C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


One killed in Ranbaxy fire
Firemen battle flames for an hour, 2nd accident in 16 months
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, October 30
An outstanding employee of Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited died and two helpers were injured in a major fire that took place at the bulk drug plant of the company here this morning. 

A brave man

‘‘He was honoured with the national-level Vishvakarma award and the state-level Kirat Shiromani. He was a brave man. He made all of us proud when he got the awards last year. All the newspapers had carried his name and photograph. Now, he gave his life while saving others’’.

— Upvinder Kaur, Jagdish Singh’s wife

Non-functional fire equipment

Two major fires in 16 months. Six employees dead and several injured. The tall claims of Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited of having the best firefighting system in Mohali, however, leave much to be desired. At least this is what journalists discovered while being taken through the accident site here this afternoon. Accompanied by the company's manager and the township's fire officer, the team was shown firefighting equipment near the site of the accident that failed to work. The company did not allow the entry of journalists into the plant till many hours after the incident. Photographs of the accident spot were denied.

Four inquiries, no result

This is second fire in the plant in the past two years. Five employees working here had died and another 30 injured, 10 of them seriously, in a series of blasts followed by a major fire in the factory premises on the night of June 11, last year.

Within hours of the accident, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who was on the board of governors of the company, gave a clean chit to the company and rubbished the demand of Mohali residents to shift it out.

Four separate inquiries — a magisterial inquiry, another conducted by the Punjab Pollution Control Board and yet another by the Department of Industries, Punjab. A case in the Punjab Human Rights Commission (PHRC) was also filed and another inquiry followed. But more then a year has passed, no one really knows what led to the blasts and the fire. The management termed it as an ‘accident’ and claimed to have stepped up its safety measures.

Despite the fact that all inquiry reports, including the PHRC, exonerated Ranbaxy, the Module 1B of the unit where the blast had occurred was closed down and its set of operations were shifted to Ranbaxy’s other plants. In 1996, a similar fire had broken out in the plant. 

Jagdish Singh, a 38-year-old technician, was found dead near the dryer room. Jagdish Singh was not working inside the dryer area when the fire started. He stepped in to help rescue others. He could have died either of suffocation or a heart attack while trying to help others escape, Mr B.S. Sandhu, the Chief Fire officer Mohali, said

After finishing his shift, Jagdish had gone home at 10.30 pm yesterday. He was, however, called back on duty at 3 am to relieve the month-end work pressure.

Two helpers, Gaurav Bisth and Rajinder Singh, who were also working in the room, received burn injuries. They were admitted to the Fortis hospital here. Doctors attending on them said they were out of danger.

Fire tenders controlled the fire within an hour. Firemen used foam to douse the flames. “While 30 of those present in the unit were successfully rescued, two of them sustained injuries,’’the Chief Fire Officer said.

The fire broke out at 5 am at the powder processing complex of the main plant where 32 persons were at work.

The Mohali Fire Department believes that the fire could have started because of a static charge spark. The Mohali police has registered a case under Section 304-A against the Ranbaxy management.

“Full investigations would be done in the case”, Mr Rakesh Agarwal, SP, Mohali, said after a visit to the plant.

The police has also collected samples of the dried powder and the solvents used in the unit for forensic investigation.

The fire began from the dryer room on the ground floor where pentazocine, a medicine, is dried before packaging. Steam pipes are used for heating but there is no direct source of heat in this area. The dryer was not operational when flames engulfed it.

A highly combustible material used in the drying process lying in the floor spread the fire through the two floors of the main building.

“The fire spread from the dryer room to a store room on the first floor where it destroyed everything,” Dr Naresh Kumar, vice-president, Chemical Manufacturing, said.

Mr P. Bindra, Senior Vice-President, Global Manufacturing, said that a committee of experts had been constituted to investigate the incident.



Woman sold twice by in-laws, raped
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
A 22-year-old resident of Indira Colony here was allegedly sold by her mother-in-law, brother-in-law and a local leader when her husband was out of the city. The alleged buyer of the woman sold her to another person in Saharanpur. The woman was raped by both her purchasers and is now pregnant.

