C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


3 per cent tax imposed on commercial property
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
Years after making the first move to levy property tax, the Chandigarh Administration today finally imposed the tax on commercial, industrial and institutional buildings in the city and specified an annual rate of 3 per cent of the value of the property. No tax has been imposed on residential property.

One significant point is that this is not a decision taken by the new Administrator, General S.F. Rodrigues (retd). The outgoing Administrator, Justice O.P. Verma (retd), had cleared the file and it was pending with the legal cell. The Administration only issued a notification today, all formalities having been fulfilled earlier.

The city has been divided into four zones and the valuation will be done as per the location of the property. There are five categories of property. Booths have been exempted from the tax. The value will vary according to the zone and also as per the floor. For example, a property in Sector 17 will have more value than a property in Sector 38. Similarly, the value will vary for the first and second floors.

The zones are: Zone A—Sector 17; Zone B—22, 34 and 35; Zone C—7, 8, 9 and 26; Zone D—all remaining sectors of Chandigarh and industrial plots. The zones are mentioned here in the decreasing order of value, with the highest being for Zone A.

Those who pay the property tax would get exemption from income tax and those who pay the tax under the self-assessment scheme would get 10 per cent rebate on the amount.

The money collected from the tax will go to the municipal corporation, which aims to net Rs 8 crore. The corporation had been told up by the Central Government that it had to impose property tax, only then a matching grant would be given.

This time the corporation will not protest. The Senior Deputy Mayor, Mr Pradeep Chhabra, said: “The new rate is acceptable to us. Last September the corporation had passed a resolution saying 2 per cent tax be imposed. The then Adviser the UT Administrator, Mr Raminder Singh Gujral, had proposed the rate at 5 per cent, which was rejected by the corporation.” Mr Chhabra did not miss to mention that a rate of 10 per cent was approved during the tenure of the BJP. Councillors, cutting across party lines, had criticised the move for a 5 per cent property tax.

The UT Administrator today specified that government buildings within municipal limits would also be subjected to a 2.25 per cent service charge. The government buildings have been classified as one zone and the floor-wise service charges vary between Rs 3 and Rs 13 per sq ft per month.

Through today’s notification, the Administration turned down a plea of industrialists who said that the criterion of charging the tax on the basis of covered area was wrong.



Slums threaten city’s existence
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News service

Chandigarh, November 22
India’s youngest city is already showing signs of aging. Ugly growths visible in the form of slums have come up at several places in and around Chandigarh. Apparent lack of will on the part of the Administration and political interference have led to the spread of this canker that threatens the very existence of the city that for long has served as an inspiration for the rest of the country.

Every time these unauthorised settlements are pulled down, they resurface with vengeance over a larger area.

Earlier this year, the Chandigarh Administration launched a drive to draw a realistic picture of the extent of the problem. While officials put the number of people living in the dozen odd slums between 1 and 1.5 lakh, unofficial estimates are almost double that. The objective of the survey was to determine the facts so that a policy could be formulated, as prior to this the number of jhuggis and the people living in them were only based on estimates.

As on date, the fact remains that Chandigarh slums are very much intact, with Colony No. 4 and 5 in Industrial Area Phase I and south of Sector 44 being the largest encroachments. Rough estimates put the number of jhuggis in the city around 30,000. The slums are not only a blotch on the face of City Beautiful, but have also stalled the implementation of several important projects in different parts of the city. For example, Colony No. 5 has obstructed the laying of the sewer for Sector 51 and obstructed the laying of a road to Burail Jail. Colony No 4 is taking up area meant for the extension of the industrial area.

Former Governor O.P. Verma had ordered the removal of jhuggis from Saheed Bhagat Singh Colony in Sector 49 and Nehru Colony at Palsora. But the demolition drive was obstructed by the then Union Minister of State, Mr I.D Swamy, in May last year saying that no major demolition drive was being undertaken due to the “rehabilitation first” decision of the government.

Under to the rehabilitation scheme of the Administration, it was decided that 16,000 people living in legal jhuggis and who had their names on the electoral roles would be rehabilitated in multi-storeyed flats. The administration put December 8, 1996, as the cut-off date. Notification for this was done last year. The intrinsic flaw in the scheme is that it leaves out lakhs of people who do not fit into its requirements, making the very purpose of the scheme meaningless.

Those familiar with the landscape of Chandigarh are aware of the huge slum area that has come up opposite the cremation ground in Sector 25. This is a typical case of inept handling of a situation. Those inhabiting these slums are the very people who were earlier removed from another slum area in Sector 25. Hundreds of jhuggis have also come up on the administration land adjoining the road leading from the railway station traffic lights intersection to Kishangarh village.

Similarly, Bapu Dham Colony in Sector 26 also has a huge slum area. Slums have also come up in Sector 38 West, close to the gurdwara, besides Palsora, Adarsh Colony, Kajheri, Hallo Majra, etc, where slum-dwellers have even constructed permanent structures at some places.

Earlier, former Governor J.F.R Jacob and Ms Kiran Bedi during her short stint as IG, Chandigarh Police, had mooted a proposal to hold the thana officials concerned responsible for any illegal encroachment on public land. The idea never took off.

