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Surat

Kho-Kho: Maharashtra win boys and girls titles at Junior Nationals

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Defending champions Maharashtra won both the boys' and girls' titles with a stellar show in the finals of the 39th Junior National Kho-Kho Championships here today.
 
Maharashtra boys played a nerve-wracking match against arch-rivals Kolhapur as they clinched the title by a single point while the girls also took home the title with a 2-point win over Karnataka.
 
The boys took 9 wickets in the first round while Kolhapur could only manage 7 at the end of the first innings. Displaying great game of Kho Kho throughout the tournament, Kolhapur tried to put up their ace game, but the boys from Maharashtra too were dominant throughout the match. They tried their best to recover in the second innings as they put 5 Maharashtra boys off the mat.
 
The 3-point-lead however, was not enough to stop the defending champions from glory as they pushed the Kolhapur defenders to the edge with front fakes and dived spectacularly to lock 4 more wickets and won the title with a confident win and 3 and a half minutes to spare on the clock.
 
The girls also joined the celebration as they defeated Karnataka by 2 points in the finals. Chasing first, the girls from Maharashtra booked 5 wickets in the first round itself while Karnataka had to settle for 3. Both the teams acquired 4 more points in the second innings which helped Maharashtra to keep their 2 points lead intact at the end of the session.
 
Reshma Rathod, after her match-winning knock in the semi-finals, continued her unstoppable show in the finals too. She took 2 crucial wickets for Maharashtra in the second innings. On the defensive end, she shattered Karnatka’s confidence by successfully defending for 5 minutes and 40 seconds in both the innings using an unpredictable combination of zig-zag and long run to dominate the strategies that the opponent had placed.
 
For boys, Dilip Khandavi was the star of the match as he took 2 wickets in each innings while being exceptionally brilliant on the defensive front too. Dilip defended for a total of 4 minutes in both the innings.
 
Dilip and his counterpart Janvi Pethe from the girl's team were adjudged as the best players of the tournament and were awarded the much acclaimed Veer Abhimanyu award and Janaki award, respectively.
 
While Kolhapur and Karnataka had to settle for the silver in the boys’ and the girls’ categories, respectively, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi were the second runners-up. Home team Gujarat maintained the 4th position in the girls’ category.
 
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Kho Kho: Maharashtra boys and girls aim for yet another title win at Junior National

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The girls final will be played between Maharashtra and Karnataka whereas the showdown in the boys' section will be between traditional rivals Maharashtra and Kolhapur as hosts Gujarat saw upset defeats in the semi-finals at the 39th Junior National Kho Kho tournament here on Wednesday.
 
While torrential rain a day before led to the playing field being submerged under water, the venue needed to be shifted at the last minute to the Sarsana Convention Indoor Centre for the matches to be resumed late in the afternoon.
 
Defending champions Maharashtra were the first team to take the mat and defeated Delhi by 2 points to assure medals for the team. The match which saw some head to head fights from both the teams was won by the girls’ team of Maharashtra with almost 2 minutes to spare on the clock. The girls, putting up a fine display of tactical approach using continues khos, challenged the Delhi defenders at the pole and secured the crucial wickets using smart pole dives.
 
Reshma Rathod was the star for Maharashtra as she took 3 out of 5 wickets for Maharashtra and also put up a fine run to tire off the players from the capital in both the innings. Delhi fought hard but fell short of 1 point in each innings to bid adieu in the semis.
 
The Maharashtra boys too put up a scintillating show as they defeated Karnataka by 3 points and an innings to spare.
 
Gujarat girls, however, had a rough day on the field as despite coming very close to the winning lines the girls lost to Karnataka by a point in the last four. The Karnataka girls wrapped the game with effective ring game and boundary line dives in just about 21 minutes.
 
In the other semi-final, the Kohlapur boys, backed by a strong all-round show, won their match against Andhra Pradesh by 4 points in a close encounter.
 
Owing to a complete washout on the fourth day and all rounds of the knockout being shifted to the last day, the technical team in consultation with the jury of appeal took a decision to reduce the match to 28 minutes compared to 36 minutes with each turn being played for 7 minutes compared the  standard 9 minutes.
 
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Fire officers suspended for Surat blaze, state govt orders all coaching centres shut

The scene in Surat, Gujarat where a major fire broke out at a commercial complex that housed, among others, a coaching centre, killing 23 students, on May 24, 2019.
The scene in Surat, Gujarat where a major fire broke out at a commercial complex that housed, among others, a coaching centre, killing 23 students, on May 24, 2019.
The Surat Municipal Corporation on Saturday suspended two fire officers for granting a no-objection certificate to the building which was engulfed by a devastating fire here that claimed 22 young lives a day earlier.
 
The move came hours after the manager of the coaching class where the deceased students were studying was arrested and two others booked for the incident.
 
Municipal Commissioner M Thenarasan told reporters that Surat's Deputy Chief Fire Officer S. K. Acharya and Fire Officer Kirti Modh were suspended with immediate effect on charges of not taking action against the Takshashila Arcade where Friday's blaze occurred for violation of fire safety norms.
 
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani stated: "We have constituted an investigation committee. Urban Secretary (Principal Secretary, Urban Development), Mukesh Puri has been asked to file a report based on which we will take action. The manager and builder have been arrested."
 
Surat Assistant Commissioner of Police P. L. Chaudhari late Saturday evening said the death toll in the incident had risen to 22. He informed reporters that "two teenage girls died today, taking the toll to 22, including 18 girls and four boys."
 
Earlier, an official had said the number was 23. Around 12 injured persons were still undergoing treatment at various hospitals.
 
Most of the students who were killed in the fire were aged between 14 and 17. Some were expecting their Class 12 results on Saturday.
 
Shaken by the fire, all of Gujarat's eight municipal corporations and scores of municipalities on Saturday ordered a shutdown of all coaching centres running in commercial complexes.
 
Officials said the coaching centres had been ordered to put all fire safety norms in place, without which they would not be allowed to function.
 
The authorities started investigating fire safety norms in coaching classes, private hospitals and other buildings in various towns and cities of the state. Many of these buildings, including a library in capital Gandhinagar, were sealed, along with 40 coaching centres in Bharuch and many others at several places.
 
The police have arrested Bhargav Butani, who ran the art and drawing classes in Takshashila Arcade building in Surat's Sarthana area, Police Commissioner Satish Sharma said.
 
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Two others, including the builder of the commercial complex, Harsukh Vekaria, were also booked. A search was on for the builder.
 
Sharma told reporters: "We have ordered an investigation into the fire incident by the ACP, Crime Branch. A case under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code for culpable homicide has been lodged against the accused."
 
Official sources revealed there were no proper fire safety norms being followed in the building. Two shops and around a dozen two-wheelers parked below were also gutted in another fire sparked off by the blaze because of the electric wires and poles nearby.
 
The fire broke out late afternoon around 4 p.m. in the Smart Design Studio, which ran illegally on the covered terrace of the Takshashila building that effectively became the fourth storey.
 
