C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


 

No new MC tax this time
Tribune News Service

The issue of tubewells was also debated at length. It was observed by councillor Subhash Chawla that the cost of setting up tubewells was much higher than their actual market rate. Mr Surinder Singh, Mayor, MCC, asked the Commissioner to order a Vigilance probe into the matter to ascertain why the tenders were given at such a higher rate.

Chandigarh, February 27
The city residents have much to cheer about as no new tax will be imposed on them in the coming financial year. A no-deficit budget of Rs 368.76 crore was presented by Mr Surinder Singh, Mayor, MCC, in the House today. It showed a surplus of Rs 117 crore.

The budget, which saw no additional taxes being levied or increase in the rates of existing levies on the general public, also saw an increase in the earlier proposed plan and non-plan budget.

The House approved Rs 181.22 crore for non-plan expenditures and Rs 187.54 crore for planned expenditure. Last year, the planned budget was of Rs 72.36 crore, while the non-plan budget was of Rs 165.26 crore.

The MCC proposes to spend around Rs 35 crore on acquisition of land in various villages of Chandigarh and Mani Majra. The next major expenditure the MCC has proposed to make is of about Rs 40.85 crore on improvement of roads, parking lots and infrastructure facilities.

Of the above amount, Rs 18.15 crore are planned to be spent on roads and parking places in Chandigarh and Mani Majra. The MCC also plans to make separate parking space for tourist buses at an estimated cost of Rs 3 crore.

It also plans to spend around Rs 9.96 crore for setting up a bird slaughter house and rendering plant and sanitation programmes. The budget also proposes an expenditure of Rs 6.20 crore on automation of new tubewells, Rs 2 crore for multi-storeyed parking facility in Sectors 17 and 34, Rs 4 crore on landscaping, Rs 7 crore on rehabilitation of those living in colonies and slums.

An addition of Rs 50 lakh was made in the budget for making of toilets in the greenbelts. However, the expenditure will be made only if the Chief Architect approves it.

While the budget was accepted without any hitch, Kamla Sharma from the BJP was keen to know how the proposed Rs 64 crore still lying unspent from last year’s budget was proposed to be spent.

Only eight councillors were present in the session after lunch when the agenda was presented before the House after the budget.

The House approved all items on the agenda without any objection. These included cost estimates on construction of roads and parking lots to serve community centre, middle school and dushera ground in pocket No. 7, Mani Majra, and framing of building bylaws for unacquired abadi area of Mani Majra and villages falling in Chandigarh and under the jurisdiction of the MCC.

It was the 100th meeting of the MCC since its inception.

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Residents expect tax relief in Budget
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
City residents are confident that the Budget to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram will be very well thought-out and will contain several beneficiary announcements for the ordinary man as well as the economy of the country with special emphasis on rural and infrastructure development. Most people are hopeful that the Budget will be people-oriented and it will have tax concessions and lowering of custom duties and tariffs on items of use by the common man.

Most people are also hopeful that the Union Budget will continue to provide tax concessions for housing loans and encourage long-term fixed deposits. Some are wishing for lowering in income tax rates, but are not sure if their wish would be fulfilled by Mr. Chidambaram, whom most people accept as a financial wizard and an asset in the team of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"The Budget has to be in consonance with the prevalent trends in the economy of the country and will be aimed at providing a base so that the growth rate of around 8 per cent is maintained", says Mr. Sanjeev Sharma, a financial consultant. He is personally hoping that the Budget will give the middle class more money to buy consumer durables that have become a necessity rather than a luxury. He is, therefore, hopeful that the duties on televisions, air-conditioners, computers, etc will go down.

Homemaker Madhu Gupta is expecting the home loans to remain lucrative to provide the common man an opportunity to own their own property. She, however, does not know what to say to the Finance Minister but hopes that something is done to curb inflation in property rates. Besides she is also hoping that the Budget will increase her purchasing power.

Panchkula-based financial consultant Rajesh Kumar says that the Budget will certainly provide for better infrastructure. "I expect the Budget to focus on improvement of the infrastructure and rural sector". Though he does not think that there will be any major change in the income tax structure, there may be some fine tuning that leaves more cash in the hand of the common man after paying his taxes and other expenses. The country's economy is in a growth phase, the GDP growth is expected to be 8 per cent and, therefore, I do not expect any major deviation in the Union Budget from the existing economic policy.

