Friday, January 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India


C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Phokat culture a st(r)ain on City Beautiful
A. S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Is Chandigarh a city of freeloaders? Is the current agitation against the introduction of paid parking in parts of the city not symptomatic of a deeper malaise which has come to afflict the residents of City Beautiful? Has it not laid bare what many in Chandigarh had always suspected: the deep roots that the phokat culture has struck in Chandigarh?

These are the uncomfortable questions which have begun to nag right-thinking citizens of City Beautiful as the agitation against the introduction of paid parking shows no sign of abating.

Chandigarh may be the only city in the country, if not the world, where citizens do not have to pay property tax or house tax. There is no charge even for garbage collection or for that matter, most of the other civic amenities provided by the UT administration or the Municipal Corporation. Little wonder, an average citizen has come to expect everything free. And everytime, the Administration or the MC makes a move to impose a levy, there is such a hue and cry by political parties and other pressure groups that it has to beat a hasty retreat. This is just what might happen now following the movement against paid parking in Sectors 17, 8 and 9.

Says a Chandigarhian: “Just look at the scramble for free passes for New Year eve functions, or cricket matches or for that matter, even musical nights. Nobody wants to pay for anything. But in this world, you cannot have something for nothing.

“There is nothing free in this world. If you do not pay for it, somebody else will be doing so.

If citizens of Chandigarh are not paying for the services being provided to them, it is those from other parts of the country who are paying for it. But the question is why should they?”

What is the reason for the growth of phokat culture in Chandigarh? “A large section of the city population comprises ministers, officers of the Punjab and Haryana Governments and the UT Administration who have become used to certain facilities and privileges provided by the government during service”, points out a senior professor of Panjab University. “These include cars, bungalows and phones which are either rent-free or highly subsidised. A large retinue of servants and domestic help is also available. Besides, there are invitations to cricket matches and other sports extravaganza, musical evenings or seminars, conferences and conventions in different parts of the country with free lunches and dinners thrown in. And even after retiring from service, this section continues to expect the same privileges”.

Another factor for the phenomenon is the prolonged tax holiday which Chandigarh has enjoyed all these years. The city was exempted from property tax for the first 25 years initially because the government was keen on ensuring its rapid growth, says Mr M.N. Sharma, former Chief Architect of Chandigarh, who has been associated with the Capitol Project from the beginning. The progress was slow initially, but the development of Chandigarh took off quickly after the merger of Pepsu areas with Punjab.

Interestingly, despite the heat and dust raised by the agitation against paid parking by traders and political parties, there is no dearth of people in the city who feel that the step is not wrong. It is only the manner in which it is being collected that should be amended.

Mr Sharma feels that the time has come for the citizens of Chandigarh to start paying for the civic amenities being provided by the government. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with the introduction of paid parking in some parts of the city. In Sectors 17, 8 and 9 are located the prestigious markets of the city. Of late, these had become so clogged with vehicular traffic that it had become well nigh impossible for an average citizen to visit these without worrying about the safety of his vehicle.

“For instance, I always took a person with me to these market. While I did the shopping, I would leave my companion in the car to make sure that it was not stolen or that nobody parked car behind ours and leave us stranded in the parking lot for hours. ....”

He does not find much merit in the argument of the shopkeepers that paid parking would discourage customers from visiting markets.

Mr Ashok Bansal, general secretary of the Hotel Association of Chandigarh, says it is the duty of the every civic body to raise funds through various levies in order to provide all possible civic amenities to the residents. In this context, he suggests what he believes, is a much simpler, transparent, and practical revenue collection measure.

It is estimated that there are over 5 lakh registered vehicles in Chandigarh. By imposing a monthly/yearly vehicle parking fee/tax per vehicle, the MC will get over Rs 20 crore as revenue. He suggests the following rates for different vehicles: (a) An amount of Rs 0.50 paisa per day i.e. approx. Rs 200/- per annum for two-wheelers. (b) An amount of Re 1.00 per day i.e. Rs 400 per annum for four-wheelers. (c) An amount of Rs 2.00 per day i.e. Rs 800/- per annum for six-wheelers and commercial vehicles.

The collection of the amount should be entrusted with the local petrol stations on the basis of nominal commission/collection charges. Vehicles registered outside Chandigarh and floating into the city occasionally may be treated as guests to Chandigarh.

Mr Amarjit Singh Sethi, general secretary of the Chandigarh Nagrik Sabha and Col Harsharan Singh Sandhu, President, Rashtriya Raksha Dal, say while introduction of paid parking is not a big issue, it is the method of imposition which may cause great hardship, confusion and panic among people. A vehicle owner in day-to-day activity has to go to different markets and locations and every time he will have to keep shelling out of his pocket resulting a burden of a few hundred per month on each of the owners.

