C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Price confusion confounds Bacchus lovers
Same brands cost different in different areas in the city
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 3
With the licensing system replacing the auctioning system in the city from April 1, absolute confusion prevails in the liquor market as there is major variation in the prices of same brands of liquor. This huge price difference in different areas in the city has left Bacchus lovers confounded. A bottle of Kingfisher brand of beer costs Rs 60 at a liquor vend in Industrial Area, Phase II, Rs 30 in Sector 31, while the same costs Rs 40 in Sector 11. And this is not an isolated case as the price variations are there in the case of several other brands of beer, wine, whisky, rum and gin as well.

A survey of the market revealed that the price variations are significant in certain cases. The plausible explanation being given for this price variation is that as the VAT rates have been revised to four per cent very recently, so, the sellers are reworking the costs.

Mr S.K Sandhu, Finance Secretary, confirmed that the prices of liquor were different at different places in the city. ‘‘We have fixed the minimum rates for all brands. If anyone is selling liquor at a higher cost then he is going to lose business to his competitors. Actually the prices of liquor have nose-dived in a majority of cases. The licencing policy has been introduced for the first time so the market will take some time to work out the price structure.’’

The Administration has fixed the minimum price of economy class drinks (Binny) at Rs 110 per bottle; Rs 130 per bottle for middle level brands (Aristrocrat); Rs 180 per bottle for high level (Royal Stag); and Rs 260 per bottle for premium brands (Peter Scot). While liquor of all these brands cannot be sold for less than the minimum price decided by the Administration, there is no upper price limit.

A bottle of Aristrocrat Premium costs Rs 160 in the Industrial Area; Rs 180 in Sector 31, Rs 180 in Sector 32 and Rs 150 in Colony V; Royal Stag for Rs 180 in Industrial Area and Rs 190 in Sector 32; Peter Scot for Rs 300 in the Industrial Area and Rs 260 in Sector 31. Prices for the strong beer also vary between Rs 40 and Rs 60.

A vend owner in Sector 31 said, ‘‘The Administration has reduced the VAT rates from 22 per cent to four per cent. This has led to the liquor companies revising their rates. We are still waiting for the new rates. The difference in price is because the business has still not stabilised. There should not be big differences in prices because the monopoly of the liquor cartel that had been operating in the city for over half a decade has ended and now people do not have to travel very far to get a good bargain’’.

A large number of liquor shops, including the ones in Sectors 32, 31, 11 and the Industrial Area, besides others are not air-conditioned as per the norms of the new policy. A senior official said, ‘‘We will give them some time to settle down and ensure that all facilities are provided.’’

Mr Satish Gupta, a local resident, said ‘‘earlier the prices were not fixed because the vends were auctioned. Under the new licensing policy, the shops cannot have the liberty to have their own pricing. The differences are very huge and the Administration should look into the matter.

Trying to explain the reason for the confusion prevailing in the liquor market a contractor of country-made liquor and IMFL, Mr Satyapal, said, ‘‘We are getting liquor at prices more than the ones last year. Last year the prices were high because of the cartel. In the initial phase, the rates might be lower for the customers, however, they will soon shoot up soon.’’



SBI strike hits banking services
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 3
Banking services in the tri-city were today adversely affected in the wake of the indefinite strike call by the Joint Forum of the State Bank of India Employees and Officers Association, Chandigarh circle. Transactions worth Rs 500 crore (average daily transactions) in the 28 branches in the city and Panchkula and Mohali could not take place as a result.

On the first day of the strike, an ATM in the Phase I in the Mohali branch of the bank went dry by the evening. Bank officials said they had loaded the ATMs yesterday, but because of huge cash withdrawals by customers, the cash in the ATM of this branch was empty by the evening.

This has raised suspicion of more ATMs going dry if the strike persists, as over 2.10 lakh savings account holders and many corporate account holders will be using the other 31 SBI ATMs here for cash withdrawals. Since the SBI is the treasury for the states of Punjab and Haryana, the employees of the two governments, too, will be using the ATMs for cash withdrawals.

The effect of the strike was more so because of the bank branches remaining closed on Sunday, and a lot many people not availing the opportunity of availing bank facilities on Saturday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of bank employees gathered at the Sector 17 head office of the bank this morning and raised slogans against the government for failing to implement the pension scheme, at par with other public sector banks in the country. Addressing the officers, Mr Amarpal, All-India president of the SBI Officers Federation, said they were forced to take recourse to strike in protest against the delay in implementing the new enhanced pension by the banking department of the Union Finance Ministry.

