Thursday, January 10, 2002, Chandigarh, India


N C R   S T O R I E S



CM upset at L-G bid to keep her in dark
Ramesh Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
The divergence of views held by the Government of NCT of Delhi and the Centre’s nominee manifested itself in no uncertain terms on Wednesday when Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit joined issue with Lieutenant Governor Vijai Kapoor, following latter’s statement that the final draft of the amended Master Plan would be ready in six weeks’ time. Voicing her anxiety, Ms Dikshit said the Executive was kept in the dark about the exercise and that the government had not been consulted at all. Taking umbrage over her omission from the process of consultation, she said : “I strongly protest … the government’s views should have been factored in.”

Alluding to the adage of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing, the chief minister said the Master Plan ought to incorporate the concerns of the elected representatives. A holistic view can be taken only if the considered opinion of the government is given due thought. The government, she said, had prepared a draft paper on “NCR Planning” and also outlined its agenda for the next two decades in the document “Vision 2021.” That exercise, she averred, would have served well had its contents been incorporated in part or in full in the Master Plan.

The chief minister’s caustic response followed Wednesday noon’s Annual News Conference hosted by Lieutenant Governor Vijai Kapoor. In his interaction with media persons, during which he presented a retrospective of the year gone by and outlined his agenda for 2002 and beyond, the Lieutenant Governor declared that the final draft of Master Plan was being given finishing touches and that it would be ready in six weeks.

The final draft, he said, would incorporate six new amendments that dealt with land use policy and developmental works. Delhi would be declared an urban zone, so that “agriculture land” ceases to exist. The green land, he said, was “otherwise an open invitation to erect unauthorised structures.” Also, land pool would come into vogue instead of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) engaging in acquisition and disposal of land.

A flexible Land Use Policy and “re-development” of unauthorised colonies and the Old City are on the anvil. So are intensive urban development of the “corridors” like the Western Expressway and Metro and provision for avenues for employment and income generation “commensurate with the burgeoning population of Delhi.”

Some of the amendments too came in for sharp criticism from the chief minister. Delhi, Ms Dikshit pointed out, was perhaps one of the few metropolises to have the distinct advantage of a thriving agri-business on the outskirts that ensured a regular supply of fresh farm vegetables etc to the urban pockets. Agriculture should not be disrupted, she declared, and on the contrary horticulture and floriculture should be encouraged. Taking umbrage over the exclusion of the Executive arm of the government, the chief minister suggested perspective planning for the National Capital Region (NCR) while incorporating safeguards as Delhi bore the burden of NCR.



Businessmen peeved at sales tax dept diktat 
Our Correspondent

Gurgaon, January 9
The Sales Tax Department has directed the industrial as well as business community to furnish the details of electricity and telephone bills, paid during the last three years.

The information of bank accounts, property, numbers of employees etc have also been sought by the department.

Various business and social bodies of the district, peeved about the step, stated that the direction of the Sales Tax department was nothing but a move to harass them.

Initially, the department has sent the notice covering furniture, tea, sanitation, building material and readymade garment segments. Both the manufacturers and the retailers of these products have been directed to provide the information on the enclosed pro forma.

The notice sent by the AETO-cum-Assessing Authority mentioned that the information was required under Section 54 of the Haryana General Sales Tax Act, 1973. It must reach within seven days of the receipt of the notice. Failure to submit the information shall constitute an offence punishable under Section 51 of the Act, states the notice.

The department has sought the information of the total number of employees, including proprietor and partner in the business, detail of the premises, whether it is owned or rented. Details of bank accounts with the credit limit, total value of stocks (taxable, tax-free and tax paid), telephone and electricity bills, paid during the last three years, have also been required.

It is directed that the profit and loss account and the balance sheet of the business have to be attached with the pro forma.

The Assistant Excise and Taxation Officer (AETO), Mr U K Gupta, told to the NCR Tribune that the information had been sought so that these could be verified with the data the department possessed. And if some discrepancies were found, the department would take necessary action against the offender.

However, the general secretary of Udyog Vihar Industries Association, Mr A P Jain, said that the industries were already under tremendous pressure following the imposition of External Development Charges (EDC) by the Haryana State Industrial Development Corporation Ltd. (HSIDC) on them.

