Monday, April 21, 2003, Chandigarh, India


C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


7 buffaloes killed, goods destroyed in fire incidents
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 20
After the Fire Safety Week celebrations concluded yesterday, there were three incidents of fire today, one leading to death of seven buffaloes and a cow and another causing losses worth lakhs of rupees.

Goods, mainly sewing machines, clothes, blankets, woollens and other drycleaning equipment, worth lakhs of rupees were destroyed when a dry-cleaner’s shop and boutique on the first floor in Sector 7 market caught fire at around 9.30 a.m. A short-circuiting in the electric switch board over the dry-cleaning machine led to sparks falling on this machine. Since petrol had been put in the machine and it was working, the fire immediately blew up, said Imran. None of these shopowners had a fire extinguisher to douse the initial sparks from the switch board.

At least four employees were in the dry-cleaner’s shop at the time the fire broke out. They immediately rushed out and cautioned people in the other three cabins on the same floor. The first floor was vacated within no time and the Fire Department was alerted. Soon the fire spread to a tailor’s shop adjacent to the dry-cleaner’s shop and sewing machines and other equipment, besides clothes, were also destroyed.

The fire brigade from the Panchkula fire station arrived within five minutes of the rescue call and began extinguishing the flames from the backside of the market, where the flames had soared almost 10 feet high. However, since only one fire tender from the local station could be rushed here because of only one driver being available, the Chandigarh Fire department was contacted for help.

At least four fire tenders , including a fire bouzer from the Mani Majra Fire Station, Chandigarh, were rushed in. The Chief Fire Officer of Chandigarh, Mr G.S. Bajwa, also rushed here to oversee the fire control operations. It was only around 10. 15 am that the fire could finally be controlled.

The Deputy Commissioner, Ms Satwanti Ahlawat, the SDM, Mr Inder Singh, the Municipal Council Executive Officer, Mr. O.P. Sihag, and other officials of the district administration who had rushed to the place had to face the wrath of the public, who criticised the lack of proper infrastructure in the fire station here. They said there were just two fire tenders and only one driver was available at a given time, so only one tender could be put to use. The president of Sector 7 Market Association, Mr B.B. Kochchar, said even as the residents were made to pay fire tax for the past two years, the fire services had not been upgraded according to the changing needs. He also alleged that the fire tender from the local fire station was not filled to capacity and there was no pressure in the water being used to extinguish the flames. There were only three firemen and the people from the market assisted them in carrying out the fire control operations, he said.

The Deputy Commissioner later formed a three-member fact-finding committee led by the Naib Tehsildar, Mr Gambhir, in charge of the Fire Station, Mr Amar Singh, and the Assistant Executive Engineer, Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam, Mr R.K. Bhardwaj, to ascertain the cause of fire, and lapse, if any, on part of the fire station.

Just as the fire tender reached the fire station, another fire call was received from Sector 12- A, where two jhuggis had been destroyed in a fire caused by electric short-circuiting. The hutments of Hari Singh and Raju were completely destroyed, but the fire was brought under control within 10 minutes.

The third fire incident took place around 2 p.m. at Kharag Mangoli near Suraj Theatre in Sector 1. A temporary cattle pound erected by the jhuggi dwellers near the cinema hall had caught fire. At least a dozen buffaloes and cows , owned by the jhuggi dwellers, had been kept in two temporary structures with thatched roofs. This cattle pound was erected in the bed of a seasonal rivulet flowing behind the jhuggis.

Four buffaloes belonging to Tarsem Kumar and Singa Ram were charred in this fire, while three buffaloes and a cow died of asphyxiation. Two fire tenders from the local fire station and another one from Mani Majra Fire Station, Chandigarh, was called in. The flames were reportedly very high and it took almost one and a half hours to bring the fire under control.

The Deputy Commissioner, later visited the village and announced a compensation of Rs 25,000 to Tarsem Kumar and of Rs 50,000 to Singa Ram from the District Red Cross Society.


Man held for abandoning daughter
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
Strange are the ways of nature. While on the one hand it gives something, on the other it snatches it away. This is exactly what happened to a girl who was found abandoned at the Sector 16 General Hospital five days ago.

‘I wanted a son after 4 daughters’

The ice cream vendor, Jai Kumar, said he was feeding four children, all of whom were girls. Vandana was the youngest of them. Talking to TNS, he said, “I was under tremendous pressure from my family members to father a boy. I earn Rs 1,500 a month from the ice-cream business.” However, he refused to admit that he had abandoned the child.

The girl was today identified as Vandana when her father walked into the Missionaries of Charity Home in Sector 23, claiming possession of the child. The girl had been brought to the home by the police on the orders of the area magistrate. But the 32-year-old father, Jai Kumar, an ice-cream vendor of Bapu Dham, was arrested for allegedly abandoning the child at the hospital.

