C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Fuel for disaster
Petrol stations flout safety norms, tease luck
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 28
The city is sitting on a virtual powder keg. Thousands of lives and property worth several crores of rupees can be at a risk within seconds, if a small lapse occurs at any of the 40 petrol stations in the city.

Though no major petrol station-related fire has taken place in the city in the last few years, safety precautions at petrol stations exist only on paper. A survey found that except for the mandatory sand buckets and handheld extinguishers no other fire-fighting equipment or contingency plan or machinery is in place. Fire-retardant suits for attendants or safety drills are the precautions that are scoffed at by petrol station owners.

The mandatory requirements require that one water hydrant should be provided at each side of the storage tanks. Unloading of tankers is not allowed after sunset unless specified and specially endorsed.

No source of artificial light is to be allowed within 9 metres when a tanker is being unloaded. And smoking is, of course, not allowed. Furnaces, welding jobs and other sources of heat should be at a distance specified by the explosives department.

“Our station cannot catch fire,” said confident owner, “It is all OK as there has never been an accident as far as I can remember.”

But in case of any mishap, the best bet for survival can only be a miracle. With untrained staff and no equipment, petrol stations, in and around the city, are at a risk that owners don’t want to admit, lest talk about. For if a fire breaks out in say Sectors 10 or 4, the nearest bulk supply of a special compound needed to douse petrol-based fires is at the air base. It will take about 45 minutes to reach the accident site.

The Chandigarh Fire Service has a small quantity of this special compound. As on Friday afternoon no more than 400 litres of it was available. About 20 times of this quantity is required to check a fire.

The impunity with which basic precautions are flouted can be gauged by the fact that just two weeks ago a resident was nearly electrocuted due to a naked wire at a petrol station located on the Dakshin marg. The naked wire had the potential of starting a major fire.

A Tribune team, which surveyed city petrol stations, found several people smoking cigarettes while sitting inside air conditioned cars or using mobile phones when petrol was being filled into the petrol tanks of their cars.

However, the most dangerous time is when fuel from tankers is being off loaded. The vents of the underground tank let out fumes. These fumes can catch a fire even from a distance of 20 yards.

On their part, station owners claim that they operate within the framework of the sketchy safety parametres from the oil companies, which in turn are following instructions issued from time to time by the Explosives Department of the Central Government.

The special compound required for petrol-based fires is stored in liquid form which comes into contact with atmosphere, converts into foam. The procurement of this compound is caught in red tape as the Fire Department has to tender for it from Kolkata-based companies. The Chief Fire Officer, Mr G.S. Bajwa says, “In emergencies this foam is borrowed from the Air Force Station”.

But the preparations in and around city to fight a huge thing like a petrol-based fire seem likely carrying only a small stick to fight a tiger, admitted a petrol station owner when the Tribune team asked him what he planned to do in case of a fire.

Mr Vikram Chhibber, General Manger, Indian Oil Corporation which runs the largest chunk of station in the city says "A fire cannot even reach the underground tanks thus there is no chance of it exploding into a ball of fire." When asked if fumes from the tank can catch fire, Mr Chhibber explained: fumes, rising from underground tanks, are released through a duct pipe about 12 feet high from the ground. In case of a fire reaching the fumes, it will only keep burning at the top of the duct pipe and not reach the tank. For the fire to reach the tank, oxygen is required and when the fumes are released no oxygen goes in to the underground tank, Mr Chhibber added.

Underground tanks are made of steel and set inside a concrete wall with a concrete roof on top. Between the walls and the tank is a layer of sand.

The local office of the Controller of Explosives says it follows instructions from the headquarters from Nagpur and is not involved in policy making. The department carries out checks at petrol stations every six months. This was vouched by petrol station owners also. The civil authorities in Chandigarh also admitted that controlling a petrol-based fir would be a huge task. It claimed the Department of Explosives deal with the matter and not them.



45 Agro-Dutch workers hurt in bus mishap
Our Correspondent

Lalru, August 28
As many as 45 women passengers were injured, two of them seriously, when a private bus in which they were travelling rammed into a stationary bus of the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking (CTU) on the Kalka-Ambala highway at Sarseeni village this morning.

Belonging to Agro-Dutch Foods Limited, an industrial unit near Lalru, the private bus (PAB-8745) was heading towards the unit with around 100 women workers when it rammed into the Chandigarh-bound bus (CH-01G-5824) at the Sarseeni bus stoppage around 11.15 am.

The CTU bus was stationary when the other bus rammed into it. The private bus was coming from Ambala after collecting workers of the unit from there.

