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Vadodara

10-ft-long crocodile captured, released in Vadodara

 
10-ft-long crocodile captured, released in Vadodara

Local residents and boatmen in Vadodara captured a crocodile which had strayed close to a village. 

A boatman said panic gripped Chanod village after the residents spotted a 10-11-feet-long crocodile in the nearby river.

The boatmen tied down the crocodile and informed the forest officials. However, they released it back into the river when they noticed that the reptile was injured. 

ANI

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Rahul Gandhi continues to attack govt. on demonetisation, GST

 
Rahul Gandhi attacks Modi govt. on demonetisation, GST
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today kept up his relentless attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the twin moves of demonetisation and "hasty" introduction of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) and derided the government for gloating over the improvement in India's ranking in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business report released yesterday.
 
Addressing a public meeting in Jambusar in Bharuch district near here on the first day of a three-day trip to poll-bound Gujarat, his third visit in recent weeks, he said that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sat in his office in Delhi and interacts with foreign institutions.
 
"We request him to spedn just five or ten minutes with a small trader or a small or medium-sized enterprise and ask them about ease of doing business," he said.
 
"The whole country will say that there is no ease of doing business. Demonetisation and GST have destroyed the economy," he said. "But what foreign institutions say is the truth for them, and what the common man in the country says is a lie."
 
Mr. Gandhi said the government was talking about the benefits of GST and demonetisation at a time when there is misery and anger all over the country. "There is an undercurrent of anger, and in the coming elections in Gujarat, the BJP will get a shock," he said.
 
"Your state has shown the path to the rest of the country for decades. You gave us leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel. The people of Gujarat have now realised that the real strength lay with them," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi talked at length about the "Gujarat model of development" which, he claimed, had benefitted only the top five or ten industrialists of the state and bypassed the vast majority of the poor, the farmers, the youth and other vulnerable sections.
 
He alleged that the Gujarat government had provided a loan of Rs. 33,000 crore for the Tata group's Nano car project in the state, along with land, water, power and many other facilities. He said that, at the same time, the government ignored the farmers' demand for loan waiver.
 
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"Do you see the car anywhere in the country now? That amount could have helped the government waive off farmers' loans. They took land from you, took your water, power, gave it to industrialists. That is the Gujarat model," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said the private sector had come to play a huge role in the state in areas such as education and healthcare, putting them out of the reach of ordinary people. "If you don't have money in your pocket, you cannot get treatment at any private hospital, whether you have cancer or heart disease. That is the Gujarat model," he said.
 
He said the government had also failed to provide jobs to the youth and there were some three lakh unemployed youth in Gujarat today.
 
He ridiculed the government's plans to celebrate November 8, the first anniversary of the demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes, when it was widely known that it had caused untold misery for the common man.
 
"They know that he made a huge mistake, that he wiped out 2% of the country's GDP," he said, adding that the government's claim that it would flush out black money had turned out to be false.
 
Similarly, he said, the hasty and unplanned implementation of the GST had led to huge problems for small traders and small and medium enterprises.
 
Gujarat is scheduled to vote in two phases on December 9 and 14 to elect a new 182-member state legislative assembly. Votes will be counted on December 18.
 
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PM launches Ghogha-Dahej ferry service in Gujarat, says coastal infrastructre being developed

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that his government had, in the last three years, given a lot of importance to Gujarat and stressed that the state must harness the opportunities offered by its long coastline.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the maiden voyage of Ro-Ro ferry service between Ghogha and Dahej, in Gujarat on October 22, 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the maiden voyage of Ro-Ro ferry service between Ghogha and Dahej, in Gujarat on October 22, 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said his government had, in the last three years, given a lot of importance to Gujarat and stressed that the state must harness the opportunities offered by its long coastline.
 
Addressing a public meeting before inaugurating Phase 1 of the roll-on, roll-off (Ro-Ro) ferry service between Ghogha in Bhavnagar district in the Saurashtra region of the state and Dahej in Bharuch district of South Gujarat, he said the government had taken steps to develop the country's coastal infrastructure.
 
This ferry service too, he said, would not be restricted to this one route. He said that other places too would be linked through ferries. He said the goal of the Union Government is to make the transport sector integrated, and state-of-the-art. 
 
At present, the 360 km road journey from Dahej to Ghogha takes about seven to eight hours. The two places are only 31 km apart, separated by the Gulf of Cambay, and the ferry service is expected to reduce the travel time to just over an hour.
 
While Phase-1 will enable passenger movement, the service will also enable movement of vehicles when fully operationalised.
 
Mr. Modi also inaugurated the Sarvottam Cattle Feed Plant of Shree Bhavnagar District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Ltd. 
 
He said that he was happy to be in Gujarat to personally convey new year greetings. He said that this programme, for the launch of a ferry between Ghogha and Dahej, is of vital importance for the entire nation. Noting that this ferry service is a first of sorts, the Prime Minister said it is a dream come true for the 6.5 crore people of Gujarat. 
 
He said that the history of human civilisation illustrates the vitality of rivers and maritime trade. "Gujarat is the land of Lothal; how can we forget these aspects of our history," he said.
 
"This programme is to bring back to life our glorious past; and connect Saurashtra with South Gujarat," he said. He pointed out that people from the two regions frequently travel to and fro; and this ferry service will save a lot of time, as well as fuel. 
 
Mr. Modi travelled on the maiden voyage of this service, from Ghogha to Dahej. During this voyage, he was given a briefing about the ship, and the ferry service. He also interacted with a group of differently-abled children on board the ship. 
 
Addressing a gathering in Dahej, the Prime Minister said that the Government's vision is ports for prosperity. India needs better ports and more ports, he added. Without proper connectivity, the economic development of a nation slows down, he asserted, adding that the Government has focused on port infrastructure. 
 
The Prime Minister mentioned the Government's stress on the blue economy, which he said is integral to the vision of a new India. 
 
Later, Mr. Modi travelled to Vadodara, where he dedicated to the nation the Vadodara City Command Control Centre; the Waghodiya Regional Water Supply Scheme; and the new head office building of the Bank of Baroda, at a public meeting in the city.
 
