C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Fog throws life out of gear
Tribune News Service

  • Only one flight has left during the past four days
  • Trains delayed
  • Newspaper, milk and vegetable supply hit
  • Commuters worst affected
  • Sixth consecutive day of fog
  • Schoolchildren, cyclists and scooterists have a harrowing time
  • Foggy conditions to continue

Chandigarh, December 22
The city and the surrounding areas remained enveloped in fog for the sixth consecutive day today, affecting normal life. Flights from the city were cancelled while trains ran behind schedule due to speed restrictions. Road traffic moved at a snail’s pace.

Besides Chandigarh, there was near zero visibility in Mohali, Panchkula and Ambala. In the early hours, the supply of milk, newspapers and vegetables was delayed. Residents got no respite from the cold as temperatures in the city dropped to 7.4°C.

Indian Airlines and Jet Airways cancelled their flights from Mumbai and Delhi, and the return ones from the city due to foggy conditions. “The visibility is near zero in Chandigarh and the situation is unlikely to improve,” said an official of Indian Airlines. Only one flight has left during the past four days. Meanwhile, sources in the airline industry explained that a minimum visibility of 1500 metres was required, whereas in Chandigarh it was not beyond 700 metres during the past four days. The instrument-aided landing facility does not exist at the local airport. Airlines are giving full refund in case of weather-related cancellations.

The Meteorological Department said foggy conditions would continue. City residents woke up this morning to find a fog cover, which had reduced visibility to a few metres. It improved by 2 pm but by 6 pm the fog had resettled, reducing the visibility. Hundreds of residents rushed back home and roads were choked with vehicles. Late last evening, the fog was so dense that people had difficulty reaching home.

The railway authorities said speed of trains had been reduced six days ago. Depending upon an on-the-spot assessment of the driver, the speed can be as low as 30 km per hour.

Among the trains running late were the Shatabdi Express, which reached here at 2 pm, nearly three hours behind schedule. The Himalayan Queen arrived at 1 pm nearly two-and-a-half hours behind schedule. The Sadbhavna Express (Chandigarh-Lucknow), which was late by about four hours, arrived at 2 pm. The Kalka-Howrah train was also late by about three hours. The Paschim Express from Mumbai was late by an hour and so was the Jan Shatabdi.

Highways were very risky to drive on. Vehicles moved slowly. Inter-state buses were running behind schedule and commuters got delayed in reaching offices. The construction activity in the city was nearly at a standstill.

Students had a harrowing time reaching school through the dense fog. Though most private schools have closed for the winter break, government schools will close on December 24.

City parks, which are usually abuzz with activity, wore a deserted look. Meanwhile, halwais reported brisk sales. Roadside soup sellers and egg sellers also witnessed brisk business.



Mohali not to hike water tariff 
Tribune News Service

Over 200 kiosk owners in the township protested outside the council office today against the proposed hike in ground rent from Rs 2.50 per sq ft to Rs 8 per sq ft. The ground rent is being charged by the council from these kiosk owners running their businesses from various rehri markets. Keeping in view the protest, the proposal was kept pending following brief discussions.

Mohali, December 22
The Mohali Municipal Council here has decided not to implement the Punjab Government’s notification to revise water supply and sewerage tariffs in the state. This was decided at the monthly meeting of the council here today.

Stating that the council had already hiked the rates in 2001, the House felt that increasing the rates further in accordance with the Punjab Government’s notification would not be in the best interests of the residents.

The resolution to implement the notification had been on the agenda since May this year but the matter had been kept pending during two meetings held in June and August. Taking a final decision on the matter today, the MC Chief, Mr Kulwant Singh, said since the rates had already been revised, a revision of rates was not needed.

The notification issued by the Department of Local Government on May 2, 2003 had directed various municipal bodies and nagar panchayats in the state to implement the revised water and sewerage tariff with immediate effect. It had further asked the local bodies to ensure good quality of water, maintain minimum duration of supply, privatise billing and collection in a phased manner and provide good standard of services to residents. Computerisation of bills, a web site showing hours of supply, status of complaints etc. were also asked to be introduced.

The council today demanded the construction of two dedicated water pipelines from Kajauli Waterworks for Mohali by the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA). Discussing the issue, the members were told that over the years the demand for potable water had increased manifold in the township and the groundwater level had gone down. The MC Chief was of the opinion that the council should also offer monetary input to PUDA for the project.

While the council decided to take over the maintenance of green belts near the Industrial Area, it rejected PUDA’s offer to hand over the musical fountain in Sector 70. The rest of the items on the agenda were passed unanimously.



MC shoots down proposal on Ranbaxy’s shifting
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 22
The Municipal Council here has rejected the recommendation of its five-member committee to shift Ranbaxy from Mohali. This was decided at a meeting held here today.