The police investigations state that Jai Kumar had intentionally abandoned his child. However, the vendor claimed that he had gone along with Vandana to the hospital to get her examined, as she was suffering for cough. “When I was at the hospital, I started feeling dizzy. I handed over my child to a visitor and went to take medicine. Then I fell asleep. On waking up I searched for Vandana but failed to find her,” he said. The police says the version of the ice-cream vendor is an afterthought to escape punishment.

When the TNS asked him as to why he did not inform the Sector 16 police post about the loss of his child, he kept silent. He said he had four daughters, including Vandana. Sources in the police said it appeared that the wife of Jai Kumar might have rebuked him for abandoning the child. Then he might have begun looking for her and reached the Missionaries of Charity Home. However, he claimed that he had seen the photograph of his daughter in a newspaper and come to claim the child.

“I had also lodged a report with the Bapu Dham police post,” claimed Jai Kumar.

A police official said blood samples of the child and the vendor would be sent for DNA mapping to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL). The custody of the child could be given to her mother by the magistrate.


Baby found abandoned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
A nine-month-old baby girl was found abandoned outside the labour room at the Sector 16 General Hospital here this morning. According to information available, the girl was said to be in a healthy condition.

A police officials said an attendant of a patient told the police that a couple was seen feeding the child last night.

The girl has been sent to the Missionaries of Charity Home on the orders of the area magistrate.


Swiss national’s death: suicide not ruled out
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
Life is generally cruel towards those who wish to help the downtrodden. This, exactly, can be said about the 43-year-old Swiss national, Edwin Bosshard, who was found dead in a room of Panchayat Bhavan in Sector 18 here yesterday.

Over six-foot tall Bosshard, who had checked in in a deluxe room (No 109) of the bhavan at 10.30 pm on April 17, was a rich landlord of Zurich. Hailing from the family of a rich businessman, Bosshard was always willing to help the poor and the needy. With this mission in mind, he had landed in the city to win the hearts of the poor, said the wife of a Mani Majra-based resident, Mr Anil Aggarwal, who had been in touch with Bosshard for the past over one year.

"When we read about the death of Bosshard in newspapers, we were shocked. He was such a nice person, always ready to do something for others," said Mrs Aggarwal. Bosshard was in the city to chalk out plans to start a non-government organisation (NGO) which could work for the poor in the city.

The Swiss national had come to the city from Una en route Mandi. Mrs Aggarwal told TNS that Bosshard had visited their house in November 2002 and in March this year. The two used to interact through e-mail. But this time he was yet to contact the Aggarwals before destiny played its role. Mr Aggarwal, who earlier worked with a newspaper, could not be contacted for comments.

On reading about the death of Bosshard, Mr Aggarwal contacted the police, said a police official. The deceased was running an NGO by the name of Himalayan Web Site at Kulla and had been visiting the city on earlier occasions. It could, however, not be ascertained whether he was married.

The deceased was noticed lying on the bed in a strange manner at about 3.30 pm yesterday, raising suspicion in the mind of a safai worker who had come to clean the window glass panes, of the rooms from outside. After knocking hard at the window pane when the foreigner did not respond, the assistant Director of the bhavan, Mr S.S. Brar, was called to break the front door. The worst fears of the bhavan authorities came true when they found Bosshard dead.

The police had found that the face of the victim was tightly fastened in a sleeping bag, apparently suffocating him to death. There were no signs of a forcible entry into the room as the door and windows were found closed from inside.

A senior police official said a board of doctors had been constituted to conduct the autopsy tomorrow.

However, friends of Bosshard expressed surprise over the possibility of a suicide. The police has not ruled out any foul play as the bag containing Rs 72,300, $ 915, 960 Euro currency and 400 Swiss Francs was found on the spot.

A police official said what was intriguing in the entire incident was that the rest of the body ( below the face) was found outside the black coloured sleeping bag, indicating possibility of a suicide. It appears that the victim had used his hands to zip up the sleeping bag. The victim's body below the abdomen was resting on the floor.

A police official said belongings of the deceased would be sent for examination to the CFSL to find out traces of any drug.

The Swiss Embassy in New Delhi had already been informed. After the autopsy, the body was likely to be sent to Delhi.


MC suggests garbage collection charge
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
Having failed to impose a sanitation cess, the Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh has recommended that private contractors should be allowed to levy a monthly service charge for door-to-door collection of garbage in the city.

The corporation, which has to take a final decision on the terms and conditions of the sanitation contract, is likely to discuss the issue at a Finance and Contract Committee meeting scheduled for April 23 and the subsequent General House meeting on April 29. The MC has also decided to restructure the process of privatisation of sanitation, bringing in new reforms to pacify the sweepers, who had been showing their uneasiness over the issue, following apprehensions of losing their jobs.

The issue of privatisation of sanitation was earlier brought up at the General House meeting of the MC on March 31, but could not be discussed following stiff opposition from the SAD-BJP councillors.