"The bank management, RBI and the Indian Banking Association have approved the new pension plan, which is 50 per cent of the last drawn basic salary. However, the Finance Ministry has blocked this," he alleged. Mr N.S. Dhamoon, general secretary of the SBI Pensioners Federation, said the SBI was the only public sector bank where 40 per cent of the last drawn the basic pay (if above Rs 8500) is payable as pension, and 50 per cent of basic pay is payable as pension, in case the last drawn salary is less than Rs 8500. Also, we are paid pension on the basis of the pay scales announced by the bank management in the year 1992. Other banks have revised their pension scheme according to the pay scales revised in years 1997 and 2002. The family pension, too, needs be revised, he demanded.



Rs 3 crore being spent on renovation work in Mohali
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, April 3
A sum of more than Rs 3 crore is being spent on renovation work and on providing office infrastructure for making Mohali district functional from Baisakhi day.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, will be formally launching the new district by laying the foundation stone of the District Administrative Complex (DAC) in Sector 62 here.

While a sum of about Rs 1.25 crore will be spent on renovation work, more than Rs 1.75 crore have been cleared to meet a wide range of requirements for the offices of the Deputy Commissioner, the Police Department, the Civil Surgeon, the AETC and other district functionaries. The items for which funds have been approved include furniture, computers, photocopiers, generator sets, fax machines, telephones, etc.

A part of the old three-storeyed PUDA office building in Phase-I is being renovated on war footing by PUDA employees. This building will be housing the offices of senior district officials till the building of the DAC is constructed in Sector 62.

Sources said three teams each from the civil, electrical and public health wings of PUDA, comprising more than 120 employees, were on the job of renovation. While the civil wing plans to spend a sum of about Rs 85 lakh on the work, the electrical and public health wings had plans to spend about Rs 20 lakh and Rs 16 lakh, respectively.

The office of the SDM and the Tehsildar is also being shifted to one side of the building. According to the layout plan prepared by PUDA, all main offices will be on the first floor, branch offices will be housed on the second floor, while the record of various offices will be stored on the third floor. All suvidha kenders and reception counters will function from the ground floor.

Sources said that as per the meeting of the Chief Secretary, Punjab, held on March 30, the budgetary estimates for providing office infrastructure came to Rs 175.64 lakh. Out of this amount, a sum of Rs 50.15 lakh would be spent on various requirements of the office of the Deputy Commissioner, apart from the amount to be spent on providing LAN and CCTV. As many as 37 computers have to be installed in this office.

A sum of Rs 84.25 lakh has been proposed for the Police Department plus the expenditure incurred on LAN. This department would also be provided 30 computers apart from other facilities. Another Rs 16.40 lakh would be spent on the office of the Civil Surgeon (including ayurvedic and homoeopathic offices) and Rs 15 lakh on the office of the AETC.

As the renovation work was going on in full swing, some laywers and others who were using the space of the verandah have moved out in the open.



Mi-8, Mi-17 copters to be refurbished
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 3
Technology developed indigenously during the pursuit of the Dhruv advanced light helicopter project would soon find its way to other helicopters in the IAF's arsenal.

Defence research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) are joining hands to refurbish Soviet-origin helicopters like the Mi-8 and the Mi-17.

Sources said one of the major areas for refurbishing helicopters would be replacing the convectional metal rotors with composite rotors, the type of which are used on the Dhruv.

"We now have the technology and the capability to make rotors from composite materials, which are lighter and stronger that metal rotors," a senior officer here said.

"This would not only reduce the weight of the helicopter, but also cut down on maintenance costs," he added.

Besides, there are some other components and systems developed for the Dhruv, which can be retrofitted in the Mi series helicopters.

"We are looking for areas where we can use lighter and stronger materials," the officer said. Though light-weight, composite materials are stronger than steel.

Though the entire Dhruv fleet was grounded recently after its structural defects cropped up in its composite rotors, officers said it was due to lapses in the manufacturing process and not the design factor that accounted for this.

Preliminary studies are already underway, though it would be some time before the actual modifications begin.

