Saturday, October 20, 2001, Chandigarh, India


N C R   S T O R I E S



Delhi bears burden of NCR: Sheila
R Suryamurthy and Syed Ali Ahmed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 19
The development of the National Capital Region (NCR) holds the key to the progress of Delhi. Unless the participating states like Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh also contribute, the development of the NCR cannot be achieved, the Delhi Chief Minister, Ms Sheila Dikshit , told The Tribune in an exclusive interview.

“The development of the NCR is a matter of utmost importance to Delhi. The neighbouring states should contribute to the development of this region as it would benefit them too,” the Delhi Chief Minister said.

Stating that Delhi has already discharged its financial liability for the development of the region, Ms Dikshit accused Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh of not contributing their share, which is affecting Delhi in many respects.

“We have fulfilled our obligations. It is for the Centre to persuade the participating states to fulfil their obligation as it would benefit them also,” she said.

“Most of the problems faced by Delhi are due to lack of opportunities in the NCR,” she said, adding that the region would develop only if communication facilities, infrastructure and employment opportunities are developed, as envisaged by the visionaries.

“People would not move to the neighbouring townships unless there are better employment opportunities, communication facilities and railway network. Why would they shift when they do not have proper power supply, law and order, well-developed infrastructure and communication facilities in these areas as in Delhi?” she asked.

Ms Dikshit said the Delhi Government had been placed in a unique position and had been functioning well under several constraints. Delhi was a quasi-state and the government did not have control over land and law and order, she reminded.

“We give grants to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi for its functioning. However, they are under the control of the Lt Governor who is appointed by the Centre,” she said.

If full statehood is granted, then the multiplicity of authority would go, which would help in better administration, she said.

“We would not have to run to the Centre for everything. Right now, we are not able to implement many of the promises as we are dependent on the Centre,” she said.

Housing was an area of major concern, Ms Dikshit said. “The city needs at least 10 lakh houses. However, the Delhi Development Authority has been able to build only over 2.5 lakh houses since its inception 45 years ago. Mushrooming of unauthorised colonies is a direct result of unmet demands of a growing city,”

On the CNG issue, the Delhi Chief Minister asserted that the state government had been prompt in implementing the directives of the Supreme Court, which were within its control. “We have to depend on others for the success of the CNG scheme. If the Centre does not provide us with adequate gas and manufacturers do not keep their commitment, we cannot be held responsible for their actions,” she said.



Tea stall now abode of ‘god’
Rohit Wadhwaney
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 19
Four years ago he was running a makeshift tea stall on the pavement of a government colony in South Delhi. Today, the nondescript stall has turned into a temple, big enough to usurp a bit of the main road running along a pavement.

The temple is called Kalka Mandir and it is situated next to Block 149 of Pushpa Vihar on Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) turf.

Residents recall how Vikram, who ran the tea stall, installed an idol in a part of the kiosk one day, inspired perhaps by the writing on tea leaves. “In the ensuing months, he continued to sell tea by the cups even as he trespassed on public land. With that the metamorphosis of the stall owner was complete. Today, he is known as Vikram Baba, the ‘karta dharta’ of the Kalka Mandir,” said a resident on the condition of anonymity.

“We woke up to the game plan and lodged a complaint with the authorities. The MCD, with unusual alacrity, rushed a demolition squad to the spot. But Vikram Baba was made of sterner stuff. He knew he was up against a soft state. He lined up his wife and kids before the squad, doused them in kerosene and threatened to ignite a bonfire, if the squad went ahead with the demolition,” revealed an office-bearer of the Pushpa Vihar Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA).

The threat was too much for the officials. ``Maybe they were queasy. Maybe they had families of their own. Probably they bore a grudge against the ‘chai wallahs’ in general, but held no grouse against a man of God,’’ opined a sarcastic office-bearer of the association. The demolition squad scampered and has not been seen since then.

Vikram made no bones about the fact that the temple was built on government land. “It is on government land and it is for everybody. God Himself cannot remove this temple, what the government can do?”

A senior MCD official, who did not wish to come on record, said: “We have people above us. It is not so easy to demolish a temple. It is a different matter that the shrine was once a tea stall. But, as of now, it is a temple. It is a sensitive issue. We will do something, but nothing can materialize soon. It will take time.”

And what a temple Kalka Mandir is! Land up at the site anytime of the day and you will run into local goons, hobnobbing with Vikram Baba at the temple. The litany of charges against Vikram Baba is as long as groceries list. For instance, Vikram Baba allegedly taps electricity from overhead cables. “The pilferage is not only for his own use. He also supplies electricity to other vendors for Rs 100 each. To compound matters, a loud speaker blares day and night at the site, making it difficult for children to study or sleep in the cacophony,” said the MCD official.