Stating that the factory was bringing in a large amount of octroi to the township and was a source of employment to over a thousand families residing here, majority of the members agreed that its shifting will not be in the interest of the township. It was, however, decided that a team of councillors conduct regular visits to the unit to ensure that the basic safety measures are being followed.

Mr Manjit Sethi, leader of the Opposition, stated that Ranbaxy being an industrial unit was beyond the jurisdiction of the Municipal Council, thus no decision could be taken by the council on it.

Following the June 11 blasts and fire in Ranbaxy the MC had on the complaint of residents of Mohali village constituted a six-member committee to ascertain if the presence of the unit in the vicinity of a residential area was safe or not.

It was also decided that the suggestions given by the committee members regarding the fire-fighting preparedness at Ranbaxy be send to the unit.

Some members were also of the view that those officers who had bravely fought the fire that night should be awarded on Republic Day.



Cut in college fee hike by week-end
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
A considerable cut in the fee hike proposed by the UT Administration in city colleges is expected by week-end though the committee constituted in this regard dismissed a complete roll back at its meeting held here today.

Quoting various clauses after seeking legal opinion in the matter, officials of the UT Administration and other members of the committee agreed to cut down the hike, though the cut is yet to be decided. Earlier, the UT Administration had recommended a hike in tuition fee from Rs 63 to Rs 200 while the university had hiked the fee to Rs 76.

According to information available, Principals of various colleges on the committee suggested that the tuition fee be reduced to Rs 100. The recommendation of the committee would be forwarded to the Governor of Punjab, Justice O.P. Verma, for approval and an announcement would be made shortly, sources said.

They added that the committee should decision on allowing private colleges to charge funds according to their requirement, but asked them to maintain records in this regard.

The representatives of Panjab University, Mr Paramjit Singh, Registrar, and the DUI, did not attend the meeting. The students’ representatives, too, did not turn up for the meeting. 



MC team raids octroi contractor’s office
Catches him imposing illegal fine
Tribune News Service

When the octroi contractor came to know that his office was being raided, he rushed to throw some of the ‘illegally stored’ stuff. The large packed cases were found lying in an empty plot nearby. Even as many of the electronic media journalists managed to get footage of the contractor’s men throwing the cases, the contractor continued to deny anything to so with the cases. 

Mohali, December 22
In what could lead to the unearthing of major octroi and sales tax evasion in Mohali, a team of Municipal Councillors today raided the octroi contractor’s office and caught him red-handed with an ‘impounded’ truck from whom he had allegedly demanded a fine of Rs 40,000. Interestingly the contractor has neither the power to impound a vehicle without informing the central octroi point nor does he have any power to fine anyone.

The councillors, all belonging to the opposition camp, raided the Phase- X office of the contractor here, which they alleged was being used as a store for keeping the items impounded illegally by him. Despite the presence of the truck there, whose driver clearly told the councillors and mediapersons present that the contractor had asked for Rs 40,000 from him as fine, the contractor, Mr Saran Singh, denied any such thing.

The councillors pointed that the contractor was siphoning off at least Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh per day of the total octroi collected in a day into his account. “In most cases this theft is done at night when no one from the council is present to check what is going on,”said Mr Manjit Sethi, a councillor. “Most of the times the council’s central naka point, where there is a proper store for impounded items, is locked. And all illegal work is done here by the contractor," he added.

Mr Sukhdev Patwari, another councillor, alleged that the contractor was not giving MC receipts to persons they collected octroi from. “In most cases a compromise is reached between the two parties and on the council papers these cases are marked as octroi free,”he said.

The truck driver stated that he had stopped at the octroi post last night and asked the employees where to pay octroi and sales tax. “They brought me here stating that I can pay both octroi and sales tax here. When I arrived here I was told to pay a large amount as fine. Then I had to call my owner, who is in hospital in Dehra Dun,” he added.

The MC Superintendent, in charge of octroi collection, was called to the spot and made aware of the situation.



Nanotechnology poised to change future
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
“The 20th century saw the introduction of various technologies which had a great impact on society. One of the significant breakthroughs was the semiconductor technology which brought about a revolution in the information and communication technology,” said Prof V.S. Ramamurthy, Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Science and Technology (DST).

He was delivering inaugural address at a two-day INAE Conference on Nanotechnology (ICON-2003), organised by the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) at the Central Scientific Instrument Organisation (CSIO). He said nanotechnology was poised to bring revolutionary changes in the future. While major programmes of study had been initiated across the world in nano science and technology, the application aspect of this technology had lately started receiving attention.

Stating that most of the countries were heavily investing in the nanotechnology programmes, Professor Ramamurthy said in view of the limited funding available in the country, the investment in this emerging technology possessed a challenge for all. Emphasising the need for adopting a different strategy, he called for prioritisation of the research and development (R&D) projects to make optimum use of precious resources. He was of the view that the infrastructure in various R&D institutions and universities should be strengthened for conducting focused research work in nano science and technology. He emphasised the need for linkages with international community to keep abreast with latest developments in the field. He revealed that the DST had earmarked Rs 100 crore for the programme during the current Five Year Plan. Dr Ramamurthy called for a closer cooperation between industry and R&D organisation in the nanotechnology development programmes.

