Friday, June 13, 2003, Chandigarh, India


C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Utter confusion followed blasts
Splinters caused injuries
Pratibha Chauhan
Tribune News Service


Showing high-handedness, the Ranbaxy authorities today banned entry of mediapersons to the factory. Last night, the journalists waited outside the factory gates for more than two and half hours to get information about the incident. They informed the authorities concerned a number of times but they refused to talk.

Today morning too, the gates were kept closed for the mediapersons till the intervention of Superintendent of Police Harcharan Singh Bhullar who asked the Ranbaxy officials to cooperate with journalists and allow them to enter the factory. Following this the gates were opened and scribes were let in.

Criticising the attitude of the Ranbaxy officials, a large number of journalists alleged that the authorities were trying to hide information.

SAS Nagar June, 12
The night shift workers at the Ranbaxy Pharmaceutical unit, were going about performing their duties as on any other normal day, till the factory was rocked by a thunderous blast around 10.15 pm, plunging the place into pitch darkness.

“Even before we could gather as to what had caused the blast, there was utter confusion as the workers started looking for exit points to move away from the blast site to save themselves ,” said Mr Jagvinder Singh, who is convalescing at one of the isolation wards at the Fortis hospital. “Three of us working at the Module 1-A unit had to use the drain pipes along the walls to move out of the building,” said Mr Jagvinder.

He said while they were still struggling to locate exit points, they heard a number of blasts at regular intervals in the next 20 minutes. “Many of us received injuries not from fire, but due to splinters of glass, that had scattered all over the place,” said Mr Jagvinder. He said all his clothes were torn and soaked in blood due to the injuries from splinters of glass.

Smoke and fumes emanate from chemical tanks at the Ranbaxy factory in SAS Nagar
Smoke and fumes emanate from chemical tanks at the Ranbaxy factory in SAS Nagar on Thursday. — A Tribune photograph
Saving grace: A chemical-carrying tanker at the site of the blast. The tanker withstood the impact of the fire at the Ranbaxy plant in SAS Nagar on Wednesday night. A Tribune photograph
Saving grace: A chemical-carrying tanker at the site of the blast. The tanker withstood the impact of the fire at the Ranbaxy plant in SAS Nagar on Wednesday night. — A Tribune photograph

As there was complete darkness, except for the glare of the blaze, some of the workers on the night shift used their mobile phones to seek help as all communication links, including telephone lines had been snapped.

“The moment I heard the blast, I tried to run out, but within split seconds I was engulfed by fire from head to toes. After this I cannot recall as to what happened and who took me to hospital,” said Mr Satish Kumar, who is in a critical condition with over 70 per cent burns.

“Those who have been killed and the four critically injured were close to the solvent recovery plant, where the blast took place,” said Mr Vijay Kumar, a Production chemist at the unit who received multiple injuries from glass splinters.

“It was only when we reached the main gate amid utter confusion that we learnt that a blast had taken place in the solvent recovery plant,” said Mr Maria Vijay Kumar, who is a Supervisor at the unit for the past over 10 years. He added that it was within 10 minutes that the fire engines started arriving at the factory.

The injured, including Mr Kulvir Singh, were all praise for the local residents, who they say were the first to arrive and take them to various hospitals, including the PGI, Fortis and Cheema hospital. With each patient being given personal care and attention their family members were satisfied with the arrangements made by Ranbaxy.

The injured, who were shifted to various hospitals, said despite the chaos and confusion outside the factory, the locals as well as the factory staff immediately swung into action and shifted them to hospitals.

Even before the injured were rushed to Fortis Hospital, the entire crisis management team, including about a dozen doctors, had already arrived to attend to the victims.



19 under treatment  at Fortis
Tribune News Service

19-year-old Sri Bhagwan in a critical condition at the Fortis hospital after sustaining 75 per cent burns in Wednesday night's fire at the Ranbaxy plant in SAS Nagar
19-year-old Sri Bhagwan in a critical condition at the Fortis hospital after sustaining 75 per cent burns in Wednesday night's fire at the Ranbaxy plant in SAS Nagar. — A Tribune photograph

SAS Nagar June, 12
The death toll in the last night blast at the Ranbaxy pharmaceutical unit yesterday, has been restricted to two, apart from 19 victims, including four critical patients admitted to Fortis Heart Institute.

It is the critical condition of 35-year-old Surinder Singh which continues to worry doctors at the Fortis hospital. Lying unconscious in the critical care unit of the hospital, Surinder Singh, a technician, has been put on a ventilator and other life-support system. “We are continuously monitoring the condition of Surinder Singh and three others, Satish Kumar (35), Rajinder Singh (33) and Sri Bhagwan (19), all of whom have sustained more than 75 per cent burns,” informed Dr R.V. Karanjekar, Medical Director of the hospital.

The others who have been admitted to the Fortis hospital with minor injuries are Jagwinder Singh (25), Kulvir Singh Chauhan (31), Vinay Kumar (27), Vinay Khullar (29), Ashok Kumar (26), Prakash Chand (33), G.S. Raina (31), Ramesh Chand (33), Suresh Chand (42), Varinder Bhardwaj (28), Vinay Kumar (36), S.P. Singh (42), Swarn Kumar (35), Sushil Kumar (23) and Kesar Singh (35). Three others are undergoing treatment at the local Civil Hospital.