Mr Jagdish Pal Singh Kalra, general secretary, Chandigarh Beopar Mandal, said that achieving 8 per cent GDP and tax collection targets shows improved economic health of the country. "The common man hopes for a balanced and people- friendly Budget. The Finance Minister should avoid further tax burden, particularly on middle class as he presents his Budget tomorrow. He should adopt flexible and liberalised tax reform policies with more emphasis on rationalisation and simplification of tax laws for better complacencies. Widening of tax base and evasion of tax by evaders needs to be tackled firmly and effectively without putting the honest tax payers at any disadvantage," he said.

Local banker Nikhil Kumar is expecting that the Finance Minister will certainly do something for the manufacturing sector to bring it at par with the service sector which is booming currently. This logically means some reduction in excise and custom duty. He is also hoping that the Budget is likely to make provisions that make it easier for the domestic banks to venture into the international scene.

The Managing Director of AGK Group of Industries and past president, Mohali Industries Association, Mr. Gurmeet Singh Bhatia, said that he was hoping that something would be done to boost the small--scale industry like increasing the SSI limits from Rs 1 crore to Rs 3 crore, increasing Central Excise Duty exemption limit from Rs 3 crore to Rs 5 crore, clear definition of medium scale industry, an announcement of a national biotechnology policy, income tax exemption for R& D activity, special incentives to farmers who are growing Jetropha to make India self-sufficient in Biofuel, etc.

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Police yet to find triple-murder weapon
Ramanjit Singh Sidhu

Chandigarh, February 27
The failure to recover the country-made pistol used in the Sector 34 triple-murder case continues to give sleepless nights to the Chandigarh Police.
Three massive search operations were undertaken in areas near Ambala, where the suspects have said to have thrown the weapon, but to no avail. Without the seizure of the weapon of murder, conviction may become difficult, experts maintain.

Legal experts are of the view that the recovery of the weapon is a crucial evidence in the investigation of such cases. They cite the example of Jessica Lal murder case, in which the inefficiency of the Delhi Police to recover the murder weapon weakened the case and all suspects were acquitted.

Mr S.K. Garg, a practising criminal lawyer at the Punjab and Haryana High, said the recovery of the murder weapon was a vital piece of evidence essential to link the suspects with the offence. In the absence of its recovery, the prosecution might find itself in a situation where it would be difficult for it to prove the case against the accused beyond shadow of reasonable doubt.

Another leading criminal lawyer and former general secretary of the District Bar association, Mr Jaskaran Singh, said the recovery of the murder weapon was an important factor in such cases. The defence could use the non-recovery of weapon to its advantage in such cases. However, the recovery of the murder weapon would not be of much importance in a case where the police had strong circumstantial evidences to link the suspects with the crime, he added.

On the other hand, a senior official of the Chandigarh Police said the police was trying hard to recover the weapon. On the very first day, after the Tyagi brothers were brought to the city, a police team took them to Ambala after producing them in a local court for the recovery of the weapon. However, the visit did not fetch any result.

Later, a police team equipped with deep metallic detectors and a dog squad searched the area and rivulets, where the accused said to have disposed of the country-made pistol, but they failed to trace the weapon. Today also a police team returned empty handed.

However, the Chandigarh Police claimed that even if it failed to recover the murder weapon it would be able to put up a strong case against the accused as there was enough evidence to link the suspects with the triple-murder.

A senior police official said the police was relying on an eyewitness about whom nothing much had been disclosed as yet. The eyewitness had reportedly seen the accused in the vicinity of the crime scene that night.

Disagreeing with the point that the failure in the recovery of the weapon would weaken the case, he added the police had recovered the broken knives used for stabbing the victims, the flower vase used for smashing the victims’ heads, bloodstained clothes of the suspects, fingerprint samples and some hair which would form important evidences in the case.

It may be recalled that retired Group Captain T.P. Singh, his wife Shibani and his sister Ajit Kaur were done to death allegedly by Pawandeep Singh, his elder son. Ravikant Tyagi and Anil Tyagi were accompanying Pawandeep on February 7. The accused are in police remand.

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Chaos marks test for teachers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
Confusion prevailed at the Government Girls Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 21, today over the eligibility criteria for selecting nursery teachers under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan.

Though more than 200 candidates had come to take a selection test for the 20 vacancies of nursery teachers, the applications of only 91 candidates were accepted.

According to the Education Department, UT Administration, 20 posts of nursery teachers, on contract basis for a period of one year and at a fixed remuneration of Rs 7000 per month, were advertised on February 20.

The Department had also stated in the advertisement that only those candidates who had a NTT diploma or certificate or its equivalent, recognised by the National Council for Teachers Education (NCTE), of not less than two-year duration with at least 45 per cent marks should apply.

The advertisement also mentioned that those having the qualification equivalent to the above and recognized by NCTE, of not less than two years in duration and with at least 45 per cent marks, might also apply.