Earlier, the president of the INAE, Dr A. Ramakrishna, who presided over the function, said nanotechnology was a fascinating subject and its benefit was expected to be felt on nearly all technologies. He said nanotechnology had the potential to lay the foundation for making India a developed nation.

Dr M.J. Zarabi, CMD and Chairman of the organising committee of ICON-2003, said nanotechnology was not merely making devices smaller but also making them differently by dealing with matter at atomic or molecular level.

Dr R.P. Bajpai, Director, CSIO, said the CSIO was one of the few organisations in the country to have initiated work in nanotechnology and bio-molecular electronics with a focus on the development of nano products.

Prof S.K. Kaushik, Chairman, programme committee, INAE, presented the outline of the conference programme.

A plenary talk was delivered during the inaugural session by Dr David A. Hodgson, University of Warwick, UK, on the topic “Towards molecular computation”. The talk highlighted the possibility of generating a true molecular computer based on genetic switch circuits in bacteria.

While proposing a vote of thanks, Dr Placid Rodriguez, honorary secretary, INAE, said the office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India had asked the INAE to come forward with an action plan on the proliferation of nanotechnology in the country.



NRI to meet Verma for justice
Sanjay Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
While the country is wooing investors, especially NRIs, a Canadian of Indian origin is running from pillar to post to seek justice even as the police has failed to nab three of the four persons who duped him of Rs 12 lakh seven months ago.

Unsatisfied with the police, NRI Ranbir S. Thanjal said he was going to approach the UT Administrator, Justice O. P. Verma (retd), to get the police to arrest the three absconding persons, Maan Singh, Devinder Kaur and Rajiv Rana.

Mr Thanjal expressed surprise how the police could not arrest the three accused despite having arrested S. S. Rana, husband of Devinder Kaur. He said the police had not been able to get information from S. S. Rana, incarcerating in Burail Jail for past seven months.

DSP (Economic Offence Wing) Devinder Thakur said the police had declared the three accused proclaimed offenders. The failure of the three to present themselves before the police would result in confiscation of their property. Mr Thakur said the police had raided their possible hideouts on the basis of information provided by Mr Thanjal.

The NRI said had the police been successful in arresting Pinjore-based property dealer Maan Singh, the Punjab State Cooperative Bank would have been saved from being cheated by him of Rs 26 lakh.

The NRI claimed that the police had been telling him that the accused, who had cheated him by selling a property in Phagwara on the basis of forged documents, would surrender after S. S. Rana was arrested.

Mr Thanjal said the police assumption had been proved wrong as in seven months none of the three absconding persons has been arrested.

The NRI said he got the information that Rana’s wife was in Punia village, for months but the police failed to arrest her.

He said the police had been conceding that Maan Singh was a habitual cheat. Mr Thanjal said he had come to India from Canada to pursue his case and found that no progress had been made since when he left for Canada.



Teacher suspended for beating up child
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
A teacher of New Public School, Sector 18, accused of beating up a student, was suspended by the school authorities today. While the Principal, Mr R.D. Singh, was out of station, the Vice-Principal confirmed the action against the teacher, Mr Virender Kalia.

A student of the school, Salmaan Mufti, had accused Mr Kalia, an art and craft teacher, of slapping and kicking him for sneezing in class. The parents of the boy had approached the school authorities. They had planned to meet the DPI (Schools), Mr D.S. Mangat, in case action was not taken.



Adviser wants planned growth of city periphery
Tribune News Service

Mr Lalit Sharma, Adviser to the UT Administrator
Mr Lalit Sharma, Adviser to the UT Administrator.

Chandigarh, December 22
Planned development of the periphery and villages outside the city limits, transport infrastructure and economic growth are on the agenda of the Adviser to the UT Administrator, Mr Lalit Sharma.

After completing one month in office, Mr Sharma, in an informal chat with the media, indicated what he would like to do and answered questions from reporters on various issues.

On the development of villages, the Adviser said the poor growth of rural economy indicated that these villages had been urbanised and residents were barely involved in rural activity. Asked if the Administration intended to acquire these villages, the Adviser said ‘‘No. However, we have to see in what way the character of the villages can be protected and whether we should turn them into model villages or heritage villages, or even develop them as peripheral urban areas.’’

On the rehabilitation scheme for slum-dwellers, he said, ‘‘I am ducking this question as it is not for me to comment on it’’. In a separate context, he said probably city planners made no provision for the labour class, which would come and build the city.

He said the transport infrastructure needed to be upgraded in the city. The electric trolley bus system might not be the only solution to it. “We have asked Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited to come up with alternatives. Work on the Chandigarh-Ambala highway has already started”.

Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula had to grow in an integrated manner as the three cities were inter-dependent economically, Mr Sharma said. Asked if a core working group of officers was required to handle and co-ordinate the growth in these three cities, Mr Sharma said ‘‘the two chief secretaries and if can talk over anything, anytime.’’

The rates of property in the recent auction indicated that people were keen to invest in Chandigarh, he said, adding that information technology was not the only sector which was attracting people. Chandigarh’s economy was primarily in the service sector and there was need to capitalise on this. On increasing the frequency of flights, he said the aviation sector was open to private players.

The Adviser admitted that there was need for greater devolution of powers to elected bodies like panchayats and the MC. Asked if power tariff would be hiked, Mr Sharma said, “We have to realise that we buy power and supply it to people. The rates will rise marginally”. 



Sector 26 vegetable market cries for attention
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
"If the visitors coming to the Sukhna lake are asked to visit the fruit and vegetable market in Sector 26, at a five minutes' distance from the Administrator's residence, most of them would not believe that this place is also part of Chandigarh. The haphazard movement of trucks, heaps of garbage, and dilapidated condition of roads make it impossible for anyone to move around without covering his nose," says a trader in the market.

The Administration, which is recarpeting the roads and constructing a few sheds in the market after a decade, is doing a commendable job, but it should have involved the representatives of the traders in the work, who are contributing over Rs 3 crore annually as market fee, says Mr Digvijay Kapoor, president of the Sabzi Mandi Arthiya Association, Chandigarh.

After Delhi's Azadpur vegetable market, say traders, this is the largest vegetable and fruit market in North India. Farmers from Himachal Pradesh and parts of Haryana and Punjab come here daily to sell their produce, apart from fruit sellers coming from across the country. Thousands of city residents and small traders from the neighbouring towns visit the market to buy vegetables and fruits. The business volume of the market is between Rs 150 and Rs 200 crore annually.

The traders said that though Mr Arun Kumar, Deputy Commissioner, had taken the initiative recently to "make the market presentable and free of garbage and stink by recarpeting the roads and constructing additional sheds for farmers, there is no plan for constructing parking lots or night shelter for farmers coming from faraway places."

Traders admitted that a number of unlicensed traders had encroached upon the land in the market, and were even paying rent to some of the established businessmen. It had resulted in chaos and overcrowding. But Mr Kapoor complained, "Genuine traders are harassed by the officials for keeping their material in sheds. The administration should construct some cold stores near the market to cater to our requirements."

A visit to the market revealed that there were heaps of rotten vegetables and fruit all around. It is almost impossible to walk in the market without spoiling your clothes. Customers say that the slush, garbage on the roadside, stray cattle, bumpy roads, and encroached land by make it difficult for anyone to even think of revisiing. It is only the lower price of vegetables and fruits that attracts them to come here.

Ms Ranjana Ahuja, a resident of Sector 7, claimed that a large number of women avoided coming here alone because of filth and the crowded environment. She said, "The administration and the traders should remove illegal encroachments in the market, besides arranging daily cleaning of the roads." Some of the women complained of stray incidents of eve-teasing and harassment at the hands of some traders.

Appreciating the recarpeting work undertaken by the administration, Mr Kapoor said, "We are happy that the administration has started the work, but no one has bothered to provide facilities to customers and farmers. Though we are contributing crores of rupees annually as market fee, the funds collected are being utilised to construct a new grain market in Sector 39. Should not we have any right or say in the utilisation of funds for the welfare of this market?" he asked.



Alternative power transmission system
for Panchkula soon
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, December 22
A 66 KV ring main circuit for Panchkula will finally become a reality. The system, the first of its kind in the region, will have alternative transmission lines. The project had to be left midway following a devastating fire at the 100 MVA transformer at Ramgarh-Madanpur substation in December last year.

According to officials in the Operation and Maintenance Division of the Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (UHBVN), a new 100 MVA transformer has been dispatched by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) from Jhansi and this will be installed and commissioned at Ramgarh- Madanpur substation by February next year. With the commissioning of this transformer, the UHBVN authorities will finally be able to get the ring main circuit in place.

Mr S.S. Gakhar, Superintending Engineer (Construction), Operation and Maintenance Division of the UHBVN, said the alternative transmission lines, or ring main, had already been set up from the Ramgarh-Madanpur substation to the 28. 5 MVA Sector 1 substation and to the 32 MVA Industrial Area, Phases II, substation. The alternative transmission lines have also been set up between the Sector 1 substation and the Industrial Area substation, as well as from the Sector 1 substation to the 132 MVA substation at Pinjore.

The circuit aims to connect all existing and proposed substations in the district. This will ensure an alternative transmission system for supplying power in the district in case one of the high-tension transmission lines developing a snag.

