C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Shave off privatisation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 27
Over 50 employees of the Regional Passport Office (RPO) here got their heads tonsured today to protest against the privatisation of the passport offices in the country. The call was given by the All-India Passport Employees Association.

Raising slogans against the government, the employees got their heads tonsured in front of the office of the RPO. A spokesman of the association said initially the plan was that a few employees would get their heads tonsured to register their protest but when it started other employees also joined in.

The employees said since 1985 the workload had increased by 200 per cent whereas 200 posts in group C had been lying vacant for the past four years. To cope with the workload the employees have been working even on holidays.

The spokesman said the work with regard to detail entry of applicant, scanning of photograph, printing and lamination of passport, dispatch of passport, linking of police report to the files and preparation of file at the counter was being privatised by the Ministry of External Affairs.

The employees have been agitating for the past few days in this regard.

In a representation to the Joint Secretary-cum-Chief Passport Officer, Ministry of External Affairs, the employees’ association has decried the awarding of passport related work to private contractors, introduction of new system of accepting applications in passport offices, non-implementation of written agreements and denial to have formal dialogue with the representatives of the employees.



An arduous journey but worth the fight: Rupan
Gayatri Rajwade
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 27
The sentiment is one of relief for Ms Rupan Deol Bajaj, Financial Commissioner, Revenue, Punjab Government. After 17 long years, justice was finally delivered.

The Supreme Court today upheld the conviction of former Punjab DGP and President of the Indian Hockey Federation K.P.S. Gill on the charge of outraging the modesty of senior IAS woman officer Rupan Deol Bajaj.

A Bench comprising Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice B.N. Srikrishna dismissed Mr Gill’s appeal challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict holding him guilty of the charges levelled by Ms Bajaj.

Speaking about the verdict, Ms Bajaj said she felt vindicated by the judgment. “I just had to carry on. It was essential for the dignity of my office. If I had not protested then who is supposed to, my class IV employee or peon? I am a role model because of where I am, I just had to.”

She called it a landmark judgment, saying that it sent out a very positive signal, not only regarding the definition of “outraged modesty” but also for working women facing such challenges every single day.

“Imagine the message that would have gone down to every woman had the case fizzled out, and to every man that he could get away with anything.”

“Not a single lawyer did this for free but still I was very lucky to find them because nobody was willing initially to take up the case.” It has been an expensive, arduous journey but worth the fight.

However, senior advocate K.T.S. Tulsi, defence lawyer for Mr Gill, did not seem unduly perturbed. “This judgment is academic because Mr Gill did not suffer any disqualification. So the judgment is not of much significance.”

The incident goes seventeen years back, a time of terror and strife in Punjab. According to Mr Akhil Gautam, a senior journalist who was then a special correspondent with the Indian Post who broke the story.

The government had evolved a strategy of interaction with the media on selective basis to make it soften its stand towards the government, according to Gautam. “As part of this campaign a party was thrown by The Home Secretary, Punjab, Mr S.L. Kapur, who was also Secretary, Public Relations, and several journalists were invited. The incident happened there.

Ms Bajaj had alleged that Mr Gill, then DGP, had outraged her modesty at an official party thrown by the then Home Secretary, Mr S.L. Kapur, at his residence on July 18, 1988.

Gautam does not believe this verdict is a miracle even though it has come so late. “When someone is in power he can get a file dumped or put it away. You can destroy a terrorist not a file.”

The residents of the city have lauded the verdict.

Neelam Mansingh Chaudhary, theatre personality says “It has been a long brave struggle for treatment of women in public. The way law has upheld it, is incredible.”

Mr Ranjan Lakhanpal, a lawyer in the Punjab Haryana High Court and human rights activist, lauds Bajaj for her efforts in bringing the high profile super-cop to book. “But, I think he has gotten away lightly. It would have been better if the punishment had been enhanced.”

Chetna Sethi, a housewife in Mohali, says, “she is very proud of the way Bajaj has fought through all these years. She is very gritty woman and it is commendable that she did not lose courage over such a long period. I wish I could congratulate her!”

