C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Work resumes, but SBI may lose business
Tribune News Service

Cheques pending

Senior officials at the SBI said though cash transactions had started in various branches in the tri-city, cheque transactions worth Rs 2,000 crore were still pending. It would take another two days for the bank branches to clear the cheques pending, said an official. ATMs in most parts of the city could be made operational only by 2 pm. The currency chest opened at 10 am and it was only by the afternoon that ATMs could be loaded.

Chandigarh, April 10
Even as striking employees of the State Bank of India (SBI) joined duty today after being assured a hefty pension hike, the bank management could actually lose business from its corporate clients.

With transactions worth crores affected in the tri-city because of the strike, many corporate clients and government departments were thinking of pulling out of the bank.

It was perhaps to please clients that in many bank branches, including the Punjab University branch, officers gave away roses to a select clientele.

A senior officer in the Finance Department, Haryana, remarked that SBI officers should be happy to get maximum retirement benefits in the banking sector even as their corporate and government clients were now looking to shift business to other banks.

Though SBI officers here said they were not sure of the exact deal arrived at between officers’ unions and the Finance Ministry, the SBI staff would continue to get maximum retirement benefits.

Most other public sector banks paid either contributory provident fund or pensions, besides gratuity, but SBI staff would get all three.

With the pension scheme being announced today, benefits accorded to them were highest in the banking sector.

Meanwhile, serpentine queues of customers could be seen at most bank branches as those opened for business.

Other than pensioners, a number of customers wanting to deposit money or their EMI queued up in front of the bank branches since the morning.

People had to wait for almost two hours for their turn.

Mr Kuldeep Singh, a retired Air Force official, who came to the Sector 17 branch to deposit money, said he had to wait for almost two hours-and-a-half.

Computers crashed initially and it took 45 minutes for them to restore the system, he complained.

Pensioners were accorded priority by the bank staff.

AGM Bikramjitr Singh said though they had credited all 400 pensioners’ accounts, those who came today were dealt with on a priority basis to avoid inconvenience to them.



Man suffers burns as youths set jeep on fire
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 10
In a retaliatory action, two unidentified motorcyclists set a jeep on fire by hurling a petrol bomb on it in the busy Sector 35 market last evening. The occupants of the jeep suffered burn injuries while dousing the flames. The fire was doused before the fire brigade could reach there. The incident followed a clash between two groups on Saturday evening.

The police has registered a case under Sections 435, 440 and 34 of the IPC on a complaint filed by Shamsher Singh of Sector 35-D. Shamsher suffered 20 per cent burns and was admitted to the Sector 16 General Hospital.

Shamsher alleged in his complaint that he was sitting in a jeep in the Sector 35 market along with his friend Kulsharanjit Singh. Two unidentified men riding a Hero Honda Karizma motor cycle came there and threw a petrol bomb on the jeep. Soon the rear portion of the jeep was engulfed in flames. In a bid to douse the flames he and Kulsharanjit were injured. On seeing the jeep on fire the onlookers called the fire brigade. However, they along with the people gathered there managed to put off the fire before the fire engine reached there.

The injured were rushed to Sector 16 General hospital. Both groups had an altercation and the Shamsher group had broken the windowpanes of the car belonging to the other group and also had thrashed them. Two members of the other group tried to settle scores by setting Shamsher’s jeep on fire, said the SHO of Sector 36 police station.

The police said raids were being conducted at various places to trace the accused. 



City to have new cab service from April 15
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
New look cabs with air conditioners and at least 1000 cc capacity will commence services on city roads from April 15.
The UT Administration is learnt to have communicated to the airport and railway authorities to make arrangements for the parking of the new taxis.

Existing cab operators are crying foul over the introduction of the new taxi service as they have to discontinue their services from April 15.

The reaction, however, comes rather late because the proposal for the new taxi service had been floated last year, a series of meetings were also held with the local cab operators and advertisements seeking expression of interest were also printed in newspapers.

Cab drivers are having last minute meetings with the administration seeking permission to ply on the city roads along with the new entrants.

The administration has decided to stick to its earlier decision. A senior UT official said, “Existing operators never expected any outside entrants for operations in a small city. We made the change only for providing quality services to the people at decent rates, which has got a good response with participation from big companies.”

The Chandigarh Taxi Workers Union has objected to the new scheme saying that it will affect lives of at least 1500 operators here. Mr Naresh Thakur, general secretary of the union, said, “There were a number of hidden costs under the new tariff scheme which were not being communicated by the administration properly. The charge was Rs 12 per kilometre as specified, however, waiting charges at Rs 100 per hour was not announced earlier.”

Mr P.S. Shergill, secretary of the State Transport Authority, said, “The entire scheme needs to be studied in the correct perspective. The scheme is not an overnight development. The details were being published in the newspapers from the past over six months, yet, there had been no local takers.”

“Very simply put, a cab from the airport or the railway station to anywhere in the city did not cost less than Rs 200. Existing operators were not using the meters and this is a well-established fact.”