A ring main circuit joining the 220 KV Ramgarh-Madanpur substation to the 132 KV Pinjore substation and the 66 KV line from Dhulkot, forming a ring, was to be completed by the end of last year. A 100 MVA transformer was to be added at Ramgarh in order to make this circuit possible. It was brought last year. However, after the 100 MVA transformer was destroyed in the fire on December 24 last year, the new transformer was being used only for supplying power to the six 66 KV substations in the district.

Officials in the UHBVN said the work was also on to commission a new 16 MVA transformer at Sector 3 before the onset of the summer next year. Efforts were on to commission the substation and to link it with the 100 MVA transformer at Ramgarh-Madanpur so that this too formed a part of the ring main circuit.

Meanwhile, a 12.5 MVA substation has been commissioned at Kalka, which will ease out the power supply in Kalka, Pinjore and about 50 villages around Kalka. Mr Gakhar said this substation, set up at a cost of Rs 4.20 crore, had been put up on a test run and would be formally inaugurated next week.



Visually impaired demand govt jobs 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
The tent put up by the Haryana Netraheen Jagriti Samiti in front of the 30 Bays Building here, for holding a sit-in to support their demand for state government jobs, has become like a second home for agitators. In the morning today, two volunteers were found sleeping under a cheap blanket while the third was taking a bath with icy water from a tank. Members of the organisation are demonstrating at the site for the past 84 days.

If Mr Vineet Garg, Director, Social Justice and Empowerment, Haryana, said the process to fill up vacancies reserved for handicapped persons, including visually impaired aspirants, had already been initiated. Talking to TNS, Mr Garg said he had written to various government departments, seeking information about the backlog in the posts reserved for handicapped persons. “Some of the departments have already given the information, while replies from others are awaited,” Mr Garg said. Regarding the ongoing protest by the sangh, Mr Garg said its members had apparently taken a vow that they would withdraw their demonstration only after obtaining appointment letters from the state government.

“We are already on the job. Though it is likely to take some time, eventually they will be absorbed in the jobs reserved for them. But they are becoming impatient,” Mr Garg said. He, however, refused to give a specific deadline on providing jobs to the first group of visually impaired persons.

Earlier, a delegation of the sangh had met President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at the Rastrapati Bhavan on November 27 to apprise him of the state government's reluctance to recruit visually impaired persons in the posts reserved for them. Following the meeting, Mr Satish Mathur, Director in the President's Secretariat, had written to Mr Surinder Singh Lamba, president of the sangh, saying that the President had taken up the matter with the state government as well as the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Mr Garg said they had initiated the process of recruiting visually impaired individuals in government departments even before the letter from the President's Secretariat came to them. “We have intimated the President's Secretariat about the steps being taken,” he said.

However, the agitators are suspicious about the state government's motive. Mr Jagjit Singh, general secretary of the sangh, alleged that Mr Garg, Ms Veena Eagleton, Principal Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment, Haryana, and Mr Risal Singh, Minister of State, Social Welfare, Haryana, were indifferent to their plight.

While some of the agitators are having college and university degrees, there are others who are trained in making cane chairs. Some of the volunteers are also trained in music.



Land for dumping garbage sought
Our Correspondent

Mohali, December 22
The Citizens Welfare Federation has demanded that the Punjab Planning and Urban Development Authority (PUDA) should provide land free of cost to the municipal council for dumping garbage.

In a letter to the Chief Administrator, PUDA, the president of the federation has said that dumping garbage was one of the basic needs of residents for which PUDA was supposed to make necessary arrangements. He said the residents had already made payments for the provision of basic facilities, which had been collected by PUDA along with payment of plots.

PUDA had developed Mohali without reserving any site for dumping garbage, one of the basic needs of the town the population of which had crossed 2.5 lakh. At the time of developing this town, the provision of basic needs was one of the major issues and the prices of plots were fixed accordingly.

The president said now PUDA was asking the council to make payment for the land acquired for dumping garbage.

The civic body did not get any funds from the government and the main source of income was only octroi, which was inadequate to carry out maintenance work in the town. PUDA had also not earmarked any site for a cattle pound and as such the civic body was not able to control the menace of stray cattle.



Bank’s money, villagers’ labour at work
Our Correspondent

Mullanpur-Garibdass (Kharar), December 22
Punjab National Bank (PNB), the village panchayat and the Youth Welfare, Sports and Health Club, Mullanpur, yesterday joined hands to re-carpet the main chowk in this village. The chowk has been in bad shape for the past several years and the villagers have been facing problems in holding public functions.

The bank has provided Rs 2 lakh financial assistance and Rs 50,000 has been contributed by the club. The CMD of PNB, Mr S.S. Kohli, during his visit to the village had promised the financial assistance.

The panchayat, on its part, motivated villagers to perform kar seva, who responded with enthusiasm. Dr Mohan Jand, a panch, and Mr Naib Singh, a former sarpanch, were among those who turned up for kar seva.