At the end of the day the corporation shall earn a meagre revenue out of this total collection whereas a big chunk shall go into the pockets of middleman/contractors. Moreover, nobody can afford to have different monthly passes for different sites and keep small change ready for parking. This will lead to traffic chaos and confusion.

Mr R.P.Malhotra, president, Samadhaan, a pressure group for securing social justice for the people, says that the MC will have to devise a method to obviate the need for a vehicle owner to pay at every paid parking lot in the city.


Traders’ stir triggers mudslinging
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
The BJP today announced its support for traders agitating against paid parking, while Congress President B.B. Bahl is reported to have told them that he will be the first to court arrest to oppose the system. The stir by traders and a section of employees today failed to evoke much response.

Mr Bahl’s assurance was announced by Sector-17 Traders’ Association leader Subhash Kataria while addressing agitators.

Mr Kataria said he and Beopar mandal representatives had attended the Congress meeting yesterday and Mr Bahl had made it clear he would be the first to court arrest on the issue.

The Congress councillor from the area, Mr Pradeep Chhabra, said the party had decided to oppose paid parking and was considering to move an agenda before the House in this regard.

The BJP lashed out at the Congress for the New Year gift to the residents in the shape of “entry tax” in Sectors 17, 8 and 9 which the BJP had not allowed during its term.

Party ad-hoc committee convener Yashpal Mahajan, clarifying his party position after keeping mum for many days, was explicit in his support to traders, saying: “The BJP is with traders, employees and the general public of the city”.

He condemned the statement issued by Mr Bahl, saying he was “spreading lies”.

Mr Mahajan said while the BJP had stood by its manifesto, the Congress within a week of assuming charge of the Municipal Corporation had “cheated” the people by imposing paid parking, despite promising otherwise.

He said the mandate was in favour of the Congress with the MP and Mayor both being from the same party and they should “keep the faith of the people in them”.

The agitators did not clarify about tomorrow’s programme, but announced they were ready for the January 16 Chandigarh bandh.

The police has been trying to weaken the movement by insinuating that the protesters will be arrested and booked under Section 341 of the IPC.


Patronising bogus voters
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, January 10
While political parties cry foul about the deletion of names of some voters from the electoral rolls in their strongholds during a recent revision, leaders of different political parties seem to be patronising bogus voters.

A close look at the non-revised electoral rolls revealed that bogus voters, varying between 10 and 62, existed in single dwelling units. Sources in the District Electoral Office revealed that of the over 11,000 votes deleted in SAS Nagar, a number of cases of non-existing voters had come to light.

In a specific case, in a one -kanal house (950, Phase 4) of a senior member of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, at least 62 voters had been registered, with voters against serial number 755 to 817 having been mentioned.

According to information, of the around 17,500 names deleted by the electoral office for Kharar constituency under Section 21-A of the electoral manual, around 3500 had been deleted in Kharar town.

Around 8300 new voters had been registered under the revision of rolls. A total of 1,79,000 voters in Kharar constituency would exercise their franchise against 1,97,000 voters who had been enrolled during the last Parliament elections. A total of 205 polling booths would be set up for the Kharar Assembly election.


Election of 2 Congress councillors challenged
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
The election of the Congress Deputy Mayor and Ward Number 19 Councillor Balraj Singh and its another Councillor from Ward Number 7 Gita Rani were today challenged through election petitions.

While Mr Balraj Singh’s election has been challenged by his Chandigarh Vikas Manch rival Shugan Chand that of Ms Rani has been contested by her BJP rival Ms Urmila Devi.

The election petitions were filed by the two candidates before Deputy Commissioner M. Ramsekhar on the last date of filing of election petitions. There were no other petitions as per the information from the DC office.

The CVM candidate has alleged that the Deputy Mayor was registered as voter at a two places simultaneously in violation of sections 17 and 18 of the Representative of the People’s Act. During the election The Tribune had reported that Mr Balraj Singh’s name was registered at two places. The Election Commission, then, had said as the revelation was after scrutiny had been done it had no right to take any action against Mr Balraj Singh.

Mr Shugan Chand also said Mr Balraj Singh’s wife an employee of the Municipal Corporation suspended in an alleged corruption case, had openly campaigned in favour of her husband and was also on party poll duty on Booth Number 434 where she had been sitting in a party tent on the polling day.


