C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Dera Bassi villages bear brunt of industrial waste
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, October 22
The scourge of chemicals from industries in Dera Bassi tehsil is hitting human beings, animals and plants in a big way in villages located on the banks of seasonal rivulets. The water here is not blue. The stench from the coagulated dark fluid on stagnant waters, consisting largely of effluent from milk and meat factories, is seeping deep into the core of the earth. The water from handpumps smells, raising questions about its fitness for human and animal consumption.

Residents of villages across the tehsil say that the industry in the area had thrown their life out of gear over the past about five years. The latest addition to the public woes are flies, courtesy more than two dozen poultry farms in the belt. Keep a plate of an eatable or milk in the open and within a minute it will turn black with the swarming flies.

The most-affected belt consists of villages around the seasonal rivulets, including Kheri Gujran, Mukandpur, Haripur Koora, Dandrala, Miyanpur, Aaganpur and Bijanpur. The story is not different about 15 km down the belt at Tiwana village.

Villagers have sent repeated requests to the Pollution Control Board but to no avail. A letter signed by nearly five sarpanches and same number of panches was forwarded to the Punjab State Pollution Board in September 2004. “We are still waiting for some response,” Mr Karam Chand, sarpanch of Haripur Kooda, said.

The High and the Primary schools at Mukandpur village have closed the water pumps for the students, saying it was unfit for human consumption. Mr Mamraj, lambardar of Mukandpur, said, “Even the water of the handpumps at the depth of nearly 50 feet stinks and is definitely affected by the pollution. I want the authorities to get it checked.”

Representatives from the Cepham Milk Specialities have visited the village on more than two occasions and expressed their concern for the villagers. A communication reads “we are working on the detailed project to get rid of this nuisance. We are deeply concerned and religiously interested in getting the problem solved”.

Capt Kanwaljit, local MLA, visited Mukandpur village on Wednesday. Talking to The Tribune, he said, “I am deeply concerned about the safety of the people and the land. I organised a protest dharna against the government inaction recently. I am meeting officials of the Pollution Control Board on Monday and in case of no action, I will have no option but to launch a massive agitation and will not relent till public safety is ensured on ground”.

Mr Paramjit Singh, resident of Dera Bassi, said, “The pollution in the area was largely because of effluents from the industries. The water bed even in the dry season is full of stagnant and smelling dark waters. Whenever, there is a sight of small clouds, we feel water gushing in the rivulets which we feel was largely released by the industries in anticipation of a heavy rain to clear the waste. I am not sure if anyone of them has any functional effluent treatment plants.”

Ms Shakuntala Devi, sarpanch of Mukandpur village, said, “The yield of the milch cattle has decreased. Flies are a very discomforting feature for the life of the cattle. They cannot even stand normally and the yield has been heavily affected.”

Mr Balbir Singh, sarpanch of Miyanpur, said, “We have made repeated requests to the authorities to get the water samples of our water tested by the pollution board. If not now, in the long run the industrial waste is going to affect the entire area because of the impact of pollution on land and the water.”

Mr Raja Ram, a resident of Tiwana village, said,” Public voice needs a common platform and it needs a leader of a substance different from the current leaders to lend a voice.”



Transfer of powers eyewash, says Mayor
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 22
The Municipal Corporation has declared a virtual war against the UT Administration in view of Administration’s notification seeking the transfer of power of various departments. Claiming that the notification is “a mere eye-wash to hoodwink” the officials of the Home Ministry, the Mayor, Ms Anu Chatrath, said it encouraged “dual control”.

Addressing a press conference in the presence of various councillors, here today, Ms Chatrath said the notification “transferred a lot of responsibility without any provision of funds and was devoid of actual control”.

“The UT Administration has transferred the Registration of Births and Deaths Department to us but the Director, Health Services, UT, has been made the Registrar. They have changed V3 roads to state highways to retain control while other roads have been given to us. It is worth checking what considerations have gone into retaining these roads. A layman is not expected to know which road, which streetlight and which department lies where between the two of us,” she said.

Ms Chatrath said while the Administration had retained all old schools and hospitals, it had laid down in the notification that the MC would build all such new institutions.

“Where is the land for that and after we receive a demand, we will have to check up with the UT Administration on where the land is available. It is all a big mix-up that the UT Administration has worked out. Also, out of the total powers transferred to us through this notification, the MC already had 22 of these,” the Mayor maintained.