Mr Jaspal Gudu, a shopkeeper, said that traders in the village would collect money so that a stretch of the village road passing through the market could also be repaired.

The chairman of the club, Mr Arvind Puri, said the work on the chowk was expected to be completed within a week.



Women’s role in water conservation stressed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
Emphasising the role of women in water conservation and management, the resource persons at the seminar on “Fresh water and women” highlighted the need for creating awareness to cope with water crisis. The seminar was organised by the All-India Women’s Conference, Indira Gandhi Bhavan, Sector 11, here today.

Dwelling upon the scarcity of water in rural areas, Ms Kanchan Monga, chief scientist at the Haryana Krishi Kendra, Hisar, said city residents could not understand the gravity of water shortage in villages.

“Village women walk miles to fetch water every day. Despite this, in most cases, they are unable to get clean drinking water. They consume whatever they get. Sometimes it is not even fit for washing, let alone drinking”, she said.

She spoke of the need to educate and change the urban mindset and their attitude towards water conservation.

Discussing water-borne diseases, Dr M.P. Manocha, Director, Family Welfare Department, said these could be life threatening and the problem could be more acute in slums where stagnant water was present. He was of the opinion that as long as water did not smell, was tasteless and left no residue in a container, it was fit for consumption.

The Technical Adviser, Food and Nutrition Board, Mr Ravinder, said that while drinking water was talked about a lot, nobody spoke of “eating” water. “Whatever we eat also needs water. Boiling water destroys bacteria to make it fit for consumption. Thus, boiling is the keyword,” he stated.

The Chief Engineer from the Central Water Commission, Mr S.C. Gupta, spoke on the technicalities involved in bringing water to homes.

Earlier, Ms Raminder Kalsi, Secretary-General of the AIWC, in her welcome address, said that women had to bear the brunt of water paucity and needed to be taught the art of managing water efficiently.

A quality test on water samples from villages in the periphery, various sectors of the city, Kharar and Panchkula was carried out and all of them were found fit for consumption.



Eco Notes
Myna’s notes getting louder
Vishal Gulati

The exchanging notes of myna are getting louder and louder in the City Beautiful. A survey, recently carried out by the Environment Society of India, reveals that in and around the city, their population is increasing. It shows that mynas — common, bank and pied — are plentiful and have adapted themselves to the environment.

Myna, which is also a ‘concrete’ scavenger, can be seen flitting in groups around the bus stand, the railway station and market places. The mynas usually sift through waste and help the municipal corporation in cleaning roads. They sometime cause damage to germinating seedlings and ripening fruits, but they are considered people friendly as they eat insects.

Mr S.K. Sharma, president of the society, who conducted the field study to know their behaviour and population, has identified 10 colonies, each having 500 to 600 birds. For feeding, they disperse in various sectors and reach their colonies before sunset. Mynas can be spotted even in residential areas if food is available regularly.

In 1992, Mr Gurmeet Singh, Director, Wildlife, Punjab, had noted a large concentration of the mynas in the Attawa area. He says from time to time they change their areas of roosting and feeding.

Mr Sharma says now they have set up colonies in areas near the lake club; the Sector 10 market; near Mehfil in Sector 17; opposite the bus stand; Sector 24-D market; near Muni Mandir in Sector 23-D; Sector 25; Sector 38-A and D; Sector 48; and the railway station.

The bank myna, a pale bluish grey myna, feeds on insects, berries of pipal and banyan trees and bajra. It also attacks the grape crop in June. Its characters are similar to the common myna.

It usually select sites for drilling weep holes in the vicinity of human dwellings. The weep holes are rectangular, circular, squarish and irregular in shape. The railway station and the bus stand are its favourite roosting spots. Its voice is rather softer than the common myna.

A trim black and white myna with orange orbital skin and deep orange and yellow bill can be seen on the periphery of the city, especially in the Sector 48 area. This pied myna can be seen perched on grazing cattle. It makes nest on tall trees, especially mango, and lays four to five glossy blue eggs.

The male bird voluntarily shares the duty of incubation of eggs and feeding of offsprings. It spends 13 to 14 hours in the vicinity of the nest to express its sense of belonging towards eggs.

The common myna is perky, well groomed dark brown bird with bright yellow bill, legs and bare skin round eyes. It makes nest in a hole of a tree, wall or ceiling. It is found throughout the country, even up to 9,000 ft in the Himalayas in summer. Both sexes share domestic duties.



A.P. Singh elected Golf Club president
Poonam Batth
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
It was age and experience that won the day at the Golf Club elections. For it was Lieut-Col A.P. Singh (retd), an old warhorse, who wrested the president’s seat of the Chandigarh Golf Club with a clear margin of 188 votes.

Celebrations began early in the morning with golfers raising one toast after the other, as the results from the counting centre started to poured in.