Infant with tail draws 'devotees'
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 10
Thousands of residents thronged Shri Jwala Mukhi Mandir here this afternoon to pay obeisance to an 11-month-old male infant having a tail, considered to be an avtar of Lord Hanuman. The devotees, majority of whom were women, offered money after having “darshan” of the child. Long queues of women and children could be seen outside the temple.

Mr Iqbal, alias, Babu Ram, maternal grandfather of the child, who accompanied the child here told this correspondent that this baby, whom he called ‘Bala ji’ was born on February 15, 2001 at Nabipur village (Fatehgarh Sahib) and had a tail. The mother of the child Ms Salma was also sitting besides him.

Babu Ram claimed that “Bala ji” has nine spots on his body like Lord Hanuman. He showed these spots to this correspondent one by one and claimed that “Bala ji” did not blink his eyes even. The child has a 4-inch-long tail. The child has been invited here by the temple management in connection with centenary celebrations of the temple.

Babu Ram said “Bala ji” had already been invited to Govindgarh and Malerkotla where a large number of devotees paid obeisance.


Preserving folk music instruments
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Preserving heritage is always a formidable task but it is quintessential task so necessary to our culture. The state of Punjab has had a history of rhythms so rare and dynamic that their sound could stir the soul even now. But as the age of consumerism took its toll, lots of musical traditions of Punjab almost slipped into obscurity.

But now, a part of it seems to be surfacing. Come January 29 and an ambitious project of the Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi (PSNA) will take a concrete shape with the inauguration of a music gallery in the premises of Punjab Kala Bhavan in Sector 16.

The gallery, the first of its kind in the entire region, will be host to the rich musical tradition of the land of five rivers. The gallery will hold the rarest and the oldest of the Punjabi folk musical instruments like been, algoza, sarangi, tumbi, dhol, dafli and bagtu, to mention a few.

Not only will the gallery house folk instruments, it will also have a separate picture gallery comprising portraits and pictures of seasoned folk performers of Punjab.

The third section of the gallery will house an audio-video library which will be equipped with recordings of famous folk songs and tunes from the folk tradition of Punjab. People will have free access to the library and its facilities.

It was a challenging task to track down the living performers of various instruments. Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi members had been working hard on trying to document Punjab’s culture. Most significant of all details was the fact that the gallery would boast of not only the newly-constructed instrument but also instruments which seasoned folk performers had been using all along their lives. Only those instruments which could not be procured by the akademi in its earnest search would be created afresh and then housed in the gallery. As Prof Rajpal, member of the akademi informed, “It took us time but we were dedicated to documenting the real instruments which have grown and developed in the hands of performers.”

So the gallery would have the dhol of Ustad Banne Ram ‘Dholi’, the man who rocked the world of films by playing the Punjabi dhol in films like ‘Naya Daur’ and ‘Jaagte Raho’. There would also be the Amar Singh Dhadhi’s dhadhi, Lal Chand Yamla Jat di tumbi, Gurdas Mann’s first dafli, Mangal Sunami’s algoza and Surinder Kaur’s challa. 


4 die in mishaps due to fog

Chandigarh, January 10
Four persons died and six were injured in different accidents reportedly caused due to poor visibility by fog early this morning at Phagwara even as minimum temperatures rose by a few degrees in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, giving the people much-needed respite from the chilly weather.

Four persons lost their lives as thick fog engulfed Phagwara in Punjab and considerably reduced the visibility. The accidents occurred on the GT Road between Phagwara and Chiheru village, a report quoting police sources said.

The vehicles involved in the mishap included two trucks, a canter, a motorcycle and some bicycles, the report said.

Meanwhile, Chandigarh recorded a low of 7.8° Celsius, which was a degree above normal, a Weather Bureau official said.

In Haryana, Ambala and Hisar, each recorded lows of 7.1° Celsius and Rohtak had a low of 5.5°.

Amritsar, which has been braving the chilly weather for a few days now, saw the night temperature increase by a degree to record 2.9°C, which was still a degree below normal. Patiala recorded a normal minimum of 6.5°C and Ludhiana was at 4.9°C.

Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, which has been witnessing a comparatively warm weather during the part of the year, today recorded a low of 6.8°C, five degrees above normal. Many other places in the state, however, were cold with Bhunter recording a low of 2.2°C, Sundernagar 1.0°C, Mandi 3.5°C, and Una braved the chill at 1.6°C.

Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, was again freezing at a low of -3.7°C, down two. Jammu, however, was comparatively warmer at a low of 7.4°C. PTI


Residents’ forum opposes govt move on house tax
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
A joint forum of all residents welfare bodies of Panchkula have strongly opposed the move by the Haryana Government to impose a house tax in Panchkula and declared that it was not only arbitrary but also illegal. They have also raised objections to the manner of assessment of the house tax for each unit.

