C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Power pangs to turn up the heat
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
The sultry weather is set to become harsher for city residents. With demand outstripping the supply, power cuts are staring the residents in the face even though the UT administration has put up a brave front, claiming that there is nothing much to worry about.

A close look at the demand and supply position is enough to indicate that residents of Phase II (from Sectors 30 to 47) to Phase III (Sector 48 onwards) would be at the receiving end of unscheduled power cuts like last year.

Power(less) UT

  • Assured power supply 184 MW; summer demand over 300 MW
  • Rotational scheduled power cuts in the offing
  • Southern sectors to bear the brunt
  • Outdated existing power network to cause tripping

While Chandigarh has an assured supply of 184 MW, the peak demand in summer last year crossed 300 MW. Last year, the Chandigarh administration was able to get a supply of around 265 MW from various sources, including short-term purchase agreements and power sharing with power surplus states of J and K and Himachal.

On the proposed cuts, sources said “rotational cuts” seemed to be the only option for the administration. If there were any cuts, these would be scheduled so that people could make alternative arrangements, a senior official said on the condition of anonymity.

Chandigarh, with an area of 114 sq km, does not have any source of power generation. Given its VIP status being the capital of Punjab and Haryana, besides the administrative headquarters of the UT, the administration has a tough task meeting “round-the-clock” demand for power in “VIP areas”.

The city’s power demand, which was pegged at about 150 MW in 2004, has almost doubled. This is credited to economic development in the wake of the entry of MNCs and big corporates and increase in domestic power consumption. Since Chandigarh has the highest per capital income in the country, lifestyle electric equipment, including ACs, further push up power consumption, a senior UT official stated.

With the city’s power tariff cheaper than Punjab and Haryana, the “assured” power supply was likely to be misused by consumers, the officials said, adding that a hike in tariff might force people to conserve electricity. Last year also, several sectors in Phases II and III reeled under power cuts. This year is will be no different. Habitation in group housing societies in Phase III is set to increase the load on the existing infrastructure.



Humble candle makes comeback
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
A windy night cloaked in complete darkness with the car’s headlights being the sole source of light in one of the city streets lined with houses on both sides, with not a soul to be seen anywhere. However, voices wafting through open windows suggest not everyone has gone to sleep.

This scene, which seems to be taken from a suspense thriller, is actually what Sector 27 looked last night like during a two-hour long power outage. For a city like Chandigarh where, besides the arbitrary cuts, officially announced power shutdowns were introduced only last summer last year only, the situation has unhinged residents who have yet to come to terms to this regular feature in the hot months.

“I think it was 11:30 pm when the lights went out and my power inverter unfortunately conked off at midnight. It was the first time in my life that I realised that a candle meant much more than a birthday cake accessory and I silently vowed make it a must on my shopping list from now on. Having lived in a place like Chandigarh since my childhood, a power cut is perceived as denial of my rights. I was frantically calling up the electricity department,” said Sameer Singh, resident of Sector 27C.

Things were much more difficult for a new mother like Sukhmani Kaur, a Sector 27A resident, whose child troubled her for the entire two hours.

“We have just shifted here and have no power backup. I have a three-month-old daughter who is not used to pitch darkness so she was very irritated and cried a lot. When we tried to make her more comfortable with gel candles and an emergency light she got scared and things became worse. God only knows how we spent last night,” she said.

If it is any consolation for the affected residents, electricity department employees also felt the heat but of a different kind. One of them said, “The moment power goes off we start getting frantic calls from area residents who first enquiry about the cuts and then even threaten us. In this city everybody seems to ‘know’ a big shot and within an hour of the lights going off we end up being threatened by people who claim to be relatives of senior UT administration officials.”



Truant PU students rush to doctors
Neha Miglani/Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
In what is an obvious attempt to fulfill the minimum eligibility requirement of 75 percent attendance for appearing in Panjab University examinations, many students have begun submitting medical certificates that strikingly mention the same ailment and are issued by the same doctors.

In what has become an annual ritual on the campus, over 250 students (and still counting) have lined up at clinics of certain “favourite” doctors yet again to obtain a certificate for between Rs 200 and Rs 300. Each of the students “suffers’ from “back pain” for which the doctor has “advised” them bed rest for - not surprisingly - exactly the same number of days they fall short in attending classes. These certificates are then forwarded to PU officials for sanctioning leave in order to satisfy the attendance requirements.