The tragic story surfaced when the woman was restored to her maternal grandparents in Delhi by a man of her caste who met her when she tried to escape from the confinement of her second buyer.

The woman told the police that her husband Heera Lal was working in a different city. While going out of town, he had asked her to go back to her parent’s house.

The woman said her mother-in-law, Sumitra, brother-in-law, Satpal, and an Indira Colony leader, Gajraj, said that they would escort her to her parent’s village, Khatauli, in Saharanpur district. She claimed that when they reached Ambala, they met a couple and both the families had a meal together. After eating her meal, she fell unconscious.

When she became conscious next morning, she found herself at Saharanpur railway station. The woman said that her relatives had left her with a person called Qayoom. He told her that she should accompany her and her relatives would come to fetch her after two days.

She alleged that Qayoom then took her to his village where he kept her in confinement and allegedly raped her for four days.

The woman said that after few days, an old man came to the house of Qayoom apparently to see her. She said Qayoom then took her to Jansan railway station where the old man was waiting with two boys. Qayoom allegedly handed her to the old man who took her to Kishangarh village in Saharanpur.

She said that nobody disturbed her for 15 days but she was kept in confinement. Later, a man named Madan came to the house and he repeatedly raped her for two months. The woman said she had tried to run away but Madan had caught her and confined her again. He continued to rape her.

The woman, however, finally managed to escape from the house but lost her way and reached Qayoom’s village again. She, however, met a young man, Chand, of her own caste and she narrated her story to him. Chand knew her grand parents and helped her reach Delhi. She was handed over to her parents by the grand parents.

Sumitra, Satpal, Gajraj, Madan and Qayoom have been arrested.



Teenager turns to cops to clear family name
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
A young innocent leaves the security of her house to fill a jug of water. But is shoved into a room in a neighbour’s house by her family’s foes. After mercilessly beating her up, the assaulters lock her up in the room with a boy living in the neighbourhood. They then call up the cops to give the girl a bad name. All in the name of revenge, that is.

But if allegations levelled in a complaint filed before the police are to be believed, then 17-year-old Shaminder Kaur of Mundi Kharar village in Mohali was indeed forced to face humiliation on October 11.

Shaminder’s relatives claim that the girl was allegedly taken to a nearby police station by burly cops unaccompanied by women officials after the alleged assaulters created a scene.

As they recall the details, Shaminder sits alone on a sofa trying to keep her head high. Her deep dark eyes, full of anguish and uncertainty, search for familiar faces as she sits on a sofa, courageously.

In Mohali — along with 700 strangers from nearby towns and cities — to attend a camp organised today for on-the-spot disposal of long pending complaints, she scratched her chin nervously waiting for her father to arrive.

After a moment’s hesitation, she reveals that the cops released her and the boy after taking “true facts” into consideration and registered an illegal confinement case against her alleged assaulters.

Trying to force a smile, she whispers cautiously that some of the accused were taken into custody by the police. But that did not prevent them from levelling false allegations against her family. The accused, she says, claimed in a complaint filed before the police that they too were assaulted. “We are here in connection with that complaint,” she asserts.

As she narrated her tale, more and more people, armed with documents, move towards the stalls set up by the police in a marriage palace situated in Mohali’s Phase VI. They make themselves comfortable on wrought iron chairs before recounting their grievances before friendly cops.

Some have problems getting their houses vacated. Others want the cops to register dowry harassment cases against husbands of estranged wives. Few other want property disputes to be settled, amicably.

As rival parties argue with each other and the cops, you realise that Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Ludhiana range) Parag Jain and his team have done everything possible to make them feel at ease.

In fact the place looks like the venue of a wedding ceremony rather than a camp organised for the first time under the “Suvidha Scheme”. The gate is decked up with blooming marigolds and red carpet leading to the main hall. 



New technique to regain lost eyesight
Neelam Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
Contrary to prevailing belief that the vision once lost in accidents can never be restored, the PGI's experimentation on the accident victims in the past couple of years has proved that the regaining lost eyesight is possible under the optic nerve decompression procedure.