He handed over keys of houses to beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban, as well as Rural). He laid the foundation stones of several infrastructure and development projects, including an integrated transport hub, regional water supply schemes, housing projects, and a flyover. He also laid the foundation stone for the capacity expansion of the Mundra-Delhi petroleum product pipeline, and a greenfield marketing terminal project of HPCL, at Vadodara. 
 
Addressing a gathering, the Prime Minister said that the scale of development works launched in Vadodara today was unprecedented. 
 
He said that the Government is clear about its priority being development, and resources being used for the well-being of the citizens. 
 
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Mr. Modi said that, since the time he was a child, he had been hearing about a ferry service from Ghogha to Dahej. He said that the Government is now focused on all-round development and the ferry had been made operational today. 
 
He said that as in previous years, "Run For Unity," will be organised to mark the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel on October 31. He urged people to take part in this enthusiastically. 
 
This is the fourth visit by Mr. Modi in the past five weeks to Gujarat, his home state, where legislative assembly elections are due to be held later this year.
 
The Election Commission is yet to announce the dates for the elections in Gujarat, but Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti, who announced the schedule for elections in Himachal Pradesh on October 12, told newspersons that day that they would be held before December 18.
 
"Polling in Gujarat will take place before December 18 so that in no way the results of Himachal can affect the voting in Gujarat. We will, in a few days, announce the dates for Gujarat elections, but I can say for sure that voting in Gujarat will happen before December 18," he said.
 
The Commission's decision to not announce the election dates for Gujarat along with the poll schedule for Himachal Pradesh has invited strong criticism from the opposition Congress, which alleged that the BJP would use the interim period to announce sops for the people in Gujarat.
 
Earlier this week, on October 16, Mr. Modi addressed the "Gujarat Gaurav Mahasammelan" near Gandhinagar, a gathering of workers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the culmination of two fortnight-long marches through almost all Assembly constituencies across the state.
 
On October 7-8, Mr. Modi paid a two-day visit to Gujarat, during which he travelled to Dwarka, his home town of Vadnagar, Chotila, Gandhinagar and Bharuch, among other places, and launched several development projects in the state. He also addressed a series of public meetings.
 
Before that, Mr. Modi had paid a visit to the state on September 17, when he had dedicated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, built on the Narmada, to the nation at Kevadia. He also visited Amreli, where he inaugurated a new market yard of the APMC and new plants of the Amar Dairy.
 
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Modi to visit Gujarat, inaugurate Ro Ro ferry service between Dahej, Ghogha

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit his poll-bound home state of Gujarat on Sunday when he will, among other things, inaugurate Phase 1 of the roll on-roll off (Ro-Ro) ferry service between Dahej in South Gujarat and Ghogha in Saurashtra.

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit his poll-bound home state of Gujarat tomorrow when he will, among other things, inaugurate Phase 1 of the roll on-roll off (Ro-Ro) ferry service between Dahej in South Gujarat and Ghogha in Saurashtra.
 
Mr. Modi will launch the service, which he described as his "dream project" earlier this month, at a public meeting at Ghogha, a town in Bhavnagar district.
 
The service is expected to reduce the travel time between Ghogha and Dahej, which now takes about seven to eight hours by road, to just over an hour. Dahej is just 31 km away across the Gulf of Cambay by sea from Ghogha. 
 
When fully operationalized, it will also enable movement of vehicles. On Sunday, the Prime Minister will inaugurate Phase 1, which is passenger movement. He will travel in the maiden voyage of this service, from Ghogha to Dahej. He will also address the gathering at Dahej, after completion of the voyage, the release said.
 
Also at the public meeting in Ghogha, Mr. Modi will inaugurate the Sarvottam Cattle Feed Plant of Shree Bhavnagar District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Ltd. 
 
From Dahej, located in Bharuch district, the Prime Minister will travel to Vadodara. At a public meeting there, he will dedicate to the nation, the Vadodara City Command Control Centre; the Waghodiya Regional Water Supply Scheme; and the New Head Office Building of the Bank of Baroda.
 
He will hand over keys of houses to beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban, as well as Rural). He will lay the foundation stones of several infrastructure and development projects, including an integrated transport hub, regional water supply schemes, housing projects, and a flyover. 
 
He will also lay the foundation stone for the capacity expansion of the Mundra-Delhi petroleum product pipeline, and a greenfield marketing terminal project of HPCL, at Vadodara, the release added.
 
The Prime Minister has been, for the past few weeks, regularly visiting the state, where legislative assembly elections are due to be held later this year.
 
The Election Commission is yet to announce the dates for the elections in Gujarat, but Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti, who announced the schedule for elections in Himachal Pradesh on October 12, told newspersons that day that they would be held before December 18.
 
"Polling in Gujarat will take place before December 18 so that in no way the results of Himachal can affect the voting in Gujarat. We will, in a few days, announce the dates for Gujarat elections, but I can say for sure that voting in Gujarat will happen before December 18," he said.
 
The Commission's decision to not announce the election dates for Gujarat along with the poll schedule for Himachal Pradesh has invited strong criticism from the opposition Congress, which alleged that the BJP would use the interim period to announce sops for the people in Gujarat.
 
Earlier this week, on October 16, Mr. Modi addressed the "Gujarat Gaurav Mahasammelan" near Gandhinagar, a gathering of workers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the culmination of two fortnight-long marches through almost all Assembly constituencies across the state.
 
On October 7-8, Mr. Modi paid a two-day visit to Gujarat, during which he travelled to Dwarka, his home town of Vadnagar, Chotila, Gandhinagar and Bharuch, among other places, and launched several development projects in the state. He also addressed a series of public meetings.
 
Before that, Mr. Modi had paid a visit to the state on September 17, when he had dedicated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, built on the Narmada, to the nation at Kevadia. He also visited Amreli, where he inaugurated a new market yard of the APMC and new plants of the Amar Dairy.
 
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RIL to acquire assets of Kemrock Industries, to foray into new materials business

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Energy and petrochemicals Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has acquired the assets of Kemrock Industries and Exports Limited of Vadodara in Gujarat as part of its foray into the new materials business.
 
A press release from RIL said the company won the online bidding process held by Allahabad Bank, as the leader of the consortium of 11 banks, to sell and dispose of the assets of Kemrock.
 