Mr Subash Chawla, Mayor of MC, said the earlier suggestion of a single zone for privatisation of sanitation work in 20 sectors, all colonies and four villages falling within the MC limits, had been proposed to be restructured into two zones. “We will now invite two contractors for sanitation work in these areas to make it easier to control the workers”, he said. The MC had earlier recommended to the UT Administration to allow it to recruit at least 1,009 sweepers, other than the existing ones, to fill the existing vacancies.

“The contract will be a stop-gap arrangement and not a permanent feature of the functioning of the MC till the required posts of sweeper are sanctioned by the local administration”, added the Mayor.

“Since the sanitation condition in many parts of the city is poor and has been criticised at different meetings of the MC and on different platforms, a need has been felt to bring in the required changes,” said Dr G.C. Bansal, Medical Officer Health (MOH), of the MC.

The MC had earlier failed to impose a cess for providing services of collection of garbage and sweeping in the city, but has now firmed up to strengthen the contract system to earn out of it. This is seen as a positive step.


SAS Nagar transit camp for officers
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, April 20
SAS Nagar can safely be called a transit camp for Punjab officers. With top officers being transferred in and out of the township almost every six months, it is the lower staff which virtually run the show in the township.

In the past seven years, the township's Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) office has had 14 Estate Officers, an average stay of six months in the post. In the past five years, the township has had seven Subdivisional Magistrates (SDMs), which makes it less than one year in the post, six Additional Chief Administrators (ACAs) in six years and four Executive Officers of the municipal council in the past four years.

While these transfers are justified by saying that these are political decisions, there is no doubting the fact that the officers who are posted here are depending on the longer stay of their juniors to get on with day-to-day work. If the quality of administration is suffering in the process, at least the officers themselves are not complaining about it.

The most striking case is of the Estate Office, PUDA, where 14 persons have come and gone in the past seven years. While the average stay of an officer on the Estate Officer's post comes to six months, there are officers who have served as Estate Officers here for 23 days and even four days. There are persons who were holding the additional charge as Estate Officers and there are some who have served as Estate Officer twice after a brief stint at some other place.

A similar situation exists at the SDM's office here. Starting with Mr B.S. Sekhon who assured charge on August 17, 1995, and barely stayed here till December 4,1995 to Mr D.S. Sandhu who served as SDM from April 15,2002 to April 10,2003, six SDMs have come and gone. Both Mr M.P.Arora and Mr O.P. Popli also served as SDM here for barely an year each. With the change in command at the SDM's office here barely after one year of the previous SDM's posting, it is now being increasingly felt that the top administrative positions in the township are being manned for durations too short to be able to perform well.

The office of the ACA has, however, fared better. While Mrs Ravneet Kaur remained the ACA for less than five months here in 1996, Dr Roshan Sankaria served for an year followed by Ms Seema Jain who served for two years. Mr Chander Gaind served for barely two months when Mr Yashvir Mahajan took over as ACA last year in March.

In the case of the post of the Executive Officer, municipal council here, Mr K.S. Brar managed to serve for three years but only after being shifted out at least twice in these three years. Mr Brar was replaced by Mr Harbhagwan Garg who stayed for a year. Mr Garg was replaced by Mr J.K. Sharma who was transferred after a stay of six months when Mr Garg took over again.



A small and select group of connoisseurs of the City Beautiful were treated to a unique session of scotch tasting on Thursday night hosted by Mr Arun Seth, Master of Scotch Whisky and Vice-President, International Trade, Allied Domecq Spirits and Wine, India (ADSWI), the second largest spirits and wine company in the world.

In keeping with the changing social mores, trends and lifestyle, the scotch-tasting session had a fair sprinkling of ladies who were in no way second to their male counterparts in smelling, savouring and tasting the drink that cheers, nodding their heads knowledgeably and offering their comments.

Mr Seth says such “Scotch Knowledge Campaign” sessions have been held in all the metros of the country during the past couple of years. “We are now moving to non-metro cities like Chandigarh, Pune, Nagpur, Hyderabad etc. We will go to Ludhiana also. We are drawing a good response.”

Unlike Europeans who prefer their scotch to be light coloured with a mellow taste, Indians go for a dark coloured scotch. “As a matter of fact, how scotch should look is a matter of personal choice. The basic content of scotch, which is 43% alcohol, remains the same,” points out Mr Seth.

The ADSWI was incorporated in 1994 and within a span of seven years, it has emerged as a dominant player in the spirits industry. It was the first to introduce a leading scotch brand in India, Teacher’s Highland Cream. Subsequently, Teacher’s 50, a 12-year-old premium scotch, was developed specially for the Indian market and has been a success since its launch in 1997. The USP of the ADSWI range is its outstanding international flavour that appeals to consumers throughout the world. ADSWI has expanded its product portfolio to include such brands as Old Smuggler rum, gin and brand and Long John Scotch.

