Tuesday, April 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


N C R   S T O R I E S


Anti-theft law to woo bidders
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 15
Determined to go ahead with the privatisation of the Delhi Vidyut Board despite the recent setbacks, the Delhi government has offered to enact an anti theft legislation to minimize transmission and distribution losses.

Highly placed sources said that this offer, given in writing to the DVB bidders, was the result of fears voiced by the private companies over the incidence of power pilferage and the heavy transmission and distribution losses, which would make the project financially unviable. The sources said that this was why the two private companies had bid below par recently, forcing the state government to reject all the offers. According to a recent World Bank report, the national average of T&D losses is around 23 per cent while in Delhi it is as high as 58 per cent. Of it, transmission losses are about 12.5 per cent and distribution losses (read pilferage) account for 45.5 per cent.

The proposed legislation would be modelled on the Andhra Pradesh anti-theft law, which contains several stringent provisions.

The AP legislation stipulates a minimum and mandatory imprisonment of three months and a penalty up to Rs 50,000 (with a minimum of Rs 5000). Under the Act, the maximum period of imprisonment is five years. Also, the convicted consumer is debarred from tapping electricity for a period of two years. The legislation provides for special tribunals for trying theft cases involving a compensation up to Rs five lakhs and an appellate-level special court for cases involving compensation above Rs five lakhs. The legislation also provides for completion of trial and award of punishment/compensation within six months. Even though the Electricity Supply Act 1948 has several provisions to curb theft, which is a cognizable offence, the provisions of ESA have not been invoked, resulting in this legislation remaining on paper. The strategy paper on power brought out by the State government says that the bulk of the T&D losses in the Capital are on account of “theft and dacoity”. “This has been going on with impunity and with the connivance of political interests, consumers and the DVB employees,”



CNG buses: When CM & statistics don’t agree
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 15
Chief Ministers are loath to admit their failures. Sheila Dikshit is no exception.

The “marked improvement” in the transport situation, she believes, is on account of the commissioning of newer CNG filling stations. And not because, as some would suggest, diesel buses have begun to ply. Statistics however tell a different story.

Between April 3 and now, there has been no appreciable increment in the number of CNG buses (see box.) Diesel buses though have hit the roads. On Monday, Transport Minister Ajay Maken said, 2,800 of them plied.

Acknowledging, though reluctantly, there was a pressing need for increasing the number of CNG buses, Ms Dikshit said her government had been communicating with Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Ram Naik on a daily basis for a “complete solution” of the issue.

She said the Cabinet met and resolved to constitute a committee comprising Finance Minister MS Saathi and Transport Minister Ajay Maken to devise the quantum and modalities of releasing money to Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) for the purchase of 1,000 CNG buses.

Elaborating on the measures to tide over the crisis, Mr Maken said on DTC would be fixed the responsibility of scheduling the plying of all buses. “If timings can be strictly regulated, situation will improve dramatically,” he told media persons.

Defending his decision to do away with the Kilometre (KM) Scheme, he said the DTC would have otherwise continued to incur avoidable losses. Losses, on account of collusion between the KM Scheme and Blueline operators that allows the latter to have a free run of the route and rake in more money.

To another question, on the wisdom of patronising the ‘killer’ Blueline buses, the minister said that the perception was misplaced. “The KM Scheme buses register a higher rate of accident than Blueline buses,” he said. “For, in the hurry to log the stipulated 125 kilometres a day they jump stops and make more rounds.”

Acknowledging that his priority was to have more buses on roads, Mr Maken said RTVs (Rural Transport Vehicles) would be given the choice of opting for a contract carriage or a stage carriage permit after 10 or 15 days. The idea, he said, was to stop buses without permits from plying.

All this, he conceded, meant pass holders will either wait for a DTC bus to get a seat or hop on to the first available vehicle, pay the fare and reach their destinations faster. 



Land deal could cost MCF Rs 6 cr
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, April 15
The fund-starved Municipal Corporation, Faridabad, is in for a major financial jolt. The corporation could lose about Rs six crore from the sale of a 5.5-acre plot. The MCF authorities have questioned the role played by a senior official of the Labour Department in the deal, which has caused them the monetary loss. The dubious role of the official has been revealed in a letter sent to the authorities at Chandigarh.

The Haryana Government, it will be recalled, on the directive of the Supreme Court, had agreed to set up a colony for the rehabilitation of bonded labour.

It had even agreed to provide 5.5 acres of land for this purpose. As per the court order, the cost of the land was to be recovered from the mines and stone crushers who had deployed the bonded labour.

The MCF provided the land and asked the mines and the stone-crushers to pay for the land at the market rate, which worked out to Rs. 1.21 crore per acre. But the latter filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court, alleging that the rate was too high and that it should be brought down to a reasonable level.

The Supreme Court referred the case to an Additional District and Sessions Judge. The MCF asked a senior official of the Labour Department to fight the case.