Navneet Kaur, another housewife living in Sector 22, says, “I wept when I heard the news on television. This is a reminder to all of us, to never let a cause down and to fight for what is right.”



Vehicles zip past police drive
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 27
Even though the Chandigarh Police claimed the continuation of drive against erring drivers of school buses, little was done by them to check violations like overspeeding — at least during the morning hours.

A survey of the city this morning revealed that the traffic police personnel were still not present at most of the intersections. Though the police had set up barricades on the roads leading to educational institutes on Tuesday afternoon following a mishap involving a school bus, cops were conspicuous by their absence in the early hours.

The sources in the police headquarters admitted that the rules made it mandatory for the buses not to exceed speed limit of 50 km per hour, yet vehicles could be seen zipping down the roads running through the length and breadth of the city.

A senior officer tried to deny the facts by stating that as many as nine school buses were challened for different violations. Besides this, action was initiated against the drivers of 41 autorickshaws for offences like overloading. As many as 12 autos were also impounded.

In an attempt to justify the absence of police officers, he said the Union Ministry of Home Affairs was to be blamed for the problem. Claiming acute shortage of manpower, the officer said a proposal for an increase in manpower was first forwarded in 1995. The proposal was again sent to the ministry in February 2004.

A sanction of 1081 posts for police stations and another 450 posts for the traffic police was sought. But the proposal was still pending with the ministry. Action had not been initiated on another proposal aimed at reorginsation of the traffic police force.

Meanwhile, sources in the state transport authority said senior officers were looking into the allegations of several conductors in school buses being minors. They added that a social organisation had claimed that most of the conductors in such buses were not licence-holders as they were underaged.

Referring to the directions issued by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in this regard, they said Mr Justice Swatenter Kumar and Mr Justice Sat Pal in civil writ petition number 7639 of 1995 had categorically ruled that licenses were mandatory for both the drivers and conductors of school buses.



Older people Bill raises hopes for the aged
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 27
After years of endurance, the 82 million elderly of India have something to look forward to. The much-awaited Care, Protection and Maintenance of Older People Bill, which was recently introduced in Parliament, has finally been sent to state governments for consultation.

And those at HelpAge India who worked hard to ensure that the Bill offered best possible amnesties to the aged are most upbeat about having crossed the first milestone along the road to “dignity for elders.”

In Chandigarh today on his maiden visit, HelpAge India’s Country Head and Chief Executive, Mr Mathew Cherian, discussed implications of the Bill with The Tribune. “Earlier, we succeeded in getting interest rate on savings by the elderly enhanced from 2.5 to 5 per cent. But our long term goals are centred round a befitting social security system for the aged.

Currently 92 per cent of Indian elderly have no social security. Hence the Care, Protection and Maintenance of Older People Bill is most important. It will enable parents to appeal for maintenance following abandonment by wards, besides empowering them to demand attachment of property assumed by wards,” said Mr Cherian, former country head of Oxfam.

Under the Bill, even District Collectors will be authorised to pass orders within 28 days of filing of the complaints by the elderly. Not just that, the Bill, for the first time in Indian history, will make reattachment of property in favour of aged possible.

Besides working with the government on the Bill, HelpAge India has also forwarded its report on “Standards for Old Age Homes” to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for country-wide implementation. Currently India has 7000 old age homes; 51 million poor elderly out of which 22 million are widows. In this scenario, the significance of old age homes cannot be underestimated.

Mr Cherian said, “In the absence of family support and social security, we are left with no alternative but to create more old age homes. But we must ensure best standards for Homes. HelpAge has special guidelines for standards in all the old age homes it supports. Currently we are supporting 204 homes, including some in the Tsunami affected areas of Tamil Nadu.”

To address the urgent issue of safety for the elderly, HelpAge has got sanctions for its helpline — 1253 — which is currently operational only in Chennai alone.

“We have met the Police Commissioner of Delhi and are hoping to start the helpline in Delhi soon.

