Modi inaugurates Global Trade Show in run-up to Vibrant Gujarat Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Global Trade Show at the Mahatma Mandir Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre in Gandhinagar on Thursday ahead of the 9th edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit that he will open at the same venue on Friday.

Modi inaugurates Vibrant Gujarat Global Trade Show
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Global Trade Show at the Mahatma Mandir Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre here today ahead of the 9th edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit that he will open at the same venue tomorrow.
Mr. Modi will address the inaugural session of the summit aimed at giving a fillip to investments in Gujarat.
At the Global Trade Show, Mr. Modi went around the various pavilions and evinced keen interest in the stalls set up by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) and Khadi weavers, among others.
The stalls bring to the fore the Prime Minister's "vision of Make in India with an apt tagline- From Charkha to Chandrayaan," an official press release said.
He was accompanied by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and other dignitaries. 
The Global Trade Show is spread over an area of 200,000 sq. mts, with more than 25 industrial and business sectors showcasing their ideas, products and designs under one roof.
A series of events and programs have been organized alongside the summit. 
One of the major attractions today is the Ahmedabad Shopping Festival– 2019 which will be inaugurated by the Prime Minister later this evening. 
The mascot of the Vibrant Gujarat Ahmedabad Shopping Festival will be unveiled by Mr. Modi on this occasion. 
"Ahmedabad Shopping Festival 2019 is the first event of its kind in India and provides an opportunity for the enterprises from the city to showcase their products," it said.
In addition to the flagship events organized as part of Vibrant Gujarat, the 9th edition of the Summit will also witness the launch of a completely new set of forums aimed at diversifying the nature of knowledge sharing at the Summit, and intensifying the level of networking between participants.
Vibrant Gujarat Summit was conceptualized in 2003 by Mr. Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, to re-establish the state as a preferred investment destination. The Summit will provide a platform for brainstorming on agendas of global socio-economic development, knowledge sharing and forging effective partnerships.
Vibrant Gujarat 2019 will include a roundtable for opportunities in  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education & Research in India. It will be attended by eminent educationists and key policy makers to prepare the “Roadmap for opportunities in STEM Education & Research in India”.
There will be an international conference on STEM,  an exhibition on Futuristic Technologies and Space Exploration which offers a vision of the future of space travel, a seminar on Port Led Development & Strategies to establish India as the Trans-shipment Hub of Asia, a seminar on Make in India to showcase the Success Stories of Make in India program and key interventions by the Government, and a seminar on Opportunities for Industry in Defence & Aerospace to sensitize participants about opportunities in defence and aeronautics in Gujarat, and to deliberate on a way forward for India and Gujarat to emerge as a manufacturing hub for defence and aeronautics.
"Since its inception in 2003, Vibrant Gujarat Summit has played the role as a catalyst spurring several other states to come forward with such summits to promote trade and investments there," the release added.

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Model building bye-laws amended for establishing EV charging infrastructure

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has made amendments to the Model Building Bye-laws 2016 and Urban Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation Guidelines 2014, in order to facilitate the availability of Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Infrastructure. 
The Ministry of Power has issued guidelines and standards for charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, which have also been considered while making these amendments, an official press release said.
The guidelines will act as a guiding document to the State Governments and Union Territories to incorporate the norms and standards of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure in their respective Building Bye-Laws. 
The guidelines on Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure have been circulated to all the State Governments and UT Administrations with the request to amend their Building Bye-laws and Master Plan Regulations.
Cities and towns in the country are facing the problems of environmental pollution thereby severely impacting the health of the urban residents. India is committed to Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Climate Change of the United Nations to take urgent action to combat climate change. 
The Government has initiated several steps to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. One of such steps is to encourage Electric Vehicles (EVs), which are environment-friendly. At least 25% of the total vehicles on roads should be EVs by 2030, the Government is hoping.

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Modi says India aims to be in the top 50 in Ease of Business rankings next year

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that India aimed to be in the Top 50 of the World Bank's Ease of Business rankings next year and to make its regulations and processes among the best anywhere.

Modi addresses delegates at Vibrant Gujarat Summit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that India aimed to be in the Top 50 of the World Bank's Ease of Business rankings next year and to make its regulations and processes among the best anywhere.
In his inaugural address at the 9th Vibrant Gujarat Summit here, he pointed out that, in the last four years, India had jumped 65 places in the Global Ranking of World Bank’s Doing Business Report from 142 in 2014 to 77. 
“But we are still not satisfied. I have asked my team to work harder so that India is in the top 50 next year. I want our regulations and processes to compare with the best in the world," he said.
“In Foreign Direct Investment, we are one of the most open countries now. Most of the sectors of our economy are now open for FDI. More than 90% approvals have been put on automatic route. Such measures have propelled our economy into a high growth path. In the last four years, we have received FDI worth $ 263 billion. This is 45% of the FDI received in last 18 years.
“We have also made Doing Business Smarter. We are insisting on IT based transactions in procurement and purchases of Government. Digital payments including direct transfer of government benefits is now under full implementation. 
“We are among the largest eco-systems in the world for start-ups and a number of them have come up in the field of technology. I can therefore safely say that doing business with us is a great opportunity,” he added.
The Prime Minister said it was also because India was among the top 10 FDI destinations listed by UNCTAD. “Ours is a globally cost competitive manufacturing environment. We have a vast pool of skilled professionals with knowledge and energy. We have a world class engineering education base and strong Research and Development facilities. Rise in GDP, a rising middle class and their purchasing power is creating further growth in our huge domestic market. 
“In the last two years, we have moved towards a low tax regime on the corporate side. We have lowered the tax from 30 % to 25 % for new investments as well as small and-medium ventures. 
“On IPR issues, we have evolved benchmarking policies. Now, we are one of the fastest trademark regimes. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code now gives businesses an exit window without the burden of long legal and financial battles,” he pointed out.
Thus, from the start of business to its operation and closure, attention has been given to building new institutions, processes and procedures. 
“All this is important, not just for doing business but also for ease of life of our people. We also understand that, being a young nation, we need to create job opportunities and better infrastructure. Both are linked with investments. Therefore, in recent years, there has been unprecedented focus on manufacturing and infrastructure,” Mr Modi said.
“We have worked hard to promote manufacturing to create jobs for our youth. Investments through our 'Make in India' initiative have been well supported by programmes like ‘Digital India’ and ‘Skill India’. 
“Our focus also includes bringing our industrial infrastructure, policies and practices to best global standards and to convert India into a global manufacturing hub,” he added.
The Prime Minister pointed out that India continues to remain one of the fastest growing major economies in the world. Major international financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF as well as rating agencies like Moody’s have expressed confidence in India’s economic journey.
“We have focused on removing the barriers which were preventing us from achieving our full potential. We will continue the pace and process of reforms and de-regulation,” he added.
The implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and other measures for simplification and consolidation of taxes have reduced transaction costs and made processes efficient, he said.
“We have committed to the world to work towards reducing the effects of climate change. On the energy front, we are now the fifth largest producer of renewable energy in the world.  We are fourth largest in Wind Energy and fifth largest producer of Solar Energy.
“We are keen to scale up investments in next generation infrastructureincluding roads, ports, railways, airports, telecom, digital networks and energy. We are also investing heavily in our social, industrial and agri-infrastructure to give better income and quality of life to our people,” the Prime Minister said. 
"To give some examples, in four years there has been maximum capacity addition & generation of electricity. For the first time, India has become a net exporter of electricity. We have distributed LED Bulbs on a massive scale. This has resulted in huge energy savings.
“We have installed transmission lines at an unprecedented pace. Our speed in road construction has almost doubled. We have done unprecedented capacity addition in major ports. Rural road connectivity is now 90 %.  
"The speed of setting up new rail lines, gauge conversion, doubling and electrification of railway tracks has also doubled.  We are debottlenecking execution of major projectson a regular basis through an online process.
“Our Public Private Partnership regime for infrastructure has been made more investor friendly. At 7.3%,the average GDP growth, over the entire term of our Governmenthas been the highest of any Indian Government since 1991.
"At the same time, the rate of inflation at 4.6 % is the lowest for any Indian Government since 1991, when India began its process of liberalization.
“We believe that fruits of development must reach people with ease and efficiency. To give you a few examples, now we have a bank account for every family. We are giving loans to small enterprises without collateral. 
“We now have electricity in every village. We also have electricity in almost all households now. We have given cooking gas to large numbers of people who were not able to afford it so far. We have ensured that there is proper sanitation in all areas - both urban and rural. We are working towards full coverage of toilets for households and their proper use,” he added.
The Prime Minister pointed out that India was among the fast growing tourist destinations in the world in 2017. India had a growth of 14% over 2016, while the world grew at an average of 7% in the same year. 
“We have also been the fastest growing aviation market in the world, with double-digit growth in passenger ticketing terms, for over four years,” he added.
“Thus a New India is emerging which will be modern and competitive and yet caring and compassionate. An example of this compassion is our Medical Assurance Scheme called Ayushman Bharat. 
“This will benefit about 500 million people – which is more than the population of United States, Canada and Mexico combined. Ayushman Bharat will provide immense investment opportunities in the areas of health infrastructure, medical equipment manufacturing, and healthcare services,” he added.
“In terms of infrastructure, 50 cities in India are ready to build Metro Rail Systems. We have to build 50 million houses. The requirement of road, rail and waterways is enormous. We want world-class technologies to achieve our goal in a faster and cleaner way.
“India is, thus, a land of immense opportunities. It is the only place, which offers you Democracy, Demography and Demand. To those who are already present in India, I would like to assure you that our democratic system, human values and strongjudicial system will ensure the safety and security of your investments. 
“We are continuously working to improve the investment climate further and make ourselves more and more competitive. For those who are not yet present in India, I extend an invitation and encourage you to explore the opportunities. This is the best time to be here. We have set up dedicated ways to help investors on a one to one basis. Above all I assure you that I will be always available to hold your hands in your journey,” he added.