Having treated 67 accident victims who had lost their vision completely in accidental traumas since 2001, the Department of ENT, working closely with the Department of Radiology and the Department of Ophthalmology have performed ``optic nerve decompression'' procedure for restoring the vision.

The endoscopic ``minimum invasion procedure'' is performed after giving a high dose of steroids to the accident victims which causes swelling in the nerves.

``We have treated those cases in which the vision loss is either due to fracture in the nerve canal, bone fragmentation or because of hematoma (blood clot) in optic canal.

The procedure requires a lot of expertise as the surgeon is dealing with the optic nerve which is merely 0.3 mm wide,'' said Dr A.K. Gupta of the Department of ENT, PGI, while talking to The Tribune.

The crucial aspects in restoration of the patient's vision is which of the the optic fibres entering the eyes through the brain have been damaged during the trauma.

Another important factor responsible for vision restoration, as observed by the surgeons here, is the time at which the patient is brought for the vision restoration after the accident.

``We have seen that early the patient is brought to us, better the chances of gaining his lost vision. Of all the cases that we have treated, those brought to us within the first seven days of accidents had a success rate of 70 per cent, while those brought after a week's time had the success rate of just 24 per cent. In all, we had a success rate of restoring vision in around 70 per cent of the patients who were treated under this procedure,'' added Dr Gupta.

Talking about the kinds of accident cases under which the procedure is found to be suitable, the doctor said that every accident victim with vision loss was given steroids for three days of the accident.



Experts to be inducted into Ordnance Factory Board
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
To effectively meet challenges of competitive globalisation in the defence sector, the Parliamentary Committee on Defence has sought restructuring of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) by inducting experts to make it a truly professional body.

Noting that the OFB caters to the requirements of the armed forces which are specialised, complex and pose unique challenges, the committee, in its latest report has advocated that timebound modernisation programmes should be vigorously pursued and adequate financial allocation earmarked to make them competitive and at par with international standards.

The OFB controls 39 factories, manufacturing clothing and webbing, arms and ammunition, vehicles, combat vehicles and tanks, opto-electronics, engineering equipment and specialised equipment.

Due to the modernisation programmes of the armed forces, many existing products of the ordnance factories are nearing the end of their life-span.

Induction of new weapon systems and ammunition and upgradation of existing equipment has been envisaged in the perspective plan of the OFB in line with the capital acquisition plans of the services.

While it has already started production of T-90 tanks, mine protected vehicles and new versions of the INSAS rifle and carbine, it plans to produce weapons like 84mm Rocket Launcher, anti-material rifle, multi-grenade launcher and AK-630 naval gun through transfer of technology.

The OFB has orders worth over Rs 12,100 crore. It is also supplying a wide variety of arms and ammunition to the Home Ministry, besides stepping up production of sporting weapons for the civilian market.

The OFB is also tapping the export market and a nine-point agenda drawn up for, it includes focusing on market segments which can afford OFB products and hard sell the same and identify the advances in products and services for which already competence exists with ordnance factories.

It will also enter into joint projects for high-end products and services required by the international market and take up turnkey projects for establishment of local production in the customer's country. OFC generated an export revenue of Rs 103.79 crore last year.

"The OFB should chalk out a comprehensive plan to increase its share in the domestic market by introducing new products through transfer of technology, development of new products, including product upgrades through in-house research and development with or without the help of defence public sector undertakings and by entering into foreign collaboration if required," the committee recommended.



CSIO celebrates foundation day
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
The Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) celebrated its 45th foundation day with a special lecture by Prof Surendra Prasad, Deputy Director of the IIT, Delhi, here today.

In his address, Professor Prasad explained various aspects of signal processing techniques and their applications in the fields of communication, entertainment, instrumentation, medicine and defence.

Earlier, Dr Pawan Kapur, CSIO Director, claimed that last year had been a year of achievements for the organisation as a number of technologies in various fields had been transferred to the industry.