The entire process would require thorough testing and evaluation. The IAF is already engaged in a project to increase the service ceiling of the Mi-17 and use of light-weight composites would be an advantage.



Bheora’s police remand extended

Chandigarh, April 3
A local court today extended the police remand of Paramjit Singh Bheora till April 6. Sources in the operation cell of the Chandigarh Police said Bheora was presented before a local court today which remanded him to police custody for further interrogation.

The police has taken the plea that it had yet to find out the exact number of persons who were providing financial assistance to the dreaded terrorist. The police has also mentioned that it had yet to unravel the conspiracy of the jail authorities, who were involved in the escape of the accused. OC



Chandigarh Calling
Swinging time for tourists

The Chandigarh Administration is making a concerted effort to promote tourism in a big way. The past two years saw a steep rise in the number of tourists visiting the city. The number for 2004 was 60,633 (domestic) and 17, 133 (foreigners) and in 2005 the figures went up to 61, 4176 (domestic) and 23, 294 (foreigners). Encouraged by this, the Administration is making a special effort to attract more international tourists. Now a single window has been provided for permission to photograph and document the architecturally famous buildings of the city and there is literature on the city available in German and French. The Administration has also decided to introduce ‘Chandigarh New Year Festival’ from December 25 to January 1.

Punjab unbound

The launch of Gurcharan Das’s Punjabi translation of his best-selling book ‘India Unbound’ last week had political stalwarts in keen attendance. Both, Punjab CM, Capt. Amarinder Singh and Finance Minister Surinder Singla used the occasion to details their government’s achievements rattling off facts and figures with aplomb. When the focus came back to the book—finally—Capt. Amarinder Singh’s account of how he read the book charmed smiles out of everyone. “I had just one day between the Prime Minster and Prince of Wales’s visit which is when I picked the book up. I found it so engrossing that I finished it, reading through the night into the early hours of the morning.” At the end of it all his pithy one liner summed it all up, “History does not stop for anyone.”

Little moments

As Principal for St. Stephen’s School Sector 45, Harold Carver ensures the door to his room is wide open at all times. Students buzz around, coming in for advice, a kind word or simply to say hallo. But there is no exchange of words with this four-year-old student who frequents his office. Arpit has a quaint little routine, which is played out every single day. She walks into Carver’s room at midday, her hand outstretched. He takes it gently and kisses it, a la princess. She then goes to his desk, opens the drawer, pulls out a box of sweets, takes two and walks out—all without a word! The devotion does not end her. She waits every morning at the gate with a basket of flowers so she can pray with Carver before he starts his day and needless to add, without conversation. Life is sweet and “these little nuances fill the soul” smiles Carver.

Grain Market

Time was when the Grain Market dotted with the squalor, disorder, traffic, encroachments, garbage and stray cattle. But now the things have changed to some extent, what with the policemen doing frequent rounds during the day to stop encroachments on the roads and the Municipal Corporation safaiwallahs and garbage trucks giving their mite to cleanliness. Almost all the area has been made pucca to save heavy vehicles from getting bogged down. Exit points have been cleared for a smooth flow of traffic. Still, a lot more needed to make things better for as once the policemen wither away, the squatters are right back on the road.

Last drop

Come March 31 and the financial year closes for all trades. It also brings cheers among those who like a drop or two for it is auction time and the rates of the old stocks drop. So the young and old were rushing to wine shops to get their bottle of whisky or beer.

Contributors: Sanjeev Singh Bariana, Gayatri Rajwade, Tarundeep Aggarwal & Sunil Minocha 



Residents protest against dumping of garbage
Our Correspondent

Garbage-collection vehicles stranded in Phase VIII-B, Industrial Area, Mohali, after residents protested against the dumping of garbage in the area on Monday.
Garbage-collection vehicles stranded in Phase VIII-B, Industrial Area, Mohali, after residents protested against the dumping of garbage in the area on Monday. — A Tribune photograph

Mohali, April 3
Vehicles of the local Municipal Council carrying garbage were stopped from dumping the waste by residents of Phase VIII-B, Industrial Area, here today. Residents, who had constructed houses in the area on the land allotted by the PSIEC, complained that the council was spreading unhygienic conditions in the area as garbage was being dumped very close to the houses.