In fact, this duality of control was the most exhaustively discussed subject at the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee as also at the meeting of the Home Minister’s Advisory Committee, she said.

“The Home Ministry had clearly directed the transfer of all powers under Schedule 12 of the 74th Amendment. They had recommended doing away with the duality of control since it is a hindrance in fixing responsibility for any laxity also. Contrary to this, the UT Administration has gone all out to bring in duality of control even in departments where none existed. We will not tolerate this usurpation of our powers and will approach the UT Administrator and even the Home Minister and the Prime Minister to get what is our right,” Ms Chatrath maintained.

Stating that they could maintain streetlights of the city in one-fourth the cost that they were paying to the Administration for the maintenance of the same, the Mayor held that they had not been given any revenue-generating departments to be able to do something but had been loaded with a lot of expense-oriented departments.

“Probably, the Governor is not being given a true picture about the functioning of the corporation. We will meet him and explain our position. We know the ground reality since we are in touch with the people. The bureaucrats are neither responsive nor responsible to the public. They have cooked up this notification to present before a delegation of the Home Minister’s Advisory Committee, expected to be in the city on October 28,” she concluded.

Meanwhile, reacting to the observation made by the Mayor and councillors, an official of the Chandigarh Administration said the funds would be sanctioned to the MC according to the recommendations of the Financial Commission.

“Movement of powers will take a little time. We have shifted the Registration of Birth and Death to MC. This is just the beginning. Gradually, all control will go to them.” 



Burail jail inmate ‘beaten up’ by staff
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 22
Officials of the high-security Burail Jail here are at it again. This time there are allegations of beating a jail inmate against them, bringing their functioning under a cloud.

Rajesh, alias Raja, who is in judicial custody, was allegedly beaten up by certain jail employees, here today reportedly without “any provocation”. Rajesh, who was produced in a court, alleged that a jail official wanted him to change his counsels, Mr Amar Singh Chahal, and Mr Arvind Thakur.

“When I refused to change my counsels, I was mercilessly beaten up with belts,” Rajesh, who had lashes on his back, alleged.

Meanwhile, high drama was witnessed in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Ms Neerja Kulwant Kalson, with his counsels alleging that Rajesh was brutally beaten up this morning and he had received injuries on his back and legs.

He is not being given food since October 14 as a result of which he had developed breathing problems, the application before court added.

Ms Kalson ordered that the medical examination of the accused be done at General Hospital in Sector 16, which was conducted at the hospital in the afternoon.

Rajesh was recently booked by the Chandigarh police for allegedly scaling the wall of the Burail Jail to meet his wife inside the jail complex. While the police says that Rajesh tried to jeopardise the jail security, he, on the other hand, claims that he went to the jail to meet his wife. He also alleges that he was being prevented from meeting his wife by her father, who is a jail employee.

Meanwhile, the alleged high-handedness of the jail staff had evoked sharp reaction from the human rights organisations. Mr Arvind Thakur, who is also the general secretary of the Lawyers for Human Rights International demanded a probe into the functioning of the jail.

Mr Thakur alleged that a particular jail official was miffed at LHRI campaign against various acts of omission and commission of jail officials. That was the reason he wanted the accused to change the counsels.



Passing Thru

Soumendra Nath Bose
Soumendra Nath Bose, vice-president, Haryana Aban Power Company Limited

What projects is the Haryana Aban Power Company undertaking in Haryana?

We are setting up a 1065 MW gas power plant in Faridabad. The power plant is being set up at an estimated cost of Rs 3400 crore. We will construct the plant and operate it for 30 years. After generation starts, we will supply 800 MW of power to Haryana, and sell the remaining to Power Trading Corporation.

Are gas-based power plants better than thermal power generation?

There is a shortage of coal because of decline in production, and even transporting coal is a problem. Plus, thermal generation releases pollutants in the air. Till the time nuclear power generation becomes a reality, gas-based generation is ideal.

What prompted Aban Power to start power generation in Haryana?

We are a Chennai-based company involved in several power generation ventures. Haryana is one of the most progressive states and it gives all privileges to allow private participation, unlike other states that have too much of red tape.