The release said RIL's participation in the process was part of its efforts to enter the composites business and establish a leadership position in this large and growing market in India. 
 
Composites are used in a variety of applications and industries such as renewable energy, mass transportation, infrastructure and a host of other industrial products, it said.
 
The release said the assets would pave the way for Reliance to foray into new materials (Composites and Carbon Fibre) and further strengthen its petrochemicals business portfolio.
 
"The company is in the process of complying with the necessary formalities for acquisition of assets," the release added.
 
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Cabinet approves transfer of 4.64 hectares of land belonging to IISWC at Vasad, Gujarat to NHAI

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The Union Cabinet yesterday approved a proposal for transfer of 4.64 hectares (46384 sq. meters) of land belonging to the Indian Institute of Soil & Water Conservation (IISWC) Research Centre at Vasad, Gujarat to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for extension and six-laning of Ahmedabad-Vadodara Highway on National Highway (NH)-8.
 
A compensation amounting to Rs. 12.67 crore is to be paid for the transfer, an official press release said yesterday. 
 
The transfer of land to the NHAl for the construction of extension and six- laning is likely to benefit the region, leading to enhanced opportunities for growth and development in terms of infrastructure, transport, communication, employment generation, and so on, the release added.
 
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APM Terminals Pipavav receives inaugural container train service from Rail Container Terminal, Vadodara

APM Terminals at Pipavav in Gujarat received the inaugural container train from Rail Container Terminal [RCT], Vadodara carrying glass materials, syringes, LED bulbs, flexible intermediate bulk container [FIBC] jumbo bags and platic articles for export.
 
Operated by Container Corporation of India [CONCOR], the inaugural trip of the service was welcomed by officials from Railways, CONCOR, APM Terminals and liners, a press release from the company.
 
Vadodara is a major business and trade centre in western India, with  industries like Petrochemicals, Engineering, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Plastics, IT and Foreign exchange services amongst others. It is also an important terminal for the Indian railways connecting Vadodara city with North, South and Eastern regions of the country. 
 
Through this service, customers in and around the city will get an option of movement of their cargos to and from Vadodara for export and import.
 
The current fortnightly service will be converted to a weekly service going forward, the release said.
 
Mr. Keld Pedersen - Managing Director, APM Terminal, Pipavav said, “We thank CONCOR for this initiative of connecting port Pipavav and Vadodara city. The new service will help safe and secure movement of cargos to our customers.”
 
APM Terminals Pipavav [Gujarat Pipavav Port Ltd.] is India's first Public Private Partnership (PPP) port in India having connectivity to the Gujarat Region and the Northern hinterlands of India. It serves as a gateway for movement of containers, bulk, liquid and RORO cargo.
 
The company is a part of the APM Terminals which is a leading global port and cargo inland services provider with a presence in 69 countries with 73 ports, nine new ports under construction and ten facilities in expansion mode – along with an inland services network spanning 140 locations.   Based in The Hague, Netherlands, the company works with shipping lines, importers/exporters, governments, business leaders and the global supply chain to provide solutions for businesses.
 
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Bharatanatyam exponent C. V. Chandrasekhar, 81, enthralls dance lovers in Vadodara

C. V. Chandrasekhar
C. V. Chandrasekhar
Renowed Bharatanatyam exponent C. V. Chandrasekhar, who is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, the nation's third highest civilian honour, enthralled an audience of dance lovers with a mesmerising performance at the C. C. Mehta Auditorium here on February 15 evening, making light of his 81 years of age.
 
The event was organized by Ghargharika, an organization in Vadodara that aims to promote classical dance with Prof. Chandrasekhar as its president and Ms. Tejal Amin as its secretary. Ms. Rema Shrikant, a well-known Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer and guru, based in the city, who has trained under Prof. Chandrasekhar for 17 years, took the lead in organising the event.
 
The organisers also arranged a dance workshop by Prof. Chandrasekhar at the Navarachana School the next day.
 
Dignitaries present at the recital included Mrs. Shubhangini Devi Gaekwad, wife of late Ranjitsingh Gaekwad, the head of the erstwhile ruling family of Gaekads of Baroda, renowned painter Ghulam Mohammed Shaikh and noted dance critic Sunil Kothari.
 
For the audience, it was an evening of sheer divinity, as though Lord Shiva himself had descended onto the stage in his Nataraja form. The recital was marked by perfect form, clean lines, complex tirmanams and controlled yet powerful abhinaya as Chandrasekhar danced without a break, including a 40-minute varnam.
 
Despite his advanced age, Chandrasekhar performed with agility, perfection and beauty in execution.
 
With his wife Jaya Chandrasekhar rendering the natuvangam (together, they are among India's best known dancer-couples) and Natarajan on the mridangam, it was truly one of the most memorable performances for most of those present.
 
For dance lovers in Vadodara, Chandrasekhar is one of their own, the guru having taught  at the Faculty of Performing Arts at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda for long years. He served as the  Head of the Department of Dance and the Dean of the Faculty, from which position he retired in 1992. He has moulded hundreds of students over the years, and many of them were present in the auditorium for his recital. 
 
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Prof. Chandrasekhar and Jaya Chandrasekhar now run their own dance institution, Nrityashree, in Chennai.
 
He was awarded the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Bharatnatyam in 1993, by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama. He received the prestigious Kalidas Samman in 2008 and the Padma Bhushan in 2011. In 2016, he was honoured with the prestigious Fellowship of the Sangeet Natak Akademi.
 
An alumnus of the renowned Kalakshetra, where he trained under the legendary Rukmini Devi Arundale, Karaikkal Saradambal, K.N. Dandaydhapani Pillai and others, he has also received training classical music under teachers like Budulur Krishnamurthy Sastrigal and M.D. Ramanathan.
 
Chandrasekhar began his career as a dancer in 1947, at a time when there were very few male dancers in the country. He taught for some years at the Banaras Hindu University before joining M. S. University of Baroda and has, over the years, acquired tremendous respect for his accomplishments as a dancer, choreographer, researcher, musician, academician, composer and teacher.
 
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9 dead in road mishap at Karjan in Gujarat

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As many as nine people died and three others suffered injuries when a sports utility vehicle (SUV) collided head-on with a private bus on national highway NH=9 near Karjan in Vadodara district of Gujarat on Sunday night, about 40 km from here, police said.
 