The Kajheri and Palsora slums have encroached about 117 acres of government land, while Adarsh Colony has seen nearly 500 hutments, of which some pucca ones have come up during this year itself.

With political parties eying these slums as their vote bank, the task of the Administration to clear these timorous growths cannot be easy.



Chief Secy orders probe into MC irregularities
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, November 22
The Chief Secretary, Haryana, has ordered an inquiry into the alleged inability of the Municipal Council here to maintain roads, parks, sanitation and streetlights and causing financial loss to the council.

The inquiry has been entrusted to the State Vigilance Bureau, and an officer of the rank of Inspector has been deputed to conduct it.

The inquiry has been ordered after a people’s welfare action group — People’s Voice God’s Voice , had complained to the Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala against the irregularities in the maintenance works undertaken by the council, and urged that the works be undertaken by the government.

This is the second Vigilance inquiry to have been ordered against the Municipal Council this year. The first inquiry was ordered in March, wherein irregularities in the allotment of sanitation contract, contract for the removal of congress grass, removal of malba and sub-standard work and more expensive contracts for sprucing of public parks in Panchkula, causing a loss of Rs 1 crore to the MC, was alleged. Over the past couple of months, statements of various officials of the council have been recorded by the Vigilance team. Even as this inquiry is under way, a fresh inquiry has now been ordered.

It is alleged that the local body here has not been keeping the minimum essential departmental labour. All services under the MC have been given on contract, but the specifications of contract have not been given consideration, and the executive staff of the council has no say in the execution of these works, alleged Mr B.L. Tandon, founder of PVGV.

Mr Tandon has alleged that all contracts are allowed to continue even beyond the trial period of two months, in spite of the unsatisfactory performance of sanitation, and streetlight contractors. He says most of the items installed in public parks have been purchased at 40 per cent higher rates than the prevailing market rates, and are of poor quality.

The complaint also says that MC meetings, which are supposed to be held every month, are held only after a gap of three or four months, thus defeating the purpose of the meetings.



Poor response to VHP bandh call
56 activists arrested
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
The bandh call given by activists of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) to protest against the arrest of Shankaracharya by the Tamil Nadu Government evoked a partial response in the city, here today. Dharnas, rallies, forced closure of shops and schools resulting in the arrest of 56 VHP and Bajrang Dal activists marked the day.

While six activists, including the local VHP leader, Mr Vijay Singh, were arrested in Sector 40 this morning for forcing closure of shops, the police resorted to a mild cane-charge to disperse the 100-odd activists accompanying the leader. Some activists got schools in Mauli Jagran, Industrial Area-I, the local DAV College closed.

Small groups of VHP activists went to different markets and schools, asking the shop-owners and school authorities to close these.

In a procession, the activists led by Mr Satinder Singh marched from Sector 28 to Sector 17. The procession passed through sectors 27, 19 and 18. Activists were arrested by the police at the Sector 17 plaza when they tried to offer bangles to Mr Subhash Kataria, the Organisating Secretary of the Hindu Maha Panchayat, for betraying the Hindus by not supporting the VHP in their cause.

Another group led by Col Dharam Vir, local president of the VHP, visited sectors 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24. They distributed pamphlets to passers-by, appealing for support from the public and to shopkeepers for closure of shops. Senior leaders of the BJP condemned the arrest of the VHP activists by the UT Administration.

The Hindu Parv Mahasabha also extended support to the VHP and organised protests in front of temples in sectors 11, 12, 14, 20, 22, 23, 35, 37, 38 , 40 and Durga Mandir, Sector 41, after which they courted arrest.

PANCHKULA: Members of the local unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party today staged a dharna at the Sector 17 and 18 roundabout here, to protest against the arrest of the Kanchi seer. A group of BJP workers, led by the district President, Mr Baldev Nayar, also observed a fast. The state treasurer of the BJP, Mr Gian Chand Gupta, said the party would always support the Hindu religious leaders and saints, whenever they were threatened by the administration.

VHP activists also staged protests outside various temples in Panchkula and hoisted black flags to show their protest.

In Kalka and Pinjore, the bandh call given by the VHP had little effect. The shops and business establishments remained open.



War veteran's pension stopped
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
Twentytwo years after he retired from the Army, a disabled war veteran came in for a rude shock when his disability pension was abruptly stopped by the Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA) despite the recommendations of a medical board.

Hav Sucha Singh had undergone examination conducted by a resurvey medical board at Command Hospital, Chandimandir in May, which upheld the release medical board's recommendations on his disability.

Later, however, he received a communique from the CDA that his pension is being discontinued.

Enrolled into the Sikh Regiment in 1960, Sucha Singh had taken part in the 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars against China and Pakistan, besides counter insurgency operations.

He had fractured his knee while on duty in Lipa Valley in Jammu and Kashmir in 1973.

He was checking duty sentries on a rainy night, when he had slipped and injured himself. His knee injury, however, did not heel properly and he was placed in a permanent low medical category.

Due to his injury and difficulty in walking, he was unable to rehabilitate himself on being discharged from the Army in 1982.

"A directive issued by the Defence Ministry in January, 2001 states that the CDA cannot overrule the findings of the medical board, which would be final and binding," President of the Ex-servicemen Grievances Cell, Lieut-Col S S Sohi (retd), said here today.