The Executive Officer of the civic body, Mr Amarjit Singh Sekhon, had to visit the spot when council vehicles were stopped from dumping garbage in the area. He tried to convince the residents that the council was dumping garbage only in an area allotted by PUDA for the purpose. He assured them that insecticides would be sprayed on the dumped garbage to contain the problem of flies and mosquitoes.

According to reports the residents finally relented. The council, however, carried on the work of dumping garbage using an alternative route.

Mr Sekhon said PUDA had allotted about 13 acres of land for dumping garbage. The demarcation of the area would be done tomorrow.

Dumping garbage has always been a problem with the civic body. It has changed many sites and faced protests several times over the years as no permanent site had been allotted to it earlier. It was after much persuasion that the 13-acre site was allotted to the council last year. As the demarcation of the area had so far not been done, the civic body could not construct any boundary wall or do fencing.



Fauji Beat
Unwell health scheme

The recent instructions from Lieut-Gen V.K. Dua (retd), Managing Director, Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS), say that the polyclinics will refer all patients to military hospitals and not to the empanelled hospitals in future. It will then be up to the military hospitals to refer them to the empanelled hospitals for any treatment that is not available with them.

The Chandigarh polyclinic is now referring all patients, except those requiring cardiac, oncology, gastroenterology, pulmonology, endocrinology and neuro-surgery treatment, to the Command Hospital, Chandimandir. For the aforementioned specialties, the patients from Chandigarh will continue to be referred to the empanelled hospitals. In case of any emergency, a patient can report directly to an empanelled hospital. Thereafter, it will be decided by the Command Hospital whether to allow him to get treatment there or shift him to the Command Hospital.

Some of the questions that these instructions invite are: One, why should not the ECHS members from Chandigarh go directly to the Command Hospital to save time, as they were doing before becoming members of this scheme? Two, given the fact that the ECHS has increased the number of dependents of ex-servicemen manifold, will the Command Hospital and other military hospitals be able to cater to such a large number of patients? Three, has the ECHS run into bankruptcy? If not, then why are new instructions being issued every third day to dilute its effectiveness? The new instructions have created great resentment among the ex-servicemen community.

Dental treatment

According to the instructions issued by the Central Organisation of the ECHS, Delhi Cantonment, a few months ago, the polyclinics in Chandigarh and Chandimandir were told that all dental patients would be sent to the Command Military Dental Centre (CMDC), Chandimandir, instead of the empanelled hospitals, for treatment. This resulted in a host of complaints from the patients that they had to wait for the dentures at the CMDC for anything up to four months. After which, the Central Organisation of the ECHS modified its instructions to say that when the inflow of ECHS patients was beyond the capacity of the CMDC, it could then refer them to the empanelled hospitals.

Since all ECHS patients have started coming to the CMDC, the latter has to cater to more than 200 patients every day. Of which, over 60 per cent are the ECHS patients. The CMDC has only three technicians to prepare dentures. Of them, not more than two are available at any one time. They work up to 10.30 pm everyday, because of which the waiting period for dentures has come down to two to three months.

The dental officers from some of the polyclinics where they cannot function either because of the non-availability of accommodation or because of the dental chairs not being available, should be pooled to cope with the rush of work at the CMDC. In two such cases where this has been done, the dental officers have to work without assistants as they are not authorised in most of the polyclinics. As it is, there is already a shortage of assistants in the CMDC, which is hampering the working of dental officers.

Embarkation Headquarters

The Embarkation Headquarters, Mumbai, was raised as Embarkation Section during World War I in 1915. This premier inter-service organisation was given its present name in 1936 and was re-organised into its present form in December 1947.

This Headquarters handles the import and export of defence stores cargo of the three services and ordnance factories by sea and air and dispatches these to the consignees. It has handled tones of defence cargo both during peacetime and war.

EME in UN missions

The Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) has played an active role in the UN peacekeeping missions. The Corps has been providing services for repairing of equipment and on the job training.

— Pritam Bhullar



Heated exchanges between CTU, Haryana Roadways staff
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 3
Tempers ran high between employees of the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking and the Haryana Roadways at the Inter-State Bus Terminus, Sector 17, here today.

The trouble arose first around 12 noon when a poster displaying the timetable of the Jaipur-bound Volvo bus of the Haryana Roadways was torn off allegedly by CTU employees. Heated exchanges were witnessed between the two parties. The incident was repeated again in the evening.