Those killed included four children, three women and two men, they said, adding that the injured had been admitted to a nearby hospital for treatment.
 
Eight of the deceased belonged to the family of a businessmen and were returning home to Surat in their SUV when the tragedy occurred, while the ninth victim was a woman travelling in another car, which got involved in a three-way collision, police said.
 
According to the police, the driver of the speeding SUV lost control over the vehicle, which jumped the median and crashed into the bus moving in the opposite direction. The bus driver tried to swerve but ended up hitting another car, killing one of its occupants, they said.
 
Traffic on the busy highway was disrupted for more than an hour after the accident before normalcy was restored.
 
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Eight dead after shop selling firecrackers catches fire in Vadodara district of Gujarat

 
Eight killed in cracker shop fire in Vadodara, Gujarat
At least eight persons died and five others suffered injuries when a shop which was selling firecrackers, among other things, caught fire at Rustompura village in Waghodia taluka in this district of Gujarat this evening.
 
Official sources said the fire quickly spread to some nearby shops, including one dealing in tyres, and led to the explosion of an LPG cylinder stored in one of the rooms on the first floor, which, in turn, caused the collapse of a wall.
 
The injured were rushed to nearby hospitals, where the condition of some of them was stated to be serious, they said.
 
According to the sources, the cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained, but it could have started because of an electrical short-circuit.
 
Fire tenders were rushed to the village from here and senior district officials reached the scene to oversee the rescue and relief efforts.
 
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Conference of States Power Ministers to be held in Vadodara

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A two-day conference of Ministers for Power, New & Renewable Energy and Mines of States and Union Territories (UTs) will be held on October 7-8 at Vadodara in Gujarat.
 
The conference will be inaugurated by Mr. Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of State for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines. 
 
An official press release said the conference would review the implementation of various ongoing schemes and programmes and  deliberate on a host of issues pertaining to the power, coal, renewable energy and mines sectors.
 
The conference will be organized on the sidelines of the International Energy Conference -- SWITCH Global Expo --organized by Government of Gujarat from October 6-10 at Vadodara.
 
Ministers and Secretaries of the States and UTs and senior officials of the four sectors and public sector undertakings under them will meet up to discuss issues like implementation of Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY), 24x7 Power for All, Feeder monitoring, IT enablement of urban & rural feeders, Rural Electrification Programme, Energy conservation , Right of Way (RoW) compensation for transmission lines in urban areas, National Power Demand & National Electricity Plan, issues related to open access & captive generation, energy/peak shortage and increase in transparency by introduction of mobile apps.
 
Apart from above aspects, mandatory adoption of Energy Conservation Building Codes by States and agricultural demand side management will be discussed. Discussion will also be held on policy interventions for hydro development, including small hydro under the broad aspects of progressive Hydropower Policy.
 
In the area of renewable energy, State-wise review will be taken on issues regarding Solar Power, Wind Power as well as the compliance of Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPOs) and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
 
In the coal sector, deliberations will focus upon issues like import substitution of coal, third party sampling and flexibility in utilization of coal, among other outstanding issues of coal companies.
 
In the mining sector, deliberations will concentrate upon important issues such as preparedness for e-auctions of major mineral blocks, setting up of District Mineral Funds (DMF) in the States, exploration policy & minor mineral rules, star rating of mines and curbing of illegal mining through Mining Surveillance System (MSS), among others.
 
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Renowned painter K G. Subramanyan passes away at 92

K G Subramanyan
K G Subramanyan
Renowned painter K. G. Subramanyan, one of India's most respected contemporary artists who was equally celebrated for his scholarship and for his visual satires, passed away here today.
 
He was 92. He is survived by his daughter Uma and son-in-law. His wife Sushila had predeceased him some years ago.
 
A versatile artist, Subramanyan worked on murals, craft traditions, toy-making, pottery, illustration and design and terra cotta sculpture. His works are appreciated for their inherent wit, ironies, satire and critical social commentaries.
 
He studied at Visva Bharati University and later taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University of Baroda. In 1980, he went back to teach at Kala Bhavan in Viswa Bharati University until he retired in 1989. He returned to Baroda, or Vadodara, some years ago and spent the last years of his life here.
 
Sources close to him said the artist, who had undergone a hip surgery some weeks ago, suddenly took ill last night and breathed his last around 3 am today.
 
Born on February 15, 1924 in Kerala, Subramanyan studied under great artists such as Benode Behari Mukherjee, Nandalal Bose and Ramkinkar Baij at Santiniketan. 
 
He graduated from Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, in 1948, after receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the Presidency College in Chennai. In 1955, he received a British Council Research Fellowship to the Slade School of Art at the University of London. 
 
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Subramanyan, who exhibited his works in several solo shows around the world, was also a prolific writer, scholar, teacher and art historian. He used his deep knowledge of various artistic traditions to create  fantastical images of wit and eroticism that are universal in their appeal.
 
Fondly called as "Mani Sir" by his students, he also wrote fables for children and illustrated them. He also experimented with weaving and toymaking. He gave a new lease of life to terracota mural and glass paintings with his experiments.
 
The Government honoured him with the Padma Vibhushan, the country's second highest civilian honour in 2012, with the Padma Bhushan in 2006 and the Padma Shri in 1975.
 
He won several other awards, including the Lalit Kala Ratna Puraskar from the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi on the occasion of its golden jubilee and the Kalidas Sanman in 1980.
 
He was a Fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi and a Visiting Fellow at Kala Bhavan, Visvabharati, Santiniketan. He was awarded a fellowship by the J. D. Rockefeller III Fund in the United States in 1966.
 
The National Gallery of Modern Art had held a retrospective of his work in New Delhi and Mumbai in 2003. His works are displayed in many collections around the world.
 
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L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering wins Rs. 650 crore order from GSFC

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Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said its wholly owned subsidiary L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering (LTHE) had bagged an onshore EPC contract from Gujarat State Fertilizers & Chemicals Limited (GSFC) valued over Rs. 650 crore for setting up a 40,000 MTPA melamine plant in Vadodara.
 