— Ruchika M. Khanna



Love pitted against honour
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 22
Nothing is known of the 26-year-old Jaspreet Kaur, allegedly detained in her own house for the past two years. Trapped between family honour and love, she was forcibly brought back from Gurgaon where she was a call centre employee. Later, she was illegally confined to the house by her father and brother who allegedly brutalised her for loving a man from another caste and hoping to marry him.

Despite desperate attempts to seek justice, Jaspreet has not won back her lost freedom. Her fate has been unknown since October 20 when her father and brother appeared before the Punjab and Haryana High Court and said they did not know where she was. They were replying to a habeas corpus petition filed in the High Court as the last ditch attempt to rescue Jaspreet.

Earlier this year, Jaspreet had made an SOS call to the Chairman, Punjab Human Rights Commission, but no action was taken to rescue her due to “technical reasons”. Jaspreet’s life worsened after that, with her father and brother allegedly shifting her around and torturing her.

She was mercilessly beaten up and not allowed to seek medical help — as is stated in the letter dated May 7, 2005 which she somehow managed to post to Ms Veena Sharma, a human rights activist. Now a petitioner in the habeas corpus case, Veena Sharma apprehends danger to Jaspreet’s life. She says, “It is a peculiar case of family honour pitched against love. The girl’s family will just not let her go. Our requests have fallen on deaf ears.”

In the letter, Jaspreet has given shocking details of how she was brutalised by her brother who warned her to stay away from Praveen Johri, her love interest in Delhi. “They threatened to kill Praveen if I met him. They said they would falsely implicate him if I didn’t forget him.

My brother keeps beating me up. On May 16 last year he started beating me with a stick at 9.30 pm and went on for an hour. I was not given medical help. My freedom has been curbed. I request you to rescue me”: Jaspreet mentioned in the complaint which was filed before the Punjab Human Rights Commission in May. The complaint was dismissed on grounds that cognizance could be taken only if it was filed before an SSP.

The matter is now before the High Court, where Veena Sharma filed the habeas corpus on August 14. The court earlier directed warrant officer who would search for Jaspreet. It also directed that she be allowed to go anywhere, if she is a major. The notice was issued to the girl’s father and brother for August 29 but they refused to receive it. Finally, it had to be served through an SHO.

The respondents finally appeared before the High Court on October 20 only to deny knowledge of Jaspreet. The court has now directed State of Punjab to trace and produce Jaspreet on or before November 29.

Strangely, Veena Sharma has not received any call from Jaspreet since the day the petition was filed in the High Court. Earlier, Jaspreet had been stealing chances to make desperate calls. Her disappearance can mean anything, even honour killing, feel her lawers.



Family mourns death of 3 members
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, October 22
A pall of gloom descended on the Sector 6 residence of Mr Vijay Sethi, as bodies of three of his family members were brought there today. His son, daughter- in- law and sister, had died in a car accident in Sonepat yesterday.

The deceased — Prashant (30), his wife, Geetika (26), and Shobha (60) — were on their way to Delhi, when the accident took place.

Prashant and Geetika had to board a flight to China from Delhi. They were to participate in a trade fair there. Their aunt, Shobha, who stays near their house, was on way to visit her ailing daughter in Delhi.

Mr Gaurav Sethi, brother of Prashant, said his brother and sister-in-law were to take the evening train to Delhi yesterday, but one of their business associates in Delhi, asked them to come for a business meeting earlier in the day, and they decided to go by car. “My aunt, too, decided to go with them,” he said.

Geetika was pregnant and the couple have a one-and-a-half-year-old son, Prannay.

The bodies of three mishap victims were cremated today.



Children too observe rozas

Chandigarh, October 22
It is roza time for Muslims. Today was the 17th roza in the holy Ramzan month. The fasting began on October 6 and will continue one day before Id-ul-Fitar when the moon will be sighted after the amavasya.

The roza begins before sunrise. They eat a little before sunrise. Throughout the day they keep fast which is called roza then after sunset, again it is time for ‘Iftaar’.

On a visit to the Manimajra Jama Masjid this evening, this reporter met few children who were also on fast. Mohammed Sartaj Alam, who is just 12 years old, said for the past three years he has been observing rozas.

Seven-year-old Mohammed Salman said he would observe two rozas. He said from next year, he will try to fast on all days.

