, the HC issued a notice in this regard to the railway authorities. Construction of the proposed building has been halted for the time being. The hearing took place on Wednesday, but a written order is awaited. (17-12-2020)
Anti-land-grabbing act comes into force in Gujarat: The Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 2020, has come into force across the state, after the state government framed rules and regulations for its implementation. The government says that the law safeguards the land and property of farmers, trusts and other victims of land mafias. A seven-member committee headed by the district collector will evaluate grievances of land grabbing and file a report on the veracity of complaints within 21 days. If the land belongs to the government, the district collectorate and state government can initiate suo moto action. Special courts and public prosecutors have been appointed in all districts, and these courts will deliver their verdicts within six months. The onus of disproving the allegations of land grabbing will be on the accused when trials are held. Land grabbers will face minimum 10 and maximum 14 years of imprisonment. Anyone who illegally grabs land, provides money for the construction, threatens the owner, extorts rent or helps in any such activity will fall under the definition of land grabber. (17-12-2020)
20% of girls marry before turning 18: According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) findings released on Sunday, one in every five girls in Gujarat gets married before the age of 18, the legal marriage age. Some more details:
… 21.8% of women in the 20-24 age group get married before 18.
… Overall, 5.2% of the married girls in the 15-19 age group were mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey: in rural areas 6.7%, in urban areas 2.6%.
… 27.7% of males had married before 21, the legal age for men to marry.
… Underage marriage was more prevalent in rural areas: 26.9% for girls, 33.9% for boys.
… Between 2017 and 2019, the Abhayam 181 helpline recorded a 90% rise in calls relating to underage marriages.
Some communities have banned the use of mobile phones to ensure that the girls do not establish any non-approved contacts. Preventing child marriage falls within the purview of the social justice and empowerment department. The women and child development department has launched several schemes to encourage girls to study, to prevent early marriage, and to improve the sex ratio. (16-12-2020)
Universities should set up ‘Kamdhenu Chairs’: The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA) has suggested that all central, state, private and deemed universities should set up ‘Kamdhenu Chairs’ in institutions of higher learning. RKA has been constituted for the conservation, protection and development of indigenous cows and their progeny. Other suggestions:
… Introduce short-term and long-term certificate and diploma courses on cow-based entrepreneurship.
… Sensitise students about the scientific, economic, environmental and spiritual importance and impact of indigenous cows.
… Create entrepreneurship, livelihood and employment opportunities in this sector. (16-12-2020)
Over 50% of the vehicles on India’s roads are uninsured: The Insurance Information Bureau of India's annual report – released on December 7 – has a lot of interesting – and disturbing – information:
… More than half the vehicles on the road in India (almost 57%) are running without any insurance cover, a mandatory provision under the Motor Vehicles Act.
… The uninsured vehicles largely comprise two-wheelers; nearly 75 per cent of the total vehicles in India consist of two-wheelers.
… There were 15 states which had uninsured vehicles to the extent of over 60%.
… About 52% of vehicle owners do not renew their insurance after the first year.
… Cars are largely insured, with the uninsured numbers quite low at around 10 per cent.
… The total number of third party claims reported was around 3.25 lakh for the current FY.
… Six states – Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Delhi – contributed nearly 50% of the total policies and claims.
The motor vehicle scene in India:
… India is one of the largest auto markets in the world, with over 20 million vehicles sold annually.
… India is also among the countries with the highest number of road accidents and fatalities.
… There were over 23.12 crore vehicles on the road in India as of March 31, 2019.
… According to the Motor Vehicles Act, 2019, it is mandatory for all vehicles to be insured with a third-party vehicle insurance policy. Third-party or liability insurance covers the legal liability arising due to death or disability of third party loss or damage to their property. When an uninsured vehicle meets with an accident, the injured or relatives of dead people do not get any compensation. There is no compensation for damaged vehicles.
… Motor vehicles are the biggest line of business in the general insurance industry with nearly 40 per cent share of the gross underwritten premium.
The Insurance Information Bureau (IIB) has been set up by insurance regulator IRDAI. (15-12-2020)
Almost 80% of children under five in Gujarat are anaemic: Many Indians will be surprised to learn that Gujarat is the worst state in the country when it comes to anaemia in children under the age of five years. Take a look at some findings of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-V):
… An alarming 79.7% of children in the 5-59 months age group in Gujarat are anaemic. This was 62.6% in NFHS IV.
