Monday, July 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Railways perpetuating British legacy

THE recorded announcement on Chandigarh-Delhi Shatabdi Express very proudly says that the distance of 68 km from Chandigarh to Ambala Cantt will be covered in 40 minutes. However, the actual distance covered just happens to be 45 km. This has been going on since the introduction of Shatabdi Express.

There is nothing wrong in the announcement except that the announcer has conveyed the virtual distance and not the actual track distance.

It appears that a British legacy has been perpetuated on the rail users of this region by keeping the chargeable distance one-and-a-half times the actual distance between Ambala Cantt and Kalka. A commuter travelling on this section pays Rs 5 to Rs 11 more than his counterpart in the rest of the country for second and sleeper class tickets between Ambala Cantt and Kalka.

A second class monthly season ticket between Ambala Cantt and Chandigarh costs Rs 165 against Rs 130 being charged elsewhere for the same distance. It appears the members of the Rail Users Forum are too busy utilising free rail passes to take up such mundane issues.


Historically, this section of the railways was a feeder section for the Kalka-Shimla section. It was normally used by the government staff and the holidaying upper crust of society. Halts en route were not of any consequence. With the development of Chandigarh and other activity centres such as Dera Bassi, Pinjore, Baddi and Parwanoo, there is tremendous pressure on all modes of transport. Travel on this section is no longer exclusively tourist-oriented.

The railway authorities’ argument that the higher charges are to cater for the steep gradient does not hold ground since there are no extra charges for the travel between Bombay and Pune where all trains are hauled by double engines on the Ghat section.

Possibly, there is no BG section of the Indian Railways where such an anomaly still exists. It is high time the railway authorities restored the fare to the actual distance, keeping in view the changed circumstances during the past five decades.

Brig K. S. GREWAL (retd)

Malpractices by petrol pumps

Most of the petrol pumps and gas agencies operating in Chandigarh have been engaged in unethical practices on a large scale for a long time without any fear of the oil company concerned and the regulating government department.

In the past one month the Weights and Measures Department, Chandigarh, has challaned five gas agencies for supplying underweight LPG cylinders and a few petrol pumps for short-supplying petrol. A fine of Rs 5000 imposed on them is immaterial, as it is recovered in a day while following the practice. At the same time, while releasing a new gas connection, the consumer is forced to buy a hot plate from the agency concerned. If the consumer already has the hot plate, he is harassed in the name of inspection of the hot plate.

Many times the agency owners outrightly refuse to release the gas connection without a hot plate. A large number of people complained to oil companies but, alas, no action was taken against these black-mailers and they continued to exploit the innocent consumers as per their own whims and fancies.

The Consumer Forums/ Commission, in which oil company concerned is also a party, every month settles at least five cases for deficiency in service in Chandigarh against gas agencies. Despite this, the oil company hardly takes any action against the erring gas agencies.

In a nutshell, officials of oil companies are serving best the petrol pump/gas agency owners for mutual personal benefits and are least bothered about public service for which they were appointed.

The IOC, the HPC and the BPC have their regional offices in Chandigarh covering the states of Punjab, Himachal, J&K, certain areas of Haryana and Chandigarh. If this is the situation in Chandigarh, the condition in the tehsils/rural areas can be well imagined where consumers are supplied highly adulterated petrol/diesel/kerosene and half-filled gas cylinders. The pitiable condition of these consumers is evident from the fact that they do not find the officials in their areas to report the matter. Thus owners of the pumps/agencies are minting fast money in the process.

The UT Administration should constitute inspection teams consisting of officials from the oil companies and the Weights and Measures Department and at least two representatives from consumers’ associations. These teams must inspect each petrol pump/gas agency godown once a week on a random basis and ensure that the consumers get the right quality and quantity for their money. While doing so, members in the inspection team should be put on a rotation basis so as to avoid the formation of any nexus.


Well-meaning advice

Sentinel’s (Chandigarh Calling) friendly note of caution to the “baldies” at Chandigarh, that the love-lorn guys should exercise a little extra caution vis-a-vis their “nocturnal antics” lest they should get caught “prowling” and face humiliation compels attention (July 17).

As the proverb goes, prevention is better than cure. The guys in question can ignore the well-meaning advice only at their peril.

Is “prowling” a Chandigarh-specific problem or are baldies elsewhere, too, prone to the dangerous “virus”? I am curious to know its answer. I hope the “all-knowking” Sentinel is listening.

Ambota (Una)

Admiral Satyindra Singh

With the death of Rear Admiral Satyindra Singh (retd) on July 18, the Indian Navy has lost one of its most colourful and courageous Commanders whose contribution to naval history will always be remembered. I saw him for the first time during the mid-fifties when he was a Lt-Commander.

The most splendid sailor of his time, he worked in every field and faced the odds with commendable courage that earned him the love and affection of all. Known for his loyalty to the country, he commanded rare respect even after he had retired.

Rear Admiral Satyindra Singh was one of the few staff officers of the Indian Navy who had the honour to have served with Lord Mountbatten and played a positive role during the division of the Navy in the wake of Partition. A splendid sailor born in a family of soldiers, he always expressed his views fearlessly and frankly that annoyed even his friends so often. But he stood by his statement every time. Satyindra Singh regularly contributed articles to various dailies, The Tribune being his preferred one.

Farewell to you, O our glorious and gracious Admiral, till we all meet again in the ocean of oration.

Jalari (Hamirpur)

GREAT LOSS: The sad demise of defence historian and naval strategist Rear Admiral Satyindra Singh (retd) is a great loss to the readers of The Tribune.

His articles, frequently published in The Tribune, were indeed brilliant pieces, which provided an interesting and analytical insight into the naval history of India.

Few are aware that he was the author of “Blueprint to Blue Water” and “Under Two Ensigns”.



Urban-rural divide

Independence and democracy have made no difference to the rural poor. In fact, they were better off under the British, whom they still remember for fairness and justice. The present ruling class, which comes mostly from the urban areas, has cared for the quality of life in the urban areas only. Rural India has been neglected and discriminated against.

A few examples will illustrate the point. (i) There is no water supply in most of the rural areas whereas each municipality provides this facility. (ii) Villages have a low voltage irregular supply. For days on end there is no supply. In any case, half the villages do not have any power supply. (iii) There is no quality education. Any student doing his matriculation from a rural area has no chance to compete against an urban student. University education is too costly for rural students. (iv) Medical care is almost non-existent.

Against the above scenario, I draw your attention to the composition of the Indian Army, which is the ultimate weapon with the government for internal security. The complete soldiery comes from rural and poor India, and officers are from the lower-middle class (70 per cent urban). These soldiers, after joining the defence services, are suddenly exposed to the good quality of life and development in the urban areas. They are now aware of this rural-urban disparity and the widening gap.

Rural India may not tolerate such a situation for long. I dread the day when this sleeping giant gets awakened. What role will the Army play at that time? Remember, all revolutions started with peasants, workers and rural people. You can fool them for some more time, but not forever. The time will come when the rulers may be in trouble. The remedy lies in improving the quality of rural life.

Brig K. S. KANG (retd)

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