Officials said the fire started at the ground floor and reached the top floor. Some students of another class, rushed to the terrace to escape the fire and found themselves stuck there. The only way to the top floor was a three-foot wooden staircase, which had been reduced to ashes.
 
According to witnesses, there must have been around 50 students in the Takshashila Arcade building when it caught fire. Graphic videos on social media showed more than 10 panic-stricken students from the third and fourth storey jumping off to escape the blaze and the billowing smoke.
 
Tragically, hundreds of people watched and many shot videos and pictures while student after student fell off the building like ninepins. Half of the dozen students who jumped in panic were killed.
 
Eyewitnesses alleged the fire brigade staff, which got delayed by half an hour, did not have any nets to hold the students jumping from the building and even their hydraulic ladder could not go beyond a little over the second floor of the building.
 
The cause of the deadly inferno is not yet clear, though officials believe it was sparked off by an electric short circuit in a sweetmeat shop in the building.
 
IANS
 
 

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Surat fire toll rises to 23, two students on ventilator

The scene in Surat, Gujarat where a major fire broke out at a commercial complex that housed, among others, a coaching centre, killing 23 students, on May 24, 2019.
The scene in Surat, Gujarat where a major fire broke out at a commercial complex that housed, among others, a coaching centre, killing 23 students, on May 24, 2019.
The death toll in the Friday's devastating blaze in Surat rose to 23 by Saturday, even as seven students battled for survival in hospitals, officials said.
 
Two of the injured students were on ventilator and five admitted to intensive care units (ICU). The condition of four others was reported to be stable.
 
Most of the students who were killed in the fire at an arts coaching centre on the top floor of a four-storey building were between the age of 14 and 17. Some were expecting their Class 12 results on Saturday.
 
Officials said the fire started at the ground floor and reached the top floor. Some students at another class, rushed to the terrace to escape the fire and found themselves stuck there. 
 
According to witnesses, there must have been around 50 students in the Takshashila Arcade building when it caught fire.
 
Graphic videos on social media showed over 10 students jumping from the third and fourth storeys, which was actually a covered terrace, to escape the blaze and the billowing smoke.
 
IANS
 

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Devastating fire in Surat building claims 20 lives

The scene in Surat, Gujarat where a major fire broke out at a commercial complex that housed, among others, a coaching centre, killing 20 students, on May 24, 2019.
The scene in Surat, Gujarat where a major fire broke out at a commercial complex that housed, among others, a coaching centre, killing 20 students, on May 24, 2019.
With the fire brigade personnel pulling out more bodies from the charred remains of a coaching centre in a Surat building which caught fire on Friday, the death toll in the tragic incident rose to 20, while 16 other students were injured.
 
As many as 13 of the deceased students of were girls while three were boys. Four bodies, which were charred beyond recognition, were yet to be identified. 
 
Four of them died during treatment at a private hospital. 
 
The injured were admitted to four different hospitals, including the Government Civil Hospital.
 
Authorities told reporters that the fire was sparked off in the afternoon  by an short circuit in the electricity transformer of the building. As many as 18 fire tenders took several hours to douse the rising flames in the building.
 
The Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) late in the night filed a first information  report (FIR) against three persons, including the builder of Takshashila Arcade in Sarthana area and the person who ran the coaching centre.
 
The SMC authorities were inquiring whether the building had the statutory permissions, including regarding fire safety.
 
The coaching centre was being run on the covered roof-top, which effectively became the fourth storey and there was a three-foot-wide wooden staircase to reach there, witnesses said. This was the only entry and exit at the coaching centre.
 
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who rushed to Surat, ordered an investigation by Mukesh Puri, Principal Secretary, Urban Development, into the incident and announced special assistance of Rs 4 lakh to the families of the deceased children.
 
Shocked by the incident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter: "Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy. My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected."
 
Several other leaders, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Congress treasurer Ahmed Patel also condoled the death of the students.
 
IANS
 

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Devastating fire in Surat building kills 17 students

The scene in Surat, Gujarat where a major fire broke out at a commercial complex that housed, among others, a coaching centre, killing 17 students, on May 24, 2019.
The scene in Surat, Gujarat where a major fire broke out at a commercial complex that housed, among others, a coaching centre, killing 17 students, on May 24, 2019.
A devastating fire engulfed a coaching centre in a building in Surat in Gujarat on Friday, killing 17 students.
 
Official sources said some of the students were charred to death while some others jumped off the four-storeyed building in panic and died as they fell.
 
Fire Brigade sources confirmed that 17 students were killed in the incident at the Takshashila Arcade building in Sarthana area. Officials feared that the death toll could go up further.
 
The coaching centre was being run on the covered roof-top, which effectively became the fourth storey, and there was a wooden staircase to reach there, witnesses said. 
 
The authorities of the Surat Municipal Corporation were inquiring whether the building had taken the statutory permission, including regarding fire safety.
 
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who ordered an investigation into the incident by Mukesh Puri, Principal Secretary, Urban Development, himself rushed to Surat.
 
He also announced a financial help of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the students who died.
 
Shocked by the incident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on his tweeter handle: "Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy. My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected."
 
Several other leaders, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi, also condoled the death of the students.
 
IANS
 

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At least 15 students killed in major fire in Surat

The scene in Surat, Gujarat where a major fire broke out at a commercial complex that housed, among others, a coaching centre, kiling 15 students, on May 24, 2019.
The scene in Surat, Gujarat where a major fire broke out at a commercial complex that housed, among others, a coaching centre, kiling 15 students, on May 24, 2019.
At least 15 students were killed and several others injured in a devastating fire at a coaching centre atop a four-storey building in Sarthana area of Surat in Gujarat on Friday evening.
 
Official sources said some of the students were charred to death while some others jumped off the building in panic and died as they fell. 
 
Surat Police Commissioner Satish Sharma confirmed the death of 15 students. The death toll could increase. 
 
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani ordered an investigation into the tragedy and asked Mukesh Puri, Principal Secretary, Urban Development, to rush to Surat. 
 
He also declared financial help of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the students who died.
 
Shocked by the incident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on his tweeter handle: "Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat. My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected."
 
IANS

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15 die in fire at Surat coaching centre

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At least 15 students were killed when a fire engulfed a coaching centre in Surat in Gujarat on Friday, police said.
 
Many others were still said to be trapped inside the four-storeyed building. 
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his anguish. 
 
"Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat. My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected," he tweeted.
 
IANS
 
 

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Asaram's son gets life imprisonment in rape case

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A court here on Tuesday sentenced Narayan Sai, the son of self-styled godman Asaram, to life imprisonment in a 2013 rape case.
 
The sessions court, which had convicted him on Friday, also slapped a fine of Rs 5 lakh on him, asking him to pay this amount as compensation to the victim. He was also separately penalized Rs 1 lakh for the crime.
 
Three of Narayan Sai's aides - Ganga, Jamana and Hanuman - who were also convicted in the case, were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 each. His driver was given five years in jail with a fine of Rs 500.
 