According to the residents, Vikram resides permanently inside the temple with his wife and children. He has allegedly drilled a hole in the colony’s boundary wall through which the garbage is dumped into a park.

A man who wears many hats, “Vikram Baba also dabbles with drugs like ‘charas’ (hashish) and ‘ganja’ (marijuana),” a resident alleged. But a defiant Vikram took a curious plea: “I do take drugs, but I don’t sell them.”

The temple stands about 200 yards from the Madan Gir police station. But the official at the police station had a cryptic explanation for their inaction: ``Kalka Mandir does not come under our jurisdiction. And, if illegal activities are being conducted inside the temple, we need people to come forward and take the stand as witnesses. We need the people’s support.”

What could be more ironical.



CNG transporters cannot breathe easy yet
Gaurav Choudhury
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 19
Even as commuters heaved a sigh of relief following the Supreme Court's decision to extend the deadline to January 31 for the conversion of diesel buses to CNG mode, a Delhi Government notification issued last month has threatened to throw the private CNG bus fleet out of gear in the city.

In pursuance of the notification issued by the Union Ministry of Law, Justice and Company Affairs, the Delhi Government had issued a public notice instructing all private CNG bus operators to obtain fresh permits for operating buses on specified routes of the Delhi Transport Corporation.

The public notice issued by the Delhi Government states that “from September 27, 2001 onwards, the CNG and other clean fuel-driven vehicles will be required to obtain permits under Section 66 of the Motor Vehicles Act and fares of these vehicles can be fixed by the state government”.

Private bus operators point out the government notification is working as a powerful disincentive for the private CNG bus operators to do business in the city.

Section 66 (3)(L) of the Central Motor Vehicles Act states commercial vehicles run on non-conventional energy such as CNG, solar energy etc are exempted from obtaining permits from the government authorities. In addition, Section 67 of the same Act exempts such operators from adhering to the tariffs set by the state government.

The general secretary of the Delhi Private CNG Bus Operators Association, Mr Himanshu Malik, said the Delhi Government had offered them to enter the contract carriage system but that is not economically viable for them.

“In contract carriage, a bus will run for 50 km per day which will not meet the loan financing requirements of so many of us,” Mr Malik told The Tribune. There are about 1,400 CNG buses run by private operators on specified DTC routes while the DTC itself operates 1,800 buses on several routes. Private CNG bus operators point out the fresh notification goes against the fundamental principles of a pollution-free transport infrastructure.



Surfing the soap for a nocturnal date
J T Vishnu
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 19
The oldest profession in the world is perhaps the most adaptive. Its latest foray is in the electronic media; the upshot is that you need not scour the streets for a one-night stand. Instead, you can switch on prime time TV and fix up a date for the evening. In fact, some homespun TV serials have become the Yellow Book of the Capital’s upmarket call-girls.

The pimps who operate on the idiot box send out an advisory, asking prospective customers to keep a tab on a particular television serial to check out a particular actress. If the customer is happy with the offering, he confirms the rate, the day and the time for the nocturnal rendezvous. Interestingly, the rates are higher for women hailing from outside Delhi.

These high-class call girls, working for well-organised groups in the Capital, are generally masquerading as yuppie mobile women.

Top models and small screen actresses, to the hottest new arrivals, mostly from Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai, are dime a dozen in Delhi. They mostly come in the 17-21 age group and easily earn an incredible Rs 1-1.5 lakh per evening, making flesh trade one of the hottest businesses in the Capital.

The lid was blown off the racket by several such ‘young ladies,’ caught in the act, so to speak, by the Delhi Police over the last couple of years, including one footloose damsel who claimed that she was once crowned Miss Kolkata.

Sources in the South District police say that some of these women try to pass themselves for regular visitors to five-star hotels, movie buffs hovering near cinema halls, shoppers in malls, health freaks in parks, innocuous passengers at airports and railway stations and hangers-on near schools and colleges.

Clad in fashionable clothes, most of them are escorted by private guards, move in expensive cars, reek of Yankee perfumes and are armed with mobile phones, to remain accessible to their bosses and customers.

According to sources, among those running the ignominious flesh trade in the Capital include a former Delhi Police head constable and his wife, who used to operate jointly, but fanned out in different areas of the Capital following a rift .

For some of these girls the meeting point is the parking slot of star hotels, but mostly they meet in private guesthouses, farmhouses and in resorts like Surajkund, Gurgaon and Mehrauli. They don’t even bother to make entries in the check-in registers, for which the motel people are paid handsomely.