Thanks General

It is almost certain that the Punjab Governor and UT Administrator Lieut-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd) is on his way out. Maybe he will get an Ambassadorial posting put by the city is abuzz with talk about the man, who did so much to change the face of Chandigarh.

In the last week the General has been opening new projects and has laid the foundation stones of others. Each function become nostalgic as people come forward to meet him as if they know it could be the last time. People have been coming forward just to say thanks to the General. It may be thanks for the green belt, a new road or a new power line.

When the General went to inaugurate a new hall in the police lines it was a touching moment as ladies and children bent down to touch the feet of the Governor.

Kapil in demand

The most famous son of the city, Kapil Dev , was here for a few days. He had come to attend the marriage of his nephew (his elder brother’s son) who got married to the daughter of a top orthopaedician. The cricketing legend also released a book and most importantly participated in the meeting of the UT Cricket Association. Kapil is the General Secretary of the UTCA.

A city resident who attended the wedding of Kapil’s nephew said he was in great demand with baraties as well as invitees from the girl’s side wanting their photos clicked with the cricketer. Of course he caught up with old friends and went out with a few of them. It is in Chandigarh that he is Paaji (older brother) to all and sundry.

Vivek — the charmer

The world of glamour is strange. Even before you get time to ponder over something, you realise that the ground situation has changed. Take for example the fleeting popularity of stars. Only few months back Hrithik Roshan was a rage. Today, he is somewhere behind the curtain. In the focus is the latest Bollywood sensation Vivek Oberoi, who drives many a youngster crazy.

You could not have missed the admiration he evoked from young fans at St Stephen’s School the other day when he was around to promote a soft drink. Young girls were spotted kissing his posters. Young boys were desperate to catch his attention. As he spoke like a king from the stage of the school auditorium it seemed as if the whole world was his to enjoy. Apparently, even Vivek was surprised at his popularity and he actually admitted this in so many words.

Aishwarya Rai’s presence could also be noticed in the auditorium that day. A group of boys was carrying posters of the glamour queen. So when nothing helped them gather the coveted attention of Vivek, they simply stretched out life-size posters of Rai. The plan worked. Vivek glanced at the posters and then kept looking at the adventurous group for quite a while!

Respecting pain

Pain is sacred. When you share it with people, you always run the risk of undermining your own emotion. But sometimes your fears are allayed and you feel blessed to be among people who commiserate with you, as you suffer. Neeru Khattar was in the news last week. Her book, chronicling the death of her son Saurabh Khattar, was well-received.

The release ceremony held on April 17 was attended by people like Kapil Dev and some top shots in Minerva Press. Not only did the speakers appreciate Neeru Khattar for using her personal account to spread awareness of chicken pox among people, they also came forward to buy the book. Many present among the gathering bought copies of My God is Dead, the book which has been written with the purpose of conveying a direct message to society.

All copies displayed at the counter of the venue were sold that day. The proceeds have been directed to Saurabh Khattar Memorial Trust which educates poor kids and spreads awareness about chicken pox, which claimed Saurabh’s life.

Burning leaves

The City Beautiful, one with the highest green cover in the country, is facing an environmental danger from falling leaves.

With the city roads and houses covered with leaves, the most convenient way sweepers and residents find is to burn the leaves. Despite the Supreme Court having banned it, the failure of the Municipal Corporation to find a technological solution to the problem, which are in plenty, has forced the people to dispose it of in an environmentally dangerous way.

The Municipal Corporation had been given several offers last year to dispose it of and also earn some money from the so-called annual problem but it failed to take a decision in this regard.

Last good deed

His journey ended before destination. On March 29, advocate Suresh Sachdeva was on his way home from Ropar when a car rammed into his scooter. He was taken to hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

The accident perhaps wouldn’t have occurred, but for his “ever-helpful nature”. Sachdeva had gone to visit his ailing friend in a hospital a day before he made his final exit. Just as he was about to depart, his friend’s relative asked Sachdeva to drop him at Ropar. Anyone else would have refused, specially when the car was out of order, but not Sachdeva. At about 11. 30 pm, he left the city with the companion on a scooter.

After spending the night at Ropar, Sachdeva started early. He was driving back home when the mishap occurred. The news left everyone shocked.

Big top big draw

With the government imposing a ban on animal performances, the Jumbo Circus running in the city has come up with some good acrobatic performances by young artistes. The perfection in the shows (see photo by Parvesh Chauhan) speaks of the hard work that must have gone into the daily grind. The circus is turning out to be a big draw on Sundays and holidays.

CET forms

There has been a marginal increase in the receipt of forms for the Common Entrance Test (CET) to be conducted by Panjab University for admission to the University Institute of Engineering and Technology, Department of Chemical Engineering, Government Medical College and Hospital, B.Sc Honours School and a few other select professional courses.