The cell has now taken up his case for restoration of disability pension and has written to the CDA and Army Headquarters in this regard.

Further, MoD directives also states that there is no requirement for holding resurvey medical board time and again.



Postal department all set to start retail services
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, November 22
The Department of Posts is all set for a turn-around in order to become a financially viable institution, at the same time retaining its social responsibility.

This was stated by the Director-General and Secretary Posts, Government Of India, Mr Vijay Bhushan. He said that by introducing a series of retail services, the department could turn into a potential cash cow.

"We are trying to convert an asset base into a rich financial institution. Because most postal services in the country are highly subsidized(67 per cent inherent subsidy to consumers, except in hilly, tribal and desert areas where the subsidy is 85 per cent), the department will now introduce more retail services (other than selling forms) and other services where the cash flow can be brought in," he said.

It may be noted that the Indian post delivers 157.5 million mails every year to a billion people, through a network of over 1,55, 000 post offices - which is the largest in the world. Its services now range from e-post, life insurance, bill payments, money transfer and saving schemes, besides the various methods of sending mail.

The department has 160 million depositors, has deposits worth Rs 78,000 crore and 2.5 million policy holders. Asked if there was a proposal to convert the department into a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU), Mr Bhushan denied, adding,"... we have a universal obligation to perform. We cannot convert it into a PSU, and have thus decided to go in for a makeover by introducing services like e-post and Logistics.

He informed that beginning with the speed post scheme that was introduced over a decade ago, the department is earning incentive through the e-post scheme.

"This scheme was introduced last year, and is available in 650 post offices all over the country. A person can get a hand- written note, which is scanned and can be immediately sent via e-mail at another post office that is linked with the main server. The scheme is fast replacing the telegram. In Haryana all 19 Head Post Offices and 24 post offices offer this scheme, while in Punjab, this service is available at 22 Head Post Offices," he said.

Mr Bhushan informs that the department is introducing a scheme called logistics, where the consumers can send parcels weighing up to 50 kg as compared to the weight limit of 35 kg earlier.

"These are the business prepositions that will once again bring urban Indians to the postal services, who have been cut off after the Internet boom in 2000 and the courier services," he said.

He also informed that the department was going in for complete computerisation of Head Post Offices, including the backroom operations. He said while 845 Head Post Offices were completely computerized, and over 6000 would be computerized within the next two years. He informed that a sum of Rs 836 crore had been sanctioned for the computerisation process.



Sec 15 post office inaugurated
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, November 22
The Director-General and secretary, Department of Posts, Mr Vijay Bhushan, today inaugurated a post office in Sector 15 here. This post office has been constructed in a record one-year time, at a cost of Rs 13.70 lakh.

Mr Bhushan said this post office would have seven counters and would be fully computerised. Appreciating the building, he said the post office had a state-of-the-art building, with a beautiful facade, and spoke of the excellent engineering work taken by the Engineering wing of the department of posts.

Talking to mediapersons, Mr Bhushan said the proposal to have a Head Post Office in Panchkula was under consideration. He said it had been a long-pending demand of the residents here to have an HPO.

The postal department had also been allotted land by HUDA in Sector 5, but the Department of Posts had been unable to take possession of the land because of its high cost, he added.

He also said the department was considering a proposal to release a series of stamps on the Param Vir Chakra awardees.

He added that a stamp on astronaut Kalpana Chawla would be released, but the department had not received any request on this issue.

Among others present were Chief Post Master General, Haryana circle, Ms T.K. Aryaveer, and the Director, Posts, Haryana, Mr V.C. Roy.



Dalits hold rallies for quota
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
The demand for reservation of jobs in the private sector is going to figure prominently in two rallies that are going to be organised by Dalit outfits at the Ram Lila Maidan in Delhi next month.

The National Conference of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) will organise a rally at the Ram Lila Maidan on December 5 on the occasion of World Dignity Day to raise the demand for reservation of jobs in private sector.

Addressing a press conference here, NACDOR representatives, Mr Ashok Bharti and Mr Mukul Sharma, said the rally would also demand comprehensive legislation to protect the interest of unorganised workers and artisans and implementation of comprehensive land and agrarian reforms. The rally would also demand giving Scheduled Caste status to the “Dalits” among Christians and Muslims, the NACDOR representatives said.

The All India Confederation of SC/ST Employees Organisations is also organising a rally at the Ram Lila Ground on December 12 to demand reservation of jobs in the private sector. Mr Karamvir Singh, president of the confederation’s Haryana unit, said the rally would also demand that a law should be made to ensure that the policy regarding reservation was strictly implemented.



Amicable Amisha
Swarleen Kaur

AFTER having kept mediapersons waiting for about one hour, heart throb of millions Amisha Patel sincerely apologises with “My flight got late,” as she enters the venue.

In the city today, the Bollywood actress, who started her career by enacting a bubbly and jovial, character in’ “Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai” shared her experiences in the film industry with the Chandigarh Tribune.

The actress, who made her mark with her sensitive acting in mega hit ‘Gadar,’ says the movie was a great learning experience. The beautiful actress with a charming smile says silver screen is her dream and she was putting in all efforts to make it come true.

