DELAYED BY A YEAR, SG ROAD SIX-LANING TO COST RS 100 CRORE MORE
Ahmedabad:MMNN:22 February 2018
Call it lack of will, bureaucratic hurdles or something else, the sixlaning of SG Highway has been delayed by a year and it will now require an additional Rs 100-crore of the exchequer's money. When it was announced by the state government in February 2017 after it received the Centre's nod, the project cost was pegged at Rs 750 crore. This year, the same project was re-announced, but the cost has gone up to Rs 846 crore. Now if only it actually took off, say the commuters who are fed up with frequent traffic snarls on the stretch.
Not very long ago, when SG Highway was out of bounds for trucks, trailers and other transport vehicles, driving on the stretch used to be sedate and relaxed. But now the traffic situation has worsened.
Negotiating each junction on the stretch, between 9.30am and 12.30pm, and 5.45 pm and 8.30 pm, has become an arduous task. Almost 3 lakh new vehicles have been added to Ahmedabad roads alone in a year.
According to commuters, it takes a minimum of three stops before each junction can be crossed, especially Ch 0 circle, Gh 0 circle, Sargasan Chowkdi near Adalaj, Vaishnodevi, Bhagwat Vidyapith and Sola Overbridge. The traffic police have already put restrictions on turning at Pakvan Crossroads during rush hours that had become a huge traffic bottleneck.
Rahul Chauhan (28), who works with a private organisation in Gandhinagar, said, "A minimum of 20 minutes is required to cross any traffic junction in Gandhinagar. The problem starts from Ch 1, Gh 1 or from Indroda in Gandhinagar and if you have to negotiate two of them, you need at least 40 minutes. The worst is the Sargasan junction in Gandhinagar."
In February 2017, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel had announced six laning of 44-km stretch of highway between Sarkhej to Chiloda, and building six flyovers at Pakvan Crossroads, Vaishnodevi temple, Sargasan, Uvarsad, Sanand Crossroads and Infocity crossroads at a cost of Rs 750 crore.
The project, approved by the Centre, also included broadening the Sola and Khodiyar Railway Overbridges. It was to be executed with a 50:50 per cent contribution between centre and state and the flyovers were to be ready in 2 to 2.5 years.
However, no progress has been made on the project. Last month, Patel once again announced the project and said the tendering work will be completed by February end.
Elaborating on the cause of the delay, DyCM Nitin Patel told Mirror, "When the project was announced in 2017 it was at a conceptual stage. It takes time to implement a project of this magnitude as it is a national highway with Central grant."
Asked why the cost of project increased by about Rs 100 crore in a year Patel said, "It is because of technicalities that were not factored in at the time the project was initially devised. This increase is routine and technical."
Nik Dobaria, 21, a Gandhinagar resident said, "This simply shows the lack of planning by the state government. The state government had announced road expansion at the start of 2017 but will only start work before the 2019 parliamentary election. They will then complete the work before the election after that. The people, in the meanwhile, will keep facing problems."
He said it was worse during VIP movement on the route as the traffic would take a lot of time to clear up.
Akshay Prajapati, 21, an MSc student, said it takes at least 25 minutes to cross the Sargasan Junction in Gandhinagar. "You have to halt at least thrice before you can cross the crossroad. Even four-wheelers and tractors take the kutcha roads to save on time."
Chief Engineer (National Highways) P R Patelia told Mirror, "The project may have been stalled for environmental and forest clearance. Both sides of the highway has trees that will have to be cut to make way for the highway. The tender process will be completed by May and the project will take two-and-a-half years to complete
Many Gujarat V-C appointments may have bypassed UGC norms
Ahmedabad:MMNN:27 October 2017
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court order restraining Sardar Patel University vice-chancellor Shirish Kulkarni from taking any decision will not only have an impact on the university, but another five V-Cs including the one at Gujarat University may also be affected.
The order came following a petition in the high court which claims Kulkarni is not an eligible candidate for the post and that he should be removed from office.
According to UGC regulations, a vice-chancellor should possess a teaching experience of 10 years in any university in the post of a professor.
The UGC norms have been declared in the year 2015 which according to officials are applicable for the university.
"Keeping this norm in view, it is clear that at least six vice-chancellors including Gujarat University V-C, Himanshu Pandya, also does not qualify for the post," said a senior GU official.
The official said that for example Pandya has been a professor of Botany for the last four years and hence he does not meet the 10 year criteria. Similarly, the vice-chancellor of Maharaja Krishnakumar Sinhji Bhavnagar University Shailendra Jhala too does not qualify. He was an associate professor in MG Science College when he was appointed as the vice-chancellor.
Also, Shailendra Gupta, who was appointed as V-C of Vir Narmad South Gujarat University was not even a professor in any university at the time of appointment, nor was he associated with any university, said a source.
Another three-vice chancellors including those of Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kachchh University and Teachers University also do not meet the minimum criteria, said sources.
A state government official said that recently the government has issued advertisement for Saurashtra University where it has been made clear that the minimum criteria for appointment of V-C should be 10 years experience as a professor.
Operation to remove surgical forceps left behind in abdomen 5 years ago kills woman
Ahmedabad:MMNN:4 September 2017
AHMEDABAD/MEHSANA: On his first Gujarat tour after becoming President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, on Sunday, visited Ahmedabad and Mehsana. He then proceeded to Raj Bhavan, Gandhinagar. In Mehsana, the President said that non-violence is the core essence of Indian culture, and asked citizens to become 'makers of the nation.'
Kovind arrived at Ahmedabad airport at 2.30pm and was greeted by state governor O P Kohli, state authorities and members of the state cabinet. He then went to Sabarmati Ashram.
He spent about 25 minutes there, getting to know the history of the place, about the Ashram's centenary celebrations and toured the various galleries. Kovind visited Gandhiji's quarters at Hriday Kunj and made his entry in the visitor's book.
The Sabarmati Ashram trust presented the President a copy of the Mahatma's autobiography. The trustees said that the President had asked the trust to disseminate the Mahatma's works to citizens and was delighted to learn about the digitization project.
The President then went to Mehsana, where he participated in Guru Ashish Mahaparva, organized by disciples of Padmasagarsurishwar Maharaja to commemorate his 83rd birthday.
Speaking at the occasion, Kovind said that his relationship with Gujarat was 45 years long, and it was Prime Minister Morarji Desai, who had introduced him to Gujarati culture. Kovind praised Gujarat for giving the nation two PMs Desai, and Narendra Modi.
"Non-violence is the core essence of Indian culture and it was a political tool for Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle. Acharya Padmsagarsurishwarji Maharaj has implemented those values and inspired others to follow the path of non-violence and self restrictions," Kovind said, adding that the monk has helped spread the message of compassionate feeling and benevolence. "The acharya has conserved rare 'pandulipi' (manuscripts) at a museum in Koba, which has the biggest ever exhibition of pandulipi," said the President.
Jawan's widow aghast at unequal compensation
Ahmedabad:MMNN:30 Aug 2017
AHMEDABAD: The wife of Dinesh Borse, the CRPF jawan who was killed in a terror attack with seven others in Pulwama in South Kashmir on August 26, has questioned the discriminatory approach of the government in giving compensation to the martyr's family, and demanded better compensation from the state administration.
Jyoti Borse, Dinesh Borse's wife, said, "Government should not discriminate between the martyrs' families. In Haryana, a CRPF jawan, who died in the line of duty with my husband, was given Rs50 lakh, here the state government will give just Rs4 lakh."
I am also a martyr's widow. I should be respected. The state government should ensure a good education for my kids who have lost their father," Jyoti said, in tears. Dinesh leaves behind two kids - daughter Devanshi, 3, and a five-month-old son, Jay. His father Deepak Borse was a training instructor with the State Reserve Police (SRP). Borse's friends also issued a statement demanding sufficient compensation for his family from the state government.
"Gujarat government has neglected the martyr's family and insulted martyrdom of Dinesh Borse by announcing Rs4 lakh compensation for them," the statement read.
It pointed out, "The Haryana government has announced Rs50 lakh compensation for the kin of another CRPF jawan, Jaswant Singh, who died beside Dinesh Borse in the Pulwama attack. "Why is the state government doing such injustice to a martyr's family?" the release asked. The statement added, "We urge the people of Gujarat to gather at the condolence meeting of Dinesh Borse on August 31 to raise the issue of sufficient compensation for the martyr's family."
Sukendrasingh Thakur, Dinesh's friend, said that they would protest to press for adequate compensation. "Dinesh's father is the sole breadwinner now. The government should give enough compensation for the family live a dignified life," said Thakur.
E-challans to supplant paper: Cops Traffic department
Ahmedabad:MMNN:24 July 2017
AHMEDABAD: The city police's traffic branch had launched an ambitious monthlong project in June to stop physical issuance of challans for traffic offences at crossroads and had delegated the job to personnel deployed at City Surveillance and Intelligent Traffic Managment System (CSITMS) control room.
Traffic personnel deployed on road were instructed to focus on traffic management and respond to deserving issues.
Traffic branch officials said the experiment was a success and it has been extended till further notice. Officials said that apart from an increase in identifying traffic offenders, the month of June also saw better traffic management.
Sudhir Desai, DCP (traffic), said that compared to about 3,000 challans generated daily, the month saw 3,586 challans issued daily. The figure could have been higher but policemen were busy with a number of high-profile bandobasts during the month.
"The system of e-challans brings transparency as the offender knows when and where he or she was caught and for which offence," said Desai.
Claiming that the online payment system for challans was also a success, Desai said, "At the moment, about 40% payment is being made through our website."
He said that the traffic department have tied up with State Bank of India to enable traffic challan payments by debit cards at State Bank of India branches.
"The service charge will be the same for online and payment at bank branches," he said.
Desai said they are trying to address glitches of wrong challans received by citizens. "We have also made the delivery system faster with deployment of postal department officials right at the office of the police commissioner," said Desai.
Traffic branch officials said that more city police personnel will now be equipped with a specially developed mobile application that captures photographs of offending vehicles with number plates, and can be used to generate e-challans
They added that one of the major benefits of the system is a drop in altercations with offenders.
"Earlier, a lot of time was wasted in arguing with offenders and invariably they would make us talk to someone on phone. With the e-challan system, the frictions have stopped," said a senior traffic branch official.
Gujarat College turns 156 today
Ahmedabad:MMNN:13 July 2017
Ahmedabad: Today, Gujarat College celebrates its 156th anniversary. It stands as a symbol of one of the first attempts in Gujarat to liberate its masses from the clutches of colonial and feudal power through higher education.
The college was started at a rented premises near the Bhadra citadel, which was close to the present Himabhai Institute building.
On 13 July, 1861, with 33 students, the college began a special lecture series on law and engineering. Back then, there were morning and evening sessions.
But by 1873, as the college was not affiliated to the Bombay, Calcutta or Madras universities, the British government did not allow it to function from September 23 that year. Six years later, in 1879, the college began as Gujarat Provincial College, now under the management of the Gujarat College Committee, which at that time led by local textile magnate, Sheth Ranchhodlal Chotalal.
"It's worth mentioning here that when the college began in 1861, an entrance exam was held in May, which some 40 students had taken. Of these, came the final 30 students," says city historian Rizwan Kadri.
By 1897, Ranchchodlal's son Chinubhai Madhavalal Baronet, donated 33 acres of land and made cash donations to expand Gujarat College. He donated Rs 6 lakh and a further Rs 20 lakh for the construction of a separate Arts College on the campus along with Rs 1.5 lakh for a library and college hall.
Drivers' sons top in CS examination
Ahmedabad:MMNN:6 July 2017
AHMEDABAD: Two all-India rank holders in the recently held Foundation Programme exams of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India, are from Ahmedabad. Both were inspired by the hard work of their fathers who are drivers. Mustafa Sibatra from Vatva in Ahmedabad has come first in India by scoring 364 out of 400 marks. The other topper is Akash Patel, a resident of CTM area, whose all-India rank is 16. He has scored 334 marks out of 400.
Among top 10 all-India rank holders are three students from Ahmedabad. They include Meesha Kothari (rank 3), Vishwa Vyas (rank 7) and Mohit Agarwal (rank 9). A total of 17 students from Ahmedabad chapter of ICSI figured among the top 25 rank holders in the country. Mustafa Sibatra is a second-year B Com student from Sahjanand College. His father, Mufaddalbhai, has been driving a school van for many years.Mustafa was little surprised by his success.
"I never expected to top in the country. I have been working hard to clear the first stage in Company Secretaryship exams because I want to get into the corporate world," he told TOI. He further said that the first thing he would do is to ensure that his father can give up his current profession.
PM Modi inaugurates two water projects for Gujarat farmers
Ahmedabad:MMNN:30 Jun 2017
AHMEDABAD: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday inaugurated two water projects in Gujarat's Modasa district, asserting that farmers across the state will soon get water through various irrigation schemes.
Speaking at the dedication ceremony, Prime Minister Modi said, "We have ensured that farmers across Gujarat get water through our various irrigation schemes. National Agricultural Market (e-NAM) is helping farmers sell their produce online at the right price across the entire country. We have introduced PM Fasal Bima Yojana to ensure maximum protection with minimum premium. We are also ensuring that bus stations in Gujarat are comparable to airports in convenience and cleanliness".
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani was also present for the occasion.
Later in the day, Prime Minister Modi will have lunch at Gandhinagar Raj Bhawan, which will be followed by the inauguration of the Mahatma Mandir exhibition and conference. He will also address a youth symposium.
Prime Minister Modi will also address a textile summit, take part in a roadshow and unveil other state-centric projects.
He will leave for New Delhi this evening to attend the Goods and Services Tax (GST) roll out mega event in Parliament.
NCB launches 'Say No to Drugs' drive
Ahmedabad:MMNN:24 Jun 2017
AHMEDABAD: As part of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, observed annually on June 26, the Ahmedabad zonal unit of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) along with partners launched the 'Say No to Drugs' campaign on Friday.
Hari Om Gandhi, the zonal director of the NCB, told the media that the campaign would held under the aegis of the Healthy Campus initiative of the NCB along with educational institutions and the state police. "There are two ways to tackle the drug menace - control the supply side, which we do by apprehending peddlers and suppliers, and control the demand side where we create awareness about the harmful effects of drugs and spread the message of mental and physical health," he said. "This initiative is the second approach."
The fortnight-long campaign will include a human chain at AES ground on June 24, street plays and an awareness rally on June 26, a road show with a pledge-taking ceremony and thanks-giving to non-addicts from June 26 to July 8, an awareness rally with NCC on July 5, and a bike rally on July 9.
Amid Tension, India Rescues 2 Drowning Pak Commandos Off Gujarat
Ahmedabad:MMNN:12 April 2017
Amid the sharp plunge in India Pakistan relations over the death sentence to former Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian Coast Guard rescued two Pakistani marine commandos near the Gujarat coast today. Reports said the marines were giving chase to a group of Indian fishermen and their boat had capsized after hitting one of the Indian boats. Of the six Pakistani commandos said to be in the capsized boat, three drowned and one is missing. The bodies have been handed over to the Pakistani authorities.
The Pakistani boat was pursuing a group of fishermen in seven boats, who were working near the Gujarat coast. As the boat rounded them up and took them towards the Pakistani waters, one of the boats hit the Pakistani launch.
The Indian Coast Guard Ship "Arinjay", which was rushing to the spot, went to their rescue. Reports said Pakistani authorities later released the fishermen.
10-month-old baby allegedly raped by uncle in Gujarat, no arrests yet
MMNN:12 April 2017
A ten-month-old baby girl was allegedly raped by a family member in Jamnagar district of Gujarat, police said on Wednesday.
The incident took place on Tuesday night at Kanalus village in Lalpur taluka of the district when the girl was sexually assaulted by Mukesh Thakor (30), a cousin of her father who took her away and allegedly committed the heinous crime, said sub-inspector of Meghpar police station Nasir Rayma.
The girl's father runs a barber shop at Kanalus village. On Tuesday night, his cousin paid him a visit and took out the baby girl briefly on the pretext of playing with her. After around 10 minutes, he dropped the girl back home and left hurriedly.
"The girl was weeping. When the parents checked, they found blood stains on her frock and alleged rape. She was admitted to Jamnagar civil hospital and is fine now," Rayma said.
A case was registered against Thakor under section 376 of Indian Penal Code for rape, and Sections 4 and 6 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) for penetrative sexual assault, he said.
The accused is yet to be arrested, the official added.
PM Modi to visit Gujarat on April 17 to inaugurate multiple projects
Ahmedabad:MMNN:5 April 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi would visit Gujarat on April 17 to inaugurate several projects, including a hospital in Surat and Sumul Dairy's cattle feed plant in Tapi district, officials said.