A conductor of the Haryana Roadways said: “The CTU employees are harassing us. The CTU bus service to Panchkula and other areas was stopped recently because of ‘unfair’ routes given to us on the new grid system. In case the authorities do not sort out the issue immediately, we will be left with no option but to stop their entry from tomorrow.” However, none of the CTU officials could be contacted for comments late in the evening.



Roads cry for repair before rains
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 3
While the Engineering Department has initiated a drive for cleaning of kerbs, road berms, channels and road gullies, the schedule for it does not cover Sectors 39, 40 and 41, which were among the most affected sectors last year during rains.

As the area is low lying, rainwater from other sectors gathers here and even enters houses at most points during the wet season. Officials of the departments concerned have always found these sectors waterlogged during rains.

In a press note issued here today, Mr J. C. Verma, general secretary of the Residents Welfare Association (RWA) of Sector 40, said if maintenance officials overlooked these sectors this year, too, the situation would be much worse than ever.

The road outside Delhi Public School in Sector 40-C is marked with potholes, as it was not paved on the pretext that the school had encroached upon it. 



No official word on waiving of VAT on Bt seed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 3
Though the sale of Bt cotton seed has started in the cotton belt of Punjab, there is no information at the official level to dealers with regard to the waiving of 4 per cent VAT on the seed.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had announced in the Punjab Assembly in March to waive VAT on the seed..

In the absence of official information in this regard to dealers in the seed, they are facing difficulty in issuing bills.

A senior officer said a notification in this regard was expected soon.



Ram Navami celebrations
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 3
The six-day annual Ram Navami celebrations started at the Sree Chaitanya Gaudiya Math in Sector 20 here today.

Delivering a discourse on ‘‘Why human birth is superior’’, senior saint Srila Bhakti Vijan Bharti Maharaj said ‘‘human birth is supreme as in this birth we have a chance to do bhajan’’.

Mr Arun Grover, Chairman of the Amartex Group of Industries, was the chief guest and Mr Subhash Chander Jain, DGP of GRP, Punjab, was the guest of honour.

Thousands of people from all walks of life attended the celebrations. — TNS



Police clueless in petrol station robbery bid case
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 3
Even after four days of the arrest of an accused in a petrol station robbery attempt case the police has failed to make much headway in the investigations. The police has also failed to nab any of the accomplices of the arrested person. The accused was handed over to the police by the petrol station employees, who resisted the robbers and foiled the robbery bid.

The police has so far not been able to establish any link of this gang with the other petrol station robbery cases and incidents of attempts to loot ATMs in the city.

At the time of the arrest of the accused, who has been identified as Ajay Shastri of Faidan village, the police while terming it to be ‘‘a major achievement’’ had claimed that they would interrogate him in an attempt to find out the involvement of this gang in other incidents of armed robberies in the city.

According to sources while the police had identified the two other accomplices of Ajay Shastri, but it had not been able to trace their whereabouts. The SHO of the Sector 36 police station, Inspector Ishwar Singh Mann, said, ‘‘We are investigating the matter and will achieve a breakthrough in this case soon.’’ He also added that the police had thoroughly interrogated the accused and managed to extract vital clues. However, he refused to comment on establishing of any link of the gang with other incidents of robberies on the plea that such a disclosure would adversely effect the ongoing investigation proceedings.

Ajay Shashtri was nabbed by the employees of National Petroways Petrol Station, Sector 52-B, in the wee hours of March 31, when he along with his associates armed with country made pistol and iron rods came to the petrol station to loot it.

The incidents of petrol station and ATM robberies have been giving sleepless nights to the local police, but the cops have failed to achieve any breakthrough in this regard so far.



One held for theft in Ind Area
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 3
Several cases of theft have been reported in the city during yesterday. One person was held on the charges of stealing articles from a plot in the Industrial Area and in a separate incident, a Sector 28 resident was arrested for allegedly stealing a scooter. The police has arrested a Bapu Dham Colony resident for indulging in gambling. Besides this, a house was burgled in Sector 19.

Mr Mehar Singh, owner of a factory on Plot number 7 Phase I, Industrial Area, has lodged a complaint alleging that Surinder Singh of Hallo Majra village had stolen five heavy iron wheels and 20 kg of weights from the premises of his factory on Friday night.

The accused was arrested on Saturday from near Dharam Shala in Hallo Majra. The police claims to have recovered the stolen property from the accused. A case has been registered in this regard.


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