Narayan Sai's lawyer told reporters after the sentencing that they would appeal in the high court for his release on bail within next 60 days.
 
Two charge sheets were filed against 35 persons in the case, while the prosecution had produced 53 witnesses and the defence 14 witnesses. Narayan Sai was arrested in December 2013 from Pipli near Haryana's Kurukshetra after two sisters from Surat filed rape complaints against him and his father Asaram in October that year. They had lodged separate complaints against the two.
 
His father, Ashumal Harpalani alias Asaram, was convicted last year for raping a minor girl in Rajasthan and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Jodhpur court.
 
One of the sisters had accused Narayan Sai, who also claims to be a godman himself, of repeated sexual assaults when they were living at Asaram's Surat ashram between 2002 and 2005. Police had booked Narayan Sai on charges of rape, sexual assault, illegal confinement and other offences.
 
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Govt. approves Surat Metro Rail Project with two corridors

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The Government has approved the Surat Metro Rail Project in Gujarat with two corridors with a combined length of 40.35 km.
 
The project will be completed in five years at an estimated project cost of Rs. 12020.32 crore, an official press release said.
 
"This project will provide continuous availability of affordable, reliable, safe, secure and seamless transport system in the urban agglomeration of the city. It will reduce the accidents, pollution, travel time, energy consumption, anti-social incidents as well as regulate urban expansion and land use for sustainable development. The Metro will provide eco friendly and sustainable public transport to residents, commuters, visitors and travelers," the release said.
 
The corridor-1, Sarthana to Dream City, is 21.61 kms comprising an   underground stretch of 6.47 km and an  elevated corridor of 15.14 km, which will connect 20 metro stations (via Sarthana, Nature Park, Kapodra, Labheshwar Chowk area, Central Warehouse, Surat Railway station, Maskati hospital, Gandhi Baug, Majura Gate, Roopali canal, Dream City). 
 
The corridor-2, Bhesan to Saroli, will be 18.74 kms long and will be entirely elevated. It will connect 18 stations. (via Bhesan, Ugat Vaarigruh, Palanpur Road, LP Savani School, Adajan Gam, Aquarium, Majuragate, Kamela Darwaza, Magob and Saroli).
 
Maintenance facilities will be set up at Dream City and Bhesan depots, the release said.
 
The project will be implemented by Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation (GMRC) Ltd.
 
The project will be financed mainly through equity from Government of India and Government of Gujarat on 50:50 basis and loan from bilateral/ multilateral agencies, the release added.
 
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Modi dedicates National Salt Satyagraha Memorial in Dandi to nation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial at Dandi in Navsari district, Gujarat to the nation on Wednesday on Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary and said all efforts would be made to carry the forward the legacy of the Father of the Nation.
 
Modi dedicates National Salt Memorial to nation
Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial at Dandi in Navsari district, Gujarat to the nation today on Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary and said all efforts would be made to carry the forward the legacy of the Father of the Nation.
 
In particular, he reiterated that the government would continue its endeavours to bring basic amenities to the villages, from clean cooking fuel to electricity and healthcare to financial services.
 
At the memorial site, he also unveiled statues of Mahatma Gandhi and 80 Satyagrahis who had marched with him during the historic Dandi Salt March in 1930 to make salt from sea water against the British law. The memorial also has 24 narrative murals depicting various events and stories from the historic 1930 Salt March. Solar trees are installed to meet the energy requirements of the memorial complex. 
 
Addressing a public meeting after going around the complex, Modi congratulated everyone who has worked for the memorial. 
 
"This memorial reminds us of the great sacrifices of the people of our country for the cause of freedom,” he said.
 
He said the Dandi memorial encapsulated the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi -- Agrah for Swadeshi, Swatchagrah and Satyagraha and it will be a major  attraction for the tourists in the coming days.
 
He said the government had modernised around 2000 institutions related to khadi. It has benefitted lakhs of craftsmen and workers. "Khadi is now not only a fashion statement but a symbol of women empowerment as well," he said.
 
Swadeshi played an immensely important role in freedom struggle, likewise, handlooms will be instrumental in overcoming poverty. The government has declared 7th of August to be celebrated as Handlooms Day, every year to promote handlooms, he added.
 
Underlining the importance laid by Mahatma Gandhi for cleanliness, Modi said the people had imbibed those values for a clean India. He said the impact of the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan launched by the government is that the  cleanliness in rural area  has increased from just 38 per cent in 2014 to 98 per cent now  with the NDA Government in  power. 
 
Earlier, during a day-long visit to Gujarat, his home state, Modi laid the foundation stone for extension of the terminal building of Surat Airport, inaugurated various developmental projects and the state-of-the-art Rasilaben Sevantilal Venus Hospital here.
 
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At the airport ceremony, Modi said, “For Ease of Doing Business, the infrastructure of this country must improve and extension of Surat airport is an effort in this direction.” 
 
The Surat Airport Terminal building is being extended at a cost of Rs 354 crore with an area of over 25,500 square metres. It will be an eco-friendly sustainable building, using solar energy and LED lighting. 
 
When the work of the new terminal is over, it will be able to handle 26 lakh passengers in a year in place of 4 lakh now. An Air India Express flight will soon connect Surat to Sharjah. There will be two flights per week initially, which will be doubled to four per week later, he added.
 
Under the Udan scheme, more number of airports were being added to give a boost to air connectivity and now people can access it not far from their respective places. He added, “We want to make air travel accessible to everybody. UDAN has immensely helped to boost air connectivity in India. UDAN has added 40 Airports on the air map of India.  The government is planning to develop more such airports across the country,” he said.
 
Comparing the performance of his Government with the UPA, Mr. Modi said, “In four years of our rule, we constructed 1.30 crore houses while in UPA rule they built 25 lakh houses. Now we have more than 400 passport offices compared to only 80 in 2014.”
 
He distributed keys to some beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana in Surat. He said the Government is working on a mission mode with focussed approach for ease of living of the poor and middle class of the country, “More than 13 lakh houses have been built for the poor living in cities in the past four years by the government and construction of 37 lakh homes is underway,” he added. 
 
Referring to the role of Surat in freedom movement, Mr. Modi expressed the hope that the city will emerge as one of the fastest developing across the globe in a decade with a surge in the investments. 
 
Later in the day, PM inaugurated the super speciality Rasilaben Sevantilal Shah Venus Hospital. 
 
Addressing a public gathering, he underlined how Ayushman Bharat has played a key role in providing affordable health care services to the people. He said more number of generic medicines are now available for the people which will not only reduce the cost of health care but also save many precious lives.
 
He said Ayushman Bharat would create an entirely new ecosystem that would help India to become healthier. The scheme will boost the establishment of new hospitals in tier 2-3 cities, which will also increase job opportunities in the healthcare sector, he added
 
Initiatives like Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyaan and Mission Indradhanush played a vital role in the decline in the mortality rate. Due to extensive sanitation drive, 97% population has access to clean toilets now. He also emphasized the importance of preventive health care and said the world has recognized the role of Yoga for wellness. 
 
