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Thursday, November 25, 1999
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Octroi & self-employed youth

A FEW days ago the Punjab Minister for Local Government, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, held a meeting at Chandigarh to review octroi collection in the state. A news item says, “It was made clear at the meeting that contractors have no powers to seize goods nor shall they levy and collect any penalty or composition fee....”

The report further mentions, “The Minister warned that an octroi contract may be cancelled if a contractor indulges in any misconduct either personally or through his staff.”

I want to apprise the Minister and the Government of Punjab of the mischievous activities of some octroi contractors. These contractors seize goods and impose heavy penalties arbitrarily on self-employed educated youth hawkers, who go to suburban/subdivisional areas by bus or on their cycles or two-wheelers for selling stationery/cloth items, etc, on a retail basis to earn their livelihood.

I request the Government of Punjab to issue directives to all the octroi contractors, municipal councils and municipal corporations to exempt at least the self-employed youth hawkers from the imposition of octroi.


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Unfair bus fare hike

The recent hike in diesel prices has brought tears to daily commuters.

Travelling from the Ambala Cantonment area to the Chandigarh Inter-State Bus Terminus (ISBT), one can feel the tinge. From Ambala Cantt to the ISBT is an approximately 50-km distance, which comprises 30km of the Punjab area, from the Golden Forest Complex, near Lalru to Zirakpur. From Zirakpur to the ISBT the distance is barely 10km. But the bus fare hike in the Union Territory of Chandigarh is almost double the fare increased by the Punjab Government.

In terms of money, the hike in the bus fare for the Punjab area, measuring 30km, is Re 1 while in the Chandigarh area, with a distance of barely 10km, it is Rs 2. This is unfair.

The Chandigarh Administration must do something to restructure its bus fares and maintain a kind of equilibrium so that bus users do not feel being cheated.

Ambala Cantt

“Your ears, not your heart!”

About a month back, I had gone to the market to buy sugar and some other items of daily use. I slipped on the pavement and fractured one of my legs. Since then I have been bed-ridden.

As my leg is in plaster and the doctor treating it has advised me not to allow the plastered leg to get wet, the responsibility of giving me bath rests with my wife.

My wife, being a bath buff, prepares two bucketfulls of tepid water every other day and signals to me to follow her to the bathroom. I, too, cannot resist these slow baths.

But the most intriguing aspect of it is that while I go through this routine I lay stress on washing my hair, face, neck, chest, armpits, etc, my wife totally concentrates on the cleaning up of my ears.

“Apply soap on your ears. No, no, not this way! Yes, this way! Use some more! Now put your finger into your ear-holes. A bit more deep, and now rotate it fully... into this ear too! Yea, that is it! Now rub your ears properly”, she would give this running commentary while pouring water on my head.

Having observed this obsession of my spouse — to wash my ears so cerefully during a bath — I could not keep my feelings to myself. I narrated the whole matter to my daughters. My younger daughters, who are playful and fun-seekers, had a good laugh. But the eldest one, who has a lot of wit and sense of humour, thought over it for a while and then said:

“Dad, it is so simple! At this stage of her life, Mom wants your ears more than your heart. Middle-aged men mostly turn a deaf ear to what their wives say. So, Mom pays extra attention to keeping your ears clean. I hope you agree with me.”

I nodded, looking half-stupified.


All about the bulge

According to a news item headlined “Delhiites, waistlines bulging: study” (November 15), almost one-third of males and half of females of the Capital’s middle class are either overweight or obese, putting them under high risk of developing heart diseases, hypertension and diabetes.

In the mid-eighties, a study team of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, after a lot of research, came to the conclusion that obesity had no relation to what (and how much) a person eats. Contrariwise, as tweedledum would say, “you cannot hope to take those obtrusive extra inches off the middle portion of your anatomy by missing a lunch here and a dinner there”. Nor does regimental starvation reduce a man’s (or a woman’s) girths.

The affairs of the stomach, like those of human heart, defy reason and logic. Which is perhaps why so many of our politicians, living off the fat of the land, look so disconcertingly trim and satiated. It is all right for J.S. Mill to say, “Better Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied”, but try setting that one to either the pig or the politician!

There is double hope for the fat in the AIIMS study. They can eat as they like and still hope to check their circumference and save on their suit lengths. The point is: should they? Obesity is as much a state of mind as of the stomach. G.K.Chesteron put his fat to good use. When angry ladies during World War II asked him why he was not “out at the front”. He told them that if they looked at him from side ways they would see that he was actually “out at the front”.

Falstaff was fat too, and none the less lovable for it. Apart from being the darlings of Roman emperors, fat men and women are the only ones to get their money’s worth out of a weighing machine!

Now that gluttony is established to have no cause-and-effect relationship with obesity, what need is there to shed one’s excess of the middle and run after the so-called therapies for fighting the battle of the bulge?


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Office-bearers of private bodies

The election of office-bearers of the managing committee of the Rohtak Jat educational institutions was held on November 14. There was a big exhibition of coloured posters bearing full-size photographs of the candidates and announcements were made through loudspeakers.

Each candidate might have spent more than what an MP does in his constituency.

Unfortunately, there is no model code of conduct for these elections. A country like India cannot afford such waste of money. It not only weakens us financially but also affects the supply of paper, diesel, etc. The government must look into the problem.

The constitution of such institutions should be changed. It should be uniform whether it is a Jat, Brahmin or Vaish institution.

There should be age bar for such office-bearers. Persons not less than 50 years of age should be allowed to contest such elections. The voter list should also be amended. Only the ex-students of these institutions be allowed to cast their votes, like the poll for the Senate of Panjab University, Chandigarh. The sitting MP/MLA of Rohtak can be the president of such bodies.



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