The annual report was released by Professor Prasad. On the occasion, two Scheduled Caste students of the Haryana School Education Board were given a cash award of Rs 3,000 each for their scores in science.



Police disposes of 400 cases at camp
Our Correspondent

Mohali, October 30
As many as 400 complaints made to the police were disposed of at a camp organised for three subdivisions here today. FIRs were registered in connection with seven cases. The camp was the first of its kind in the area.

The police had received 675 complaints in Mohali, Kharar and Morinda subdivisions that had been lying pending for the past few months. Most of the cases concerned family disputes over property and the others were linked to dowry, landlord tenant dispute and fraud.

Mr Parag Jain, DIG, Ludhiana range, who took a round of various booths set up to hear grievances, said most of the complaints were minor in nature but such “irritants” could take a serious turn if not addressed timely.

A lot of effort got wasted on sorting out such complaints and the police could not concentrate on major cases. He said nearly 1,200 complaints were received each month in the district.

He said the camp was the third in the series. Two such camps were held in Khanna and Jagraon districts on August 21 and September 18, respectively. He said such camps not only brought the police closer to public, but also helped in bringing transparency in the working.

He said efforts were made to work out a compromise between the parties where police acted as a facilitator. He said efforts would be made to involve legal services authority in the next phase.

Mr Rakesh Agarwal, SP, said 60 per cent of the complaints were disposed of at the camp. He said some of the cases required more than one sitting, while a number of them were being pursued in the courts. He added that majority of the seven FIRs registered related to fraud by travel agents. In such cases, both parties were heard and after gathering evidence cases were registered after the recommendation of the Ropar SSP, Mr Surinder Pal Singh. The opinion of DA (legal) was also sought in such cases.

He said fresh complaints were also made by certain persons to the DIG today. He said out of the 675 complaints taken up at the camp, 125 were from Kharar while 100 were from Morinda.



Woman with 95 per cent burns struggles for life
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
A 20-year-old woman and mother of a 10-day-old son received 95 per cent burn injuries in a fire in Ambala.

Neelam is fighting for her life in the Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, amidst allegations from her brother Kanhaia and sister Poonam that she was burnt by her brother-in-laws owning the famous Puran Singh Da Vishal Dhaba in Ambala. Neelam’s in-laws Bijender Singh Nagar, termed the fire as an accident.

According to Kanhaia, Neelam was asked to heat water on a stove yesterday morning in a bathroom. When she entered the bathroom her in-laws and husband poured kerosene on her and burnt her. Poonam said that Neelam had given a statement before a Magistrate terming her burning as an accident because she had been threatened that her son would be killed if she blamed her in-laws.

Women activists Poonam Sharma and Meenu Paul held a protest against the hospital authorities for denying them entry to meet Neelam.

Kanhaia alleged that his brother-in-law Prashant Nagar had been demanding dowry and harassing her.

Bijender Nagar said the marriage was done without any dowry because both Neelam and Prashant were manglik a spouse-harming constellation. He said the family members broke the bathroom gate and took her to three best private hospital of Ambala, before bringing her to Chandigarh. He said how could anybody in the family threaten her with killing the infant who was reared by them as he had “moola” (a constellation malefic to parents).

Kanhain, however, alleged that Prashant’s family did not only stop the marriage a year back, when Neelam’s younger brother died in Dehra Dun and they had allegedly demanded money.

Neelam’s uncle Nati Ram Tomar said that he had borrowed Rs 2.5 lakh to marry off his niece as her father had died.



Artificial limb gives Kushal a reason to smile
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
Having lost his leg four years ago, 13-year-old Onkar Kushal had a reason to smile today. This Class VIII student from Dera Bassi, whose right leg was amputated after he tumbled over the iron bench in his school, finally got an artificial limb at Nevedac Prosthetic Centre at Zirakpur.

“My leg was amputated from the hip after the injury worsened. I had been walking with the help of clutches for the last four years,” said Onkar, sharing his new-found joy with the Tribune.