Later in the evening, he addressed a New India Youth Conclave at Surat Indoor Stadium.
 
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Modi to visit Surat and Dandi in Gujarat on Wednesday

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Gujarat tomorrow when he will, among other things, lay the foundation stone for the extension of the terminal building at the Surat airport.
 
He will also interact with youth at the New India Youth conclave and inaugurate Smt. Rasilaben Sevantilal Shah Venus Hospital and visit its facilities in Surat.
 
Later, he will head for Dandi in Navsari district, also in South Gujarat, where he will dedicate the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial there to the nation on Mahatma Gandhi's death anniversary.
 
The extension of the terminal at Surat airport is being constructed at a cost of Rs. 354 crore with an area of more than 25,500 square metres.
 
It will be an eco-friendly sustainable building, using solar energy and LED lighting. Once completed, it will have a peak handling capacity of over 1,800 passengers. Surat airport is the third busiest airport in Gujarat after Ahmedabad and Vadodara in terms of both aircraft movements and passenger traffic, an official press release said.
 
"Expansion of infrastructure to for development has been one of the priorities of the Government. Several initiatives have been undertaken in various sectors and aviation sector is among them. In Gujarat, civil aviation infrastructure has not only been strengthened but also air connectivity has been enhanced. These include connecting Kandla to Mumbai and Porbandar to Ahmedabad and Mumbai through UDAN scheme. Development of greenfield airport at Hirasar, Rajkot, new ATC tower/technical block at Ahmedabad and Vadodara etc. are among them," it said.
 
The National Salt Satyagraha Memorial at Dandi has statues of Mahatma Gandhi as well as 24 narrative murals depicting various events and stories from the historic 1930 Salt March. The Prime Minister will walk through the memorial and address a public meeting.
 
The Salt Satyagraha March,well known as the Dandi March of 1930, was a landmark event in the history of India’s freedom struggle. It was on this day that, as a part of the Civil Disobedience Movement against the British rule, 80 Satyagrahis led by Mahatma Gandhi marched 241 miles from Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad to the coastal village of Dandi and made salt from sea water, breaking the Salt Law imposed by the British.
 
It will be the second visit of the Prime Minister to Gujarat this month. He had earlier visited Surat on January 19 to dedicate the Armoured System Complex at Hazira. He had also  attended the Vibrant Gujarat Summit on January 17 and 18 at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
 
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Renovated Unit-2 of Kakrapar Atomic Power Station attains criticality

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The 220 MW second unit of Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS-2) attained criticality (initiation of controlled self-sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction in the reactor) at 0222 hours today after completion of renovation and modernisation (R&M) works.
 
The R&M works included En Masse Coolant Channel Replacement (EMCCR), En Masse Feeder Replacement (EMFR) and other safety upgrades. 
 
"This task was completed about three and half months ahead of schedule," an official press release said here.
 
"In this endeavor, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), Nuclear Fuel Complex (manufacturer of coolant channels), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and various vendors/contractors rose to the occasion for this achievement," it said.
 
According to the release, the approach to criticality was undertaken after meeting all the stipulated regulatory requirements. This will be followed by conduct of various tests, connection to the grid and increase in power level to full power as per laid down procedures and regulatory clearances.
 
KAPS, located in Surat district of Gujarat, comprises two units of indigenous 220 MW pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) (KAPS-1&2) which commenced commercial operation in 1993 and 1995, respectively.
 
Two more units of 700 MW PHWRs (KAPP-3&4) are under construction at the site.
 
NPCIL operates twenty two nuclear power reactors (including RAPS-1 of 100 MW owned by DAE) with a capacity of 6780 MW and has eight reactors with a capacity of 6200 MW under construction. Work has also been initiated on twelve more reactors (9000 MW) accorded administrative approval and financial sanction by the Government.
 
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IndiGo launches Surat as its 56th destination

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Low-cost carrier IndiGo today announced Surat as its 56th destination with new flights connecting the south Gujarat city to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Jaipur.
 
IndiGo has so far launched seven domestic and two international destinations since the beginning of this year.
 
A press release from the airline said that IndiGo would also launch three new routes -- Jaipur-Varanasi, Jaipur-Guwahati and Mumbai-Bagdogra -- along with the new flights to and from Surat from August 2018.
 
"The new flights are designed to cater to business and leisure travellers who are constantly on the lookout for new and affordable flying options," it said.
 
Mr William Boulter, Chief Strategy Officer, IndiGo said, “We are pleased to have the opportunity to fly out of Surat starting August 2018. Surat, undoubtedly holds immense potential for IndiGo, and launching operations to and from the diamond city is in line with our growth strategy for the India market. IndiGo is looking at introducing new flights connecting Surat with Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Jaipur. We are also launching three other new routes which includes Jaipur- Varanasi, Jaipur-Guwahati, and Mumbai-Bagdogra.  With these new services, we are providing more flexibility of choice to our customers as IndiGo continues to offer them on time, courteous and hassle-free service and an always affordable flying experience.”
 
IANS
 
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Gujarat farmers protest land acquisition for bullet train

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Strong protests have started emerging in Gujarat against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream project of a bullet train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, with farmers in Surat district taking to the streets opposing acquisition of land for the purpose.
 
More than 200 farmers from 15 villages drove down to the Surat District Collectorate in tractors and motorcycles against the notification to acquire their land for the project with as many as 14 objections. They submitted a detailed memorandum to the District Collector.
 
Farmer leader Jayesh Patel told reporters that around 140 hectares of land across 21 villages were being acquired for the project, which is being opposed by the farmers.
 
"The notification for land acquisition was issued without carrying out the mandatory environmental or social impact assessment," he said, pointing out that there had been no consultation with the local bodies before bringing out the notification.
 
He went on: "Legally, the District Collector needs to declare the market rate of the land for which the acquisition notification is issued." This had not been done so far.
 
The farmers, who gathered at the collectorate, said the government had already acquired enough land for the Delhi-Mumbai dedicated freight corridor. 
 
Patel said even Western Railways have sufficient land to take the project forward. "There is no reason why our land is being acquired now," he added.
 
Besides Surat, hundreds of farmers in another South Gujarat district of Valsad are also strongly opposing the land acquisition in their fertile mango and chikoo region. 
 
Similarly, the National High Speed Rail Corp Ltd (NHRCL), the nodal body to implement the Bullet Train Project, is also facing resistance in Palghar in Maharashtra.
 
"We are in touch with our counterparts in Palghar and like them we too don't want to part with our land," Patel added.
 
IANS
 
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Smart City Centres helping in improved and efficient delivery of public services: Puri

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Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs Hardeep S Puri has stated that Smart City Centre project, a unique component of the Smart City Mission, was helping in improved and efficient delivery of public services.
 