“A majority of these students are from the University Institute of Engineering & Technology, the University Institute of Legal Studies and the department of laws.

Last year a private physician residing in Sector 20 was verbally cautioned by PU officials for granting such certificates to hundreds of students,” said an official. Department heads are authorised to sanction attendance in 10 per cent of the total number of lectures delivered.

The VC has the power to grant a further 10 per cent in special cases. The syndicate enjoys the power to condone an additional 10 per cent of attendance.



Stem cells give hope of new skin to burn victims
Anuja Jaiswal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
In major breakthrough that can prove to be a boon for patients suffering from severe burn injuries, PGI’s plastic surgery department has conducted a successful trial showing “encouraging results” for growing fresh skin by using the patient’s stem cells and thus avoiding painful graft procedures.

While the trial has so far been conducted only on one patient - a 30-year-old man from Punjab who had suffered 45 per cent burn inquiries - the encouraging results have prompted the doctors to go in for more such tests, approvals for which have been taken from the institute’s ethical committee. And, if all goes well, the process will be a blessing for burn victims.

Explaining the procedure to The Tribune, Dr RK Sharma, head of the plastic surgery department, said fresh skin is grown from cultured stem cells obtained from the patient’s bone marrow. The thin layers of skin grow themselves and cover the wound, avoiding the painful process of skin graft where skin is removed from the unaffected portions of the body and implanted on the injured areas.

“The first step involves extracting the patient’s bone marrow and then isolating the stem cells. These are then cultured in a stem cell culture laboratory for four weeks. The sizable number of cells formed or fresh layers of cells (skin) are then put on the body’s injured areas”, said Sharma.

He added the process would be of great help for patients suffering severe burn injuries and their “donor areas” for undertaking the skin graft procedures, as they are less in number.

Skin, the human body’s largest organ, protects the body from disease and physical damage and helps to regulate body temperature. When the skin has been seriously damaged through disease or burns, the body often cannot act fast enough to repair it. Burn victims may die from infection and loss of plasma. Skin grafts were originally developed as a way to prevent such consequences but in a large number of cases it is not possible.

”We hope this stem cell technique will help those patients for whom skin graft is not available for coverage of wounds,” said Sharma. The wound ultimately has to be covered by the patient's own skin.



Five-star grub now affordable
Smriti Sharma Vasudeva
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
At a time when food prices are on the rise, eating at Chandigarh’s sole five star hotel has just become more accessible and even cheaper. For a Silver Card worth Rs 1,000 per annum, customers can now avail a discount of 20 per cent on their meals. For Rs 1,500 more, a Gold Card will fetch a 25 per cent discount on meals.

The cards, aimed at “benefiting the underprivileged” according to the UT Home Secretary Ram Niwas, would also assist in obtaining a 15 and 10 per cent discount, respectively, on room tariff. This was decided at a meeting of the board of directors of CITCO.

While CITCO officials claim that these discount cards are part of corporate strategic marketing plans, it must be added that apart from these discount cards, the managing director also has discretionary powers to give away discount cards. A year ago, CITCO had invited criticism after the administration refused to give information under the RTI Act regarding the list of beneficiaries of hefty discounts.

Even earlier, a decision for extending the discount facility to buffets was taken during the meeting of CITCO’s board of directors on December 13 and implemented within a fortnight. There are approximately 500 bureaucrats who possess “privilege cards” that entitle them to avail discount between 25 and 40 per cent. All former and present directors are privileged to avail a 50 per cent discount. A section of officials of the corporation have criticised the policy to give out privilege cards. “It is a done thing in the hotel industry, but it should not be at the cost of devaluing the product and the brand,” one of them stated. “It’s good to give discounts as they are value for money, but not valuing the product too low,” said another.

Other decisions

  • CITCO to spend Rs 100 lakh to support industry by way of purchase of high-technology testing and allied equipment at CITCO’s Industrial Development Facility Centre for extending facilities to SSI units of the region. With the commissioning of new machines, the calibration lab will get accreditation/certification from the National Accreditations Board of Laboratories.
  • CITCO to take over the petrol station in Sector 56 on the highway leading to Punjab.
  • To ensure security, the board has approved X-ray baggage scanners at a cost of about Rs 50 lakh, to be installed at Hotels Mountview and Shivalikview.



