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Very severe cyclone Vayu likely to cross Gujarat coast early Thursday morning

The very severe cyclonic storm Vayu over the Arabian Sea is very likely to cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva early Thursday morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Wednesday.
The very severe cyclonic storm Vayu over the Arabian Sea is very likely to cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva early Thursday morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Wednesday.
 
It will have wind speeds of 140-150 km, gusting to 165 kmph, a bulletin issued at 0330 today by IMD said.
 
The administration in Gujarat and the Union Territory of Diu have drawn up plans to evacuate some three lakh people from low-lying and vulnerable areas in the districts likely to be hit by the cyclone.
 
The IMD bulletin said the cyclone had moved further northwards with a speed of about 18 kmph in the previous six hours, intensified into Very Severe Cyclonic Storm and lay centred at 2330 hrs IST of June 11 near latitude 17.1°N and longitude 70.6°E over eastcentral Arabian Sea, about 420 km west-northwest of Goa, 320 km south-southwest of Mumbai (Maharashtra) and 420 km nearly south of Veraval (Gujarat).
 
"It is very likely to move nearly northwards and cross Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva around Veraval & Diu region as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm with wind speed 140-150 kmph gusting to 165 kmph around morning of 13th June 2019," the bulletin said.
 
According to it, wind speed is very likely to become gale wind speed reaching 120-130 kmph, gusting to 145 kmphm over eastcentral and adjoining northeast Arabian Sea today.
 
It is very likely to be 60-70 kmph, gusting to 80 kmphm over Gujarat coast from today morning and become gale wind speed reaching 140-150 kmph, gusting to 165 kmph, by midnight tonight.
 
It is very likely to be 50-60 kmph, gusting to 70 kmph, over the Maharashtra coast.
 
The bulletin said gale wind speed of the order of 125-135 kmph, gusting to 145 kmph, was very likely over north Arabian Sea and the Gujarat coast in the morning hours tomorrow and decrease gradually thereafter. It is very likely to be 50-60 kmph, gusting to 70 kmph, over north Maharashtra coast and northern parts of eastcentral Arabian Sea.
 
According to it, the sea condition is very likely to become very high to phenomenal over eastcentral and adjoining northeast Arabian Sea and the Gujarat coast from today and over north Arabian Sea tomorrow.
 
The sea condition is very likely to be very rough to high along and off Maharashtra coast today and tomorrow.
 
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Fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea in the region.
 
The bulletin said storm surge of height of about 1.5-2.0 m above the astronomical tides was likely to inundate the low-lying coastal areas of Kutch, Devbhoomi, Dwarka, Porbandar, Junagadh, Diu, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts at the time of landfall.
 
It said there could be total destruction of thatched houses, extensive damage to "kutcha" houses and some damage to "pucca" houses in  the above districts. There could be major damage to roads and flooding of escape routes. There could also be minor disruption of railways, overhead power lines and signalling systems as well as widespread damage to standing crops, plantation, orchards, falling of green coconuts and tearing of palm fronds.
 
Apart from total suspension of fishing operations and regulation of road and rail traffic, the bulletin called for evacuation of people from low-lying areas in the above districts, coastal hutment dwellers, urban slum dwellers and people staying in unsafe houses to safer places.
 
People in the affected areas have been advised to remain indoors.
 
Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has issued detailed advisories to Gujarat and the Union Territory of Diu, asking them to take all precautionary measures to ensure that there is no loss of human lives and damage to vital infrastructure is minimised.
 
This followed a high-level review meeting held here on Tuesday by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
 
The advisory also urged them to ensure early recovery of all essential services post-cyclone landfall. State/UT Governments have also been advised for timely evacuation of people from low-lying coastal and vulnerable areas.
 
Gujarat and Diu Administration have planned to evacuate about 3 lakh people from the identified vulnerable areas starting this morning.
 
The evacuated people will be shifted to around 700 cyclone relief shelters. In consultation with State Administration, 39 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are being pre-positioned in Gujarat and Diu to help the local administration in evacuation, search, rescue and relief operations. In addition, 34 teams of Army personnel have also been on stand-by.
 