He was speaking while chairing the Consultative Committee meeting attached to the Ministry here recently.  Parliament Members KRP Prabhakaran, Raghav Lakhanpal, Rattan Lal Kataria, Santokh Singh Chaudhary, Durga Shankar Mishra, Secretary and senior officers of the Ministry attended the meeting.       
 
Presentations were made by the CEO/representatives of Smart Cities from Surat, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Pune, Visakhapatnam, NDMC and Bhubaneshwar. These showcased the progress made by projects in various sectors like Smart classrooms (Visakhapatnam& NDMC), Social Equity Centre (Bhubaneshwar), Mayor’s Express (Bhopal), Disaster resilience mechanism adopted in smart cities located in coastal areas, and so on.
 
The members of Consultative Committee were also shown some of the projects in Surat Smart City like Bamroli Tertiary Treatment Plan, Althan Water Treatment Plant, visible improvement of area-Smart Road, affordable housing projects, vertical garden, BRTS (Gujarat Gas Circle), Surat fort and SMAC Centre. 
 
At present, nine Integrated Control and Command Centre at Ahmedabad, Kakinada, Visakhapatnam, Nagpur, Pune, Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara and Bhopal have become operational. Mr Puri said it has been observed that the cities were becoming cleaner due to monitoring of cleaning work through CCTV cameras leading to a reduction in instances of garbage throwing, littering, urinating in public and nighttime burning of garbage. Increase in traffic challan issuing indicated an orientation for better traffic discipline.
 
The Intelligent Transit Management System has helped Ahmedabad to improve its operational efficiency by reducing its operational cost while improving the service levels. Smart City Centres were also providing technical support in ensuring better safety of women on the streets, environmental sensitivity of people, faster response and better preparedness for emergencies and disasters., he added
 
During the course of the meeting, the Minister said that around 1350 projects worth Rs 50,000 crore have been tendered in the Smart City Mission, of which work has begun or has been completed in 950 projects costing Rs 30,675 crore.
 
Another 400 projects costing about Rs. 20,000 crore are at tendering stage.  Other projects being implemented in the mission are Smart Roads which optimize the utilization of space and are adding universal accessibility in 31 cities.  
 
As many as 47 cities were implementing more than 120 MW of solar projects promoting cleaner energy. Development of public spaces like riverfront, waterfronts, rejuvenation of city lakes and ponds are a priority of the mission, he said.
 
“An innovative feature of the mission is that our municipal bodies need to leverage their financial resources by municipal bonds, value capture finance, PPP, multi-lateral loans etc. It is noteworthy that 98 projects costing Rs 6,000 crore are under implementation with Public Private Partnership (PPP). PPP projects are getting good responses not only in the big cities but even in the smaller towns,” he added.
 
He said making Urban Local Bodies financially self-sufficient was very important for sustainable development. The Ministry has also started a campaign to do the credit rating of cities, which has been completed in 412 cities. As many as 155 cities have become "investment grade". 
 
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Education should promote innovation, freedom in thinking: Kovind

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The objective of education should be to promote innovation and freedom in thinking, according to President Ram Nath Kovind.
 
Addressing the annual convocation of the Veer Narmad South Gujarat University here yesterday, Mr Kovind said besides building capacities for a professional career, education should also make students develop a respect for the sentiments of others as well as an inclination to work for the welfare of society.
 
He said the Veer Narmad South Gujarat University is named after renowned Gujarati literary figure Narmadashankar Dave or Veer Narmad, who was not only a poet and writer but also a social reformer. He was a nation builder who shaped Gujarati and Indian identity and worked for female empowerment, widow remarriage and similar causes.
 
The President said the region of south Gujarat is an economic engine for the state. And within this region, Surat makes a significant contribution. The textiles and diamond industries are special to Surat and attract workers from across the country. That is why the city is sometimes called “mini--India”.
 
As the leading educational institution here, the Veer Narmad South Gujarat University bears an important responsibility. The large tribal student population that the University serves also adds to its importance.
 
Earlier in the day, the President attended a function to felicitate family members of cadaver organ donors. The function was organised by the NGO Donate Life. Addressing the gathering, Mr Kovind called for motivating people for organ donation as a service to humanity.
 
Later, at another function, he presented the ‘Santokbaa Humanitarian Award’, instituted by the SRK Foundation, to former ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar and Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi.
 
Speaking on the occasion, the President said he was happy to note that the business community in Surat, which was well known across the world, was supportive of philanthropic and social welfare efforts.
 
He appreciated the efforts of Govind Dholakia of SRK Exports for maintaining this tradition and instituting the awards.
 
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Kovind to visit Gujarat and Maharashtra on May 29-30

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President Ram Nath Kovind will pay a two-day visit to Gujarat and Maharashtra on May 29-30, an official press release said.
 
Tomorrow, Mr. Kovind will be the chief guest at a felicitation function of cadaver organ donor family members in Surat. On the same day, he will also grace the annual convocation of the Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat, and present ‘Santokbaa Humanitarian Award’ to Mr. A. S. Kiran Kumar, former Chairman, ISRO and Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Laureate.
 
On May 30, the President will review the passing out parade of the 134th course of the National Defence Academy in Khadakwasla near Pune in Maharashtra. 
 
He will also unveil a statue of Matoshree Ramabai Bhimrao Ambedkar at the Matoshree Ramabai Bhimrao Ambedkar Garden in Pune and inaugurate the Sadhu Vaswani International School, Pune, before returning to Delhi, the release added.
 
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Three held for Surat rape, murder

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Three persons, including the alleged main perpetrator, involved in the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl in Surat have been arrested, the Gujarat government said on Friday.
 
Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja told the media here that Gujarat Police arrested the alleged key perpetrator from a village in Ganganagar district of Rajasthan, who will be brought to Gujarat.
 
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that Surat Police had arrested three persons in the case. All accused are believed to be originally from Rajasthan. 
 
Police had found the body of the girl with over 86 injuries dumped in the bushes near Jeeav Road in Pandesara area of Surat on April 6. An autopsy revealed that she was brutally raped and tortured for days before her murder.
 
A case of rape was registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
 
The Minister said that over 400 personnel of Surat police and Ahmedabad Crime Branch worked on the case. 
 
Police analysed the mobile data and CCTV footage from a 3-km radius of the spot from where the body was found. The case was finally cracked after police zeroed in on CCTV footage of a black car moving suspiciously in the area. 
 
Earlier, police suspected that the girl hailed from either Odisha, West Bengal or Jharkhand. An Andhra Pradesh man had come forward to claim the girl was his daughter. Surat police even carried out a DNA test to verify his claim.
 
"On April 9, a woman's decomposed body was found lying a few km from the spot where the girl was found dead. We believe she is the girl's mother. We will carry out a DNA test," Jadeja said.
 
"We will appoint a special public prosecutor to pursue the case in a fast-track court," Jadeja said.
 
IANS
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Modi to visit two States, two UTs over the next two days

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit two States  -- Gujarat and Tamil Nadu -- and two Union Territories -- Daman & Diu and Puducherry -- in the next two days.
 