The PM is also scheduled to inaugurate Phase-I of the SAUNI (Saurashtra Narmada Avataran Irrigation) project.
Providing details of Modi's scheduled visit, BJP MP from Surat C R Patil said, "Modi would land at Surat airport in the evening of April 16, where we will give him a grand welcome. Next morning, he will inaugurate Kiran Hospital in Katargam area of Surat."
The hospital has been built at a cost of Rs 400 crore by a trust, he said.
PM Modi would then head to Bajipura village in the neighbouring Tapi district to inaugurate a cattle feed plant and an ice-cream plant of Surat District Co-operative Milk Producers' Union, popularly known as Sumul Dairy.
"He will also address a large gathering at Bajipura. We expect that over 3 lakh women would turn up for this mega event," Sumul chairman Rajubhai Pathak said.
According to him, the PM had performed the ground-breaking ceremony of the project in 2014 during his tenure as the Gujarat Chief Minister.
Sumul CEO S V Chaudhary said apart from the cattle feed plant, the PM would also lay foundation stone for Sumul's other projects coming up in nearby Nava Pardi.
"However, instead of visiting Nava Pardi, Modi would lay foundation stone for these projects from Bajipura. These projects include a bakery plant, honey project and a milk powder facility," Chaudhary said.
Later in the day, the PM would reach Botad district in Saurashtra region to inaugurate Phase-1 of SAUNI project for Botad and surrounding districts. There, he would also lay foundation stone for phase II of the project, District Development Officer of Botad H K Koya said.
"On April 17, Modi would inaugurate the phase-I of the project, wherein some of the dams in our region would be filled. In addition, he will lay foundation stone for the second phase. Modi would also deliver his speech at the event to be held on the outskirts of Botad town," Koya said.
In August last year, Modi had inaugurated the first phase of the ambitious Sauni project from Jamnagar.
Under this project, which is divided into four phases, Gujarat government plans to fill 115 dams of Saurashtra region with excess overflowing water of the Sardar Sarovar dam across river Narmada, through a pipeline network.
Modi had last visited his home state last month, when he attended a number of meetings and events, including a national convention of women sarpanch at Gandhinagar on the International Women's Day.
Now Congress Says No EVM In Gujarat Elections Please: 10 Facts
MMNN:5 April 2017
The Congress today joined the opposition chorus of "no EVMs," forcing a brief adjournment in parliament's Upper House Rajya Sabha along with Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party. Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress said EVMs or electronic voting machines should not be used in the Gujarat assembly elections later this year as they are under "suspicion." Opposition parties allege that rigged voting machines played a role in the BJP's massive victory in the Uttar Pradesh elections.
Here's your 10-point cheatsheet to the story:
"Don't use EVMs in Gujarat and other polls that are slated to be held. EVMs are under suspicion," Mr Azad said in parliament, adding, "If they would have rigged in all five states, they would have gotten caught, so they rigged EVMs only in the largest state UP."
"They have lost their mental balance," retorted union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. "The same EVMs were there in 2009 and earlier. The opposition is questioning the credibility of the Election Commission," he said.
The minister also said, amid uproar in the government benches, that BSP chief Mayawati had "insulted democracy and the people," by calling the BJP "beiman (cheats)."
It was Mayawati who first made allegations of rigged EVMs soon after the UP election results were announced. The BJP has won 325 of UP's 403 seats along with allies, leaving very little to be shared among the rest. Ms Mayawati had to settle for 19 seats.
The Congress' Digvijaya Singh brought up the issue in the Rajya Sabha today when he talked about reports that an EVM tested for a by-election in Madhya Pardesh's Bhind recently only issued slips with the BJP symbol. The EVM was shipped from Kanpur in UP, where it was a reserve machine for the assembly elections.
Digvijaya Singh demanded that only ballot paper be used for the by-elections in several states this month and in elections hereafter.
Union Minister Prakash Javedkar said the Election Commission has made it clear that there can be no manipulation of EVMs and that the opposition should raise its concerns with the poll panel and "not waste parliament's time."
Earlier this week, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the Bhind test proves that EVMs were tampered for the UP elections. He offered to demonstrate how the machines can be rigged and demanded that only ballot paper be used for civic elections in Delhi later this month.
Mr Kejriwal has earlier also said he suspected that EVM tampering may have led to his Aam Aadmi Party's poor performance in the Punjab assembly elections.
The Election Commission has ordered an investigation into the Bhind EVM test. In a strongly-worded letter it has said the Aam Aadmi Party should "introspect" why it didn't perform well in the recent state polls instead of blaming EVMs.
Post-demonetisation, bank deposits soar, but NPAs too cross Rs 30,000-crore mark
Ahmedabad:MMNN:22 March 2017
Demonetisation saw bank deposits in Gujarat swell by 22 per cent during the third quarter of the current fiscal, but non-performing assets (NPAs) weighed heavily on the health of banks, with bad loans crossing the Rs 30,000-crore mark.
At end of December 2016, the total deposits in banks of Gujarat stood at Rs 6.31 lakh crore, which was about 22 per cent more than the deposits that existed in the same period a year ago, stated the State Level Bankers' Committee (SLBC) report for Gujarat. The report was released after a meeting of bankers on Tuesday.
"Demonetisation has aided banks in high accretion of deposits. The withdrawal of legal tender character of old Rs 500/1000 notes from November 9, and subsequent caps on drawing out money from banks and ATMs have left banks with additional deposits over the past two months," stated the report. However, the "work related to demonetisation" squeezed credit growth of the banks.
During this period, the gross NPAs rose to Rs 30,698 crore. Agricultural sector and MSMEs accounted for the maximum NPAs during the September-December 2016 quarter. The NPAs in MSME sector stood at Rs 5,374 crore, while the NPAs in agriculture term loan - made available to farmers for activities other than seasonal agricultural operations like dairy, plantation and horticulture, farm mechanisation and minor irrigation - stood at Rs 2,440 crore.
In some of the nationalised banks, the gross NPAs shot through the roof. For instance, the percentage of NPAs in Indian Overseas Banks stood at 29 per cent, while that in Allahabad Bank stood at almost 26 per cent. Among the State Bank Group, the State Bank of Patiala had an NPA of 17 per cent, while among private banks, DCB Bank (31 per cent) and Dhanlaxmi Bank (22 per cent) had high percentage of NPAs as on December 2016.
Meet the Gujarat Artisans Behind Emma Watson's Costumes in the New Beauty and the Beast Movie
MMNN:22 March 2017
The made-in-India collaboration was made possible by the effort of Sinead O'Sullivan, the movie's assistant costume designer. Sinead is committed to the #whomademyclothes campaign, which strives to promote supply chain transparency and ethical sourcing in the global clothing industry.
Seeking fair-trade, responsibly sourced textiles, she reached out to the artisans in Gujarat. Brothers Kasam and Juma who are originally from the Bhuj region practise their craft in Mandvi. Both are experts in hand embroidery and employed aari, an intricate needlework technique, to design the French floral design on the bodice of Belle's dress during a scene at the library.
The two brothers have practiced mocha aari embroidery since they were teenagers, having learnt the craft from their late father Adam Sangar, a master craftsman who specialised in this needlework technique. The Sangar family is among the last of the community practicing the craft in its authentic avatar. However, the brothers also make room for innovation, like employing frames to create the embroidery more easily and replacing the traditional wood-handled aari needle with a hooked needle.
In an interview with University of Warwick, Kasam Sagar has emphasized their preference for buyers who appreciate the history and intricacy of the craft, while also ruing the lack of local demand for their products. Aari is a painstaking process, and the Sangar family's embroidery is often exported to other countries and also displayed in many prestigious museums and exhibits.
As Varanasi Votes, PM Narendra Modi Is Back Home In Gujarat After Hectic UP Campaign
Ahmedabad:MMNN:8 March 2017
As Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh reported brisk voting on Wednesday morning, PM Modi was in his home state Gujarat, deep in prayer at the famous Somnath temple. With him was BJP chief Amit Shah. Both leaders are in Gujarat after a hectic campaign that saw them camped in Varanasi in a bid to secure the crucial eastern UP region for the BJP in assembly elections in the country's most populous state.
In Somnath, PM Modi and Mr Shah will attend a meeting of the temple trust of which both are members, before PM Modi returns to capital Gandhinagar to address 6,000 women sarpanch or village heads on Women's Day. Last night he was hosted for dinner by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani attended by BJP members of parliament and party legislators in Gujarat.
Just out of an intense campaign in the marathon seven-phase Uttar Pradesh election, PM Modi's visit to Gujarat is being linked to assembly elections in his home state due later this year. A massive revolt by the Patels or Patidaars in Gujarat, once a staunch support base of the BJP, has put the party on the backfoot after over two decades of ruling the state.
As Amit Shah drove up to Somnath on Monday night, Patel protesters threw eggs at his cavalcade and raised slogans against him. The Patels are angry that the BJP government has not accepted its demand for reservation in government jobs and colleges.
On Tuesday, PM Modi also announced that eight state highways will converted into national highways, inaugurated a petrochemical investors region and also the country's biggest cable bridge in Bharuch, south Gujarat. Most of the highways are in Saurashtra, dominated by Patels.
The assembly elections in Gujarat - where PM Modi was chief minister for 13 years before he moved to Delhi after the BJP's big win in the 2014 national election - will be the next big test for the BJP after the UP elections.
The party has gone flat out to try and replicate its success in the 2014 national election when it had won 71 - 73 along with partner Apna Dal - of UP's 80 seats. Worries for it have come from western UP, where the Jats, who voted en masse for the BJP in the national election, are upset over PM Modi's notes ban and over their demand for reservation not being met.
The party has attempted to make up in eastern UP, where 40 constituencies are voting today in the seventh and last round of voting in the state, which has 403 seats in its legislature.
PM Modi's Varanasi has eight assembly seats - the BJP currently holds three of those, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party have two each and the Congress has one.
Gangster Ravi Pujari dials 10 Congress MLAs of Gujarat
GANDHINAGAR:MMNN:8 March 2017
The matter of extortion calls allegedly made to around 10 Gujarat Congress MLAs by gangster Ravi Pujari was raised by leader of opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela in the assembly on Tuesday. Pradipsinh Jadeja, minister of state (home), gave the assurance that adequate security would be provided to the threatened Congress MLAs and action against the gangster will be taken the help of central agencies.
Incidentally, Amul chief RS Sodhi had earlier received a Rs25 cr extortion call from a member of the Pujari gang. Sodhi had also lodged a complaint with the police. However, cops are still wondering why Sodhi, who is a salaried employee, had received an extortion call.
Vaghela said that in the last one-and-half month, Congress's Gujarat in-charge Gurudas Kamat and 10 MLAs including Shaktisinh Gohil, CK Raulji, Amit Chavda, Hirabhai Patel, Govabhai Rabari, Pirjada and Chandrikaben Bariya had received threatening calls from the gangster.
"It is a very serious matter that the extortion calls are being made when the PM is visiting Gujarat," Vaghela said. "Phone calls are coming from America, Laos, Algeria, Molibiya, Thailand, Croatia, Bhutan, Pakistan and Turkey. The central government needs to rise above party rivalry and take action to trace the calls coming from abroad and tackle such elements."
Vaghela further said that these calls are coming from more than 10 countries. "In his message to our MLA C K Raulji, the gangster has threatened that he will kill Raulji just like councillor Pragnesh Patel unless Raulji paid up Rs 10 crore," the Congress leader said.
He also said that he wanted the central government to intervene and verify whether these calls were being made by the gangster Ravi Pujari or someon else. "Somebody may be trying to mislead the authorities using technology. The central government's agencies such RAW should find it out,'' said Vaghela.
In his reply, Pradipsinh Jadeja said the chief minister had instructed the state administration to take all such threat calls - whether they were made to an MLA or an ordinary citizen - very seriously.
Gujarat:Agency that fills cash forgets Rs 24.68 lakh in a box outside ATM
Ahmedabad:MMNN:27 Feb. 2017
A box containing Rs 24.68 lakh cash found outside an ATM of a leading public sector bank in Vadodara sent the local police into a tizzy.
Later, it was found that an employee of the agency that replenishes cash in the ATMs had forgotten it there.
The box, having bundles of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes, was spotted by a college student near a branch of the bank close to Zaver Nagar on Waghodia road in Vadodara on Saturday when he went there to withdraw some cash from the ATM, assistant police commissioner YR Gamit told PTI on Monday.
The box had apparently been lying since February 23 after the employee of the agency responsible for loading and filling cash forgot it outside the ATM, he said.
The student opened the box and, to his surprise, found bundles of currency notes inside it. Assuming it to be a case of loot, he called up the police in the wee hours on Sunday.
Gamit and police inspector JV Amin, who was on night patrolling duty in the area, rushed to the spot.
The police then called up the branch manager and an official of the agency to the site.
After ascertaining that the cash bundles were intact, they were handed it over to the branch manager.
"We will also watch the CCTV footage. It is surprising that nobody noticed the box lying near the ATM for three-four days," Gamit said.
2 brothers with 'IS links' held; Gujarat 'terror plan' averted
Ahmedabad :MMNN:27 Feb. 2017
The Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad has averted a possible terror strike with the arrest of two home-grown suspected Islamic State operatives from Chotila and Bhavnagar, both in the Saurashtra region.
The police believed the two, both brothers, were planning a major strike at "Maa Chandi" temple atop the hills in Chotila in Surendranagar district "in a day or two".
Waseem Ramodiya and Naeem Ramodiya, residents of Bhavnagar, are sons of Asif Ramodiya, a retired clerk of the Rajkot-based Saurashtra University. Asif claimed he was "totally in the dark" about his sons' activities.
The police recovered 98-gm gunpowder, two facemasks, a battery used for making bombs and local-made bombs from their possession.
The police also found eight editions of magazine "Dabik", believed to be an IS mouthpiece, and videos showing bomb-making techniques and carrying out "lone wolf" attacks, from their laptops and mobile phones.
ATS Deputy Superintendent of Police KK Patel said the two were under their surveillance for the past one-and-half years once it learnt they were in touch with the IS through the Internet, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The famous Somnath and Dwarkadhish temples were also on their radar, the ATS claimed. The police also suspect the involvement of Waseem's wife.
Sources say computer-savvy Waseem gave up studies in Master in Computer Applications to do "something big" for Islam.
The two were in touch through Skype with an "IS handler", identified as "Big Cat". The handler, in one of the recordings, was heard asking Waseem to collect at least 400-gm gunpowder for a "major strike".
Gujarat liquor ban: Govt hopes to get Governor nod for new stringent rules
Ahmedabad:MMNN:21 Dec. 2016
Gujarat Government on Tuesday said Governor OP Kohli has given a "positive" response to granting approval to an ordinance that seeks to tighten rules against sale and consumption of alcohol in the State and enhance punishment for offenders.
The ordinance, seeking to make necessary amendments in the Gujarat Prohibition Act, was approved by the Cabinet on December 15 and sent for the Governor's nod. The decree proposes stringent action against bootleggers, tipplers and unscrupulous officials.
Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja told reporters at Gandhinagar that Raj Bhavan is very "positive" about the ordinance and it was likely to be signed and returned to the Government with approval by Wednesday.
"As the Government is keen to implement the new Act as early as possible, Raj Bhavan has shown a positive view on the ordinance and conveyed to us that the Governor would sign it and return to us by tomorrow.
"As soon as the ordinance gets approval, the new Act will come into force with immediate effect," said Jadeja.
Some of its key provisions include a significant increase in the penalty as well as jail term for those involved in the purchase, sale and transportation of liquor in Gujarat, where total prohibition is in force.
Under the proposed law, accused in such cases would face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of Rs 5 lakh instead of the three-year punishment under the current Act, an official release said.
Similarly, the liquor den operators, as well as those helping them, would face imprisonment up to 10 years. In another major amendment, people who create ruckus or harass others in inebriated condition would face a jail term of not less than one year and up to three years.
Currently, the punishment for such behaviour is just one to three months in jail and a fine of Rs 200-Rs 500.
As per the ordinance, officials found guilty of helping bootleggers escape raids would attract a punishment of seven years in jail and Rs one lakh fine.
For effective implementation of the new Act, the Government would form a 'Monitoring Cell', which will have a toll free number.
Using that number, people can inform police about any illegal activities related to liquor trade or consumption, said Jadeja.
Additional Chief Secretary (Home) MS Dagur along with DGP PP Pandey on Tuesday held a video conference with all District SPs and Range IGs to make them understand new provisions as well as powers given to police, said the release.
Raids Detect Gujarat Chaiwallah-Turned-Financier's 600 Crore Black Assets
Ahmedabad :MMNN:21 Dec. 2016
A man who started his life as a tea and snack vendor and ended up as one of the biggest financiers of Gujarat, has come under the scanner of Income Tax authorities, which have so far found Rs. 600 crore of undeclared assets belonging to him and his family. Cash and jewellery worth Rs. 10.5 crore so far have already been seized from his home and bank lockers.