The Fortis authorities shifted the four critically injured patients from the PGI to its hospital on the request of their family members in the wee hours today.

Two inquiry counters have been set up for the convenience of the family members and relatives of the victims in the hospital. The entire cost of treatment is being borne by Ranbaxy.


Bodies sent for post-mortem
Our Correspondent

SAS Nagar, June 12
Bodies of two persons killed in the Ranbaxy blasts, which led to a major fire yesterday, were brought to the local Civil Hospital for postmortem here today.

It is reported that the totally burnt bodies were recovered today morning and were sent for postmortem around 9.30 a.m.

It is learnt that the deceased— Maninder Pal Singh Bawa (33) and Ranjit Singh (35) —worked in the production wing of the factory. While Bawa, a production supervisor, was a resident of Phase VII here, Ranjit Singh belonged to Rasenheri village, near here.

The body of Maninder Pal Singh Bawa was identified by his father, Mr Jatinder Singh, from the ‘kara’ which the former was wearing.

As many as 11 persons were admitted to the Civil Hospital last night after the Ranbaxy explosion. While six of them were discharged five are still undergoing treatment.

Daljit Singh, an employee of the local fire brigade, said he could not walk as the skin on his feet got burnt due to some chemical reaction which he suffered while fighting the flames. He said doctors had not specified when he would be discharged from the hospital.

Two Home guards personnel were still under treatment. While Mr Manohar Lal, who came from Amritsar for training at the local office which was located near the Ranbaxy plant, had suffered injuries on both his arms and forehead, Mr Satyapal, who came from Bathinda for the training, had got an injury on the left side of his stomach.

Bablu Pal, a resident of Mohali village, was given a plaster today as he had undergone a fracture of the calcaneum bone of his left ankle when he jumped from the roof top where he had gone to sleep last night.

He said it appeared that the flames of the Ranbaxy fire were spreading towards the village and out of fear he jumped from the top.

He will be discharged tomorrow.

Another person still at the hospital was 17-year-old Monica who got a mental shock after seeing the devastating fire. She, too, would be discharged from the hospital tomorrow as she was kept under observation today.



Maninder’s death leaves family shattered
Tribune News Service

Maninder with his wife and child
Maninder with his wife and child. 
— A file photograph

Chandigarh, June 12
When Maninder Singh Bawa, a 34-year-old Production Chemist at the SAS Nagar plant of Ranbaxy, bade good night to his seven-year-old daughter Gurnoor Kaur and his wife while leaving for the night shift at 10 pm, little did he know that death was a few minutes away.

One of the deceased, Maninder Singh Bawa, a Production Chemist, whose charred body was today retrieved from the mangled remains of a solvent recovery plant, had reported on duty about 45 minutes before a ball of fire preceded by a big blast reportedly claimed his life.

The body of Maninder, who was known as Ruby among his friends, was recognised by his elder brother, Mr HS Bawa, from two rings on his left hand fingers. The tragic news of the death of Maninder was conveyed to his anxious family only in the morning. After the fire at the plant, the family of Ruby — his father, J.S. Bawa, wife, Rosy, brother, H.S. Bawa — ran from one hospital to another looking for him. The father of Maninder cursed the factory management for not giving any information about his son.

The list of the 16 injured displayed by the factory management around 2.30 am did not contain the name of Maninder. The motor cycle of the deceased was also found parked outside the factory. Then began the search for Maninder inside the factory and in hospitals in Chandigarh and SAS Nagar. Hoping against hope, the family accompanied by friends and colleagues of Ruby kept up the search till the wee hours today.

While the wife of Maninder was praying for the life of his husband, a message from the plant that two badly charred bodies had been found in the mangled remains of the devastated IB plant sent shivers down her spine. Her worst fears came true when Ruby’s brother identified the body of Maninder by his rings. Officials at the Ranbaxy said Maninder apparently tried to escape from the plant after the blast but the fire engulfed him along with his another colleague. The body was taken to the Phase VI Civil Hospital for a post-mortem. A large number of friends and relatives of Maninder were present at the SAS Nagar cremation ground today when his mortal remains were consigned to flames.

Fire victim cremated

Ranjit Singh, a resident of Rasanheri village, who died in the blast in Ranbaxy factory in SAS Nagar yesterday night, was cremated today in the village.

Mr Pritpal Singh, elder brother of the deceased, and his close associate, Mr Satnam Singh, who used to the factory daily with Ranjit Singh told mediapersons that he was working as technician in the production section of the factory. They said he along with Satnam Singh left for the factory to attend their duty, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. yesterday.

Mr Satnam Singh said the blast occurred a few minutes after they started work. He said there were total seven persons working in the section of the deceased.

He said Ranjit Singh was working in this factory since 1991. The family came to know about his death at about 5 a.m. today. He was cremated in the village at about 1 p.m.


Ranbaxy unit picture of ruin, disaster
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, June 12
Facing one of its major setbacks today, the Ranbaxy’s SAS Nagar unit is a picture of ruin and disaster. A look at what remains of the module 1B in the sprawling Ranbaxy complex is enough to imagine the extent of damage which the company has suffered. Although a technical committee has been established to ascertain the cause of the fire and extent of damage, a cursory estimate has put the figure in crores.

