SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
H I M A C H A L   P R A D E S H

Irregularities in road widening to be probed
Shimla, March 27
The government has ordered an inquiry into alleged irregularities in the widening work of the Sauhal- Dramla road in connection with the augmentation of the Shimla water supply scheme which led to five-fold increase in the cost.

Larji project: no action taken on
inquiry report

Shimla, March 27
As the controversial Larji project, which has earned the dubious distinction of being the costliest hydroelectric venture to date, is nearing completion, it is becoming apparent that those responsible for gross financial and other irregularities in the execution of the project will go scot-free.

Centre’s decision ‘unjustified’: CM
Shimla, March 27
Terming the decision of the Centre to curtail certain incentives under the industrial package to the state as "unjustified" and "highly discriminatory", Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, expressed the confidence that the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, would intervene and undo the injustice.

Hospital a victim of political tussle
Kangra, March 27
Government apathy has left Kangra Civil Hospital in a pathetic state. The hospital has, in fact, become a victim of political tussle between the BJP and the Congress leaving the patients of Kangra and its surroundings areas in a lurch.






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EARLIER STORIES

 

V-SAT link with NICD to facilitate epidemic monitoring
Shimla, March 27
The installation of a V-SAT link at the office of the Health and Family Welfare Department here will enable direct contact with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) and other major laboratories and medical institutes in the country, enabling monitoring and guidance in emergency situations like outbreak of communicable diseases like plague.

Cold-wave conditions persist in HP
Shimla, March 27
Cold-wave conditions continued unabated in Himachal Pradesh with the high-altitude areas of the state receiving snowfall for the sixth day today, while clouds hovered the mid and lower hills of the region.

Villager dies in attack
Solan, March 27
Ram Singh, a resident of Taal in Arki tehsil, was killed when a group of fellow villagers armed with cudgels and sickles attacked him and his family members including his son Parmanand, yesterday afternoon. He received grievous injuries in the attack and was admitted to Arki hospital but was later referred to the IGMC at Shimla where he was declared brought dead.

Minister promises more funds for healthcare
Shimla, March 27
Mrs Panabaka Lakshmi, Union Minister of State for Health, yesterday said that the Government of India was committed to increase the public spending on health care from the present 0.9 per cent to 3 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) over the next few years. A sum of Rs 11,671 crore has been earmarked for the health sector in the Budget for 2006-07.

2 mentally challenged minor sisters raped
Kangra March 27
Two minor mentally challenged sisters of Banner village were allegedly raped by a youth 45 days ago. A report was lodged by their father with the help of a voluntary organisation with the Palampur police today, the police said.

Ordinance on mining soon
Shimla, March 27
The government will soon promulgate an ordinance to regulate mining which is damaging environment and affecting water sources. Stating this in the Vidhan Sabha, Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, said reckless mining was playing havoc with the environment and the government was committed to preserving it.

Balbir’s arrest can cause problem for Nepalese labourers
Parwanoo, March 27
The links of Balbir Singh alias Chander Bahadur with the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) may put hundred of Nepalese migrant labourers in a fix.

Rs 7.5 crore spent on primary education
Baddi, March 27
To bring about qualitative improvement in primary education Rs 7.5 crore has been spent in the district under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Mr Ram Kumar, chairman, Zila Parishad, said this at a training workshop of panchayati raj institutions at Nalagarh today.

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Irregularities in road widening to be probed
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 27
The government has ordered an inquiry into alleged irregularities in the widening work of the Sauhal- Dramla road in connection with the augmentation of the Shimla water supply scheme which led to five-fold increase in the cost.

Mr Kaul Singh, Irrigation and Public Health Minister, announced in the House during question hour that an officer not below the rank of Chief Engineer will conduct the probe and submit report within a month. In case it was established that irregularities had been committed in execution of the scheme or the work had been split to benefit contractors as alleged by the BJP members, the case would be handed over to the vigilance department.

He rejected the demand for constituting a committee of the house for conducting inquiry and said he had already instituted a probe.

However, he asked Mr Ramesh Dhawala and Mr Mohinder Singh, both former BJP ministers who personally visited the site, to give their report to him so that he could compare it with the findings of the inquiry he had ordered.

The two former ministers claimed that the work carried on ground was not worth more than Rs 10 lakh whereas the department had paid Rs 1.64 crore to contractors. One of the contractors had been paid Rs 1.09 crore.