Presently, Mr Cherian is most interested in the longevity of HelpAge’s age-care projects. He tells, “Lack of mobility is a major problem among the aged. So we run mobile medicare vans to facilitate their treatment. As for funds, most of our donors are individuals. Corporates are beginning to care now,” Mr Cherian said.



ETT pass-outs to be freed soon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh July 27
Mr Harnam Dass Johar, School Education Minister, Punjab, today said the detained unemployed Elementary Teachers Training (ETT) passouts, would be released soon.

As the state government had already lifted the ban on recruitments, the education department would also initiate the process to fill the existing vacancies shortly.

Mr Johar cautioned the ETT passouts to refrain from indulging in undemocratic and violent modes of demonstrations . He urged them to plead their cases with the authorities concerned.



Passing Thru

Hardeep Singh Dhillon
Hardeep Singh Dhillon, Inspector-
General of the Punjab Police, Jalandhar Zone, and secretary, Punjab Hockey Association.

What brings you here ?

I am here to watch the ongoing national hockey camp at the Sector 42 hockey stadium.

What is the status of hockey at the grassroot level in Punjab?

As hockey is our traditional game, children love to play it in Punjab. There is no dearth of talent, but the need is to show the players right direction to achieve big at the international level. Many coaching centres and academies at various places like Ferozepore, Moga, Ludhiana, Faridkot and Jalandhar.

What are the reasons of the deteriorating state of hockey in the country?

What I feel is that most of the players play the game merely for entertainment and lack commitment and hard work. This attitude has played a vital role in keeping the country away from medals. The scarcity of job opportunities for the sportspersons is the other reason. Lack of stadiums equipped with flood-lights, astro turfs and other necessary facilities also behind the declining standards of the game.

— Akash Ghai



Travel on this road at your own risk
Bipin Bhardwaj

Dera Bassi, July 27
The deplorable condition of the Ramgarh-Mubarikpur-Dera Bassi road has been putting thousands of commuters and motorists to great hardships for the last over a couple of years.

The condition of the road clearly reflects the indifferent attitude of the Punjab Government, and especially the Building and Roads wing of the Punjab Public Works Department (PPWD), in maintaining the road for public convenience. The sheer negligence on their part has forced residents of over a dozen villages of the area to travel on this stretch of the old Kalka-Ambala highway at their own risk.

The worst affected villages include Kakrali, Morthikari, Daffarpur, Mubarikpur, Pandwala, Kheri, Sundran, Trivedi Camp, Meerpur, Bhankharpur, Haibatpura and Saidpura. All theses villages fall along the road and villagers. Similar is the condition of the Bhankharpur-Mubarikpur road.

Knee-deep potholes have developed on these roads and plying of vehicles has become difficult for motorists. Slush, accumulated on roads, has made the road accident prone for two-wheeler riders. To walk along the road is not only difficult but also impossible at certain places for pedestrians.

Residents of the areas point out though Ms Preneet Kaur, Member of Parliament from Patiala, laid the foundation stones for the repair of these roads on March 30, not even a single pothole has been repaired till date.

Members of the Mubarikpur Stone Crushers Association complained that they had been facing huge losses due to the shattered roads as vehicles, loaded with gravel and other construction material, often develop faults due to deep potholes on the road.

Mr Suresh Gupta, president of the BJP, Dera Bassi block, alleged that the Congress Government had been cheating innocent public by making false promises. “I had heard of foundation stone laying ceremonies for new roads or commission of new roads to public but not foundation stone laid for the repair of any road,” pointed out Mr Gupta.

A former sarpanch of Meerpur village, Mr Kartar Singh, complained that the roads have not only damaged their vehicles but have also proved death-traps.



City under heavy air
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 27
The city has witnessed an increase in air pollution during the summer months preceeding the monsoon. Officials quote a reduction of at least 30 per cent in the pollution levels during July.

The increased number of motor vehicles on the city roads has led to a heavy increase in air pollution in the city air. It may be less than the metropolitan cities of the country, yet the figures here show the respirable particulate matter(RPM) and the suspended particulate matter(SPM) far above the permissible levels.