Then, there are some working ladies who operate in the streets of South Extension and earn around Rs 3,000- Rs 4,000 per evening. Fresh faces, mostly college-going, are also picked up from affluent joints, discos, hotel lobbies, restaurants etc in the city. The pickings are usually around Rs 10,000-15,000, sources say.

According to West-Delhi police sources, “The business is run mostly by wives of top businessmen and pimps.



Gurdwara that heals

GURDWARAS in the Capital have a key place in the Khalsa Panth even though many don’t know about their historic roles. Be it the birth of Khalsa Panth, the Panj Pyaras or the teachings of the Sikh Gurus, Delhi has had its importance since the time of Guru Nanak.

The Gurdwaras have a close link with the life of the great Gurus. In keeping with its tradition, The Tribune presents these historical Gurdwaras for the benefit and edification of the readers. Today, we present the historical background of the famous Bangla Sahib Gurdwaras, where thousands of devotees throng everyday.

Bangla Sahib Gurdwara (near Connaught Place): When Guru Hari Krishan, the 8th Guru, came to Delhi, he was entertained as a royal guest by Mirza Raja Jai Singh in his haveli (palace), the present site of the gurdwara. This palace was built on the model of an existing palace of Raja Jai Singh in Jaipur.

During his stay in Delhi, small pox and cholera broke out and the Guru worked among the poor Hindus and Muslims, who were moved by his compassion. Everyday, the Guru distributed sanctified water to the ailing, which had a miraculous healing effect on their mind, body and soul.



Safari park on former PM’s Bhondsi land
Ravi S.Singh
Tribune News Service

Gurgaon, October 19
The Haryana Government has decided to set up a lion and deer safari park on the land acquired by it in Bhondsi village near here after the Supreme Court released the land from the possession of former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar.

According to the Deputy Commissioner, Gurgaon, Mr Apoorva Kumar Singh, the park will be in place early next year. The administration has already approved a concept paper on the project drawn up by a renowned zoo architect of the country.

The district administration, the Bhondsi village panchayat and the Wildlife Department will jointly set up the park.



Escorts stir snowballs
Bijendra Ahlawat
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, October 19
What has started as a protest strike against the suspension of an employee of one of the nine plants of the Escorts group in Faridabad one-and-a-half months ago is snowballing into a major industrial dispute. At stake is the future of over 10,000 employees of the group as well as around 40,000 workers of the ancillary units.

The Haryana Government is seized of the matter and the State Labour Department is learnt to have recommended taking the matter to the Labour Court as all mediation efforts have failed. Moreover, the issue is threatening to become a law and order problem.

The strike gathered momentum when the Escorts Employees Union staged a huge demonstration on October 15.



Encroachers in Gurgaon get restive
Ravi S Singh
Tribune News Service

Gurgaon, October 19
Fearing strong action from the authorities against the unauthorised structures as demonstrated by the demolitions in Surya Vihar Colony a few days ago, residents of dubious colonies in Gurgaon have decided to jointly meet the district administration on Sunday to plead their case.

At present, there are more than 25 unauthorised colonies in the city.

Despite the violent resistance by residents of Surya Vihar Colony against the demolition squad, in which they threw brickbats at the posse of police and fired in the air resulting in injuries to a number of personnel, the administration appears to be determined to carry on with the second phase of demolition.

According to a quick survey, the colony located near Sector 9 is unauthorised.

Other than over 100 residential and commercial structures whose status has been validated by the courts, more than 1,000 structures here are unauthorised. In the demolition undertaken a few days ago, about 18 structures were razed to the ground.

Just after the demolition in Surya Vihar Colony, the authorities sounded the alarm bell among the encroachers of land by bringing to ground more than half a dozen structures on the Basai road.

Mr Khazan Singh, an advocate and local Congress leader, said the authorities should not have allowed the unauthorised constructions to come up in the first place. Now since years have passed since their construction, they should not have been demolished.

He said if the owners of unauthorised structures are punished, the authorities who colluded in the crime must also be punished as per the ruling of the Supreme Court.

A team of lawyers has now been constituted to take up the cases of affected owners in the court.

The removal of unauthorised structures in Gurgaon and other parts of the State is on the agenda of Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala. He has repeatedly made public his displeasure over the encroachment of lands.

Barring those with vested interests, the demolition drive in Gurgaon has been well taken most of the people. Only the owners of unauthorised structures are jumpy about the nearing demolition threat.