As per figures made available by university officials, about 12,500 forms have been received this year. Last year a little over 11,000 forms had been received. Considering that each form this year has been priced at Rs1300, this means a revenue of Rs 16,25,000 just from the sale of forms.

Errors in question paper

Panjab University’s Botany Department has received a complaint about some errors in the B.Sc part - I final question paper. While there was a technical error in one of the questions, where a numerical figure representing a ratio between various parameters was allegedly given incorrect, the sub-part of another question was repeated in another question. The matter has been referred to the university’s Board of Studies.

SI on a cycle

Sub-Inspector Ramchander Pannu is a policeman with a difference. He has perfected a mantra — cycling — to counter all problems.

The policeman has been riding a cycle since 1999 to set an example and has now joined hands with others to make the city the first cycle city of the country. Mr Pannu rides a cycle donated by Magsasay Awardee environmentalist of Chipko movement, Sunderlal Bahuguna.

He has also been able to set up an environment fund in 140 schools to promote environment promotion.




Units close production as strike continues
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
The seven-day-old nation-wide strike has began affecting the manufacturing and trading sectors of the region. A number of industrial units in the city, SAS Nagar, Dera Bassi and Panchkula have been forced to close down their production, as their inventories have almost dried up.

On the other hand, the truckers have threatened to intensify their agitation from tomorrow if the government fails to find an amicable solution to their demands.

Several of export-oriented units (EOU) in Dera Bassi have reportedly lost orders worth crores, as they are unable to meet the dead lines of delivery schedule. One of the exporters lamented,‘‘ After the Iraq war, the truckers’ strike has badly affected the industry. We have to pay rent for containers held at Kandla and other ports for the past many days, and here workers are sitting idle in the units.’’

Mr B.S. Baidwan, president, Mohali Industries Association, lamented that the production costs had gone up due to delay in the delivery of raw material and products in time. He said the deadlock between the truckers and the government had caused immeasurable loss to the industry. One should not be surprised if the industrial workers’ index and inflation registered a rise due to the strike, he said.

Mr C.B. Goyal, president, Haryana Chamber of Commerce and Industry, claimed that the industrial units in the state had already slowed their production. He said,‘‘About 600 units in Panchkula alone, which include auto-parts, flour mills, sanitary goods and building material, have been badly affected by the strike. Though most of the units have inventories for 10 to 12 days, but if the strike continues for some more days, we will have to stop production and lay off workers.’’

The wholesalers dealing in consumer durables like refrigerators, air-conditioners and other electronic goods claimed that they were also worried about the impact of strike. One of the traders in the Sector 22 market claimed that though most of the traders and companies had arranged stocks in advance, yet there was a limit up to which they could bear the burden. In the next few days, there would be no stocks with them.

Mr Jagdish Chander, state co-ordinator, Punjab and Chandigarh Transport Associations, claimed that they had already decided to intensify their agitation keeping in view of the government’s adamant attitude. A final decision would be announced tomorrow. He said, ‘‘ The tempo unions have also announced to support the strike of truck operators. Now we will stop the transport of essential goods including LPG, milk, vegetables and fruits, which had been exempted to a large extent so far.’’

Reacting to the government’s reaction to the strike, he pointed out that if the government could dole out hundreds of crores to other sectors, why were we given a step-motherly treatment. He said,‘‘ We are simply asking for the fixation of freight charges, execution of IRDA guidelines for the insurance companies, abolition of 15- year limit for the operation of trucks on the roads and withdrawal of entry tax and toll tax and exemption from VAT to the truck operators.’’


Top cops rap subordinates for laxity
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
After the change of guard at the top level in the city police, it has been pointed out that supervisory officers have not been inspecting the police stations regularly, leading to increase in the number of pending cases. Around 12 cases, pending for over two years, are still under investigation in different police stations.

Concerned at the laid-back attitude of certain investigating officials, senior police officials have issued strict guidelines to Sub-Divisional Officers (SDPOs) to pull up their subordinates. The officers have been asked to improve the level of investigation.

Now, a DSP will conduct two informal and four surprise inspections at police stations every month. Sources in the police department said erring investigating officials were being issued censure notices. They are reportedly being asked to explain the reasons behind delay in investigation.

Though under the relevant Sections of rules governing the conduct of police officials, station house officers (SHOs) were empowered to issue notices to the investigating officers, seek departmental action against the erring official or suspend the official for misconduct. However, the powers were seldom used by an official.

An official said as per the rules, the supervisory officers were expected to supervise the maintenance of record in police stations, timely running of the daily diary, check the misuse of police powers to arrest, maintenance and upkeep of the police station building, investigation of criminal cases and personal supervision of investigation of heinous cases.