Indian Coast Guard, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force units have also been put on stand-by and surveillance aircraft and helicopters are carrying out aerial surveillance, an official press release said.
 
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) met in New Delhi on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha and reviewed preparedness relating to the cyclone.
 
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Mumbai businessman gets life, Rs 5 crore fine for creating hijack scare in 2018

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In the first conviction under the amended anti-hijacking law, a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Tuesday sentenced a Mumbai-based businessman to a life term and a fine of Rs 5 crore for creating a hijack scare on a Mumbai-Delhi Jet Airways flight on October 30, 2017.
 
Convicting Birju Kishor Salla for violating provisions of the Anti-Hijacking Act 2016, the court, in its order, said that the fine amount would be used to compensate each pilot of the Jet Airways' flight no-9W 339 with Rs 1 lakh, each air hostess with Rs 50,000 and each passenger with Rs 25,000 for the misery they underwent.
 
Salla was arrested by the Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) after a letter warning of a hijack and bomb threat was discovered on Mumbai-Delhi bound Jet Airways' flight no-9W 339, which had 122 passengers, including seven crew, on board. 
 
Following the scare, the flight had to be diverted to Ahmedabad and then grounded at the Ahmedabad airport. It was only after all passengers were disembarked and screened at a remote bay there that the flight was cleared for take-off.
 
The NIA took over the probe on November 7. During investigation, the NIA claimed that it found clinching evidence regarding preparation of the threat note and its placement on the plane. 
 
The pilot had alerted the Ahmedabad airport authorities about the threat letter, reported to be in Urdu and English. The NIA said that Salla intentionally put the printed threat letter inside the toilet to disrupt the aircraft operation thus jeopardising the safety of the passengers and the crew members on board. 
 
The NIA filed a charge sheet against Salla on January 23, 2018 in the NIA Court under several sections of Anti-Hijacking Act 2016.
 
IANS

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IMD issues pre-cyclone watch for Gujarat coast

A deep depression over the Arabian Sea is very likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm during the next 24 hours and into a severe cyclonic storm in the subsequent 24 hours, the India Meteorological Department said on Monday evening.
A deep depression over the Arabian Sea is very likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm during the next 24 hours and into a severe cyclonic storm in the subsequent 24 hours, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said this evening.
 
"It is likely to move north-northwestwards during the next 72 hours. It is very likely to cause adverse impact in terms of wind and rainfall over Saurashtra and Kutch mainly on 13th & 14th June, 2019," the IMD said, issuing a pre-cyclone watch for the Gujarat coast.
 
The bulletin issued by the IMD at 1700 hours today said the system lay centered near latitude 12.5°N and longitude 70.9°E over eastcentral and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea and Lakshadweep area, about 250 km northwest of Aminidivi (Lakshadweep), 760 km south-southwest of Mumbai (Maharashtra) and 930 km south-southeast of Veraval (Gujarat).
The bulletin said that, under the influence of the system, there would be widespread rainfall in Kerala, Lakshadweep, Karnataka, Konkan and Goa over the next four days.
 
It said there would be widespread rainfall in Gujarat from June 12-14, with heavy falls at isolated places.
 
On June 12, the wind speed is very likely to increase to 90-100 kmph, gusting to 115 kmph over eastcentral & adjoining northeast Arabian Sea. It is very likely to be 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph over Gujarat coast from 12th morning and become 65-75 kmph gusting to 85 kmph by 12th evening. It is very likely to be 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph over Maharashtra coast.
 
On June 13, the wind speed is very likely to increase further to 110-120 kmph, gusting to 135 kmph, over north Arabian Sea. It is very likely to be 65-75 kmph gusting to 85 kmph over Gujarat coast; and 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph over north Maharashtra coast and northern parts of eastcentral Arabian Sea.
 
The sea condition is very likely to be rough to very rough in this part of Arabian Sea and fishermen have been advised to not venture into the sea during this period. Those out at sea have been advised to return to the coast.
 
"The system is under continuous surveillance and concerned state governments are being informed regularly," the bulletin added.
 