The Sales Tax department move would just pester the business community, remarked Mr Jain. Mr S P Nagrath, president of Sanyukt Kalyan Parishad, an NGO, said that the Central Government was engaged in simplification of the procedure, related to different taxes. The state government should strive to provide relief to the businessmen as far as the paper works were concerned.



Delhi gets law to deal with organised crime
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), a legal instrument to control the activities of syndicates and underworld operatives, would come into effect in Delhi from Thursday. Announcing this at his customary annual news conference, Lieutenant Governor Vijai Kapoor on Wednesday said the Act had been notified in the official Gazette.

Allaying apprehensions regarding the Act, the Lieutenant Governor said adequate safeguards had been incorporated into the Act. The rights of law-abiding citizens of civil society would be respected, he said, and added that the Act had in the past withstood legal scrutiny.

The Lieutenant Governor said the Act had helped the Maharashtra Police in a big way to check organised crime and the need for extending it to Delhi had been felt for a long time. “The imperative for such a demand stemmed from the fact that Delhi was targeted by terrorists several times during the last year. It all began with the intrusion of terrorists in the Red Fort. A series of explosions also took place during the year gone by which culminated in the audacious December 13 terrorist strike on Parliament,” he said. Though none of these attacks resulted in major damage, Delhi would have to remain in the forefront of the fight against terrorism, he said while justifying the introduction of the Act that was introduced in Maharashtra in 1999.

Delhi Police Commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma, who was present during the Lieutenant Governor’s interaction with media persons, said the Act had been notified last week and special courts would now be set up for the implementation of the Act. “We have not allowed organised crime syndicates to flourish in the Capital. Underworld dons like Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan have been trying since 1999 to set up their bases in Delhi but their attempts were nipped in the bud,” the Commissioner said.



Constable’s son behind nine-yr-old’s abduction, murder
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
With the arrest of three persons, including the cousin of the victim and a son of a serving Delhi Police Head Constable, the North-West police today claimed to have solved the sensational kidnapping and murder case of Milan Mittal (9). He was strangled to death near Khera village in Bawana. The suspects comprise victim’s cousin, Ritesh Mittal alias Shalu (23), Narender Chauhan alias Guddu and Zaffar Abbas alias Jafar (20), son of the Delhi Police Head Constable. They are all residents of Pitampura, and charged with kidnapping for ransom and murder. They have been put behind bars.

The incident occurred on January 4, when the alleged culprits went to Pitampura and waited for Milan to finish his tuition class in Pitampura. When he came out, Ritesh took him in his car on the pretext of dropping him home. But instead, the miscreants took him to a deserted area in Bawana and strangled him with a black scarf.

Ironically, Milan had been murdered first and then his parents received the ransom call. They received the first call for Rs 20 lakh. The second came after 10 minutes, warning the family against informing the police. However, the police were informed immediately by the victim’s father, Prem Mittal, a businessman. The police team under the supervision of ACP, Narela and Bawana, initiated the enquiry and put the phones under observation.

Next day, the police received information that a body of a small boy had been lying near Khera village. The body was of Milan and sent for a post-mortem examination. It was found that the victim died of asphyxia (ligature strangulation).

During preliminary investigation, the police also found that Mittal’s house had two phones and one with a caller ID. Both the ransom calls were made on the other phone.

This gave the police a lead that someone close to the family was involved in the heinous act. The police also enquired from the residents of the area who revealed that it was a white Santro car with loud music that had taken the boy.

One resident even guessed the number of the car as 1172. The police took the lead and picked up Jatinder alias Kake, resident of K P block in Pitampura, who owned the same car. He disclosed that the suspect Ritesh came and exchanged his Matiz with Santro car on the fateful evening. Taking the clue, the police kept a watch on the movement of Ritesh. And finally on January 9, Ritesh along with his two associates, were apprehended near Pitampura while they were in Ritesh’s Matiz car. All the three were interrogated separately. They confessed to have committed the crime. It was further revealed that Ritesh, a school drop-out and a habitual drinker, masterminded the murder.