Truthfulness and honesty are the qualities she cherishes the most . Nothing is above these values, she feels. “If you are honest and clean inside it shows on your face. A face gets its real beauty if one is committed to one’s values”, she said.

Praising her brother, Ashmit Patel who had made his presence felt in “Murder,” she said, “he is definitely a good actor.” But she refused to comment on the controversy surrounding her family.

I would love to act with Ashmit and will be very happy if something is to be picturised on the delicate relationship between brother and sister, she said with a smile.

Amisha firmly believes that acting is a God-gifted talent. Highly selective, she has done just 10 films in five years. It is my responsibility to come up to expectation of my fans and that is why I am so choosy, about the kind of roles I do.”

Reaffirming the theory that viewers are the king, she says an actor’s existence is totally dependent on their acceptance level. “Their encouragement prods me towards my goal.”

Talking about her forthcoming movies, she disclosed that she was doing six movies in the next year. These include “Rising,” “Vaada,” “Elaan,” “Tathastu,” “Jeevansathi,” and “Humko Tumse Pyar Hai.”

“My characters in these movies are different from what I have done till now. In “Rising’ she is playing a widow and the movie focuses on the sati “pratha.”

She does a lot of homework for certain movies, focusing on body language, costumes and other necessary details of the character.

Interestingly, she is playing the role of a journalist in “Elaan.” “As I have been interacting with journalists so I think I can play ‘you guys’ well,” she quips.

Apart from acting she also enjoyed doing a music video with noted singer Adnan Sami. “It was a different experience for me, I liked the concept very much. Adnan is a very good singer and a friend as well”.



Chandigarh Calling

The winter is finally here. While most of us are bringing out our woollens and quilts, the less fortunate are heading for the forest areas in and around the city to fetch firewood. Every evening women and children from slum areas and labour colonies can be seen going toward forest areas and returning with firewood (see picture) to keep them from shivering after sunset.

Automation vs. accountability

Machines are fast replacing humans. While efficient, these certainly lack accountability. Now the debate is can you actually blame a machine? The other day, a BSNL subscriber dialled 198 to register a complaint of his faulty phone with the Manimajra exchange. The first time the computer responded saying his telephone number did not exist, the second time the recorded message said the number was not from that exchange and hung up, and finally after three calls the computer did accept the number but hung up without confirming if the complaint had been registered. A point in support of trade unions opposing automation?

Honest presswallah

It was just another day at work for Pappu, a dhobi, who has an ironing table in Sector 38-C, till he came across the coat of Mr I.J Singh, a resident of the same sector. The coat contained Rs 12,000 in a pocket. Around midnight the owner of the coat realised that he had forgotten to remove the money from the coat. But even before he woke up in the morning, Pappu was at their gate with the coat and the money.

Iron attraction

Gold may not be the only metal that interests thieves. With the rising steel prices, they are making away with anything made of iron. Manhole covers seem to be the biggest casualty. Not only are the manhole covers in open areas being lifted but even those inside houses are not safe. Recently, the police did come to know of a person who has picked many covers, but there are no complaints in this regard. Many who have approached the police in this regard have been given a manhole cover apparently to sort out the matter without dispute. However, investigators find tracing stolen covers difficult as these are broken into pieces and disposed of. A police officer said it was not easy to trace these thefts as this was mostly the handiwork of drug addicts.

Cops roll the cameras

The Chandigarh traffic police has started a new scheme. The cops, while checking for drunken driving at night, record all interaction with any driver throwing his weight or trying to drop names with small hand-held video cameras. The move is yielding results. In one case, just as a driver started dropping names, the cops switched on the camera and he immediately ducked for cover. Senior officials have also been shown the recordings. This has also come as a relief for police personnel as they do not have to face the ire of their seniors when some well-connected person complains.

Going gets tough for babus

The Chandigarh Administration is under going a change: the new Administrator, General S.F. Rodrigues (retd) has joined and so has the new Finance Secretary, Mr S.K. Sandhu. The new incumbents have started work in full swing, giving officials a tough time. While the Administrator has adopted a hands-on-approach, the Finance Secretary is reading acquainting himself with all old matters. Newspapers reporting on public issues are only making the babudom work harder for their pay.

Busy netas

City politicians have their hands full with the byelection for Ward 11 of the municipal corporation coming up. When not , canvassing, they are busy levelling charges against each other. Since they have nothing to show for their achievements, they are focusing on the failures of their rivals. At a press conference held recently, a senior leader of the BJP, after dodging questions about the fate of their candidate in the elections, said, “It is strange that the Chandigarh Vikas Manch has propped up a candidate under its banner. Last time I heard, the manch had merged with the Indian National Lok Dal. When did the ‘de-merger’ take place is shrouded in mystery. It seems the manch is back in action after undergoing a surgery,” he commented.

— Sentinel



Deception to depression, Balongi residents bear it all
Aftermath of investment fraud
Our Correspondent

Mohali, November 22
An atmosphere of depression prevailed in Balongi village, near here, today with residents apprehending that they would not be able to get back lakhs of rupees deposited by them with an agency which had promised high rates of interest on cash and 50 per cent discount on goods.