Courtesy the donation from Inder Sagar of the Inder Aggarwal Foundation, in collaboration with the Inner Wheel Club Chandigarh, 74 physically challenged persons from across the region received prosthetic limbs, wheel chairs, walking callipers, hearing aids and tricycles worth Rs 2 lakh at the centre here today.

The highlight of the day was the bhangra item performed by the group headed by a physically challenged Sunny, who had also received the artificial limb from the centre a few years ago.

Swami Brahmeshananda Maharaj of the Ramakrishana Mission, Chandigarh, was the chief guest on the occasion and Ms Neeru Khattar, district vice chairman of the Inner Wheel District 308, was the guest of honour.

Dr V.J.S. Vohra, Chief Managing Director of the Nevedac Prosthetic Centre, took the guests around and showed facilities available for the physically challenged at the Centre. 



Designers bare their wear
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, October 30
Give them a free hand and they will wrap you in fabric which will enhance your personality. They are fashion designers Raghuvinder Rathore, Sonali Mansingka, Sandeep Mahajan, Rahul Jain, Gunjan Arora and Jagdeep Shokeen.

They were in the city yesterday to unveil their latest pret wear collection.

Glamorous look is in, says Raghuvinder Rathore. Shades of green will be seen in bridal wear. In jewellery, stone is set to glitter as gold is losing its sheen.

“Brides are experimenting with colours other than red and maroon. For grooms, the emphasis is on cuts and not on embroidery, he adds.

Jagdeep Shokeen has used rayon cotton, jacquard and thicker cottons to beat the chill. Hues of mustard, rust, deep grey and olive lend warmth to his range.

Sonali Mansingka says sophisticated look is in. She has used silks and brocades in darker tones to make figure-hugging clothes.

Sandeep has produced menswear in textured cottons, linen and silks. He balances look with comfort.

Rahul Jain and Gunjan Arora, inspired by tradition, have come up with both flamboyant and sober ranges.

They do both men and women wear. For women, there are more fitted clothes. Men’s clothes are trendy but not loud.



Bus operators seek better deal from govt
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
The Cooperative Transport Societies of the state have decided not to send their buses to any political rallies in view of the “indifferent attitude” of politicians towards the problems of their members.

The decision has been taken at a meeting of the state executive of their union held under the chairmanship of Mr Virender Sangwan, president of the union.

Mr Sangwan said the societies had been cooperating with the government in the past. But the government had been “vindictive” towards them. His main grievance was that the government had reduced the life of a bus from 15 years to seven years. Mr Sangwan said the cost of a bus was about Rs 12 lakh and it was not possible for many societies to replace their fleet.



BSNL bonanza a disappointment
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
Launched with much fanfare over a week ago, several attractive offers of the “festival bonanza” of the government-controlled telecom giant — Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) — seem to have disappointed telephone subscribers of the Punjab Telecom Circle.

With the offers yet to be fully implemented by the BSNL, subscribers and BSNL staff are at their wits’ end. Lack of coordination between the BSNL top brass and middle-level officials seems to have compounded the problems for the subscribers.

The BSNL had announced the 3+1 scheme for the Excel pre-paid subscribers under which any subscriber buying three recharge coupons of one denomination was to get the fourth coupon free.

However, despite claims by the BSNL today that the “scheme has been implemented after completing necessary formalities”, independent inquiries revealed that the ground situation was to the contrary. The free recharge coupons were not available with the Customer Service Centres (CSCs) in Sectors 20 and 34 and certain distributors and retailers.

The story of another ambitious scheme of booking a new landline connection by paying only Re 1 seems to be no different. As an added incentive, such subscribers were to be given a free Internet card for 50 hours costing about Rs 270 on the payment of the first bill. Besides, the subscribers were offered free ITC cards, valued at a minimum of Rs 551, depending on the timely payment of their bills.

The scheme, sources claimed, was only available to the subscriber, who paid the bills at the CSCs run by the BSNL. Since about 80 per cent of the subscribers paid their bills either through cheques or banks and post office, the scheme was silent on the fate these subscribers.