Lieut-Col A.P. Singh (retd) polled 614 votes, while his rival and a senior advocate, Mr Rajiv Atma Ram, managed 426 votes. This is the highest margin recorded in the annual general elections to the club so far.

The winner has been in the seat once before i.e. in 1989 and had lost last year’s elections by just 15 votes.

That Lieut-Col A.P. Singh’s panel was in the saddle became clear by lunch time after the counting of 400 votes. Eight of his 11 candidates managed to win the race, while Mr Ram’s panel managed to win only three seats.

“It’s a great feeling to come back yet again.” This is how Lt-Col A.P. Singh summed up his sentiments after winning the race for the top post. “But the real task of working together with a team of 11 dedicated golfers to run the club in accordance with the wishes of the members begins now,” he added, while attributing his win to his spirited team and experience.

Listing out his priorities, he said: “Working in the rightful ethos and ambience of the club, fiscal discipline leading to self-sufficiency in money matters and fine-tuning the quality of food and services at reasonable rates would be at the top of the list.” He also has plans to make the greens greener.

The newly elected president also spelled out his plans to conduct specialised coaching camps for the benefit of budding golfers by inviting coaches from other countries, so that they not only became best in the country but also ranked high abroad. He, however, credited local coaches — Mr Simran Singh, Mr Ajay Gujral and Mr Jessi Grewal — for shaping up a good number of outstanding professional and amateur golfers.

In addition, special facilities would also be extended to senior citizens and women during tournaments and on normal days, he added.

Ruling out any plans for expansion in the near future, he expressed his concern about the financial health of the club and its inability to clear the pending dues, an issue which has assumed significance in the past few years. “We will not only have to generate funds to make it even better, but also negotiate with the administration so that some of these loans are waived,” added Lieut-Col A.P. Singh.

Besides, he also dwelt on bringing together club members and management for getting suggestions and answering queries. “I would broad-base sub-committees by inviting volunteers (specialists) so that best brains and expertise could be put to use,” he said.

Lieut-Col A.P. Singh, whose association with the club dates back to 1984, also talked of bringing the golf course to world class standards with minimum expenditure.

“We will ensure proper upkeep of the greens and fairways to ensure that these are playable for at least nine months a year,” he said.

Talking about his plans to consolidate the existing infrastructure by optimal utilisation, he expressed apprehensions about inducting new members, including those who have been in the queue for long time, because of the ceiling put by the General House.

Leading the list of winners was Mr Sukhjyot Preet Singh Matharoo (Jyoti), industrialist, who polled the highest number of 541 votes. He was followed by Col B.S. Kahlon 537 votes; Mr Gurjit Singh Lehal, landlord, 527 votes; Mr Alamgir Singh Grewal, stock broker and farmer, 524 votes; Col J.S. Deo 523 votes; Mr Rohit Daggar, industrialist, 520 votes; Lieut Col J.S. Panag 494 votes; Mr S.M.S. Sandhu, civil engineer, 452 votes; Mr S.R. Sharma, former DGP, 428 votes; Mr H.C. Sethi, former engineer, 427 votes, and Dr G.S. Kochhar 426 votes. Dr Kochhar is away to Cambodia on a Rotary exchange programme and was not around even for canvassing.

Except for Mr Alamgir Singh Grewal, Mr Rohit Daggar and Mr H.C. Sethi, all others who have made it to the executive are from Lieut-Col A.P. Singh’s panel. A total of 1,043 votes were cast yesterday, of the total 1,800 regular members.

The losing candidate, Mr Rajiv Atma Ram, when contacted said members had made their choice. “We thought we would do much better. Now we shall do our best to support the elected members of the committee,” he added.

Maj-Gen Himmat Singh Gill (retd) has been made Adviser Media and Publicity.



Fauji Beat
Silencing enemy guns became his mission

Lance Naik Albert Ekka of the 14 Guards, who was awarded the PVC posthumously in the 1971 war
Lance Naik Albert Ekka of the 14 Guards, who was awarded the PVC posthumously in the 1971 war in Bangladesh.

THE battle of Ganga Sagar in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in the 1971 war, brings alive the valour of Lance Naik Albert Ekka of 14 Guards. When Albert’s company was locked in a hand-to-hand fight with the enemy on December 4, he noticed a light machine gun (LMG) inflicting heavy casualties on his company. He rushed into the enemy bunker and bayoneted two enemy soldiers manning the LMG to death. Though seriously wounded in this action, he continued to fight along side his comrades.

Yet again when a medium machine gun (MMG) opened up from the second storey of a well fortified building inflicting heavy casualties on our troops, this gallant soldier, crawled forward, reached the building and lobbed a grenade through an opening, killing one enemy and injuring another.