They disclosed that Zaffar drove the car while Ritesh and Guddu strangled the boy and dumped him in the adjacent Khera village.



Customs Officer’s house looted in Sonepat 
Our Correspondent

Sonepat, January 9
At least six unidentified armed bandits forced their way into the residence of Mr Mohinder Singh, a Custom Officer in Sector 14, a residential colony of the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) here last night, and escaped with about Rs 1.50 lakh, 31 tolas of gold ornaments and other valuables, besides the service revolver of the officer.

According to a report, the bandits locked the wife and children of Mr Mohinder Singh in a bathroom before fleeing. Mr Mohinder Singh is posted at Palam Airport in Delhi. He was away when the culprits struck the house. It is stated that the thugs arrived around 10 pm and one of them knocked at the door of the house. Thereupon, Miss Vibha opened the gate of the residence after satisfying herself that the person was her relative. As soon as the gate was opened, all the six bandits entered the house. Four of them were armed with pistols and two others had knives in their hands.

They received the keys of an almirah and succeeded in taking out about Rs 1.50 lakh from it. They also entered another room of the house, from where they took out 31 tolas of gold ornaments and the service revolver of the Custom Officer.

The desperadoes ransacked the house for about half an hour. During the period, they also consumed liquor amid the loud sound of the TV. Thereafter, the culprits locked all the members of the family in a bathroom and fled. Mr Mahinder Singh reached the residence after about half an hour. He was shocked to see that the main gate was open. He also heard the cries of children from the bathroom. He immediately opened the door of the bathroom and the store where his children and wife were locked.

He rang up the police control Room, but failed to get any response. Thereupon, he informed the DSP Headquarters, Mr Hardeep Singh Doon, who arrived immediately. A hunt was launched and nakabandi was organised, but the culprits could not be arrested. A case of dacoity has been registered. This is the second case of dacoity in three days in the area.



Criminal shot, Chinese arm, maps seized
Our Correspondent

Ghaziabad, January 9
A revolver of Chinese origin and some dubious documents have been recovered from a criminal, killed in an encounter with Muradnagar police last night. The documents are being linked to an intelligence agency of a foreign country by the police. Police teams have been despatched to different places for an inquiry. At about 11.30 last night, S.O. incharge, Muradnagar police station, engaged two criminals in an encounter near Kannuja village. One of them was killed in the shootout.

A Chinese revolver was recovered from the site. Some cryptic words, “CRP 0890”, were inscribed on it. Apart from the documents, some maps have also been seized. The locations on the maps are not clear, the police say.

One of the document bore the name Abas Khan, who is a resident of Kheda. A police team has been sent to this address. According to police sources, the identity of the slain criminal has not been established yet.

According to DIG, Meerut range, Mr Arun Kumar, some documents have been recovered from the criminal. They include maps which are being examined. He did not elaborate as “the matter was confidential”. Another senior police officer said that the matter was quite serious and “we are treating it as such. The criminal, in all probability, is linked to some foreign espionage network. We are trying to establish his identity also.”



Temple robbed, priest thrashed
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, January 9
Armed youth barged into a temple complex near Hodal town in the district last night and fled after looting Rs. 12000 in cash and injuring the priests. Three persons have hospitalised. According to reports, the incident took place at Narayan temple, located near the national highway, about 60 km from here. Armed with fire arms, and crude weapons the gangsters assaulted the priest in sleep. The accused reportedly snatched the keys of the donation boxes and decamped with the cash under the cover of darkness. Krishan Dass, Dhanpat and Raj Snehi, who work here as priests, were injured in the assault. A case has been lodged.



Suicide by married woman, youth

A youth and a married woman of NIT locality here, who were reportedly in ‘love,’ committed suicide after consuming a poisonous substance in a park here late last evening. The deceased, identified as Sanjay (28) and his girl-friend, who was married, went to the Rose Garden in Sector-14, last evening and consumed a poisonous substance. Some visitors to the park found them lying unconscious and informed the police, which took them to the Ecorts hospital. While the boy died late last night the woman died this morning,. A visiting card in the pocket of the boy revealed his identity. TNS



Stadium to come up at Sohna
Ravi S.Singh
Tribune News Service

Gurgaon, January 9
The Haryana Government has decided to build a stadium at Sohna, named after former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal. Sohna is a block headquarter; it is also a tourist spot.