Kishore Bhajiyawala, 50, had started as a small-time seller of tea and bhajias (deep fried snacks) two decades ago in Surat. As his business grew he got into the money-lending and real estate business. There are indications that he is well connected politically - photographs of him with prominent BJP leaders including former Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and Union minister Purshottam Rupala have been circulated on social media.
The party, however, has distanced itself from the controversial financer. "He's neither a party man nor indirectly linked to us," said BJP spokesman Bharat Pandya.
The inquiry by the income tax department into Mr Bhajiawallah's affairs started after he deposited around Rs. 1 crore in his bank after the currency ban by the government on November 8.
The raids that started on December 13 are still on and what the officials found has astounded them. Documents and items found so far indicate that the total worth of his assets in land, cash and valuables could be more than Rs. 600 crore.
But sources in the Income Tax department said much more could be found of his undeclared assets. Not all the documents seized have been scanned.
More than 6.5 crore in cash was seized from his home and office in the predominantly middle-class Udhna area. Of that, Rs. 1.4 crore was in the new 2000 rupee notes. There was 50 kg of silver and diamonds worth Rs. 1.39 crore in more than a dozen bank lockers.
There were more than 40 bank accounts in the names of his and associates.
Mr Bhajiawala has refused to discuss the matter. "Don't want to talk," was his only response to NDTV.
Since the government's ban on high denomination currency of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 - meant to root out black money -- the Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau have been conducting nationwide raids. Black money worth hundreds of crore - often in soiled, smelly notes, have been found stacked in sacks and trunks from various cities.
Gujarat's prohibition law friendly to tourists but sends residents to jail
Ahmedabad:MMNN:17 Dec. 2016
A dry state for almost six decades, Gujarat has now made its prohibition law even more stringent. But that's only for locals who could now end up in jail for three years and pay a hefty Rs 5 lakh fine if caught with a liquor bottle.
For visitors and tourists though it's good cheer as access to alcohol has been made easier. The guests can raise a toast by just walking into the hotel liquor shop and furnishing certain documents.
Now, a click of the mouse can get them the permit required to consume liquor in Gujarat.
That's two sides of the Gujarat prohibition model - strict for residents and friendly for tourists.
The prohibition policy started becoming tourist-friendly during the last few years of the Narendra Modi rule in the state and remained so under his successor Anandiben Patel, with more and more hotels getting licences to run liquor shops. Besides, the process for on-arrival permits at airports and hotels and even e-permits had been eased.
And now, the Vijay Rupani government that faces crucial assembly elections next year seems to have succumbed to the demands of two electorally important communities - OBCs and Patidars - to make the law tougher for locals.
"For the promotion of world class business events like the biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit (VGGIS) and tourism fairs like Rann Utsav (Desert Festival) - both conceived and promoted by Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister - the home department had to accept the suggestions of the tourism department to ease the prohibition policy for visitors," said a top official from the home department.
On the other hand, the government on Thursday, while announcing an ordinance for stricter punishments to tipplers and bootleggers, called it the need of the hour.
"These (amendments) will help stop social, economical and moral deterioration of society," said minister of state for home Pradeepsinh Jadeja.
Under their leader Alpesh Thakor, the OBC communities that account for 40 per cent of Gujarat's over six crore population, had joined hands with SCs and STs to press for a stricter prohibition law and its better implementation.
Thakor also got support from Hardik Patel, who is spearheading the Patidar quota agitation, and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani.
Besides Patidars and OBCs, the Rupani government also aims to win over women voters with Thursday's ordinance.
Gujarat CM inaugurates Vibrant Ceramics Expo and Summit-2016 in Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad :MMNN:17 Dec. 2016
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani on Friday attributed foreign investors' preference for setting up their facility in Gujarat to the state's physical infrastructure, airports, industry-friendly labour laws, transparency, digital connectivity, credibility and quality consciousness.
Inaugurating the Vibrant Ceramics Expo and Summit-2016 here as precursor to the biennial Vibrant Gujarat Summit-2017 to be held next month, he said that as many as 18 investor-friendly policies have been framed in the state with stress on 'Clear Concept; No Confusion'.
He said the Vibrant Gujarat Summit started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister of the state has also increased the state's attractiveness for the investors.
The chief minister said that ceramics industry in the state also held in as much esteem as diamond in the world market. He presented awards for excellence to ceramics entrepreneurs for innovations. The Association presented Rs.11-lakh cheque towards the chief minister's Girls Education Fund.
Nearly 100 delegates and participants from 20 states in India and 24 countries are participating in the three-day Summit held under the aegis of Morbi Ceramics Association.
Global ceramics majors from 11 countries signed MoUs with local entrepreneurs for product development and enhancement in presence of the chief minister.
Association President Kundariya welcomed the guests and delegates. Global Network CEO Jagat Shah said that road shows held abroad were responsible for the success of the Ceramics Summit. Adani Ports & SEZ President Amit Uplenyawar announced that a Ceramics Tiles and Sanitary Wares SEZ will be set up near Mundra Port.
Gujarat to have Wagah-like border viewing point
Ahmedabad:MMNN:14 Dec. 2016
On the lines of Wagah Border point, the famous tourist attraction in Punjab, Gujarat would soon have its own 'Border Viewing Centre' near Suigam, a village near the Indo-Pakistan border in Banaskantha district.
Chief minister Vijay Rupani made the announcement while inaugurating the annual `Rann-Utsav' at Dhordo in the Rann of Kutch on Tuesday.
"To promote tourism, state government is planning to open a Border Viewing Centre at Nadabet near Suigam village of Banaskantha. We will provide all the facilities which are available to tourists at Wagah Border," Rupani said.
The CM also announced Lion Safari Parks at five locations in Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. One of these parks, at Ambardi in Amreli district, would open soon, an official release quoted him as saying.
Rupani also inaugurated ten `Bhungas', traditional Kutchi huts, which will rented to tourists. He also visited a tent city erected in the white Rann of Kutch and enjoyed a camel ride, stated the release.
Gujarat man's Pakistani wife not allowed to enter Kutch
Ahmedabad :MMNN:14 Dec. 2016
Altaf Paleja has a home in Bhuj, in Gujarat's Kutch district, but when his Pakistani wife Sidra visited him, they were compelled to stay at a hotel in Morbi.
Owing to the countries' strained relations, India has denied the Pakistani national entry to the border district of Kutch, where Paleja's family is based. When Sidra and her family visited India eight months ago, they were granted visas on the condition that they would choose any place but Kutch to stay.
They chose the nearest district, Morbi, for a short stay, but could not find a house in the town. Nobody was willing to rent a house to the family because they had come from Pakistan.
"Finally, we had to stay at a hotel. It was difficult because my family from Bhuj also decided to stay with my in-laws," said Paleja. He has now initiated the procedure to invite his wife and in-laws again, along with a special guest he hasn't met before - the and his wife's sixmonth-old son Muhammad Azaan. Unfortunately, the situation for Paleja and his Karachibased wife has not changed a bit. The office of the high commissioner of India in Pakistan has informed Paleja that his wife, son and mother-in-law could get visas, but they would not be able to enter Kutch. They were told to choose any other district.
"This is really strange... The authorities have no reason to deny my wife entry into Kutch," said Paleja. Kutch MP Vinod Chavda has also written to the Indian high commissioner's office, urging permission for Pakistani nationals to live in Bhuj town.
Plea in Supreme Court against elevation of Pandey as in-charge police chief
Ahmedabad:MMNN:10 Dec. 2016
Former Gujarat DGP Julio Ribeiro has moved the Supreme Court against a Gujarat High Court order, dismissing his petition challenging the elevation of DGP P P Pandey as in-charge police chief of the state. The High Court had in August dismissed the petition on the ground that Pandey has been given additional charge "as a stop-gap arrangement" after his predecessor DGP P C Thakur was transferred to Delhi. Thakur's Delhi appointment, however, stands cancelled and he awaits a posting.
Sources said that the PIL is likely to come up for the hearing this month in the apex court. Former IPS-turned-lawyer Rahul Sharma who represented Ribeiro in the High Court confirmed that a petition against the HC order has been filed in the SC. Ribeiro had moved the HC against Pandey's elevation, saying that "such an additional charge is against the doctrine of public trust, is against the law and the express guidelines of the Supreme Court".
The petition stated that, "...the police force of a state can't be headed by a person accused of extremely serious offence of murder of four persons, especially, when the trials are yet to begin. In a sense, such an appointment is itself a breach of law, being arbitrary and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India." Pandey is one of the seven chargesheeted police officers in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case. Pandey is currently out on bail. The High Court, while dismissing Ribeiro's petition, had stated that Pandey's bail, his reinstatement and promotion to DGP were never challenged.
"At no point of time, such orders were under challenge. In absence of challenge to such orders and further in view of the fact that no allegations are made against the 2nd respondent (Pandey) about his interference by way of tampering with evidence in connection with the case registered against him, the allegations made against the 2nd respondent cannot be accepted to find fault with the impugned notification/order which is merely an order for additional charge and that too, it is given temporarily," a division bench led by Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy had stated in the order. The court had also said that "we make it clear that when the regular appointment to the post of Director General and Inspector General of Police, Gujarat State is made, the same shall be made by following the directions issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Prakash Singh (supra)." On the other hand, a tug of war between Pandey's predecessor Thakur and the government has started brewing.
Thakur has been awaiting posting after his appointment as Director General, Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards, New Delhi, was cancelled in September. It is learnt that Thakur has not withdrawn his salary from April till November. He was removed abruptly from the post in April and was asked to go to Delhi. However, he went on sick leave, citing ill-health of his wife, who passed away a few months later. The central government issued repatriation order in September, but he has not resumed the duty yet. Thakur refused to comment on the issue, but senior IPS officers said that he has sent a letter to the state government, seeking his "posting with honour" before he retires on December 31. Officers said that "Thakur wishes to be posted again as main DGP which the government is opposing. Giving any post other than main DGP would be like downgrading his post".
A senior officer in the home department said that he received Thakur's representation only two days ago. "Unless he reports back to us how can we post him anywhere. The question of upgrading or downgrading him doesn't arise in this case," he said requesting not to be quoted.
Sale deeds dip 43 per cent as state sees 'noticeable impact'
Ahmedabad :MMNN:10 Dec. 2016
A land broker for nine years, Pravin Bavadiya usually cracks at least a couple of deals every month. Almost a month has passed since demonetisation was announced in November and Bavadiya is yet to score.
"I have done zero transactions in the last one month.... I have called up about 300 of my clients, but not a single one of them is interested in listening about a deal involving purchase of land. The entire market seems to have come to standstill. That is not all. Over Rs 200 crore worth of land deals that were being firmed up for registrations got cancelled ever since the demonetisation process began. Business has been affected badly," says Bavadiya, one of the big land brokers in Ahmedabad, the largest city of Gujarat, where land transactions typically involve 60-70 per cent payments in cash.
The ripples can already be felt across real-estate markets in Gujarat, where property transactions of all kinds have decreased by 43 per cent in a single month after demonetisation. Data sourced from the office of Inspector General of Registration and Superintendent of Stamps, Government of Gujarat, show that only a mere 20,483 real-estate deals (or sale deeds) were recorded across Gujarat during the month of November 2016, which is 43 percent less when compared to same month last year.
During November 2016, Surat (3069 deals), Ahmedabad (3021 ), Rajkot (1605), Vadodara (1364) and Kutch (1334) topped the list of districts registering real estate transactions, that involved sale of all kinds of agricultural and nonagricultural land, houses, offices, shops and factories. In November, the state government earned Rs 135 crore as stamp duty and registration fees from these real-estate transactions. This is, however, only half of the Rs 273 crore earned during the same month in 2015.
"There has been a noticeable impact of demonetisation on real-estate dealings in Gujarat. It seems that this move might help in keeping a tab on skyrocketing land prices in urban centres like Ahmedabad," said the state government official.
Though the markets have turned gloomy for land brokers like Bavadiya, they went through a purple patch just before demonetisation kicked in on November 8. Data from the office of Inspector General of Registration and Superintendent of Stamps, Government of Gujarat, reveal that in the months leading up to demonetisation, there was a spike in real-estate business in Gujarat, where over 1.1 lakh real-estate deals were executed across the state during September-October 2016, helping the state exchequer earn over Rs 817 crore as stamp duty and registration fees.
In October 2016 alone, 65,767 transactions were recorded across Gujarat, which is about 34 per cent more than 49,065 transactions recorded during the same month in 2015. Surat with 15,201 real-estate deals, followed by Ahmedabad (9,627 deals), Rajkot (5,005), Vadodara (4,634) and Kutch (2,666) were the top districts that recorded a spike in business.
Gujarat government officials say that such a traction is seen usually before Diwali. "In Gujarat, it is pretty common for the real-estate dealings to increase before Diwali as people consider it as an auspicious time," said an state government official in the revenue department.
Real estate experts and officials in Gujarat believe that the situation will worsen in the coming months in cities like Ahmedabad. "The situation in areas that fall in a 15-20 kilometer radius of urban centres in the state will be badly affected. Nobody even wants to explore a business opportunity in these places as the jantri (the government's assessment of value of real-estate properties) in locations away from the cities is much lower to the prevailing market rates. In other words, the cash component in such properties is higher due to the difference in value between jantri and market rates," Bavadiya added.
Gujarat civic poll results: Congress couldn't tap into anti-BJP sentiments
Ahmedabad:MMNN:30 Nov. 2016
Maybe the BJP too did not expect the sweep it did in the local body elections held across 16 districts on Sunday, given that it was the first after the demonetisation announcement and the party had been jittery. It won 109 of the 126 seats across district and taluka panchayats and municipalities in Gujarat.
Scratch the surface and the mandate seems more against using the powerful vote to bring in a political alternative whose apparent face was that of a reluctant challenger, in this case - the Congress.
The victory of the Gondal taluka panchayat is a case in point. Exactly a year ago , the Congress won it evidently because of the overpowering sentiment against the establishment following the Patidar agitation, fresh then in the action realm of Gujarat's politics.
The Congress had won 12 and the BJP 10 seats in the panchayat, of the taluka largely seen as a BJP influenced one, last December. The panchayat, however could not pass the budget after three attempts due to one of its members cross-voting and the taluka was superceded in June calling for a mid term election, and the BJP today has won 18 of the 22 seats.
Long before demonetisation or even the change of guard in Gandhinagar, the Congress was losing ground, it had lost the Talala assembly seat in the by-election to the BJP last May inspite of a seeming disenchantment with the state leadership of the BJP. More immediate was the Monday win by BJP of the Mehsana Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) elections, after the Congress, which had ruled for 38 years, withdrew from the contest.
Apart from the Gujarat Congress's failed efforts to regain foothold in its former constituencies, the BJP made some quick moves beginning with the replacement of chief minister Anandiben Patel by Vijay Rupani, coupled with the exile of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, scaling down the quota agitation to a large extent. The government's offer to hold talks with Hardik, may have sounded reconciliatory, but was "bold" and probably blunted the impact of the PAAS rally against the "inconvenience caused to public" because of demonetisation, in Surat, the following day. (It steered clear of a direct protest against demonetisation).
The rally also did not see a major turnout, given that the smaller diamond units mostly run by Patidars, not yet having opened due to the cash crunch. The government though, is yet to address the issue of the loss in business staring in the face of the diamond and textile sector, because of the demonetisation. A day before the elections, the Centre lifted the six-year-old moratorium from the three major industrial clusters, Vapi, which was facing elections, being one of them, which was clearly aimed at getting them on its side.
The BJP victory suggests that the queues outside the banks cannot be a yardstick. People in the queues may have been largely fatigued and frustrated but they seemed not to mind the arduous role play in the "national cause", as demonetisation has been trumpeted by the BJP. However, the BJP had been worried, soon after November 8, having just thumped chests over the LoC surgical strike, and then to be faced by demonetisation. Some of those impacted by the withdrawal of the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, had contributed to the party in various elections and were heard complaining.
There were also protests against the RBI curbs on the district central co-operative banks (DCCBs) from the BJP's own quarters, like MP Vitthal Radadiya and former Gujarat minister Dileep Sanghani who are leaders in the co-operative banking sector.
Notwithstanding the Centre's piecemeal releases on relief and rules following the demonetisation, no contesting party appeared to have made it an issue in the local election. If there was an anti-BJP sentiment, no opposition party tapped it enough. At best, the opposition protests to demonetisation, lacked clarity, most of them in the garb of protesting "the method" than the move. A day before the elections, the Gujarat Congress put off its participation in the Bharat bandh, leading to confusion among its followers. Besides, the BJP under Rupani is coming into its own, given the relatively clean and accessible-to-public image of the CM, contrary to his predecessor. His government moved swiftly to launch a campaign to open Jan Dhan accounts for all those in the informal sector, in an attempt to get them into Digital India, and all of this might add up to electoral gains in the future.
