Friday, June 13, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Why octroi will not be abolished in Punjab

The Punjab government has again played a joke by reversing the decision on abolishing octroi at the last moment. Clearly, octroi will continue to stay in Punjab, whichever party rules the state.

The decision raises many questions. First, if neighbouring states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and Delhi can do without octroi, why not Punjab? These states have also local bodies like municipal councils, corporations and towns and cities are as much developed as in Punjab. Secondly, if Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala could abolish octroi within 24 hours, after coming to power, then why can't his Punjab counterpart do it? The stark truth is that politicians in Punjab, whether in the ruling party or in the Opposition, will be equally affected if octroi goes. In most of the places, octroi collection is on contract and all contractors are well-known politicians.

The government can provide relief to the people by bringing in amendments in the Octroi Act. People are put to hardship as they are subjected to unnecessary search. searching of their bags, suitcases etc by those hired by the contractors. This practice should end through three amendments. First, the consignment below Rs 2,500 should not attract octroi. It will give relief to the general public, small hawkers and salesmen. Secondly, local bodies should not be allowed to give octroi on contract. And thirdly, rahdari should be abolished completely.

— Bhartendu Sood, Chandigarh


How Kohima police station was saved

It is a universal truth that it is always the soldier behind the gun that counts. After reading the report on the looting of the police station in Udhampur (March 17), I recollect how a handful of Sikh soldiers of the Second Sikh Battalion, including myself, had saved the looting of the police station at Kohima in as far back as 1957.

It was through a civil intelligence agency that the Station House Officer was informed about the looting of his post by Naga rebels. He approached the Brigade Headquarters for help immediately. I was at that time posted at Kohima and was looking after the fresh supply of rations to the Battalion which was spread throughout the Naga Hills. The HQ was stationed at Chakha Bama, about 12 km from Kohima. Some of the coys were placed at such locations that rations were dropped by air from Jorhat in Assam.

The Brigade HQ asked me to proceed to Kohima police station. At that time, I had only six soldiers. Havildar Channan Singh, who had just been discharged from the hospital, reported for duty. I proceeded to Kohima with four soldiers and Channan Singh. We made a quick assessment of the post from the defence angle. Channan Singh inspected the post and pointed out a footpath from where an attack was expected. We posted a sentry there as also dug a trench.

We were still inside the police chowki and preparing to take rest when the sentry fired. It was a chilly night. The sentry told that the Nagas had launched the attack from the footpath side. They started firing from the bazar side. We took our positions in a circle and the police personnel were also deployed. We successfully lobbed grenades on the Naga rebels and saved the police station.

— Amar Singh, Ex-Subedar (Army Educational Corps), Ludhiana

Stinking colony

The Subhash Colony in Ambala Cantonment is stinking. Toilet flushes are not working in the outhouses (No 101 to 145). Worse, there is no proper drainage facility for the onward flow of night soil. The municipal authorities are not taking any action. This has become a big health hazard. Epidemics like cholera and malaria may break out any moment. The authorities concerned should immediately rise to the occasion and do the needful.

— K.B. Kumar, Ambala Cantonment

New Holland on PTL

This refers to the report ‘New Holland not keen on PTL arms’ (The Tribune June 11). There are three aspects of the story that are totally incorrect: (1) The company would rather prefer to buy the share of other financial institutions in the company to have financial control. (2) The government was reportedly expecting a minimum price of about Rs 700 crore ($150 million) for the PSIDC's stake. However, it was unlikely that any bidder would offer that much price. (3) Mr Gasparri claimed that 15 to 20 per cent of the staff in PTL was surplus and they would have to be offered VRS to improve the bottomline.

The PTL’s disinvestment process is currently on and many other interested companies, including New Holland Tractors (India), have shown expression of interest and are in the process of completing due diligence. Therefore, to find such an incorrect report at this point of time is highly damaging to the reputation of our company. In fact, what subsequently became the headline was never mentioned at all.

— Mario Gasparri, Managing Director, New Holland (India) Pvt. Ltd

The Tribune correspondent replies:

I stand by my story which was based on my interview with Mr Mario Gasparri.

Accountability must

This has reference to the editorial “A crying shame” (June 7). It is shocking that our leaders have not only politicised the bureaucracy but also have forgotten their duty to safeguard the life and property of citizens. No one has ever been made accountable even if Sikhs were butchered in Delhi after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Consequently, our bureaucrats seem unmindful of their duty and responsibility.

It is distressing to note that little had been done to prevent a showdown between the Jats and Dalits even though their confrontation was on for the last several months. Things were allowed to take their own course.

The editorial is right when it said that there is no place in the Sikh religion for any distinction on the basis of caste. Even then, the Dalits were debarred from entering the Gurdwara. The authorities did nothing to take action against the violation of the provisions of the Constitution in this case. Perhaps the authorities were as usual waiting for arson.

Thousands of visitors and others suffered for no fault of theirs as the authorities took no preventive measures. Unless the authorities are made accountable for lapses, the situation will not improve.

— Major Narinder Singh Jallo (retd), Kapurthala

What about the rest?

The Punjab State Electricity Board Chairman, Mr Y.S. Ratra, has announced that 20,000 tubewell connections would be allotted to farmers for agricultural purposes during 2003-04. When the number of applicants for power connection runs into lakhs since 1985, why connection is being given only to 20,000 tubewells?

During the Akali government, farmers were exempted from paying electricity bills. But the situation has changed now. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has made payment of electricity bills compulsory. I request the government to ensure that all applicants are allotted connections so that they can save some money from their meagre income by using electricity instead of the costlier diesel.

— Supinder Singh, Halalpur, Kharar

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