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Government committed to bringing triple talaq law: Modi

Modi attends BJP women’s wing's convention
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said despite all "obstacles" from fundamentalists and Opposition, his government was committed to bringing a law against the practice of triple talaq to ensure social justice for Muslim women.
"Despite all the obstacles, despite resistance from the fundamentalists and the Opposition, the government is committed to making a law against triple talaq so that our Muslim women get rid of a big insecurity in their social life," he said addressing the National Convention of BJP's Mahila Morcha. 
The government had brought the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill last year and got it passed in the Lok Sabha the same day, but it was stonewalled in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) lacks majority. The Opposition had expressed serious concerns over making triple talaq a criminal offence.
Under the proposed law, a man could be jailed for up to three years for pronouncing an instant divorce (triple talaq) to his wife, which is legitimate under the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence. 
Subsequently, the government brought an ordinance on the subject in September this year which has to be replaced by law in the current session. Otherwise, it will lapse.
Modi said the government had already done away with the condition of a ‘mehram' (a male guardian including husband or first blood relations) to accompany a woman on Haj.
Earlier, Muslim women from India could not go on Hajj alone. The government did away with the condition last year and around 1,300 women performed the Haj without a mehram. 
Speaking at the event, Modi listed a number of schemes that his government has brought for the welfare of women such as Ujjawala and Surakshit Matritva among others.
"Women are at the centre of several flagship programmes of this government...for the first time there are two women in the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)," he said.
Modi asked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers present at the conclave to download the Narendra Modi mobile app and asked them to forward the government's various welfare schemes to all their contacts.
"When I tell the world leaders that India has allowed 36 months of maternity leave to women, they look away from me. Not even the developed countries have given such a facility to women," the Prime Minister said.
He said his government was trying to promote women entrepreneurs through various schemes including the Mudra Yojana under which the major percentage of loans had been disbursed to women entrepreneurs.

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Eight candidates in fray for Gujarat's Jasdan byelection

Eight candidates are fighting it out for the much-hyped bye-election to the Jasdan assembly constituency, polling for which will be held on Thursday.
All eyes are on the big two contenders from the BJP and Congress. The election was necessitated after cabinet minister Kunwarji Bavaliya quit the Congress to join the ruling BJP, which elevated him the same day recently.
Jasdan in Saurashtra region's Rajkot district has been a pocket borough of the opposition Congress and Bavaliya, who is a prominent Koli community leader.
The bye-poll has gained significance in the backdrop of the BJP losing three of the Hindi heartland states in the recent state assembly elections.
After the exit of Bawaliya, the Congress has fielded another strong candidate from the Koli community, Avshar Nakia, who is known to have a strong ground connect, which analysts say will help him give a good fight to the BJP.
The Election Commission has deployed 1,150 personnel for Jasdan's 262 polling stations. Each polling station will have one presiding officer aided by three other personnel. "The observer, the Rajkot SP and the District Election Officer, have decided to appoint one micro observer.
The three members have also identified 25 polling sttions where video cameras will be installed. There will be webcasting in some 24 polling stations also, said Murli Krishna, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Gujarat.
The constituency has 2,32,236 voters comprising 1,22,180 male and 1,09,936 female voters. Besides that, there will be 120 services voters from various forces.
"All security arrangements have been made. Today we have dispatched the men and material required for the by-poll," said Murli Krishna.

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EC notice to Gujarat BJP in crucial December 20 Assembly by-election

Even as campaigning for the prestigious by-election to Gujarat's Jasdan assembly constituency ended on Tuesday evening, the Election Commission issued notices to the state government on electricity bill exemptions announced on Tuesday for rural consumers.
The model code of conduct is in force in the Rajkot town since the by-election was announced. 
The state government on Tuesday simultaneously made an announcement on setting up of a branch of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at Rajkot.
The canvassing for the by-election to the seat in Rajkot district in the Saurashtra region concluded at 5 pm. Cabinet minister Kunvarji Bavaliya, who is a turncoat from the Congress, is contesting from Jasdan which he vacated after he quit the Congress to join the BJP recently.
The veteran Congress leader from the Koli community was inducted in the Vijay Rupani Cabinet within hours of joining the BJP. 
Both the parties, the BJP and the Congress, have made it a prestige election since the opposition party as well as Bavaliya have seldom lost from there. While the BJP is trying to woo the influential Koli community in Gujarat through Bavaliya, the Congress feels energized after its recent poll victories in the neighbouring Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The Election Commission's notices to the state energy as well as health departments seek state government's explanation on making the announcements when the model code of conduct was in force in Jasdan.
The BJP government announced pending electricity bill waiver for all categories of rural consumers and the BPL families in urban centres in the state. 
Energy minister Saurabh Patel said the state government had decided to exempt the rural consumers from pending electricity bills amounting to over Rs 650 crore. 
In addition, the defaulters would also be provided new power connections on a payment of only Rs 500.
The opposition Congress promptly described it as a "lollipop" by the ruling BJP compared to the relief the Congress governments had granted in the other states.
On a trip to the constituency, cricketer-turned-politician and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Siddhu said: "It is as impossible to make the BJP speak the truth as to put an elephant in your lap and feed it."
He cited the farm loan waiver by newly-formed Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, reminding the voters that Prime Minister Modi, despite making similar election promises, did nothing to waive the farmers' debts in Gujarat.