An official press release said Mr. Modi would reach Daman tomorrow and launch various development projects, and hand over certificates to beneficiaries of various official schemes. He will address a public meeting.
 
The Prime Minister will then travel to Tamil Nadu. In Chennai, he will attend an event to mark the inauguration of the Amma Two Wheeler Scheme – a welfare scheme of the State Government.
 
On Sunday, the Prime Minister will visit Puducherry. At Aurobindo Ashram, he will offer floral tributes to Shri Aurobindo, and interact with students of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. 
 
Mr. Modi will also visit Auroville. He will release a commemorative postage stamp on the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Auroville. He will deliver an address on the occasion. He will also address a public meeting in Puducherry.
 
On Sunday evening, Mr. Modi will be in Surat in South Gujarat, to flag off the “Run for New India Marathon".
 
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Secular foundations of country must be strengthened further: Naidu

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Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu today said the secular foundations of the country must be strengthened further and any attempt to create differences in the name of religion by vested interests and religious extremists must be nipped in the bud.
 
Mr. Naidu was addressing the members of Parsi community on the occasion of Iranshah Udvada Utsav 2017, in this village where the Atash Bahram, one of the eight fire temples of the Zoroastrian religion is located.  
 
“Unless there is social cohesion, communal harmony and religious tolerance, the progress and development of the country will suffer. With robust macroeconomic fundamentals in place, India is projected to be the third largest economy in the world by 2028.
 
“However, to achieve rapid economic growth and the New India of prosperity and peace, every Indian should work shoulder-to-shoulder in eradicating the evils like corruption, black money, castism and criminalization of politics as also in eliminating impediments such as illiteracy, gender discrimination and atrocities on weaker sections,” he added.
 
The Parsi community has made an invaluable contribution to the country’s growth and progress in diverse fields from atomic energy to pharmaceuticals, he said.
 
India’s syncretic culture and ethos form the basis of the country’s secularism. Secularism was in the DNA of every Indian much before it was enshrined in the Constitution. ‘Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava’ epitomizes India’s secular ethos. India is a land of diverse cultures and religions, he added.
 
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The association of the holy fire with this historic town dates back to 1742 when the then ruler Damaji Gaikwad permitted the Sanjana Priests to settle in Udvada along with their revered fire, the Iranshah.
 
“The town with its focus on Iranshah is distinctly planned and comprises a large number of houses dating back to 250 years, reflecting the unique heritage and cultural characteristics. I am told that the Iranshah is maintained by nine priestly families who settled in the town,” he said.
 
“As part of promoting pilgrimage throughout the year to this place, the Gujarat Government has appropriately named it as Pavitra Yatradham,” he added.
 
The Vice-President said the values of tolerance and respect for all religions have been part of Indian ethos from times immemorial. 
 
Keeping the tourist potential of the town in mind, the Gujarat Government has initiated Destination Development Project and put in place some basic infrastructure in and around Iranshah Fire Temple.
 
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Ockhi weakens, could cross south Gujarat, north Maharashtra coasts tonight: IMD

Cyclone Ockhi weakened into a deep depresssion over eastcentral Arabian Sea today and is expected to weaken further and cross south Gujarat and adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a depression later tonight.
 
Cyclone Ockhi to hit south Gujarat today: IMD
Cyclone Ockhi weakened into a deep depresssion over eastcentral Arabian Sea today and is expected to weaken further and cross south Gujarat and adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a depression later tonight.
 
However, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) also held out the possibility that the sytem could dissipate over the sea before the landfall due to unfavourable environmental conditions.
 
In a bulletin issued at 2000 hours today, the IMD said the deep depression had moved further north-northeastwards with a speed of 18 kmph during the past six hours and lay centred at 1730 hours near latitude 19.4º N and longitude 71.5º E, about 240 km south-southwest of Surat and 150 km west-northwest of Mumbai. 
 
"It is very likely to continue to move northnortheastwards, weaken further and cross south Gujarat & adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near urat as a depression by tonight, the 5th December 2017. However, there is also a probability of dissipation of the system over the sea before the landfall due to unfavourable environmental conditions, like high wind shear and colder sea surface temperatures near the coast," it said.
 
The bulletin said that, under the influence of the system, light to moderate rainfall was very likely at most places over south Gujarat region (Valsad, Surat, Navsari, Bharuch, Dang, Tapi, Amreli, Diu, Daman, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli districts) till tomorrow morning, with heavy isolated rainfall.
 
Light to moderate rainfall was also likely at a few places over Saurashtra till tomorrow morning and over north Gujarat and west Madhya Pradesh till tomorrow noon.
 
In Maharashtra, light to moderate rainfall was likely over north Konkan (Palghar, Thane, Raigarh, Greater Mumbai, Dhule, Nandurbar, Nashik, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar and Pune districts)till tomorrow morning, with isolated heavy rainfall.
 
The bulletin said squally winds, with speed reaching 50-60 kmph, gusting to 70 kmph, were very likely along and off north Maharashtra and South Gujarat coasts during the next six hours before becoming 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, during the subsequent six hours.
 
Sea conditions would be rough to very rough along and off north Maharashtra and South Gujarat during  the next 18 hours, it said.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off south Gujarat and north Maharashtra coasts during the next 18 hours.
 
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Meanwhile, a well-marked low pressure area over southeast Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood persisted and was very likely to become a depression over the same area during the next 12 hours and further intensify into a deep depression during the subsequent 48 hours, the bulletin said.
 
"It is very likely to move towards north Tamil Nadu-south Andhra Pradesh coasts during the next 48 hours and subsequently to north Andhra Pradesh coast," it said.
 
The bulletin said rainfall was very likely at most places over Nicobar Islands during the next three days, with isolated heavy rainfall.
 
Rainfall was also very likely at many places over north Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha on December 7 and 8, with heavy falls at isolated places.
 
Squally winds with speed reaching 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, were very likely over and aroun Nicobar Islands today and tomorrow before decreasing thereafter.
 
Sea conditions would be rough to very rough today and tomorrow around Nicobar Islands, it said.
 
Fishermen along and off Nicobar Islands were advised not to venture into sea till tomorrow. Similarly, fishermen along and off Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu coasts were advised not to venture into sea between December 6 and 8.
 
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Cyclone Ockhi to weaken, cross south Gujarat, north Maharashtra coasts Tuesday night

Photo:IMD
Photo:IMD
The severe cyclonic storm Ockhi over eastcentral Arabian Sea is very likely to weaken gradually and cross south Gujarat and adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a deep depression by tonight, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
A bulletin issued by the IMD at 0830 hours today said the cyclone had moved further northnortheastwards with a speed of 21 kmph during the past six hours and lay centred at 0530 hours IST today near latitude 17.5º N and longitude 70.4º E, about 480 km southwest of Surat and 300 km west-southwest of Mumbai. 
 
"It is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards, weaken gradually and cross south Gujarat and adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a deep depression by the night of 5th December 2017," the bulletin said.
 