Science Congress
R&D fund to promote research
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
Drastic change in temperature, recorded in different ranges of Himalaya in the past 30 years, and certain other scientific observations were discussed on the first day of the 4th Chandigarh Science Congress, CHASCON, at Panjab University here today.

More than 1,000 delegates, including students from different departments of PU and colleges participated.

The students and delegates contributed abstracts, out of which 500 will be highlighted during the scientific sessions in the two-day conference.

RC Sobti, Vice-Chancellor, Panjab University, inaugurated the congress. He announced the creation of R&D fund for motivating undergraduate and postgraduate students in the research and development activities.

Lecturers by various guests revolved around the theme of the congress- “Energy Security and Environmental Challenges.”

Prof Manoj Datta, director, PEC University of Technology, discussed “Mitigation of Green House Gas Emissions and Leachate Generation by capping of old municipal solid waste dumps”.

“By capturing methane gas and by flaring it, the Gorai landfill has recently become the first waste dump in India to earn carbon credits which offsets the cost of capping the landfill,” he said.

In an interesting study shared by Dr Ashwagosha Ganju, director, Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, the impact of depleting snow cover on avalanching and geomorphology of Himalayan region was discussed.

Prof SK Sharma deliberated his lecture on “Energy Security and Global Warming: A new Paradigm”. He shared data on sectoral imbalance of energy supply and demand in India.

“It is estimated that at the present rate of per capita energy consumption, which is 10-20 times less than the developed countries, the life span of fossil fuels is 20,35 and 90 years for oil, gas and coal respectively,” he said.

Technological advancements in “Forensic Sciences: Indian Perspective” was deliberated by Dr SK Shukla, director, Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Chandigarh.



Power to get dearer for industry
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, March 19
The industry in Mohali has suffered a big blow with the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) increasing power shutdown hours by more than double the previous duration. Most of the industrial units will now face power cuts for 58 hours a week against the earlier duration of 24 hours. The large scale industrial units are the worst hit as the duration of power cut in that case is 61 hours a week as these units have to go through an additional three hour (6.30 pm to 9.30 pm) power cut each day.

Orders to this effect were received by the industry today and were to be implemented with immediate effect.

According to sources, the orders of the PSEB in connection with power cuts were issued last evening, but were withdrawn a little later. These were issued once again today.

Industrial unit owners here presume that the orders were withdrawn earlier because the chairman of the PSEB, HS Brar, had a meeting with industrial unit owners in Ludhiana and would have liked to avoid facing any direct resentment in connection with hiked power cuts.

The Mohali Industries Association has requested the Punjab Chief Minister to personally intervene in the matter and save the industry in the state. The chairman of the board has also been urged to review the hike in compulsory weekly off days so that industry in the state was not badly hit.

Letters have also been written to the Chief Minister, industries minister, chairman of the PSEB and the principal secretary, industries, to take steps so that maximum power availability was ensured to the industrial sector. A meeting was also being held to discuss the situation.

BS Anand, president of the association, said an increase in the power cut hours had come as a shock to industrial unit owners in Mohali. The power situation was worsening by the day which was a matter of grave concern for industrial unit owners as it would adversely affect industry.

Anand further said that the PSEB was imposing power cuts in winter on the pretext that power was being given to other states who would be asked to share their power with Punjab during summers.

Moreover, the central government had given Rs 800 crore to the government of Punjab in lieu of additional power that was purchased at a higher cost for the agricultural sector last year. This amount could now be used for purchasing additional power for Punjab.

He said if such long power cuts were being imposed in March when the demand had as yet not gone up, one could imagine what would happen during peak summer months or when the paddy season started in Punjab. There was a fear that industry might be asked to close down during that period.



Lab chemical stalls a big draw
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
Right from information on energy drinks for malnutrition children to attractive IPL offers on lab chemicals, stalls at the Chandigarh Science Congress- CHASCON at Panjab University were crowd pullers on the day one of the congress.

Students and teachers from science departments continued to gather at the stalls throughout the day, where executives of private laboratories briefed them about their products and latest developments in science.