Finally, after arbitration, the rate was pegged at Rs. 7.50 lakh per acre. The MCF was naturally unhappy and again filed a petition in the court. During the proceedings, the MCF contended that a piece of land allotted by it to the NHPC in the same area had fetched Rs. 75 lakh per acre about five years ago. It was unreasonable to expect the same rate five years later. It was then brought to the notice of the state government that the role of a labour official was not above board during the arbitration proceedings, which would lead to a loss of about Rs six crores.

In its letter to the Principal Secretary, the MCF has blamed the official for the raw deal and sought action in this regard.



Two more units for ‘super thermal plant’ at Panipat
Our Correspondent

Panipat, April 15
A cheque of Rs 42.25 crore was handed over to the Additional General Manager of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Mr K. C. Banerji, for the construction of the 240-MW seventh and eighth units of Tau Devi Lal Panipat Thermal Power Station by the Chief Engineer (Construction) of the power station, Mr N. N. Vaid, here today. Once these two units were completed, the station would get the status of a Super Thermal Power Station by achieving a total installed power generating capacity of 1,360 MW.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Vaid said that the Haryana Government had made an agreement with the BHEL for the construction of these units at a cost of Rs 1,438.70 crore with the condition that the seventh unit must be completed in 31 months and eighth unit within 35 months. There was also a provision in the agreement that if the construction works were completed within 29 months, the government would give an additional amount of Rs 4 crore as an incentive to the BHEL authorities, he added.

He claimed that the station had achieved a record generation of 4,124 million units against a target of 3,823 million units during the last financial year though one out of its six units had remained closed for one reason or the other for the last three years. He also disclosed that the renovation of the 110-MW second unit of the plant had been also contracted to the BHEL at a cost of Rs 35 crore the work of which was to be completed within eight months. The renovation of this unit was taken up by Asean Brown Bowri (ABB) of Germany and had remained suspended for the last three years.

Mr K. S. Sandhu, Financial Advisor and Chief Accounts Officer (FA&CAO) of the plant, said that the second part of the first instalment of the agreement money would be given to the BHEL on May 7. The second instalment of 6.5 per cent of the agreement money would also be paid to the BHEL on May 7 and the third instalment of 6.5 per cent amount of the agreement money would be paid after six months.



Dilli Haat misses a beat
Smriti Kak

New Delhi, April 15
The venue – Dilli Haat.

The crowd – in all age groups, from six to 60.

The mood – exhilarated, almost fervent.

The event - Aamir “Laagan” Khan was here to release, read and sing.

Oscar or no Oscar, Aamir Khan is a winner hands down. If the euphoric response that the actor elicited is any indication, Aamir is still the número uno. Winning the heart of the frenzied crowd with his cherubic smile, Aamir just had the damsels swooning over him. Even the hardest to please were seen eating out of his hands.
He enticed the gathering to listen to the extracts of the book, ‘The spirit of Lagaan’ penned by Satyajit Bhatkal. When all that the audience wanted was to hear the actor sing, yet the charmer that he is, he made them listen to what was to most, “boring”.

While hysteria made some shed tears, others shouted themselves hoarse. Between chants of “We want Aamir”, one could hear the speakers trying to coax the audience into lending an ear to their laboriously penned ‘epic’.

The book captures the making of the `Lagaan’ and gives the reader the minutest detail about the behind-the-scene activities. Right from the time of narration of the script to the time when the crew went “bullshit” hunting, the book secures every little detail.

While the super cop, Dr. Kiran Bedi, who was also the chief guest, waxed eloquent about her experience of ‘Lagaan,’ the author, Satyajit, wasn’t so lucky. His reading of the extracts left the crowd a trifle disappointed.

A charged up Dr. Bedi said: “ I made all the people at the police training college watch the movie, because it is an inspiration for all. I must say that Aamir Khan is a national hero.”

And the national hero had them all on their feet with his ready wit. Just as someone put down a can of Coca-Cola, he drawled, “Haan thand, matlab Coca-Cola.” Thus, reiterating his brand loyalty. The lucky girl of evening was Prerna who got a chance to sing with Khan. She shared the stage to sing Rani Mukherjee’s part in the song ‘Aati kya Khandaala’.

The high spot of the evening was the “He is sooo cute…’’ actor dressed in black belting out popular numbers from ‘Lagaan’ and his super hit ‘Dil Chahta Hai’.

A brief encounter, yet a memorable one. This one sure had the Dilliwallas Dil Chahta Hai for more. As a serpentine queue snaked its way to get their copy of the book autographed, there were many who were content to watch their favourite star from a distance.



Rachna Govil: Down, but not out
Priyanka Gupta

No one can predict destiny. Rachna Govil, an Arjun Award winner, had never expected that destiny could play such a cruel joke on her. Just in a few minutes, her well-furnished house at Asiad Village Complex turned into ashes. A deputy director with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), she had been residing in the area with her son and husband for a long time and shifted to this house only three years back. In fact, the house was fully redone recently, and the workmanship was the envy of her SAI colleagues residing in nearby flats.