Mrs Vidya Stokes, Power Minister, informed Mr Kuldeep Pathania that no monitoring committee had been constituted for the Chamera -III project being executed by the National Hydro Power Corporation but a high-powered panel to review the progress of various hydroelectric projects being executed by the Central agencies like the NHPC, NTPC and the SJVN in the state was in place.

She said the panel was headed by the Chief Secretary but keeping in view the importance of issues involved it was decided that the committee would meet under the chairpersonship of the Chief Minister. She said the suggestion of Mr Pathania for including local ministers and legislators in the committee would be considered.

Mr Kuldeep Kumar, Industries Minister, informed the House that 375 bighas of land had been acquired in Katha Bhatoli village of Solan district for industrial purpose and the owners had been paid compensation amounting to Rs 11.88 crore.

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Larji project: no action taken on inquiry report
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 27
As the controversial Larji project, which has earned the dubious distinction of being the costliest hydroelectric venture to date, is nearing completion, it is becoming apparent that those responsible for gross financial and other irregularities in the execution of the project will go scot-free.

An independent inquiry instituted by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission last year after the state power board failed to explain the abnormal escalation in the cost of the project had detected serious financial irregularities, large-scale deviations and glaring shortcomings in the project. However, no action had been taken on the report so far.

The dry run to test the first unit of the three generating units will commence on March 31 and the 126-MW project will be commissioned by June 30, three years behind schedule and at almost double the cost.

Apprehensions over the future of the project persist as the inquiry had found that the completed components of civil works by different contractors had not been carried out strictly as per design specifications and the standard codes.

The two-member expert committee comprising Mr R.N. Aggrawal, a former Chairman of the BBMB, and Mr C.L. Aggrawal, a former General Manager of the Thein Dam project, had expressed serious doubts on the quality of certain civil works and underlined the necessity for undertaking non-destructive tests of all the completed components of civil works to establish that they were in order.

It had advised the state electricity board to consider commissioning of the project only after full satisfaction with evidence that different components of civil works met the requirements of design to avoid “catastrophical damages” and “disproportional” repair charges post-commissioning.

The panel held the chairman, members and the chief engineers concerned of the state power board responsible for the huge cost and time overruns, which were attributed to “greatly non-productive” sanctions in favour of contractors, the so-called “compressed schedule” and “ineffective monitoring”. It had also found prima facie evidence of large payments to contractors at “non-competitive” rates under extraneous pressures and circumstances and recommended further vigilance probe by independent investigating agency.

It has been indeed the expensive project to date with cost escalating from the approved Rs 640 crore (at 1999 price level) to Rs 1221 crore. The cost after completion was likely to be over Rs 1250 crore. The per megawatt cost comes to about Rs 10 crore as against Rs 5.50 crore in the case of the Nathpa-Jhakri project, which has also been executed by a public sector undertaking.

It is worth mentioning that the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) had also unearthed large-scale financial irregularities and pointed out over a dozen cases of excess and irregular payments to contractors to the tune of over Rs 50 crore.

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Centre’s decision ‘unjustified’: CM
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 27
Terming the decision of the Centre to curtail certain incentives under the industrial package to the state as "unjustified" and "highly discriminatory", Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, expressed the confidence that the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, would intervene and undo the injustice.

Replying to a debate on cut motions pertaining to the demands of the Industries Department in the Vidhan Sabha today he said he had personally taken up the matter with the Prime Minister and he had assured to look into it.

He said such packages had been granted to all the special category states for a period of 10 years. In case of Himachal Pradesh, Uttranchal and Sikkim, the exemption in excise duty had been curtailed up to March 2007 from 2013 which was unjust.

He said various states across the country had been opposing the package apprehending flight of industries from their states but their fears, as was becoming increasingly evident, were misplaced. Over the past three years no industrial units had shifted from the neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, except for induction furnace based steel units, which required huge power, which was, is short supply in these states.

The government had already put induction and arc furnace based units on the negative list and they would not be given power on priority. Out of the 60 such units initially approved not many would actually come up.

He said during the past three years projects involving an investment of over Rs 17,000 crore had been cleared. The government was also going ahead with the proposal to set up special economic zones which would bring in as much investment.

The government had made it mandatory for the industrial units to employ at least 70 per cent of the total manpower from within the state and it had the requisite political will to enforce it.

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Hospital a victim of political tussle
Ashok Raina

Kangra, March 27
Government apathy has left Kangra Civil Hospital in a pathetic state. The hospital has, in fact, become a victim of political tussle between the BJP and the Congress leaving the patients of Kangra and its surroundings areas in a lurch.