A data of the Chandigarh Pollution Control Board shows that the city air recorded 156 micrograms per metre cube for RPM against the prescribed standard of 120 in June in Industrial Area.

The recordings for January, April and May read as 146, 139 and 156 micrograms per metre cube, respectively.

The reading was 131 in Sector 17 against the permissible level of 60 in June.

The data for SPM showed a recording of 515, 382 and 438 micrograms per metre cube for April, May and June, respectively, in the Industrial Area.

The permissible level here is 360. The reading in Sector 17 was 327, 323 and 372 micrograms in April, May and June, respectively, against 140.

The Central Pollution Control Board has reported Chandigarh as one of the 14 cities with critical level of SPM in residential areas.

But a senior official of the board said air pollution in the city was far less than many metropolitan cities. One of the reasons for this was fewer industries.

But at the same time the city has the highest number of vehicles per family in the country.

Official data shows that the number of vehicles in the city has increased more than 10 times since 1981. The vehicles in the city were estimated at 5,22,435 in 2001.

“I am appalled to see certain CTU buses going empty. The local populace prefers travelling in their vehicles,” the official said.

Mr Amritpal Singh, a local resident, disagrees. “When I can afford the luxury of a car why should I not avail of it.

The government in the first step should reduce the number of official vehicles and then talk about the residents”.



Manjot booked in false case,
claims human rights counsel

Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, July 27
Representatives of Lawyers for Human rights International (LHRI) today alleged the alleged kidnapping of Sector 34 resident Manjot Kaur by the Punjab Police cops as a blatant abuse of human rights. They also alleged that the Punjab Police had implicated the innocent woman in a false Explosive Act case.

Addressing the mediapersons here today counsels of Manjot Kaur and the representatives of the LHRI stated that the Punjab Police had implicated Manjot Kaur in a false case by claiming that the police had arrested Manjot Kaur from Bassi Pathana bus stand yesterday at around 4:30 pm with 500 gm of RDX and two detonators. The police had also claimed that a search of the woman had led to recovery of the RDX from her purse. Manjot was reportedly produced before a court of CJM G.S. Dhillon in Fatehgarh Sahib today, who remanded her in two days of police custody.

Addressing the media LHRI spokespersons alleged that the Chandigarh Police had also acted in the conspiracy with the Punjab Police. They alleged that the local police was informed about the incident well in time, when the Punjab Police cops allegedly kidnapped the innocent woman from her residence on Tuesday at around 4:30, but they did not take any action. Later the Punjab Police showed her arrest from Bassi Pathana.

The Punjab Police had been looking for Harmohinder Singh in connection with his being an associate of Jagtar Singh Hawara.

Mr Amar Singh Chahal, family’s lawyer, yesterday said Manjot’s husband Harmohinder Singh, a Sector 27-based dealer of paper mart, had been lodged in Burail Jail for two days in connection with a CBI case in the end of 2003. Harmohinder Singh at that time had reportedly met Hawara and might have given his phone number to Hawara. The police had recovered Hawara’s telephone diary containing Harmohinder’s phone and was trying to link him with Hawara.

Mr Navkiran Singh, another LHRI lawyer, claimed that he had yesterday received a phone call from the woman at around 4:30 pm on his mobile phone that a police party, comprising two clean-shaven policemen, including one tall, heavy-built man accompanied by three gunmen, along with a woman in yellow suit, came to her home and started banging on the front door. He said she asked him as what to do and he told her to let them enter. After that he received another call mentioning that the cops had taken Manjot Kaur along saying that they were taking her to Sector 34 police station.

Mr Navkiran Singh alleged that when the family called the PCR on 100, they told them to wait for some time and then report the matter to the Sector 34 police station.

He further added that they had earlier met the Punjab Governor with regards to the abuse of human rights by the Punjab police. They had requested the Governor to take action against arrested individuals on the basis of gravity of offence committed by them, rather booking them blindly for sedition and other grave charges.