“The technology behind creating a unique algae, which has been produced in collaboration with the United Nations, is being sold to the backward areas in Africa and even India. The product is meant for children who suffer from malnutrition,” said an executive of a lab in Mohali.

The lab has adopted backward villages in Assam, where the children are being given the drink free of cost. Besides, the technology is being given to local bodies and NGOs to distribute the product to the local families.

Major pharmaceutical companies placed their counters to advertise laboratory chemicals, with lucrative IPL quiz for heavy discounts at the congress. In an attractive deal, IPL cricket schedule was given to the students, which also contained a questionnaire. Students who filled the same successfully were given surprise gifts, said the executive.



CTU likely to hike fares from April 1
Arun Sharma

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
With the proposed hike in Chandigarh Transport Undertaking (CTU) bus fares, the public transport is set to reduce the big gap between its income and expenses. The CTU has been bearing a loss of more than Rs 22 crore every year to keep the wheels of its fleet moving.

A meeting to put a stamp on the proposed doubling of existing fares is scheduled to be held on Friday. Once it is approved, it will be implemented from April 1, say sources. In fact, there has been no revision in fares since 2006 despite the running cost of buses having increased substantially during the last four years.

While the gradual increase in prices of fuel and spare parts are a cause of concern for the administration, the situation has became alarming after the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations, with CTU losses mounting sharply from Rs 14 crore to Rs 22 crore. The increase in fares will fetch an additional revenue of around Rs 8 crore, which will help the CTU keep its losses to the previous figure of Rs 14 crore, claim the sources.

A committee formed for the purpose has recommended a hike of Rs 5 upto 5 km and Rs 10 for 10 km and above. Commuters are currently charged Rs 5 for both upto 5 km and upto 10 km. For air-conditioned buses, the fare will be Rs 10 for upto 5 km and Rs 15 for more than 5 km. There will be no increase or change in monthly student and employee pass rates. The CTU charges Rs 60 per month from students and Rs 110 from employees.



Mohali allots more liquor vends around UT
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 19
Haunted by the UT’s smuggling oriented excise policy, Punjab’s excise department has increased the number of vends on its border with the UT, hoping to generate 15 per cent more revenue by increasing the licence fee and other taxes on liquor.

No wonder there was not a single application for vends in the Nayagoan area and North of Chandigarh and a single applicant for vends in Mohali city and Zirakpur. “We are hopeful of making up the losses once the UT excise policy is out in the coming days,” said Punjab excise official.

Pegging its revenue at Rs 55.51 crore against the last year’s Rs 47.24 crore, the excise department in the draw of lots for Mohali district allotted 277 vends under the new excise policy effective from April 1. Though the number of vends in the district have been decreased to 277 from existing 281 vends, the number of vends in the border areas with the UT have been increased.

Punjab has been repeatedly taking up the liquor issue with Chandigarh. Recently, Punjab’s finance minister Manpreet Badal had met Punjab Governor and UT Administrator Shivraj Patil and presented the case for parity in the taxation rules.

Due to a price difference, varying from around Rs 50 to Rs 10 per bottle (depending upon the brand), around 5,000 bottles were daily coming from Chandigarh to Mohali.

Giving details of the draw of lots, excise officials said the maximum number of 223 applications were received for a vend in Khijrabad, Majri, followed by 104 applications for 10 vends at Dappar. For vends in Zirakpur, 15 applications were received.

The officials said due to increase in the licence fee, extra licence fee, new permit fee and a new cess, the increase in the price of liquor may vary anything between eight to 10 per cent. The fee in taverns has been increased from Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 in rural areas.


  • Total 277 vends allotted in Mohali district
  • Concept of fusion beer and micro-brewery introduced, but no takers so far
  • For marriage liquor permit, the fee has been increased from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.
  • No vends in village phernis
  • Distance of a vend from the gate of an educational institution should be at least 50 metres
  • New permit fee of Re 1 per bulk litre/ proof litre on beer and a new cess of Re 1 per proof litre/ bulk litre
  • Licence fee on the IMFL and country liquor up by Rs 75 and Rs 50 per carton



Manufacturing unit sealed for violating norms
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
Cracking the whip against violators in the Industrial Area here, the UT estate office today sealed the premises of a unit manufacturing wires for violating norms. The move came after the delegation of powers to seal premises to the Assistant Estate Officer. The SDM of the area concerned had the powers decide on sealing premises earlier. The action was taken after the unit had been served notices repeatedly and the site was resumed, but violations were still not taken care of.