Seeing the MMG still firing, Albert scaled a side wall, entered the bunker and bayoneted the enemy soldier who was firing the MMG. By this daring act, Albert not only saved further casualties to his company but also ensured the success of the attack. And it was only after the capture of the objective that he succumbed to his injuries.

For his conspicuous valour and supreme sacrifice, Lance Naik Albert Ekka was awarded Param Vir Chakra (PVC) posthumously.

Accommodation project gets stalled: Because of the acute shortage of accommodation for married personal in the Army, the government had taken a decision more than a year ago, to construct 198, 881 dwelling units at 231 stations at an estimated cost of Rs 17,357.97 crore. Despite the best efforts of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Army, the project, which was to be completed in four phases at various stations, has not taken off so far.

According to the MoD’s decision, the old grant bungalows in cantonments were to be taken over by the Army for demolition to create space for building new accommodation. Since the land in the cantonments belongs to the government, it was decided that the cost of the construction raised at the land would be paid to the owners of these bungalows.

Almost all occupants of this property have strongly opposed the MoD’s decision because of their long and continued stay in these houses. Moreover, they say that if they are evicted from these bungalows, they will become shelterless. In all the three old cantonments in this region i.e Ferozpore, Jalandhar and Ambala, taking over of the old grant bungalows has been stalled.

In one case, in Ferozpore, the Deputy Commissioner had decided that the Army could take over the bungalows after depositing the cost of the structure. Even when this was done, the owner refused to hand over the bungalow to the Army.

Since, the civilian occupants of the bungalows in the cantonments are adamant to hand over their property to the Army, the new project is not likely to start until this vexed issue is sorted out by the government.

Agency finds jobs for ex-servicemen: The Army Placement Agency, Western Command (located in the Command Hospital, Chandi Mandir), has been able to find jobs for a sizeable number of ex-servicemen by establishing a good liaison with the employing organisations.

The number of widows in this region being large, the placement agency has now turned its attention to their employment also be making a beginning in this direction.

Recently, employment has been found for a few widows of other ranks. One of them is Manjit Kaur. She is employed by the Fun Republic in Manimajra. Besides finding a house for her, admission for her two children has also been arranged in a Chandi Mandir School. Another widow, Rajashwari, has been found a job for night duty for a bed-ridden woman. This suits her because during the day she can look after her mentally retarded son.

Yet another widow Pinki Rani, who is 10+2 passed, has been given a job after some training, in the Command Hospital, Chandi Mandir. Admission and free education has also been arranged for her son in a public school. A warden’s job for Punam Rani, who is graduate and an officer’s widow, is being arranged.

Secretarial training in the placement agency is also being imparted to two defence children, a boy and a girl, who have passed 10+2. After this training, employment will be found for them. 



Ex-servicemen present memo to Verma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
The All-India Ex-Servicemen League (AIESL) today observed “black day” in protest against “apathetic attitude” of the government towards their long-pending demands.
Protest rallies at the state and national-level were organised. Ex-servicemen wore black bands on their left arms as a mark of protest. A delegation later presented a memorandum to the Punjab Governor, Justice O.P. Verma, at the Punjab Raj Bhavan. The Governor, according to members, promised to look into the matter. Members of the All-India Defence Brootherhood and All-India Veterans Core Group also took part in the protest.

In a statement issued earlier, the president of the Punjab and Chandigarh chapter of the AIESL, Lieut-Col J.S. Mand, had appealed to all ex-servicemen, irrespective of their group or association, to join in the protest. He had added that successive pay commissions had failed to appreciate the special service conditions of soldiers and, thus, faltered in fixing the soldiers’ pensions. The government had announced the acceptance of the demand for one rank — one pension several times, but subsequently placed the issue in cold storage.



PSEB told to reconsider clerks’ case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
Taking up a petition filed by Mr Amarjit Singh and 15 other clerks, whose services were terminated by the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) on November 21, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, comprising Mr Justice H.S. Bedi and Mr Justice Ashutosh Mohanta, has directed the board to reconsider the cases of petitioners.

It was submitted by the petitioners that they had joined the board in 1993. In view of the law laid down by the Supreme Court, employees appointed before June 13, 1996, were entitled for the regularisation of services. It was further pointed out that a high-powered committee, constituted by the board, had also given liberty to the state government and the board to take any decision.



Rs 73,000 stolen from scooter
Our Correspondent

Lalru, December 22
Two motor cycle-borne youths broke open the glove compartment of a scooter and decamped with Rs 73,000 from the densely populated Lalru market here today.
According to the police, the owner of the scooter, Mr Udey Singh, a local resident, had withdrawn the money from the local branch of Co-operative Bank and had kept it in his scooter (PB-39A-4507), which he parked outside a shop when one of the youths broke open glove compartment and took away the cash.

His accomplice was waiting for him on a motor cycle.

Mr Udey Singh chased them for a long distance but met with an accident after losing control over his scooter. A case has been registered under Section 379 of the IPC at the Lalru police station.


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