Inaugurated by Mr Virbhadra Singh on December 3, 1985, the 50-bed sub-divisional hospital was upgraded by the BJP government headed by the then Chief Minister Prof. P.K. Dhumal to 100-bed hospital. An upgradation notification (Health –A-B (B) 2 /99) was issued by the government on December 20,2000 which remains buried in files even after five-and-a-half years now.

Residents here feel that Kangra was important as a pilgrimage and a historical place but the local political leadership could not place its importance in a right perspective in the political arena, thus leaving the people here craving for the basic amenities like health care.

In the year 2000-2001, the tussle between the then Chief Minister Prof. P.K. Dhumal and the former Agriculture Minister, Mr Vidya Sagar, who represented Kangra constituency, left the decision of the government unimplemented. So much so that even at one stage Mr. Vidya Sagar inaugurated the hospital of his own.

Neither the staff nor the equipment was provided for the 100 hospital by the government. Construction of an additional building complex for this 100-bed hospital foundation stone for which was laid by the then Chief Minister Mr. P.K. Dhumal has remained a distant dream for the peoples.

The local residents and people living in the radius of 30 kms, including the Changer areas, had pinned their hopes in the Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, following the change of the government but their hopes were soon dashed to the ground as during the three-year tenure of the present government has done nothing regarding the hospital upgradation.

Mr B.L. Sharma, a retired Engineer and Secretary of the Senior Citizens Forum, said yesterday that aged people were more vulnerable to the diseases but the present government has failed to provide even the basic and necessary amenities to this section of the society here. Why the upgradation plan has not been implemented? asked Mr. Sharma.

The people call this Civil Hospital as a referral hospital as there are no facilities of a surgeon, a physician, a radiologist and an anesthetist. No major surgeries are conducted in the hospital for want of doctors. The worst affected are the accident patients, who reach this hospital for required treatment, but are pushed to Dharamshala or to CMC Ludhiana or the PGI Chandigarh. Some of them succumb to their injuries on the way.

Mr. Sandeep Sareen, a social activist, said that there should have been at least a well equipped medical mobile van to provide succor to the injured who are brought here as this area is prone to the accidents.

The hospital with the requirement of 16 doctors and two dental surgeons has only seven doctors and a dental surgeon. The strength is even less than required for a 50-bed hospital.

When contacted, SMO Dr S.B. Sood told The Tribune that out of the available strength of doctors, two go for court evidences and two remain on leave. Only two to three doctors are left to manage the show.

According to sources, instead of 10 pharmacists there were two, instead of 20 staff nurses there were eight and against 20 class IV employees, there were only five in the hospital.

Due to the lack of facilities and proper staff strength, the number of outdoor patients has started gradually reducing. In the year 2003, the number of patients visiting the OPD was 89,990 which was reduced to 87,839 in 2004. Last year, it further reduced to 80,000.

Dr. Sood, however, said that the number of the admissions which had shown a gradual decline since 2003 has shown an upward trend despite no general medicine and general surgery patients were admitted in the hospital. 

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V-SAT link with NICD to facilitate epidemic monitoring
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 27
The installation of a V-SAT link at the office of the Health and Family Welfare Department here will enable direct contact with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) and other major laboratories and medical institutes in the country, enabling monitoring and guidance in emergency situations like outbreak of communicable diseases like plague.

Himachal is one of the eight states in the country chosen for direct link with the NICD and other health institutes in India through satellite. The V-SAT facility is being provided to all states, implementing the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP), launched in Himachal in April, last year.

This facility will help tackle problems like outbreak of plague or the mystery fever, diagnosed as scrub typhus, making appearance every now and then in the hill state.

Besides having a link with the NICD, the health authorities here will be able to be in touch with laboratories at Bhopal, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune and other places. This facility will save time as reports can be sent direct and will also have greater authenticity due to direct link.

Direct link will also be established with all district headquarters, in a phased manner. Going by the experience, diagnosis of a disease in the state takes very long as samples are sent to the NICD, which takes time. “With a direct link with the NICD and other premiere institutes, we can seek guidance from them round the clock and monitor and handle any situation in more competent manner,” remarked Dr Neena Shandil, Joint Secretary and State Surveillance Officer (IDSP).

The Health Department will have rapid response teams at the state level and at all district headquarters, which will be in action in case of an epidemic, especially communicable diseases. The satellite link with the NICD will particularly be useful in Himachal-specific diseases like plague, goitre, typhoid, leishmaniasis, acid peptic diseases, rheumatic heart diseases and cancer, prevalence of which is higher in the state.