Seriously injured Taro Devi and Amarjit Kaur were taken to the Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh, while 35 others were admitted to the Civil Hospital, Dera Bassi, and another eight to various private hospitals in Lalru. The driver of the private bus, Jarnail Singh, also sustained injuries in the accident.

According to eyewitnesses, the private bus rammed into the CTU bus from behind. Due to the impact, the CTU bus rolled for some distance and hit a tree along the road before coming to a halt. The private bus fell into a ditch after the impact.

People of the nearby areas and passersby assembled at the scene of the accident and extricated the injured from the damaged bus. They also moved the injured to different hospitals in Lalru, Dera Bassi and Chandigarh.

Vehicular traffic on the highway was also disrupted for more than an hour. 



Demand to remove Bahl as CTCC chief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 28
Activists of the Congress led by three district presidents and youth congress workers stepped up the demanded to remove Mr BB Bahl as president of the Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee, here today.

After holding a Bahl-bashing session at the Congress Bhavan, the 200-odd activists marched to local Member of Parliament, Pawan Bansal’s residence, to seek his cooperation in Mr Bahl’s ouster.

The activists urged Mr Bansal to initiate the process of Mr Bahl’s removal by taking it up with the “high-command” in Delhi. Their main grouse was that when Mr bansal was away to Delhi, the CTCC was virtually headless.

When contacted, Mr Bansal said that he had heard the grievances of the workers in this regard. “I haven’t committed myself to anything so far. I am still in the process of individually listening to each workers viewpoint before arriving at any conclusion,” he said.

Earlier, at the meeting, expressing their views, they various speakers claimed that Mr Bahl chose to remain confined to his hotel room and did not venture out in an attempt to “connect to the public”.

They claimed that water was main problem in summer months, rains washed away the colonies and brought more problems during the summer months but all this failed to move Mr Bahl.



Schools to remain closed tomorrow
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 28
The UT Education Department announced a holiday in all government schools on August 30 on account of Raksha Bandhan.

Though there was no official communication from the private schools, inquiries reveal that most of the private schools have also announced a holiday on Monday. The principal of St Anne’s Convent School, said the school would remain closed on Monday on account of Raksha Bhandhan.

Meanwhile, different schools organised function to celebrate Raksha Bhandhan. Little ones of pre nursery, nursery, LKG and UKG sang poems and rhymes to celebrate the festival. The children tied rakhis to their playmates and friends.

Students of Shishu Niketan Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 22, celebrated Raksha Bandhan with traditional fervour. 



French tourist’s pocket picked 
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, August 28
Three French tourists, on a visit to find “inner peace”, got a taste of what things can be, when one of them had his pocket picked at the Inter State Bus Terminus at Sector 17.

The incident occurred when the three got off a local bus at the ISBT. They had come from Panchkula and were planning to see “Spiderman-2” in Sector 22.

According to Pitras Frank, who lost his wallet, they boarded a Haryana Roadways bus from Panchkula. He took out his wallet, containing his passport, Rs 5000 and 40 Euros, to pay for the tickets. They got down at the ISBT. As they were going through the subway, Pitras, checked his pocket and found that his wallet was missing. They went to the police post at the ISBT to report the incident.

The officer at the police post told them to bring the passport, only then he could file the complaint. They were also told that as they had boarded the bus from Panchkula, their complaint must be filed there.

They then went to Tourist information Centre at the ISBT, where they met the Assistant Director Tourism, Chandigarh, Mr Vinod Kalia who assured them of help and made a call to their hotel in Sector 5, Panchkula. The receptionist at the hotel was told to provide information regarding their passport details, which they had given to the hotel staff before checking in.



NCC may be introduced as regular subject in varsities
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 28
To give an impetus to its activities, the National Cadet Corps has written to state governors, requesting them to nominate a professor associated with the NCC to the syndicates of universities located in the region.

"We have written to the governors of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, requesting them to nominate academic luminaries with experience of the NCC to university syndicates in their respective states," Brig D S Dhillon, Deputy Director-General, NCC, said.

A list of candidates who can be considered for nomination has also been attached with the letters. Seven names each have been forwarded for consideration to nominate them to the three universities in Punjab and two universities in Haryana, while two names have been forwarded for Himachal Pradesh University.

Stating that governors have the powers to nominate members to university syndicates, Brigadier Dhillon said that if one person was nominated in each syndicate, it would ensure advancement of NCC activities and restore its lost glory in the region.