Mr R.P. Malhotra, convener of forum, said here today that the legal aspect of ongoing controversy over the imposition of house tax in Panchkula had a different story to tell. He appreciated the reasonability of the struggle and stiff resistance shown by the residents to the arbitrary and illegal tax.

He said the forum had gone through a few clauses of the Haryana Municipal Act 1973 which were reproduced below to ‘‘prove the illegality of the arbitrary action’’ of the authorities:

1. As per Section 69-A of the above Act, a tax payable by the owner on buildings and lands which shall not be less than 7 and 1/2 per cent and more than 15 per cent, as the state government may, by notification, direct, of the annual value of such buildings and lands.

2. And as per Section 2 (i) of the above Act, “annual value” notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, means gross annual rent to be calculated on the basis of fair rent fixed under the law relating to rent restriction Act for the time being in force.

3. And as per clause 85 of the Act when any such property which is assessed to a tax under Section 69-A, has remained unoccupied and unproductive of rent through out the year, the committee shall remit the amount of the tax payable.

4. And as per Section 85 sub-section 4, for the purpose of this section neither the presence of a caretaker nor the retention in an otherwise unoccupied house of the furniture habitually used in it shall constitute occupation of the house.

5. As Section 85 sub-section 5, for the purpose of this section a house shall deemed to be productive of rent if let to a tenant who has continuing right of occupation thereof whether it is actually occupied by such tenant or not.

The law as per its clauses reproduced above is absolutely clear about the way of assessing the house tax, if at all to be implemented.

Following objections, in the form of a performa signed by the residents of the city, are being raised collectively by the forum:

1. Annual value taken for the purposes of calculating the house tax is not as per law hence illegal and arbitrary.

2. Self-occupied and the properties unproductive of rent are also served notices, which is illegal and arbitrary.

3. A court case about the validity of the formation of Municipal Council being pending, the step of imposition of house tax is hasty and deserved to be deferred.

4. Developing work in the town being still incomplete, the developing agency i.e., HUDA, which is charging hefty extension fee, sewerage charges and exorbitantly high water tariff, should be asked to share the burden of the maintenance of the town.

Meanwhile, Mr Hemant Kinger, Convener of the Panchkula Joint Welfare Association Forum, said that his body prepared a series of representations on the imposition of house tax, hike in water tariff and arbitrary and unjustified increase in cable charges in the town. A meeting of the all associations of Panchkula will be held tomorrow to discuss the situation arising out of the government moves and decide the next course of action. The meeting will also be attended Mr S.D.Daid, President, Residents Welfare Association, Sector 4 and Dr B.L. Tandon, another office bearers of the forum.


He knows his ward’s problems well
Tribune News Service

Rajesh Gupta
Rajesh Gupta

Chandigarh, January 10
Rajesh Gupta, ward number 12 councillor from the BJP, could not hold his luck long enough — he won the councillor’s seat but lost the Deputy Mayor's election held on January 1.

The 45-year-old first-time councillor, Mr Gupta defeated Mr Sunil Parti, Congress general secretary and a lieutenant of former Union Minister Venod Sharma, against all odds.

A graduate born in Chandigarh, Mr Gupta has been associated with the RSS since childhood, along with his father.

He has been treasurer of the local unit of the BJP for four years and a member of the executive of the state unit for 10 years.

A businessman, Mr Gupta has twice been the president of the Chandigarh Plywood Association and is at present vice-president of the Bharat Vikas Parishad (East).

Mr Gupta is well versed with the problems of his ward as he is a resident there for more than four decades.

Ms Kamlesh
Ms Kamlesh

Ms Kamlesh, the Congress councillor from ward number 18, is among two councillors — herself and former Mayor Harjinder Kaur — who have returned to the House for the second time from the same constituency despite these being thrown open for general category.

Hailing from Alwar district of Rajasthan and born in the city, Ms Kamlesh graduated before becoming the sole Congress councillor in the last House where she fought a lonely battle against the majority of the BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal.

Ms Kamlesh became synonymous with dharnas and walkouts in the House to get the majority to listen to her voice.

The 31-year-old councillor has been general secretary of the party and is now a member of the All-India Congress Committee.

She draws her strength from her husband Banarsi Das.

Ms Kamlesh is the president of the Samridh Rashtra Sansthan and Muthai Kick Boxing Association of Chandigarh. She is also a member of the Food and Civil Supplies Vigilance Committee, Women’s Labour Welfare Committee of the Administration and Crime Against Women Committee of Police.