At victory rally, BJP supporter fires gun
SURAT:MMNN:30 Nov. 2016
A BJP supporter opened fire from his air gun at the victory rally of BJP councillor in Surat's Kansad area after the results of nagarpalika elections were declared on Tuesday afternoon.
The BJP swept the Kanakpur-Kansad nagarpalika election by winning 27 out of 28 seats in seven wards. Senior BJP leaders, MLAs, MPs and other party workers gathered at the BJP office at Kansad near Swaminarayan temple to participate in the felicitation programme of the winning candidates.
All 27 candidates turned up at the BJP office at Kansad with their supporters and musical band. Among them was Arjunsinh Rajput, who won from ward no. 7. One of Rajput's supporters took out a gun and fired one round in the air, dancing to the tune of Bollywood songs. Sources said that some BJP MLAs scolded the supporter for opening fire.
This also allegedly angered senior party leader Bharatsinh Parmar, who is believed to have immediately left the spot after firing.
The firing, however, was shot by someone on mobile phone and circulated on WhatsApp groups. Sachin police inspector M H Shaikh said, "We have identified the person. His name is Mehul Patil. He works at a textile firm. We are questioning him to find out more information."
Paan shop owner gets 'fake' Rs 2,000 note
Ahmedabad:MMNN:23 Nov. 2016
Days after the Centre introduced the Rs 2,000 note after its demonetisation move, a paan shop owner here today claimed that he received a "fake" note of the denomination from an unknown customer.
Vansh Barot, who runs the Anand Paan Shop in Bodakdev locality here, went to the RBI regional office, to deposit the note along with an application as directed by bank officials, in order to get rid of the "fake currency" in his possession.
Barot said he accepted the note from an unknown customer on either Friday or Saturday as he had to purchase supplies for his shop.
"I happily accepted it without doubting its authenticity, especially considering that the note has certain features of original note such as Gandhi watermark and security thread, which makes it resemble like an original note at first glance," he said.
"I took the note thinking that there is no possibility of anyone giving me a fake currency at this juncture. The note bore such close resemblance to the original note, that I had little doubt about its authenticity," he added.
Barot realised the note was fake when a supplier he went to raised an alarm after examining the note.
"When I place it against the original note, I could see the difference very clearly. The paper quality of fake note is poor, and even its size is slightly smaller than the original note," he claimed.
"When I took it to two banks to ascertain that it is fake, bankers there did not clearly told me whether the note is fake. Certain that the note is fake, I took it to a branch of another public sector bank where a senior official yesterday confirmed it is a fake," he added.
Demonetisation effect: Tribal milk producers in Gujarat hit hard
SURAT:MMNN:23 Nov. 2016
RBI's ban on district cooperative banks exchanging or depositing demonetised notes has hit tribal milk producers and farmers in Gujarat's Chhotaudepur district.
They are not in a position to buy essential commodities for daily requirements from the market as they have stopped getting cash from their respective village-level milk cooperative societies.
Sangramsinh Rathwa, a director on the Board of Baroda Milk Dairy (Baroda Dairy Milk Producers Cooperative Society) told that he has asked the dairy's chairman and managing director to take up the issue with the Centre and RBI so that the tribals can get their payment immediately.
Baroda Milk Dairy daily collects 2.5 lakh litres of milk from 450 village level milk producers cooperative societies in Chhotaudepur district which have total membership of 45,000 tribal milk producers and farmers, he said.
The dairy has already deposited Rs 14 crores into the accounts of these cooperative societies in three branches of the Baroda District Central Cooperative Bank in Chhotaudepur for making payment to their members, belonging to the poor tribals communities, he said.
However, the tribals who do not have their savings account in these bank branches are now not in a position to withdraw the amount, Rathwa said.
Ranjitsinh Rathwa, another director of Baroda Milk Dairy, said the dairy pays these milk cooperative societies of Chhotaudepur on the 7th, 14th and 21st of every month.
Senior Congress leader Mohansinh Rathwa said, "I have sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to ask RBI to direct Baroda District Central Cooperative Bank to ensure speedy payment to these poor tribals at the earliest as the situation has become grim."
Naranbhai Rathwa, the former Union Minister of State for Railways in the earlier UPA government, who represented the tribal reserved seat of Chhotaudepur in Lok Sabha for four terms, also expressed concern over the issue.
He said some of tribals under the below poverty line category do not have money to buy grains, groceries or seeds and fertilisers as no one is accepting the old currency notes.
Govt staff caught taking Rs 4 lakh bribe in new Rs 2,000 notes
MMNN:19 Nov. 2016
Gujarat police have arrested two government employees for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 4 lakh in Rs 2,000 notes, a crime that has perplexed investigators because of a limit set by the government on withdrawal of new currency.
The Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) officials say they nabbed two Kandla Port Trust officials in Kutch -- superintendent engineer Shrinivasu and sub-divisional officer Kumtekar - by laying a trap for one Rudreshwar Sunamudi, who allegedly came to collect the bribe on behalf of the duo.
But police are at a loss to understand how the money was procured because the government has imposed a Rs 20,000 weekly limit on the withdrawal of currency.
Rs 2000 notes were introduced last week after a surprise recall of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in a bid to end corruption and drain illegal cash from the economy.
Police say Sunamudi was allegedly the middleman who was to pay Shrinivasu Rs 2.5 lakh and Kumtekar Rs 1.5 lakh. All three have been arrested.
Police say they were tipped off by a person, from whose company the bribe was sought. The authorities laid a trap at the complainant's office and even recorded phone calls allegedly made by the middleman through the complainant's landline to one of the accused
The complainant's company is engaged in providing service and supply to the port trust. A bribe was allegedly demanded against a show-cause notice by the trust to the complainant's firm for pending work.
South Gujarat's 5,500 crore rural economy under strain
SURAT:MMNN:19 Nov. 2016
Cash crunch has put south Gujarat's Rs 5,500 crore rural economy under strain as over 1.2 lakh farm labourers have not received their wages for the last one week and there is fear that they may be forced to migrate soon.
Sugar factories and paddy farm owners have not been able to pay the workers due to cash crunch after demonetization.
The 13 sugar factories in south Gujarat have started cutting and crushing job. They are expected to harvest 70,000 tonne of sugarcane in this season spending nearly Rs 500 per tonne.
Labourers from Dang and Narmada districts in Gujarat and some belonging to Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are paid Rs 250 per tonne on a weekly basis. Sugarcane harvesting has just started whereas paddy harvesting is 60 per cent over in south Gujarat whose sugar economy is estimated at Rs 2,500 crore, cotton market at Rs1,000 crore and milk business at Rs 2,000 crore.
"The cap on withdrawal of money from bank, which is just Rs 10,000, makes it impossible for us to make payment to all labourers. We have made arrangement for the labourers to get grocery items on credit from our credit societies.
But, still we need some cash to give them," Bardoli Sugar chairman Bhavesh Patel said. This sugar factory alone has 7,000 labourers of the estimated 70,000 workforce engaged in sugarcane harvesting. The number of labourers working in paddy fields is around 30,000. Nearly 10 per cent of these workforce has left for their homes after demonetization.
Gujarat Khedut Samaj president Jayesh Patel said, "We fear that another 20 per cent of workers may return home as there is no point in staying here without money. We plan to take out a rally on Saturday to demand that the government pay us cash and allow farmers to open accounts in district banks. If this situation continues any further, the operation of sugar factories will come to a standstill."
Gujarat begins migration process under GST
MMNN:16 Nov. 2016
Gujarat government on Tuesday began migrating commercial tax payers from existing tax platform such as value added tax (VAT) to the new goods and service tax (GST) platform.
According to deputy chief minister of Gujarat, Nitin Patel, the state will enroll about 466,000 traders on Goods and Services Taxpayer Identification Number.
"We are well prepared to implement GST on April 1, 2017 and as part of it the state government has started migration process for commercial taxpayers. As of now businesses registered till August 31, 2016 will migrate on GST platform while the rest can be migrated from January 2017," said Nitin Patel, deputy chief minister of Gujarat.
The state government claimed that the trading community need not engage in any physical transaction for migration on GST platform. Once user login into the VAT portal, a popup window with one time login and password will appear and it will direct the user to the GST portal where the user can fill required fields and submit scanned documents.
"Union finance department has been providing technical guidance to the states and we are also providing guidance to the traders. Moreover, we will jointly work with various trade associations to assist small traders and businessmen for the migration. Commercial tax department has started special help desk for this purpose," said Patel.
With provision of special incentives to industries being disabled after GST implementation, the state government may make special provisions to give incentives to the industries in the state budget. Moreover, it is also planning to rework existing policies for the same, Patel said, without divulging further details on the move.
After implementation of GST, government will audit 5% of registered traders every year. Currently VAT department's audit ratio is 7%.
To formalise division of work between state government and central government, the GST council will meet on November 20 in which finance ministers of all the states will be present.
Gujarat starts video recording of non-agricultural asset registration
Ahmedabad:MMNN:16 Nov. 2016
All property registration and transfer of non-agricultural assets would be recorded on video in Gujarat.
The state government has issued a notification to video record all registration and transfer of non agriculture assets effective from November 15. So far, only registrations of agricultural assets are recorded on video by the Stamp and Registration Department. This was implemented in June this year.
In the wake of rising prices of agricultural assets in the state and with an aim to safeguard the illiterate farmers, Gujarat government had started video recording of all the registration of agriculture assets from June 2015.
"We have seen expected results of video recording of registration of agriculture assets. Based on that, we have decided to replicate the same in non agriculture assets registration and transfer. Video recording of all the documents of the registration and transfer will be done," informed a senior official of stamp and registration department of Gujarat.
According to the notification, the current regulations of registration will also be in action. Video recording of all the documents is the additional mandatory rule for safety and to avoid legal disputes between the parties.
In case of power of attorney documents, recording of questionnaires of both the parties will be done by the department, said the notification.
Gujarat to regularize all properties on ULC land
GANDHINAGAR: MMNN:12 Nov. 2016
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani is planning to promulgate an ordinance to regularize all residential properties built on land coming under Urban Land Ceiling Act. The market price of these properties runs into several thousands of crores of rupees.
The revenue department has finalized the draft ordinance which will be sent for the formal approval of the cabinet next Wednesday. The CM has decided not to wait for the next budget session to introduce a bill in this regard.
Sale of such proprieties face title clearance issues and are transferred mostly through power of attorney. It will boost prices of such disputed properties though it will be huge notional loss to government. If the government had taken the possession of these lands, it could have sold it for several thousands of crores of rupees.
The government of India had enacted the Urban Land (Celing and Regulation) Act, 1976 to provide for the imposition of a ceiling on vacant land in urban agglomerations and for the acquisitions of such land in excess of the ceiling limit. The related Repeal Act of 1999 had been adopted by the Gujarat assembly.
However, residential structures had already come up before March 1999 on such excess vacant land, the possession of which had been taken over by the government. The government believes that most of these houses belong to economically weaker sections of the society and has therefore decided to validate occupancy.
A top revenue official however said that most of these lands are fit for redevelopment by builders.
ATMs in Gujarat go into 'siesta'
Ahmedabad:MMNN:12 Nov. 2016
Many ATMs ran out of cash and some banks in the city and other parts of Gujarat closed their teller counters by Friday afternoon as queues to withdraw money grew longer, days after the Centre decided to demonetise Rs 1000 and old Rs 500 notes.
The Central Bank of India's branch in the commercial part of Mithakhali closed its ATM at noon. Its chief manager Anshuman Singh told The Indian Express: "We opened at 9.30 am and had to close down because whatever money we had we gave it for exchange. People should not panic because the money will come by the evening."
Tapan Trivedi, 21, a student at Gujarat University, said there were at least seven ATMs in Akhbarnagar area, all of which were closed by the afternoon. "All ATMs in a row, like that of Punjab National Bank, ICICI Bank, HDFC and AXIS, were closed. I only have notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000."
Some foreign students studying at GU too struggled for their daily expenses. "I went to exchange the money to SBI's Gujarat University branch and waited for more than three hours, only to be told that there was no money in the ATM. We then went to Ambawadi branch of SBI where I waited for an hour and a half before I could withdraw Rs 2000 . It is a bad memory for us," said 22-year-old Shahirulla Wahidi, a student from Afghanistan.
Another Afghan student Benafsha Bahar, 28, who managed to withdraw some cash, said she had run out of groceries two days ago. "We had to wait for two hours to get the cash from an SBI ATM... We faced a little inconvenience, but I am sure something will come out of such a great decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi."
Manager of IndusInd Bank's Bodakdev branch Vinod Mulchandani said his bank closed the ATM for want of cash. "We are accepting the deposits, but withdrawl of money is quite a difficult situation because whatever we had, we gave out. We are expecting more cash to come by evening to the ATM".
Manubhai Mori, manager of an Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank branch said, " It's simply not our fault that the citizens have to suffer from inconvenience regarding money. The Reserve Bank of India has still not given the money for ATM. People will have to wait till about 5 pm. Whatever new currency we had, we gave out".
People like Spandan Christian took time from his job to stand in the queue to withdraw money. "I went to Axis Bank's Asarwa branch to withdraw money, but the security guard told me that there was no cash in the ATM. So, I went to Shahibaug but that ATM was also closed. None of the ATMs I went to had money. Morereover, there were long queues for exchanging money."
Scramble for gold in Gujarat after demonetisation
Ahmedabad: MMNN:9 Nov. 2016
The government's sudden and unexpected move to demonetise currency notes of high denomination of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 prompted many people in the State to convert their unaccounted for cash into gold by buying jewellery and gold bars with 20 to 30 per cent premium.
"People frantically bought gold bars and jewellery till late midnight. For jewellers, it turned out to be a goldmine for us," a prominent jeweller in Ahmedabad told The Hindu.
Long queues were witnessed outside jewellery showrooms in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot to purchase yellow metal and dispose of cash which is often unaccounted for.
"People did not mind paying premium to buy whatever they could as they were scared and did not know what to do with cash on hands," he added.
Another jeweller said average purchase per person was more than Rs one lakh. "Most of transactions were made back dated."
Some people even paid Rs. 35,000 for 10 g gold coin against the price of about Rs. 30,000.
Meanwhile, all roads in Gujarat and particularly Delhi Mumbai highway are witnesses long jams and vehicle queues as toll plaza operators are refusing to accept high denomination currency notes.
"Huge traffic jams across all highways in the state because toll plaza operators are not accepting Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes. Even petrol pump operators are not taking notes despite the government's instruction," a senior police official said.
According to him, there is liquidity crunch as new notes are yet to be circulated in the market while not adequate stock of Rs 100 notes because more than 70 % transactions are done with high denomination notes.
Gujarat: Panic withdrawals, deposits across state
Surat/ahmedabad/vadodara/rajkot:MMNN:9 Nov. 2016
People rushed to ATMs, fuel filling stations and cash deposit machines in a panic withdrawal-deposit that spread following the announcement to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes on Tuesday evening.
Surat, a city that runs on liquid cash, given its diamond, textile and jewellery trading industry, saw chaos in the markets. Diamond trader Dinesh Seladiya of Varachha, said, "I have got cash stored in my house and majority of the cash is in the form of 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes. I have an account in a nationalised bank on my name, my wife's name and my son's name. All three of us are standing in a queue to deposit cash of Rs 40,000 each (of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination) in our respective accounts. The maximum limit of depositing cash at a time is Rs 40,000. Tomorrow, we will go to the banks again and deposit the amount in the banks. We don't want our money to be rendered useless."
Anil Mawani, a diamond merchant, said he never kept cash of Rs 100 or Rs 50 denominations. "I have cash of Rs 500 Rs 1,000 denominations in my pocket, but I cannot spend it. I have come here to fill petrol in the petrol pumps to fill one litre of petrol and get the change so that I can use it. Now it has become difficult for us to spend money to overcome daily expenses."
Despite the government allowing petrol pumps, government hospitals, railways and bus stations to accept the notes, some petrol pumps refused to accept notes of Rs 500 and 1,000 denominations immediately.
Long queues were seen at gas stations and many people were refused exchange at the stations. Satyendra Bhatia, owner of a petrol pump in Vadodara, said, "People are coming with Rs 500 and 1,000 notes to fill petrol for a sum of Rs 100. We cannot provide so much change on such a day. So we are not accepting big denominations for smaller quantities of petrol or diesel."