The move to have NCC associated professors nominated to syndicates comes in the wake of NCC units being re-established in universities. "NCC units used to exist in universities long time back, but somewhere down the line they got dissolved," Brig Dhillon said. Panjab University (PU) is among the first in the region to be getting an NCC unit. A boy's platoon with a strength of 54 cadets has been sanctioned for PU, with a proposal to raise a similar girls' platoon if the response is good.

Also on the anvil is NCC being introduced as a regular subject in universities and discussions are already underway between the state government and the NCC authorities in this regard. The CBSE has already introduced NCC as a subject as a pilot project in some schools.

The NCC also started the practice of "piping" university vice-chancellors (VCs) as honorary colonels. This would result in the VC becoming the patron of the NCC and once he is involved in activities himself, it would have a direct impact on college administrations and associate NCC officers, Brigadier Dhillon said.

Though the VCs would not be getting any emoluments for the rank, they would be entitled to wear NCC uniforms and relevant badges of rank and preside over important functions.

Of the 10 universities located in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, VCs of six universities have already been appointed as honrary colonels, while the cases of the remaining four are being processed.



Rights body to protest against police ‘excesses’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 28
The Lawyers for Human Rights International (LHRI) yesterday decided to hold a protest in front of Punjab Raj Bhavan on September 3 against the alleged framing of innocent people by the Chandigarh police.

Addressing a press conference here, the LHRI president, Mr Amar Singh Chahal, demanded an inquiry either by an IPS officer or the CBI into at least five alleged cases of framing by the police.

Mr Arvind Thakur, general secretary of the local unit of the LHRI, said despite a memorandum to the UT Administrator on August 16, no audience had been granted to the human rights body.

Elaborating on police highhandedness, they said a Sector 8 resident, M.K. Jain, booked in the Shimla girl rape case in 2000. Later, he was acquitted as no rape took place.

Similarly, the Industrial Area police had arrested Rajesh on the charge of killing his own son and extra-judicial confessions were allegedly obtained from him.

In another case, Jai Dev Giri spent about six months in jail in 2003 for allegedly raping a minor. He was granted bail only after the statement of the girl that he was Giri’s wife.

Later, Giri was allegedly shown an accused in a murder case in 2004 and is still in jail. A long-standing property dispute is stated to be behind his “framing”.

On May 8 this year, Ram Bahadur, a resident of Maloya, was arrested on the charges of raping his minor daughter on the “statement” of his wife. Bahadur, who spent two months in jail, was bailed out when his wife said in the court that she never lodged a complaint against her husband. 



Another INLD activist joins Cong
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, August 28
Barely a week after the Zila Parishad Vice-President, Mr Sohan Lal, joined the Congress, the local unit of Indian National Lok Dal suffered another set back with another activist, Mr Deepak Rai Walia joining the Congress.

Mr Walia has been appointed the deputy spokesman of the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee by the party President, Mr Bhajan Lal. Mr Walia’s wife, Ms Renuka Rai Walia, Councillor from Ward No 2 (Mansa Devi Complex) and was considered confidant of the Municipal Council President, Mrs Seema Chaudhary. 



Fresh fruits, vegetables arrive
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 28
As the strike by truckers ended late last night, fresh stocks of fruits and vegetables started pouring in in Chandigarh — a nodal point for trading in produce from Himachal Pradesh and also large parts of Punjab. Apple, which was kept in cold storage, was also transported to other parts of the country.

With the end of the strike, truckdrivers and labourers also heaved a sigh of relief, as they could now look forward to some earnings.

Today, 730 crates of tomato arrived in the city. Also, 25,000 boxes of apples arrived here, which was more than when the strike was on. The price of apple was Rs 30 a kg.

During the strike period, only 50-80 small vehicles like jeeps plied between the city and Parwanoo to ferry apples. Today 100-120 truckloads of apple reached the city for unloading.

Prices of vegetables and fruits were expected to fall, thus bringing a huge relief to the common man who was bearing the brunt of the price hike.

Truckers also seemed happy with the end of the strike. Harjinder Singh, a truck driver, said now he could avail of allowances from his employers.

Meanwhile the Chandigarh Transport Association said it would resume normal operations in two to three days. They welcomed the outcome of the strike saying that the government had agreed to form a committee to sort out the matter. 



Punjab’s assurance to CITI
Tribune News Service

Mohali, August 28
The Government of Punjab extended support to the Centre for International Trade & Industry (CITI) in projecting Mohali as Trade Fair destination. This was disclosed by Mr Jai Singh Gill, Chief Secretary, Punjab during his meeting with Mr Mohan Singh, Director-General, Centre for International Trade and Industry (CITI) yesterday.