The contract, secured through a competitive bidding process, was won against stiff competition from reputed global EPC organisations, a press release from the company said.
 
Under the contract, LTHE will carry out extended basis engineering, detailed engineering, procurement, supply, transportation, storage, fabrication, inspection, construction, installation, testing, mechanical completion, pre-commissioning and commissioning of the unit.
 
GSFC has appointed Casale SA as technology licensor, who are providing the process technology for the plant. 
 
GSFC is the only melamine producer in India and already operates two melamine plants at the same site with an aggregate production capacity of 15,000 TPA and the new plant will boost the capacity to 55,000 TPA, the release added.
 
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Renowned Gujarati stage actor, director Markand Bhatt passes away

Markand Bhatt
Markand Bhatt
Well-known Gujarati stage actor and theatre personality Markand Bhatt passed away here this morning.
 
He was 87. He is survived by a son and a daughter. His wife, the well-known Hindi film actress Urmila Bhatt, had pre-deceased him in February 22, 1997. One of their sons also died some time ago.
 
His funeral is scheduled for tomorrow morning, his son Suketu Bhatt told NetIndian.
 
Born in 1929 in Baroda, now Vadodara, Prof Bhatt obtained a Bachelor's degree in theatre arts from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. 
 
He worked for some time as head of the Department of Drama at the Saurashtra Sangeet Natak Akademi in Rajkot, before joining and serving as the head of the Department of Theatre Arts at the Maharaja Sayajirao University . University from 1969 to 1989. He was Dean of the Faculty of Performing Arts at the University between 1984 and 1989. 
 
He served as Chairman of the Gujarat Sangeet Natak Akademi from 1992 to 1995.
 
Alongside his work in theatre education, Prof Bhatt pursued a career on the Gujarati stage and won wide acclaim as an outstanding actor and director.
 
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His roles in plays such as C.C.Mehta’s Atrulupta Saraswati and Param Maheshwar, Tagore’s Nandini (Raktakarabi), Muktadhara, and Arup Ratan, Bhasa’s Karnabhar, Shankar Shesh’s Raktbeej, Raghuvir Chaudhari’s Sikandar Saani, and Girish Karnad’s Agni Ane Vaarsad won a special place in contemporary Gujarati theatre.
 
Some of his major productions as director were Dhara Gurjari, Shetal Ne Kanthe, Finger Print, and Hoholika.
 
Prof Bhatt was the recipient of many awards during a long and distinguished career. The Gujarat Sangeet Natak Akademi conferred its award on him in 1973, and in 1984, he was felicitated by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London.
 
In 2008, he was honoured by the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to Indian theatre as an actor. 
 
His students remembered im as a person who led a very disciplined life and as someone who inspired them with his positive outlook.
 
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Suresh Prabhu launches Indian Railway Knowledge Portal

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Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu today launched the Indian Railway Knowledge Portal, which has aggregated most of the available knowledge about Indian Railways in one place.
 
The website also provides links to various other websites and documents for dissemination of knowledge about the Railways, an official press release said. The portal is an initiative of the National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR), Vadodara. 
 
The release said it was an aggregation of information, with links to resources of the Indian Railways, for the purpose of dissemination of knowledge, innovations and best practices. 
 
The portal was launched through video-conferencing established between Rail Bhavan here and NAIR at Vadodara in Gujarat.
 
Chairman, Railway Board A.K. Mital, and NAIR Director General S. Mookerjee  also spoke on the occasion from Vadodara.   Railway Board Members were among those present at the New Delhi end.
 
According to the release, the portal features various subjects on Indian Railways, railway research and development, use of ICT in the railways, listing of railway journals, links to Indian Railways libraries, World Railways and so on.
 
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The portal also has links to social media pages of Indian Railway sites, fan clubs, heritage and rail museums and many more such sites.
 
"In short, it is a ‘one stop’ arrangement for people who are interested in Indian Railways both from a strictly technical point of view as well as enthusiasts. It is envisaged that it shall be a virtual learning point where people will be able to log in to the website and go for off-line or online learning. There are lots of researchers in the country who are working on railway related topics and some of them are not fully updated of the technological developments taking place in the Railways. This website will therefore herald an interactive platformwith the training and academic experts  across the country so that research scholars can have free access and get themselves introduced to the specialists in Railways who can help them in furthering their research on railway related topics," it said.
 
The National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR) is the alma mater for the officers of the Indian Railways, providing training to all levels of Indian Railways officers, from probationers to General Managers.
 
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Veteran Gujarat Congress leader Sanat Mehta passes away

Sanat Mehta
Sanat Mehta
Veteran Gujarat Congress leader Sanat Mehta, who served as the Finance Minister of the state in the 1980s in the Madhavsingh Solanki government and later represented Surendranagar in the Lok Sabha, passed away here this evening after a brief illness, his family said.
 
He was 90. He is survived by a son and a daughter. His wife Aruna had predeceased him. His funeral will be held here tomorrow morning, they said.
 
Mr Mehta, a veteran industrial labour activist, had been admitted to a local hospital on Tuesday night after he suffered a cardiac arrest and was on life support since then.
 
Mr Mehta was also passionately involved with the Narmada dam project and had served as the Chairman of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited. He was also keenly interested in the oil and gas sector.
 
Born on April 19, 1925, Mr Mehta began his political career as a student leader in Bhavnagar and had participated in the freedom struggle.
 
He later settled down in Vadodara, where he served as a municipal councillor and as a member of the Municipal School Board in the late 1950s.
 
He was elected as a member of the Bombay State Legislative Council in 1958 and then as a member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly four times between 1967 and 1985.
 
He served as Minister of Civil Supplies and Labour and later became State Finance Minister in 1980. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Surendranagar in 1996. 
 
Mr Mehta authored several booklets in English and Gujarati on development problems of Gujarat and the country. In recent years, he used to write on various topics for local newspapers. He was also deeply involved in theatre activities and had produced several plays in Gujarati, Hindi and Marathi, including a Gujarati version of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
 
He was also associated with several educational and social welfare organisations.
 
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IndiGo launches eight new flights on domestic routes

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Low-cost carrier IndiGo has launched eight new flights connecting, among other places, Delhi to Chennai, Lucknow and Vadodara, with effect from today.
 