Satish Joshi , 46, an accountant at a private firm who came to deposit money at a machine in Vadodara, says "Only small and middle-class people will suffer as big corrupt people have relations with bank managers and I don't think this will curb corruption."
A retail major made hay of the annoucement and declared its stores open till 12.30 am and allowed people to spend denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. Big Bazaar sent out bulk text messages to customers asking them to shop till mid night.
A staffer at a retail brand located inside a mall at Thaltej in Ahmedabad told this paper, "While the mall is shut, the main entrance is kept open and so is parking. We have kept shopping hours till 12:30 midnight owing to the government's announcement of Rs 500 and 1,000 notes being banned from tomorrow."
Krunal Upadhyay, 29, a business manager in a pharma company, was in a queue outside an ATM at Naranpura to withdraw small currency notes for "daily use". Amit Shah, 32, wholesale trader, and Jagdish Bhavsar, 60, consultant, had come to deposit money at an ATM in the same area.
Shah said, "I have come to credit the money in my account. I don't want tension. I want to get rid of these notes. I am standing in the line for an hour. The server is down here.
I have arrangements for the next few days." Bhavsar said, "I have come to deposit the money as I have to manage my business transaction on time on November 10. The server here is terribly down. I stood in front of the machine for an hour to deposit. Those who come to withdraw can transact three times a day. Modiji spoiled Diwali of middle and lower-middle class with this hassle."
At an ATM in Prahladnagar, women stood in queues for over an hour to withdraw money "to pay tuition fees" for their children or for a travel plan. A lady, who did not wish to be named, had sent her son to other ATMs, as she stood in another queue to withdraw money for their tour to Andamans by ethe end of this week. "I need large currency notes. To punish someone else, why should we be put in a problem?"
Satish Nair, 32-year old advertising professional in Ahmedabad, said, "I had withdrawn thousand rupees today and need to eat dinner at a restaurant and am wondering if they will accept the note owing to this announcement. I tried a couple of ATMs, but many are out of cash. It will be tough to manage money on November 9 as banks will also be closed and ATMs won't work."
Vijay Rupani at Vibrant Summit: Dislodged from top, Gujarat to focus on ease of doing business
Ahmedabad: MMNN:5 Nov. 2016
Having been relegated to the third spot in the "Ease of Doing Business" rankings, Gujarat government is expected to increasingly focus on "facilitating and hand-holding" industrial units to help set up business in the state during the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat summit.
In a curtain-raiser event held in New Delhi to invite key industrialists for the Vibrant summit in January 2017, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said Gujarat will continue to "lay emphasis on ease of doing business and proactive investor facilitation." This increased stress on the issue comes after Gujarat was pushed to the third spot - behind Andhra Pradesh and Telangana - in the rankings conducted by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and the World Bank Group.
Addressing the meeting, Rupani said Gujarat will not just focus on big ticket investments, but will also facilitate and hand-hold MSMEs through facilitation desks. He also highlighted the potential opportunity for the industry to invest in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT-City) and Dholera Special Investment Region, which is one of the biggest investment zones on the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
Rupani also held one-on-one meetings with heads of several industries and apprised them about the investor friendly policies of the state government. The Chief secretary of the state, Dr JN Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Industries and Mines) PK Taneja and other senior state government officials were also present at the event.
Now, Amul starts a restaurant and retail outlet in Gujarat
AHMEDABAD:MMNN:5 Nov. 2016
In a first, dairy cooperative giant Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) has set up a retail outlet and restaurant over 5,800 square feet in Gujarat's Anand, near Amul Dairy.
Confirming the development, GCMMF Managing Director R S Sodhi said the company had space available at the spot, and thought of experimenting with this set-up. "It is still a small format there. We would also be selling pulses, spices, grains, oil, etc, under the Amul Green brand from that store," he said.
Sodhi added the restaurant (named Amul Foodland) is a quick service one and it will serve items like burgers, patties, etc. While some see this as Amul's tryst with modern retail, Sodhi clarified that there were no plans of replicating the same in other regions as of now.
The area was previously rented to a restaurant.
The retail outlet would sell around 6,500 items, including food and other products. The cooperative is selling food items like oil, nuts, spices, grains, pulses, etc, under the Amul Green brand at the retail outlet. These are being procured in bulk by the cooperative and are packaged and sold under the Amul Green brand. The idea is to procure directly from farmers so that they get better prices for their produce.
Amul officials said that on an average a turnover of Rs 8 lakh per day was expected at the retail outlet and the restaurant.
GCMMF is India's largest food products marketing organisation. It registered a 67 per cent rise in turnover to Rs 23,004 crore during FY16. It has, in fact, grown by 187 per cent in the past six years, which implies a cumulative average growth rate of 19.2 per cent during the period. The group turnover of GCMMF and its constituent member unions, representing unduplicated turnover of all products sold under Amul brand was Rs 33,000 crore or $ 5 billion.
Rapidly moving up the global rankings, Amul is now ranked as the thirteenth largest dairy organisation in the world, as per data released by International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN). Amul is ranked well ahead of other dairy companies such as Land O'Lakes & Schreiber Foods of USA, Muller of Germany, Groupe Sodiaal of France & Mengniu of China.
Earlier this week, Amul has been listed as India's Most Attractive Food & Beverage (F&B) brand out of a total of 156 brands listed in the Super Category in the 'Attractiveness - India's Most Attractive Brands Report' by TRA Research. The brand climbed 31 ranks over last year and rose to become India's 32nd Most Attractive Brand this year, leapfrogging several top F&B brands namely Pepsi, Nestle, Britannia and Coca-Cola.
Many accused in call centre fraud from Gujarat
Ahmedabad: MMNN:2 Nov. 2016
The recent busting of the multi-million dollar scam involving call centres in Mumbai and Gujarat has led to the arrest of at least 20 people in the United States. All the arrested persons are of Indian origin, with a majority of them being from Gujarat.
On October 28, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that fake call centres had defrauded thousands of U.S. citizens of more than $300 million.
The mastermind behind the network of call centres was identified as Sagar Thakkar alias Shaggy who ran the scam with the help of his aides in Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
The crack down by U.S. authorities led to five call centres, all based in Ahmedabad, being shut down. Besides the 20 arrested in the U.S., 31 people have been arrested in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
According to police, the racket was run through a network of call centres from where telecallers would call U.S. tax payers impersonating as officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Services, or other government agencies, demanding payment in order to clear fictitious arrest warrants, orders of deportation, or unpaid income tax.
The callers "threatened potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation" if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government.
Elderly woman victim
Among the victims was an elderly San Diego woman who forked out $12,300 after she was threatened with arrest if she didn't pay a penalty for fictitious tax violations.
"In Ahmedabad alone, hundreds of call centres have come up in last few years employing thousands of persons, who earn handsome salaries ranging from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50,000 per month," a senior police official told The Hindu, adding, "the Indian authorities remained blind to the scam because of lack of complaint and also because the fraud was not taking place in India." Thakkar alias Shaggy has gone underground since the scam came to light. According to insiders, he made more than Rs. 1,500 crore in the last five years and invested his money in land and property in Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
It was also recently reported that he had purchased a high-end Audi, costing Rs. 2.5 crore, from cricketer Virat Kohli to gift to his girlfriend. The Thane police has since seized the car from Ahmedabad.
Gujarat police conduct searches at Sabarmati jail
AHMEDABAD:MMNN:2 Nov. 2016
In the wake of the jail break by eight SIMI activists in Bhopal, the Gujarat Police have conducted a major search operation at the Sabarmati Central jail here to review security measures. The jail houses over 75 prisoners alleged to be SIMI and Indian Mujahideen activists.
Various teams of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) along with the City Crime Branch and the Special Operations Group (SOG) led by ATS Superintendent Himanshu Shukla visited the Central prison on Monday night to acquire first hand information of the overall security arrangements.
As many as 78 prisoners, accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blast case and alleged to be associated with SIMI or Indian Mujahideen are currently lodged in a special high security area of the jail.
Alarms, CCTV checked
Assistant Commissioner of Police, city SOG, B.C. Solanki said: "We have set up separate teams led by 18 police inspectors to search each and every barrack of the jail. We have also checked if various security systems such as alarms and CCTV cameras are functional. Nothing suspicious has been found from any prisoner during the search."
Senior jailor H.M. Shah told reporters that around 100 armed personnel from the State Reserve Police (SRP) were doing round-the-clock patrolling in the jail.
"Apart from our staff, around 100 SRP jawans were deployed to keep a close watch on each and every movement," Mr. Shah said.
In the 2008 terror attack, 21 serial blasts had rocked the city on July 26 and claimed 56 lives while hundreds were severely injured.
The Gujarat Police have so far charge-sheeted 100 people in the case, of whom, 78 are behind bars here, while the remaining are still absconding.
Notably, the security at the Sabarmati jail has been a cause of concern for the authorities after some of the accused attempted to escape from jail in February 2012 by digging a 218 foot tunnel inside barrack no. 4.
Following the incident, all the blast accused were shifted to high-security barracks.
Gulberg Society convict gets 10-day bail
Ahmedabad: MMNN:26 Oct. 2016
The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday granted 10-day interim bail to Jayesh Madanlal Jinger alias Babbar.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment by the special court earlier this year in the Gulberg Society massacre case.
The court granted him relief on health grounds.
Jinger is said to be suffering from tuberculosis and being treated at civil hospital in Ahmedabad.
The court, however, rejected pleas of four other convicts.
On Monday, it rejected the petition of former VHP leader Atul Vaidya, who wanted to extend this interim bail on the ground of his wife's treatment.
The state government had opposed the petition, saying that out of 99 days since he was convicted, Vaidya was out on temporary bail for 59 days.
'Conditional' nod to controversial mall in Gujarat
Vadodara:MMNN:26 Oct. 2016
The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has granted "conditional" permission to a controversial commercial project, housing a mall and a multiplex, on Mangal Pandey Road, subject to the proposed widening of the road. The road is now 18-metre wide, falling short of the requirements for such a construction. As per the rules of the Gujarat Development Control Rules (GDCR), any new mall housing a multiplex can be constructed on a minimum of a 30-metre wide road to contain possible congestion.
The project, Agora-2 by the Balaji Group (Manav Infrastruct-ure Pvt Ltd), is proposed at the site of the ongoing Sanjaynagar slum rehabilitation scheme (SRS) of the VMC. The scheme has seen the demolition of 771 homes and 11 shops in three phases since 2014. The VMC awarded the project to redevelop the land, measuring 4.27 lakh square feet, under PPP model to Ahmedabad-based Manav Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. vide a resolution on June 13, 2014. The contract also includes rebuilding of the homes for the evicted slum-dwellers.
In January this year, the project ran into controversy after the VMC began a process to procure land for widening the existing 18-metre road along the plot, mandatory for the construction of a mall. The builder had initially advertised his commercial project as a mall, putting at stake other private properties of the area. It also began constructing a retention wall along the Vishwamitri river.
The GDCR point 18, listing the regulations for malls, hyper-shopping, cinemas, multiplexes with or without malls, theatres, lecture halls and town halls, states, "The building for malls, multiplexes with or without mall shall be located directly on a road of 30 metres or more in width."
VMC Town Development Officer (TDO) Navendu Parekh said, "We have granted conditional permission for the construction of the City Centre which will have only office spaces and shops. There is no permission given for any multiplex." When asked to explain "conditional permission", Parekh said, "It means that we have given the clearance subject to the proposed road-widening of 27 metre. The developer can construct a foundation assuming the road to be 27-metre-wide, but the structure should be within the permissible limits for an 18-metre-wide road. The developer has been granted an FSI (3) for the said project."
Last year, in a public notice dated December 15, the VMC began a process to procure land on Mangal Pandey Road for widening the existing 18-metre-wide road to 27 metre, inviting objections from land owners until January 4. The civic body received several objections from private owners and other residential complexes on the edge of the proposed road-widening that has also not been cleared by the VMC's General Board.
A bureaucrat formerly in the VMC, however, said there was no concept of "conditional permission" to be granted to a structure. The officer said, "There is no concept of conditional permission for construction. It is either in accordance with the regulations or in violation. If something is in violation, you cannot permit it with a futuristic condition. According to the GDCR rules, only single-screen cinema halls can be allowed on a road that is 18 to 24-metre wide."
While the hoardings on the site of the mall announce, "Golden Investment Opportunity for Multiplex Space," Balaji Group chairman Ashish Shah said that his proposed project was not a multiplex. "The project is called Agora City Centre. We are not constructing anything in violation of the GDCR. Our project includes only non-air-conditioned shops and office spaces and cinema hall. It is a city centre and not a mall. We have used the term multiplex as it is a commonly-used term for the purpose of communication," said Shah. The group's official website, however, describes the project as Agora Mall, Vadodara. The developer had originally put up hoardings for luxurious 2, 2.5, 3 and 4-bedroom apartments and a mall with a multiplex, bowling alley, spas and restaurants. Such hoardings have now been replaced with the group's logo. Shah said that the website has not been updated.
Narendra Modi in Gujarat today, to open airport in Vadodara
VADODARA: MMNN:22 Oct. 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the international airport in Vadodara on Saturday , his fo urth visit to Gujarat since the change of guard in the state in August.
This is Modi's first visit to Vadodara since 2014 after he contested Lok Sabha polls from the seat, which he relinquished later in favour of Varanasi.
Security has been further beefed up in Vadodara after the gunning down of gangster Mukesh Harjani, barely a kilometre away from the new airport at Harni.
Modi is scheduled to land at the Vadodara airport at 2.20pm and then travel by road to the Navlakhi ground to attend one of the biggest Samajik Adhikarita camps to distribute aids and assistive devices to nearly 10,000 differently-abled.
The divyangs largely include those from Vadodara and Chhota Udepur districts.
Gujarat governor O P Kohli, chief minister Vijay Rupani, Union minister for social justice and empowerment Thaawarchand Gehlot, deputy chief minister Nitin Patel as well as other Union and state ministers will attend the event.
On Friday , the city police conducted a rehearsal of security arrangements and traffic diversions on the route of the PM's cavalcade.
The Vadodara Municipal Corporation has decked up the route that the PM will take by cleaning the stretch and whitewashing dividers and kerbings.
It has also installed new bus stands on the stretch.
Gujarat govt signs MoUs worth $5 billion with China firms
AHMEDABAD:MMNN:22 Oct. 2016
Even as voices of boycott of Chinese goods get louder in the country, a Gujarat government delegation that visited China to promote the Vibrant Gujarat summit 2017, signed $5 billion worth agreements with Chinese companies. The delegation that concluded its four-day visit Friday, visited Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen cities under the leadership of Sanjay Prasad, Principal Secretary, Agriculture and Cooperation Department of the state government.
The delegation held meetings with government officials, top officials of industry bodies and trade associations in China.
During these meetings, the government of Gujarat signed key Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) and investment proposals with Liaoning Province of The People's Republic of China, Dynagreen Environmental Protection Group Co. Ltd, JCHK Holding Co. Ltd., Chengdu Xingrong Group, Pacific Construction Group, ZTEsoft Technology Co. Ltd and Sinoma Taishan Fibreglass Inc.
These MoUs are in sectors like textiles, solar energy, fiber glass, waste processing for renewable energy, automobiles, software technologies, manufacturing industrial parks and infrastructure projects.
"The time and environment is ideal for the Chinese companies to set up their businesses in Gujarat and cater to the growing Indian and world markets. Gujarat will not only act as an investment hub for Chinese companies to grow their businesses, but will also act as a gateway to access the whole world. These business initiatives will benefit the citizens of the two countries and will lead to economic development and enhanced industrialization in India as part of the 'Make in India' campaign announced by Prime Minster Narendra Modi.
China's participation at the Vibrant Gujarat 2017 Summit will further strengthen the relationship which Gujarat shares with China," Prasad said in a statement issued here on Friday.
A 40-member team comprising Chinese MSMEs companies from Kunshan Chamber of Commerce also met the team from Gujarat and expressed interest in setting up a Chinese industrial park in the state.
Ex-IPS Sharma moves PIL in HC against retired officers' reinstatement
Ahmedabad :MMNN:19 Oct. 2016
Days after the Gujarat government reappointed police officer Tarun Barot almost two years after his retirement and granted one-year extension on contractual basis to IPS officer N K Amin post his superannuation, former IPS officer Rahul Sharma has moved a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Gujarat High Court, challenging their reinstatement. Barot and Amin, accused in alleged fake encounter cases, have earlier been chargesheeted by the CBI.
Sharma, a 1992-batch IPS officer, took voluntary retirement in 2014 and is now a practising lawyer. The PIL, which is listed for hearing Wednesday, has challenged the legality of these appointments, arguing that only officers who have impeccable and outstanding merit can be given such benefits. While Sharma didn't respond despite repeated attempts, sources in the court said that the PIL alleged that the government's decision lacked legal basis.