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Gujarat: Shankersinh Vaghela's son Mahendrasinh quits BJP

Less than four months after joining the BJP, Mahendrasinh Vaghela, the son of former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankersinh Vaghela, on Thursday quit the saffron party on personal grounds.
Mahendrasinh Vaghela, a former Congress MLA from Bayad, quit the Congress following his father's exit from the grand old party prior to the Gujarat Assembly elections in 2017. 
The senior Vaghela had quit the Congress and voted against the party veteran Ahmed Patel during the Rajya Sabha elections in August last year.
Vaghela later formed the Jan Vikalp Morcha, a third front in Gujarat and even had the front contesting for the 2017 elections. The front failed miserably, with all its candidates losing their deposits.
Sensing his political aspirations going for a toss, Mahendrasinh thought it better to join the saffron bandwagon. 
This infuriated the senior Vaghela and in a press briefing he had given an ultimatum to him to quit the saffron party, failing which he would sever all political ties with Mahendrasinh.
Despite the threat, Mahendrasinh did not budge and continued with the saffron party. But on Thursday, Mahendrasinh tendered his resignation to the BJP, citing personal reasons for the decision.
Mahendrasinh could not be contacted for comments. A source in the Shankersinh Vaghela camp said Mahendrasinh would join hands with his father against the BJP.

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35 FIRs against attackers on migrants in Gujarat, 450 detained

Rape of infant triggers attack on migrants
Police have filed 35 complaints and detained around 450 persons for attacking the migrant community residing in Gujarat, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said on Monday.
After the rape of a toddler, there were widespread attacks on migrant labourer residents, especially from north India, believing that some from the community were responsible for the ghastly crime.
"We have registered 35 FIRs for the violence on the north Indian migrants in the state. We have detained 450 persons and further interrogations are on," said Jadeja.
"We have apprised the central government regarding the steps we have taken to stabilize the situation," Jadeja told reporters here.
"Elements rejected by the Gujarat public can go to any lengths to achieve their political aspirations. The Gujarat Police is also trying to find who is behind this outrage," he added.
"I appeal to people not to be misled by those who are inciting people for their political gains," Jadeja said.
Although the Minister could not provide any data regarding the exact figures of migrants returning to their states, he assured that all those still in Gujarat would be safe. 
"We have asked the police personnel to inquire about the regular traffic to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya pradesh and Bihar and also the numbr of people travelling to such places during this week," Jadeja told IANS. 
The government deployed additional forces in industrial areas for the security of the migrants. 
The incidents of attacks on migrant labourers from north India followed the rape of a 14-month-old girl in a village near Himmatnagar town, around 100 km from Ahmedabad. 
The police arrested a labourer originally from Bihar, Ravindra Sahu, for the crime. Sahu is working in a local ceramic factory. 
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the situation was now under control. 
"No untoward incident has happened in the last 48 hours. The situation is under control. We are committed to maintaining law and order. We request people not to indulge in violence," he said in Rajkot.
Jadeja added: "Migrant labourers and non Gujaratis working in the state need not fear. Your safety and security are our concern. We will not let the peace and sanctity be disturbed by a handful of elements who want to tarnish the state's image."

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Modi coins new slogan 'Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas', gifts women Rakhi homes

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday set rolling a new slogan, "Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas", about his government as he gave away over 1 lakh houses to women under the flagship Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (Rural) scheme, calling it a Rakshabandhan gift.
The Modi government's oft-mentioned slogan has been ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' right from the BJP's election campaign ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The Prime Minister was speaking at an event in Jujwa village in the tribal-dominated regions of Valsad district in South Gujarat after he ushered in ‘e-Gruh Pravesh' in the houses to women. Over 1.15 lakh residential units have been built at a cost of Rs 1,727 crore under the scheme. 
Modi also spoke on video to women across 26 districts who are the beneficiaries of these houses.
"Our government is marching ahead on the commitment of 'Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas' and this is why I can ask you all here in everyone's presence if anyone has cheated you," the Prime Minister said.
Modi went on: "I got an opportunity to talk to women across the state today who got their homes under the PM Awas Yojana. It's a Rakshabandhan gift to my sisters in Gujarat.
"Providing over 1 lakh houses to them before the occasion of Rakshabandhan is really a satisfying moment for me," he said. The houses were "wonderful" because no middlemen were involved in their allotment, he added. 
The Prime Minister said: "It is my dream, it is our endeavour to ensure that every Indian has his own house by 2022."
Modi even took a jibe at Congress by indirectly referring to a statement of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who had said that only a fraction of a rupee sent by Delhi reaches beneficiaries.
"Now, for every rupee we send from Delhi, 100 paise reaches the beneficiaries directly," he said.
Modi also laid the foundation stone of the Rs 586 crore Astol group water supply scheme for the benefit of tribal villages tucked away deep in the forests of Dharampur and Kaprada talukas in Valsad district.
"There might have been several Adivasi Chief Ministers in the country in the past but it is our government that is working to reach water to every nook and cranny in the tribal areas."
He said the Astol Group Water Supply Scheme, of which he laid the foundation stone, was "glaring evidence of our commitment to provide drinking water to smallest villages with 200 to 300 houses in the tribal regions".
Under the scheme, water would be lifted from the Damanganga dam and supplied to these villages through a pipeline network.
Meanwhile, addressing students graduating from the Gujarat Forensic Science University in Gandhinagar at its fourth convocation function, the Prime Minister said the role of forensic science assumed significance as fear of detection and prosecution in courts helps contain crime in a big way.
Referring to the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2018, Modi spoke about the need to use latest technology to detect and solve crime. 
He dedicated a newly built Civil Hospital and inaugurated a slew of projects in Junagadh district in Saurashtra region, where he stressed on the need for good doctors and paramedical staff. 
"We also want medical instruments to be made in India. The sector must also keep pace with the technological advancements globally."
Before leaving for New Delhi later in the evening, Modi attended the meeting of Somnath Trust in Gandhinagar. The meeting, among others, was attended by former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, the Chairman of the Trust, and BJP President Amit Shah.