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Cold-wave conditions persist in HP

Shimla, March 27
Cold-wave conditions continued unabated in Himachal Pradesh with the high-altitude areas of the state receiving snowfall for the sixth day today, while clouds hovered the mid and lower hills of the region.

The high-altitude areas, high mountain peaks and passes in Kinnuar, Lahaul-Spit, Kullu and Chamba districts experienced mild snowfall, while the adjoining valley areas were lashed by high velocity icy winds accompanied by light showers last night.

A report from Chamba district said Chamba and its adjoining areas were lashed by a sequel and rain, plummeting the day and night temperatures, while the higher areas witnessed fresh snowfall.

Mahalwar Dhar, Saach Pass, Manikaran, Kungti Pass and Chobia Pass are also experiencing fresh snowfall. Official sources said Dalhousie was experiencing extreme cold-wave conditions not witnessed even during the months of January and February.

The last village in the Bharmaur area of the district, Kungti, has been without electricity for the past one month and the entire Chamba town was in the grip of a cold-wave.

Landslides on the Chamba-Bharmaur road due to heavy rains in the district disrupted the movement of traffic for the second day today and passengers on both sides had to walk long distances to reach their destinations.

The local people shivered in the absence of regular power in the temple town of Chamba.

The high-mountain peaks of Kinner Kailash, Sri Khand, Rohtang Pass, Chansel Pass and the Dhauladhar ranges received mild snowfall last night.

Official sources said Dhundi in Kullu district and Petsio in Lahaul-Spiti district recorded over 63 cm and 48 cm of snowfall during the past 48 hrs, while Petsio recorded 4 cm of snowfall this morning.

Clouds hovered over Shimla and its adjoining areas and the night temperature rose to 6.8 degrees from yesterday’s 4.6 degrees, while Sundernagar and Bhuntar recorded a low of 8.1 and 6.3 degrees, respectively.

The Met Office predicted rain and snow at isolated places in the state during the next 24 hrs. — UNI

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Villager dies in attack
Our Correspondent

Solan, March 27
Ram Singh, a resident of Taal in Arki tehsil, was killed when a group of fellow villagers armed with cudgels and sickles attacked him and his family members including his son Parmanand, yesterday afternoon. He received grievous injuries in the attack and was admitted to Arki hospital but was later referred to the IGMC at Shimla where he was declared brought dead.

The police said a land feud between the families of the deceased and Babu Ram and Neki Ram had led to the violent clash . The case was already under consideration before the local court. The police later arrested the four accused Babu Ram, Neki Ram and their wives Reena Devi and Kaushlaya, respectively, for being involved in this brutal attack. Parmanand has alleged that the attackers wanted to grab their land.

A case under Sections 452, 147, 148, 149, 323, 506 and 302 of the IPC for house trespass, rioting armed with a weapon, criminal intimidation and murder has been registered in the matter. Further investigations were underway.

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Minister promises more funds for healthcare
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 27
Mrs Panabaka Lakshmi, Union Minister of State for Health, yesterday said that the Government of India was committed to increase the public spending on health care from the present 0.9 per cent to 3 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) over the next few years. A sum of Rs 11,671 crore has been earmarked for the health sector in the Budget for 2006-07.

Inaugurating “Vishram”, a holiday home for lady doctors and nurses set up in the heritage building near Viceregal Lodge, here, she said the Centre would provide all the required assistance to the state for improving the health infrastructure. Himachal was one of the 18 states being covered under the rural health mission.

Mrs Lakshmi said the state should take advantage of the new scheme ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) under which one accredited health worker would be appointed for every 1,000 persons. She said in all about two lakh ASHAs would be appointed across the country under the National Rural Health Mission to create health awareness among people.

Ms Harinder Hira, Principal Secretary, health and family welfare, said the Centre should provide more funds to the hill state keeping in view its difficult topography and high cost of services so that it could achieve the goal of health for all.

The heritage building, which was a private residence of Lady Dufferin, had been converted into a holiday home.

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2 mentally challenged minor sisters raped
Our correspondent

Kangra March 27
Two minor mentally challenged sisters of Banner village were allegedly raped by a youth 45 days ago. A report was lodged by their father with the help of a voluntary organisation with the Palampur police today, the police said.