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Low pressure area over Arabian Sea likely to intensify into cyclone: IMD

A low-pressure area has formed over southeast and eastcentral Arabian Sea and Lakshadweep Islands and was likely to intensify into a depression and then into a cyclonic storm in the next two days, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said.
 
"It is very likely to intensify into a depression over Southeast & adjoining Eastcentral Arabian Sea during next 48 hours. It is likely to move north-northwestwards and intensify further into a cyclonic storm during subsequent 24 hours," a bulletin issued by IMD yesterday afternoon said.
 
Under its influence, heavy rains are likely over some parts of Kerala, Lakshadweep, coastal Karnataka, south interior Karnataka and Konkan & Goa during this period.
 
The bulletin also said that strong winds, with speed reaching 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, were very likely to prevail over southeast and adjoining Lakshadweep and eastcentral Arabian Sea, Kerala and Karnataka coasts today.
 
"Wind speed is very likely to increase gradually and become squally wind speed reaching 55-65 kmph gusting to 75 kmph over eastcentral & adjoining southeast Arabian Sea on 11th June 2019. It is very likely to be 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph over Lakshadweep area, Kerala, Karnataka & south Maharashtra Coasts on the same day. Sea conditions are likely to be rough over the above areas.
 
"Wind speed is very likely to increase further becoming gale wind speed reaching 70-80 kmph gusting to 90 kmph over eastcentral & adjoining northeast Arabian Sea on 12th June 2019 and become 90-100 kmph gusting to 110 kmph over north Arabian Sea on 13th June 2019. It is very likely to be 45-55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph over Gujarat & Maharashtra coasts on 12th and 55-65 kmph gusting to 75 kmph over entire Gujarat and north Maharashtra coasts on 13th June, 2019," the bulletin said.
 
Sea conditions are likely to be very rough to high over these areas during this period and fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea.
 
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Nine of a family killed in accident in Gujarat

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Nine people of a family, including eight women, were killed and 27 injured near Ambaji temple town in North Gujarat's Banaskantha district on Friday evening when the brakes of the tourist bus they were travelling in failed, official sources said.
 
The injured were rushed to the government hospital in Palanpur. The bus overturned after its brakes failed, the sources added.
 
The accident occurred nearly 200 km from Ahmedabad when they were returning to their village Bhal in Vadgam taluka (tehsil) in Banaskantha district after offering prayers at the popular Ambaji temple.
 
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani expressed shock and grief over the accident and conveyed his sympathies to the family of those killed.
 
Rupani issued instructions to the Banaskantha district administration to ensure the best possible care for the injured. 
 
IANS
 

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BJP issues notice to MLA for kicking woman

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Hours after getting him to issue an apology, the Gujarat BJP on Monday slapped a show cause notice on its Ahmedabad legislator Balram Thawani for kicking a woman and asked him to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him.
 
Even as the Naroda MLA, who was caught on camera roughing up and kicking a woman on a street, insisted he did not hit her intentionally, his party strongly condemned his behaviour.
 
State BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said: "We condemn this behaviour which is shameful and unbecoming of a people's representative."
 
He said Gujarat BJP President Jitubhai Vaghani had issued Thawani a show cause notice to "explain in three days why disciplinary action should not be taken against him".
 
This came several hours after Thawani apologized for his behaviour, while in a rapprochement of sorts the woman in question on Monday evening went ahead and tied a rakhi to him.
 
"Vaghani immediately called up Thawani on Sunday night on knowing about the incident and directed him to issue a public apology. He has also sought his explanation," Pandya told IANS earlier.
 
Nitu Tejwani, a municipal ward in-charge of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), had gone to Thawani's office in Naroda as part of a group protesting over water supply.
 
A video that went viral of the lawmaker kicking the woman shows Tejwani fallen to the ground after being roughed up by another man.
 
Witnesses confirmed that Thawani came out of his office when this man was beating her and joined him in kicking her. This only stopped after a passer-by intervened and slapped the MLA.
 
Talking to reporters, Tejwani, who also filed a police complaint against Thawani and others, claimed that she had gone to meet the MLA to represent about the water supply issue in her area.
 
She added: "Without reason and without saying anything, he (legislator) came out and started kicking me and beating me up and even slapped me."
 