Under the formal inspection, scheduled in advance and for a period of six months, the entire performance of the police station was checked in detailed. In informal inspection, advance notice was served to check present crime situation and the cases under investigation. In surprise checking, the supervisory officer has to personally check the working of police station at the ground level.


SARS in East may boost Dubai tourism
A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
The outbreak of SARS in South-East countries has provided Dubai with a golden opportunity to attract more tourists and boost its own tourism industry.

“We look upon the tragic outbreak of the deadly virus in South-Asian countries like China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and a few other countries as an opportunity to boost tourism”, said Mr Carl Vaz, Country Manager, Dubai Representatives Office in India, in a talk with TNS here. Mr Vaz, who was in town to attend a three-day Travelmart which concluded today, said in sharp contrast to the chaos being witnessed in the South-East countries due to the outbreak of SARS, Dubai represented an absolutely safe, secure and exotic destination. “‘Visit Dubai: it is duty free, its SARS free and now war free’ is the new unofficial catchline to attract tourists...,” he said.

Mr Vaz said India had become the second largest source of tourists for Dubai after the UK. Last year, 3.48 lakh Indians visited Dubai for tourism which represented an increase of 25 per cent over the number of tourists visiting Dubai the year before. This year, Dubai had set a target of attracting 2.60 lakh tourists from India

Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh is an important zone for sending tourists to Dubai. Last year, about 23,000 tourists from this zone visited Dubai. This year, they were hoping for an increase. Mr Vaz that Chandigarh had good facilities for golfers. He was trying for a tie-up with local golfers under which they could visit Dubai with their families. While golfers played at the excellent golf courses in Dubai, their families could shop in the shopping malls of the Emirate

Mr Vaz said electronic goods were no longer the favourite shopping goods for the Indians since all these goods had now become available within India. The Indian tourists preferred to buy gold and gold jewellery besides mobile cell phones. Another favourite with the Indian tourists were toys for children.

He also said oil revenue constituted only 9 per cent of the total GDP of Dubai last year. Revenue from tourism constituted 16 per cent of the GDP. Incidentally, revenue from hotels in Dubai last year topped $ 1.3 billion.


Sikh body declares June 16 as Gurpurb
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
The Central Coordination Committee of all gurdwaras and Sikh institutions, led by Mr Gurpartap Singh Riar, declared Gurpurb on June 16 as per the Nanakshahi Calendar as against June 4 fixed by the Central and state governments.

Members of the committee, in a meeting held here today, decided to send a delegation to the Central, Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory governments to urge them to change the date of the holiday as per the calendar.

In a veiled warning, Mr Riar said if the governments did not change the date as per the Nanakshahi Calendar, the committee would give a call to Sikhs to observe Gurpurb on June 16 instead of June 4, announced as per Vikrami Samwat.


Pensioners flay hike in phone ST
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
The Government Pensioners’ Association has condemned the Punjab Government for “burdening telephone subscribers with over Rs 100 crore annually by imposing 12.5 per cent Sales Tax on the monthly rental of land line, WLL and cellular phones”. Members of the association lamented that Punjab was the first state to impose this tax, despite the fact that the Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, had already increased service tax from five to eight per cent on telephone services.

Mr Yashpal Ghai, additional general secretary of the association, in a press note said, “More than 10 lakh telephone subscribers in the state have been affected by the decision. TRAI’s decision to reduce free monthly calls from 75 to 50 in the rural areas and to 30 in the urban areas for the BSNL land line subscribers have already hit over four crore subscribers in the country.”

The association has lamented that TRAI had also reduced local call pulse rates for making calls to cell and WLL phones with effect from May 1. Mr Ghai said if all the decisions were implemented, subscribers in Punjab would have to shell out an additional sum of Rs 300 to Rs 500 crore, annually.

He said, “It was unfair that the government was imposing a higher rate of tax on telephone service, which had become an essential service. “Is there any point to impose so much tax when the state and Central governments are reducing excise, custom duty and sales tax to boost the economy. The telephone subscribers, belonging to the middle class are at the receiving end, therefore the decision should not be implemented,” he said.


Semi-conscious woman found
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, April 20
A middle-aged woman was found in a semi-conscious state near the village pond at Jagatpura here today. The woman who, according to the police, is in a state of shock and also seems insane has not given any more details of herself beyond her name.

The woman was found sitting next to the pond with her legs dangling in the water this afternoon by some villagers who then called the police.

By the time the police reached there, the woman had been forcibly pulled away from the edge of the pond and made to sit.

While some villagers reported that the woman was found in a semi-clad state wearing torn clothes, the police said she was fully clothed when she was found and her clothes were not torn.

Some women the village reportedly bathed and clothed her properly before she was taken to the Sohana police station for identification.