In her hour of crisis, not many of her SAI colleagues came forward to give her shelter. Rachna has been sitting on the lawn in front of her flat, which was gutted on the afternoon of April 13. Ironically, no official from the SAI came to see Rachna and her family in their hour of grief.

Her journalist husband, Pushpendra Kulshesthra, said that Rachna had informed the SAI secretary about the tragedy just after the blaze and requested for help but she was told that the matter could be considered only on Monday after the weekend. Mr Kulshesthra lamented that “it is because of the callousness on the part of the SAI authority that their colleague is suffering and they are not bothered at all. A well-furnished house is lying vacant near by and why can’t they allot it to us. No one rang up from the ministry to inquire about our safety. I am content that at least the minister spoke to me on phone and promised to visit the place.”

Rachna is distressed that all her certificates and medals got gutted. She said, “I did not break down as my family is safe. Just imagine, my son stays at home alone. It is sheer negligence on the party of the authorities that led to this tragedy. That is all I can say.” The flames consumed not only her certificates and other household articles but also those of Prakhar, her 13-year-old son. However, the family is confident of picking up the threads. Prakhar, a class VIII student, has started attending school. He was pretty shocked after the incident.

A few days ago, Rachna had given a written application to her senior regarding loose copper wiring at her flat. Some people in the vicinity said that electricians had come to repair the wires, but they could not pinpoint the fault. They just connected the wrong wires, it is alleged.

It may be recalled that Rachna Govil had caught national attention when athletic legend Milkha Singh had questioned her selection for the Arjuna Award along with him. Milkha Singh refused to accept the Arjuna Award, given to him in the “Life Time Contribution” category as he did not want to be clubbed with lesser mortals. Rachana is a former national athletic and shooting champion. She was the winner of the Indira Gandhi International Marathon held in Allahabad in the eighties, on the basis of which she was awarded the Arjuna Award.



DTC in race to flout norms
Ravi S.Singh
Tribune News Service

Gurgaon, April 15
The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and its Haryana counterpart are engaged in a strange game of one-upmanship: Each is trying to outdo the other in flouting the directive of the district administration.

The directive was given by the then Deputy Commissioner, Gurgaon, Mr A K Singh. It was aimed at decongesting Mahavir Chowk, which connects Gurgaon to Delhi. To regulate the traffic flow, it was decided that all Gurgaon-bound heavy vehicles would have to go via the Old Delhi Road. The directive was given keeping the private bus operators in mind who used to park their vehicles at Mahavir Chowk, often leading to traffic jams at the intersection, besides causing pollution in the area. The operators had turned the chowk into a virtual parking slot, even though the general bus stand is a few yards from the place. The DTC buses and the Haryana Roadways also contributed to the nuisance.

A few days ago, Mr A.K. Singh was transferred. Coincidentally, within a few days after the change of guards, the operators have taken back to their old ways. Leading the pack are the DTC operators, with the Haryana Roadways buses not far behind. The tongues are wagging as to how the administration’s order is being flouted with impunity immediately after the transfer of the DC. Many feel that now things will be back to square one as the private operators will again converge at the chowk.



Rent Control Act to minimise distortions
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 15
The new Rent Control Act envisages to minimise distortions in the rental housing market and encourages the supply of rental housing both from the existing and the new housing stocks, the Minister of State for Urban Development, Mr Bandaru Dattatreya, informed the Rajya Sabha today.

The minister said the government had examined the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and had accepted all its recommendations. A notice for moving official amendments had also been given to the Secretary General, Rajya Sabha.

In response to another question, the minister said the committee set up to examine the existing guidelines for regularisation of unauthorised colonies and suggest modification was likely to submit its report by May.

The guidelines for regularisation of unauthorised colonies provided for regularisation of colonies, which existed before March 31, 1993 and reflected in the aerial survey carried out by the Delhi Government. The state government, the minister said, had been requested to identify and send the list of colonies, which could be regularised in terms of the guidelines.

Mr Dattatreya, in response to another question, said the Ghaziabad Development Authority had reported that it had made reservation to the extent of 21 per cent for SC and 2 per cent for ST categories in the allotment of residential houses/plots but it was not applicable on commercial properties. Noida had reported that it had been established under the Uttar Pradesh Industrial Development Areas Act and the order regarding reservation issued by the UP Housing Department was not applicable to it.

The minister, responding to another question, said the number of residential plots in Mohan Nagar Employees Housing Society was 1,007 and the total areas of land allotted to the members is 1,09,623 sq m. The total amount spent by the development authority for development of these plots was Rs 853.07 lakh. The minister said there was no proposal for construction of a boundary wall in Sector 5 under the society at present. Such a proposal and estimates thereof would require the collective consent of the members of the society.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, said the government proposed to open new Delhi Milk Scheme booths in the Capital. This would depend on the consumers’ demand in the new localities and availability of sites for construction of booths and other facilities. At present, 1,562 DMS milk booths were functioning in Delhi.