ATM trouble in city
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 27
City residents today faced inconvenience while carrying out cash transactions at ATMs following disruption in computerised banking services. Incessant rains in Mumbai are being cited as the reason behind the problem.

The servers of the main computers installed at the headquarters of leading private and public sector banks like HDFC, IDBI, ICICI, State Bank of India and UTI in Mumbai reportedly failed to function this morning due to some technical snag, the managers of some of the banks here said, thereby rendering the ATMs dysfunctional in the city.

“I could not withdraw money this morning even as I waited for over an hour at the ATM counter,” said Pankaj, an executive who has an account in the State Bank of India. Customers of few other banks also had similar stories to tell but they too were assured by the respective authorities that the ATMs would be functional by tomorrow.

“Mumbai is the hub of our transactions. So any problem in the business capital is bound to affect the connectivity of the banking systems here,” said an official of the IDBI Bank.

It was easy for the IndusInd account holders as they have a second connectivity switch in Hyderabad and hence there was no problem in data transmission.

However, most of the ATMs started functioning by the evening.



7/7 hit race ties, says Dr Dhillon
Tribune News Service

Mohali, July 27
“Asians living in the UK are a frightened lot today. After the London blasts, there is a palpable difference in the behaviour of the Whites towards Asians,” said Dr Soraya Dhillon, Dean and Head of School of Pharmacy at the University of Hertfordshire, UK.

Dr Dhillon is a third-generation Indian Sikh settled in the UK. Her grandfather shifted to UK in the 1920s. “Though personally I have not been seen any change in behaviour by the British towards the Asians but one hears on radio programmes that there is a change. But the worst hit among Asians are the Muslims,” she said, adding that the British population, which was otherwise extremely tolerant, did not recognise various cultural differences among the Asians.

“The Islamic population had an almost impossible task to convince the government that extremists were responsible for these incidents and not normal Muslims. As far as the non-Islamic Asians are concerned we are all united and showing complete solidarity with the local population. We are coping with the situation through joint messages being issued by our leaders and through our local councilors,” said Dr Dhillon.

Dr Dhillon was in Mohali today to deliver a lecture at the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, (NIPER).

When asked if their normal life was affected after the blasts, Dr Dhillon said: “For my teenage daughter, London is her entire world. On the day of the second blasts she was just a few blocks away from the site. There is a concern for safety but then life moves on.”



Storm water drain gets F & CC nod

Chandigarh, July 27
The Finance and Contract Committee (F and CC) of the Municipal Corporation today approved the laying of additional storm water drains in Sector 43-B and approved the auction of a parking site adjoining Nirman Theatre. This parking was with the theatre earlier.

It also fixed the reserve price for the circus ground, Sector 17, and the ground in Sector 34. A parking in Sector 26 area for trucks was also given the nod. The members also approved boring of tubewells in Sector 42-A, 35, 22 and 25. Though the item has been cleared in principle, a clarification has been sought about its location.

Taking up the requirement of the electricial wing of the corporation, the F and CC also cleared the purchase of two hydraulic platforms, carpeting of the V6 road in Sector 43-A, V5 in Sector 33, V6 in Sector 37-D and acquiring of an excavator-cum-loader. TNS



Adarsh jodi for 25 yrs
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, July 27
Jaipal Behl and Asha Rani Behl, have been living together for the past 25 years. And they are still in love.

Therefore it was no wonder that the couple achieved an ‘iconic’ status. But the biggest recognition came when the star-studded team of Mahesh Manjrekar’s film ‘Virudh’ zeroed in on Jaipal and Asha Rani.

They were chosen as the ‘adarsh jodi’ by the flick team. Applications had been invited from the ideal couples living together for a quarter century or more! They were asked for a write up on their relationship in 400 words. Out of these only five ‘adarsh jodis’ were selected.