One complete section of the unit is a mangled heap of pipes. All the three big reactors and the cooling plant have burst. The nearby buildings have been rendered dangerous and no one is being allowed to enter these. Smoke thick with fumes is still emanating from the wiremesh of metallic pipes. Most of the metal structures have been rendered useless.

Spread over 23 acres in the middle of four residential sectors and Mohali village, the SAS Nagar unit of Ranbaxy was among the first to be established by the company in 1973. Set up as the multipurpose chemical plant, the unit here deals with the distillation of solvents and other chemicals used in pharmaceutical productions.

According to a press communication issued by Mr P. Bindra, senior vice-president, Global Manufacturing, today other than the affected section of the facility, where the fire broke out, all other sections of the facilities, including the production block, remained unaffected and continued to operate normally.

Talking to mediapersons, Mr Bindra reiterated that the situation was under control and the cause of fire was still being ascertained. Stating that any chemical industry was hazardous, Mr Bindra pointed out that the unit here was laced with the best possible equipment to handle the raw material.

Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited, said to have an annual sales turnover of Rs 1,000 crore, has six other units in India, including one at Toansa (Punjab). Ranbaxy’s manufacturing strengths had established it as a producer of world-class active pharmaceutical ingredients and has manufacturing facilities in seven countries — China, Ireland, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, the USA and Vietnam.


People fled in fear, some even reached Kasauli
Monica Sharma

Chandigarh, June 12
A series of three blasts at Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited in SAS Nagar sent the panic-stricken residents scurrying for safety late Wednesday night. Apprehending the leakage of poisonous gases, a large number of SAS Nagar residents rushed to Chandigarh and the neighbouring areas to “save their lives”.

In Sector 38 (West) alone, at least five families took refuge in the homes of their relatives. Some of the apprehensive residents did not rest till they reached Kasauli, about 60 km from here, after negotiating the sharp turns.

Fearing the re-enactment of Bhopal gas tragedy, they took out their cars from garages after grabbing “clothes and other necessary things” before leaving the cool comfort of their homes in a hurry.

On their way out of SAS Nagar, they made frantic phone calls to relatives in Chandigarh and other places informing them about their “untimely visit” and intention to sleep over-night. Apologies were not required as they explained the circumstances in which they were forced to leave their homes in the dark of the night.

It all started at about 10.50 pm. Some of the residents were comfortably sleeping with the coolers and airconditioners on. Others were watching the television when the explosion rocked the township.

“So powerful were the blasts that we were shaken out of slumber,” said dentist Dr Jaskaran Singh, putting up in Phase X. “At first we thought it was a cloud burst. Or else an aeroplane breaking the sound barrier. Then someone suggested bomb explosion”.

Agreeing with him, Phase I resident Charanjit Singh, manager with a multinational organisation, said, “Upon hearing the explosions, we rushed out of the house to see the flames illuminating the night sky. For good one minute, we stood in awe looking at the angry flames, wondering if some plane had crashed in the neighbourhood. Then we heard the news about the explosion on the television. Within minutes, we heard the neighbours scream ‘gas leak’”.

Punjab and Haryana High Court advocate Gurjit Singh Kaura also stepped out of his residence to see the neighbours discussing the issue excitedly. “Four or five couples were there, standing close together, discussing the possibility of gas leak,” Mr Kaura asserted. “We all decided to pack our bags and leave immediately”.

Without wasting time, Mr Kaura and his family reached the residence of his in-laws in Sector 18 for spending the night. Mr Charanjit Singh, on the other hand, travelled for three hours to sleep at his elder brother’s house in old Kasauli. They, along with others, returned to the township only in the morning. Some only after reading the newspapers.


Mohali village residents demand closure of factory
Tribune News Service

Residents of Mohali village demand closure of the Ranbaxy factory in SAS Nagar on Thursday.
Residents of Mohali village demand closure of the Ranbaxy factory in SAS Nagar on Thursday. — A Tribune photograph

SAS Nagar, June 12
For the residents of Mohali village, who are the closest neighbours of the Ranbaxy’s unit here, last night’s events were replay of a similar occurrence in 1996. A series of thunderous blasts followed by a major fire, leaving a wake of destruction and death. Four persons had been killed then. Moreover, the incident is said to have taken place at the same area of the factory where it happened last night.

‘‘We had come to know about the reason why the 1996 fire was caused following which we had taken steps that a problem like that does not recur. It is a coincidence that the blasts have occurred again at the same spot,’’ said Dr Naresh Kumar, vice-president, Ranbaxy, SAS Nagar. Some of the employees recall the incident stating that Module 1B is becoming the most dangerous place in the unit.

Then on June 21, 1998, a fire was caused by acid leakage in the company. Two fire tenders of the Mohali Fire Brigade had rushed to the site and brought the situation under control within an hour. No loss of life and property had been reported.

In the year 2000, one safai karamchari working in the factory allegedly died due to a blast that took place just when he picked up the cover of a sewer. ‘‘Another person was injured,’’ said a resident. Residents also alleged that Ranbaxy had been involved in ‘hiding’ and getting rid of toxic chemicals through its sewer pipelines. ‘As a result of which highly inflammable fumes get collected on top which on sparking burst into fire,’ they added.