According to it, light to moderate rainfall is very likely at most places over Saurashtra and south Gujarat region (Valsad, Surat, Navsari, Bharuch, Dang, Tapi, Amreli, Gir- Somnath, Bhavnagar, Diu, Daman, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli districts) during the next 24 hours, with heavy rainfall at isolated places. It said light to moderate rainfall would occur over Gujarat region at many places during the subsequent 12 hours.
 
The bulletin said light to moderate rainfall was also likely at most places over north Konkan hours (Palghar, Thane, Raigarh, Greater Mumbai, Dhule, Nandurbar, Nashik, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar and Pune districts) during the next 24 hours with isolated heavy rainfall.
 
Squally winds with speed reaching 50-60 kmph, gusting to 70 kmph, were very likely along and off north Maharashtra and South Gujarat coasts during the next 36 hours, it said.
 
Sea conditions would be rough to very rough along and off north Maharashtra and South Gujarat coasts during the next 36 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin said minor damage to looose andunsecured structures, banana trees, agriculture near coast due to salt spray, ripe paddy crops and kutcha embankments was likely in coastal areas of Saurashtra, south Gujarat and north Maharashtra.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off South Gujarat and north Maharashtra coasts during the next 36 hours.
 
Meanwhile, a well-marked low pressure area over southeast Bay of Bengal and adjoining south Andaman Sea persisted this morning. It is  very likely to become a depression over southeast Bay of Bengal during the next 24 hours and further intensify into a deep depression during the subsequent 48 hours. It is very likely to move west-northwestwards towards north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts during the next three days, the bulletin said.
 
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Under its influence, rainfall was very likely over Nicobar Islands and at many places over Andaman Islands during the next three days, with isolated heavy rainfall.
 
Rainfall was also very likely over north Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha on December 7 and 8, with heavy falls at isolated places.
 
Squally winds with speed reaching 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, were very likely over and around Nicobar Islands today and tomorrow and would decrease thereafter, it said.
 
Sea conditions would be rough to very rough today and tomorrow around Nicobar Islands.
 
Fishermen along and off Nicobar Islands are advised not to venture into sea till tomorrow. Similarly, fishermen along and off Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu coasts are advised not to venture in the sea from December 6 to 8, the bulletin added.
 
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Cyclone Ockhi weakens, heads towards south Gujarat, north Maharashtra

Photo:IMD
Photo:IMD
Even as cyclone Ockhi over eastcentral Arabian Sea is gradually weakening and moving towards South Gujarat and north Maharashtra,  a well-marked low pressure area has developed over southeast Bay of Bengal, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said today.
 
A bulletin issued by IMD at 1620 hours today said Ockhi had moved further north-northeastwards with with a speed of 13 kmph during the past six hours and lay centred at 1430 hours IST near latitude 15.2º N and longitude 69.0º E, about 590 km southwest of Mumbai and 770 km south-southwest of Surat. 
 
"It is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards, weaken gradually and cross south Gujarat and adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a deep depression by the night of tomorrow, the 5th December 2017," it said.
 
The bulletin said heavy rainfall was light to moderate rainfall was very likely at a few places over Saurashtra and south Gujarat region today. Light to moderate rainfall was very likely at most places over Saurashtra and south Gujarat (Valsad, Surat, Navsari, Bharuch, Dang, Tapi, Amreli, Gir- Somnath, Bhavnagar, Diu, Daman, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli districts) tomorrow with heavy rainfall at isolated places, and light to moderate rainfall at many places in the two regions on December 6.
 
According to it, light to moderate rainfall was very likely over north Konkan, including Mumbai, in Maharashtra today. Light to moderate rainfall was also likely at most places over north Konkan (Palghar, Thane, Raigarh, Greater Mumbai, Dhule, Nandurbar, Nashik, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar and Pune districts) tomorrow, with isolated heavy rainfall.
 
Squally winds with speed reaching 50-60 kmph, gusting to 70 kmph, were very likely along and off north Maharashtra and South Gujarat coasts from today from tonight to December 6 morning.
 
Sea conditions would be rough to very rough along and off north Maharashtra and South Gujarat coasts from tonight till December 6 morning, the bulletin said.
 
The IMD advised fishermen not to venture into the sea along and off south Gujarat and north Maharashtra coasts from today till December 6 morning.
 
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The bulletin said the low pressure area over southeast Bay of Bengal and adjoining south Andaman Sea was very likely to become a depression during the next 24 hours and further intensify into a deep depression during the subsequent 48 hours. It is very likely to move west-northwestwards towards north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts during the next three days, it said.
 
According to it, rainfall was very likely at most places over Andaman Islands over Andaman Islands during the next three days, with isolated heavy rainfall.
 
Rainfall was also very likely at many places over north Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha on December 7 and 8, it said.
 
Squally winds with speed reaching 30-40 kmph, gusting to 50 kmph, were likely around Nicobar Islands today and 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, on December 5 and 6 and would decrease thereafter.
 
Sea condition would be rough to very rough around Nicobar Islands during December 4 to 6.
 
Fishermen along and off Nicobar Islands are advised not to venture into sea during this period. Similarly, fishermen along and off the Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu coasts were advised not to venture into the sea from December 6 to 8.
 
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Manmohan hits out at Modi, says winds of change are blowing in Gujarat

Former Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing businessmen and professionals in Surat, in poll-bound Gujarat, on December 2, 2017.
Former Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing businessmen and professionals in Surat, in poll-bound Gujarat, on December 2, 2017.
In a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government at the Centre and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in poll-bound Gujarat, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today  said the recent agitations of the youth cutting across different sections of society were an indication  of the deep dissatisfaction among them with the performance of successive BJP governments in the state.
 
"The winds of change are blowing in Gujarat," he said at an interaction with businessmen and professionals in Surat in the poll-bound state, which will hold elections on December 9 and 14 to elect a new 182-member legislative assembly.
 
"The Congress party will ensure that the voice of every Gujarati regardless of caste, creed, gender or class will be heard. Our Congress government will govern with both head and heart, with Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi as our inspirations," he said.
 
"After decades, the time has come for the intelligent and enterprising people of Gujarat to once again repose their faith in the Congress party, which will work together with 6.5 crore Gujaratis, to take the state to new heights and the future it deserves," he said.
 
Dr. Singh began by saying that he understood that the people of the state had gone through some very tough times over the last year. 
 
"Problems that were no creation of yours, and yet you suffered. I come here to tell you that the Congress party stands with you during this difficult period brought about by the government’s double blow of demonetisation and poor implementation of GST," he said.
 
"Most of you trusted the Prime Minister and believed in the policy of demonetisation, in the hope that your suffering would actually benefit India. I salute your commitment to the cause of rooting out black money. But soon it emerged that corruption remained unabated, those who had black money were able to convert it into white.
 