The alleged swindlers fled the village before the police conducted a raid on the house from where they were running the business under the name of Jai Lakshmi Super Agency. Apart from cash, four truckloads of consumer goods were also seized by the police during the raid.

The agency was offering various goods, right from a small household item to a car, at half the market price. The delivery of the goods was to be given in 15 days from the time the required amount was deposited with the agency. A client was free to choose any product from the venue or from the open market. Exorbitantly high rate of interest, up to 10 per cent per day, on cash deposited with the agency was also offered to lure people to invest money with the agency.

When this correspondent visited the village today a number of women said their household work was getting neglected as they were depressed on losing huge sums of money.

They said they had deposited large sums of money to earn 10 per cent interest each day. The interest amount was being paid daily by those running the agency. The amount investors now have little hope of getting their principal amount back.

Ms Harjit Kaur said she had deposited Rs 61,000 with the agency on November 18. She was paid Rs 6,100 as interest on the deposited amount on November 18 itself. The next day again she was paid Rs 6,100 as interest. But on November 20 she could not get the interest amount as the police raided the house and seized the goods stocked for sale. The ‘shop’ had been closed. She was not sure whether she would be able to get the money back which she had borrowed from a relative.

Ms Sheila had deposited Rs 23,000 with the agency for earning a daily interest at the rate of 10 per cent. But she had not even dreamt that she would be duped of the money, a part of which belonged to her relative. She said she was ready to accept her money back after deducting the amount which she had taken as interest.

Similarly, Ms Devki and Ms Balwinder Kaur had deposited Rs 45,000 and Rs 20,000, respectively, in the hope of earning handsome interest.

The agency had promised to pay them three times the amount deposited provided it was withdrawn after November 26, said Ms Balwinder Kaur. They blamed mediapersons for their financial loss and said had the matter not been exposed they would have got their money back.

Mr Pritpal Singh, a resident of the village, said he could not understand why the police could not take action as soon as the suspects started their business in the village. In that case the financial loss to local residents would have been much less. The police failed to react even after the matter was highlighted by a vernacular daily in the first week of November.

The SP, Mr Rakesh Agrawal, said he came to know about the business around midday on November 20 and a raid was conducted immediately. It was unfortunate that the suspects could not be arrested. A case in this regard had already been registered. He said the police had been able to identify those running the agency and raids were being conducted to nab the guilty.

Regarding the alleged involvement of certain police personnel in the racket, Mr Agrawal said action would be taken against them if he got some proof of their involvement. He appealed to the residents of Balongi village to provide the police with photocopies of the receipts given to them by the agency so that exact information in this regard could be gathered. He assured that all efforts would be made by the police to get the money refunded through court.



Retrenched employees start dharna
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, November 22
The joint action committee of retrenched employees of Haryana led by Mr Succha Khan today started a 24-hour dharna and fast in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office here.

The employees of various boards and corporations are protesting against their retrenchment. While addressing the employees, Mr Dinesh Chander Sharma said the Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, was being unfair to the government employees.

“He is claiming credit for announcing 70,000 jobs, while he has made 22,000 employees jobless,” he said.

The protesting employees said there was a lot of resentment against the Chautala regime. “There is disillusionment against the present government and the party will have to pay for it in the coming Vidhan Sabha elections,” Mr Sharma said.

Mr Succha Khan said a fast would also be organised by the committee at Yamunanagar on November 29.



Over 35,000 children face bleak future
Schools in residential areas
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
Children of the lower middle-class living in the southern sectors will suffer the most from the closure of the schools in the residential areas of city.

The managements of these schools have been asked by the Chandigarh Administration to shut down their institutions by March 2005.

Of the 220 schools, which are to be shut down, a majority are primary schools in the southern sectors and in the periphery areas. These schools cater to the requirements of the low income group families.

The Administration has asked the school managements to file an affidavit regarding the closure by December 9, failing which the premises would be resumed. Those running schools from housing board houses have already submitted their affidavits in this regard.

But the Administration was non-committal on adjusting the affected children in government schools near their place of residence. As many as 35,000 students would be looking for alternative place of study by the end of the current academic session.

An official in the Administration said the students would have look for alternative schools on their own.

On the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a high-powered committee headed by the Home Secretary, Mr R.S. Gujral, has already given two extensions to the schools.

“The children would be forced to look for expensive public schools running from allotted schools.

The schools in the residential areas are also catering to the weak students and dropouts and there is no place for them in the high profile schools in the city. At least 5,000 teachers would also be rendered jobless,” said Ms Uma Wadhera, President of the Association of Private Educational Institutions.

She said in the last two years, the administration had allotted only 11 sites where as the requirement was much more. The association, a forum of schools running from residential premises, has decided to stage a dharna for the acceptance of their demands.

“The Administration is not listening to their plea for the allotment of alternative sites. We want that the bylaws should be amended as it had been done for 110 other trades. Running a primary school does not require much infrastructure”, she added.

Most of the schools now facing closure have been functioning in the city for the last up to 40 years.

She lamented that the Administration had been going out of its way to relax norms to accommodate the concerns and interests of various categories of users in the city but was showing uncharacteristic rigidity as far as private schools were concerned.