On April 23, 2002, the Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee had issued a show-cause notice to Ranbaxy in SAS Nagar, for disposing of discarded, outdated and contaminated medicines by burning the pile of drugs in the open in the Industrial Area, Phase-II, on April 17. These medicines, manufactured by the company, were being disposed of in the open by putting them on fire. As per Bio-Medical Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 1998, these type of medicines are required to be incinerated/ or disposed of in a secured landfill.

The village residents today protested outside the Ranbaxy gates demanding closure of the factory with immediate effect. A delegation of the residents also met the Chief Minister and placed before him their list of woes before him.

‘Reactor blast might have caused fire’
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, June 12
While the Ranbaxy management is trying to figure out the exact cause of the thunderous blasts that shook the township and its surroundings last night, the SAS Nagar fire officers, who were the first to reach the site, have stated that the cause of the fire is a reactor blast in the solvent recovery unit of the factory.

Mr B.S. Sandhu, Fire Officer, SAS Nagar, and also member of the National Disaster Management Group, today said the fire was most likely caused by a reactor blast. ‘‘The reactor and the pipes are used for mixing solvents needed to manufacture pharmaceuticals. These solvents are then heated using steam under controlled conditions. After a certain point of temperature is reached, the machines ensure that the heat supply is cut off to the solvent. In case of machine failure, however, the cut-off point is not registered and the mixture continues to be heated beyond permissible limits resulting in blasts like this one,’’ he said.

According to sources, one of the main solvents being used by Ranbaxy is toluene, a highly inflammable chemical also used in its gaseous form, which can catch fire easily. Its vapours collect in the form of a cloud and can also burst, says Mr Sandhu.

Mr Sandhu said a special foam AAAF was used by fire-fighters to douse the flames. ‘‘Our aim was to ensure that the fire remains confined to the site from where it started,” he said. “Three of those critically injured had been already put on stretchers by the company’s employees even before we reached here. We took out one person who, too, is said to be serious. All other employees were at the gate shouting for help or being rushed out of the factory premises,’’ he said. Mr Sandhu, along with two of his other men, has received minor injuries.

Appreciating the efforts of the Ranbaxy staff, Mr Sandhu pointed out that the company ‘s arrangements to handle the situation were satisfactory. Every person, including the Manager, the liaison officers, the security in charge, did their best to save as many lives as possible,’’ he added.



Controversy over ex gratia
Tribune News Service

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, Mr Bir Devinder Singh and Chaudhary Jagjit Singh arrive at the Ranbaxy factory in SAS Nagar on Thursday. A Tribune photograph
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, Mr Bir Devinder Singh and Chaudhary Jagjit Singh arrive at the Ranbaxy factory in SAS Nagar on Thursday. — A Tribune photograph

Chandigarh, June 12
A controversy has erupted over the issue of grant of exgratia to the victims of the Ranbaxy fire between the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his predecessor, Mr Prakash Singh Badal.

Mr Badal, during his visit to Fortis Hospital, said the state government must give an exgratia amount of Rs 1 lakh each to the deceased and some amount to those injured in the blast. “As is customary in the cases of unnatural deaths, the government must fulfil this commitment,” said Mr Badal in response to media queries that the state government had not announced any grant.

The Chief Minister, on the other hand, clarified that the state government was not obliged to pay ex gratia either to the deceased or the injured as it was the company which would be taking care of all this.

Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Badal visited Fortis Hospital to enquire about the condition of the victims. While Capt Amarinder Singh lauded the efforts being made by the hospital staff in providing the best healthcare facilities to the victims, Mr Badal felt that the government must take steps to ensure that such incidents did not reoccur.

The safety of the public should be uppermost in the mind of the authorities even if this amounted to shifting the factory to another site, stressed Mr Badal.


Chances of environmental hazard minimal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
Chandigarh seems safe from environmental hazard likely to have been caused by a massive fire in the Ranbaxy plant in SAS Nagar last night.

However, the impact could only be assessed in a couple of days, sources in the Chandigarh Pollution Control Board told Chandigarh Tribune today.

Last night’s monitoring in Sector 17 showed that the suspended particulate matter level had come down to 385 mg from 1,100 mg a couple of days ago. However, the fall in the level seems to have been caused by showers in the city this week.

Though the chances of an immediate adverse effect are minimal because of the wind direction being away from the city, yet the final assessment can only be made after the monitoring is done in the Industrial Area of the city.

The Chandigarh Pollution Control Board will set up its monitoring equipment in the Industrial Area to assess the impact.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has set up a monitoring committee to assess the impact.

PPCB Chairman N. S. Tiwana has shifted to Chandigarh from the Patiala office to monitor the impact and coordinate with the monitoring team.

The team is assessing the chances of environmental hazard in SAS Nagar and the nearby areas.

Mr Tiwana said as of now he was not in a position to say whether any hazard had been caused or not.

He said the team had taken samples for the purpose, but the results would be out only by tomorrow.

Mr Tiwana said since it was summer time, the clouds got dispersed, reducing chances of an environmental hazard.