However, a large number of candidates, who had come from as far as Bathinda, rued that earlier the NTT course used to be of one year and hence it should also be recognised.

Even the candidates with an Elementary Teachers Training (ETT) should also be made eligible, added Mamta, a candidate.

But Mr D.S. Mangat, DPI, Schools, said the policies could not be changed and the advertisement had been placed as per the existing rules and regulations and the department could not do anything in this case.

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25 per cent officers in JAG Branch to be women
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Though the bill for establishing the Armed Forces Tribunal is still to be passed by Parliament, the Army, it appears, is already getting the groundwork done on posting officers to the proposed tribunal. It is being speculated in Army circles that former Adjutant General, Lieut-Gen Mohinder Singh is tipped to head the tri-service tribunal. General Mohinder Singh, who belonged to the Punjab Regiment, retired about four months ago and, according to sources, still retains his official bunglow. Sources said another officer, Col M S Yadav had been appointed at the Director Proposed Armed Forces Tribunal. An officer from the Judge Advocate General's Branch, he has been side-stepped to this appointment from his post in Delhi, where he had served for over three years.

Chandigarh, February 27
Women officers in the Army's Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Department would soon comprise 25 per cent of its strength. A policy decision to this effect was taken by Army Headquarters recently, it is learnt.

At present, there are just 10 women officers in the JAG Department whch has a sanctioned strength of 216 officers. This means that the Army would have 54 women JAG officers. The ratio of male to female officers in this department would become the highest amongst all arms having women officers.

The JAG Department is the Army's judicial wing, responsible for rendering legal advice to commanders and military establishments on various administrative, personnel and service matters. It is also responsible for conduct of courts martial and review of courts of inquiries.

The move to increase the strength of women officers in JAG Department comes at a time when the department is facing a severe shortage of officers. According to sources, the strength of the department was increased to 216 following the recommendations of the Mukherjee Committee in 1996. The present strength of the department is, however, just about 100 officers.

Sources say that the shortage is due to legally qualified persons not coming forward to join the service. The problem is further compounded by legally qualified serving officers wishing to convert to the JAG Department not being released by their parent arm or service. Sources said there had been several recent instances where permission to convert had been turned down. A case was taken up with Army Headquarters for grant of non-practising allowance for JAG officers on the line of that paid to doctors in the Army Medical Corps, but it did not make any headway, which is a sore point with JAG officers.

Though the JAG Department remains severely under strength, the number of posts has also increased. Six additional posts for JAG officers were created when the South-Western Command was raised and two more were created when 9 Corps was raised. Creation of Uttaranchal created a post for the officer-in-charge legal cell to coordinate matters with the state high court, while an additional JAG officer has been posted to the legal cell at Lucknow.

Meanwhile, the JAG Department is in for a major reshuffle at the top level. The Deputy Judge Advocaet General (DJAG), Southern Command, Brig A.K. Srivastava, who heads the legal branch there, is tipped to take over as DJAG Western Command, a post which has been lying vacant for the past several months. The DJAGs at Northern, Eastern and Southern Commands are also being rotated. 

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Chandigarh Calling

With the FM Radio boom hitting the new cities, voice culture is the new mantra for the wanna-be radio jockeys(RJs). And to cater to the emerging demands of the RJs, another institute has come up in the city.The Voice and Vision Media Academy, a venture of the Safal Production, announced its launch by organisinhg a free voice culture workshop the other day.

In fact, the institute has roped with Mr Vijay Vasistha, a senior broadcaster having 35 years experience in All India Radio(AIR), for imparting training to the budding RJs.With Mr Vasistha in the saddle, the future of the RJs seems to bright.

The workshop will be organised on alternate Sundays with a view to polishing the voices for the participants for developing allround personalities, Ms Shraddha Mishra, Managing Director of Safal Production, says.

'Just chill(ing)'

The Sonu Nigam concert organised as part of the Rose Festival recently saw a lot of action not just on stage but offstage too.

Such was this versatile singer's stage presence that only a handful of people could 'sit' through the show. For, within minutes of his appearance, he had half the audience up on its feet, swinging to 'Mera Rang de Basanti Chola', 'Saathiya' and more. This gave the backbenchers less a glimpse of this rocking star and more of the swaying bottoms of the crowd that stood up on the chairs in front of them.

While bouncers and cops manned the venue to keep a check on the frenzied masses, adding to this frenzy were youth flaunting jackets that read 'Wild cats' and 'Secret agents.' Many of them actually gave a free rein to their wild side by doing a pole dance on the poles supporting the canopy overhead, a la item queens.