Novel plan by police to nab culprits
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, November 22
Following a spate of burglaries and snatching incidents in the town over the past couple of days, the local police has embarked upon a plan to trap the culprits.

The Superintendent of Police, Ms Mamta Singh, said though police patrolling and nakas had been intensified, it had failed to yield the desired results. “We have added over 70 constables to the force and they have been deputed for patrolling job,” 
she said.

The SP said other than intensifying the nakas all over the town, they were contemplating laying traps for the culprits. "We will be parking cars at secluded places for a few days, so that the gang of car lifters can be trapped. Other than this, we have also decided to make our cops sit in locked houses through the night, for several days, so that anybody attempting a burglary can be nabbed,”
she said.

Ms Singh, while admitting that there was a shortage of staff in the district police, said they were trying to make the best of their available resources. “Earlier, the idea was to make our presence felt in the city and cops were everywhere. But now we will be in hiding and lay the trap for culprits,” she said.



CTU buses kill road safety
Sanjay Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
Beware of Chandigarh Transport Undertaking (CTU) buses as they have already killed eight persons and injured 13 on the city roads this year. One out of the eight killed is a woman and all those killed were riding scooters.

One of the most horrifying experiences of CTU bus accidents was witnessed on October 21 when a bus at the Sectors 22-23 light point hit four vehicles one after another. As per the police version, its breaks failed. However, the CTU Director, Mr Arun Sekhri, counters the police version saying the General Manager of the CTU had examined the vehicle and its breaks were found to be in order. Mr Sekhri said it was an error of judgement as one of the vehicles ahead of the bus suddenly stopped causing the accident.

The employees union and the CTU authorities have different reasons to tell for the vehicles being involved in fatal accidents. But lives are being lost on the city roads.

CTU Employees Union President Ranjit Singh says short period to cover distances, heavy workload on drivers and workshop workers are the main reasons behind rising accidents with the CTU buses.

Ranjit Singh says that a driver is supposed to cover one km in two-and-a-half minute as per the norms laid down decades back. He said this time limit has been putting a tremendous pressure on drivers. The shortage of time as a reason for the accidents has also been confirmed by the Accident Cell of the Chandigarh Traffic Police. Around 40 batches of the drivers have been trained by the Accident Cell and all of them had told their instructors about the shortage of time to cover a distance. Ranjit Singh said the time was fixed when there were virtually no traffic signals and very few vehicles on the roads. This speed could not be maintained now, he said.

As many as 418 CTU buses are plying. Out of them, 208 are plying on 150 city routes. As many as 150 post of drivers and 120 of mechanics are lying vacant for the past 10 years while the fleet size has substantially increased. Drivers are forced to work overtime as there are no relievers for them at times due to shortage of staff. The drivers, according to Ranjit Singh, have not been paid overtime for a year.

Mr Sekhri sees nothing unusual in the accidents saying that 400 odd CTU vehicles are plying on roads and during the investigation it is found out that in large number of cases the fault has been of the other road user. The Director said the drivers are punished if their fault is found.

CTU staff’s problems apart, they also seem to be lacking in training as pointed out by the Accident Cell. The sources said a good number of the old CTU driving staff lacked in driving aptitude as most of them did not even know all roads signs. The sources said there needs to be a specialised training for drivers of the mass transport vehicles.



Consumer awareness camp held
Our Correspondent

Mohali, November 22
Consumers were made aware of their rights at a camp organised by the Consumers Protection and Grievances Redressal Forum at Government Secondary School at Mataur village here today.

Speakers at the camp told the gathering that complaints under the Consumer Act could be made if any loss was suffered due to unfair trade practice, if the goods purchased suffered from any defect or if the price charged was in excess of the price displayed on the item.

Mr H.S. Walia, a retired judge of the consumer forum, Chandigarh, while giving various examples of how damages were claimed by customers in various cases, said that Ropar district should have more than one consumer court. He said most of the complaints were related to Mohali and people often were reluctant to go to Ropar to file a case in the consumer court there. Society could be changed for the better only if such cases were filed in the courts and nobody was allowed to exploit consumers, he added.

Mr Bir Devinder Singh, Kharar MLA, praised the efforts of the forum in spreading awareness about consumer rights among the public. He said that more effective measures should be adopted in this regard.

Mr R.S. Bhatia, Director, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Chandigarh, explained that the BIS was a consumer-friendly organisation. By giving ISI marks to various goods, it was providing security, safety and surety of quality in the interest of consumers. He advised that Hall-marked gold should be purchased as it standardised the purity of gold.

Col H.S. Sangha (retd), chairman of the forum, said that the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) had started clubbing power meters in houses, which had more than one meter. This had caused resentment among the residents. The forum approached the PSEB authorities and got the matter solved in favour of the residents.

Mr S.S. Goraya, president of the complaints committee of the forum, said that a number of complaints had been got settled through negotiations with dealers and departments concerned.



Nabard nod on tubewells
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, November 22
The district Administration has got consent from Nabard for setting up tubewells in the Doon area of the district. This will ensure that there is no problem of drinking water in the area.

This was stated by the Deputy Commissioner while addressing a gathering at the open darbar organised at Badgodam village today. She said the administration and the state government were working to ensure that drinking water facilities , education, health and irrigation facilities were available to all.