The district police chief, Mr S.P. Singh, said here that the father of the girls came in contact with the Chinmayananda Mission at Sidbahri and with the help of the NGO lodged a report with the police today. He said according to the FIR, a youth of Nagri village, a conductor in a private transport, visited Banner village 45 days ago in connection with a marriage in the village.

The accused, whose name the police did not divulge, was distantly related to the family of the victims. The SSP said the accused, after attending the marriage, went into the house of the victims to stay for the night. He entered the room of the two sisters and raped them one by one.

The mother of the victims was also mentally challenged, the police said. As the family was extremely poor, it could not muster the courage to report the matter to the police, but finally did so with the NGO’s help.

According to subdivisional police officer S.R. Rana, after registering a case under Section 376 of the IPC, both victims were sent for medical examination.

He said a police party had been sent to Nagri village to arrest the accused. 

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Ordinance on mining soon
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 27
The government will soon promulgate an ordinance to regulate mining which is damaging environment and affecting water sources. Stating this in the Vidhan Sabha, Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, said reckless mining was playing havoc with the environment and the government was committed to preserving it.

It wanted to introduce a bill during the budget session itself but this was not possible as much time was required to draft it. He said a balance had to be struck between the needs of the people and the environment.

He said another ordinance would be promulgated to set up a local area development authority to develop Baddi and Barotiwala on the pattern of NOIDA.

He said the proposed authority would take care of everything from basic civic amenities to the disposal of industrial waste.

A large number of units had come up in the twin industrial townships, putting too much strain on the available civic infrastructure.

He said the government was also aware of the problem of housing in the area and it proposed to relax Section 118 of the land reforms and tenancy act which debarred non-agriculturists from acquiring land in the state.

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Balbir’s arrest can cause problem for Nepalese labourers
Our Correspondent

Parwanoo, March 27
The links of Balbir Singh alias Chander Bahadur with the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) may put hundred of Nepalese migrant labourers in a fix.

Balbir, a priest at a gurdwara, was picked by the Chandigarh police on Monday night from Kumarhatti Gurdwara for having links with the BKI. Before becoming a ‘Sikh’, he used to work as a labourer.

At first, the Maoist threat had put the Nepalese community under the scanner and now the Balbir episode may create further problems for them. The area has witnessed a record inflow of Nepalese migrant labourers who come here in search of employment.

The police has so far remained lenient in verifying the details of migrant labourers. However after Balbir’s arrest, they can no longer ask for a generous attitude from the police.

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Rs 7.5 crore spent on primary education
Our Correspondent

Baddi, March 27
To bring about qualitative improvement in primary education Rs 7.5 crore has been spent in the district under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Mr Ram Kumar, chairman, Zila Parishad, said this at a training workshop of panchayati raj institutions at Nalagarh today.

Mr Ram Kumar said as many as 502 rooms and 350 toilets had been constructed in various primary schools in the district. Besides, as many as 77 schools had been provided with boundary walls and another 150 schools had been provided with potable water. Emphasising the significance of such facilities in primary schools, he said it provided an ideal atmosphere for children for learning.

He called upon the members of the panchayati raj institutions to come forward and lend support to the abhiyan. He said to bring about transparency various village development committees had been constituted for carrying out development works. 

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Cong against unemployed, alleges Dhumal
Our Correspondent

Nurpur, March 27
The former Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, has described the Virbhadra Singh government as anti unemployed.

Addressing a public rally at Jassur yesterday, he said the Congress had come to power by promising job to atleast one member of the family but after coming to power the government had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Centre resulting in dark future for the unemployed.

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School lecturers for principal from cadre
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, March 27
The Association of Lecturers of Government Senior Secondary Schools here demanded that all principals of government senior secondary schools in the state should be from the lecturer cadre once the policy of Elementary Education is introduced.

Addressing a press conference, Mr Vinod Chaudhary, district president, said that as per the new system, the lecturers would be teaching Classes IX to XII and there was a need to do away with the old system wherein only 40 per cent principals were lecturers and fill all posts from our cadre. The association also sought creation of a secondary directorate so that the school lecturers could be separated from the Directorate of Higher Education.

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A clarification
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
Apropos to information on eligibility for Polytechnic Admission Test 2006 to be conducted by the Himachal Pradesh Takniki Shiksha Board, published in “Admission Deadline” on March 14, 2006. The Board has clarified that the candidate must have passed matriculation or its equivalent with English, mathematics, physics and chemistry from Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education or any recognized board. Candidates who will appear in the matriculation or equivalent examination during March 2006 can also appear in this test provisionally subject to their attaining the above eligibility at that time.

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