… The percentage of anaemic children in Gujarat is higher in rural areas.
… Only Ladakh, a Union Territory, has a higher rate of anaemia in children.
… The anaemia among women in the 15-49 age group is 65%, and 60% in the 15-19 years age group.
… 62.6% of pregnant women are also anaemic.
… 26.6% of the men are also anaemic in the state. This number was 21.6% in NFHS-IV.
Malnutrition in the state has also increased.
… The number of stunted and underweight children increased by 0.5%.
… The number of severely wasted children increased 1.1 %.
… Only 5.2% of children in the age group of 6-23 months received a proper diet. (15-12-2020)
Campaign launched to save 107-year-old heritage train: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress in Gujarat have started campaigns to save the 107-year-old heritage train service between Bilimora in Valsad district and Waghai in Dangs district from being shut down. The Union Railway Ministry had approved a proposal by the Western Railway to close down 11 narrow gauge train services; it was claimed that these services were uneconomic. One such service was the five-coach heritage train connecting Bilimora and Waghai. Some people are suggesting that this train should not be scrapped, but instead upgraded to promote tourism. They say that the train is the only lifeline of the tribal community in Dang. The beneficiaries are from interior areas in Dang district who work in towns like Gandevi, Bilimora and Chikhli. (15-12-2020)
Allow defence personnel to apply for civil posts while still in service: The Delhi high court has suggested a change in the rules to allow defence personnel who are still in military service – and are entitled to continuation or extensions – to participate in the recruitment process for central civil services and posts on submission of NOC from the services. A division bench said the existing requirement of them having been already retired or discharged from the service does injustice to those still in service, with their defence services willing to let them secure appointment to civil posts. The court suggested a change in the rules. “The requirement, of having already been discharged, may result in servicemen, on the one hand leaving the defence service in which they are already employed and have a reasonable chance of remaining employed in future, having to, before participating in the recruitment process, leave their service and end up with having lost the job in hand and on the other hand having not been able to secure the job applied for,” the court said. (15-12-2020)
Government doctors in Gujarat have a lot of work to do: Here are some interesting facts from the recent Statewise Report 2020 – ‘Human Resources for Health in District Public Health Systems of India’ – by the National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHSRC):
… A doctor deployed at an average government set-up in Gujarat was seeing 54 patients during his daily out-patient department consultations.
… The 54 patients/OPD daily workload of a Gujarat doctor was seventh highest in India.
… The highest workload was in Kerala, which recorded 89 patients per OPD.
… There was 54% overall vacancy in the medical sector (in both regular and contractual posts) for specialists, 9% for nurses and 27% in ANM (auxiliary nurse midwife).
… Against the sanctioned posts, Gujarat had 3% additional workforce in dentistry, 13% in labs and 15% at MBBS/ medical officer level. Among the specialists, 22% were regularly recruited and 6% were on contract, whereas in labs, 33% of the staff was on contractual employment. Among the nurses, those employed on contract were 12%.
… The shortage of MBBS/MO was more at urban levels. In Gujarat, against 641 sanctioned posts, only 188 or 29% were filled up in urban public and community health centres (UPHCs and UCHCs).
… Against the sanctioned ratio of five public healthcare providers (medical officers, specialists, staff nurses and ANM) per 10,000 population in the district healthcare system, Gujarat had four.
The report was prepared based on data collated for the 2018-19 financial year. The work of government doctors covers seeing patients in OPD, house to house surveys, manning community level mobile health check-up vans, supporting patients with their MAA and Ayushman Bharat cards. (14-12-2020)
Gujarat’s new fire safety policy will be in force from January 26: The Gujarat government has finalised and prepared a new fire safety policy, and it will come into force from January 26, 2021. The highlights:
… Private entities and engineers will be allowed to inspect and certify buildings for their fire safety preparedness.
… Four new posts of ‘Director of Fire’ have been established for four zones in the state. These officials will oversee the certification of buildings for fire safety in their respective zones.
… The primary task of fire safety agencies of local authorities will be to control the outbreak of fires – while installation, periodic checking and certifying buildings for fire safety will be mainly done by the private agencies.
… The new policy may propose penal action against agencies and individuals who certify buildings for fire safety, along with owners and office bearers of the building management, in cases where lapses are found.