As many as 92 complaints were received in the open darbar today. Most of the complaints were regarding power, water supply and pink ration cards issued to the poor.



Fauji Beat
India sans public information policy

THE media seminar held by Headquarters, Western Command, at Chandi Mandir from November 16-17 was a well-conducted exercise. But the Army should remember three basic points while interacting with the media.

First, it should avoid the risk of treading into the prohibitive provisions of the Central Government orders. Many senior officers have got into trouble for making statements which, when published, put them in an embarrassing position. A former Army Chief, Gen S. Padmanabhan, got an official snub for his remarks on “India’s nuclear capability and resolve if attacked by Pakistan with nuclear weapons”.

What the senior Army officers should remember is that they cannot take shelter under the instructions issued by Army Headquarters when the Central Government feels that their utterances are objectionable. The answer lies in approaching the government at the level of three Service Chiefs to get the prohibitive Army Rule 21, which has travelled down from the Raj days, suitably amended.

Another point made in the seminar that the JCOs and other ranks should be allowed to interact with the media can put the Army into serious trouble. Many an eyebrow was raised among participants on this statement.

The third point is that there is no public information policy in existence in India. In its absence. You cannot decide what should or should not be disclosed to the media. It is wrong to think that the Army can formulate a media policy on its own.

Yeoman service by polyclinic

The defence veterans’ polyclinic, Mohali, the first of its kind in India, was inaugurated on December 11,2002, by Lieut-Gen JFR Jacob (Retd), the then Governor of Punjab. It is staffed by a number of dedicated ex-Army Medical Corps (AMC) officers and is headed by Brig (Dr) M.L. Kataria, who is an untiring veteran of 85 years.

Apart from providing health care at Mohali, the polyclinic has also been holding camps in Ropar district. Its two recent camps were organised at Gurdwaras Chamkor Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib from November 10 to 14, in commemoration of the tercentenary martyrdom day of the four Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh. More than 1,000 patients, including children, ex-servicemen, their dependents, war widows and orphans attended these camps. A team of specialists, such as cardiologists, gynaecologists, paediatricians and dental surgeons, etc examined them. The team was led by Brig Kataria who is also the Chairman of Health Care India. Some of these specialists were Col Udai Singh, Col N.K. Bhatia (both retired), Dr A.S. Gujral, Dr Santosh Aneja, Dr Varinderjit Kaur and Dr Damanjit Kaur. Besides providing treatment, the patients were given free medicines. A team of retired defence officers was of great help in organising these camps.

The polyclinic, Mohali, has provided health care to 25,000 patients, in addition to 5,000 dental patients. It has carried out over 20,000 laboratory tests, 1,500 ECG and 1,200 X-ray examinations.

Admission to Army schools

The grandchildren of serving/retired Army personnel can be admitted to the Army schools and public schools vide Article 193 (f) of the Army Welfare Education Society (AWES) rules and regulations, Volume 1. Though Army Headquarters issued clear instructions quite some time ago, ex-servicemen are still raising queries on this issue.

Since the grandchildren of serving and retired Army personnel cannot be treated on a par with the children of serving/retired personnel, they will be charged the same fee as the civilian children pay.

ECHS subscriptions

Doubts still exist about the categories exempted from payment of Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) subscriptions. It is clarified that all those who are in receipt of liberalised family pension are exempted from payment of these subscriptions.

These categories broadly are war widows (in case of their death, their dependent children), husbands of deceased women officers, parents. i.e. mother and father of unmarried deceased soldiers. If they are not alive, then the next of kin (NOK) of the deceased unmarried soldiers.

— Pritam Bhullar



Jain challenges Congress to debate
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
The BJP today charged the Congress with going back on its election promises made to the public. Addressing a press conference at the BJP party office in Sector 33, here today, the senior BJP leader and former Member of Parliament, Mr Satya Pal Jain, challenged the Congress to open debate on achievements of both parties.

Citing examples, Mr Jain said after promising no property tax in the city during elections, the Congress imposed a tax on the public after being voted to power. “I apprehend that this tax would rise further in the coming days. They promised to issue identity cards within three months of coming to power. While that is yet to be accomplished, the fine has been hiked from Rs 300 to Rs 800,” he said.

While residences outside the lal dora in various villages were yet to be regularised, Mr Jain said for the first time, demolitions had been carried out inside the constructed houses. He said that no alternative site had been given to schools functioning in residential areas.

“Instead, the UT Administration has slapped notices saying that they produce affidavits stating that the schools will close down by March failing which their power and water supply would be disconnected,” Mr Jain stated.

Terming price rise in essential commodities as “betrayal of faith” of the people who voted for the Congress, Mr Jain said that neither the Prime Minister nor the Home Minister had any time to understand the problems of the city.

He maintained that law and order, sanitation, street-lights and roads were all in bad shape and things had deteriorated after the Congress came to power at the Centre. He urged the Home Minister to hold an all-party meeting to discuss local issues and change by-laws, which would allow running of schools in residential areas till they were allotted alternative sites.