Drive launched to fix reflector stickers
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 10
The Lions Club Chandigarh Supreme is affixing 2,000 reflector stickers on the rear of cycle rickshaws for preventing accidents at night. The exercise is being undertaken at the Labour Chowk here.

According to a press release issued by project chairman K.K. Bansal, the stickers would reflect the headlight beam of the vehicle travelling behind the rickshaw at night. This would enable the driver to see the rickshaw, thereby preventing accident in the process.

The move to affix the stickers was significant as in the absence of adequate lighting in some of the city streets, a large number of rickshaws were being hit from behind by speeding vehicles.

The release also added that the club members would also be educating the rickshaw-pullers about the traffic rules. All Lions Clubs of Chandigarh would also be organising a rally against female foeticide on January 13. 


One held on theft charge, motor cycle recovered
Tribune Reporters

Chandigarh, January 10
The local police has arrested a resident of Nehru Colony, Mangal Chand from Kajheri village, The police also recovered a motor cycle, five bicycles, a car stereo and a CD player from his possession. The motor cycle, which is almost new, was stolen from Sector 61.

The accused disclosed that he had already disposed a stolen motor cycle in Bihar. His accomplice, however, was still absconding. With this arrest, police has claimed to have solved three cases of theft.

Arrested: The local police has arrested a resident of Palsora Colony from Adarsh Colony and seized 20 pouches of whisky from his possession. A case under the Excise Act has been registered against him.

Rickshaw-pullers held: Two rickshaw-pullers were have been arrested near the Housing Board light point for plying rickshaws on the wrong side of the road. The accused have been identified as Gopal Saxena and Raj Kumar, both residents of Uttar Pradesh. A case has been registered.

Held: The police has arrested a resident of Mauli Jagran for his alleged involvement in the abduction of a minor girl from the same colony. The girl’s father, Bant Ram, has reported that his daughter had been abducted by four persons, including a woman. A case has been registered.

Injured: Panchkula resident Sarika was injured after she was knocked down by a Maruti car near the English Department on the Panjab University campus. She was admitted to the PGI. The car driver escaped. The police has registered a case.

Motor cycle stolen: Mauli Jagran resident Krishan Kumar has reported that his Hero Honda motor cycle (UP-14-F has been stolen from his residence. The police has registered a case.

3 booked for fraud: The police has booked three persons for trying to defraud an SAS Nagar resident of Rs 2.5 lakh. SAS Nagar resident Kartar Singh has reported that a Sector 44 resident and two other persons took money from him for sending his son abroad. He added that they neither send his son abroad nor had they returned his money. After conducting an initial inquiry, the Economic Offences Wing of the local police has registered a case.


Two held: The Pinjore police yesterday arrested two persons, Prem Pal and Girdhari, and recovered aluminium wire worth Rs 2500 from them. The suspects were today produced in the court and were remanded in police custody till January 12.

Theft: Mr R.C. Gupta, Project Manager of the Power Grid Corporation of India, lodged an FIR that 700 meter aluminium wire had been stolen on the night of January 8 from Nalagharh-Manimajra Line near Mandawala.

Killed: Mr Jatinder Sharma, a local resident, lodged an FIR that an unidentified driver knocked down a cyclist, Surinder Kumar, a resident of Sector 4, who was admitted to the Sector 6 Government Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.


Taxi driven away at gunpoint
Our Correspondent

Lalru, January 10
An unidentified taxi occupant drove away a car from a local taxi driver at gunpoint near Malwa village in Ambala district on Wednesday afternoon. According to sources, the occupant hired the taxi (DL-2C-7999) for Rs 500 from Lalru taxi stand to Malwa village near Jansui in Ambala district.

While narrating the episode, Mr Nav Bharat Kumar, a resident of Sarseeni village said, “While on the way to Ambala, he directed me to drive towards Ambala cantonment instead of city as he had to ask his parents to accompany him.”

Mr Nav Bharat said that after reaching the cantonment the passenger made a phone call from a PCO booth. Later, he asked him to proceed as his parents refused to accompany him for Malwa.

When they were about to reach Malwa, the taxi occupant further asked the driver to stop, saying that one of his relatives lives in Badaula village about 1 km short of Malwa.

‘‘As the car stopped he get down, went to nearby fields and called one Suresh loudly three-four times. He than asked me to start the car. As I occupied my seat and started the car, he tried to hit me on my head with a hammer, but fortunately I got hit on the shoulder’’, he disclosed. “He then put a revolver on my head, pushed me aside and sped away in the car.” A case has been registered .

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