She claimed that her husband, who came to her rescue, was beaten up with sticks. Other women protesting over the issue were also roughed up, she said.
 
Thawani admitted that he did kick the woman but insisted that it was in self defence and he did not intend to hit anyone.
 
"I got carried away in a fit of anger. I have apologized for my mistake. I will say sorry to her," the BJP MLA said.
 
The Congress asserted that the ruling party as well as Chief Minister Vijay Rupani should personally apologize.
 
"The BJP must take strict action against the MLA," Congress' Gujarat affairs in-charge Rajeev Satav stated. "It is time women are protected from BJP leaders."
 
NCP's Reshma Patel, who had quit the BJP over six months ago, met Tejwani at the Civil Hospital where she was admitted. Condemning the "MLA's behaviour", she said she would stand by Tejwani's "fight for justice."
 
IANS
 

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Next five years crucial to regain India's global position: Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that the next five years would be crucial for India to regain its global position.
 
He equated his first tenure as the Prime Minister (2014-2019), with the five years from 1942 to 1947 leading to Independence, which were key to laying the foundation for a strong India. 
 
Making his first public address in Gujarat after his landslide victory, Modi said: "If we look at the five years leading to Independence from 1942 to 1947, they were very important to revive the idea of India and galvanise the people to fight the external forces."
 
"This is a similar opportunity to awaken the public consciousness and work hard to scale new heights for the country. We must work as one society with one purpose and in one direction to achieve this goal," he said in his speech outside the old BJP headquarters at JP Chowk, where he took his first steps in politics in the 1980s.
 
Addressing thousands of people, Modi said wherever he went for campaign during the 2014 and the 2019 elections, the stories of Gujarat's development had already reached there.
 
Giving an example, he said: "I watched a social media interview of an elderly woman in Bengal where she kept on repeating Modi-Modi. But when asked who she will vote for, she said she will vote for the Communists.
 
"When she was asked why, since she wanted Gujarat like development, she said this is Bengal, we can't say all this publicly, you never know what happens to you."
 
Modi, along with BJP President Amit Shah, arrived here on a two-day thanksgiving visit to Gujarat, which gave the party all the 26 Lok Sabha once again. Modi later took his nonagenarian mother Hiraba's blessings at Raisin near state capital Gandhinagar. He would spend the night at the Raj Bhawan in the state capital before returning to Delhi on Monday. 
 
IANS
 

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Modi meets mother, seeks blessings

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrived in his home state Gujarat on Sunday on a two-day visit after the BJP's landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections, called on his mother here today and sought her blessings.
 
Modi, along with BJP President Amit Shah, landed at the Ahmedabad airport and later made a thanksgiving public address to the people of Gujarat, which gave the party all its 26 Lok Sabha seats once again.
 
Even as scores of people waited to have a glimpse of him, the Prime Minister then reached Raisan near here to seek his mother Hiraba's blessings. The nonagenarian stays with Modi's younger brother in Raisan.
 
Modi will halt for the night at Raj Bhavan.
 
IANS
 

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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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Gujarat: Amit Shah set to win, BJP ahead on all 26 seats

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday appeared all set to capture all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat yet again even as its national President Amit Shah was leading by a hefty margin of over 2.38 lakh votes at the end of the first 10 rounds of counting of votes for the Lok Sabha elections.
 
Shah, contesting from the Gandhinagar parliamentary constituency for the first time, has bagged 3,52,099 votes to establish a lead of more than 2.38 lakh votes over his nearest rival C. J. Chawda of the Congress who has managed 1,13,436 votes.
 
As many as 15 BJP candidates were well ahead of their nearest rivals by more than one lakh votes. Woman candidate Ranjan Bhatt from Vadodara has established a margin of around 2 lakh votes over Congress' Prashant Patel.
 