Additionally, IndiGo will also connect Srinagar to Chennai with the introduction of its first daily flight via Delhi, and the first daily non-stop flight between Lucknow and Hyderabad, a press release from the airline said.
 
Mr. Aditya Ghosh, President IndiGo said, “In line with our endeavor to meet the requirements of both business and leisure travelers, IndiGo has commenced its 7th daily flight between Delhi-Chennai and Delhi-Lucknow. We have also introduced our 1st flight between Srinagar-Chennai and Hyderabad-Lucknow; while also launching our 3rd flight between Delhi-Vadodara. It gives me immense pleasure in announcing these new frequencies at affordable fares, which will provide even more flexibility of choice for our customers, and connect these destinations across India.”
 
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HDIL puts on block land parcel in Vadodara, to use proceeds to pare debt

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Realty major Housing Development Infrastructure Limited (HDIL) today said it had put on the block a 113.47 acre industrial plot in Vadodara, Gujarat.
 
"The company’s decision is in line with its philosophy of exiting non-core assets and focusing on debt reduction," a press release from HDIL said.
 
The land parcel is located adjacent to Ranoli railway station, on the Ahmedabad-Vadodara corridor, and falls under the jurisdiction of Vadodara Urban Development Authority, it said.
 
Over the last year, HDIL has reduced its debt by nearly Rs. 685 crore to Rs. 3,142.4 crore as of December 2014. 
 
“The decision to put on block the industrial land parcel in Gujarat is in sync with the company’s strategy of exiting non-core assets and consolidating our core business. Our objective is to reduce debt and streamline the operations”, said Mr. Hariprakash Pandey, Vice-President, Finance and Investor Relations, HDIL.
 
Besides reducing debt, the on-going strategy of HDIL is to focus on project launches and sales. Planet HDIL, a proposed affordable housing township in peripheral Mumbai, will have 75 million sq. ft across 550 acres and will generate ample cash flows for the company in the coming years, the release added.
 
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Well-known writer, former MSU professor Jaysinh Birje-Patil passes away

Jaysinh Birje-Patil
Jaysinh Birje-Patil
Well-known writer and poet Jaysinh Birje-Patil, who taught at the Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) of Baroda in the 1970s and 1980s and later at universities in the United States, passed away at a hospital here on Sunday after a brief illness.
 
He was 81. He was a bachelor.
 
Dr Birje-Patil served as the Professor and Head of the Department of English at MSU and also as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts for some time.
 
He had settled down in the United States for the past many years, but used to visit Vadodara regularly. He had travelled to Australia in December to spend some time with his niece and her family and arrived here on Tuesday last week. He was hospitalised the following day after complaining of chest pain and passed away on January 18.
 
Born and brought up in Vadodara, he studied at MSU before completing his Ph.D. from Manchester University in the United Kingdom. He was also a trained actor with certificates from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
 
He had written several literary works, including Chinnery's Hotel and The Good Muslim of Jackson Heights.
 
Dr Birje-Patil spent about 15 years teaching at Marlboro College in Vermont, United States before retiring from there in 2002. He had earlier tought at Brown University.
 
Most of his students and colleagues were amazed by his vast knowledge about literature. 
"When he finished speaking, my head was spinning. I had never heard so much information put together at once. In the years since, as I’ve known and studied with Birje, I have come to realize that his knowledge as a scholar and professor can only be described as vast. That word materializes in nearly every conversation about the man, in every conversation with the man. From the Greeks to Shakespeare to Joyce to postcolonial works from New Zealand and Africa, Birje draws connections and cohesive analyses. When around Birje, one cannot help but feel like a swimmer in the vastness of history, literature and culture," Lauren Beigel, one of his students, wrote in 2002 in the college magazine on his retirement from Marlboro.
 
"Even with his wealth of knowledge, Birje still listens and learns from his students; those just stumbling into a world in which he has been immersed for so long," she wrote.
 
“Teaching and learning go together. One learns such a lot from interacting with students. Students should learn to disagree and engage the professor in a dialogue," he told Beigel.
 
More than anything else, Dr Birje-Patil will be remembered for the many plays he produced and directed at MSU under the banner of the Shakespeare Society. The plays were a hugely popular annual event during his period in Vadodara, but he remained forever in the background, shyly walking onto the stage to acknowledge the ovation from the crowd after each performance, dressed in his trademark brown shirt. 
 
For those who attended some of those performances -- A View from the Bridge, Look Back in Anger, The Glass Menagerie, See How They Run, You Never Can Tell, and many more -- they remain unforgettable experiences.
 
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Arun Agnihotri, one of his students in the 1970s who acted in many plays produced and directed by Dr Birje-Patil and later set up his own theatre company, The Playhouse here, recalled that it was an "amazing experience" to have studied and worked with him.
 
"He was my mentor. It was because of the faith that he reposed in me that I took up theatre as a profession," he said. "He was a tough man, but it was fantastic to be his student."
Arun Agnihotri, one of his students in the 1970s who acted in many plays produced and directed by Dr Birje-Patil and later set up his own theatre company, The Playhouse, recalled that it was an "amazing experience" to have studied and worked with him.
 
"He was my mentor. It was because of the faith that he reposed in me that I took up theatre as a profession," he said. "He was a tough man, but it was fantastic to be his student."
 
Dr Birje-Patil continued to be involved with the stage at Marlboro, directing The Crucible and Waiting for Godot, among other plays, and team-teaching several courses on theatre.
 
“Working with Birje is a bit like spending time in the Louvre: you just get lost. There are maps to show you where things are, but it’s up to you to pick out your interests and find your way there...He is patient, detailed, and vast," another of his students, Ian Garthwait, wrote in the Marlboro college magazine.
 
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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit India from January 10-13

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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will pay an official visit to India from January 10-13 during which he will visit Gandhinagar to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2015 as a guest of honour and keynote speaker.
 
He will be accompanied by his wife Madam Yoo (Ban) Soon-taek and a team of senior officials, an official press release said.
 
During his stay in Gandhinagar, he will also meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Other elements of his visit to Gujarat include a tour of Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and inauguration of the 10 MW Canal -Top Solar Power Plant in Vadodara.
 