According to sources in the district administration, the proposed stadium will be built on eight acres of land at an estimated cost of Rs 20 lakhs. The money will be provided to the district authorities in the form of grants by the state and the Union government. It will be constructed by the District Sports Council.



Ram Babu complains on BJP hogging MCD meets
Threatens to prevent tabling of Budget in House
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
The Leader of the Opposition in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Mr Ram Babu Sharma, today threatened that he would not allow the House to table the budget if his demand for being invited to chair public functions was not met. The budget is likely to be presented on January 15.

Mr Ram Babu Sharma alleged that all publicity was being hogged by the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, Chairman of the Standing Committee or the Leader of the House as the Bharatiya Janata Party-led corporation coerced the corporators to invite them only to preside over the official functions held in their respective areas.

He said that it was sheer violation of a circular sent to all corporators by the Mayor’s office in 1997 that official functions would be presided over by corporators of the area. Besides, the chief guest would have to be decided with the consent of the corporators.

As only a few weeks are left for the corporation elections, the BJP-led corporation appears to be trying to take maximum publicity by inaugurating parks, newly constructed roads and other development works and keeping the dais exclusively for its leaders. And this has apparently raised the hackles of the Leader of the Opposition in the MCD.

Mr Ram Babu Sharma said that the Mayor issued an order on January 3 that he and his men would be invited for presiding over the functions. Special cards had been issued for the Deputy Mayor, Chairman of the Standing Committee and Leader of the House entitling them to preside over the functions in the absence of the Mayor. This was despite the fact that the posts of Deputy Mayor and Leader of the House did not exist in the MCD Act. Mr Ram Babu Sharma advised all the Congress corporators not to organise any official functions in their respective areas.



Cong, BJP now vie for credit on Mashelkar panel’s report
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
The Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have welcomed the Mashelkar Committee’s report on auto fuel policy that recommended alternative fuels like LPG, ethanol and electricity in addition to CNG and left the option of “clean fuel” to the end user. The convergence of opinions, however, ends there as the Congress government has dubbed it as a vindication of its stand while the BJP has claimed credit for the report having been accepted by the Union Cabinet, thereby eliminating a transport crisis in the Capital.

“Relieved” by the recommendations of the report, the Chief Minister, Ms Sheila Dikshit, said the Government of NCT of Delhi had all along been pleading for the use of multiple clean fuel systems while simultaneously assuring safety and surety of supply of the fuels. Referring to the procedural hurdles in the way of making public transport ‘CNG-friendly,’ Ms Dikshit said: “The economic impact and experience of the use of CNG only by cities all over the world also needed to be seriously studied and considered before any final and mandatory decisions are arrived at.”

The Delhi BJP president, Mr Mange Ram Garg, who addressed a news conference along with the former Chief Minister, Mr Madan Lal Khurana, said the latter and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Vijay Goel had met Union Petroleum Minister Ram Naik on January 5 and urged him to place the report before the Union Cabinet for its approval. Mr Khurana said the Cabinet met subsequently on January 8 and gave its nod. He further said it was now for the Union Government and the Government of NCT of Delhi to jointly file an appeal before the apex court and request the court to review its earlier direction making CNG the only alternative fuel for Delhi.



Shani Maharaj’ comes to the aid of beggars
Rohit Wadhwaney

New Delhi, January 9
Fourteen-year-old Shankar was a beggar till about two months ago, when his parents realised that the profit margin had dropped slightly and given him another idea, which meant less work and more money.

They asked Shankar to pick up a steel container, put a couple of ‘agarbattis’ in it, some marigold flower petals, and all he had to do was to go car to car at traffic signals and shout “Shani Maharaj ki jai ho”, and that too only on Saturdays. Today, his family claim to earn thrice the amount they earned from the begging.

“It is less hectic for me. Earlier, I had to go out every day to beg. At several places, the police shooed us away. My father is an old hand. He gave a wonderful idea. He told me that I would earn money for the family in a way that even the gods would be happy,” said Shankar, standing bare-footed at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) crossing in south Delhi.