He, however, said the initial assessment of the authorities that environmental hazard was not caused was too early to comment upon.

Mr Tiwana said the tolerance level of two solvents — taluenine and pyridine—used in the Ranbaxy plant was very high and it was unlikely to have been crossed.


Need to set up disaster management units
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, June 12
The fire at one of the plants of Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd here, that created panic among residents of the area besides claiming two lives, has once again reminded the people of the horror of the fire incidents that have taken place in this industrial town in recent years. Industrialists and employees have time and again felt the need to set up disaster management units with the efforts of industrialists’, employees’ associations and industrial department.

Mr B.S. Baidwan, former president, Mohali Industrial Association, said, "A number of industrial fire accidents have taken place in the region in the recent past. Almost all units are using inflammable substances like diesel and fuels. There are two major chemical units, Markfed Agro Chemicals Ltd and Shivalik Agro Chemicals, apart from Ranbaxy at Mohali. The industry should learn a lesson from the incident.’’

A fire had engulfed the Semi Conductors Ltd unit (SCL) in 1989 causing heavy losses to the prestigious public sector unit. Recalling the incident, said one of its employees,‘‘ We are now very afraid of fires. I remember that the fire in our unit had completely devastated the microchip making unit causing a loss of crores of rupees. It took us about seven years to revive the company.’’

Ms Sunita Puri, Executive Director (Finance and HRD), SCL, said though the nature of the fire in the unit was completely different from the fire that took place at the Ranbaxy plant yesterday, yet it took its toll on employees and the company. The officials claimed that the company that had started its production in 1987, had an annual turnover of more than Rs 11 crore at that time. The employees passed through a harrowing time as there was no work for them for years. It again started production in 1997.

The fire incidents have also taken place at Chandigarh Steels in 1987 claiming one life, at Ram Deep Alloys in 1991 causing death of four persons in furnace blast and at Singla Steels in 2002 causing death of a person and permanent injuries to a number of employees. Incidentally, neighbouring units of Ranbaxy have also suffered losses in the fire.

Industrialists agree that trucks loaded with highly inflammable chemicals like nitrogen, acetone and methanal daily come to the industrial area. Any mishandling of chemicals poses a threat to the lives of workers and residents of the area.

Mr Gurmeet Singh, president, Mohali Industries Association, said, ‘‘We are holding a meeting tomorrow to prepare some action plan to deal with such incidents in future. The Ranbaxy management has already agreed to provide adequate compensation to the neighbouring units that have suffered losses.’’


State crisis group meeting today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
A state crisis group set up for management of chemical accidents will meet tomorrow to review the state of preparedness of government agencies as well as industry to face crisis like the one in the Ranbaxy plant last night. The state group is headed by Chief Secretary Rajan Kashyap while those in the districts are headed by the respective Deputy Commissioners.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Pollution Control Board is monitoring the presence of suspected pollutants at five different locations in and around the Ranbaxy factory to check the toxicity level. Two of these locations are in the nearby residential areas.


HUDA’s claims on surplus water fall flat
Slum-dwellers forced to buy water
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, June 12
Despite tall claims made by officials of the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) regarding surplus availability of water for residents, almost half of the township is facing an acute water shortage.

Residents in all thickly populated sectors (Sectors 9- 19) are forced to brave this water crisis, even as HUDA authorities claim that water is being pumped almost continuously from the tubewells. The problem is more acute in two slum colonies, Rajiv Colony and Indira Colony , where 40,000 residents have not received water supply for the past one week.

Few taps installed by HUDA in these colonies (15 in Indira Colony and seven in Rajiv Colony) have run dry. These residents are now forced to buy water from residents of Mauli Jagran or depend on the benevolence of sector residents near these slum colonies. Informs Dalbir Singh, councillor from Rajiv Colony, “ Hundreds of jhuggi-dwellers, staying near Mauli Jagran, are now forced to pay anything between Rs 100, Rs 200 per month in order to get two buckets of water each day. Others fetch water from houses located nearby in Sector 16.”

The residents of these slum colonies have threatened to stage dharnas during the next couple of days, if water supply was not restored. However, HUDA officials have washed their hands off these slum-dwellers on the pretext that they were staying in illegal colonies and the administration was not supposed to install taps.

The township has been facing the problem of low water pressure for quite some time. Residents say that water shortage and low water pressure continued all through the summer season. The problem was more severe in two and three-storey houses, where water storage tanks have been constructed on the top floor. Because of low pressure of water, these storage tanks cannot be filled on a regular basis and thus cause inconvenience to residents.

The situation is worse in Sectors 20 and 14, where multi-storey flats have been constructed. “Even as early as 7. 30 am, there is no water supply and storing water for drinking purpose was a problem,” said Ms Neelam Rani, a resident of Sector 14.

Residents say that they do not receive water supply for more than two hours a day, both during the morning and evening hours. Rued Prof. Charanjit Chawla, Fellow at Panjab University and resident of Sector 16, “The authorities have failed to be in tune with the increase in demand and new augmentation plans have not been formulated for quite some time.”

Meanwhile, HUDA has embarked upon a plan of zoning of water works in order to tackle with the problem of low water pressure, especially in the old sectors of the town. A survey of the various water works in the town is being done so that load on each waterworks is assessed and excess load can be shifted to the newly developed waterworks.