The Minister of Environment and Forests, Mr T. R. Baalu, informed the Rajya Sabha that there were no proposals pending with the government for environmental clearance for the marble mine projects in Aravali Hills in Alwar. The minister said the government had empowered the state government concerned to take decisions on any proposal, which required environmental clearance under the provisions of Aravalli notification.

In response to another question, the minister said there was no proposal to set up any new sanctuary or wildlife safari in Delhi. Mr Baalu said the state government had already notified the area of Asola and Bhatti as wildlife sanctuary. Stating that there is no botanical garden in Delhi, the minister said the Centre had approved the proposal to establish a botanical garden in Noida. The Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Mr A. Raja, informed the House that CT scanners were lying as junk in three government hospitals – Hindu Rao Hospital, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital and Swami Dayanand Hospital – for a long time. He said the Delhi Government had informed the Centre that the CT scanners in these hospitals had outlived their life and were uneconomical for repair. Further, the manufacturers of the CT scanners had expressed their inability to repair them, as the machines were obsolete.



Property tax rationalisation top priority 
of MCD Commissioner
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 15
Rationalisation of property tax, improvement in sanitation, health and education facilities and overall improvement of civic amenities in slum and JJ Clusters are the priorities of the newly appointed Municipal Commissioner of the MCD, Mr Rakesh Mehta, a senior IAS Officer of AGMUT cadre who has taken charge today from his predecessor, Mr S. P. Aggarwal.

Property tax is the only source of income of the corporation so it should be rationalised to increase the house tax collection, he said. A meeting of senior officers of the corporation would be called tomorrow to find out the ways and means for collection of property tax in a fair manner. The newly elected Mayor, Ms Jaishree Panwar, had also listed these as priority areas.

While addressing newsmen, the Municipal Commissioner said to make the corporation self-reliant in finance, utilisation of its sources of income was very important. This issue would also be discussed with the Mayor, Ms Jaishree Panwar, and other elected members of the corporation.

The Commissioner, who was earlier in the Delhi Government as secretary of Urban Development and PWD, said to prevent the encroachment on government land and illegal construction, committees were set up at different levels headed by the Lt-Governor, Vigilance Department and Zonal Committees to keep a watch on such activities. The Delhi Police had constituted a Special Task Force to prevent encroachment on government land. Illegal construction would be further taken care of by the MCD.

Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and other district administrations which fall in the NCR would be consulted for allocation of land for joint collection of garbage and its treatment in these cities, he said. 



CPM asks Chautala to clarify stand on ties with BJP
Jatinder Sharma

Rohtak, April 15
Condemning the conduct of Gujarat Chief Minister Narender Modi and the BJP national executive on communal violence in that state, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) has asked Chief Minister and INLD chief Om Parkash Chautala to clarify his political relationship with the BJP-led NDA. .

The CPM state committee, after its two-day meeting, has said that the BJP and its communal outfits had desperately tried to spread communal violence in several states including Haryana in the wake of the tragic Godhra incident through a systematic and planned conspiracy.

This plan, however, was by and large foiled in Haryana except at few places like Kaithal and Loharu due to the vigilance of the administration and poor response from the people. The party said that the issue of cow slaughter was falsely sought to be used at many places through widespread rumour mongering in order to incite communal feelings.

However, such rumours were exposed by the timely intervention of the people and the administration at Panipat, Adampur, Jind and some other places. The mischief, however, did succeed in Loharu where massive damage was caused by a mob allegedly led by BJP leaders resulting in huge losses to the houses and properties belonging to more than four dozen minority families.

The party commended the relief measures and work undertaken by social organisations at Rohtak, Bhiwani and Kaithal for helping the victims of the communal frenzy but expressed dissatisfaction over the government compensation not reaching the victims. 



Sarpanch authorised to rein in 
work-shy PHC doctors

Jhajjar, April 15
The residents of Badli village have been up in arms against the doctors and other workers of the Public Health Centre (PHC) in the village. The panchayat of the village had complained to the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Ashok Khemka, that the doctors and other staff of the PHC staff turned up for duty only occasionally. As a result, the health services in Badli and nearby villages, with a population of around 50,000, were being affected, they said in the complaint.

Taking a serious note of the matter, the DC recently directed the village panchayat to check the attendance register of the doctors and the PHC staff daily. He reprimanded two doctors of the centre, Dr Bir Singh and Dr Anil Rathee, and other staff for “negligence” in duty. He also issued a number of instructions to be implemented by the centre and asked the local panchayat to supervise its functioning.

In a letter issued to the Sarpanch of Badli village, Mr Raj Singh, the DC directed him to check the attendance register of the PHC and its subsidiary health centres in Ladpur, Jahangipur, Kheri Jutt and Bamnoula villages.

The letter said that the Civil Surgeon of Jhajjar, who during his visit last month had found that out of the 18-member staff, only three were present, had recommended appointing an agency to supervise the functioning of the PHC.