"The officers having outstanding merit can be taken back in service and that too when there are posts available," sources in the know of the petition said. However, this didn't apply in the case of the two officers, they added.
Underlining the cases against these two officers, the petition mentions that Barot is out on bail in the 2003 Sadiq Jamal Mehtar and 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter cases. He was among the accused police officers who shot at Ishrat and others. Barot retired in 2014 while he was still behind bars at the Nadiad sub-jail. On October 13, the home department issued a notification, stating that Barot, who retired as deputy superintendent of police (DySP), was appointed as DySP, headquarters, Western Railway, Vadodara on a one-year contract.
Amin, on the other hand, was due to retire on August 31 this year when the state government awarded him a year extension on contractual basis on the same post as Superintendent of Police of Mahisagar district, a first for an IPS officer.
Amin is a co-accused in Ishrat Jahan encounter case and is currently out on bail. Recently, he was discharged in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case by the special CBI court in Mumbai.
Earlier this year, Sharma had challenged the elevation of DGP P P Pandey as Gujarat's in-charge DGP, as a lawyer of former Gujarat DGP Julio Ribeiro. The petition was, however, dismissed by the HC.
Sharma is known for his run-ins with the Gujarat government after he deposed before the Nanavati Commission that inquired into the 2002 riots. He was posted as SP of Bhavnagar in 2002.
63rd Gujarat Vidyapith Convocation: Dalits and tribals deserve quota, not Jats, Patidars and Marathas, says Ramchandra Guha
AHMEDABAD:MMNN:19 Oct. 2016
Noted historian Ramchandra Guha Tuesday said that the provision of reservation for Dalits and tribals should continue and suggested that it can be better managed by reviewing the creamy layer. He also said that the reservation on economic basis can be part of it, but there should not be any tampering with the existing policy based on caste as Dalits and tribals are even today the most discriminated lot.
Guha said this on the sidelines of the 63rd convocation of Gujarat Vidyapith, founded by Mahatma Gandhi, in Ahmedabad, where he spoke as a chief guest. Responding to mediapersons, he said that the ongoing stirs by Patidars in Gujarat, Jats in Haryana and Marathas in Maharashtra should not be given reservation since they all are prosperous communities.
"The government can manage the reservation system by reviewing the creamy layer, but reservation should be there for Dalits and tribals as they are discriminated a lot even today," he said. He also said that holding agitations was fine, but the methods involving violence, like burning buses and vandalising shops, were not proper. Addressing the students, Guha mostly spoke about Gandhi and the relevance of his ideas in the country and the world. He said that had the Indian independence movement been an armed movement, there would have been large-scale violence like it happened in Russia and China. Invoking Gandhi, he said that violence always breeds violence and cited the example of Kashmir and Manipur.
On the prevailing situation in the country, he said that some sections of people in India were trying to impose the Hindu ideology on the entire country and turn it into a "Hindu-Pakistan", which is against the preachings of Gandhi.
The chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith Ela Bhatt asked the 580 students who were conferred with bachelors and masters degrees to think over the situation in the country.
Over 200 Dalits convert to Buddhism in Gujarat
Ahmedabad :MMNN:12 Oct. 2016
More than 200 Dalits converted to Buddhism at three programmes in Gujarat on Tuesday. Many of them claimed that the Una flogging incident was behind their decision to convert.
"We were thinking of converting to Buddhism for the past six months. The Una incident cleared our doubts," said Sangeeta Parmar (26) from New Naroda area of Ahmedabad, who was one of those who converted.
The programmes were organised in Kalol of Gandhinagar district, Danilimda area of Ahmedabad city and Wadhwan town of Surendranagar district. The Kalol event was organised by Buddhist Society of India while the Danilimda event was held under the aegis of Gujarat Buddhist Academy. In Wadhwan, the programme was organised at a private Bauddh Vihar.
The converts cited various issues such as superstition, inequality and caste-based discrimination in Hinduism, as well as the influence of Dr B R Ambedkar, but most of them cited the Una episode - in which seven Dalits were flogged by alleged gau rakshaks for skinning a dead cow in July.
Parmar converted to Buddhism in Kalol along with her husband Shashikant, a central government employee.
"Six months ago, a friend was looking for a flat in our area. But he was told that the buildings were not for people of our caste. This incident, followed by the Una episode, led us to convert," Shashikant said.
Dipanshu Parikh, a 23-year-old science undergraduate from Ahmedabad, was one of the 140 Dalits who converted at Danilimda. He had a similar story to tell.
"We were planning to sell our house in Chandkheda area and buy one in Jivraj Park.
We inquired about a house, but the builder told us that his scheme was not for Scheduled Castes. If we are not considered as one of them, why should we follow that religion?" he said.
Gujarat High Court grants relief to former IPS officer in 32-yr-old 'corruption' case
AHMEDABAD:MMNN:12 Oct. 2016
Thirty-two years after a case of alleged corruption was lodged and 17 years after the chargesheet was filed against an IPS officer, now retired, the Gujarat High Court Monday granted relief to A M Chauhan, while allowing his petition for quashing the chargesheet. The case was pending in the High Court since 2003. It was defaulted thrice before it was finally disposed of by the division bench of Justice M R Shah and Justice A S Supehia.
Chauhan was the supervising officer in a 1984 murder case: a Muslim man was found murdered at a farmland in Sidhpur. The victim's family accused four persons of the murder, but the investigating officer found only one person to be the suspect. The family of the deceased complained against Chauhan and the investigating officer (IO) for demanding bribe, accusing them of shoddy investigation. The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) lodged a complaint against Chauhan and the investigating officer in the same year.
Chauhan said that following an inquiry, the ACB concluded that the allegations of demanding bribe was not true. The ACB investigation into the faulty investigation continued. In the meanwhile, Chauhan was transferred and the local police arrested all four suspects.
"In 1999, I was served the chargesheet in the case out of the blue. I had lost the memory of the case by the time I was served the chargesheet. In the meanwhile, the sessions case which tried the murder case had acquitted all the accused. The Gujarat High Court also confirmed the judgment of the lower court. There were no observation about the investigation being faulty," Chauhan, who appeared in the court proceedings as party in person, said.
Chauhan practises law in the High Court. His daughter, Nipuna Torawane, is also an IPS officer. He had fought the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 as a Janta Dal candidate and lost. Following the issuance of the chargesheet, Chauhan challenged it in the Central Administrative Tribunal which rejected his appeal, seeking quashing of the chargesheet on the ground of delay and merit. In 2003, he moved the High Court.
Since then, the petition has been pending. Chauhan, who retired in 2003, is also facing a case of disproportionate assets case. "The court has quashed the chargesheet, but I am yet to get the copy of the order. I had to suffer a lot due to this case. My post-retirement benefits are held back. There are other old cases against me," he said.
Arvind Kejriwal extends Gujarat stay by two days
GANDHINAGAR:MMNN:8 Oct. 2016
Delhi chief minister and Aam Adami Party(AAP) chief, Arvind Kejriwal, has decided to extend his stay in Gujarat from one to three days. On the high court's orders, Kejriwal got permission from the Gujarat government for a rally in Surat on October 16. However, he will stay in Gujarat for two more days.
On Friday, Gujarat AAP in-charge Gulab Singh Yadav announced that now Kejriwal will come first to Ahmedabad on October 15, to meet families of Patidar victims at Ahmedabad and Mehsana and pray at Unjha Umiya Mata temple.
"On October 16, he will address a major rally at Surat," he said.
"For the Surat rally, 2,000 AAP workers are working hard day and night, campaigning door-to-door, on radio and through hoardings and posters. The BJP is trying disrupt our campaign but we are getting good response from the people," Yadav said.
On the morning of October 17, he will meet different groups from society before leaving for Delhi from Surat.
Yadav alleged that the national BJP president Amit Shah, who himself spent time in jail term and was even asked by the court to stay out of Gujarat, is trying to make allegations against AAP.
"He started making allegations when we questioned the BJP's claim about surgical strike in the PoK by the Indian Army," Yadav said.
Pakistan in soup: No tomato, chilli supply from Gujarat
AHMEDABAD:MMNN:8 Oct. 2016
With tension on Indo-Pak border escalating, vegetable traders from Gujarat have decided to stop supply of vegetables, especially tomato and chilli, to Pakistan. This may affect nearly Rs 3 crore business of Gujarat farmers and vegetable traders every day.
Ahmedabad General Commission Agent Association general secretary, Ahmed Patel said that daily Gujarat used to send 50 trucks having 10 tonnes of vegetables mainly tomatoes and chilli to Pakistan from Wagah border but stopped it for the past two days considering the tension between the two countries.
"Since 1997, this is for the first time that Gujarat traders have decided to stop supply of essential veggies to Pakistan. We will not supply the vegetables to Pakistan until the relations between the two countries get normalized," Patel said.
The association plays the role of agent between farmers and dealers to fix the deal and to supply the vegetables to its destination point. Without the nod of the association, majority deals of sending vegetables like tomato, chilli, lemon and ivy gourd from North and Central Gujarat cannot be struck.
Patel added that the vegetable vendors have to bear a loss of Rs 3 crore every day, but the national interest is above the personal interest. "However, we will continue to send the vegetables to Bangladesh, Gulf countries, Canada and South Africa," he said.
Many farmers of Kadi taluka in Mehsana district, which is considered as the hub of tomato production in Gujarat, have also individually decided not to send the vegetable to Pakistan.
Dashrath Patel, sarpanch of Yashvantpura village of Kadi taluka, said that many farmers of the village have opposed selling vegetables to traders exporting tomatoes to Pakistan in national interest. "Though the supply is not much at that time but farmers from our village will not sell vegetables to traders coming from Delhi and Punjab who export to Pakistan directly from Gujarat during the peak season which sets in from November," Patel said.
Mansukh Patel, a tomato trader from Govindpara village of Kadi who had exported three tonnes tomatoes to Pakistan last year, said couple of farmers have decided not to send vegetables to Pakistan.
Vinod Patel, president of Kadi Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), said that farmers themselves have decided not to send essential vegetables to Pakistan after the tension started escalating between India and the neighbouring country.
Harjivan Patel, tomato trader of Khanderpura village, said that the farmers from his village will not send vegetable to Pakistan even if they do not get good prices, in national interest.
BSF seizes Pakistani boat in Kutch area of Gujarat, suspects detained
MMNN:5 Oct. 2016
A day after an empty Pakistani boat was captured by the BSF in the Ravi river, security personnel have on Wednesday seized another Pakistani boat in the Kutch area of Gujarat.
While the number of people on the boat have not been confirmed yet, news reports suggest nine suspects have been detained.
This is the second seizure off the coast of Gujarat after Indian Coast Guard on Sunday apprehended a Pakistani fishing boat with nine crew members.
They were apprehended off the coast of Porbander in Gujarat and questioned by the Coast Guard.
Modi to visit Gujarat again this month
AHMEDABAD:MMNN:5 Oct. 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to make another visit to his home State, Gujarat, on October 22.
He will distribute devices and kits to 8,000 differently-abled persons in Vadodara and also attend the final of a Kabbadi match in Ahmedabad.
Mr. Modi celebrated his birthday in the State last month. He had then visited his mother in Gandhinagar.
This will be the third visit by the Prime Minister to his home State, which goes to the polls next year.
On August 30, he visited the Saurashtra region to inaugurate a Narmada water-based irrigation project in Jamnagar district.
Grandmother dies after hearing of soldier's capture by Pak army
MMNN:1 Oct. 2016
Barely minutes after she heard that her grandson had been captured by the Pakistan Army, 65-year-old Lilabai suffered a cardiac arrest and died in Jamnagar, Gujarat, where she was visiting her older grandson, who is also in the Army and posted there.
Back in Dhule district's Borvihir village - where Lilabai and her husband Chinda Dhondu Patil Sonawane had brought up the two boys after they lost their parents - nobody was surprised. "They are our own children," said Sonawane, 72.
According to an Army official, Sepoy Chandu Babulal Chavan, who was posted with 37 Rashtriya Rifles at Mendhar along the LoC, was captured after he "inadvertently crossed over".
But the circumstances that led to his capture, and the day it happened, remain unclear. Army sources said he was captured on Thursday while villagers in Borvihir said they received news on Wednesday from Chavan's elder brother Bhushan, who is with the Maratha Light Infantry, that the 22-year-old was missing.
On Friday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that "all attempts are being made to secure" the release of Chavan. Hours later, while waiting for his wife's body to be brought home for the funeral, and with no reply yet from the Pakistani side to India's enquiries on Chavan, Sonawane refused to give up hope.
"I spoke to Union Minister of State for Defence Dr Subhash Bhamare, who is our local Lok Sabha MP. He has assured me that Chandu will be brought home safely within 2-3 months," he told.
The grandfather, who spent the evening sitting in silence with visiting politicians as he waited for the hearse carrying his wife's body to arrive, has also been told that Maharahstra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was in Delhi and had spoken to the Home Minister about Chavan.
Home Ministry sources said that Singh later spoke to Chavan's brother, offering condolences on his grandmother's death and assuring that the government was "doing its best" to secure his brother's release.
Born in 1994 in Jamner taluka of Maharashtra's Jalgaon district, Chavan lost his father in 1997 and his mother in 2000. His maternal grandparents brought the boys to Mohadi village, next door to Borvihir. The brothers also have a sister, who is married in Indore and due to deliver a baby any day now.
"Right from when he was a boy, Chandu was keen to join the military. After his brother was recruited in Belgaum, he became more fixated about getting in. He attended multiple recruitment events, one in Belgaum too," said Sonawane. Chavan was eventually recruited in the Armoured Corps in 2012 and trained in Ahmednagar.
Chavan spoke to his grandfather last on September 19, promising to try and take a quick break around the month-end. "He told me he's not certain if he will get leave but that if he could he would come before September 30," said Sonawane.
Friends of the two brothers in Borvihir, where the grandparents shifted after Sonawane retired from the education department of the zilla parishad, say they came to know that Chandu was missing the day before. "Bhushan called and said he'd received a call from superiors that Chandu was missing," said Dipak Patil, 25, from Mohadi, quickly correcting himself after referring to his friend in the past tense.
"Both villages are in shock. Chandu is as much a Mohadi boy as a Borvihir boy. We are Bhushan's batchmates but Chandu meets us whenever he's here. He's like our little brother, too," said Patil.
Chandu completed his Class XII, opting for the Science stream, from the local SMPR Vidyalaya in Borvihir. An athlete for many years, he recently improved on his own local record of 1,500 metres in 5 minutes and 20 seconds, said friends.
"He is a boxer, too, in his paltan and had won at a few tournaments," said Nitin Patil, who was recruited in the Army in 2004 and is home on vacation for two months from the Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) corps.
"I met him during recruitment and we kept in touch. He is a complete one-man show. Even during a break in his village, he goes on a run at 4 am, alone," said Nitin.
Other youths in Borvihir and Mohadi said that every time Chavan was home, he'd tell them to work hard and get into the Army. "He was very specific that he wanted to be in the Army, not Navy or Air Force," said Sandip Patil from Mohadi.
Chavan's grandfather, meanwhile, says the family had been hoping to get him married next year. A prospective bride's relatives had even come to visit the last time Chavan was here a few months ago, he said.
Around 7.40 pm, Lilabai's body was brought into Borvihir, accompanied by local politicians and Bhushan, who broke down on seeing his grandfather and friends.
In the village of about 7,000 people, families kept their porch LED lights on for the large crowd to see in the dark. Groups of villagers spoke in hushed whispers, discussing the "war" along the LoC and Lilabai's demise.
Chavan's paternal uncles Madhukar and Dinkar Patil as well as other relatives also gathered in Borvihir. "We hope the government will do something to bring him back soon," said Madhukar, who retired from the State Reserve Police Force.
France envoy meets Gujarat CM
GANDHINAGAR:MMNN:1 Oct. 2016
France Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler paid courtesy visit to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani here in Gandhinagar on Thursday.
The duo have discussed in context to co-operation between France and Gujarat in various fields such as defense, aerospace, automobile, chemical, pharmaceutical and renewable energy etc.
As the prevalence of French language in the world, Rupani discussed with Alexandre establishment of centre of excellence, student exchange programme between France and Gujarat universities and opportunities of training and research. Rupani invited him on behalf of France to participate in the forthcoming Vibrant Summit 2017 as a partner country.
Rupani briefed him about recent visit of senior delegation from Gujarat in France for promotion of Vibrant Summit 2017. Chief Principal Secretary to CM K. Kailashnathan, Gautam from M.E.G.A., Principal Secretary to CM S. Aparna, Secretary to CM Ashwani Kumar and others were remained present in the meeting.