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A Japanese town in Gujarat soon

The Gujarat government has decided to develop a township for Japanese expats to further promote flow of investment from Japan that has filled the state's first country-specific industrial estate in less than two years.
"We have declared about 700 hectares (1,700 acre) as Japanese township in Khoraj village, five km from the existing Sanand Industrial Estate," said D. Thara, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC).
The 120-hectare Japanese Industrial Park in Mandal, 90 km from Ahmedabad, has got saturated with 13 companies either under construction or already operating. The state saw a need for a larger industrial area and a place for Japanese to call home.
"Now that we are having a traction from Japanese companies, the Japanese will need a place to stay, to establish their culture. They will need a comfort zone," Thara said and added the township will have all amenities like schools, hospitals and market.
The Japanese government is working with the Gujarat government to develop the Japanese Industrial Township, which will have residential, commercial and industrial areas. While the state is constructing major roads, Japan will design the township.
"Japan is planning to engage industrial park developers like Toyota Tsusho. We will give them land and they will develop and give it to Japanese companies. In a plug-and-play environment, the firms can start production and then purchase land," she said.
Eight Japanese companies have already expressed their interest in setting up their units at the township in Khoraj. Apart from the lure of homes and the homelike ambience, Khoraj is centrally located and just 25 km from Ahmedabad.
"A minimum of 15,000 to 20,000 direct jobs will be generated and you can expect five times of that in generation of indirect jobs in areas like services, transport, goods, banking and food. We are talking about one lakh jobs in this township," she said.
The flow of Japanese companies to Gujarat, alone or in a joint venture with Indian companies, has instilled a new work culture, discipline and efficient use of resources, particularly land, apart from the sharing of advanced technologies. 
"The number of residences will depend on the number of industries and the number of workers and officers who will come from Japan. There is no question of constraint of land as the residential area will only grow in height (vertically) after this," she said.
Thara will lead a delegation to Japan in October-end. The purpose of the visit will be to invite Japanese delegations for "Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit" to be held on January 18-20, 2019. Like earlier years, this time too Japan will be the country partner.
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Congress' Gujarat unit plans to woo defectors, calls it 'Ghar Wapsi'

After losing out two bigwigs in two months in the form of senior legislator Kunwarji Bavaliya and former MLA Indraneel Rajyaguru, the Congress in Gujarat has decided to bring back the defectors into the party fold, calling it "Ghar Wapsi".
Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani said the party was open to welcome all those who left the party to join the BJP and were feeling suffocated as well as disgruntled BJP members. He claimed that several such leaders would return to the party in near future.
"After having a detailed discussion in the party, it has been decided that the Congress will be holding a 'Recruitment Mela', a sort of 'Ghar Wapsi', in the coming days for disgruntled BJP members into the Congress.
"They include all those BJP members, who once originally belonged to the Congress as well as the original BJP members dissatisfied with the party," he said.
Asked if this would not create dissatisfaction amongst the loyal party workers who have been consistently working hard over the years, Dhanani said: "There's a difference between this recruitment and the way we do. We will be asking our grassroots level workers and party leaders before deciding who to take back. 
"But one thing is certain, the party won't compromise on discipline and ideology. The party will only welcome those who are ready to follow the ideology."
He claimed that many BJP members have expressed such desire to join the party. "Many such BJP members, once belonging to Congress and now repenting, are in touch with our rank and file and keen to return. They believe in the party's vision and ideology. This will be an attempt to save democracy, preserve the constitutional values and it will be a 'Bharat Bachao Campaign'.
Many former MLAs, local body representatives at various levels, including political leaders from cooperative bodies, have showed their willingness to join the Congress," he added.
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Alpesh, Hardik, Jignesh conduct raids on 'liquor den'

Gujarat's three young firebrand leaders -- Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakore -- on Thursday raided a country liquor stand in the state capital and announced they would be carrying out similar 'janata (public) raids' on illicit liquor dens across the state to expose the government's failure in implentation of prohibition.
They alleged that the liquor stand was running right behind the Superintendent of Police's office here and they recovered liquor pouches from there.
"Every year 10,000 to 15,000 youngsters are losing their lives by consuming illicit liquor. All three of us, Thakor Sena, Dalit Ekta Manch and PAAS (Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti), will together carry on 'janta raids' across the state, beginning Saturday, on illegal liquor dens," Thakore, the Congress legislator from Radhanpur in north Gujarat, told reporters. He was flanked by Mevani and Patel.
"Today, there is a rule of bootleggers in Gujarat," Thakore, who has been running a campaign against illegal liquor for nearly two years, added.
Patel said: "It is sad that liquor is easily available across the land of Gandhi. I went to Bihar recently but it was not available there. How come it is available in Gujarat? If police stops us from carrying out janta raids, it is a failure of the government."
Vadgam MLA Mevani said: "Police and government are responsible for the failure of prohibition policy. It is not the responsibility of Jignesh, Alpesh or Hardik to ensure that the law is implemented but that of the government. There seems to be a channel of corruption that is running from bottom till top. It is a state-wide nexus."
Thakore also said: "A lot of hue and cry is being made about 'Udta Punjab', but here the 'Dry Gujarat' too has similar problems. If the government can stop water pouches in a day, why cannot it stop sale of illicit liquor?"
Police however denied there was any liquor den running from behind the SP's office and only a couple of polythene pouches containing 400 ml of country liquor were found. "It appears prima facie that someone may have planted the pouches! We don't have anything that shows that illegal liquor was being made there," said Gandhinagar SP Virendrasinh Yadav.
The three youth leaders raised the issue after four persons were admitted to the civil hospital in Ahmedabad after consuming spurious substance on Wednesday night. However, police said no traces of ethyl alcohol or methyl alcohol were found.
"The FSL reports suggest that no traces of any drugs or ethyl or methyl alcohol have been found in the initial reports of the blood samples of the four persons. We will have to wait for some more time," said Ahmedabad Crime Branch's Special Commissioner J.K. Bhatt.
Moreover, police also claimed that they want to seriously curb the sale of illegal liquor in the state. "We arrested 240 persons under PASA (Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act) and 55 persons were externed last year in Ahmedabad city alone. We have started a special prohibition drive," said Ahmedabad's Special Commissioner of Police K. L. N. Rao.
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Senior Gujarat Congress MLA joins BJP, to be made minister

Accusing Congress President Rahul Gandhi of playing caste politics and ignoring the aspirations of senior leaders, veteran Gujarat Congress MLA and prominent Koli community leader Kunwarji Bawalia on Tuesday quit as a legislator to join the ruling BJP. He will be sworn in as a minister in the evening.
A four-time MLA from Jasdan and former Lok Sabha member from Rajkot in 2009, Bawalia handed over his resignation to Speaker Rajendra Trivedi. He subsequently went to the BJP's "Shree Kamalam" state headquarters and met the party's state President Jitu Vaghani and two other cabinet ministers to join the party.
The Koli community leader, who has been sulking ever since the December 2017 elections for being ignored for any key party position, said: "Gandhi has been playing caste politics at the cost of the aspirations of senior party men and even the state Congress leadership was doing the same."
"This has been playing on my mind for some time since I was unable to carry out public welfare works without interruption because of internal politicking in the party. 
"On the other hand, I had been watching how Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the national level and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani at the state level have been working for public good," he told reporters after joining the BJP. 
Welcoming Bawalia, State BJP chief Jitubhai Vaghani said: "Such a senior leader from the Koli community, he is president of the All-India Koli Samaj, would be big a asset for the party. 
"This is why Chief Minister Rupani has decided to induct him as a minister today (Tuesday)."
"He will be sworn in at 4 p.m.," Vaghani added.
Bawalia said: "Narendra Modi had sentimental relations with me and often told me that the BJP was on the lookout for sincere leaders like me. And the way he is running the government at the national level, he is wedded to development of the country. Ditto Vijay Rupani in Gujarat."
His resignation comes days after another leader from Rajkot, former legislator Indranil Rajyaguru, quit alleging that the Congress leadership ignored the aspirations of several party seniors.
Rajyaguru had unsuccessfully contested Gujarat Assembly elections in December 2017, against Vijay Rupani. 
The richest MLA from Gujarat, Rajyaguru had vacated his safe Rajkot East constituency to taken on the chief minister.
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Veteran Gujarat Congress MLA resigns from party