The DC further directed that the salaries of the PHC staff, including doctors, would be issued on the basis of the duty certificate of the village sarpanch every month. All these directions have come into effect since April 1.

It may be mentioned here that the gross emoluments from the salaries of the PHC staff here is more than Rs 1 lakh every month while, on an average, only 400 patients are being attended here. In such a scenario, the DC authorised the Sarpanch for looking into the complaints of the villagers against the doctors and staff.

The residents of the village said that the building of the PHC constructed in 1963 had been in a miserable condition. A new building for the centre was almost completed many years ago, but the staff members were not ready to shift in there, they said. The staff, on the other hand, maintained that the building was still incomplete and about Rs 13 lakh more was needed to make it functional.

Besides the dilapidated building, the healthcare facilities at the centre are in a shambles. There is no facility to attend even delivery cases. All other departments are also ill equipped. The residents also complain of non-availability of essential medicines.



Sonepat depot in the black
Our Correspondent

Sonepat, April 15
The Sonepat depot of the Haryana Roadways has registered an increase of 33 per cent in the collection of traffic receipts during the year ending 2001-2002.

Disclosing this, Mr S N Roy, Deputy Commissioner told mediapersons here today that it earned a revenue of Rs 9.83 crore during the year 2001-2002 as compared to Rs 7.39 crore earned during the preceding year.

The depot, he said, had registered an increase of Rs 2.12 crore in traffic receipts during the year under review but has cut down the expenditure totalling Rs 47 lakh of the workshop.

He also disclosed that the depot not only succeeded in wiping out the deficit of the preceding year but earned a net profit of Rs 63.23 lakh during the year 2001-2002.

He said that when Mr H C Jain, took over as the general manager of this depot in October 1999, the depot had a deficit of Rs 5 crore, but through his better management and strict control on the expenditure, the depot had reduced the deficit to Rs 159.85 lakh during 2000-2001 but it was wiped out during the year 2001-2002.

The DC also said that a fleet of 205 buses covered a distance of 233.47 lakh km and earned an income of Rs 25.14 crore during the year 2001-2002 whereas during the preceding year, the fleet of 200 buses covered a distance of 220.87 lakh km and earned an income of Rs 23.01 crore.

He also said that the average km income also increased to Rs 10.77 against Rs 10.42 during the preceding year.

Every bus covered an average of 312 kms per day while it covered 303 kms per day during the preceding year.

The DC also claimed that the fuel consumption has also come down to 4.44 km per litre during the year 2001-2002 against 4.50 km per litre during the preceding year.

The DC also claimed that the Haryana Roadways has taken a series of measures to check the ticketless passengers and imposed 10-time penalty on them. This, he said, has also increased the income of the Sonepat depot.



Serving humanity is their second nature
Smriti Kak

New Delhi, April 15
It is the love of nature and humanity that brought them together. For the members of the Thakurdwara Trust, nature is sacred and paying obeisance to it, is a rite they dutifully follow.

The trust was formed when a group of morning walkers who came to Lodhi Garden decided to take up the cause of helping and serving society, recalls the chairman of the trust, Mr Virender Singh Jauhar.

“We used to meet in the mornings at Lodhi Garden and gradually the acquaintance grew into a partnership that aimed at helping the needy and also doing our bit to save the nature,” said Mr Jauhar.

The members describe themselves as “lovers and worshippers of nature”. They worship the trees and strive to save them from destruction. But trees and the environment are not the only things the trust has lent its support to. The Thakurdwara Trust and its members have been involved in organising and carrying out relief operations as well.

“We have always been ready to help people irrespective of how far or near the place is. During the Orissa floods when thousands were struggling, we sent out relief material to the cyclone-hit parts of the state,” pointed out Mr C. Gopinath, a member of the trust.

The members of the trust meet once every week under a neem tree for formal meetings. “We have a large group of dedicated people. There are bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, social workers and even journalists who are actively involved in the working of the trust,” adds Mr Jauhar.

He goes on to add, “Our main aim is to help as many people as possible. We want to make the most of our time and give something tangible to society. During the Gujrat catastrophe, we sent four truckloads of relief material worth Rs 12 lakh to help the people. Our member and the chairman of the FCI, Mr Bhure Lal, along with Mr Gopinath undertook the relief work.”

On request from Ashok Ashram, Dehradun, the trust dispatched around 200 sweaters to help the girls of the ashram. “We have resolved to start a plurality of projects like establishing a neurology hospital, an old-age home and a charitable dispensary. Many people have donated generously towards the cause and we are hoping that such ventures will meet success, ” said Mr Jauhar.

The trust also believes in honouring meritorious people in their own way. The people who have earned distinction are honoured under the neem trees.

“We want to do as much as possible to help save the environment as well the human race,” sums up Mr Jauhar.



‘Education system has failed to live up
 to its principle’
Smriti Kak

Prof N.K. Ambasht
National Open School Chairman Prof N.K. Ambasht.