Hardik Patel's aide arrested for holding protest without permission
Ahmedabad :MMNN:28 Sept. 2016
The Gujarat Police on Tuesday arrested Dinesh Bhambhania, a close associate of Patidar agitation spearhead Hardik Patel, for holding a protest rally a year ago without allegedly seeking adequate official permission.
The Aravalli district police is likely to pick up Hardik Patel on the same charges for holding the public meeting organized by his Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) at Tenpur town on September 22, 2015.
This was the same meeting from where Patel had gone mysteriously missing when police was after him and a habeus corpus writ petition later filed in the Gujarat High Court seeking directions to police to present him in the court.
However, Hardik himself appeared before the court, which reprimanded him for going to the media first instead of the court.
In this case, police is likely to go to Udaipur, where Hardik is currently stationed on exile, to "complete just the formality of arresting him since it is a bailable offence", a police official said.
Already, over 35 persons, charged under Indian Penal Code's Section 188 (disobedience of order duly promulgated by public servant), have been arrested and subsequently released.
Patel however used it take a dig at the BJP government saying that this only exposed its false claims that dozens of cases had been withdrawn against the agitating Patels.
"About two-three months ago, the BJP government had announced that it had withdrawn over 90 per cent of cases but this is an eyewash as these arrests show. Where is the sympathy for the Patidars the government claims?"
"They want to keep the Patels entangled in police and legal formalities for long," Hardik said in a video message circulated on social media.
Meanwhile, a police official said that the "arrest would only be a formality, but he is making an issue of it".
Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017: Govt looks to improve implementation
Ahmedabad:MMNN:28 Sept. 2016
There is a reason Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been calling it the 'Davos of East' or 'Davos in Action'. The Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VGGS 2017), in its eighth edition, has come a long way from being just another vehicle to attract investment in the state. Since its previous edition in 2015, it is increasingly being showcased as a knowledge-sharing platform, and not merely an investment-attracting platform.
And, on its eighth edition, two new additions are being made. First, the summit would host a Nobel Laureates' meet, which is expected to see attendance from more than 10 Nobel Prize winners from science. J N Singh, chief secretary, government of Gujarat describes it as "an infusion of intellectual component in the summit".
"One of the focus areas has always been investment but we are also looking at this as a connecting point between the world and India, not only for Gujarat but for many other states. Also, there will be tremendous amount of exchange of ideas. We don't want to limit ourselves to Gujarat but expand the contours," Singh told Business Standard.
Second, for the first time the summit will see what is being termed as 'action seminars'. According to P K Taneja, additional chief secretary (industries & mines), these action seminars will be unlike the 'theme seminars' from the previous editions.
Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017: Govt looks to improve implementation "Action seminars are where participants are made to interact and brainstorm, analyse problems, deliberate and come up with implementable ideas and actionable results. We are trying to bring in action into the whole matter. Earlier the theme seminars used to be a monologue, this time they will be more interactive," Taneja elaborated.
In VGGS 2015, memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were replaced by letters of intent for the first time, something that may see a repeat in the upcoming eighth edition in January 2017.
The success rate of MoUs has already been a point of discussion with the state government claiming that it has seen a healthy rate of 60-65 per cent. Add to that, Gujarat has also been facing competition from other states in recent times in attracting investments. For instance, Gujarat received investment intentions worth only Rs 21,309 crore during January-June 2016, while Karnataka received three times more at Rs 67,757 crore during the same period, according to data from the central government.
Consequently, this has led to increased focus towards attracting investments in projects and sectors that will see quicker implementation.
Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017: Govt looks to improve implementation What could augment this is the state government's recent special five-year incentive scheme wherein it is offering reimbursement of net value added tax (VAT) in the range of 70 to 90 per cent depending upon the nature of the projects in terms of ultra-mega, mega, large and micro, small and medium enterprises. However, the scheme is excluding sectors like petroleum, cement and soda ash, among others, that see either higher gestation period or face environmental issues, say state government sources.
Rather, VGGS 2017 will look to play on the sectors that have already caught the fancy of the union government. A senior bureaucrat noted that the plan is to attract investments in aerospace, petrochemicals, food processing, defence and pharmaceuticals given a more liberal foreign direct investment policy announced at the Centre this year. Other sectors that will feature in the summit include heavy engineering, electronics, automobiles, aerospace and defence, food processing and biotechnology, textiles, plastics, chemicals and petrochemicals.
On the incentives front, officials noted that incentives like interest and capital subsidies, VAT-reimbursement, freight subsidy as well as power tariff incentives have been planned. "The Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR), GIFT City project (India's first international financial service centre) and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor are the key projects that are expected to draw investments," said an official, who also highlighted that in line with the PM's vision, Make In Gujarat would be the focus area in the three-day summit.
In terms of 'expanding the contours', the summit has seen several national and international delegations visiting countries like the US, Canada and other European nations. With the new Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani taking charge right ahead of the VGGS, the state bureaucracy is now busy globetrotting, inviting corporates as well as delegations from nations across the world. Fifteen senior bureaucrats from Gujarat are touring the world, or precisely they are set to visit 23 countries.
The PM himself is likely to hold a special interactive session with investors during the summit that would be held between January 10 and 13 in Mahatma Mandir at Gandhinagar, the state capital.
Taking a leaf out of Modi's pet national projects, VGGIS would also have seminars on "ease of doing business", smart villages, international development finance, start-ups as well as private-public partnership in infrastructure projects.
On a lighter note, a fashion show on khadi has also been planned. Promotion of khadi is one of the focus areas of Modi and Gujarat is home to its most famous proponent, the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
Meanwhile, Gujarat government had sent formal invites to 12 countries to be a part of the VGGS, of which the US, Canada, Japan, Poland, the UK, the Netherlands and Australia have agreed to be partner countries. Canada is likely to send the largest delegation to the summit this year with around 300 delegates. Germany, France and UAE are yet to confirm.
As tension with neighbour intensifies Gujarat reviews coastal security
Ahmedabad :MMNN:24 Sept. 2016
In the wake of rising tension between India and Pakistan, top officials of Gujarat government have reviewed the threats and security of ports and coasts of the state.
Minister of state for shipping and ports, government of India was also present at the coastal security meeting.
"When Gujarat is connected with Pakistan through sea route, security of ports and coasts becomes important.
The state has one major and 48 minor ports and security of it is in priority," said Mansukh Mandavia, MoS for ports and shipping, government of India.
In the security review meeting, home minister of Gujarat Pradipsinh Jadeja, chief secretary, director general of police and top officials of coastguard were participated.
Possible challenges of coastal safety and preparation of safeguard had been discussed in the meeting.
Mandavia said: "Gujarat police and coastguard are well prepared to face any confrontation. The state administration is also ready for such circumstances."
NPAs of banks in Gujarat close in on Rs 30,000 cr-mark
Ahmedabad:MMNN:24 Sept. 2016
The rising bad loans in the agriculture and the MSME (Micro Small and Medium Enterprises) sectors of Gujarat have pushed NPAs (Non-Performing Assets) of banks near the Rs 30,000 crore-mark.
The latest report of the State Level Bankers' Committee (SLBC) released Friday states that the total advances of banks (also referred to as bank loans) in Gujarat stood at Rs 4.38 lakh, while the gross NPAs stood at Rs 29,734 crore (6.78 per cent). During June 2015, this quantum of NPAs was just Rs 15,117 crore (or 3.87 per cent).
The NPAs in MSMEs and agricultural term loans - that fall under priority lending - have almost doubled in Gujarat when compared to last year. During the current 2016-17 fiscal, banks in Gujarat have targeted to disburse Rs 24,422 crores to the MSME sector. Of this 44 per cent has been achieved till June 2016. At the end of June 2016, the bad loans in MSMEs stood at Rs 6,472 crore. This is more than double the Rs 3013 crore worth of NPAs that existed in June 2016.
"The NPA under banking business in Gujarat for the quarter ended June 2016 stood at 6.78 per cent which is around 80 basis point above the previous quarter. However, the reported NPA in Gujarat is less compared to national level which stood at 8.7 percent for the same quarter," said Vikramaditya Singh Khichi, the convenor of SLBC.
Compared to the last quarter, the MSME advances in Gujarat also declined by Rs 3,420 crore in June 2016. When asked if this was a fall-out of the NPAs in the sector, Khichi said, "There is a negative growth in MSME advances for the quarter ended June 2016 because the credit off-take remained low under various segments of MSME. There was credit contraction in segments like infrastructure, Gems and jewellery, and cement which could have spilled over to the ancillary units in the MSME sector also. However, this trend of continued moderation in MSME sector is in sync with the trend at national level."
Similarly, the NPAs in agriculture term loan that are made available to farmers for activities other than seasonal agricultural operations - like dairy, plantation and horticulture, farm mechanisation, minor irrigation, etc -- have risen to Rs 1866 crore from Rs 1,081 crore a year ago.
According to the SLBC report, the percentage of gross NPAs among nationalised banks of the state has touched the double figure mark of 10.88 per cent, while the bad loans among private banks stood at 1.25 per cent. Among the nationalised banks the highest percentage of gross NPAs was seen among Indian Overseas Bank (24.57 %), Allahabad Bank (23.88%) and UCO Bank (17.57%).
During the first quarter, banks in Gujarat also disbursed Rs 115 crore to 392 MSME units under the Credit Linked Capital Subsidy Scheme for Technological Upgradation (CLCSSTU) scheme.
Bank Deposits pick up
The aggregated deposits of banks in Gujarat increased by Rs 14,857 crore in absolute terms from Rs 5.38 crore as of March 2016 to Rs 5.52 crore in June 2016, registering a growth of 2.76 per cent, as against 1.69 per cent growth registered for the first quarter in 2015. The highest percentage-wise growth was registered by District Central Cooperative Banks (5.52%), followed by the State Bank of India Group (3.73%), Regional Rural Banks (3.75%), nationalised banks (2.5%) and private banks (1.72%).
The NRI deposits increased by Rs 672 crore and stood at Rs 65,189 crore, forming 11.79 per cent of the total deposits as on June 2016. In June last year, the NRI deposits stood at Rs 59,039 crore.
Fire at plastic factory in Surat; 15 fire tenders at the spot
Surat:MMNN:21 Sept. 2016
A massive fire broke out in a plastic factory in Surat's Kim area on Wednesday. More than 15 fire tenders are at the spot.
The incident took place near Hariyan village in Mandvi, Surat.
As per initial reports there have been no casualties. The efforts to douse the fire are still going on.
Visuals from the spot show dark clouds of smoke everywhere.
The reason behind the fire is not known yet. However, reports said that there has been huge damage to property.
Muslims barred from garba events in Bharuch
Surat:MMNN:21 Sept. 2016
The organisers of two garba events in Gujarat's Bharuch district have decided not to allow Muslims at the venue after protests from the VHP. The Bharuch unit of the VHP opposed two garba events which also have Muslims as their organisers. The VHP members handed over a memorandum to district collector, seeking to ban Muslims at the event over "security" and "law and order" issues. The organisers of the first event, a real estate group which also has a Muslim partner, Tuesday said it will check the identity of ticket seekers for the event which is scheduled to be held in October. The real estate group's partners include: Jaydeepsinh Raj, Jasu Patel and Asif Patel. They are organising a mega garba event at Dudhara dairy ground in Bharuch. Among those invited to the nine-day event, "Raas-e-Bharuch", include actors Jackie Shroff and Zarine Khan.
The second event is being organised by Shehzada Shaikh, a social worker, in partnership with two others from the majority community whose names he did not disclose. This event is scheduled to be held at Sonal party plot on College Road.
Jaydeepsinh Raj, organiser of "Raas-e-Bharuch", said, "We partnered with Asif Patel because he has good relations with Bollywood celebrities. Because the VHP is opposing the event, we removed our original banners (for the event) and put up new ones which do not have Asif's name on them. We have also contacted two private security agencies - one from Bharuch and another from Ahmedabad - for deployment of security personnel on the garba grounds. We will not issue or sell passes to Muslims and the tickets will be given to participants only after they show an identity card. We have also applied for police permission and it will come shortly."
Viral Desai, VHP joint secretary (south Gujarat), who is based in Bharuch, met Bharuch District Collector Sandip Sagale, along with other VHP members, and handed over a memorandum, demanding not to give permission to Muslim organisers of the garba event in the town.
Asif Patel, who also is a choreographer and runs a local newspaper, said, "We decided to organise a big Navratri event by inviting Bollywood celebrities. The proceeds from the funds raised through this event will be used in building steps and infrastructure for pilgrims going to Chitra Mata temple on the banks of Narmada river. Our motive was to build communal harmony by orgnaising this event." However, after the VHP protests, Asif Patel said he will not allow Muslims. "After the VHP's opposition, we have decided that Muslims should not enter the ground. We will not sell passes or tickets to Muslims. I'm director of the company and my name on the banner was obvious. But since they have objected, we have decided to remove my name. If they demand that I should not enter the ground, I will not be at the venue," said Asif Patel, adding that the the passes for the event are available at Rs 1,200 (for all nine days).
Desai, in his memorandum, cited the Uri terror attacks on Army headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir and said that Gujarat was always on high alert. He also cited the murder of BJP leaders Shirish Bengali and Pragnesh Mistry last year, detected by the NIA as an operation by the underworld. The memorandum further said, "Garba festival is important and our religious feelings are attached to it. Some Muslims have taken this festival as a business opportunity and with the help of Hindu partners, they have organised two such events in Bharuch. The motive is clear as they wanted to earn money by organsing it and have thus invited Bollywood celebrities."
Talking to The Indian Express, Desai said, "Through the memorandum, we have demanded that such event should not be orgnaised as it will damage the peaceful atmosphere of the Bharuch town. If Muslims are organising such an event, many Muslims will enter which will lead to eve-teasing. Our religious feelings will be hurt that's why we have demanded that the collector should not give permission for such events." Bharuch District Collector Sandip Sagale could not be reached for his comment.
PM Narendra Modi In Gujarat On Birthday, Tweets Photos With Mother
Ahmedabad:MMNN:17 Sept. 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is 66 today. He began his birthday, as he does every year, with a visit to his mother Heeraben Modi in Gandhinagar to seek her blessings.
With a packed schedule ahead in Gujarat today, the Prime Minister had reached his mother's home by 7.15 am and spent about half an hour there. (Pics)
Heeraben Modi, 97, offered the PM a special sweet she had made for him and they chatted for a while before the PM touched her feet and left. He later tweeted pictures of the meeting and said - "A mother's love and blessings are the elixir of life."
He also visited the Raj Bhawan or Governor's Palace, where he met the state's new Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and several other BJP leaders. He then flew to Dahod in central Gujarat where he inaugurated an irrigation scheme and addressed a rally of tribals.
The PM will also visit Navsari in Surat where he will distribute disability aid kits to over 1000 beneficiaries to set a Guinness Book of World Records.
This is PM Modi's third visit in a month to his home state Gujarat, where elections will be held next year. On a visit last month, the Prime Minster had at a public rally said he had not returned home as much as he should've after taking office as Prime Minister, and promised to better that record.
The state BJP believes frequent visits by PM Modi, who was chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years before he took charge in Delhi, will be critical to its chances of winning the state back in next year's election.
It faces what is seen as its toughest fight in decades as its state government grapples with two large uprisings - the Patel or Patidar agitation and the recent Dalit anger over a brutal assault on four young men by cow vigilantes.
As PM Modi arrived in Gujarat on Friday night, a Dalit activist Jignesh Mewani was detained at the Ahmedabad airport late night on his return from Delhi, to prevent any disruption at the PM's events. He was released this morning.
In Surat, about 100 odd Patel activists have been detained for the same reason. At a recent public meeting addressed by BJP president Amit Shah, supporters of Patidaar leader Hardik Patel went on the rampage, chanting his name and throwing furniture about.
Beaten Up By Suspected Gau Rakshaks In Gujarat, 29-Year-Old Dies
Ahmedabad :MMNN:17 Sept. 2016
A 29-year-old man who was allegedly beaten up by gau rakshaks or cow vigilantes in Ahmedabad four days ago died of his injuries at a hospital in Ahmedabad on Friday.
Mohammad Ayyub was allegedly attacked by a group of cow vigilantes on Tuesday while he and another man Sameer Sheikh were transporting a cow and a calf, police said.
At around 3 am on Tuesday, Mr Ayyub's car crashed into another on a highway resulting in the death of the calf, they said.
Also injured in the accident, Mr Ayyub tried to flee the spot but was chased by a group of men and beaten up, police said.
His associate Mr Sheikh, however, was saved by a policeman who was on duty nearby.
Later, a complaint was filed by three gau rakshaks against Mohammad Ayyub and Sameer Sheikh for illegally transporting the animals.
The three men were also among those that attacked Mr Ayyub, his family has alleged. But the police has said there was no evidence to suggest that they were at the spot.