An online portal is presently under development, which will be used for both empanelling fire safety officers who can certify buildings as well as making available all checklists required for fire safety clearances for different types of buildings. Until now, local bodies were handling inspection of buildings for fire safety but private players also can now certify buildings for fire preparedness. (14-12-2020)
Adivasi Academy in Chhota Udepur helps tribals to extract indigo: The Adivasi Academy in Chhota Udepur successfully conducted a two-year experiment in cultivating indigo and extracting the blue dye. The academy will now train the local tribals in indigo cultivation and extraction. Indigo grows wildly in the district’s forest areas, but the locals never tapped it except for traditional medicinal purposes. In fact, Chhota Udepur has been a supplier of natural dyes to weavers, but not of blue dye. The academy will train the locals to extract the blue dye and also dye the yarn for their clothes. People in the district can then weave their own clothes and also dye them with the colour which they have extracted. Groups of farmers will be formed to grow indigo and supply the blue dye on a commercial scale. Going a step further, the tribals will become completely self-dependent, because the academy plans to grow cotton so that handspun yarn can be used for weaving the cloth. (14-12-2020)
Indian Medical Association members protest against ‘Mixopathy’: Most of the roughly 30,000 Gujarat based doctors who are members of Indian Medical Association (IMA) supported the nationwide bandh call on Friday against what they call ‘mixopathy’. IMA had called for a nationwide protest against the proposed amendments in the CCIM Act which would enable doctors from non-allopathic backgrounds to perform certain allopathic procedures – which the protesters termed ‘mixopathy’. The protesters said they are not against any discipline of medicine, but against mixing of the methods which would dilute the original knowledge. An AMA official said that the government must not play with the health of people by allowing ayurvedic doctors to perform surgeries after a three-year course. (13-12-2020)
Online registration compulsory to organise weddings: Online registration for marriage functions has been made compulsory by the Gujarat government in view of the pandemic. The National Informatics Centre has come up with a software on the government website http://www.digitalgujarat.gov.in wherein people can apply online for upcoming marriage ceremonies and take a print of the registration slip or save a PDF file. If asked by any police or administrative official, the registration slip can be shown by the applicant. The applicant will get the slip within two minutes of submitting the application. There is no need to get permission from the local police. The number of guests at a wedding should not be more than 50 per cent of the capacity of the venue, and not more than 100. Marriage functions during curfew hours are prohibited in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot and Surat. (13-12-2020)
Court orders punishment for bounced cheque: Person A had taken a loan of Rs. 60,000 from person B in February 2017. A issued a cheque to B in June 2017 as repayment. The cheque was dishonoured. B lodged a complaint against A under the Negotiable Instruments Act. The court convicted A and ordered a jail term of eight months besides paying the victim twice the amount he owed within 30 days of the order. In case of default of payment of Rs. 1.2 lakh within the stipulated time, the court stated that the accused will have to further undergo simple imprisonment of 2 more months. (13-12-2020)
Parag Amin was chief guest at Navrachana University’s 8th convocation: The 8th convocation ceremony of Vadodara based Navrachana University was held on Saturday. Eighteen students were awarded gold medals and 826 undergraduate, post-graduate and doctorate program students were conferred degrees. Inventor and serial entrepreneur Parag Amin was the chief guest at the virtual convocation. Mr. Amin is the founding director of iCreate and president of Radiqal, USA. Among the 826 conferred degrees, four have completed their doctoral studies, 259 have specialized in engineering and information technology, 202 in management studies, 149 in sciences, 76 in architecture and interior design, 52 in education, 39 in computer applications, 26 in mass communication and 11 in social work. (13-12-2020)
Fines for not wearing masks and spitting in public cross Rs. 100 crore: The collection of fines collected in Gujarat for not wearing masks and spitting in public has reached a figure which the people of the state cannot really be proud of.
… Fines totalling to Rs. 100.08 crore were collected from over 22 lakh people – between June and December 2020.
…  Action was taken against 62,855 people for violating quarantine norms since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.
… Over 3.5 lakh people were arrested in the state in 2.5 lakh cases related to the violation of Covid guidelines.
… Since March, about 5 lakh vehicles were impounded for flouting the curfew rules. Fines of over Rs. 56 crore were collected from the owners or the drivers of the vehicles. (12-12-2020)
MS University alumni launch Vision 2020 project: The MSU Vision 2020 project was formally launched virtually on Friday by eminent MS University alumni – mostly of the 1980 batch of Faculty of Technology and Engineering (FTE) who are working in Silicon Valley, USA. The objective is to encourage, groom and mentor the current students of the university.