To criticise the existing set-up is easy, but to come up with pragmatic solutions is not. Meet the man who has come up with the solutions. He believes in giving each student his due and the complete freedom to exercise the choices that are rightfully theirs.

Prof Nawal Kishore Ambasht, Chairman of the National Open School began his journey working among the tribes of Munda, Oraon and Kharia in the Ranchi district after being the first to complete a Ph.D. in Tribal Education.

He joined the NCERT and began work among the tribals again and in turn acquired a deep insight into the developmental problems and their intrinsic relationship with education. He is also credited to have formed a core group, which undertook action research projects in the area of non-formal education (NFE) and the definition of NFE given by him became a basis for the National Policy of Education.

As head of the NCERT’s Department of NFE and alternative schooling, he made a mark. His endeavour to start comic books for those who receive NFE has been well received.

In a face to face with the man who is the recipient of Bal Mitra Award, the Nehru Literary Award, the Radha Krishnan Memorial Centenary Teachers Award presented by the Delhi Government and also the Man of the Year in 1997 by the American Biographies Association, we find out more about his ideology and actions.

What is the National Open School (NOS) all about and what are the various courses offered by the NOS?

The National Open School was established as an autonomous organisation by the Ministry of HRD to provide opportunities for continuing education to those who cannot attend regular school.

The NOS also caters to the school drop-out, marginalised groups, women and children, tribals and handicapped people. The courses offered by the NOS are Basic Education, Foundation, Secondary and Senior Secondary Courses. The foundation courses are equivalent to the class eight level and are to enable the learners to acquire functional and basic level competence.

In the open basic elementary programme, we partner with the NGOs in reaching out to the schoolchildren. We then aim at setting standards, provide support for the development of local specific materials and exemplary material for evaluation.

What is the eligibility for admission to these courses?

For admission to the Foundation Courses, anybody who has an equivalent of Primary Education can seek admission. Anybody with an equivalent of class eight education can seek admission to the secondary courses and for the senior secondary, one should have passed the secondary school from a recognised board.

In spite of the user-friendly attributes, NOS is not considered at par with the formal system of education. Why is that?

We are at par with any board. We are not inferior; rather I would like to say that we are far superior. Which board or formal education system offers exams on demand? We believe in the individuality of a child. No two children can be similar. There is no point in grouping them. We are also very cost-friendly. We use the schools, which are not being used; we use teachers when they have time to spare. We charge Rs 825 per child, a nominal amount of money out of which we pay for the salaries, maintenance of the infrastructure and despite it, we save about Rs 50 per student. And all this is possible because each penny is accounted for and judiciously used.

The NOS allows students to make full use of their right. We provide them chances and options, which are rightfully theirs. These are perhaps the reasons why we are showing a growth of 25 per cent each year. Till date, we have around seven lakh students at the secondary and senior secondary levels. We do not indulge in what I call the ‘dadagiri’ of the board; we do not force our decisions on the students. The question of parity will disappear once the mindset changes.

How do you rate the education system in the country?

Our education system is not user-friendly. Every learner is afraid of education. It has failed to live up to its principle. To me education is an institution of society, which trains its young to take their rightful place in society as a socially useful and productive person. Education has to revisit its approach. It has to be a welcome experience for learners. Since our system is overbearing and rigid, it has lost its charm. I have not yet been able to reconcile to the system, because it has failed to provide education on demand.

How different is NOS from this overbearing and rigid system?

We believe that no child should be made to take an exam when he or she doesn’t want to. Why should a board decide when a child should take an exam? It should be the child’s decision, not the examiner’s.

This is precisely why we have the exam on demand. The students can walk up to us and demand an exam whenever and wherever and of whatever subject he or she desires.

We have devised a way by which the student can walk into the authorised testing centres on any day and demand an exam of the subject they have prepared.

The learner would be provided a computer-generated question paper and the results are made available in a couple of days along with a model answer sheet so that they can see the mistakes they have made. We also allow a child as many as nine attempts to clear five subjects or get the marks that he wishes to score.

We can have many students taking the test at the same centre at the same time without bothering about cheating. Since the questions are computer-generated, no two question paper are alike. The exam system is foolproof.

But the NOS is also infamous for cheating and it is also reported that the students are often seen resorting to unfair means during the exams?

It is not completely true, we have an efficient team working with us and we have also a four-step procedure. For the last two years, we have began using a surprise checking team that visits the exam centres. Then we also follow rigorous checking of answer sheets.

If we get the same answers in around 10-12 per cent of the answer sheets, we book the entire centre under mass copying and send notices. We have discredited around 27-28 institutions so far. In some cases we have also lodged FIRs.

Finally, we give each student a fictitious roll number and no one knows whose copy is being corrected where. We have also begun spot evaluation, which means no answer scripts are sent home.

Tell us more about the vocational programmes and the work you do for small children or first-time learners?

The vocational programmes are offered independently or in combination with academic subjects at the secondary and senior secondary levels. The courses pertain to various socio-economic areas like agriculture, business, health and pharma, yoga, security services, printing technology and teacher training.