In the past one year, the department had served around 450 notices on erring industrialists, who had either violated norms or had been misusing their premises by carrying out commercial activities instead of manufacturing. It had resumed nearly 60 such sites. All defaulters were liable to pay a fine of Rs 500 per square foot. Official sources said nearly 20 per cent of the defaulters had deposited the penalty, totalling Rs 1.5 crore.



Jalota weaves divine melodies
SD Sharma

Panchkula, March 19
The spiritual fervour got augmented to a spectacular level as the Mumbai-based music maestro Anup Jalota took the centrestage at the Mata Mansa Shrine Complex here today.

Accompanied by several accomplished musicians, Jalota opened up with his super hit bhajan "Aisi Lagi Lagan" to mesmerise audience.The devout audience accompanied the maestro. He rendered bhajan like "Jag mein sunder hai do naam, Ram Naam atti mitha, Rrang de chunria”, “Kaise chukanun Shyam ke” and others.

Amidst clapping he concluded the recital with "Rang de chuneria". His foremost disciple Jasmine Kapadia provided an admirable vocal support.

Girja Shankar Mishra on tabla, Rohan Kumar on santoor, Dhiren Raaichura on guitar accompanied the artistes.

Over 1,70,000 devotees visited the shrine and a record collection of Rs 37,42,314 received during the past four days.



LPG leak, minor fire at PGI

Chandigarh, March 19
Two visitors were affected by a LPG leak, followed by a minor fire, at the new OPD canteen of the PGI here this morning. The incident occurred around 8:30 am, when the victims went there for their breakfast.

Doctors said the victims might have been exposed to carbon monoxide, due to which they fell unconscious. The victims were identified as Gaurav and Vishal. They were discharged in the evening as their condition was stable. — TNS



Tribune Impact
Education dept to act tough on school transport
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
The private school transport system, which had been in shambles for some time now is all set for a major change with the UT administration planning to regularise it. Taking cognisance of various irregularities highlighted by The Tribune in its report “School transport system irks parents” on March 15, the education department in collaboration with the STA has decided to tighten the noose on the erring schools.

  • Bus fee only for 11 months
  • Fee to be paid on monthly basis
  • Separate transport cards to be issued
  • STA helpline number to be displayed on each bus
  • Conductor and driver to be properly dressed
  • Mandatory installation of fire safety equipment and lubrication of emergency doors
  • Schools to sign contracts with bus operators

As per the directives issued at a meeting here today, the parents will now be paying the bus fee only for 11 months rather than 12 and that too on monthly basis.

Besides, the parents will pay bus fee for an entire quarter in advance and will also be charged for summer vacations. Bus fee cards will be issued to all students and school fee will not be clubbed with the bus fee. Any school found using buses older than 15 years would face disciplinary action.

“Mostly schools are charging around 1,000 per month and they raise it whenever they want and parents are not even given any receipt,” said president of a local PTA association.

It may be noted that a recent survey conducted by The Tribune had brought to fore irregularities like arbitrary fee structures, invasion of tax on bus fee, plying of discarded buses and over crowded buses and blatant violations of safety norms in the school transport system.

Parents approach us with several complains regarding arbitrary fee, safety etc. Steps have been taken to regularise the system. When a child does not use the school bus for a month, then why should he/she be forced to pay? All schools have given their consent and things will improve soon

— Ram Niwas, Home Secretary

If they think our system ails, why not give us CTU buses? They have so far not been able to do anything about their promised bus service for government schools and are interfering in our set-up without even consulting us

— HS Mamik, President, Independent Schools Association



PU to get facelift
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
With the sanction of Rs 33 crore budget for beautification of the campus in the Thursday’s finance board meeting, the authorities in Panjab University have pledged to give a facelift to the campus this year.

With the hallmark of the university Gandhi Bhawan getting a sandwash soon with a separate budget of Rs 25 lakh, the authorities are now panning to revamp all the other buildings within a few months.

Officials informed that the administrative block and other buildings, which have unsightly marks on them, would be revamped in the first phase, followed by the other blocks that need a facelift.



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