… The project has three aspects – merit awards, student mentoring programme and the flagship programme of tech incubator.
… It will cover all students of all departments – from their first year of college. The cumulative marks of two semesters will determine the awardee in each department and each year. The merit award will consist of Rs. 10,000, a merit certificate and a place on the MSU Vision 2020 honour roll of scholars.
… In the mentoring programme, each alumni of the network will continuously mentor three to five students providing them one-to-one guidance for their professional development.
… The incubator programme will fund five top teams and will foster the startup culture. Each of the selected five teams will get a seed funding of Rs. 50,000. The programme encourages multi-disciplinary teams of two to five students. Vision 2020 alumni will conduct a series of webinars while each team will also be assigned alumni and faculty mentors as guides. At the end, a grand prize of Rs. 1 lakh will be awarded to the best among the five teams. (12-12-2020)
Newly constructed administrative complex at SIR inaugurated: The Gujarat chief minister virtually dedicated the newly constructed administrative complex of Mandal-Becharaji Special Investment Region (SIR) on Friday.
… SIR will be developed as India’s premier industrial city.
… The administrative complex of the SIR has been constructed at Hansalpur at a cost of Rs 5.44 crore.
… The state-of-the-art facilities at the SIR will be ideal for companies which want to relocate their operations from China and other places to India.
… The SIR covers eight villages of Ahmedabad district and one village of Mehsana district.
… All infrastructural facilities at the SIR will be put up at a cost of Rs 200 crore.
… An automobile hub has been developed here and multinational companies have set up operations. (12-12-2020)
Term of elected bodies ends on Dec 13: The Gujarat chief minister has ordered the municipal commissioners of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar to continue carrying out day-to-day functions of the corporations till the newly elected bodies take charge. The term of the elected bodies ends on December 13. However, the municipal commissioners will not be able to take any policy decisions. The order has come after a directive of the Supreme Court (SC) on an application of the state government regarding the administration of the municipal corporations and other local bodies, terms of which are ending this month. The SC has ordered the state government to let chief executive officers of the respective local bodies carry out the day-to-day functioning till the new political body gets elected and takes charge. The state government moved the SC after the State Election Commission (SEC) postponed the elections of the local bodies owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and order of Gujarat High Court prohibited the government from appointing officers for the day-to-day administration of the same. The SEC stated that the new bodies will be elected by February 2021. (11-12-2020)
The renovated Motera stadium is ready for its first match: The renovated 1,10,000 capacity Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium, Motera, is preparing to stage its first match. England will visit India in February-March next year. The day/night pink ball Test match, the third of the series, will be played at Motera from February 24-28. Motera will also be the venue for the final Test from March 4-8. Ahmedabad will host all the five T20Is (March 12, 14, 16, 18, 20), and Pune will be the venue for all the three ODIs (Mar 23, 26, 28). The decision to host so many games in Motera has been taken due to the Covid restrictions. If the Covid situation improves, a few spectators may be allowed inside the stadium. Motera may stage a few domestic games before the Tests. Ahmedabad may also get an IPL team; BCCI’s annual general meeting on December 24 will discuss the induction of two new IPL franchises. ICC will soon announce the schedule of the T20 World Cup and the chances of Motera hosting the final are high. (11-12-2020)
VMC will raise Rs. 200 crore via municipal bonds: The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) may become the first civic body in the state to issue bonds in consultancy with the US Treasury Department (USTD). Vadodara was among the six Smart Cities that were picked for assistance from the USTD. The proposal was initially for Rs. 100 crore, but was subsequently raised to Rs. 200 crore in the 2020-21 budget. Rating agencies Fitch and Crisil had given AA+/stable and AA/stable ratings to the bond issue. The state government approval is awaited. The funds will be used for gap funding of infrastructure projects under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation. The ministry of housing and urban affairs had signed a memorandum with the USTD for the programme. The ministry invited 13 Smart Cities to make presentations for the programme. (10-12-2020)