Senior Gujarat Congress MLA and prominent Koli community leader Kunwarji Bawalia on Tuesday tendered his resignation as a legislator as well as from the party. He then reached the BJP's state headquarters "Shree Kamalam" and met the party's state President Jitu Vaghani and two other cabinet ministers.
Bawalia, a four-time MLA from Jasdan constituency in Rajkot district, handed over his papers to Gujarat Assembly Speaker Rajendra Trivedi. 
Bawalia was elected to the Lok Sabha from Rajkot during the 2009 elections.
The Koli community leader, who has been sulking ever since the December 2017 elections for being ignored for any key party position, is likely to join the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and, sources believe, could be inducted into the Vijay Rupani cabinet.
His resignation comes days after another leader from Rajkot, former legislator Indranil Rajyaguru, quit alleging that the Congress leadership ignored the aspirations of several party seniors.
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Seychelles President Danny Faure arrives in Ahmedabad at start of six-day visit to India

Seychelles President Danny Faure arrived in Ahmedabad on Friday evening at the start of a six-day state visit to India.
He is accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising two Cabinet Ministers, four Secretaries of State and other senior officials of the Government of Seychelles. A business delegation will also be accompanying him on the visit. 
In Ahmedabad, Mr. Faure will visit the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram and the Gujarat Forensic Sciences University before meeting the Governor of the state today.
Later in the day, he will reach Goa, where he will have a meeting with the Governor tomorrow before emplaning for Delhi.
In Delhi, Mr. Faure will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday morning. This will be followed by a visit to Rajghat to pay tributes to Mahatma Gandhi. 
His official engagements include meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind, delegation level talks with the Prime Minister, calls by the Vice-President and the External Affairs Minister, and an address to the India-Seychelles Business Forum.  President Kovind will host a State Banquet in honour of the visiting dignitary. 
On Tuesday, Mr. Faure will travel to Dehradun, Uttarakhand, where he will meet the Governor on that day and visit the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy on the next day before returning to Delhi and  then flying back home.
"The State Visit of President Faure is part of regular high level exchanges between India and Seychelles, and will accord an opportunity to review our wide-ranging bilateral cooperation including in the fields of defence and security and development partnership," the release added.
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Four held for ragpicker's killing in Gujarat

Police on Monday arrested four persons for brutally beating to death a Dalit ragpicker near Rajkot city in Gujarat on suspicion of theft.
The state Government promptly announced a financial compensation of Rs 8.25 lakh for the family of the deceased person.
Mukesh Vaniya, 40, was tied and brutally thrashed by factory owner and workers of Radadiya Industries in Shapar-Veraval area of Rajkot district and died on late Sunday evening. He was accused of trying to steal from the factory, police officer Shruti Mehta said.
The entire incident was captured on CCTV and the footage later went viral on social media, with Vadgam MLA and Dalit rights activist Jignesh Mevani tweeting the news with hashtag Gujarat is not safe for Dalits.
The incident took place when Vaniya and his wife Champaben, who are ragpickers, were engaged in their usual work near Radadia Industries. 
Factory owner Jaysukh Radadia suspected that Mukesh was trying to steal from his factory. He and his workers soon caught Mukesh and his wife and began beating them with sticks, one after the other.
They allowed Champaben to go after some thrashing but continued hitting Vaniya. He was left in pain at the place. Soon Champaben returned with some men and took Vaniya to the Rajkot Civil Hospital where he was declared brought dead.
She lodged an FIR against the factory owner and workers. Jaysukh Radadia and his associates Chirag Vora, Divyesh Vora and Tejas Zala were arrested, Superintendent of Police Shruti Mehta said.
Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja told reporters on Monday evening: "According to the FIR against the accused, section 302 for murder and 308 for culpable homicide and various sections of the Atrocities Act have been invoked."
He said, "The family had demanded a financial package, a five acre plot, a free house, public shaming of the accused and monthly payment of Rs 10,000 to the family. The state government on its part announced sanction of Rs 8.25 lakh under the Atrocities Act.
"For now, we have provided over half of the Rs 8.25 lakh and the rest would be paid after the chargesheet is filed in the case and Rs 500 for groceries and provisions to each of the four persons in the family for three months," Gujarat Social Justice minister Ishwar Parmar said in an official statement.
Shruti Mehta said the police had also detained a fifth person, a juvenile, and were currently interrogating him but refused to reveal his identity till his involvement was proved. 
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Ahmed Patel meets Gujarat Governor over land acquisition for bullet train

Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat Ahmed Patel on Wednesday led a delegation of state party leaders and farmers to Gujarat Governor O.P. Kohli to submit a memorandum on various issues related to acquisition of land for the Bullet Train project and those concerning farmers and Panchayati Raj institutions.
"We are not opposing development, the Congress has never opposed development. Our track record of the last 25-30 years shows that we ensured balanced development of both agriculture and industries. It has never been one at the cost of the other. But the NDA government is bent upon industries' development at the cost of farmers," Patel told the media.
He alleged that after failing to bring in an ordinance to amend the land acquisition laws and an all-round outcry against the move, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government stuck to the law brought by the UPA regime on land acquisition.
However, they they made amendments to the parts of law coming under the purview of states and did away with the clauses related to public hearing, social impact, and so on, he said.
"We oppose such amendments. Public hearings are announced hours before the hearing, making it impossible for the farmers to attend. We demand that for the Bullet Train project, either the land available with the railways should be used or the land meant for the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC)."
Patel said that the Congress would also support the farmers' movement to be organised in Palghar, Maharashtra, on June 3 to protest against the acquisition of land for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet project.
Political parties from Maharashtra have been opposing a recent land survey by the National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd, which has been entrusted the task to implement the Bullet Train project proposed between Ahmedabad and Mumbai with Japanese collaboration.
The Bullet train is envisaged to travel through Thane and Palghar districts of Maharashtra. This has been opposed by the All India Kisan Sabha, which has launched an agitation against the project.
In the memorandum to the Governor, the Congress also alleged that the ruling BJP government in the state was not adhering to court verdicts on maintaining autonomy of the Panchayati Raj institutions.
"People had no power in either Taluka (Block) panchayats or district panchayats, as those are being run through executive orders of Taluka Development Officers (TDO) and District Development Officers (DDO), who act in line with the wishes of their political bosses," the memorandum says.
The allegations come on a day when the Gujarat High Court ruled that the members of the panchayat would not be able to bring about a "no-confidence" motion against the Sarpanch in the first year and for six months against Taluka panchayat presidents, as it would be against the spirit of the Constitution.
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Rajnath reiterates Centre’s resolve to promote cooperative federalism