A top BSNL functionary, on condition of anonymity, admitted that there had been “some delay” in the implementation of various schemes. Since the “festival bonanza” was announced in Delhi, it took them some time to prepare the ground at the grassroots level.

In any case, most of the schemes were open till November 15 and the subscribers had enough time to opt for them, he added.



15 small savings agents honoured
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
The city has recorded small savings amounting to Rs 115 crore as against the target of Rs 100 crore during the last year, the Mayor, Ms Kamlesh, said here today.

Addressing a function jointly organised by the Chandigarh Centre of the National Savings Institute, and the Directorate of Small Savings of the Chandigarh Administration on World Thrift Day, Ms Kamlesh urged residents to save for their future and for the country.

Mr Yash Pal Bhagat, Director of the local office of the Planning Commission, said small savings played a major role in the development of the country.

Mr V.K. Malhotra, Deputy Director of the institute, explained the small savings scheme in detail, Mr B.S. Dhaliwal, proposed a vote of thanks.

Fifteen agents were honoured for their meritorious services to the small savings campaign. These include Mohinder Kaur, Renu Gupta, Surinder Kaur, Promila Wadhera, Nutan Sharma, Sanyogita

Soni, Naresh Soni, Santana Dass, Kiran Sanan and Sumit Behl.

Nutan Sharma, Shashi Arora, Naresh Soni, Kamal Chhabra and Ashok Ratra were the other agents who were honoured.



CII fair opens
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
Customers from the city and the surrounding areas in large numbers visited the CII Chandigarh Fair, which opened today at the Parade Ground in Sector 17. The four-day mega fair has focused on seven main expos persona, craft bazar, consumer goods, infocom, finmart, auto show and decor.

An array of handcrafted and handwoven products from different states such as Jamewar stoles from Kashmir, shellware from Goa, ceramics from Rajasthan, shimmering silks from the South, brocades from Benaras, cosy Kulu shawls at the craft bazar, which made a debut this year, is the main highlight of the event.

It was khadi and handloom products put up by self-help groups which dominated the craft bazar. Besides, the handiwork of rural India, including colourful murals and paintings on wood, glass and ceramics are eye catching. Also on display are stalls selling embroidered and handwoven shawls, marble statuary, intricate wood carvings, handmade paper artifacts, ethnic fabrics and attire in silk and cotton, home furnishings and accessories, traditional furniture, novel gift items and organic food products.

Another attraction this year is Persona which caters to today’s need for healthy minds and bodies with varied nutritional and skin/hair care products and services on display. Stalls selling health and fitness equipment and new beauty products such as aroma oils to enhance moods drew a good response on the opening day as people are out to spend money to look good, said one of the exhibitors from Delhi.

The Consumer Fair and Decor 2004 expos attracted plenty of shoppers keen to pick up appliances and accessories in the festive season. All seven expos combined together boast of products of 175 companies, categorised product wise for customer convenience. Financial institutions like ICICI, HDFC and PNB briefed customers on housing or retail lending loans at low interest rates. Major corporates like Sony, LG, Samsung, Philips and IFB hogged the limelight in the mega brands pavilion.

Mr A.R. Kidwai, Governor, Haryana, who inaugurated the fair, went around the stalls and interacted with a few exhibitors at different pavilions. 



Plaza show draws crowds

THE dance performance given by the Michael troupe and the Cobra troupe drew a lot of appreciation from the audience at Weekend Cultural Show at Plaza, Sector 17 on Saturday.

The main attraction of the show was ghost dance and fire dance. Artistes of both the troupes including Rahul, Vijay, Mahesh and Amar, gave a wonderful performance.

Michael troupe artistes wore masks and danced on the tunes of “Dhoom”, “Pyar bina chain”, “Hasna kamal” and “nachana kamal”. The choreography was by Mukesh.

Members of the Cobra troupe performed on number like “Billo tera nakhra”, “dhoom remix” and “Ek pardesi mera dil gaya”.

The show was organised by the Department of Tourism, Chandigarh Administration, and the Oasis Events. — OC


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