Work begins to prepare a database of citizens over 50: The Gujarat state health and family welfare department has asked district collectors, district development officers (DDOs) and municipal commissioners to prepare a list of citizens above 50 years of age, and also those below 50 years but with co-morbidities (cancer, organ transplant, ailments related to kidney and heart, thalassemia, anemia, HIV and mental illnesses). The list will enable the planning of the Covid-19 vaccination schedule. The database will be prepared according to the Government of India guidelines. The exercise will follow the same format as in the booth-wise data collection of voters during elections. The teams will carry out a door-to-door survey between December 10 and December 13. The age of 50 years will be calculated as on January 1, 2021. (09-12-2020)
Gujarat’s revised budget will reflect austerity measures: The Gujarat finance minister has said that a drop in the government’s revenues in the form of various taxes, coupled with austerity measures in expenditure, will be reflected in the revised budget estimates to be drawn up by the end of this month. The revised budget estimates may show a fall of about 25%. Tax collection has reduced due to the pandemic, and all departments have been asked to follow austerity measures. Government income from March to November was only 45.30% of the actual budget estimates, in the next four months (to March 2021), the total income from all sources may touch 65% of the budget estimates. The government’s capital expenditure on various projects has also not taken place, leading to considerable savings. With the austerity measures, the fall in revenues has been compensated to some extent by a reduction in expenditure. The size of the next budget is likely to be low if the centre does not permit the state to increase the debt limit. (09-12-2020)
Health workers and doctors will get vaccinated in the first phase in Vadodara: The health department of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) is making the necessary arrangements to administer the Covid-19 vaccine to health workers and doctors in the city. VMC has started preparing the database of such persons. The urban health centers (UHC) of the civic body have ice-lined freezers to store the vaccines. Each refrigerator at the UHC level has a capacity of 225 litres. The list of healthcare workers and professionals includes those from both the public and private sectors. Till a few days back, 13,700 persons have been included in the list which is being updated. The health system has experience in handling vaccination programmes. Recently, the measles-rubella vaccination was administered to about four lakh children in a short span. (08-12-2020)
Night curfew extended in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot cities: The Gujarat Director General of Police has announced that night curfew between 9 pm and 6 am will continue till further notice in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot cities. The curfew was due to end on December 7, but it has been extended in view of the increasing Covid cases. Anyone found assembling at public spaces including roads, highways, lanes and streets will be prosecuted under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. (08-12-2020)
Too many people just don’t care about others: Between June and December 2020, 21.40 lakh people in Gujarat paid up Rs. 93.56 crore by way of fines for violating Covid regulations. In the last week alone, 56,144 people paid fines amounting to Rs. 5.57 crore. The offences: not wearing masks, spitting in public, violating social distancing norms, violating curfew rules. Also, 4.92 lakh vehicles have been seized in the state for corona-code violations – 5,367 vehicles in the last week alone. Between June and December, 60,400 cases were filed under Section 188 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) for disregarding notifications – 2,713 cases in the last week alone. This is in spite of the crackdown by the police! (07-12-2020)
Night curfew in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat may be extended: The night curfew in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot and Surat may perhaps be extended further. Though there is no formal announcement or statement as yet, informal discussions seem to be going on among the various government departments. Some people are of the opinion that the night curfew may be extended till the end of December or till the pandemic situation improves. The night curfew notification was valid till December 7 and another notification is likely soon. (07-12-2020)
MSU alumni will mentor current students and offer scholarships: MS University (MSU) has signed an MoU with ‘Vision 2020’ – a group of mostly Faculty of Technology and Engineering (FTE) alumni currently settled in USA and other countries – to provide scholarships, mentorship and support to current students by helping them with their startups. To start with the alumni will provide Rs. 25 lakh for this year. The activities will begin from FTE and gradually increase in scale. The scholarships will be given to students who are meritorious and are not covered under any existing schemes. The alumni group will also handhold students and groom them for their overall development. The idea is to increase employability of the current students and support them to develop their entrepreneurial skills. (07-12-2020)