Another woman candidate of the BJP, Geeta Rathwa, contesting from the tribal seat of Chhota Udepur in central Gujarat, was leading by more than one lakh votes. BJP's Ahmedabad West candidate Kirit Solanki, Mohanbhai Kundaria from Rajkot, Bhartiben Shiyal from Bhavnagar, Mitesh Patel from Anand, Mansukhbhai Vasava from Bharuch, Parbhubhai Vasava from Bardoli, Darshnaben Jardosh from Surat, C. R. Patil from Navsari and K. C. Patel from Valsad were all leading by over one lakh votes after the 10th round of counting.
 
The only saving grace for the Congress appears to be in the Amreli Lok Sabha constituency in Saurashtra where leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani was trailing by a narrow margin against Naran Kachhadiya of the BJP.
 
The BJP had bagged all the 26 seats in the 2014 general elections when as many as 64.7 per cent voters exercised their franchise while this time the polling percentage was 64.11.
 
Besides the Lok Sabha seats, counting of votes was also being held in four Assembly constituencies where bye-elections were conducted on April 23 during the third phase of the seven-phased parliamentary elections. There are 28 counting centres for these seats.
 
IANS
 

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Adani Group to withdraw defamation cases against 'The Wire'

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The Adani Group is set to withdraw all defamation suits filed against news portal thewire.in and its editors in an Ahmedabad court for articles against its companies, highly placed sources said on Wednesday.
 
Adani Power Maharashtra Limited had filed two suits against the web portal, while Group firm Adani Petronet Port Dahej Limited had moved a defamation case against it.
 
Besides the portal, its founder-editors Siddharth Varadarajan and M.K.Venu, as well as Siddharth Bhatia, Monobina Gupta, Pamela Philipose and Noor Mohammed were also named in the law suits.
 
Confirming the development, Varadarajan told IANS: "We understand that the Adani Group has moved to withdraw all the defamation cases, civil and criminal, instituted against The Wire over the past two years for various articles we have published on the Group's businesses. We will issue a statement once this process attains finality." 
 
IANS
 

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Indian Coast Guard apprehends Pakistani fishing boat with 100 kg of heroin

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) today intercepted a Pakistani fishing boat, Al Madina, with about 100 kg of heroin on it while it was on its way towards the Jakhau coast in Kutch district of Gujarat.
 
The suspect vessel crossed the International Maritime Border Line (IMBL) towards the Indian side with first light this morning and started moving towards Jakhau, a press release from the Ministry of Defence said.
 
"The suspect vessel Al Madina was kept under surveillance and intercepted at about 0915hrs on 21 May 2019 about 08 NM inside Indian waters off IMBL by ICG ship Arinjay.
 
"During boarding, the vessel was found to be a Pakistani fishing boat Al Madina registered at Karachi with 06 Pakistani crew. An initial search of the fishing boat by Indian Coast Guard boarding party revealed 194 packets of suspected narcotics substance. The vessel is being escorted to Jakhau harbour for detailed investigation and rummaging," the release said.
 
According to it, intelligence was received around 9 pm on May 19 about a suspicious vessel likely to be engaged in drug traffic in the area of IMBL off the Gujarat coast. Similar inputs were also received from Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on May 20.
 
The release said the Coast Guard immediately swung into action and ICGS Arinjay, on patrol off India-Pakistan IMBL, was alerted about the suspect vessel. Two additional Interceptor Boats C-437 and C-408 were also tasked from Jakhau and Okha to augment the search for the suspect vessel. An ICG Dornier aircraft was also launched from Porbandar on May 20 and 21 for an aerial recce of the area.
 
"Coast Guard Ships and aircraft maintained extensive search in the area for intercepting the suspect vessel.  ICG ships classified various contacts in the area and kept them under constant surveillance. During the search, one fishing boat was observed to be suspicious and Coast Guard ships in area shadowed the suspect vessel during the dark hours of 20 May 2019 night," the release said.
 
The release also said that, during a similar operation on March 24, ICGS Rajratan, in a joint operation with the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), Gujarat, seized about 100 kg of heroin from a suspected Pakistani dhow off the coast of Gujarat. Nine Iranian crew members of the vessel were also apprehended.
 
Indian Coast Guard Director General Rajendra Singh said that the Coast Guard has been at the forefront in anti-narcotics and anti-smuggling operations and since inception has seized contraband worth more than Rs. 5000 crore.
 