No full stops for this city philanthropist
Ramesh Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 19
What began as a pastime was soon to become a passion and septuagenarian Nand Parkash Thareja knows it better. “Post-retirement I didn’t quite fancy the idea of living a sedate life,” he muses while taking a stroll in the park that is a veritable oasis of greenery in an otherwise parched landscape of Delhi.

Over what used to be a dumping ground today stands a park that boasts of a lush green outfield, waterfall and the works. Patronised by the residents of D-Block, Saket, the park owes its existence to the Human Care Charitable Trust founded by Mr Thareja six years back. There is a Speaker’s Corner where families assemble on weekends to hear a speaker hold forth on issues ranging from politics to arts and culture. A Chintan Sthal for the spiritually-inclined. Swings for children. Comfortable reclining chairs beneath the foliage for elders. And solar cookers, if you may, for homemakers to prepare dishes while catching up on the latest gossip. Wednesdays are reserved for the ladies playing tambola and mornings for yoga classes.

All this didn’t come easy. “When this park was being developed, I used to sweep the place myself,” he reminisces. “No help was forthcoming from the civic authorities.” Over the years the Trust has come to spend close to Rs 2 lakh on the maintenance of the park including the installation of a bore well in June 1998 to meet the water shortfall in the neighbourhood.

“The desire to give something back to society” impelled the 77-year-old retired assistant general manager of State Bank of India to pursue other philanthropic activities. Last year alone, the Trust disbursed more than Rs 48 lakh to students in need of monetary assistance, widows, physically challenged persons and the underprivileged. Among the beneficiaries is a student of engineering at a reputed university who for want of financial aid might otherwise have not come good.

A man of many parts, Mr Thareja has an abiding interest in astrology, palmistry and numerology. Proceeds from his book Palmistry Made Easy and contributions from his clientele whom he meets in his spare time have been ploughed back into several of his welfare projects. “One simply cannot turn to the government for all our needs ... one must also be willing to help others and what better way than undertaking community-oriented welfare measures,” he says with the conviction of a man who has dared to be different.

One of nine siblings born to a schoolteacher who later became treasurer of the District Board in Mianwali, now in Pakistan, Mr Thareja started working at the age of 15 at the Ordnance Depot, Quetta and came to India after Partition. For one who has been through the troughs of life, he says God has been kind to him. Any dreams that he might still have, you wonder and his face brightens up. “I want to set up a charitable hospital at a concessional rate preferably in south Delhi.”



‘Save Indians in Kabul’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 19
Worried about the Indians citizens who are trapped in Afghanistan, Peshawar, Kabul and Jalalabad, where the US-led Northern alliance has been launching attacks at present, the All India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF), has requested the United Nations Office to intervene and help the Indians reach their country safely without any tension.

Mr M S Bitta, the chairman of AIATF, on Friday led a demonstration in front of the UN office in New Delhi, and expressed concern over thousands of Indian citizens who are trapped in the war-torn areas of Afghanistan.



Is anybody listening out there?

Oh mankind! Quo vadis?
A common man beckons.

Fundamentalism with all its wickedness is inflicting devastating effects on mankind. I recall the Mahamuni, late Sri Chandrasekharendra Swamigal of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, expressing the view that mankind could have been born absolutely dumb. What we see, feel and experience today are monsters; their tribe is ruling the roost and it cares two hoots about regulating its day-to-day thoughts, speeches and reactions. Nobody seems to consider himself a human, gifted to this world of ours by the Almighty, destined to usher in humility, peace and tranquillity along with the dictum “Live and Let Live”. Today, we see fundamentalism and infighting, jealousy and hatred, espionage and sabotage, killing and looting; for all this, man shamelessly controls lethal nuclear weapons, arms and ammunition.

Why all this, what for and for whom? There are billions of human beings suffering from hunger, malnutrition, disease and pollution, but a few monsters and their puppets could not care less. They have their own personal agendas and for meeting many such unwarranted assignments, they invariably need at their command airplanes and air-conditioned trains and people in all readiness to carry out their diktats.

Well! This is not to cry foul as our Mother Earth has produced angels like Adi Sankara, Guru Nanak Dev, Prophet Mohammad, Jesus Christ, Ramanuja, Vedanta Desika and a score of others. Yet, as Sri Poondhanam said: “Yesteryears are no more ours to dream or cry for; the morrows can never be predicted and, so, today is the only day we can boldly and disinterestedly consider…What we can do for the people, the nation and Mother Earth as a whole.’’