State plans for vaccine storage and distribution: The Gujarat government has formed a task force to draw up detailed plans for storage and distribution of the Covid vaccine throughout the state. The Covid-19 steering committee meeting in Gandhinagar was chaired by state chief secretary Anil Mukim The meeting assessed the vaccine storage and distribution channels. The task force for Covid vaccination has been created in all the 33 districts and 248 talukas of Gujarat. The plan covers six vaccine stores at zonal levels, 41 stores at district and municipal corporation levels, and 2,189 cold chain points for remote locations. The technical audit has been completed. The details of 2.71 lakh government healthcare workers and 1.25 lakh workers in the private sector have been collected and collated. In the first phase, the vaccine will be made available for frontline healthcare workers. (06-12-2020)
Umarpada will have Gujarat’s second sainik school: Gujarat’s second sainik school (military school) is likely to come up at Bilvan village in the tribal Umarpada taluka of Surat district. The first sainik school is at Balachadi in Jamnagar. To be built at a cost of Rs. 27.42 crore and spread over 20 acres, the school building will also have a students’ hostel, dining hall, staff quarters and a sports complex. It will be fully residential and it will provide quality education to hundreds of students in this tribal dominated region. The central government scheme for setting up sainik schools was launched in 1961 to prepare boys academically and physically for entry into the National Defence Academy (NDA). The scheme also seeks to eradicate the rural-urban disparities in the officer cadre of the Indian armed forces. (06-12-2020)
Former city mayor booked for violating Covid guidelines: A former mayor of Vadodara was arrested by the Sayajigunj police on Friday for violating Covid guidelines – for his birthday celebration! He and nine other persons were booked on Thursday for not wearing masks and not following social distancing rules at the birthday bash. He was arrested and later granted bail from the police station. The former mayor had organised a celebration at the party office in Sayajigunj, with many friends and supporters present. The video shot at the scene went viral, and the cops took action. Public figures should be setting examples for others to follow, but certainly not this kind of example. (05-12-2020)
Gujarat state election commission starts preparations for civic body polls: The Gujarat state election commission (SEC) has issued a circular to six municipal corporations and all district collectors on Thursday asking them to prepare for elections to the municipal corporations (Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar), municipalities, district panchayats and taluka panchayats. The elections to the six municipal corporations, along with 55 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka panchayats, were scheduled for October-November, but had been postponed by three months because of the pandemic. All urban bodies and district collectors will be responsible for ensuring supply of N95 masks, sanitisers, PPE kits and other materials to be used in the elections. The SEC said, “The number of Covid-19 cases has increased considerably and the situation does not seem conducive for holding elections. However, things are likely to improve, so in anticipation of the situation returning to normal before February, we have directed municipal corporations and all the district authorities to be ready for elections…. We have not taken any final decision. We will take a final call after a month after considering the situation on the ground. If required, we can consider further delaying the elections.” (05-12-2020)
Mandatory community service order stayed by Supreme Court: The Supreme Court has stayed the Gujarat high court order to send people not wearing masks in public places to Covid centres for providing community service. The state government had several apprehensions about the order; though the intention behind the order was laudable, it could lead to further spread of the infection and the fine for violation of Covid norms had already been increased to Rs. 1,000. There were other factors too which needed to be considered before going ahead with the mandatory community service at Covid centres. The Supreme Court asked the additional secretary in Gujarat's home department to ensure that Covid norms and SOPs were scrupulously implemented in the state. (04-12-2020)
Over 8,400 persons pay Rs. 84 lakhs for not wearing masks: Following a stricter crackdown by the Vadodara city police, those violating the Covid guidelines have paid a fairly large sum by way of fines. In 12 days, 8,404 persons were fined Rs. 84 lakhs for not wearing face masks. The two-wheeler commuters not wearing face masks are being fined Rs. 1,000. Even though constant announcements are being made on the roads asking people to wear face masks, many people are still not taking the matter seriously. A joint enforcement team (JET) of police and Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) personnel is checking for violations at malls and shops. CCTVs are also used to identify and fine commuters not wearing face masks. About 300 persons have been arrested for violating the night curfew rules. (04-12-2020)
PM to lay foundation stone of Mega energy park in Kutch: On December 15, Prime Minister Modi will lay the foundation stones of two projects – a mega renewable energy park and a desalination plant – in Kutch district. With both solar panels and windmills, the hybrid renewable energy park is expected to be the world’s biggest, with power generation capacity of 30,000MW. Spread over 60,000 hectares, it is likely to attract investments of Rs.1.35 lakh crore in two years. It should be completed by 2022. The other function will be a ground-breaking ceremony for a desalination plant at Mandvi in Kutch. This plant will provide fresh water for farming, industries and drinking. (04-12-2020)