But the person who really stole the show offstage was an elderly gentleman, who with his self-choreographed dancing to 'Main Hoon Na' and other foot-tapping scores could've even put the youth to shame. He had the audience clapping as much for his spirited side show as for the artist on stage.

He showed that age is no bar when it comes to being in step with the times. All it needs is a 'Just Chill' attitude.

Bluetooth devices

Imagine that a stranger walks towards you with a smile on his face and lips moving as if saying, " Hello, how do you do….? You pause for a moment and make a stress on your memory lane "May be a long lost old friend….!" And immediately you realise that the person is talking on his phone through a handsfree Bluetooth device, tugged just on his ears. These Bluetooth enabled handset devices are the in-thing these days and you can spot people wearing them in the lobbies of hotels, at airports and even during their early morning walks. Two reasons come to mind instantly on seeing such people. One could be that they try to pretend that they are the busiest persons on earth or think of themselves to be a cool rockstar. No doubt, this technology works wonders. You can download or transfer any data on other bluetooth enabled device very conveniently without the web of wires under your table. But the Bluetooth handsfree kits put you sometimes in bizarre situations if you are using it while you are out for shopping or walking down the street making others believe that you are talking to yourself.

All for a noble cause

Illness all around and suffering of patients at the PGI moved the Gaddu couple of Sector 40 so much that they went straight to the PGI Eye Bank to pledge their eyes. In the hospital for the treatment of his father, Mr Rajwinder Singh Gaddu said that the thought of pledging his eyes had been at the back of his mind since very long.

"Busy with my work, I just couldn't find time to visit the eye bank to complete the formalities. When I took my father for treatment and saw all those patients, I decided to put off everything else till later and first pledge my eyes. My wife, Satwinder Kaur, too got motivated and we both pledged our eyes. We want to be able to do something for society and this is only our small way of giving back to society," he said.

Mr Gaddu, an employee of the Punjab Government is even contemplating pledging all his organs after death. He thinks donating organs and giving a new life to patients makes God happier than just burning them away in the name of rituals.

Hail HUDA

It goes to the credit of Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) for keeping 230 branches of banks in the tri-cities and all over Haryana busy. With HUDA having announced housing schemes in various districts of the state, banks are doing a brisk business by collecting money and extending loans for the earnest money to be submitted to HUDA. Being closing of the financial year, every bank is busy achieving its target, and are coming out with competitive schemes to lure more people. And why not? HUDA is hoping to collect over Rs 400 crore--- one of the biggest collections to have been made by a government agency from selling of plots in one state.

Contributed by Pradeep Sharma, Chetna Banerjee, G. S. Paul, Geetanjali and Ruchika Khanna 

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Ecstatic Mohali to celebrate today
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 27
Grand celebrations have been planned by Mohali residents for tomorrow when the Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, is expected to formally announce the formation of a new district in the state that would include Mohali, Dera Bassi and Kharar tehsils.

While both MLA, Kharar, Bir Devinder Singh and OSD to the Chief Minister Lakhvinder Kaur Garcha have announced that arrangements are being made to light up the entire township tomorrow night, plans have also been made to distribute ‘ladoos’ and sweets among the residents.

The approval for the formation of a new district was given by the Chief Minister today during a high-powered meeting held in Chandigarh. Sources added that the Deputy Commissioners of Ropar and Patiala, who had also attended the meeting, had been asked to start the process of separating revenue records and files pertaining to these areas.

Stating that it would be the most befitting tribute to the Sahibzadas on their 300th year of martyrdom, the MLA, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, pointed out that the government should name the new district as Ajitgarh Sahib.

The MLA said the entire process of the formation of the district would be completed by the first week of April following which the district would come into being.

He added that the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority would be asked to provide for a secretariat building and a judicial complex at the earliest in Mohali.

Sources also pointed out that the new building of the Municipal Council could be used for various offices of the new district since the building was completely ready and the council was in any case not using the entire space available with them.

Various social organisations, sarpanches, block samiti members, zila parishad members and workers of the Kharar Vidhan Sabha constituency had been demanding the formation of this district for the past five years.

The announcement would come as a major relief to thousands of residents who earlier had to go to Kharar and Ropar for various administrative and judicial purposes.

Welcoming the decision, Mr Kuljit Singh Bedi, president, Block Development Committee, Mohali, said the population of Mohali had crossed 3 lakh and the state government was going to spend Rs 200 crore for its beautification as multi-national companies were also coming to Mohali.

“A district status for this area would lead to better and planned development,” he said.

Many senior citizens had been complaining that since Mohali did not have a judicial court, people had to go to Kharar or Ropar for petty works. This problem would also be solved with the formation of the new district which would have its own set of courts.

