Thursday, February 15, 2001,
Chandigarh, India



Guilty builders

As Gujarat limps back to normalcy, one thing is clear that the loss of life and property would have been much less had the builders and engineers adhered to the designs and safety measures prescribed for earthquake-prone areas. The way the buildings crumbled shows that these had been constructed with the single motive of earning profits by compromising on quality and workmanship. The housing boards do not enjoy a big reputation, but the houses built by the Gujarat Housing Board mostly remained unaffected. This shows how poor must have been the quality of the houses and flats built by the builders.

These builders and engineers should not go unscathed. There is no scope of mercy for those whose greed costs thousands of lives.

The Government should declare it mandatory to get the design of every building structurally checked, passed and declared safe by an independent structural design engineer.



Telephone system

From January 26, STD calls up to 200 km were converted into local calls. Everybody rushed to the telephones. The lines got choked and the system went into a spin.

A telephone system is normally designed for an activity coefficient of 0.15 which means that at any given point of time a maximum of 15 per cent of the subscribers will be using their telephones. But where we err is in not correctly estimating the future growth potential. Politicians, with their populist moves, add to the problem. The result is what we have seen.

The system will hopefully stabilise in due course. After the initial excitement is over, the subscribers will stop overusing the facility and the problem of over-busy lines will end. Meanwhile, the department should take steps to provide additional lines to meet the demand.

At the time of designing a system, it will be prudent to err on the side of overestimating future expansion. Besides, the system should be periodically reviewed and augmented. And the political leadership must understand and respect the limitations of a system, whether it is telephones, electricity or railways. Overstretching a system will be in nobody's interest.

Wg Cdr C. L. SEHGAL (retd), Jalandhar



Dental college

The Himachal Dental College, Sundernagar, got recognition from the Dental Council of India (DCI) a couple of years ago and strangely since then the idea of providing medical education seems to have left the minds of the college authorities. The 1999 batch which was to be promoted to the second year in 2000 is still going through its first year examinations. The classes of the first year batch admitted in 2000, which were to start in August have still not started. Repeated requests from the parents and students have not moved the college authorities. The college is short of teaching staff which has created this situation.

All this has jeopardised the careers of a number of students. The DCI should intervene and put this college on an even keel.

KAMAL SACHDEVA, SundernagarTop

New districts

There is no need for creating new districts in Himachal Pradesh which already has 12 districts with a population of hardly 60 lakh. The large districts of Kangra and Shimla were split into five and three districts respectively and there is no scope for sub-dividing the already small districts further, which will involve an additional expenditure of more than Rs 20 crore.

Himachal Pradesh already has a top heavy administrative set-up in almost all departments and still files hardly move unless these are pursued by the person concerned. There is an urgent need to downsize the heavy government machinery and thus reduce the burden of the deficit state. It is already spending more than its revenue and is under a heavy debt to meet the ever increasing non-plan expenditure. The move to create more districts is an ill-conceived and unwise step.

I. D. SHARMA, ShimlaTop

Medical admissions

The move of the Punjab Medical Education Department to count the marks obtained by a student in class XII along with those obtained in the pre-medical test (PMT) for admission to various medical and dental colleges of the state is a welcome step. The PMT, based on multiple choice questions (MCQ), suffers from certain drawbacks. Some of which are given below:

Since the MCQ based tests do not include the practical aspect of the study of science subjects, the students have stopped attending the practical classes.

Tests based on MCQ require special skills and techniques, which are not taught in the normal classroom. So, the students do not attend their normal classes regularly and prefer to go to academies or coaching centres, which help them prepare for MCQ based tests.

The parents of these students have to pay large sums to these coaching centres which have mushroomed in all cities and towns of the state. This has put the rural and poor students at a disadvantage vis-a-vis their urban and rich counterparts.

So the proposed move is a welcome step and should also be adopted for admissions to engineering colleges and other courses of higher study. This will also restore the importance of classroom teaching and laboratories which have been made redundant because of the MCQ based PMT.

Y. P. MAKKER, MaloutTop

“Dream bank”

The voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) is a much-talked topic in banking circles these days, particularly in the State Bank of India which plans to shed 10 per cent to 12 per cent of its 238000 strong workforce. Under its VRS, many persons, even at the level of assistant general manager, are opting for retirement. They found it difficult to change the mindset of the top brass which treats the experienced and efficient workforce as a liability.

The bank’s transfer policy is based on personal preferences of those in authority. Some of the employees were not given an opportunity even to move up the first rung of promotion for more than 20 years.

The State Bank of India, with its largest network and infrastructure, could not fully utilise the potential of its employees and officials since decisions affecting its workforce were not in consonance with ground realities. Frustration, stagnation and above all, the fear of dislocation due to transfer has led its employees and officials to accept the handsome financial package and say good-bye to the institution.

If all those opting for VRS who still are in the working age group put their heads together, pool their resources, and launch their own “Bank of Dreams”, they can set an example in the banking sector by avoiding the deficiencies and other ills that plague the banking system. The idea may sound utopian, but it is not impossible.



Encroachment on lands belonging to municipal corporations, municipal committees and cantonment boards have become common. While the selfish people encroach on land, the authorities tend to remain unmoved. The sufferers apparently are the silent citizens who do not have any access to the administrators or the political rulers. Roads are being narrowed, streets and lanes laid for the convenience of the people are closed, roofs are extended to claim possession of the roofed area. There seems to be no authority to check such illegal activity or such authority is rendered ineffective by people with influence.

All such areas should be surveyed according to the maps of the corporations and the municipalities and the encroachments removed without showing any favour to anyone.

JAI DEV SUMAN, Ferozepore CanttTop

Kerosene quota

The decision of the Punjab Government to surrender the quota of kerosene and increase the availability of LPG in the state is an appreciable step. It will be a boon for the poor people and a curse for the black marketeers and corrupt officials. Generally, the people, even in the rural areas, do not use kerosene and it all goes into the black market.

Selling subsidised kerosene in the open market has become necessary for the agencies and depot holders because it is not drawn by genuine ration card holders. It also brings bad name to the government. Neither the people, nor the government will suffer if LPG becomes easily available.

B. S. SHARMA, Amritsar

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