"We had detained them as well but even Sameer could not identify them. Also so far we haven't got any evidence to establish their presence at the spot," said R R Bhagat, a senior police officer.
"We have filed an attempt to murder case against unknown people," he said. Efforts were being made to identify the people who had gathered at the spot based on security camera footage, he added.
But Mr Ayyub's family has alleged that Mr Sheikh had refused to identify the cow vigilantes under pressure.
"By filing the complaint, it's clear that they were at the spot. Even if they were transporting the animals illegally, they have no right to take law into their own hands," said Rozar Khan, Mr Ayyub's uncle.
Violence by self-styled cow protectors have made national headlines since the public flogging of four Dalit men in Gujarat's Una in July.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also joined the clamour against violence in the name of cow protection last month by calling such attackers "anti-social elements".
500 'Badbu Gujarat Ki' postcards sent to Amitabh Bachchan
Ahmedabad:MMNN:14 Sept. 2016
In an effort to draw the country's attention to their agitation, a dalit group, 'Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti' (UDALS), on Tuesday started its, 'Badbu Gujarat Ki', campaign.
The group sent 500 postcards to Amitabh Bachchan with the tagline 'Badbu Gujarat Ki'. The campaign aims to send 1,500 such postcards whose tagline is in contrast to the Gujarat tourism's tagline - Khushboo Gujarat Ki - use in advertisement commercials in which Amitabh Bachchan featured. All the postcards will be sent to the Bollywood star.
The postcard campaign began after a public meeting in Kalol town of Gandhinagar district. Jignesh Mevani, convener of UDALS, said that the 'Badbu Gujarat ki' initiative is an invitation to Bacchan in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Swachchh Bharat Abhiyan'.
"Bachchan had done commercials for Gujarat tourism in which he is seen inviting people by saying Khushboo Gujarat Ki . However that is not all about Gujarat. Issues of sanitation workers, skinners and dalits have found no place in the Gujarat model," Mevani said.
"Therefore we have launched this campaign to let Amitabh Bachchan know the real picture of Gujarat and change his perception of the state," Mevani said.
UDALS was also to hold a public meeting in Vejalpur but the organisation did not get police permission for that. Mevani, however, said that they will hold the meeting even without police permission.
"We are ready to face detention or the police can arrest us. But we will hold the meeting in Vejalpur because if permission can be granted to the BJP to hold Samrasta Sammelan, why should dalits not be given permission to raise their issue?" Mevani said.
Mevani also said that if the police or the state government obstructs their movement, they will have to be ready to see chairs flying at Modi's meeting in Dahod on September 17.
3,464 'erring' staffers face punitive actions
Ahmedabad :MMNN:14 Sept. 2016
To ensure transparency, decisiveness, sensitiveness and development in Gujarat, as part of instructions given by Vijay Rupani after he took over as Chief Minister, 3,464 staffers of Revenue, Panchayat and Police departments have faced punitive actions, including suspension and transfer, for "lapses".
In a release, the government said that after taking charge as CM, Rupani had in his first meeting with top bureaucrats, district collectors and senior police officials laid down his priorities for transparency, decisiveness, sensitiveness and development in the administration.
With respect to CM's vision, a campaign was launched in all 33 districts to take strict action against "erring" government officials. The government has given strict instructions to ensure common man gets "corruption free" administration, the release said.
Following the campaign, 14 police officials were suspended and 725 transferred. As many as 23 ASI and 151 head constables faced punitive actions. In the Revenue and the Panchayat departments, 20 officials have been suspended. Moreover, 565 officials belonging to the two departments were transferred, the release added.
Narendra Modi summons former Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel after flop BJP rally in Surat
Ahmedabad:MMNN:10 Sept. 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has summoned former Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel to Delhi after a BJP rally in Surat ended in bedlam in the presence of party President Amit Shah, BJP sources said on Saturday.
Anandiben Patel, who quit as Chief Minister just over a month ago, has left in a private plane to Delhi, informed sources in the Bharatiya Janata Party told.
Anandiben Patel was present on the dias on Thursday night when young Patidars disrupted the rally which was called to show that the BJP still enjoyed the support of the Patel community.
The disruption and violence forced Amit Shah, Chief Minister Vipay Rupani and Gujarat BJP President Jitu Vaghani to cut short their speeches. Such a display of protest is unusual for the BJP in Gujarat.
The 'rajasva samaroh' or royal felicitation of Patel legislators of the BJP was organised by real estate developers and diamond merchants of Surat to express the community's confidence in the BJP government.
It was also meant to send out a message to the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), led by 23-year-old Hardik Patel, that the Patidars had returned to the BJP.
The show of strength, according to reliable sources, was the brainchild of Amit Shah, a strong backer of new Chief Minister Rupani.
The Gujarat government had pulled out all stops to make the function a success.
But it all came a cropper following the ruckus at the meeting with Shah, Rupani and union minister Parshottam Rupala cutting short their speeches and making a hurried exit.
The police used lathis and tear gas to quell the protestors. Among those watching the proceedings was Anandiben Patel, along with other Patel legislators of the BJP.
Patel had quit just over a month ago ostensibly for the inability of her government to tackle the Patidar agitation and the later Dalit protests across the state.
All through Narendra Modi's over 12-year-long rule of Gujarat, Anandiben Patel and Amit Shah were considered his closest confidants but both remained mutually daggers drawn.
As Modi moved to New Delhi to take over as the Prime Minister in May 2004, he ensured the Chief Ministership for Anandiben Patel and the national party's presidentship for Shah.
But that reportedly did not reduce their political rivalry. Even their supporters have remained at loggerheads in Gujarat.
After the latest change of guard in Gujarat, those considered close to Anandiben Patel, be it politicians or civil servants, are in the process of being edged out.
This has reportedly angered Anandiben Patel, the party sources say.
A former home minister, Shah had ensured massive police presence at the rally venue in Surat.
Those present included two IGPs, one DIG, six DCPs, 13 ACPs, 29 inspectors and 70 sub-inspectors besides around 2,000 policemen. But this could not deter the PAAS supporters.
The function was an issue of prestige and a target of one lakh audience was set but just over 15,000 turned up.
Caught On Camera: Gujarat Man Brutally Beaten To Death By Gang
BHAVNAGAR:MMNN:10 Sept. 2016
It's night and the alley is narrow but the pictures are startling. In footage recorded by a security camera, a man is seen being chased.
He falls and tries to resist the blows but is beaten to death by a group of at least eight with sticks and rods.
Police are looking for the eight men aged between 17 and 19 for lynching Rafiq Hussain in Gujarat's Bhavnagar town on Thursday.
The man, a vegetable vendor, had purchased a house in his locality for Rs. 25 lakh and according to the police, a gang of boys were demanding money for the deal for the last few days.
Since the vendor told them that he was buying the property on a loan and would not pay them any extortion money, he was attacked and beaten to death.
Police say the suspects have been identified and they are being tracked down.
"We have identified most of them on the basis of the CCTV footage and will track them down," said senior police officer Dipankar Trivedi.
Some people have been detained for questioning in the incident, police say.
PM, Shah turn focus on Gujarat as Dalits look away
GANDHINAGAR :MMNN:7 Sept. 2016
After announcing on August 30 in Jamnagar that he would be visiting his native Gujarat more frequently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will celebrate his birthday on September 17 with the tribals of the state, while BJP President Amit Shah braces to face the angry Patel community in Surat on Thursday, about a month after the 'replacement' of veteran Anandiben Patel with the greenhorn incumbent Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
The irate Dalit community, who constitute 7-8 per cent of the state's population, are not amused, however: under the banner of the Dalit Hitrakshak Sangh, they are organising a 'Dalit Ekta Sammelan' in Ahmedabad on Saturday.
On Thursday, Shah will also address a party mahasammelan in the tribal-dominated Tapi district of South Gujarat, in an apparent bid to retain the tribal voters, who had largely migrated from the Congress to the ruling party in 2014, in the BJP's tent.
Modi, who will turn 66 on September 17, will, as in the past, seek his mother Hiraba's blessings here, before meeting the tribals and addressing a public meeting in Navsari district of South Gujarat. This will be his third visit to Gujarat within 20 days, the second being when he came to Sarangpur last week to pay respects to the late Pramukh Swami Maharaj of the Swaminarayan sect, with which a large number of Patels are associated. In November, he is likely to inaugurate the World Kabaddi Championship in Maninagar, Ahmedabad, which used to be his Assembly constituency. Again, in January, he is expected to inaugurate the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investment Summit, 2017.
The BJP seem to be bracing for early Assembly elections in the state, actually scheduled for end-2017. Congress veteran, Ahmed Patel, secretary to party chief Sonia Gandhi, has already hinted at this.
Ahead of the possible Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections along with Uttar Pradesh and Punjab in early-2017, and amid reports of the BJP trying to split the Hardik Patel led-Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), the ruling party is organising a massive show of strength on Thursday in Surat, the epicentre of the Patel temblor, to ensure that its prosperous and influential Patel support base was still agile and intact. All the Patel leaders of the BJP - MPs, MLAs, ministers, party office-bearers, etc-have been roped into make the "Patidar Abhivadan Samaroh" a success. The Patels constitute about 15 per cent of the voters.
It is, however, not known why the BJP is going to 'honour' the rebel Patels, who bore the brunt of the state government and its police in August 2015 when Hardik gathered a million-strong crowd in Ahmedabad to demand reservation for his community in government jobs and educational institutions on a par with the OBCs.
The Alpesh Thakore-led OBCs, suspecting that the BJP and its government could slice off the reservation pie in favour of the Patels at the cost of the OBCs, have also been up in arms for months. The OBCs, who at 40-plus per cent of the Gujarati population are the largest group of voters, also launched "reform" such as liquor prohibition in their communities.
But this is no reason for the Congress to rejoice: its own former MP from Patan, Jagadish Thakore, resigned from party posts on Tuesday, charging the party leadership on various counts.
PM Modi to visit Gujarat on birthday, promises to visit the state more often
Ahmedabad:MMNN:7 Sept. 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who last week promised he would visit Gujarat more often, will celebrate his birthday here on 17 September - the first of several visits planned to the state that will hold elections next year.
On his 66th birthday, the Prime Minister will celebrate the day with tribals in South Gujarat, official sources said. He is also expected to address a public rally at Navsari town near Surat in the tribal belt.
However, officials were not clear about his detailed itinerary for 17 September. Modi usually starts his birthday by visiting his mother Hira Ba in Gandhinagar and has maintained this tradition for many years.
In his speech after inaugurating an ambitious water and irrigation project in Jamnagar on 30 August, on his second visit in a month, Modi struck a personal note with the people, admitting he had not been coming to Gujarat as often as he was expected to.
He said there had been complaints, including from former Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, that he was ignoring the state and added that he could not come often for he was stuck in Delhi where the work was new for him.
The Prime Minister said now that he has learnt the ropes, he would visit Gujarat more often. He said he was implementing nationally the lessons learnt while running the government in the state.
The visit on 30 August was his second in the month after Sarangpur, again in Saurashtra, to pay tributes to popular godman Pramukh Swami of the Bochanwasi Akshar Purshottam Swaminarayan sect on 15 August.
The Prime Minister is coming next to Gujarat in the first week of November to inaugurate the World Kabbadi Championship in Ahmedabad. The championship will be held in the Maninagar area, which used to be Modi's assembly constituency during his tenure as Gujarat Chief Minister.
Modi is expected yet again early next year for the Eighth Edition of the prestigious biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit, an initiative that had helped him build a national image of the most industry-friendly Chief Minister in the country.
The event is expected to be held in the second week of January 2017 in the state capital Gandhinagar.
Gujarat goes to the polls in December next year and BJP sources believe Modi's frequent visits here would be critical to the party's electoral prospects in the wake of the pro-quota agitation of the Patidar and the Dalit uprising following the Una atrocity against members of the community.
Gujarat adds social networking to its mobile app for farmers
Ahmedabad :MMNN:3 Sept. 2016
Differentiating itself from other states, Government of Gujarat has launched a mobile app for farmers with a social networking feature.
Apart from the regular features of providing information regarding weather and government schemes, the 'Gujarat Sarkar Khedut Mitra' app allows farmers to interact with other farmers as well as government officials through the app.
The app has been developed by Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation Limited for the farmers.
"Today, most of the farmers are using smart phone and this mobile app will connect farmers of the state with the government. They can find all the information at one place which will help them at many stages," said Vijay Rupani, chief of minister of Gujarat regarding the app.
The app 'Gujarat Sarkar Khedut Mitra' will not only provide just government schemes but will also update farmers on weather, offer expert advice and all other things related to agriculture.
"Today, we have various technologies in the area of agriculture and food processing which can help farmers increase their produce, maintain the quality of their products and also save resources like electricity and water. At the same time we want to make our farmer community aware about some of the state and central government schemes that have been announced with the aim of protecting the farmers from unexpected natural calamities," said Rupani, adding that the app aims at helping farmers tap into modern agriculture techniques and technologies to cater to the global demand.
However, it is its feature of allowing farmers to interact with each other as well as government officials that sets it apart from similar mobile apps for farmers by other states.
For instance, an app launched by Odisha government provides farmers information about available agriculture land in the state. It also alerts farmers on quantity of inputs, as well as inform about its supply chain facilities and other government schemes. Both the Gujarat and Odisha apps find their similarity in the features that update farmers on latest technology in agriculture sector for improved productivity.
States like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh too have either launched or are launching mobile apps for farmers which mostly provide information about weather and crops care related information.
Maharashtra, whose app will go online next month, will provide information about government schemes, agriculture research and its results to the farmers in regional language through the platform. Punjab, on the other hand, recently launched an app called 'Kisan Suvidha' which again provides information on weather updates, crop prices and expert advices.
Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too launched an app by the union government. The Kisan Suvidha app by the Government of India provides information on weather, input dealers, market price, plant protection and expert advices. The app also directly connects farmers with the a call centre for their queries. Some other apps available for farmers include Pusa Krishi, MKisan, Farm-O-Pedia (For Gujarat farmers), Crop Insurance and AgriMarket which provide information on various agricultural subjects.
Meanwhile, Government of India has decided to launch a central scheme titled, 'Strengthening and Promoting Agricultural Informatics and Communications' of which one component is AGRISNET which looks to provide improved services to the farming community.
To make construction norms uniform, Gujarat govt brings in major reform
Ahmedabad:MMNN:3 Sept. 2016
In order to bring parity in construction norms existing in different cities across Gujarat, the state government Friday decided to put in place a common set of performance and administrative regulations for cities and towns of the state. It also made an important decision of doing away non-agriculture (NA) certificate for town planning schemes that have already been implemented in urban areas and simultaneously eased norms for individuals wanting to build private residences.
"We have taken a decision that all land areas covered in approved town planning schemes will be considered as non-agriculture (NA)," said Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel. Until now, NA had to be taken if developers submitted a revised plan for reconstruction in approved TP schemes.
"There are around 700 town planning schemes which are at present enforced in the state, and land owners in these TP schemes will be benefited by this decision of the government," Patel added.
Making it easier for individuals to build houses in the state, the Gujarat government said any construction of private homes up to 125 square metres can be undertaken by a land owner in any town or city under municipal corporation or any other local body by producing just an affidavit along with a few related documents, including an approval from a competent official. "No prior permission will be required for construction of private residential home up to 125 square metres. Only Building Usage (BU) permission required after construction," Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel wrote later on Twitter.
The state government also decided to bring in uniform regulation for constructions for municipal corporations, urban development authorities and municipalities in all municipal corporations - Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Bhavnagar, Gandhinagar, Junagadh and Jamnagar - and municipalities of the state. After this decision, all the local bodies that fall under the Town Planning Act will have common format for presenting construction plans, application forms, construction norms, etc. Apart from this, norms related to rain water harvesting, grey water recycling, fire-fighting, lifts and others will also be made similar.
"The decision to make processes common across cities will benefit the real-estate sector. Developers use to struggle with different construction norms existing in different cities.
For instance, different cities in Gujarat have different FSI (floor space index), rules for obtaining the NA (non-agriculture) certificate, etc in Ahmedabad is different from those in Surat. We expect a lot of streamlining to happen after this decision," said Dipak Patel, president of Gujarat Institute of Housing and Estate Developers (GIHED), which is the Ahmedabad city chapter of CREDAI. "The decision to abolish NA certification in urban areas where final town planning schemes have been implemented is also a positive step. This will do away with the tedious process of obtaining NA for passing revised plans," Patel added.
Reacting to the developments, the president of CREDAI, Jaxay Shah said, "The state government has taken a historic decision for doing away with the need to seek NA permission for areas where TP have already been approved and for providing automatic NA for areas that have been declared as 'outgrowth town' areas... These decisions will help in building affordable homes in the state."