In the basic education programme, we use the help of NGOs and provide them service standards. We guide them but allow them to use the teaching technique, which is more suitable to their specific areas. They are free to develop the exemplary material that we provide them to meet their requirements.

The NOS caters to adults wishing to continue education. We have termed adult education as social education and try to imbibe in them the essentials of good parenting apart from making plain literate. Good parenting, the need for nurturing the future generation well should be the central content of adult education.

We have also begun a grading system where we mark the child keeping in mind their personal details. We encourage the teachers or the evaluators to grade the child according to his personality traits, so that even if a child is not academically bright he or she can be assessed on account of their talent or abilities.

What do you think should be done to revamp the present set-up of education?

As far as NOS is concerned, I want to make education user-friendly. It should be relevant and amiable to the consumers not to the providers.

I want to make it possible to have exams twice a year and try to have the on demand procedure for the senior secondary as well.

Education should lead to personality development. Teachers should realise that they are being imitated. They must set examples for the students to follow. I believe teachers training programmes should take a cue from the army training.

Like the army man who knows he is going to die, yet goes ahead to do his duty, a teacher must brace himself for performing his duty without making any compromises.



Dairies to be shifted out of Rohtak town

Rohtak, April 15
The Nagar Parishad has started proceedings to shift a large number of dairies located in the town to the outskirts. Talking to ‘NCR Tribune’ the Nagar Parishad chairman, Mr Om Parkash Bagri, said the parishad would develop 270 plots for setting up dairies on the Kanheli road. Divulging details, he said 23 plots of 1,000 square yards, 85 of 500 square yards and 79 of 350 square yards and 83 of 250 square yards would be provided to the dairy owners. Mr Bagri said a cattle farm, a gobar gas plant and a dispensary for cattle would be set up in a total area of 37 acres for the convenience of the dairy owners. Besides, he said a police post and a shopping complex would also be set up. Tenders had been invited on April 24 and all the developmental works would be carried out in three months. Nearly 37 acres had been procured on the Sunarian road to set up another dairy there. OC



Devotees throng Jhandewala Temple
Our Correspondent

New Delhi, April 15
Thousands of devotees are thronging the Jhandewala Temple to pay obeisance to the Goddess during the Navratras. The temple is one of the most worshipped ‘Shakti peeth’ in North India and hordes of devotees come everyday to seek the blessings of the Goddess.

The temple is open to devotees from four in the morning till midnight during the Navratras. Special arrangements have been made to extend comfort to the devotees.

Besides the religious sanctity of the place, the temple is also famous for helping the needy. Two charitable dispensaries are being run by the temple society in the premises.

Apart from this, a Sanskrit education programme is also being run. The management also aids social organisations engaged in the uplift of the poor and the needy. 



Award to help nail corrupt officials
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, April 15
Perhaps for the first time in the state, the authorities of a district have announced a scheme of cash award for those who help bring the corrupt officials to book.

In a statement issued, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Arun Kumar, declared that an award of Rs 20,000 would be given to any person who help in getting a gazetted-level officer caught for bribe or any other form of corruption.

He said that the amount of award would be Rs 10,000 for the individuals who help acatch corrupt non-gazetted officials. The persons who help the administration in this regard would also be honoured on occasions like January 26 and August 15.

According to the authorities, the administration will provide free legal services and other support required to track down tainted officials.

In January, the DC had suspended his PA on the charge of offering ‘hush’ money.



MDU allots Rs 7.83 cr for projects
Our Correspondent

Rohtak, April 15
Maharshi Dayanand University has allocated an amount of Rs 7.83 crore for various construction works in the year 2002-2003 which would be utilised for completing various ambitious schemes of the university as a part of its silver jubilee celebrations.

Giving details of different schemes and projects of the university, a spokesman said today that the construction of an auditorium, which had been at a standstill for the last nearly seven years, would be started soon. He said all the formalities in this regard had been completed. He said the ongoing construction of a three-storeyed girls hostel building would soon be completed at an estimated cost of Rs 2 crore. He said the building consisting of 98 rooms would accommodate 160 students. Besides, he said a boys’ hostel comprising 69 rooms and a girls’ hostel comprising 51 rooms would be completed by the end of this year at an estimated cost of Rs 3.5 crore.

The spokesman said a multipurpose gymnasium would be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 2 crore which would provide facilities for 18 indoor games.

Funds for mandis

The State Marketing Board has earmarked a budget of several crores for improving the infrastructure in grain markets and laying concrete roads in the district.

The Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, recently inaugurated two projects of about Rs 1.66 crore for construction of concrete roads at Ballabgarh and Hodal mandis.

While an amount of Rs 94.59 lakh will be spent on roads in Ballabgarh mandi, the mandi at Hodal will get Rs 72.23 lakh for the purpose. The new mandi of Ballabgarh is spread over 26 acres. The board has also spent Rs 3.90 crore on the construction of new roads in the year 2001-2002, besides spending Rs 2.34 crore on the repairs of the roads. The mandis have got on amount of Rs 1.48 crore in this period for improving their infrastructure.