Shankar said that he had two younger sisters who were not old enough yet to get into the profession, but his father would train them well as they grow up.

Hailing from a small village called, Sakatpura in Rajasthan, about 110 kilometers from the Capital, Shankar’s father, Ganga Ram, came to Delhi along with his family three years ago after he heard that begging had become an easy means of livelihood .

Ganga Ram said, “I came with the intention to beg. I am not educated at all, so I was sure I wouldn’t get a job. Everything went well for the first two 
years. I was earning about Rs 60 a day. But then, the collection has declined in the recent past.

As Shankar and myself are not disabled, people do not sympathise with us. Many people have even threatened us that they would take us to rehabilitation homes. Therefore, Shankar started working on Saturdays only, my wife sold cloth on the streets on Sundays and I sold products like remote-control holders, balloons and toys at the traffic signals on Mondays.”

On the rest of the days, the family either went to movies or just lazed around, added Ganga Ram.

He said that he paid little on account of house rent because most of the family slept under the Capital’s flyovers, or outside temples where they would even get blankets, clothes and food from devotees at times.

Ms P. Vasanthi, Director of the Centre for Media Studies (CMS), a research centre in Delhi, which recently conducted a survey on beggars, said many beggars had taken to the “Shani Maharaj business” or started selling sub-standard goods on the traffic signals after the Delhi Government began rounding up beggars at the various road crossings.

“These people find the business of earning money in the name of God or just by sitting outside temples quite easy. The people in India are bound by cultural ethos. Most Indians actually consider it a sin to ignore the ‘Shani Maharaj’ or for that matter they consider it a sin to ignore beggars outside temples. So the business thrives, "said Ms Vasanthi.

Take the example of Anand Sharma, a resident of south Delhi’s Munirka. If he goes out on a Saturday, he would keep a whole lot of change with him and would not miss a single person holding a ‘Shani Maharaj’ container at a traffic signal.

And if he doesn’t have work on a Saturday, he would still drive out to the nearest traffic signal and drop some change in the container.
“It is my belief. The day and the entire week goes off well, if you do that, "said Sharma. Though there are still others who view it nothing but a “gimmick to earn money”.

Utkarsh Gautam, a resident of Gautam Nagar near Green Park in south Delhi, said, “We Indians are so foolish. Today, even if I put an idol of God in a bucket, there would be people thinking that God Himself has come up to them.”

He added, “I find these people so irritating that I have got out of my car to shoo them away several times. On Saturdays, you would find hundreds of them on every traffic signal asking for money in the name of some god I haven’t even heard of. It is ridiculous.”

Out of the “50,000 beggars” in Delhi, most of who have come in from different states like Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Vasanthi said that nearly 30 per cent of them had taken to the “Shani Maharaj business” or selling cheap products on the streets.

Chhotu, who used to beg at the ITO crossing, refuses to be known as a beggar now. “I don’t beg. I buy some products from the Chor Bazaar (a cheap market held every Sunday near the Red Fort) and sell them at even cheaper rates at traffic signals. I have friends there, who give me products cheaper, if I buy a whole lot of them.”

On Saturdays, he admitted, there could be nothing better than holding the steel container. “Otherwise, I am not a beggar. I am a businessman.”



Rich boys too steal to pay for escapades
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
Realising the enormous gains in auto-lifting, more and more youths belonging upper class society are found involving themselves in the crime to meet their expenses for rubbing shoulders in discotheques, footing bills in five-star hotels and other such activities.

In a recent incident, the North district police found three youths belonging to posh families involved in car thefts for making some quick bucks. The police seized two Maruti Zens and one Maruti Alto from them.

The suspects, Sanjay (15), Manik (20) and Nehal (24) (names changed) were arrested on the charges of auto lifting. While Sanjay is a class ninth student of Bal Bharti School, both Nehal and Manik are real brothers.

The modus operandi was quite unique and the crime was planned in such a way that no suspicion would have arisen. Sanjay used to visit houses of his friends and relatives. He would then steal car keys usually lying at those houses. The next day, they would follow the car in their scooter and when the car was parked in some secluded area, they immediately used the stolen original keys to gain entry and flee with the car. The stolen cars would be brought to Nehal’s house where he used to prepare forged papers and they would dispose it of immediately.