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Police picks up 4 youths, villagers block traffic
Tribune News Service

Mullanpur Garibdass, February 27
Hundreds of residents of Mullanpur Garibdass village today blocked traffic on the Chandigarh-Mullanpur road here this morning protesting against the Ropar police.
Irate residents alleged that the CIA staff of the Ropar police had picked up four youths of the village for no reason at all.

Mr Arvind Puri, a resident of the village, said the villagers rushed to the local police post demanding the release of their children but were told that they should go to Ropar to voice their grievances.

At this, the residents gathered on the main road and parked two tractors on the road blocking the traffic for over two hours. They also raised anti-police slogans.

The situation was diffused when the SDM, Kharar, Mr Darshan Singh Sandhu, and the DSP, Kharar, Mr Rajbachan Singh Sandhu, reached the spot and assured the villagers that justice would be done.

The villagers said the police had picked up the four youths namely Rana, Darshan, Krishan and Sucha in connection with a fight that had taken place on February 5.

The four reportedly had a fight with workers of a liquor shop in the area and the shop owner had alleged that they had looted more than Rs one lakh from the shop.

Alleging that his son had been framed, Nasib Kaur, mother of Darshan, said her son had been dealt with most unfairly.

“This district is being ruled by the police,” she added.

The protest by the villagers finally resulted in the release of the youths. They were sent back home in the evening, said Mr Arvind Puri. 

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Admn should ask villagers: Aiyar
Move to merge villages in MCC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
The Chandigarh Administration should get a feedback from the rural population as to whether they want to be a part of the Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh (MCC) before initiating any action to this direction, said Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, Union Minister for Panchayati Raj, while addressing a press conference at the UT Guest House here this evening.

Mr Aiyar met residents of Kajheri village before the press conference and said that the feedback he got from the village folk was that they did not want to be a part of the MCC. “They feel they could play a more responsible role in panchayats while in MCC they will be left at mercy of others,” he said.

Mr Aiyar said, “I am not a decision maker. I will give my feedback to the Centre which might have an impact on the future. The Administration can have its own reasons. The land area for farmers is very small here and there can be more factors, however, the apprehensions of the people need to be responded to for allaying their fears, if any, and solutions also need to be worked out wherever possible”.

Mr Aiyar said, “I was impressed with the idea of rural tourism initiated by the UT in Khuda Lahora village. At the national level, under the programme of ‘Gram Swaraj Yojna’ we are taking different steps to promote rural tourism. Developing Panchayat Bhavans as places for the economy class tourists, considerably big in numbers, is high on the priority list. Khuda lahora can be an example of the rural business hub for others to follow.”

Gen (retd) S.F.Rodrigues, Governor of Punjab and the UT Administrator, said, “The UT was willing to offer its villages to the ministry to try some of its pilot projects for the uplift of villages.” Mr Aiyar said details of a possible MoU with the UT would be given tomorrow.

General Rodrigues said, “The UT was developing partnership programmes with the rural population. Representatives are being provided opportunity for training in understanding their roles, at least with respect to the financial matters.”

Mr Aiyar said he had not been able to meet the members of the Zila Parishad and represented from other villages, so, he would be able to convey his opinion with a better perspective by tomorrow.

Mr Aiyar said “The devolution of powers to the panchayats was still not complete and the same was not complete in the UT. The matter needs to be relooked into”.

Mr Bhupinder Singh Badheri, a member of the Panchayat Samiti, in a letter handed over to Mr Aiyar said “To raise my protest against the attitude of the Chandigarh Administration and to support the voice of the people of villages, I have decided to resign from the Panchayat Samiti”. He felt that that the Administration was being unjust in planning to merge the villages of the UT with MCC, without taking people into confidence.

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Zirakpur booming at residents’ expense
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, February 27
This small township, which exhibits the state-of-the-art apartments, shopping malls and multiplexes, presents a picture of neglect on the basic amenities front. While private builders promise prospective buyers the moon, residents continue to be at the receiving end so far as basic amenities are concerned.

With the Nagar Panchayat allegedly failing to provide the basic amenities to residents, they continue to be bereft of living a quality life.

In spite of the fact that residents pay a substantial amount to the authorities concerned, the civic amenities have failed to keep pace with the township’s expansion, alleges Mr Amrik Singh, a resident. Though located at the intersection of three major strategic highways, a bus stand eludes the township even years after it was first proposed by the authorities concerned.

In the absence of the bus stand, traffic bottlenecks on the Ambala-Chandigarh highway, where the buses halt, are a routine affair wasting precious time and fuel.

The area near the residential colonies, particularly the newly-developed colonies, stinks belying the official claims, alleges Mr Kanwarjit Singh Dhanjal, another resident.