Wheat burnt 

Standing wheat crop in an area of two acres was burnt in a devastating fire that broke out in the fields near Hassanpur village, about 10 km from here, on Sunday evening. According to a report, the municipal fire brigade rushed to the site and brought the fire under control. The estimated losses and the cause of the fire were being ascertained by the owner of the crop.



Minister fails to turn up

The Haryana Agriculture Minister, Mr Jaswinder Singh Sandhu, failed to turn up for the monthly meeting of the District Public Relations and Grievances Committee here on Sunday. In his absence, the Deputy Commissioner presided over the meeting. As many as 10 complaints were received and disposed of at the meeting. OC



Watch shop adjacent to police station burgled
Our Correspondent

Jhajjar, April 15
Burglars reportedly struck at a watch shop, Kumar Watch Company, situated adjacent to the city police station here, and decamped with around 1,000 watches estimated to be worth Rs 4.50 lakh on Sunday night.

According to the shopkeeper, Surender, he had left the shop after receiving a new stock of watches on Sunday in the evening.

When he opened the shutters in the morning today, he found a big hole just under the roof and around 1,000 watches of the new stock missing. The onlookers predicted that the thieves must have scaled the wall of the police station to reach the terrace of the shop from where they entered the shop.

The police sources said that the owners of the shop had filed a compliant of theft. Sniffer dogs and fingerprint experts from Rohtak have been pressed into service. The SSP could not be contacted for further details.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the Jhajjar Vyapar Mandal called a meeting to discuss today’s theft as incidents of theft and burglary have registered an upward trend for some days, in the town, Mr Rakesh Arora, general secretary of the mandal, informed.



Job recruitment racket unearthed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 15
The Delhi Police Economic Offences Wing of the Crime Branch today claimed to have busted a gang of manpower agents involved in duping persons on the pretext of getting them jobs abroad.

The police raided the business house, M/S International Manpower Resources, in Rajouri Garden and the residence of its proprietor Harish Kumar Batra and seized 50 Indian passports, incriminating documents including bio-data of 45 persons and two computers from his possession.

The other accused, Swarn Singh Ahluwalia (56), Veer Singh Raghav (50), Harinder Singh Gill (45) and Manvir Singh Rawat (29), who were assisting him, were also arrested.

The police said that while one of the accused, Raghav, used to exchange all correspondence with the foreign employer, Rawat and Gill used to arrange individuals showing them the authorisation letter from the government and Ahluwalia used to hold interviews of the individuals with the foreign employer.

The police, acting on a secret information that some agencies whose registration certificates have been suspended by the Protector of Emigrants were indulging in recruitment of individuals, nabbed them.

The Ministry of Labour had suspended the licence of Harish Batra on February 26 this year for cheating 63 persons on the pretext of sending them to Greece.

The accused used to charge between Rs 50,000 and Rs 70,000 from the persons depending upon the nature of the post. He also charged US $ 300 to $ 500 from the foreign employer per candidate towards service charges.

Liquor vend staff robbed: Three unidentified men today intercepted the manager and cashier of a liquor vend of the Delhi State Civil Supplies and robbed them of Rs 2.25 lakh and their scooter at gunpoint in Seelam Pur area.

The police said that manager Bal Kishan and cashier Madan Lal were on a two-wheeler to deposit the cash at the Central Bank of India branch at Ghonda when the incident occurred around 2.45 pm.

When they reached the bylane near Shiv Mandir, three men accosted them and robbed of their cash and scooter and threatened them with a country-made weapon. The police have registered a case of robbery and launched a massive hunt to trace the three suspects.



Seven-yr-old family feud behind murder
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, April 15
The Sunday’s murder of Rishal Singh in Budena village was the result of a bloody feud between two families.

As many as eight persons, including seven members of one family, have been killed in this feud that has been going on for the past seven years so far.

The serial killings started in 1995 between the families of Harpal and Brahamjit Bhadana after they developed an enmity. While Harpal and six members of his family were killed earlier, Risal Singh of the same family had sought police security, but it was not provided till the murder on Sunday.

While policemen have been posted now, the villagers said the latest incident could have been averted if there had been police presence at the house which has now lost seven members to the bloody feud.



Three killed in mishaps

Three persons were killed and seven others injured, one of them seriously, in separate accidents occurred on the G. T. Road and other state highways in the district on Sunday. According to a report, a person was killed when a canter hit his scooter near Khewra village of the district. The victim was identified as Shiv Kumar of the same village. The canter driver, however, managed to escape. The police have registered a case and launched a hunt to apprehend him. In another accident, a cyclist and a woman were killed on the G. T. Road near Bahalgarh Chowk in an accident involving a car. The victims were Sunil and Ms Mohinder Kaur. The car driver, Ms Swaran Kaur, and one Sandeep Singh who sustained injuries were immediately hospitalised. OC


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