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has reiterated the Centre’s resolve to promote cooperative federalism with the states.
Chairing the 23rd meeting of the Western Zonal Council here yesterday, the Minister stated that the Zonal Councils were established under the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 with the objective to develop the habit of cooperative working among the States and between the Centre and the States. 
The Zonal Councils are mandated to discuss and make recommendations on any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning.
During the last three years or so, two Council meetings and three Standing Committee meetings of the Western Zonal Council were held.  In these Council meetings, 41 items had been discussed and 31 resolved, he said.
During this period, including other Zones (Eastern, Central, Northern and Southern), 10 Council meetings and 15 Standing Committee meetings were held.  In these meetings including yesterday’s meeting about 653 items had been discussed and approximately 411 issues had been resolved.
The meeting was attended by the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Gujarat, Ministers of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Administrator of the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli, and senior officers from Central and State Governments.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, in his welcome address, emphasised the need for coordination and cooperation of the Western Zonal States on the issue of marine security. 
He also referred to the introduction of the virtual teaching in about 8,000 classes, providing 5,000 policemen with smartphones having a record of criminals, the appointment of 33% women in police force and the establishment of a state-of-the-art Forensic University in the State.
The Council reviewed the progress of the implementation of the recommendations made at the last meeting relating to surplus lands of various organisations of Central Government to be made available for achieving objectives of “Housing for All: 2022” and issues relating to Aadhaar. 
Thereafter, it took up issues which relate to stamp duty on Imports, problems pertaining to parking in JN Port, non-signing of Power Purchase Agreements by Maharashtra with Renewable Energy Operators, implementation of the provisions of the PESA Act, capacity building for developing Trauma Care facilities, full immunization coverage, National Aids Control Programme, and issues relating to Input Tax Credit on Natural Gas, an official press release said.
Out of the 16 items (including sub-items) discussed, 14 were resolved in the meeting with mutual understanding and consensus, it said.
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Naroda Patiya massacre: Gujarat HC acquits Kodnani, convicts Babu Bajrangi

A Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court on Friday acquitted former BJP Minister Maya Kodnani, saying there was absence of sufficient proof of her presence at the crime scene in the Naroda Patiya massacre case of 2002.
The court also upheld the conviction of Bajrangi Dal activist Babu Bajrangi, who was sentenced to imprisonment for life by the trial court. 
The Bharatiya Janata Party Minister was one of the key accused in the riot case and was convicted by a special SIT court in August 2012. She was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
The judgment was pronounced on the appeals filed by the former BJP Minister and others against their conviction by the SIT court.
The Division Bench of Justice Harsha Devani and Justice A.S. Supehia upheld the conviction by the special court of Babubhai Patel alias Bajrangi, a prominent leader of the Bajrang Dal Hindu outfit.
He was a key conspirator in the massacre in Naroda Patiya area, where 97 Muslim persons were killed in the Godhra aftermath. 
The Naroda Patiya riots was one of the worst incidents during communal conflagration that engulfed Gujarat, following the train burning incident on February 27, 2002, at Godhra in which 59 Kar Sevaks were killed. 
The High Court in August 2017 had reserved its order after the hearing concluded against the judgment of the special court. 
The special court had sentenced 32 people, including Kodnani and Bajrangi. Seven others were given enhanced life imprisonment of 21 years, which they will serve after undergoing 10 years' imprisonment under IPC section 326 (causing grievous hurt). 
The remaining accused were given simple life imprisonment of 14 years.
The trial court's acquittal of 29 other accused in the case, for want of evidence was challenged by the SIT, even as those convicted had challenged the lower court's order in the High Court for respite.
Government counsel Prashant Desai said: "It is clear from the Gujarat High Court's judgment that the court has gone on no witness theory." 
"Twelve accused have been convicted. Besides Babu Bajrangi, Prakash Rathod and Suresh Chara alias Suresh Langda have been convicted under the IPC 120 (B) as key conspirators. 
"The sting operation by the Tehelka was not taken into account by the court. The 12 have been convicted with 21 years imprisonment without remission. 
"Whatever Babu Bajrangi did was no different from what the others did, so his conviction was on parity. Court believed police witnesses." 
"On Maya Kodnani, there were contradictions in the witnesses' testimony against her presence at the crime scene. None of the police witnesses have said that they saw Kodnani at the scene. 
"The SIT will have to appeal within 90 days to the Supreme Court if they want to challenge the Gujarat High Court verdict," added the counsel.
Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said: "Our minister Kodnani was wrongfully implicted in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. But today after the Gujarat High Court acquittal, she has been found innocent."
"We are happy with the verdict and welcome the decision. She has worked hard for the party and definitely she will be given an active role in the party if she wishes to continue." 
Meanwhile, state BJP president Jitu Vaghani has blamed the Congress party for arraigning Kodnani in the case. "The Congress wrongfully involved our former minister."
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Naroda Patiya massacre: Gujarat HC acquits Kodnani, convicts Babu Bajrangi

A division bench of the Gujarat High Court on Friday acquitted former Bharatiya Janata Party Minister Maya Kodnani while upholding the conviction of Bajrang Dal activist Babu Bajrangi in the Naroda Patiya massacre case of 2002.
Kodnani was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court for inciting a mob post the Godhra train carnage in 2002. 
The court found Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi guilty and upheld his conviction. 
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Rupani sworn in for second term as Gujarat CM, Patel continues as Deputy CM

Vijay Rupani takes oath as Gujarat CM
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vijay Rupani was today sworn in as the Chief Minister of Gujarat for a second consecutive term after his party was returned to power in the recent elections to the state legislative assembly, though with reduced numbers.
Mr. Rupani was administered the oaths of office and secrecy by Governor O. P. Kohli at a ceremony here.
Mr. Nitin Patel, who was Deputy Chief Minister in the previous Rupani Cabinet, was the next to take oath and he will hold the same position.
Along with them, 18 other Ministers -- eight of Cabinet rank and ten Ministers of State -- were also sworn in today.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States, former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, former Gujarat Chief Ministers Keshubhai Patel, Shankarsinh Vaghela and Anandiben Patel and other dignitaries were present on the occasion.
Mr. Rupani, 61, and Mr. Nitin Patel, also 61, were elected as the leader and deputy leader of the BJP Legislature Party at a meeting in Ahmedabad on December 22.
In the two-phase polling held on December 9 and 14, the BJP retained power for the sixth consecutive time, winning 99 seats in the 182-member legislative assembly. This was lower than the 115 it had won in the 2012 Assembly elections. The party has since also received support from one independent MLA, Ratansinh Rathod.
The opposition Congress won 77 seats, a significant improvement from its 2012 tally of 61.
Mr. Rupani became the Chief Minister of Gujarat for the first time on August 7, 2016 after the resignation of Ms. Anandiben Patel, who had succeeded Mr. Narendra Modi in 2014 after he became the Prime Minister and moved to Delhi. 
He was until then the Minister for Transport, Water Supply, Labour and Employment in the Anandiben Patel government.
Mr. Patel, who was widely tipped to be chosen as the successor to Ms. Anandiben Patel, served as Deputy Chief Minister in Mr. Rupani's Cabinet.
Mr. Rupani is a prominent Jain leader and is considered to be close to both Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah. He was re-elected from the Rajkot West constituency in the recent elections.
Born on August 2, 1956, in Yangon, Myanmar (then Burma), Mr. Rupani started his political career as a student activist and later joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Jana Sangh, the precursor of the BJP, in 1971.
He has served as a municipal corporator in Rajkot and as mayor of the city. He also served one term as member of the Rajya Sabha from 2006 to 2012. He was elected to Gujarat Assembly in August 2014 in a bye-election. He was inducted as a Minister by Ms. Patel when she expanded her Cabinet.
Mr. Rupani has a B.A. and an LL. B. from the Saurashtra University.
Mr. Patel, who was involved with his family business for some time, was first elected to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly in 1990 and has handled various portfolios, including Finance, Urban Development, Urban Housing, Roads and Buildings, Narmada and Petrochemicals, as a Minister since 1995-96. 
Earlier, he served as a member of the Kadi Municipality for 15 years and as its  president during 1988-90. He was president of Mehsana district BJP during 1997-98. He was re-elected to the legislative assembly from Mehsana in the recent elections.