Jaipal and Asha’s straight from-the-heart story moved the judges. “We were sent three tickets by Star Plus to go to Mumbai before the premier of ‘Virudh’. We along with our son, were given star reception. We were welcomed by John Abraham Abhishek, Sharmila Tagore and Amitabh Bachchan and Mahesh Manjrekar. We stayed in a five-star hotel and had fun filled moments together”.



Three vehicles thieves held
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, July 27
Three city youths, who used to steal two-wheelers at night using duplicate keys have been arrested by the local police. The police said the accused used to abandon the vehicles at secluded places in the city after committing thefts.

Ranjit Singh of Mauli Jagran and Suresh, alias Kala and Dharambir, both residents of Mauli Complex in Mani Majra, were arrested last evening while riding on a stolen motor cycle from a picket near Telephone Exchange in Mani Majra. The accused, on seeing a police party, tried to speed away, but were nabbed. The police today claimed to have solved six cases of thefts in the city and several in the adjoining region, with the arrests of these accused. The police also claimed to recover eight two-wheelers from their possession.

During the interrogation the accused reportedly confessed to have stolen eight two-wheelers. The police later recovered the vehicles from various parts of the city and registered a case against them. They were today produced before a local court, which send them to two days’ of police custody.

Ranjit, said his parents had disowned him. So he took to stealing. Suresh also narrated the same story. Dharambir had joined them recently and has no police record against him.

Ranjit said they did not have a driving license. He also added that they were never caught by the traffic police as they used to drive during late hours.

The DSP also said that since the accused belonged to the low strata of the society and were uneducated they did not sell the vehicles for the fear of getting caught. The accused were also said to be involved in petty thefts and used to steal things from shops in the slums and other areas in the region.

Stolen vehicles recovered from accused. Motor cycle (HR-03-D-2884), Enfield Bullet (CH-03-E-7358), Hero Honda Motor cycle (CH-01-L-9930), Kawasaki Bajaj (HR-03-A-7911), LML Aderno Motor cycle (DL-8SN-6180), Yamaha Motor cycle (HR-03-D-6047), TVS Scooty (CH-01-R-1083), and TVS Victor Motor cycle (CH-03-L-6434).



Courier co. employee held on theft charge
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, July 27
A 17-year-old boy, working in a courier company, was today arrested by the local police on a charge of stealing a mobile phone.

The SHO of Sector 26 police station said the accused, a resident of Kishangarh village, was working in a Sector 9-based courier company. On July 25, a resident of Sector 7 Mr S.D. Sharma, an IAS Officer posted in Haryana, lodged a complaint that a boy had come to his residence to deliver a courier. His wife, Ms Manoj Sharma, asked the boy to come in as he wanted to get her signatures.

Mr Sharma alleged that his wife noticed later that her mobile phone was missing after the boy had left. They reported the matter to the police.

The police working on the clue contacted the courier company and traced the boy. The mobile phone was recovered from him.

A case has been registered in this regard. The accused was produced before a local court, which remanded him in judicial custody till August 4. He was sent to the juvenile home in Sector 15 today.



Two bodies found in Sec 24
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, July 27
Two bodies were found in Sector 24 today. One is that of a 30-year-old resident of Janata Colony while the other has not been identified.

A highly decomposed body of a clean-shaven man in his mid-thirties was found from near Saini Bhavan in Sector 24 this morning. The body had decayed beyond recognition. The police sources said no document was found which could help identify it.

The body has been kept in the mortuary of the General Hospital, Sector 16.

The other body was that of Babu Ram, a resident of Janata Colony. He was found dead at a bus stop near Himachal Bhavan in Sector 24. The police, quoting his relative, said Babu was a drug addict.

The police has initiated inquest proceedings in both cases.



Migrant crushed to death
Our Correspondent

Panchkula, June 27
An unidentified migrant labourer was crushed to death under a truck on the Kalka-Ambala highway in Chuna Bhatti near Chandimandir this afternoon.

According to the police, the truck driver had crushed the head of the person following which the body could not be identified. The body was sent to the General Hospital, Sector 6, for postmortem.

The driver escaped from the scene after the accident. A case of negligent and rash driving was registered.


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