NNN
 

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Gujarat to shift 8 Asiatic lions to UP zoo

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Eight Asiatic lions from the Sakkarbaug (Junagadh) zoo of Gujarat will be soon transferred to a zoo in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, as part of the Animal Exchange Programme.
 
Junagadh Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Dushyant Vasavada said, "Two male and six female lions from the Gujarat zoo will be transferred to the Uttar Pradesh zoo..., and we are ready for the transfer." 
 
It is not yet disclosed which animals are to be transferred from the Gorakhpur zoo to Gujarat under the programme. 
 
The date and the mode of transport are yet to be decided by the zoo officials, he added.
 
The idea of such mutual exchange for the zoos came up at the Annual Conference of Indian Zoos held in December last year. It was organized by the Central Zoo Authority at Mysore where 25 directors of different zoos across the country visited the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens.
 
Sakkarbaug zoo, also known as Sakkarbaug Zoological Garden, is spread over 200 hectares of land and it opened in 1863. It is one of the oldest zoos in the country that is considered an important centre for providing Asiatic lions to other zoos and for safaris across the state and the country.
 
IANS
 

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Gujarat Governor disqualifies independent MLA

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Gujarat Governor O. P. Kohli has disqualified independent legislator Bhupendrasinh Khant from reserved Scheduled Tribe seat of Morva Hadaf in Panchmahals district.
 
Briefing reporters here on Friday, State Assembly Speaker Rajendra Trivedi said Khant, who won the 2017 assembly elections as an independent candidate, was disqualified after his Scheduled Tribe certificate was found to be invalid and the matter was in the courts.
 
"The Governor had received a petition in this regard. Yesterday, the Governor sent his order which was received by my office today (Friday). He is, therefore, declared disqualified today and the seat is declared vacant," the Speaker stated.
 
He said the seat Khant contested from was reserved for Schedule Tribe (ST) candidates and the certificate on the basis of which he contested as a Scheduled Tribe candidate was found invalid and therefore he was declared disqualified after a discussion with the Governor.
 
Trivedi said after receiving the petition the Governor had solicited the advice of the Election Commission of India (ECI) and also heard both the parties before making the decision.
 
IANS
 

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PepsiCo withdraws case against Gujarat potato farmers

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Facing increasing pressure, food and beverages giant PepsiCo on Thursday said it has withdrawn the case it filed against nine Gujarat farmers for growing a potato variety which it claimed was its registered product.
 
"To safeguard the larger interest of farmers, PepsiCo India was compelled to take judicial recourse to protect its registered variety. PepsiCo from the very start had also offered an amicable settlement to farmers. After discussions with the government, the company has agreed to withdraw cases against farmers...," the company said in a statement. 
 
PepsiCo had sued the nine farmers of Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts of north Gujarat for allegedly growing the FL2027 or FC5 variety of potatoes for which it has claimed Plant Variety Protection (PVP) rights.
 
It held that it obtained PVP rights over the potato variety under the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right (PPVFR) Act, 2001 and that the farmers were violating its rights over the seed variety.
 
IANS
 

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Ahmedabad court summons Rahul in defamation case

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A court here on Wednesday issued summons to Congress President Rahul Gandhi in a suit filed by a BJP member accusing him of making defamatory statements against party President Amit Shah at a poll rally in Madhya Pradesh last month.
 
The case was filed by Krishnavadan Brahmbhatt, a BJP corporator from the city's Khadia ward, who contending that the Congress chief's terming Amit Shah a "murder accused" at the rally was defamatory as well as false "because Amit Shah had been discharged honourably by the CBI court in January 2015" in the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in an allegedly staged gunfight.
 
Issuing the summons, Metropolitan Magistrate D. S. Dabhi fixed the next hearing on July 9.
 
Brahmbhatt's lawyer had argued that an Ahmedabad court could have jurisdiction though Gandhi made the remarks in Madhya Pradesh's Jabalpur since the speech was televised nationally while city newspapers also reported it.
 