And this is despite the fact that the civic body has been apprised of the situation several times, he added.

And with the township bursting at its seams, the provision of civic amenities is proving to be a difficult task for the authorities.

It may be recalled that recently there had been a spurt in construction activity with several shopping malls, multiplexes and apartment blocks beginning to come up.

While certain big names have made provision for basic amenities, including parking on their premises, a substantial number of shopping malls and residential complexes hardly have parking space.

This coupled with the shortage of parking space inside and outside banquet halls and marriage palaces has made the highways “accident-prone” areas.

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Demand for uniform amenities in tricity
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, February 27
The Citizens Welfare Association has sought Punjab and Haryana to honour the Reorganisation of States Act, 1966 by providing all civic amenities and facilities to Mohali and Panchkula on a par with Chandigarh.

In a press note, association president S.K. Nayar said Panchkula and Mohali were developed after Chandigarh but as per provisions made in the Punjab Reorganisation Act, these were not followed in letter and spirit to keep the three places on a par with each other, though the two towns still fell under the “Capital periphery”.

“Had the Chandigarh Administration implemented the Act properly in the three places, the residents in the “Capital periphery” would not have had any disparity in their recognition about their identity; separate public transport facilities; separate health-services, separate educational institutions for higher studies, etc.” he said.

Mr Nayar demanded the Chandigarh Administration to provide facilities like reorganisation of ration card, voter ID card, electricity bills, telephone bills, etc. as proof of residence to all persons residing anywhere in the three places for the purpose of registration of vehicle, transfer of vehicle or property.

He added that there should be necessary reservation of educational seats for students of these places in professional institutions, government colleges for higher education, especially for those students studying under CBSE courses.

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Waste blocks water for land
Vishal Gulati

Chandigarh: The recharging of groundwater in the city is declining fast due to shrinking of permeable surface and to make the matter worse, the Administration is converting low-lying areas into “malba” dumping sites.

A visit to various sectors reveals that low-lying areas are being used to dump “malba”. Every day tonnes of construction debris is dumped at these sites in the name of filling depressions.

In most of the sectors, especially 29, 31 and 47, the corporation has identified low-lying areas. Earlier, these depressions used to get filled with water during the monsoon and helped recharge aquifer for several months.

These days, “malba” dumping is going on at a massive scale in front of the gurdwara in Sector 47-A and near The Tribune office in Sector 29-C. Both seasonal pools in Sector 47-A have sufficient water till date. The trend is a cause for concern, say environmentalists. These low-lying areas not only support flora and fauna but also help quench the thirst of the aquifers besides controlling flooding in sectors, they maintain. The neglect of these areas is likely to affect the availability of groundwater in future. Scientists of the Chandigarh-based Central Ground Water Board say the city and its nearby areas are heading towards a severe water crisis.

In Chandigarh, excessive dependence on tubewells to meet the water requirement has resulted in decline of water table at an alarming rate.

Around 195 deep tubewells are pumping water for domestic use and 35 for irrigation purposes. At present, water is available at a depth of 50m in most parts of the city. However, in the Mani Majra, railway station, Mauli Jagran and Kala Gram areas, water is available at more than 60m below ground level and in Sector 27, the depth goes up to 70m.

The scientists say as the Administration has failed to make it mandatory for the residents to harvest rainwater, these low-lying areas play an important role in holding water for a few months.

The president of the Environment Society of India (ESI), Mr S.K. Sharma, says, “There is a need to protect and conserve the natural buffers. These low-lying patches are a unique showcase of the urban biodiversity. During the monsoon, one can see rich flora and fauna there. This traditional water-harvesting system serves as breeding ground of many species of frogs, dragonflies, snakes, smaller insects and birds.” The ESI has created two ponds — one in the Sector 26 corporation nursery and the second on the campus of Commonwealth Youth Programme, Sector 12.

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SMS vote costly

Chandigarh, February 27
Are you often swayed by promotional SMS from various media, urging you to vote for your favourite singer, idol or for participation in a game show? If yes, do not blame the cell phone operator the next time your bill hits the roof.

Unknown to most subscribers, the cell phone companies charge two to six times more for these promotional SMS. In fact, for certain game shows, the rate of sending an SMS is Rs 6 per SMS. You only pay the normal rate for sending these promotional SMS if you are forwarding it to another subscriber.

So before the cell phone operators, or media play on your emotions and ask you to vote for, say re-trial in Jessica Lal case, be sure to know that you are generating extra business. Most of the cell phone companies are charging Rs 2 to Rs 3 per SMS.

Sources in the telecom sector said at the industry level, the rate for these sms are pre-negotiated with the agency calling for SMS voting, and the operator gets a pre-defined share. The SMS for voting on various issues generally costs between Rs 2 and 3 per message.