Tribune impact
Highway clearing in Zirakpur ordered
Challaning to begin today
Bipin Bhardwaj

Zirakpur, November 22
The Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Dera Bassi today visited the Zirakpur market and conducted a survey of the encroachments that have come up along the Panchkula-Patiala and Chandigarh-Ambala highways over the past six months in violation of Punjab and Haryana High Court guidelines.

The SDM, Mr Narinder Sangha, directed the encroachers to clear the roads or face stringent action. He visited the area following a report highlighting the problem in Chandigarh Tribune today.

Earlier, the SDM chaired a meeting attended by Mr Manmohan Kumar Sharma, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mr Narinder Sharma, president of the Zirakpur Nagar Panchayat, Mr Girish Verma, Executive Officer, and Mr A.S. Ghuman, Station House Officer, Dera Bassi. He asked the officials to chalk out a plan to regulate the traffic on the Zirakpur-Dera Bassi stretch of the Kalka-Ambala highway so that the congestion could be removed.

He also directed the officers to remove the encroachments on the highway and on government land within the civic body limits. The SDM also took a round of the Dhakauli and Bartana areas and asked the civic body authorities to tackle the problem regarding the parking of trucks there.

Talking to Chandigarh Tribune, Mr Manmohan Sharma, DSP, Dera Bassi, said eight police personnel had been attached with the Enforcement Wing of the Zirakpur Nagar Panchayat for the removal of the encroachments.

Motorists found obstructing the road would be challaned under Section 283, IPC, tomorrow onwards. He also appealed to the motorists to follow the traffic rules and avoid challans.



Death mourned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
The Chandigarh Chapter of The Navy Foundation has mourned the death of one of its senior-most member, Cmde R.S. Mundi, who died of cardiac arrest at Command Hospital, Chandimandir, in the early hours today. He was also the foundation's secretary.



Goods worth Rs 80,000 stolen from house
Our Correspondent

Mohali, November 22
Thieves decamped with gold ornaments, cash, watches and cameras, worth more than Rs 80,000, from a house in Sector 69 here. The theft came to the notice of the houseowners when they returned to their residence from Tarn Taran last night.

Ms Roopinder Jeet Kuar, Daughter of the houseowner, Mr H.S. Lehiri, said the thieves had taken away one gold set weighing around 6 tolas, cash totalling Rs 26,000, two wrist watches and two imported cameras.

The thieves entered the premises after scaling the front boundary wall. The lock on a bedroom door was broken to get into the building. The lock that was removed from the door was found lying in the staircase. The thieves searched box-type beds, trunks and almirahs in the three bedrooms. Clothes and other items, including purses, were seen lying scattered in the house. They also searched the kitchen from where dry fruit was found missing.

Mr Lehiri said the family had gone to attend a marriage at Tarn Taran on November 13 and came back last night. He said they got to know from the main gate itself that some theft had taken place as they saw the light on. The family had cut off power from the main switch before leaving for Tarn Taran. He said the police was immediately informed about the theft and they entered the house only after the police arrived to take stock of the situation. He said as the main switch had been put off, the thieves used match sticks to move about in the house before they put the main power switch on. Burnt match sticks were seen lying in different rooms of the house.



Pedestrian killed in mishap
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
A 20-year-old pedestrian and the lone son of his parents was killed when he was hit by a car on the dividing road of Sector 16 and 17 here this evening.

Vishal Puri was walking down to the Sector 16 General Hospital, where his parents worked, when the car driven by a Mohali resident, Vijay Sharma, hit him. Vijay Sharma and his sister with the help of another passer-by lifted an injured Vishal and took him to the hospital where he was declared brought dead.

Vijay was coming from the Matka chowk side.

The driver of the car has been arrested and bailed out. The car (CH-03-7888) has been impounded.



Two court officials trapped by CBI
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
The CBI today trapped an assistant and a clerk of the District Courts here for allegedly demanding Rs 1,000 as bribe to allow the complainant in the case to see a file in the court.

Assistant Avtar Singh and clerk Harnek Singh were arrested when they received the money from the complainant. However, the police trap was marked by high drama. Raids on the houses of the two suspects were continuing till late in the night, sources in the CBI said. Nothing incriminating had been found till the filing of this report.

The sources said that Avtar Singh had received Rs 1,000 but threw the currency notes while climbing the steps in the court building. He suspected that he was being chased by a CBI team. But the CBI officials on the spot kept their cool to befool Avtar Singh. They did not react to the drama involving the complainant and the accused.

Avtar Singh then felt that he was not being followed by the CBI after all and sent Harnek Singh to retrieve the currency notes from near the steps. Harnek Singh collected the money in front of the CBI team and took it to Avtar Singh’s room. The CBI team followed him. As soon as Avtar Singh took the money in his hands, the CBI team nabbed him.

The sources said the complainant had told the CBI that Avtar Singh had been demanding Rs 1,000 from him to allow him to see a file. The complainant had already got permission from the Section Officer to see the file and a noting had also been made on the file to this effect.

The complainant alleged that Avtar Singh had been demanding “kharcha paani,” but he could not understand the message. When he asked the assistant as to what “kharcha paani” meant, he was told he would have to shell out Rs 1,000. The complainant agreed to make the payment, but Avtar Singh allegedly kept on delaying the process. During this period, the complainant approached the CBI.


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