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Rear Admiral Sanjay Roye takes over as new FOC, Gujarat Naval Area

Rear Admiral Sanjay Roye took over as the third Flag Officer Commanding of the Gujarat, Daman and Diu Naval Area (FOGNA) from Rear Admiral Sandeep Beecha at a ceremony at Gandhinagar near here today.
Gujarat, in view of its strategic location and vast coastline of 1600 km, plays a very significant role in the security and economic dynamics of the nation. 
FOGNA is responsible to the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command for all naval operations in Gujarat, Daman and Diu Naval Area, security of its coast and Offshore Development Areas which contribute significantly to India’s commercial and maritime economic activities.
Rear Admiral Roye joined National Defence Academy in 1983 and was commissioned in the Indian Navy in 1986. He is a recipient of the coveted ‘Binoculars’ and ‘CNS Gold Medal’ for being adjudged the ‘Best All-round Cadet’ and ‘First in Order of Merit’ during cadets and midshipman training, respectively.
The officer belongs to the Submarine Arm of the Indian Navy and is a Navigation and Direction Specialist. He has held a number of staff appointments on board submarines and has commanded Indian Naval Submarines Sindhurakshak, Sindhuraj and Chakra.
He has also held a number of key ashore appointments, including Commodore Commanding Submarines (West) and Commanding Officer, INS Vajrabahu. Prior to the present appointment as the Flag Officer Commanding, Gujarat Daman and Diu Naval Area, the Flag Officer held the appointment of Project Director (Operations & Training) at Headquarters, Advance Technology Vessel Project in New Delhi.

Rahul Gandhi hits out at Modi, says voice of Gujarat's youth can't be suppressed

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Monday launched one of his fiercest attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP government in Gujarat and asserted that the voice of the youth in the poll-bound state could not be suppressed or bought.

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi with OBC leader Alpesh Thakor at the Navsarjan Janadesh Mahasammelan in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on October 23, 2017.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi with OBC leader Alpesh Thakor at the Navsarjan Janadesh Mahasammelan in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on October 23, 2017.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today launched one of his fiercest attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat and asserted that the voice of the youth in the poll-bound state could not be suppressed or bought.
Addressing a rally here, at which Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakor formally joined the Congress, Mr. Gandhi said the youth of Gujarat, whichever caste or community they belonged to, would no longer remain silent and their voices could not be "suppressed" or "purchased".
Elections to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly are due to be held in the next few weeks, and both the BJP, which has been in power for more than two decades, and the Congress, which is making a bid to regain power after years in the wilderness, are going all out to woo the voters.
In an effort to strengthen the anti-BJP camp, the Congress had recently invited Mr. Thakore, Patidar leader Hardik Patel and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani to join its fold. 
Mr. Gandhi's remarks came just hours after the BJP suffered two jolts when, first, Narendra Patel, an aide of Mr. Hardik Patel, who had joined the ruling party yesterday along with two others, held a press conference late last night to say that he was offered Rs. 1 crore to join the BJP.
He said he had been given Rs. 10 lakhs as advance by Mr. Varun Patel, who had also joined the BJP with him, after they had met the BJP leadership together. He produced before journalists the Rs. 10 lakh in cash that he had allegedly received from Mr. Varun Patel, adding that he had been promised the remaining Rs. 90 lakh on Monday.
"But even if they give me the entire Reserve Bank (of India), they cannot buy me," Mr. Narendra Patel said.
Mr. Varun Patel was one of the key aides of Mr. Hardik Patel in the Patidar community's agitation for reservation in state government jobs. The third person who joined the BJP on Sunday was Ms. Reshma Patel, anotehr aide of Mr. Hardik Patel.
Mr. Narendra Patel said he had decided to take the money and display it before the media to expose Mr. Varun Patel and the BJP.
This morning, another Patidar leader, Nikhil Sawani, announced his resignation from the BJP, which he had joined a fortnight ago, citing unfulfilled promises made by the party to the community.
The BJP denied Mr. Narendra Patel's allegations and said it was all a conspiracy hatched by the Congress to embarass the ruling party.
At today's rally, organised by Mr. Thakor's organisation, Mr. Gandhi latched on to the bribery allegation made by Mr. Narendra Patel.
“This Gujarati voice is not an ordinary voice. This voice of Gujarat cannot be silenced or suppressed. You can offer any thing, one crore, 10 crore, 50 crore,  1,000 crore, the entire budget of India, the entire money in the world, but this Gujarati voice cannot be bought," Mr. Gandhi said.
Rahul Gandhi mocks Modi on demonetisation
During Mr. Gandhi's address, Mr Thakor had asked the crowd to remain silent and listen to the speech. At this, Mr. Gandhi said, “You want to make the crowd silent, Alpeshji. But they cannot remain silent. Modiji has harassed them so much that they cannot remain silent.”
“There are thousands of youths in Gujarat who cannot remain silent now. They belong to all castes. There are two more youths like you. They are Hardik and Jignesh. Both of them cannot remain silent,” he said.
He said there were attempts in the past, too, to suppress this voice, referring to the efforts by the then rulers to muzzle Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, who hailed from Gujarat.
“Sardar Patelji, Gandhiji were from this land and they used to protect the voice of Gujarat,” he said. “But today this government wants to suppress Gujarat’s voice. They are so scared that they want to buy this voice.
"Modiji, there is no price tag for this voice. Modiji, you cannot purchase Gujarat’s voice," he said.
Mr. Gandhi began by saying that, for the first time, almost all sections of people in Gujarat were in agitation mode. He said that this was because, for the past 22 hours, the Gujarat government was working not for the people of the state but for just five or ten industrialists.
He went on to speak about the lack of enough jobs for the youth in the state and the rest of the country.
He said that while Mr. Modi goes regularly on radio to speak about his Mann Ki Baat, if the Congress were to be voted to power in Gujarat it would listen to the voice of the people and try and meet their aspirations. 
He said that, in Gujarat, education had been privatised in many cases and students had to pay huge amounts as fees, which they could ill afford. And when they pass out of these institutions, the state has no jobs to offer them, he said.
Similarly, he said the state's health infrastructure was dominated by the private sector, putting it out of the reach of the poor.
Mr. Gandhi said the government had written off loans worth Rs. 1.30 lakh crore taken by the industry, but did not want to waive the loans of farmers, who were reeling under debt. He spoke about the huge incentives offered to industries in the state and there were no signs that any of it had benefited the people of the state.
He also took yet another swipe at Mr. Modi for remaining silent on the allegations in media reports against BJP President Amit Shah's son Jay Shah's company which had allegedly registered a sharp rise in its revenues from just Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 80 crore after the present government assumed office at the Centre in 2014. "He won't utter a word, this is the reality," he said.
Mr. Gandhi said that, if voted to power, the Congress would provide a government in Gujarat that worked from Gandhinagar and for all sections of people and all communities, including the youth, women, farmers, workers. "Whatever I can do for the youth -- education, health, employment, I will do with all my heart and strength," he promised.
The Congress Vice-President also attacked the Modi government for the November 8, 2016 demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 banknotes and for the "hasty" implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST). He said the BJP's version of the GST law was vastly different from what the Congress had proposed during its tenure in office and felt that the government would have to listen to the people and simplify the regime and reduce the number of tax slabs.
Descrbing GST as "Gabbar Singh Tax", in a reference to the villain in the blockbuster Hindi movie Sholay of 1975, he said the new system and the demonetisation had imposed untold misery on the people, especially small traders.