‘Tibetan’ market and its woolen garments unlikely this year: The shops selling woollen garments and clothing at the Kala Bhavan Ground have been asked to close down because they did not have the necessary permissions. It is not quite clear whether it is the police or the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) that is responsible for this order to the almost 200 shops in what is popularly known as the Tibetan market. Some reports suggest that they have NOC from the fire brigade and the VMC but the permission from PWD is yet to be given. Police permission cannot be given until the PWD gives the NOC. This market is called Tibetan market because most of the shops selling winter clothing are run by Tibetans who come to the city to sell their goods. This year the Tibetans have not come due to the Covid situation. (03-12-2020)
Civic body asks hospitals to complete all fire safety measures: About half of the city’s Covid-19 hospitals have been issued notices by the fire and emergency services department of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) to take appropriate measures to improve their fire safety facilities. Vadodara city and the district have 146 hospitals and 11 extensions of such hospitals in hotels and other buildings where Covid-19 patients are being treated. About 70 hospitals have been given notices over minor issues, such as making some additions or changes. It appears that the GMERS Hospital at Gotri had not renewed its fire NOC; the hospital had the equipment and fire fighting systems in place, but its certificate needs to be renewed. (03-12-2020)
Amul is now the world’s 8th largest milk processor: Amul is the world’s 8th largest milk processor, according to the top 20 list released by the International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN), a global dairy research network. In 2018, it was ranked 9th. Amul has replaced Dean Foods of the United States in the global ranking. Incidentally, the US dairy giant has gone bankrupt. All the other global dairy giants starting from US’ Dairy Farmers of America, New Zealand’s Fonterra, France’ Groupe Lactalis, Denmark’s Arla Foods, Switzerland’ Nestle Dairy, Netherlands’ FrieslandCampnia and Canada’s Saputo have maintained their rankings in 2020. (02-12-2020)
Gujarat’s Covid expenditure this year is Rs. 1,289 crore: The Gujarat government has spent Rs 1,289 crore between April and October 2020 to bring Covid-19 under control. The government expects to spend another Rs. 1,000 crore until the end of the current financial year. Most of the expenditure is on drugs, consumables, PPE kits and masks, diagnostic kits, human resources and special infrastructure needs. All these expenses are of course non-planned and in addition to the allocated budget for planned expenditure. (02-12-2020)
Community service at Covid centres for those not wearing masks: The Gujarat high court has directed the state government to make it mandatory for those who are spotted without masks and violating social distancing norms in public places to do community service at Covid centres as a punishment. The court felt that challans alone are not enough to make people behave appropriately. The order reads, “Any person found to be not wearing or using a face mask/covering in a public place and/or violating the Covid protocol of social distancing, shall be mandated to do community service at any Covid Care centre run by the local authorities.” Such defaulters should render services which are non-medical in nature “such as, cleaning, housekeeping, help in cooking and serving the food, preparation of record, data feeding, etc. The nature of the duties given shall be appropriately decided by the authorities, considering the age, qualifications, gender and health status of the violator”. Such duty for defaulters should be at least for 4-6 hours a day ranging from 5 to 15 days, as the authorities deem fit and necessary. (02-12-2020)
Schools in Gujarat may not reopen until next academic year: It now appears unlikely that schools in Gujarat will reopen until the next academic year. The government has reportedly shelved the idea of reopening schools in the near future. Also, the government is perhaps considering a proposal of mass promotion of all students of lower classes. Class X and XII board examinations may be conducted with proper protocols in place. Considering the recent spurt in Covid cases, the authorities are left with no other options. Experts are of the opinion that it may take at least six weeks for the number of cases to reach pre-Diwali levels. The earliest school reopening time may be after the 2021 summer vacation. Board examination can also be postponed if the situation is not conducive. (01-12-2020)