IANS

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ECI bars Gujarat BJP chief from campaigning for 72 hours

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The Election Commission of India (ECI) has barred Gujarat BJP chief Jitubhai Vaghani from campaigning for 72 hours for "using intemperate and abusive language" and "alleged violation of Model Code of Conduct" when he addressed party workers and voters at Amroli on April 7, sources said on Tuesday.
 
The campaigning ban on Vaghani will be effective from 4 pm on May 2 to 4 pm on May 5.
 
Gujarat went to polls in the third phase on April 23.
 
The poll panel has imposed a nationwide ban on Vaghani from holding public meetings, public processions, rallies and road shows besides interviews and public utterances in the media (electronic, print, social media).
 
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.
 
IANS
 

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Ahmed Patel urges Gujarat to intervene in interest of farmers

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Congress leader Ahmed Patel on Saturday called upon the BJP government in Gujarat to intervene in the interest of farmers in the court case filed by Pepsico, saying that "corporate interest cannot dictate what our farmers must or mustn't cultivate."
 
In a tweet, Patel said that Pepsi's decision to take Gujarat's potato grower farmers to court is "ill-advised and brazenly wrong."
 
"It is in violation of the farmers' right. The state shouldn't keep its eyes shut. Corporate interest cannot dictate what our farmers must or mustn't cultivate," Patel said. 
 
Global beverages and food products giant PepsiCo India on Friday expressed its willingness for an out-of-court settlement with the potato growers of Gujarat whom it had dragged to the court for growing FL2027 or FC5 variety of potatoes, for which the company claims exclusive rights.
 
The variety is used by PepsiCo in its popular chips brand Lay's.
 
The company made the offer during a hearing at the Commercial Court of Ahmedabad.
 
PepsiCo India proposed to amicably settle with people who were unlawfully using seeds of its registered variety (FC5). It also proposed that they may become part of its collaborative potato farming programme and if they did not wish to join, they can simply sign an agreement and grow other available varieties of potatoes, but not this particular variety.
 
The firm had filed a lawsuit against four farmers from Vadali, the potato-growing belt in Sabarkantha district of North Gujarat, for violation of intellectual property rights of a plant variety registered by the company under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001. The company had sought Rs 1 crore in 'estimated damages' from these farmers.
 
The company said it was compelled to take the judicial recourse as a last resort to safeguard the larger interest of thousands of farmers engaged with its collaborative potato farming programme. 
 
IANS
 

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SC orders Gujarat to rehabilitate Bilkis, pay Rs 50 lakh

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Gujarat government to rehabilitate and pay Rs 50 lakh compensation to Bilkis Yakub Rasool Bano, who was gang-raped at the age of twenty-one in the post-Godhra riots in 2002.
 
A bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna expressed concern about the victim after learning that she had been living a nomadic life and is actually on charity. The court directed the Gujarat government to give her a state government job and provide her accommodation at a place of her choice.
 
Bilkis Bano was pregnant when she was gang-raped by a mob, which also killed seven members of her family at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad on March 3, 2002. The court also observed that her infant daughter was "smashed" against the wall in their house before her. 
 
Chief Justice Gogoi pointed out that the rehabilitation of the victim is at priority, after her lawyer contended before the court she has lost everything in the tragedy. 
 
"In today's world, money is the best healer. We are not sure, if it can heal her, but what else can we do for her... As per her condition, ask for whatever compensation you want and we will pass orders accordingly," he told the lawyer. 
 
As Gujarat's counsel Hemantika Wahi tried to intervene, the Chief Justice, in a sharp reply, said: "You are lucky, we are not observing anything against you... How many years has this case been pending?"
 
The apex court also rubbished the Gujarat counsel's contention that the compensation was too high for the victim. Earlier, the state government had given Rs. 5 lakh compensation. 
 
Regarding increase in compensation for the victim, the CJI asked: "You tell us how much compensation you are willing to give?" As counsel said Rs 10 lakh is sufficient, the CJI replied that the court will give her Rs 50 lakh.
 
The state government counsel also informed the top court that three guilty officials, who tried to tamper with evidence in the gang-rape case, have been stripped off entire pension benefits, and an IPS officer has been demoted by two ranks.
 
The Bombay High Court had upheld the life imprisonment of 11 persons accused in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case.
 
IANS
 

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