The cars seized from their possession belonged to Sanjay’s maternal cousin and another to his closest friend staying near his house. Sanjay did not spare even his neighbours: he had reportedly stolen four car stereos by using the master key of the cars.

The covert operation came to light when an auto dealer in Sonepat who was in the process of buying an Alto car from the suspects contacted the owner of the car.

He had already paid an advance of Rs 70,000 and was supposed to pay another Rs 1,30,000. But the auto dealer was taken aback when he realised the car he was to buy was actually a stolen one.

He immediately informed the police and a special team nabbed the suspects when they were about to get the money after finalising the deal with the auto dealer.



Students go on strike against MDU decision
Our Correspondent

Faridabad & Sonepat, January 9
Several students of the local government (Nehru) college in Faridabad staged a demonstration against the new examination pattern introduced by the Maharshi Dayanand University today. It led to the disruption of traffic at the National Highway (Mathura Road).

The students clashed with the police, who resorted to mild cane charge to disperse the students. The angry students also pelted stones at the Haryana Roadway buses, damaging many buses. Subsequently, the blockade was lifted after the intervention of the Deputy Commissioner.

The agitating students were unhappy over the introduction of three sets of papers system in the annual examination of the university. They alleged that the change in examination pattern should have been announced earlier. They demanded that their exams be held under the old examination pattern.

In Sonepat too, students of all the colleges went on a day’s strike here yesterday to register their protest against the university’s decision. They took out a procession through the main bazars of the city. Leaders of the striking students also submitted a memorandum to the Commissioner of Rohtak Division, Mrs Anita Chaudhary, and warned that if MDU failed to revoke its decision, they would have no alternative but to intensify their agitation and launch a dharna in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s Office.

According to another report, students also boycotted classes and observed a day’s strike at Gohana town, 35 km from here, yesterday. The striking students of Government College also held up traffic on the Gohana-Jind road for an hour. A large number of vehicles were seen lined up on both sides of the road.

On receipt of information, officials and the police arrived on the scene and succeeded in lifting of the blockade. The striking students also warned that they would resort to an indefinite strike if the university did not revoke the anti-student decision.

Offices inspected

Mrs Anita Chaudhary, Commissioner of Rohtak Division, inspected a number of government offices at Ganaur, a sub-divisional town in the district, yesterday and directed the officials and subordinate employees to be punctual for their duty. According to official sources, the Commissioner was accompanied by Mr S. N. Roy, Deputy Commissioner, Mr Jeet Singh Mehra, SDM and other officials of the sub-division.

dowry harassment

A retired Brigadier and his wife, residents of NIT here, have been arrested in connection with a dowry harassment case. In the complaint lodged by the daughter-in-law of the retired Brigadier, it is alleged that the accused used to harass her for not bringing enough dowry. She also accused them of beating her up and threatening her. The complainant is the daughter of a retired Colonel.



Lohri fires up festive spirit
Smriti Kak

New Delhi, January 9
Winter does not come alone, it comes with the promise of several festivities. After the Christmas and New Year celebrations, it is now time to light the Lohri bonfire.

Makar Sankranti, a festival signifying the end of Hindu month Poh and hence the end of cold winter months, is observed all over the country and is variously addressed. In Punjab, it is known as Lohri. Celebrated on the January 13, it is earmarked as one of the most celebrated of all Punjabi festivals.

Lohri-di-raat in Punjab or for Punjabis spread all over the country is special and assures nightlong gaiety. Singing and dancing around a bonfire is one feature, which the young and the old look forward to. During Lohri, youngsters and women pray for the well being of all, particularly of newborn children. The festival also showcases community living. Neighbours collect things to be burnt in the bonfire and also get together to feast.

This year too, one can see shoppers with bags full of paraphernalia. “I am shopping for my daughter who has just got married. Since this is her first Lori after marriage, we are doing all we can to make it special for her and our son-in-law. We are shopping for clothes and jewellery apart from the usual sweets and dry fruits,” said Mrs Amita Singh, a resident of Punjabi Bagh.