Presently, the town has water works in Sector 1, Sector 8, Industrial Area, Sector 20, Sector 5 and Sector 3. Besides, 108 tubewells pump water in these waterworks for onward distribution in various sectors. Last year, 10 new tubewells had been installed in the township in order to meet the requirement of 19 MGD of water for a population of 1. 90 lakh. This year, HUDA authorities claimed that they were providing 21 MGD of water to the population of 2.10 lakh.


Another sewage treatment plant for city soon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
The city will have a new sewage treatment plant just south of Sector 47 and work on the same will start within one month, while the Punjab Government had been approached to expand the existing sewage treatment its capacity from 30 million gallons a day to 50 MGD.

The city’s only sewage treatment plant is in SAS Nagar and residents around it want it shifted. Another sewage plant is being built at Raipur Khurd village to treat waste water from the Industrial area.

This was decided during a review of the ongoing projects by the UT Administrator, Justice OP Verma (retd), today. The Administrator said that Chandigarh should emulate the example of Goa and develop villages in such a way so that there should not be any distinction between urban areas and rural areas. Reviewing the progress of sewage treatment plants being constructed in the city, it was informed at the meeting that negotiations were on with the Punjab Government to expand the capacity of the existing sewage treatment plant. The 5- MGD sewage treatment plant, under construction at Raipur Khurd, would be completed by March, 2004, and a sewage treatment plant at Raipur Kalan village would be completed by December, 2003.

A separate proposal to set up a sewage treatment plant near Sector 47 has been cleared and work will start on this plant within a month. The Administrator asked the Estate Office to allot the remaining 381 booths to the beneficiaries expeditiously. Justice Verma also asked the Chandigarh Housing Board to complete construction of the remaining 600 booths.

Taking the menace of degradation of environment by polythene bags seriously, Justice Verma suggested that NGOs, Schoolchildren and the NSS should be involved in this campaign to educate the public to desist from the use of polythene bags. He said that ‘Nukkar Natak’ should be staged in various parts of the city to educate the people.


Speeding bus hits animal
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, June 12
Hopes of a farmer were dashed to the ground after a speeding Haryana Roadway bus ran over his newly purchased cow in the middle of the Ghaggar river bridge on the busy Chandigarh-Ambala highway in Bhankharpur village, about 4 km from here, this noon.

As a result of the accident, vehicular traffic on the highway was disrupted for over four hours. Indifferent towards the plight of the poor farmer, who had spent Rs 4,000 for purchasing the cow to plough his fields, the motorists could be heard cursing.

During its struggle for survival for more than four hours, the critically injured animal remained lying on the hot surface of the bridge in this scorching heat of June.

With the assistance of his grandson Surjit Singh, owner of the animal Mangal Singh, in the hope for the survival of the kept on pouring water into the mouth of the animal, while the passersby drove away after giving a look over them.

While talking to Chandigarh Tribune, a shattered Mangal Singh said the animal was purchased in Dera Bassi cattle fair and was being brought home in Nabha village, located along the Chandigarh-Patiala highway near Zirakpur, by Surjit Singh when the tragedy struck.

Surjit Singh said that the driver of a speeding Haryana Roadways bus heading towards Chandigarh blew the pressure horn just behind them which made the cow nervous. The bus rammed into the animal.

“The cow collapsed on the surface of the bridge while I had a narrow escape. This all happened in seconds, and by the time I regained consciousness, the drive had sped away from the scene,’’ recalled Surjit Singh.

Hearing the cries of Surjit Singh, a farmer working in the nearby fields, Mr Karam Singh, rushed to extend help to the victims. He supplied bucketfulls of water so that the life of the mute animal could be saved.

The injured animal was later lifted and the vehicular traffic on the highway was restored. Interestingly, no cop from the Dera Bassi police station reached the spot to control the traffic and help the farmer in lifting the animal.

In the absence of any police personnel on duty at the Ghaggar river bridge, vehicles lined up along either sides of the road. 


Business scope of religion
Jaspal Bhatti

WHEN the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, founded the “Khalsa Panth” by making people of different castes and communities partake “amrit” in an effort to abolish caste differences, he could not have imagined that 300 years later Sikhs would build separate gurdwaras in each village and town.

As a Sikh, it is matter of great shame for me when I hear people saying that this gurdwara is for Jat Sikhs, this is for Dalits, this one is for Ramgarhias, and this gurdwara is for the followers of Guru Ravidas. Some “deras” are of Radhasoamis whereas some are of Nirankaris. There’s little to suggest from this that the Sikh religion is above casteism.

The tremendous tension in Talhan village of Punjab has erupted from a dispute between the Jats and the Dalits over the control of a religious shrine whose offerings total upto nearly Rs 5 crore annually. It is obvious why both communities want control over the management of the religious shrine. There are shrines where because of very little offerings there are no disputes as far as the management is concerned. At such financially-tight religious places people are heard requesting each other with folded hands: “Bhai sahib, aap seva sambhaliya” (You take on the responsibility of managing). The other person says: “Nahin bhai sahib, aap seva kijye, you are more devout than me!”