Many other children who have also observed fast on all the roza days, were also present. These were nine-year-old Mohammed Abozar, Shehzad, Feroz, Mohammed Sartaj Alam and Mohammed Saddam. When asked, both Shezad and Saddam said they like to eat snacks and gulab Jamuns at ‘Iftar’ which is a long wait of around 12 hours. On Sunday the Iftaar will be at 5.45 pm. — OC



Pensioners’ plea
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 22
The Punjab Pensioners Association has stated that the Punjab Government notification for the pre- 1966 retirees was silent on the pay fixation on a “notional basis” for re-fixation of pension. The notification was issued on July 27.

The general secretary of the association, Mr SP Kakar, said according to the notification, the family pension had been revised. But the government had failed to add “pay to be fixed on a notional basis” so that the benefit could be given to the person who retired before 1966.

The association has also sought DA instalment at a rate of 4 per cent with effect from July 1.



Statement on panel misleading, say councillors
Our Correspondent

Mohali, October 22
Seven municipal councillors, belonging to the Opposition, said that the statement issued by, Ch Jagjit Singh, Minister for Local Government, Punjab, saying that a committee had been constituted to review the hike in water and sewerage charges was misleading.

The councillors — Mr Amrik Singh, Mr Manjit Singh Sethi, Mr Amrik Singh Mohali, Mr Sukhdev Singh Patwari — Mr Manmohan Singh Lang, Mr Manjeet Singh and Mrs Harbans Kaur — said that there was great resentment among the residents as the Municipal Council had implemented revised rates from August 1. Residents had already held protests against the hike and another rally was being organised on October 25 outside the civic body office.

They said the minister and the council president were aware that a big rally was being held against the hike and as such were issuing misleading statements to divert the attention of the residents. They said the minister had clearly stated in the Assembly that the revised water and sewerage rates would not be rolled back at any cost.



Fire breaks out in house
Our Correspondent

Mohali, October 22
A fire broke out in a house in Phase VII here today.

It is learnt that items of grocery were stored in the house as the houseowner was running a grocery shop in Sector 70. Employees of fire brigade were able to save part of the stored goods.

It took more than two hours for the fire brigade employees to bring the situation under control.



Car, scooter stolen
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 22
The theft of two vehicles, including a car, was reported to the Chandigarh Police during the past 24 hours.

The police said Sector 45 resident Yashpal Garg’s car was stolen from Sector 17, while Sector 47 resident Surjit Singh’s scooter was picked up from the sector he is staying in.

Cases of theft have been registered under Section 379 of the IPC.


Two Indira Colony residents were arrested by the police on the allegations of gambling in a public place. A case under the provisions of the Gambling Act was registered against the two persons identified as Kanwar Pal and Babloo.


Braham Dutt of Naya Gaon was arrested on the allegations of carrying 12 bottles of whisky in an illegal manner. He was booked under the provisions of the Excise Act.

Camera stolen

City resident Chetan Khanna claimed that a camera kept in his car was stolen while the vehicle was parked in Phase I, Industrial Area. A case of theft has been registered by the police.



Man ends life
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 22
A 46-year-old clerk with an insurance company ended his life by hanging himself from a ceiling fan late last night. Prem Chand’s body was discovered by his wife this morning.

Though he has reportedly named a neighbour in his suicide note, sources in the Police Department say that his son’s death a year ago could have led him to take the extreme step.

Giving details, the sources said that Prem Chand went to his room on Friday night after having dinner. That was the last time his family saw him alive. His wife opened the room in the morning to find him hanging. The police was immediately informed about the incident. It added that Prem Chand had an argument with his neighbour about two months ago. Before ending his life, Prem Chand mentioned his name in the suicide note.

A senior police official said the quarrel was a minor one. There could have been other reasons behind the extreme step. They added that Prem Chand was feeling low ever since his son died a year ago.



Helmetless driver rams vehicle into cop
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 22
Lakha Singh, a Head Constable with the Chandigarh Police was rushed to the Sector 16 General Hospital with injuries after he was hit by a motorcyclist, who tried to speed away, instead of stopping the vehicle on police signal.

Eyewitnesses said Lakha Singh tried to stop the motorcyclist who was zipping down the road dividing Sector 15 and 16 without wearing a helmet.

The rider tried to avoid getting caught by the Head Constable but rammed the vehicle into the cop and injured him. He then fled from the spot.

Quoting the doctors on duty, the sources in the local police said Lakha Singh’s leg had been fractured in the accident.


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