Stricter complaints to be registered against drunkards: The Gujarat police will henceforth register stricter complaints against drunkards. In addition to booking them under prohibition laws, they will also be charged with obscenity or indecent behaviour in public. This will increase the conviction rate in prohibition cases. In every case the charge of obscenity will be added under Sections 110 (behaving indecently in public) and 117 (which has provision for punishment for various indecent public behaviour) of the Gujarat Police Act. If a person is convicted for being drunk and creating a nuisance, he or she can be jailed for up to three years. (01-12-2020)
Price reduced by government for RT-PCR tests by private laboratories: The Gujarat government has reduced the price of RT-PCR tests conducted by private laboratories for COVID-19 to Rs 800 from Rs 1,500. Since the prices of test kits have come down, the state government has decided to pass on this benefit to people. From today, the government-authorised private laboratories will charge Rs 800 for an RT-PCR test, a reduction of Rs 700 from the current rate. If a laboratory assistant is called at home to collect samples, the charge for the RT-PCR test will be Rs 1,100. Labs charge Rs 2,000 for the home collection service at present. (01-12-2020)
Fee Regulatory Committee fines Vadodara school for overcharging: The Fee Regulatory Committee (FRC) has imposed a fine of Rs. 1 lakh on a private school in Vadodara. Parents had complained that the school overcharged tuition fees and collected an additional sum as ‘stationery’ fees. The FRC has instructed the school to repay the additional charge amounting to Rs. 10 lakh and also refund the excess tuition fees. The complaint had been submitted to the district education department by nine parents. The FRC also ordered the school to return the amount charged as ‘stationery’ fees from 400 students. The school has been given 21 days to appeal against the FRC order. It seems that parents of children in other schools have also filed similar complaints. (30-11-2020)
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Virtual midnight mass this year on Christmas Eve (20-12-2020)
Dav Whatmore opts out as coach of Baroda Ranji team (19-12-2020)
Toxic waste dumped secretly into Vishwamitri (19-12-2020)
Many unsure whether a lone car driver must wear a mask (18-12-2020)
Surat company introduces laser marking of natural diamonds (18-12-2020)
Astrophysicist Pankaj Joshi elected as TWAS fellow (18-12-2020)
High court stops construction by railways in palace garden (17-12-2020)
Anti-land-grabbing act comes into force in Gujarat (17-12-2020)
20% of girls marry before turning 18 (16-12-2020)
Universities should set up ‘Kamdhenu Chairs’ (16-12-2020)
Over 50% of the vehicles on India’s roads are uninsured (15-12-2020)
Almost 80% of children under five in Gujarat are anaemic (15-12-2020)
Campaign launched to save 107-year-old heritage train (15-12-2020)
Allow defence personnel to apply for civil posts while still in service (15-12-2020)
Government doctors in Gujarat have a lot of work to do (14-12-2020)
Gujarat’s new fire safety policy will be in force from January 26 (14-12-2020)
Adivasi Academy in Chhota Udepur helps tribals to extract indigo (14-12-2020)
Indian Medical Association members protest against ‘Mixopathy’ (13-12-2020)
Online registration compulsory to organise weddings (13-12-2020)
Court orders punishment for bounced cheque (13-12-2020)
Parag Amin was chief guest at Navrachana University’s 8th convocation (13-12-2020)
Fines for not wearing masks and spitting in public cross Rs. 100 crore (12-12-2020)
MS University alumni launch Vision 2020 project (12-12-2020)
Newly constructed administrative complex at SIR inaugurated (12-12-2020)
Term of elected bodies ends on Dec 13 (11-12-2020)
The renovated Motera stadium is ready for its first match (11-12-2020)
VMC will raise Rs. 200 crore via municipal bonds (10-12-2020)
Work begins to prepare a database of citizens over 50 (09-12-2020)
Gujarat’s revised budget will reflect austerity measures (09-12-2020)
Health workers and doctors will get vaccinated in the first phase in Vadodara (08-12-2020)
Night curfew extended in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot cities (08-12-2020)
Too many people just don’t care about others (07-12-2020)
Night curfew in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat may be extended (07-12-2020)
MSU alumni will mentor current students and offer scholarships (07-12-2020)
State plans for vaccine storage and distribution (06-12-2020)
Umarpada will have Gujarat’s second sainik school (06-12-2020)
Former city mayor booked for violating Covid guidelines (05-12-2020)
Gujarat state election commission starts preparations for civic body polls (05-12-2020)
Mandatory community service order stayed by Supreme Court (04-12-2020)
Over 8,400 persons pay Rs. 84 lakhs for not wearing masks (04-12-2020)
PM to lay foundation stone of Mega energy park in Kutch (04-12-2020)
‘Tibetan’ market and its woolen garments unlikely this year (03-12-2020)
Civic body asks hospitals to complete all fire safety measures (03-12-2020)
Amul is now the world’s 8th largest milk processor (02-12-2020)
Gujarat’s Covid expenditure this year is Rs. 1,289 crore (02-12-2020)
Community service at Covid centres for those not wearing masks (02-12-2020)
Schools in Gujarat may not reopen until next academic year (01-12-2020)
Stricter complaints to be registered against drunkards (01-12-2020)
Price reduced by government for RT-PCR tests by private laboratories (01-12-2020)
Fee Regulatory Committee fines Vadodara school for overcharging (30-11-2020)
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