Mr Mohan Singh advocated a Mini Pragati Maidan at Mohali on five acres for holding conventions, exhibitions & international trade fairs.

Mr Gill, said that the government was keen to have such facility for industry located in Punjab to showcase their products and also to hold conventions.

He assured that the Department of Industries; Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) would explore the possibility for providing centrally located area for creating Mini Pragati Maidan at Mohali.



MC turns a blind eye to garbage
Tribune News Service

Mohali, August 28
Even as the municipal council here continues to look the other way, residents of Phase XI are living in conditions unfit for human living. A huge heap of garbage has piled up in front of the row of houses numbered 863 to 879. The garbage dump, other than causing foul smell, is a potential health threat to the residents. The garbage has not been cleared by the municipal council despite reapeated requests by the residents.

Mr Sukhvinder Singh, a resident, said he had met the president of the municipal council a week ago and got assurance by him to get the area cleaned up but nothing was done. Another resident, Mr H.K. Suri, said a group of residents had also written to the council but no action had been taken.



23-year-old found dead in room
Tribune Reporters

Chandigarh, August 28
A 23-year-old youth was found dead in his room in Burail village this morning. He ended his life by hanging himself from the ceiling fan, according to the police.
Gurtej Singh Bunty was working for a courier company in Sector 32 and living in a rented house in Burail. He earlier used to live with his married sister in Nayagayon village.

His landlord Raj Kumar alerted the police after he did not notice any activity in Gurtej’s room. The police opened the room and found the decaying body of Gurtej on the floor. A jute string was found tied around the neck while the other part of the string was attached to the ceiling fan.

Looking at the condition of the body, the police said, the youth might have committed suicide on August 26.

Domestic problems was likely to be the cause of the suicide. The deceased had three sisters and one of them was unmarried.

Thief held: The city police on Saturday arrested a vehicle thief, Jai Chaudhary, a resident of Sector 48, who originally hails from Rajasthan, on the complaint of Niraj Sharma, a resident of Sector 29-D.

According to the police, Niraj complained that Jai had borrowed his motor cycle (CH-03-N-0223) and allegedly made a duplicate key of the bike.

The motor cycle was stolen on August 21 and Jai began to keep away from him after the incident. This aroused his suspicious and he brought it to the notice of the police. Jai has been remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.

Two held: The Chandigarh police arrested a thief, according to a press note here on Saturday. Dara Singh, a resident of Sector 42, had reported that Ajay, a resident of Kajheri village, had stolen Rs 7,000 in cash and one gold ring from his residence on August 27.

The police arrested the accused and recovered the stolen property from his possession.

In another case, Mr Umesh Chand, a resident of Bapu Dham Colony, filed a complaint that a minor boy of Gandhi Labour Colony had pick-pocketed his wallet containing Rs 900 in Sector 26 on August 27.

The accused has been arrested and sent to juvenile custody.

Chain snatched: Jayoti Sharma, a resident of Sector 37, on Saturday reported that two unknown scooter-borne youths snatched her gold chain in Sector 37. The police has registered a case under Sections 379, 356 of the IPC.

Purse found: A purse containing money, a ring and other documents has been found on the road adjoining Civil Dispensary, Sector 20-A. The owner may collect the same, after proper identification from Booth No. 26, Sector 20-D, Chandigarh.

Assault alleged: The owner of a readymade garment shop in Mani Majra, Ravinder Arora, has alleged that one of his customers, Rohit, accompanied by five others, assaulted him and took away cash worth Rs 15,000 after an altercation between them over a pending amount of Rs 800.

According to the police, Rohit had purchased cellular phone sim cards from his shop and owed Rs 800 to the shopkeeper. When Ravinder asked him to return the money, Rohit refused saying that the sim cards were defective and they never worked.

This resulted in heated arguments between the two and ended in a brawl. Crowd gathered near the shop in Janta Rehri market to pacify the two parties.



Power theft detected in two houses 
Tribune News Service

Mohali, August 29
An enforcement team of the Punjab State Electricity Board, Mohali circle today raided two houses in Phase VII here and caught residents of these houses pilfering power. The team led by a junior engineer found the residents using a hidden wire connection to the main cable to steal electricity.

Sources said that the residents of the two houses were doing this in connivance with each other and even though five air-conditioners were on in the house the meter was showing a very low reading when the team reached the place. The team used a click-on meter to assess the actual power usage reading which was much higher.

The team disconnected electricity connection of the two houses, took away the meters and registered a case.


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