A senior official in a cell phone company here, on condition of anonymity, said because of huge costs of administration (for sorting out SMS for different polls) the agencies conducting the polls take a part of the money thus generated. “We ourselves do not promote these promotional messages, as there is no way to distinguish between a routine SMS and those being sent for these poll campaigns,” he said. TNS

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Fauji Beat
Army, too, contributed to its neglect

In our column : "Background to Army's neglect" (February 21) we had brought out how sidelining of the Army started from Nehru's time. But to say that the Army did not contribute to its neglect, will be wrong.

Stephen P. Cohen, a perceptive observer of the Indian and Pakistani armies, in his book "The Indian Army : It's contribution to the Development of a Nation" says : "The administrative and organisational changes introduced after Independence indicate a fairly effective alliance between the civil service and politicians, an alliance created for the purpose of reducing the role of the military in the decision-making process". According to him, "The military was thoroughly indoctrinated with the principal of civilian control and it never protested against the reduction of its powers or at least never protested to the point of resignation".

Maj-Gen D.K. Palit in his book "War in high Himalayas; The Indian Army in crisis", says that repeated coups in neighbouring Pakistan, spearheaded by the army there (which still enjoys a special place in the ruling set-up) reinforced he "deep-rooted paranoia, which plagued Indian politicians. One illogical consequence being that the Army is still kept at a distance from policy-making councils of the government".

The military commanders must dig their heels in and stand firm on their professional advice or else quit honourably. It was only General, Sam Manekshaw, now Field Marshal, who did this in 1971 and fought the Bangladesh war as per his design and timings. No wonder that this was brought honour to the country. There was no reason why General Thapar, the then Army chief, should not have resigned in 1962, rather than launching the Army in an operation that he knew full well was sure to bring disaster. Similarly, there was no reason why in 1987, General K Sundarji, the then Army chief, should have launched the Army in Sri Lanka against his and his senior commanders' advice.

Sikh Pioneers

History tells us that the Sikh Pioneers are the forefathers of the Sikh Light Infantry REgiment. The 23rd Sikh Pioneers was raised as part of the British expeditionary force in Bombay 1868 under Lieut-Gen Sir Robert Napier for the release of British hostages held by the role in the campaign to Magdala Fort, about 720 km off south of Red Sea at Zulu, where the hostages were held. For their heroic role in the campaign the Sikh Pioneers were awarded the battle honour of Abyssinia.

To relive the history of their ancestors, a joint Indo-British expedition to Magdala was undertaken by 15 Sikh LI during its tenure in the UN Mission in Ethiopia in 2004 by taking the same route as had been taken by the Sikh Pioneers during the campaign. After a trek of three days over the heights of 2,900 the team finally reached the ruins of the once magnificent Magdala Fort with a sense of pride.

Hospital admission entitlement

Major Onkar Narain Singh, an ex-Emergency commissioned officer, states that he got admitted to the Command Hospital, Chandimandir, for gall bladder operation on February 15. Despite being in possession of his ex-servicemen identity card and the treatment entitlement certificate, he was told by the hospital authorities that he was not entitled to treatment in a military hospital.

Since he was branded as a non-entitled patient, he got his discharge from the Command Hospital after two days. The Major says that he was charged Rs 4,900 by the hospital at the time of his discharge i.e. Rs 3,200 for two days stay and Rs 1,700 for treatment. After that he was operated upon by paying Rs 25,000 at a private hospital, he says. The card and the certificate, have been issued by the Zila Sainik Board, Chandigarh. According to these documents, he is entitled to admission in a military hospital.

— Pritam Bhullar

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Gen J.J. Singh coming today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
Chief of the Army Staff, Gen J.J. Singh, will be arriving at Headquarters Western Command, Chandimandir, tomorrow to review a major war game. This is his first official here since he relinquished charge as the GOC-in-C, Western Command, a year ago to take over as the Army Chief.

General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Lieut-Gen Deepak Kapoor, would also be arriving here from Udhampur to attend the concluding sessions of the war game.

The war game was initiated by Western Command about a month ago and was aimed at validating new operational concepts. This involved indoor brain storming, simulations and “operational discussions” involving selected officers rather than troops in the field. A major field exercise is scheduled later this year.

General J.J. Singh, who would be accompanied by his wife Anupama, would also be attending a concert by sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan.

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Renal patient seeks help
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
At a time when he should be sharing some of the financial burden of his family, 24-year-old Sanjay Khataniyar feels guilty of adding to the family woes because of his illness.