Heat waves projected to become more frequent in India

Heat waves in India are projected to become more frequent during the current century under different climate change scenarios, a new study has concluded.
Even if the global mean temperature is limited to 2 degrees above pre-industrial conditions – as being targeted under global climate change negotiations - the frequency of severe heat waves will rise by 8 times in the middle of the century (2021–2050), and 30 times the current level by the end of the century.
Under the 2 degree temperature rise scenario, population exposure to severe heatwaves is projected to increase by about 15 and 92 times the current level by the mid- and end-21st century, respectively, according to the study led by scientists at Water and Climate Lab of the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar.
The increasing trend of heat waves in India is already visible. Data shows that there has been a substantial increase in the frequency of heat waves during the period of 1951-2015. Based on the heat wave magnitude (an indicator of heat wave severity), the five most severe heat waves out of the top ten heat waves in the entire record (1951-2015) have occurred after 1990 – in 1995, 1998 and 2012.
Researchers said strategies to reduce population growth in India during the century may provide only limited mitigation of heat wave exposure mostly late in the century. “Limiting global temperatures to 1.5 degree above pre-industrial levels would reduce the exposure by half relative to Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP8.5) by the mid-21st century. If global temperatures are to exceed 1.5 degree then substantial measures will be required to offset the large increase in exposure to severe heat waves in India,” the study said.
Heat waves have a direct impact on human health, even causing large scale mortality. If global temperatures are to reach 2 degree threshold, these impacts will exacerbate unless measures are taken to reduce exposure to heat. Such steps will include modification of land cover, construction of shelters, promoting use of passive and active cooling systems, modification in daily behavioural patterns, and development of emergency public services.
 “India currently has a low penetration of air conditioning; increased penetration could substantially reduce exposure for many people, though not for those who labour outdoors,” the study notes.
“Extremely hot days and heat waves have become more frequent in India during recent years. The 2015 heat wave caused over 2000 deaths. The heat waves that can have a large mortality are projected to become common in the coming decades. More alarming is that even if we mitigate the climate change and limit global warming to below two degrees, severe heat waves are projected to occur every year,” explained Dr Vimal Mishra of IIT Gandhinagar, who led the study.
“We find the not only these severe heat waves will become more frequent but they will cover the large area of the country in coming decades, which will result in a significant number of people getting exposed to it. The only way we can reduce the negative impacts is to reduce greenhouse gases emissions otherwise the cost of adaptation (in terms of healthcare, cooling systems, energy demands) can be enormous,” Dr. Mishra added.
The study is based on past temperature data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), while projections about future changes are based on gridded observed data of maximum air temperature as well as simulations from global climate models.
The research team included Vimal Mishra and Sourav Mukherjee from IIT Gandhinagar, Rohini Kumar (UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany) and Dáithí A. Stone (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley). The study has been published in journal Environmental Research Letters. 
(India Science Wire)

PM dedicates IIT Gandhinagar campus to nation during Gujarat visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today dedicated the campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Gandhinagar to the nation and said his government was working on spreading digital literacy to every part of India, among all age groups and sections of society.
"In this day and age, we cannot afford to have a digital divide," he asserted, adding that a Digital India guarantees transparency, effective service delivery and good governance. 
Addressing a public meeting here, at which a large number of IIT students were also present, Mr. Modi said, "You are IIT-ians, I was a Tea-ian when I was young," referring to the times when he used to sell tea on railway platforms.
"On this day, a few years ago, I took oath as Chief Minister for the first time. Till then, I had never even been an MLA. I had decided that whatever I will do, I will do to the best of my abilities," the Prime Minister said. 
He also felicitated trainees under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan. 
Mr. Modi said academics should not be examination-driven and there should be focus on innovation.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Modi began his two-day visit to the state by offering prayers at the Dwarkadheesh Temple at Dwarka. 
He also unveiled plaques to mark the laying of foundation stones for a bridge between Okha and Beyt Dwarka; and other road development projects. 
The Prime Minister said he saw a new energy and enthusiasm in Dwarka today. He said the bridge whose foundation stone has been laid, is a means to reconnect with our ancient heritage. It will boost tourism, which will generate employment, he added, noting that development will be the key to promoting tourism. 
He recalled how lack of infrastructure, led to difficulties and challenges for the people of Beyt Dwarka, some years ago. 
Mr. Modi said that the development of the tourism sector cannot happen in isolation. He said that if we want to draw more tourists to Gir, we should also inspire the tourists to visit other nearby places like Dwarka. 
Building of infrastructure should enhance economic activities and add to the atmosphere of development, the Prime Minister said. "We want development of ports and port-led development; the blue economy should help further the progress of India," he added. 
The Prime Minister said that the Government of India is taking steps towards the empowerment of fishermen. He said Kandla Port is seeing unprecedented growth because resources were devoted to improve the port. He said a new lease of life has been given to Alang, and steps taken for the welfare of the labourers working there. 
He said that the Government is modernising the marine security apparatus. An institute for this will be set up in this Devbhoomi of Dwarka, he added. 
Speaking on the decisions taken by consensus in the GST Council meeting yesterday, the Prime Minister said that when there is trust in a government and when policies are made with best intentions, it is natural for people to support it for the best interests of the nation. 
The Prime Minister asserted that the Government wants to help fulfil the aspirations of the people, and fight poverty. 
He said that the world's attention is being drawn to India, and people are coming to invest here. "I see Gujarat contributing actively to the development of India and congratulate the Gujarat Government," he said.
Mr. Modi later addressed a public meeting at Chotila, in Surendranagar district. He laid the foundation stones for a greenfield airport for Rajkot; six-laning of Ahmedabad-Rajkot National Highway; and four-laning of Rajkot-Morbi State Highway. He also dedicated to the nation, a fully automatic milk processing and packaging plant; and a drinking water distribution pipeline for Joravarnagar and Ratanpur area of Surendranagar. 
The Prime Minister said that it was hard to imagine an airport in Surendranagar district. He said such development works empower citizens. 
He said aviation cannot be about rich people. We have made aviation affordable and within reach of the lesser privileged, he added. 
The Prime Minister said that the definition of development has changed. From the days when handpumps were seen to be a sign of development, today the waters of the Narmada River have been brought for the benefit of citizens. He said Surendranagar district tends to benefit a lot from the waters of the Narmada. He urged people to use water responsibly, and conserve every drop. The Prime Minister said that the Sursagar Dairy would bring enormous benefit to the people. He also recalled how former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel had worked towards making better and safer roads. 
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