Are we thinking, speaking and acting in the right earnest for the uplift of the suffering billions of our planet. Do we really need a blessed religion, which casts a spell on mankind in the guise of caste and creed, deceptive affluence, arrogance and indifference? No. Not yet. Therefore, I beckon the immediate attention of all intellectuals, saints, poets, educationists, jurists, legislators, bureaucrats and businessmen, to join hands for bringing lasting peace and tranquillity on Mother Earth. Sooner it is done, the better. By Lord’s grace, let enduring wisdom prevail upon mankind! Amen!.

NY SESHADRI, Ghaziabad

MTNL maze

Traders in Bari Market and Sadar Bazaar are aggrieved over the increasing shortage of electricity and telephone lines in the area. The electric wires are haphazardly arranged and we fear that a fire may break out due to a short circuit. The telephones remain out of order for months; this, in turn, affects the business. Due to the entangling of electric and telephone wires, there have been short circuits in the past. The Vidyut board and the MTNL have not responded to the complaints.


Slum in making

Authorities are asked to take immediate action to mitigate the problems faced by the residents of Pahar Ganj and Multani Dhanda owing to rapid commercialisation of the area.

The lanes have been converted into open-air workshops engaged in polishing of wooden furniture, cutting of marble stone, packing of wooden boxes. Unscrupulous builders stack the stone dust, sand and other building material on the roads, which leads to frequent skidding of scooterists.

It is almost impossible for pedestrians to move. Rickshaw-pullers with aluminium or M7S bars, or channels loaded well beyond the physical limits, pose another big problem, resulting in frequent collisions. The authorities speak of similar problems in the walled city areas. But this area is fast becoming an extension of the walled city. If steps are not taken in time, the word `slum’ will have to be modified for this type of locality.


Water woes

The water shortage in our society is so acute that we have to depend on the tankers to fulfil our basic needs. When the supply reaches our society, the pressure is so low that the water trickles into our tank. Though most of the apartments in the I P Extension face the shortage, the situation in Link Apartments is so bad that the supply barely lasts an hour every day.

Tankers are seldom pressed into service to ease the shortage in our area despite requests. The Jal Board centre at I P Extension does not listen.

K A SAIGAL, New Delhi

Problem of plenty

I would like to draw attention to problems faced by the residents of Lajpat Nagar. Even though it is regarded as a posh colony, the situation is worse than that in cluttered Old Delhi Markets. The number of cycle rickshaws in the area has increased alarmingly. Owing to the increase, there are frequent jams on the Ring Road, too. It seems that police have also turned a blind eye to the hazard.




Another murder bid in Malviya Nagar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 19
In a continuing lawlessness in Malviya Nagar, there was another attempted case of murder when a property dealer was shot at and injured. The property dealer, Mr Bhupinder Singh alias Tinku (36) was shot at by an unidentified person.

The victim, who has his office in Savitri Nagar area of Malviya Nagar, is married and has two children. While he was in his office this morning, the assailant fired three shots at the victim after greeting him.

Similarly, there was an attempted murder case yesterday in which, Ravi, a resident of Savitiri Nagar sustained serious injuries. He has been admitted to a hospital.

In another case, a constable of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Nittin Puttewar, was shot dead by an unidentified assailant in Jharodan Kalan area of South-West Delhi where the constable was on patrolling duty.

While the constable, who was armed with a lathi, was moving towards the eastern gate of the CRPF camp, the assailant fired at him, killing him on the spot.



Telecom officer held for accepting bribe
Our Correspondent

Ghaziabad, October 19
A junior officer of the Telecom Department was recently arrested red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 500 by a team of the Anti-Corruption Wing, Meerut. In protest, staff of the telephone exchange, Pratap Vihar, under the Vijay Nagar police station in Ghaziabad, reportedly manhandled the team of the Anti-Corruption Wing, Meerut.

According to information gathered, a telephone connection had been sanctioned a month ago in the name of Babuddin, under the quota for handicapped persons. Babuddin alleged his telephone connection had not been operationalised though he had made repeated requests to the telephone exchange in Pratap Vihar, as he was unable to give any bribe. As a last resort, Babuddin complained to the Anti-Corruption Wing in Meerut, which made a plan to nab the junior telecom officer.

Land fraud thwarted

In order to fraudulently sell property of the DIG of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), Muradabad, certain youths presented a young woman in the Ghaziabad tehsil office in place of the 80-year-old bona fide owner and mother of the Chief Development Officer (CDO) of Fatehpur district.

On the complaint of the DIG, who had the power of attorney from the CDO’s mother, the Vijay Nagar police registered a case of fraud against two youths who have been accused of having got transferred 500-sq. yard land from plot No.73 in Akbarpur Behrampur village.


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