The shops are seen selling peanuts, gachak (jaggery-based sweets), and revari made from til seeds. As per tradition, these are not only consumed and presented to the family and friends, but are also consigned to the flames.

“We plan to have a huge bonfire at home this year. Two of my brothers have got married and we have been blessed with a baby girl. So this year, we will really have a bash,” gushed forth Ms Anju, a public relations executive.

To avoid last minute hassles, people are already on a buying spree. “Since Lohri is on Sunday, most people will throng the markets on Saturday, so I have decided to take time off during the week day to save myself the trouble of being jostled around,” revealed Mrs Neeru Chawla, a schoolteacher.

For kite flyers, Makar Sankranti is the time to let their passion for flying soar the skies. Colourful and innovative designs flit across the blue sky and enrapture the viewers as well as the flyers. In the rural areas and traditional Punjabi-dominated areas, the preparations for Lohri begin at least a fortnight before, when a group of young boys and girls go door to door collecting money and goodies for the big bonfire night.

At each house, they chant traditional Lohri songs and move to the next house only after they have been gratified. Sometimes, the youngsters would take away any movable piece of wood, including old furniture, to be burnt in the bonfire. Many residents complain that sometimes, in their exuberance, youths in the area even take away usable wooden items causing considerable anger among the neighbours.



Tehri water to quench Delhi’s thirst
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
What was Tehri’s bane could prove a boon for Delhi. Waters from the controversy-ridden Tehri Dam Project would begin to flow into Delhi by 2003.

This was announced by Lieutenant Governor Vijai Kapoor here today. He said about 140 million gallons of water from the Tehri project would be flowed into the treatment plant in Sonia Vihar per day. The Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam would be constructing the necessary infrastructure for the purpose. The treatment of the waters would be undertaken on a turnkey basis at the Sonia Vihar plant and subsequently distributed to parts of Delhi.

In his introductory remarks wherein he reviewed the year gone by and set the agenda for 2002, the Lieutenant Governor also dwelled on listing the achievements of various areas.

Praising the Lokayukta, Public Grievances Commission and the Consumer Redressal Forum, he said these instruments had disposed of a handsome number of cases that were received through the year. The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission had established credibility with the consumers while fixing the tariff for 2001-02. He said Western Expressway (or third Ring Road) connecting National Highways 10, 8 and 5 would be undertaken as part of the National Highway Development Project. The proposed Mathura Road bypass, he said, would ease the traffic congestion at Ashram Chowk. In the power field, structural reforms had reached their penultimate stage and three distribution companies would be set up soon under the process of privatising the Delhi Vidyut Board.



Digital meters: Auto drivers threaten strike

New Delhi, January 9
Taxi and autorickshaw unions of Delhi have threatened to go on a statewide strike protesting against the decision of the government to make digital electronic fare meters mandatory from February this year.

“The Supreme Court had specified that the meters should be tamper-proof. But any meter which can be recalibrated can be tampered with. The digital meter is no exception and we had demonstrated it at various fora,” president of the Confederation of Public Transport Operators Gautam Jallali told reporters today. He also pointed out that the apex court did not insist on the electronic system. Accusing the government of “deliberately distorting and misinterpreting” the court directive, Mr Jallali alleged that the Transport Department had “acted under pressure from certain influential lobbies.” TNS



Raja of Ballabgarh remembered
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, January 9
‘Balidaan Diwas’ (sacrifice day) of the erstwhile Raja Nahar Singh of Ballabgarh was observed here today. A mela was also held in the memory of the late King who made supreme sacrifice during the first war of Independence 144 years ago. Tributes were paid by local residents who assembled at the palace of the former ruler of Ballabgarh state here today.

The late King was hanged to death on January 9, 1858 at Lalkuan in Chandni Chowk of Delhi by the British for his participation in the mutiny of 1857. He was only 13 years when he ascended the throne and had been a very close confidante of last the Mughal ruler of Delhi, Bahadur Shah Zafar. A large number of local people take part in the annual fair held in memory of King Nahar Singh on the Dasehra ground of Ballabgarh every year on January 9.


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