Diagnosed with chronic renal failure, Sanjay has been advised kidney transplant but his finances don’t permit such an expenditure.

“My father is the only earning member of the family. Being a daily wager, he only earns enough to feed the family. He was hoping that I would contribute to the family income. But with my illness, all that has changed. Instead of contributing anything, I am proving a burden on the family. I feel so helpless when I see them cutting down on their requirements to save money for my medicines,” he rues.

Sanjay needs nearly Rs 2 lakh for the transplant and post-surgery essential drugs.

“This sum is impossible by all stretches of imagination. We will never be able to generate the income for the surgery. Till the money comes, the operation is not possible. I can only hope that some philanthropists will come to my rescue and relieve me of my pain and suffering,” he states.

All contributions for Sanjay can be made to the Public Relations Officer, PGIMER, Chandigarh, or contributors can contact the PRO at 0172-2756003.

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Press Club poll on March 26
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
The annual general body of Chandigarh Press Club, which met on Sunday, has fixed March 26 as the polling date to elect the Governing Council for 2006-07.
The House approved the appointment of Surinder Singh, Chief Sub-Editor, Punjabi Tribune, as the Returning Officer for the elections. He has been authorised to appoint two assistant returning officers for the poll.

According to the Secretary-General of the club, all eatables and drinks will be served only on cash payment from March 1 and the decision will remain in force till the completion of the election process.

It also asked all regular members to clear their dues by 10.30 p.m. on March 10 for eligibility to vote. The premises of the club will be open to only regular members throughout the day on March 26.

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Youths shatter ATM screen
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, February 27
An unsuccessful attempt was made to steal money from an automated teller machine (ATM) of Bank of India in Sector 17 in the wee hours of Saturday.
According to the police, two car-borne youths came around 2:30 am at the ATM and tried to draw money out of it. After failing to do so, they caused damaged to the machine by breaking the glass of its touchscreen with a brick.

When contacted, Station House Officer (SHO) of the Sector 17 police station Moti Ram said the incident took place in the night, but the police was informed about it only around 8 am.

The security guard on duty, Sukhjinder Singh, went home after the incident and did not inform anyone. It was only after the change of shift that the new security guard noticed the broken monitor. He then informed the bank officials.

The security guard on duty at night failed to note down the registration number of the car. He only identified the car as Indica occupied by two persons, said the police.

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Accident leads to traffic jam
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, February 27
The death of a 55-year-old woman in a road accident at Bhankharpur village near here resulted in the disruption of traffic on the busy Chandigarh-Ambala highway.

The deceased, Sushila, a resident of Zirakpur, was on her way to Zirakpur from Ambala, along with her husband, Mr Nanak Chand, when their motor cycle was hit from behind by a truck near the Ghaggar bridge.

In the meantime, hundreds of commuters faced inconvenience due to traffic blockade.

The police has registered a case and arrested the truck driver.

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Student duped of scooter
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, February 27
A con man duped a city resident of his scooter from Sector 35, besides two motor cycles were also stolen from here today.
Sources in the Sector 36 police station said a student of class 11th, Utkarsh Goel, reported to the police that he was going on his LML Vespa scooter (PB-19-B-6313) and was signalled by a man to stop. The man urged to drop him at a house in Sector 36 as he wanted to pick a cylinder.

Reaching there, the man asked Utkarsh to go in and bring the cylinder from the house, which he was unable to pick up citing poor health. When Utkarsh went in, no one was inside the house. He came out of the house to find that the person was absconding with the scooter.

Bikes stolen: Mr Sanjiv Kumar of Sector 30 reported to the police alleging that his motor cycle (CH-03-J-4710) has been stolen from near a library in Panjab University. In another incident, Mr Rishi Malhotra of Sector 22 lodged a complaint with the police alleging that his motor cycle (CH-03-S-8853) from Sector 22 on Sunday.

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Realtor’s office burgled

Zirakpur, February 27
Burglars broke into the office of a prominent property consultant here last night.
According to information, the burglars broke into the rear end of the office of Baldev Goel, Managing Director of the Goel Builders and Property Consultants, after breaking open the locks.

A colour television, certain documents and some cash were stolen from the office. The police is investigating on the complaint of Mr Goel. TNS

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Industry hopeful of sops

Mohali, February 27
Members of the Mohali Industries Association today expressed hopes from the Budget for 2006-07 to be presented by the Union Finance Minister tomorrow.

Stating that the Mohali industry, especially SMEs, were passing through a difficult period, Mr Balbir Singh, president of the association, said they had high hopes from the Finance Minister. He said the SMEs should be taken out of the preview of FBT, the Central Excise limit should be raised from Rs 1crore to Rs 3 crore. TNS

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