Today religion instead of giving tranquillity and peace of mind is slowly becoming a business. In fact, it is already so. With so many “babas” appearing on satellite channels, it appears that the scope of religion as business is tremendous. One day my filmi friend Rana Jung Bahadur told me: “Jaspal, with my knowledge of religion and great oratory skills, I’m thinking of becoming a sadhu baba”.

I asked him: “Are you planning to leave your home and family and take sanyas?”

He replied: “No, why should I take sanyas! If my ‘dera’ does well, then bungalows, cars, cash — I’ll be short of nothing. All I need now is your support’’.

I asked him how I could help him. He said: “Be my PRO and 10 per cent share is yours!”


A clarification

REFERENCE to a news report, “CBI raids in Barog, city to locate Bhardwaj”, published in Chandigarh Tribune on May 22, it is clarified that Mr Rajan Malhotra, counsel for Chandigarh’s suspended Judicial Magistrate S.S. Bhardwaj, is not an employee of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and as such can take up a case registered by it.

There is no contract or understanding between the CBI and Mr Malhotra that he cannot take up any case on behalf of an accused in which the CBI is the investigating or prosecuting agency.

It is not unusual for any private advocate to be engaged by the CBI in one case and to represent the accused in another case in which the prosecuting agency is the CBI.

The news report may have inadvertently given the impression that Mr Malhotra was engaged in the case not because of his professional competence, but in pursuance of some conspiracy and for extraneous reasons. This was not the intention. We regret hurting Mr Malhotra’s sentiments. 


Saving slum-dwellers from agony of AIDS
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
Unmindful of the threat of AIDS and other infections a group of youths huddled in a dingy room in a slum colony share a syringe, filled with a cocktail of drugs. For them using the same syringe is as common as rubbing it on a stone to sharpen the needle, which becomes blunt after frequent use.

“We were surprised to see how many youths, mostly in their teens or early twenties, were taking intravenous drugs in the most unsafe manner, which puts them at high risk to infections like AIDS and hepatitis,” says the coordinator of a project being run in one of the labour colonies in the city by an NGO, Family Planning Association of India, Mohali branch.

With a large number of youths being addicted to intravenous drugs in this labour colony, having a population of about 25,000, the projects are being funded by UT AIDS Control Society. It is basically peer pressure and the curiosity to try drugs that gets these youths hooked to drugs.

“The fact that these injections like diazepam, avil and bupenrophine are easily available at any chemist shop and are relatively cheaper than other drugs, make them more popular,” explains Dr Anil Malhotra, Additional Professor, from the Department of Psychiatry at PGI. Another added advantage being that the injections which go into the making of cocktails, used by the addicts are easily procured citing medical reasons.

“Though we counsel them to give up the addiction, the primary focus of our project remains to convince them to use safe methods,” explains a doctor, associated with the project for intravenous drug users. She says explaining to them about the potential threat of AIDS has helped as some of the addicts now walk into their dispensary, asking for a disposable syringe.

Dr Malhotra, says the level of awareness amongst these intravenous drug users is so low that some of them believe that a disposable syringe can be used time and again if not shared with anyone else. “They carry the syringe in their pocket and use it four to five times a day, depending upon the level of addiction,” he says. He says almost 20 per cent of the total addicts who come to do the de-addiction centre at PGI take a cocktail of drugs.

“Before we launched this project, invariably we would come across a heap of syringes dumped by these drug addicts in some corner of the colony, and it took a lot of effort to build a rapport with them,” explains a field worker. Now they are much more open as compared to earlier times when they would approach a doctor only if they were suffering from blocked veins, bad ulcers or withdrawal symptoms in case of unavailability of the drugs, she explains.

At least by making them aware about use of safe methods, we will save them from the threat of AIDS, the field workers point out.


Eligible slum-dwellers can approach DC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
The Estate Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner, Chandigarh, Mr Arun Kumar, today said the eligible slum-dwellers of Shaheed Bhagat Singh (SBS) Colony, Sector 49, who qualified for rehabilitation being eligible as on December 8, 1996, can approach him to submit their claims on any working day between 11.30 am and 1.30 pm in his office.



BJP: action on internal changes put on hold
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
The BJP today claimed that the action on notices issued for internal changes in houses in violation of bylaws had been put on hold till a committee, to be set up, gave its report.

This was reportedly stated by the Administrator, Justice O. P. Verma, to a delegation of the BJP comprising national BJP Secretary Om Prakash Dhankar, former MP Satya Pal Jain, Zila Parishad Chairman Darshan Singh, local unit general secretaries Purushottam Mahajan and Bal Kishan Kapoor and the Leader of the Opposition in the Municipal Corporation, Ms Kamla Sharma.

Mr Verma reportedly told the delegation that a committee for the purpose would be constituted soon and would be asked to submit a report, Mr Jain said in a statement.

He said Mr Verma assured them that he would take all public representatives into confidence to hammer out a consensus.

Mr Jain demanded an inquiry into the police action in the Shaheed Bhagat Singh colony. 


Charity home inmates visit Fun City
Our Correspondent

Ramgarh (Panchkula), June 12
As 113 inmates of the home of Missionaries of Charity, Sector 23, Chandigarh, reached Fun City on a visit here today, their joy knew no bounds.