In New Delhi the Secretary General will call on President Pranab Mukherjee and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. He will meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Minister of State for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar.
 
He will also deliver the 13th Sapru House Lecture on ‘India and the United Nations in a Changing World’ at the ICWA on January 12.
 
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Mrunalini Devi Puar, Chancellor of M S University of Baroda, passes away

Mrunalini Devi Puar
Mrunalini Devi Puar
Dr Mrunalini Devi Puar, the Chancellor of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and a member of the Gaekwad family, the erstwhile rulers of Baroda State, passed away at a hospital here late last night after a brief illness, university sources said today.
 
She 83. Her funeral will be held at Kirti Mandir here this afternoon, the sources said.
 
The Baroda University is the only one in Gujarat whose Chancellor is not the Governor of the state but a member of the former royal family because of its rule in establishing and nurturing the institution.
 
Dr Puar, a dietician by training, succeeded her brother Fatehsinhrao Gaekwad, the former Maharaja of Baroda, as the Chancellor of the university upon his death in 1988.
 
Born on June 25, 1931, Dr Puar had a B.Sc. Home from the Baroda University and did her M.S. (Food & Nutrition) from Iowa State University of Science and Technology in the United States. She later completed her Ph.D. in Food and Nutrition from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
 
Dr Puar was the first woman Chancellor of a recognized Indian University with more than 35000 students. She taught at Baroda University for about 12 years before she became its Chancellor.
 
She served as a member of the Commission on Education and Training, the International Union for Conservation of Nature & Natural Resources (IUCNNR), Switzerland and as Chairperson, Food & Nutrition Programme Committee, International Federation For Home Economics (IFHM), France.
 
She was also a member of the steering group on Nutrition, Planning Commission, Government of India and of the Governing Body, Institute Of Home Economics, New Delhi.
 
She was a member of the Advisory Committee for Rajiv Gandhi Institute For Contemporary Studies, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, New Delhi and a variety of other organisations.
 
She had published several research and popular articles in national and International Journals of repute.
 
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Baroda artist Preyas Mehta among Indians invited for 1st Langkawi Art Biennale

A work by Preyas Mehta
A work by Preyas Mehta
Baroda painter Preyas Mehta is among several Indian artists invited for the  Langkawi Art Biennale 2014, the first such event in Malaysia, that wil be held from October 12 to 21.
 
Other artists invited from India include Babita Das, Ashok Kumar, Ganesh Chandra Basu, and Puspita Ray.
 
The event, organized by Art Malaysia Association and supported the country's Ministry of Tourism and Culture and orther organizations, will see the participation of artists from Malaysia and 37 other countries.
 
The biennale, which is on the theme of migration, is expected to bring art enthusiasts from around the world to Langkawi island.
 
The event will take place along Pantai Cenang, a picturesque two km beach with long stretches of white sand.
 
Mehta completed his B.A. (Fine) in Applied Arts from the M.S. University of Baroda here and has been active as a sculptor, painter and photographer and has exhibited in shows around the country. Most recently, he had exhibited at the International Art Group show "Across the Ocean" at the Birla Art Academy in Kolkata.
 
Basu is an artist and a freelance writer and has participated in more than 100 international and national shows and held some 40 solo exhibitions.
 
Ray has a BA degree in Bengali and is an artist and a writer. Apart from publishing several books, she has held solo exhibitions of her works and participated in group shows.
 
Ashok Kumar has a degree in Fine Arts from the College of Arts, Patna and then studied painting at the L’Ecole Superieure Des Beaux­Arts de Marseille, France. 
 
Some of the group exhibitions that he has participating in include the Sixth Biennial of Contemporary Indian Arts, (Bhopal), International Biennale Art Exhibition at Dallas (USA), contemporary art exhibition created by the artists residence ‘Crossings’ by Frac Reunion at MOCA, Saint Dennis (Reunion Island) and international art exhibition by SODEFA (Chandigarh).
 
Das has an M.A. in Fine Arts in Printmaking from Viswa Bharati Universty and has worked as an Indian National Scholar. She has been teaching art at primary and secondary Levels at a private school in Kolkata, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy, since 1996. She has held more than 25 solo exhibitions and participated in an equal number of group exhibitions.
 
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BJP suffers setback in UP, loses ground in Gujarat, Rajasthan in bye-elections

Four months after it swept to power at the Centre with an overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party suffered a setback in Uttar Pradesh and lost ground in Rajasthan and Gujarat as counting of votes got underway in bye-elections in ten states on Tuesday.

 
By-polls: Counting begins for 3 LS, 33 assembly seats
Four months after it swept to power at the Centre with an overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered a setback in Uttar Pradesh and lost ground in Rajasthan and Gujarat as counting of votes got underway in bye-elections in ten states today.
 
In all, polling was held on September 13 for three Lok Sabha seats and 33 Assembly seats in the bye-elections, which were seen as a major test of the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which completed 100 days in office recently.
 
The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh won eight of the 11 Assembly seats for which bye-elections were held, while the BJP had to rest content with just three. The BJP and its ally Apna Dal had earlier held all 11 seats.
 
The seats won by the SP in Uttar Pradesh were Bijnor, Thakurdwara, Nighasan, Hamirpur, Charkhari, Sirathu and Rohaniya, while the BJP won Saharanpur Nagar, Noida and Lucknow East.
 
The SP’s candidate, Tej Pratap Singh Yadav, also won from the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency in the state.
 
These results are significant because the BJP, riding on a Modi wave, had won as many as 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh in the April-May Parliamentary elections. The BJP and its ally Apna Dal held all 11 Assembly seats for which bye-elections were held.
 
In Rajasthan, where the BJP had made a clean sweep in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress won three of the four seats in the bye-elections -- Surajgarh, Weir (SC) and Nasirabad, while the BJP had to remain content with one, Kota South.
 
Similarly, in Gujarat, where Mr Modi was the Chief Minister for more than 12 years before becoming Prime Minister and where the BJP had won all 26 seats in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress managed to win three of the nine Assembly seats in the bye-elections.
 
The Congress won Deesa, Khambhalia and Mangrol, while the BJP retained Maninagar, Tankara, Talaja, Anand, Matar and Limkheda. All nine seats were earlier held by the BJP.
 