According to Mr Harcharan Singh Bhullar, SP, SAS Nagar, since the woman has not been able to give her address to the police, the police has sent a wireless message across the region regarding her having been found here. ‘‘We will wait for a few days and see if anyone is able to recognise her and give information about her home. After that, an inquiry will be held into her antecedents so that she is handed over to the right family. In case we are unable to get any information about her, we will be sending her to the Nari Niketan,’’ he said.

Mr Bhullar stated that if needed, the woman will also be taken for a medical examination tomorrow to see if she was in a state of shock due to an untoward occurrence or if she was mentally upset. ‘‘We cannot rule out the possibility of rape till we have her medical examination report,’’ he stated.

Meanwhile, the woman who has given her name to the police, has been sent to a panchayat member’s house in Sohana village with a police woman guarding her there.


Kisan Morcha demands compensation for farmers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
The Bharatiya Kisan Morcha today decided to meet the Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Ajit Singh, tomorrow to urge him to compensate farmers of Haryana, whose over one lakh hens recently died of the Ranikhet disease.

This was announced by the National Kisan Morcha president, Mr Mahadev Rao Shivankar, at the conclusion of a two-day session of representatives from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Shivankar said the delegation would demand temporary lifting of restriction on the import of feed for hens to bring down its prices.

When asked if the import of corn, used as a feed for hens, would not hurt domestic farmers, he said this would be on a temporary basis.

Mr Shivankar said the morcha would also ask Mr Ajit Singh to consider releasing grains from the Food Corporation of India for feeding egg-laying birds. This measure, he said, would bring down the expenditure of farmers.

The morcha president said farmers must be compensated for the birds that had died in Barbala.

Mr Shivankar said the issue of uprooting dairy farmers from the city was discussed in the session. He said it was recommended that the dairy farmers be given an alternative site by the authorities.

The morcha, at its regional meeting of office-bearers, also discussed the issue of a reasonable compensation to farmers whose land had been acquired by the UT Government.

The morcha also demanded an immediate end to the truckers’ strike saying that farmers of this area were severely hurt during the strike.

Mr Shivankar urged the Central Government to immediately engage truckers’ in a dialogue and urged the latter to scale down their demands to reach a compromise in the interest of farmers.

The party also chalked out details of similar sessions in non-BJP ruled states, including south India, western India, Uttar Pradesh and central India. The morcha, however, did not indicate any action plan for Gujarat.


Handling age-old themes with a difference
Tribune News Service

Sawan Kumar TakChandigarh, April 20
Sawan Kumar Tak, the celebrated film director of the ‘70s and ‘80s, was in the city today to attend the wedding of Ravi Kant Sharma’s daughter at Panchkula. In a familiar mould, Sawan Kumar, the director who gave the film industry some of its greatest hits like ‘Sautan’, talked about his cinematic journey with a great deal of reflection on the days gone by.

Admitting that the world of cinema had undergone a sea change and that market forces had started calling the shots, Sawan Kumar said there was still a lot of scope for growth and creativity. In his own films, he has been attempting to handle age-old themes of peace, love and brotherhood, with a fresh focus. The latest in the line up of films being made by him is ‘Dil Pardesi Ho Gaya’, which will have musical scores by his former wife Usha Khanna, who is coming back with her music after a long spell.

Set in the Kashmir valley the film is about a love across geographical boundaries. Sawan Kumar believes that love always makes place wherever there is strife and strain. Keeping the theme of universal brotherhood in mind, he has chosen his cast carefully. In fact, the director claims that he had to hunt hard for the right kind of cast.

“I searched for a very long time before zeroing down on two faces. I did not want to cast familiar faces. It would not have been good for the growth of the script. With a fresh cast, I can make a fresh point. That is what I am working towards.” In his search for the film’s cast, Sawan Kumar had visited Chandigarh twice. However, the final cast was picked up from Mumbai.

As for the film, it is still being developed. The script is powerful and the songs, some of which have been written by Sawan Kumar himself, reflect the poignancy of the situation at the border. Wording the songs from his heart, the director has tried to personalise the project further. No wonder, this film is very close to his heart.


R.K. Sharma’s daughter gets married
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 20
Gloom that had descended on the family of former Haryana Inspector General Ravi Kant Sharma after he was arrested in the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case was tonight cast aside when a large number of people joined the celebrations of the wedding of his daughter Pragati to a writer, Amaresh Mishra.

The Red Bishop, venue of the wedding, attracted a large number of bureaucrats and senior police officers. Around 40 cars with red lights were seen outside the venue.

Mr Sharma, dressed in a red kurta pajama, wore a traditional turban and seemed happy. He had been released on bail for the ceremony.

The road outside the Red Bishop witnessed a traffic jam for a while as cars queued up for the wedding. Fireworks marked the celebrations.


Save Sukhna
Need to chalk out firm strategy

The only solution is complete rehabilitation of the lake. And this lies in totally desilting the lake. Apart from desilting, the environment around the lake is in a deplorable state. Maintenance cost has to be set aside for this. Unless urgent and effective measures, including desilting, are taken to reclaim the lake, its future seems bleak.