Under the guidance of Sister Sunita, in charge of the home, they reached the venue and had a gala time. They took joy rides and splashed in water.

This was the third trip to the place for some inmates while for some of them this was the first visit to the water kingdom and the amusement park.

Being physically challenged, the inmates were accompanied by nine members of the staff. They took a ride on the toy train, enjoyed a merry-go-round and a see-saw hours.. They also played antakshri while enjoying snacks.

The Missionaries of Charity was founded by Mother Teresa in 1976.


Awareness needed

“Little drops of water, little drops of rain, Make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land...”

It is because of unwanted fiddling with nature by human beings that the water crisis surfaces every now and then. Man’s attempt of deforestation in the quest for urbanisation has boomeranged on him.

Just as a student prepares throughout the year for a competitive exam, similarly everyone will have to prepare throughout the year to meet the water crisis that aggravates during the summer.
We invite school students to send in original and innovative ideas on how to conserve water for publication in Chandigarh Tribune. The write-up should not exceed 300 words and should be accompanied by a passport size colour photograph.

There is a Hindi adage which, if translated into English, reads, “Tiny droplets of water can together fill the vast ocean.” If every house follows this dictum, I think we can help a lot in recharging the groundwater.

Awareness programmes should be launched at the school level and schools should hold competitions and special classes on how to conserve water. Another way is to plant saplings. More greenery, more precipitation and lesser the threat of a water crisis.

Dhaerye Agnihotri, Class V, Hansraj Public School



Demolition of religious places condemned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
The All-Gurdwara Sahyog Committee of Chandigarh here today condemned the demolition of religious places in Chandigarh and urged the Administration not to acquire land of farmers near Gurdwara Gursagar Sahib.

At a meeting of the committee chaired by Mr Gurnam Singh Sidhu, a resolution was passed urging the Administration not to acquire land of farmers as well demolish religious places.


Plea for holiday on June 16
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
The Central Committee of the All Gurdwaras and Sikh Institutions of Chandigarh today again urged Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to announce a public holiday on June 16 to allow people observe the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev as per the Nanankshahi Calendar.

At a meeting held today in the Sector 19 Guru Singh Sahib Gurdwara under the chairmanship of Mr Gurpartap Singh Riar also urged the employees of the three governments to take mass leave on the day if their respective governments did not accept the demand.


Rs 10,000 snatched from motorcyclist
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
Two car-borne youths snatched a bag containing Rs 75,000 from a motorcyclist on Madhya Marg in Sector 8 here this afternoon. The snatchers managed to take away Rs 10,000 of the total Rs 75,000 lying in the glove box of the motorcycle after the victim, Harbax Singh, tried to pull back his bag.

A hot chase by two Samaritans forced the snatchers to race the car in a crowded locality of Mani Majra. Inquiries reveal that Harbax Singh, a supervisor with Hargobind Stone Crusher, Burj Kotian, withdrawn Rs 75,000 from the Bank of Punjab at around 12.30 pm. He parked the motorcycle on Madhya Marg to drink sweetened water being served there. Two youths, who were reportedly following the motorcyclist, found the motorcycle unattended.

One of them took away the bag from the glove box of the motorcycle and ran towards the car (a blue coloured Maruti Alto-DL 3C R 3853). On seeing this, Harbax Singh tried to repossess the bag. He, however got back the bag not without losing Rs 10,000 of the total Rs 75,000.

Two Samaritans Bobby, driving in a Toyota Qualis (CH 03 E 1713) and Surat Singh, driving an Esteem car (PB 37 6916), chased the car of the snatchers. On reaching the Transport traffic lights, the police control room was informed. Within minutes, a police team led by the DSP, Central, Mr S.C. Sagar; DSP (Crime), Mr Vijay Pal and Inspector, Police Station, Sector 3, Mr Jagbir Singh, sealed Mani Majra and cornered the car in the Mori Gate area. However, the snatchers escaped taking advantage of the crowded place.

A police official said the Maruti Alto car had been impounded and suspects rounded up. Raids were being conducted to track down the owners of the car. A police official said after the last incident of snatching in the market, a strict watch was being kept in the parking area.


Youth commits suicide
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, June 12
A 30-year-old resident of Bataur village, Sanjeev Kumar, committed suicide by consuming sulphos tablets at his residence this evening. He was rushed to General Hospital, Sector 6, from where he was referred to the PGI, Chandigarh. He died on the way to hospital. The police says that he took the extreme step following a domestic dispute.

In another incident, a 29-year-old resident of BEL Colony here, Kaushalya Devi, attempted suicide by consuming an insecticide last night. She was rushed to the PGI, Chandigarh, and is now stated to be in a stable condition.



Jeep taken away
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
A resident of Ratangarh, Rajasthan, Mr Varinder Singh, reported to the police that he along with another person, Lalit, had come to the city in his silver-coloured Marshal jeep (RJ-10-C-2545) and was staying in a Sector 22 hotel. As per police sources, while they were going in the jeep near Kiran cinema, Lalit took the keys of the jeep from Mr Varinder Singh on some pretext and disappeared with the vehicle. A case under Sections 406, 420 and 379 of the IPC has been registered. 

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