"Just as you were recovering from one blow, then came GST. Nobody consulted you or tried to understand how your dhandha works. The Prime Minister is from Gujarat. He claims to understand Gujarat and the poor more than anybody else. How is it that he never understood the pain his decisions will unleash on you? This is an uniformed, half-baked crusade on black money where he painted everyone to be a thief, while the real culprits have gotten away," he said.
 
Dr. Singh said the Goods and Service Tax (GST) was a good idea which the Congress initiated, but the BJP government's version was "poorly designed, badly implemented and brought about in such a tearing hurry."
 
"It is no wonder that Surat voiced the biggest protests in India against this injustice by the NDA government. You after all come from the land of two great souls, Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel. When the Mahatma decided to protest against the unjust British tax on salt, he did it from your backyard in Dandi. Standing up for injustice is in your blood and you raised your voice against the shoddy implementation of GST.
 
"The Congress amplified your voice, and was able to apply pressure on the government to listen to your point of view. I am aware that many of the problems still remain, and we are committed to resolving them as much as we can as a responsible Opposition," he said.
 
Dr. Singh went on to speak about the hardships caused to businessmen, traders and workers in industrial clusters and markets across the country. He also invoked the memory of more than a hundred people who had lost their lives last year due to demonetisation.
 
He said November 8, 2016, when Mr. Modi announced the demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 bank notes, was a Black Day for the country's economy and democracy.
 
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"Black money and tax evasion are a menace that the country needs to tackle, but demonetisation was clearly not the solution. It has been suggested many times in the past as one of the methods to eradicate black money. But as a responsible government, we never took such a drastic measure because in our reasoned analysis, the costs of demonetisation always exceeded the benefits substantially," he said.
 
"We know by now that none of the stated objectives of eliminating black money, terror financing and counterfeit currency have been met. To promote a less-cash economy, coercive steps like demonetisation are ineffective. The cash in circulation after one year is close to 90% of previous levels. The fact that more than 99% of the demonetised currency came back into the banking system, has punctured the government’s claims. There are also widespread reports of the rich converting their black money into white while the poor suffered," he said.
 
Dr. Singh said demonetisation had proved to be "mere bluster" to reap political dividends while the real offenders had escaped.
 
"We saw the impact of demonetisation on the economy when the GDP growth rate dropped to 5.7% in the first quarter of 2017-18 under the new calculations. Even this is bound to be a gross underestimate as the pain of the informal sector is not adequately captured in the GDP calculation. Every one percent loss of GDP annually costs our nation 1.5 lakh crore rupees. Think of the human impact from this lost growth -- the lost jobs, the youth whose opportunities have vanished, the businesses who had to shut down and the entrepreneurs whose drive to succeed has turned into discouraged disappointment.
 
"GDP growth in the first quarter of 2017-18 fall to 5.7 per cent. July-September quarter has registered a growth rate of 6.3 per cent. This is to be welcomed. But is too early to conclude that this represents a reversal of the declining trend observed in the previous five quarters. Some economists believe that the CSO which released the figures, has not adequately captured the impact of demonetisation and GST on the informal sector that accounts for about 30 per cent of the economy," he said.
 
He said though there was strong growth in manufacturing in the second quarter, this had been calculated based on corporate results and did not take into account the small and medium sector which suffered the most after demonetisation and the launch of GST. He said there were also worries about the farm sector growth which fell to 1.7% from 2.3% in the previous quarter and 4.1% in the same quarter last year.
 
"We have to remember that this is despite the fact that the Government has front loaded its spending on projects, forcing up our fiscal deficit to a high of 96.1 per cent of the Rs. 546532 crore target set for the full year," he said.
 
He also noted that private spending on construction had been very dismal, where there were huge job losses.
 
"Thus there is still considerable uncertainty about the growth of GDP. The RBI forecasts that growth in 2017-19 will pick up to 6.7 per cent. However, even if growth reaches 6.7 per cent in 2017-18, Modiji’s four year average growth rate will be only 7.1 per cent. To equal the UPA’s ten year average, the economy will have to grow at 10.6 percent in the fifth year. I would be happy if this were to happen, but frankly I do not think it will," he said.
 
"What is even more tragic is none of the lessons from this monumental blunder have been learnt by the government. Instead of providing relief, as I had requested in Parliament, to the poor and marginalised, farmers, traders, and the small and medium businesses, who suffered the brunt of demonetisation, the government chose to inflict on them a badly designed and hastily implemented GST.
 
"This twin blow is a complete disaster for our economy. It has broken the back of small and medium businesses in India. The impact in the rest of the country is equally bad if not worse. The supply chains and credit lines of our MSME sector and industrial clusters have been greatly affected, hampering production. You are aware of the damage done to the ceramics sector in Morbi and the industries in Vapi and Rajkot. Overall, as our domestic sector is not able to cope with demand, China is benefiting from this situation," he said.
 
"In the first half of FY 2016-17, India’s imports from China stood at Rs. 1.96 lakh crore. During the same period in FY 2017-18, the imports from China increased to Rs. 2.41 lakh crore. This unprecedented increase of imports by more than Rs. 45,000 crore, which is a 23% increase in a year, can be attributed largely to demonetisation and GST. These twin blows damaged India’s MSME sector and our businesses had to turn to Chinese imports at the cost of Indian jobs," he said.
 
Dr. Singh said GST had been envisioned by the UPA as a single tax, capped at 18%, but the current GST was a "great departure from that vision".
 
"It has transformed into a complicated mess, with multiple slabs, and rates as high as 28%, along with additional cesses. This was done by the government without paying any heed to our advice, both in Parliament and in private consultations. Compliance requirements have become a nightmare for small businesses. The unending notifications and changes, a repeat of the chaos of demonetisation, have caused needless confusion," he said.
 
"Along with demonetisation, GST has sown a deep-rooted fear of tax terrorism among the business community. At a time when the economy has slowed down considerably, despite favourable global macroeconomic conditions, the fear of tax terrorism has eroded the confidence of businesses to invest. As you know, the growth in private investment is at a 25-year low. This is terrible for India’s economy.
 
"Good governance involves both the head and the heart. It pains me to say that the Union government has completely failed to do its duty on both fronts," he said.
 
"Today, one year after demonetisation, large sections of the country feel they have been taken for a ride by their government. That their trust was betrayed," he said.
 
Stating that questions must be asked again and again on the soundness of policy and the lack of transparency in the government, he said it saddened him to see that every important issue that affected the lives of crores of citizens is being turned into binaries of black and white. 
 
"The Congress party has built India into a global economic powerhouse over the past 70 years. We want to ensure that the national interest is upheld and that the weaker sections of the society are protected," he said.
 
Dr. Singh went on to speak about farmers and the agrarian distress, and the problems of Adivasis.
 
"On every social indicator, from Infant Mortality Rate, Maternal Mortality Rate, to female literacy, Gujarat has fallen behind the best performing states in the country, including Himachal, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
 
"The abdication of the Gujarat state of public education has led to rampant privatisation and decreasing quality of education. This in turn is affecting the competitiveness of otherwise sharp Gujarati youth in the job market," he added.
 
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