Silt has depleted the water level and dense growth of weeds are some other problems which have cropped up at the lake. A firm strategy is required to be put in place quickly. The lake is dying fast due to lack of timely preventive measures. With a large number of people thronging the Sukhna Lake, it is an ideal place for recreational activity.

Rashmi Kaushal Lecturer, Chandigarh


City Beautiful's most prominent water feature, Sukhna Lake, is in danger.

Readers of Chandigarh Tribune are invited to send in their views not exceeding 150 words on the subject along with a passport size colour photo for publication in the newspaper to: Save Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh Tribune, Sector 29-C, Chandigarh.


Bharat Vikas Parishad honours social workers
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 20
The oath-taking ceremony and annual day celebrations of the Bharat Vikas Parishad, Panchkula, and the Bharat Vikas Parishad, Mansa Devi, were held at Parishad Bhavan, Sector 12-A, today. Ms Sharda Gupta, councillor from Ward No. 22 and Principal of New India Senior Secondary School, Sector 15, was the chief guest. A social worker, Dr V.P. Dhall, was also present.

The programme began with children from Bal Sadan entertaining the gathering with Rajasthani and Haryanvi folk dances. These children had been trained by the Ghoomer Academy of Fine Arts. Later, 58 persons, who had done exemplary social work, were honoured. Twentyeight members of the parishad and four local councillors were also honoured.


Ex-president of Sacha Dhan Gurdwara held
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, April 20
The police here today arrested Balwinder Singh, a former president of Sacha Dhan Gurdwara in Phase 3B1 on charges of inciting religious sentiments of people leading to damage of public property. While the relatives of Balwinder Singh have alleged that he has been wrongly booked, the present president of the gurdwara has demanded that he be let off and let the management undertake its own inquiry.

According to information provided by gurdwara workers, after the day’s ceremonies were over yesterday, two women started breaking a raised concrete platform in the main hall of the gurdwara. The raised platform had been built a month back on demand of some of the elderly visitors to sit on as they could not sit on the floor. According to sources many gurdwara workers resented the construction of a raised platform in the same room which housed Guru Granth Sahib. But no one had ever showed this resentment to the management.

Sources said Balwinder Singh was witness to the complete incident but did not stop the two women from damaging the gurdwara property. Another visitor, however, called the police who reached the spot.

While the police is claiming that Balwinder Singh was arrested in today afternoon on a complaint lodged by a gurdwara visitor last night, the relatives in a written complaint to Chandigarh Tribune have alleged that Balwinder was picked up and kept in the Phase VIII Police Station last night before the FIR was finally lodged in the afternoon today.

Mr Baljit Singh, Balwinder Singh’s brother, further alleged that his brother has been wrongly booked by the police as he was not responsible for any of the activities that took place there last night. ‘‘The police even misbehaved with his 71-year-old father, pushing him physically out of the police station.’’

Meanwhile, the present president of the gurdwara management committee, Mr Sukhdev Singh, has demanded that the police should let the gurdwara’s committee members sort out the matter in presence of the sangat.

Eve-teasing: The police arrested a resident of Khuda Lahora, Manoj Kumar, for allegedly eve-teasing outside the Government College for Women, Sector 11, here yesterday. He has been booked under Section 294 of the IPC.

Thefts: A Bajaj Super scooter (DNI 8332) of Mr Sham Sundar Batra, a resident of Sector 45, was reportedly stolen from a parking lot in Sector 17 here yesterday. Mr Kirpal Singh Rawat of Naya Gaon (Kharar) reported with the local police that his Hero Honda Splendor motor cycle (CH 21T 1101) was stolen from Sector 35 on April 15. Two cases of theft have been registered.

Held: The police claims to have arrested three persons for gambling at a public place at Grain Market, Sector 26, and one for satta gambling at Palsora here yesterday. The four have been booked under various Sections of the Gambling Act.

The police has also arrested three persons, Raj Kumar of Sector 56, Manjit Kumar of Sector 29 and Phool Singh of Colony No. 4, from different parts of the city for bootlegging.


Cosmetics range unveiled
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
Paramount Cosmetics (I) Limited has introduced a new range of cosmetics under its umbrella brand of Tips and Toes. The new range includes an exciting array of colours, textures and value-added ingredients. “The Goddess Range” includes lipsticks, nail polish, mascara, eye liners, eye shadow, etc. The colour palette of lipsticks has nine shades. The nail polish also comes in nine colours.

Fragrances launched

Iceberg fragrances for men and women, synonymous with 70 funky psychedelic cultures, have traversed the boundaries of India. The fragrances have an array of choices for both men and women. The latest offerings include iceberg effusion for men, iceberg fluid for men, iceberg effusion for women and iceberg fluid for women.

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