The BJP also won the Vadodara Lok Sabha seat, with its candidate and deputy mayor Ranjanben Bhatt winning by a huge margin of more than 3.29 lakh votes.
The BJP made its debut in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly when its candidate Samik Bhattacharya  won the Basirhat Dakshin seat today. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) won the other seat, Chowranghee, for which bye-elections were held.
 
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In Telangana, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi's K Prabhakar Reddy won the Medak Lok Sabha seat.
 
In Tripura, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) won the lone assembly seat, Manu, for which bye-elections were held.
 
In Andhra Pradesh, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) won the Nandigama Assembly seat.
 
In Sikkim, an independent candidate, Rup Narayan Chamling, won the Rangang-Yangang Assembly seat.
 
In Assam, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) won the Jamunamukh Assembly seat, while the BJP was leading in Silchar and the Congress in Lakhipur.
 
Counting of votes began in all the constituencies this morning and all the results are expected by this evening.
 
The bye-elections have assumed added significance because they took place about a month before crucial Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, where Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a strong bid to wrest power.
 
Vadodara was one of the two seats won by Mr Modi in the April-May Lok Sabha elections. He had resigned from there after deciding to retain Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, the other seat from where he had won.
 
Similarly, Mainpuri was vacated by Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who retained Azamgarh, also in Uttar Pradesh.
 
Medak had fallen vacant when Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader K Chandrashekara Rao resigned to take over as the first Chief Minister of Telangana after it was carved out as India's 29th state out of Andhra Pradesh.
 
Polling was also held for two seats in West Bengal and one in Chhattisgarh.
 
Today's results have come as bad news for the BJP, which had won only eight of the 18 Assembly seats in four states -- Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Punjab -- where bye-elections were held in August, while the Congress and its allies managed to win ten.
 
Apart from being a pointer to the extent to which the BJP has been able to hold on to its popularity, the bye-elections were also a major test for the SP.
 
These were the first elections in Gujarat under new Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, who succeeded Mr Modi when he moved to Delhi as Prime Minister.
 
Most of the 33 Assembly seats had fallen vacant after the sitting MLAs, mainly belonging to the BJP, had been elected to the Lok Sabha in the last general elections. Bye-elections in three assembly constituencies were necessitated by the deaths of the sitting members.
 
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Minor fire in RIL's poly butadiene rubber plant at Vadodara in Gujarat

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Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today said a minor fire broke out this morning in the finishing line of its poly butadiene rubber (PBR) plant in Vadodara in Gujarat. 
 
No one was injured in the incident, a press release from the Mukesh Ambani-led company said.
 
"The fire was expeditiously brought under control by the fire fighters at the plant. The cause of fire is being investigated," it said.
 
"Alternate finishing line is taken into production and hence there will be no impact on production. All other units are functioning normally," the release added.
 
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Modi acknowledges marriage in his poll affidavit

BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi filing his affidavit before the returning officer of Vadodara constituency for the Lok Sabha elections on April 9, 2014
BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi filing his affidavit before the returning officer of Vadodara constituency for the Lok Sabha elections on April 9, 2014
After years of silence on the issue, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has finally acknowledged his marriage in the affidavit that he filed with his nomination papers in the Vadodara constituency of Gujarat for the coming Lok Sabha elections.
 
He mentioned his wife's name, Jashodaben, in the column for the name of the candidate's spouse in the affidavit.
 
In a similar affidavit filed for the 2012 elections to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, in which he led his party to a third consecutive win, Mr Modi had left the column blank.
 
In yesterday's affidavit, uploaded onto the website of the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat, Mr Modi, however, has simply said "not known" in all other columns related to his wife, including details of her income, her income tax permanent account number (PAN), assets and liabilities, investments, bank accounts and  properties.
 
Mr Modi, 63, the Chief Minister of Gujarat since October 2001, has not spoken in public about his wife, though some newspapers and magazines have occasionally reported about her and one of them carried an interview with her some months ago. The reports said the couple, who got married when they were very young, had separated soon after.
 
His silence on the issue had invited attacks from his opponents and the Congress has repeatedly asked him to "come clean" on his marital status.
 
Mr Modi's main opponent in Vadodara is prominent Congress leader Madhusudhan Mistry. He is also contesting from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, where he is pitted against Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and local Congress leader Ajay Rai.
 
As Mr Modi's admission set off a flurry of comments by his supporters and opponents on social media websites, his elder brother Somabhai Damodardas Modi issued a three-page statement today, stating that the BJP leader was married to Jashodaben about 45 years ago when he still a minor and the family was poor and uneducated.
 
Mr Somabhai Modi said his brother had given up on all worldy things to dedicate his life to the service of the nation and his marriage, conducted at a time when his parents were stuggling financially and had to adhere to various social traditions of the time, should not be judged according to the standards of today.
 
Mr Somabhai Modi said their family was poor and not well-educated and had to adhere to social traditions and practices of those times. He said that his parents, who were not well-educated, could not recognize Mr Narendra Modi's zeal to dedicate his life for the nation. "In those circumstances, our parents got Narendrabhai married at a very young age," he said.
 
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He went on to say that Mr Narendra Modi left his home and his wife soon after that and devoted his life to work for the country. "His marriage with Jashodaben was reduced to a mere formality," he said.
 
"Today, even 45-50 years after that, Narendrabhai is away from his family. Jashodaben lives in her parents' house and had worked in the field of education," he said, referring to her career as a school teacher, from which she has retired recently.
 
"This incident of 45-50 years ago should be seen against the background of the then prevailing circumstances of a poor and superstitious family. That is our prayer to everyone," the statement added.
 
After becoming the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, Mr Modi had in some campaign speeches said that he had no family ties. "I am alone. Who will I be corrupt for?" he had asked, while drawing attention to allegations of corruption and nepotism against his political rivals.
 
Jashodaben, 62, told a newspaper recently that she was maried to Mr Modi when he was 17 and that they had separated three years later, after which they had never been in touch. Even in those three years they were together for hardly three months, the report quoted her as saying.
 
She also said that she knows that he will become the Prime Minister of the country one day and that she does not feel bad that he had cut her off from his life or that he had never acknowledged her.
 
She said she reads everything about him but does not think that he will ever call her.
 
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