“Under the new scheme, the cost will be according to the distance travelled. The first kilometre will cost only Rs 15 and each subsequent kilometre will cost Rs 12 per kilometre. No operator will have the right to refuse to travel to smaller distances as is being done presently.”

The administration has also cleared the specifications which will be followed by the three taxi service providers who have signed to work on the project.

The service providers include the Hertz and the Mega Cab Services, both Delhi based companies and the local Indus Travels and Logistics.

In the introductory phase, each company plans to introduce 50 cabs each. The minimum specification for the cars is 1000 cc. The cabs on the city roads will be will be Maruti Esteem, Tata Indigo, Hyundai Accent, Opel and Ford Ikon, besides others.



Councillors eye foreign junkets
Amrita Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
The recent drop in air fares for foreign travel seems to have caught the eye of Municipal Corporation councillors, who are now all set to fly to Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai or Malaysia for a study tour, but only if the UT Administration permits them.

According to a proposal made to Commissioner P.S. Aujla last week, with an IT park, an international airport and a film city coming up in the city, councillors should go on a study tour of Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai or Malaysia to bring more innovative ideas to the city.

The proposal has been made by Anu Chatrath, Subhash Chawala, Harpreet Kaur, Kuldeep Singh, Balraj Singh, Geeta Rani, Vijay Singh Ranan and Pradeep Chabbra.

The proposal further states that these study tours are at a par with domestic study tours and there will be no extra burden on the civic body as air fares are almost the same.

There is a budgetary provision of study tours for all councillors and they have been undertaking study tours for the past two years, in which they have visited different parts of the country like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Goa and Mysore.

The budget provision for the study tour is Rs 15 lakh this year, up from Rs 10 lakh last year.

The councillors argue that the cost of the study tour was about Rs 32,000 per head for seven days last year and they could comfortably travel abroad in the same amount.



Woman ends life
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 10
A 35-year-old mother of two daughters ended her life by consuming a poisonous substance at her Bapu Dham Colony residence, here, this evening. In her suicide note, she held no one responsible for her death, according to the police.

Seema had handed over her suicide note to her 16-year-old daughter three days ago and instructed her not to disclose this to anyone else. She was said be suffering from depression of late and was taking treatment.

Sources in the Sector 26 police station said Seema Verma consumed some tablets at her residence and the incident came to light when her condition began to deteriorate as she was vomiting.

Her husband, Mr Mukesh Kumar, a registered medical practitioner, immediately shifted her to the Sector 16 General Hospital, where she later died.

Quoting Kusum, the victim’s 16-year-old daughter, the police said, Seema had written her suicide note saying that no one was responsible for her death. When asked Kusum, why did she not reveal this to anyone she candidly replied that her mother had instructed her not to do this.

Mukesh told the police that she was taking treatment from Chandigarh Medical Centre (CMC), Sector 17, Chandigarh.



New excise policy to benefit all
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
Inspite of the hue and cry being raised over the new excise policy introduced by Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, the policy of allotment of liquor vends could actually reverse the growth trends in revenue.

The new scheme aimed at demonopolisation of trade, could actually benefit all four players - state, manufacturers / whole sellers, retail licencee and the consumer. The liquor prices will come down, big contractors can no longer dictate terms, and, the liquor quotas of the state can now be increased.

In the previous regime of auctioning of vends, the big licencee preferred to purchase extra liquor from outside the legal markets, to avoid paying the licence fee and excise duty on extra liquor sold.

Though Punjab has the highest quota of liquor (760 lakh proof litre of country made, IMFL and beer), the state has been recording a low growth in revenue, as compared to Haryana. In 2004-05, Punjab could collect Rs 5323 crore, while Haryana could collect Rs 6079 crore — a difference of a whopping Rs 750 crore. This despite the fact that agriculture production (which is also subject to tax) in Punjab was double the agriculture production of Haryana — an important factor related to sale of liquor.

The percentage share of excise revenue in Punjab to the total revenue, was as high as 42 per cent in 1994-95, but this came down to 28 per cent in 2004-05. In Haryana too, the percentage share of excise revenue dropped from 32 per cent in 1994-95, to 17 per cent in 2004-05. Senior officials in the Excise Department, Punjab, said that the almost static growth of total revenue and shortfall of the excise revenue to the total revenue, were a matter of concern.

"Though the quota of liquor has increased over the years and liquor prices, too, have sky-rocketted because of the monopolistic liquor trade, the percentage excise revenue has been going down. The monopolistic trade was against the consumer and revenue, " said a senior official, while justifying the new excise policy, wherein liquor vends are being allotted, instead of being auctioned.

He said under the new excise policy, as compared to neighbouring Haryana and Chandigarh, the shortfall in revenue from allotment of vends was just over 6 per cent.

"We have already collected Rs 1266 crore as compared to a projection of Rs 1278 crore, for allotting about 3600 vends ( of a total of 4098 vends across the state). Comparatively, over 25 per cent shortfall in revenue from allotment of vends has been seen in Haryana and Chandigarh so far," he said.

Officials in the Punjab Excise Department said that around 400 vends still remained unallotted, a proposal had been sent to the state government.

"We have requested them to either close the unviable vends, or sell these as clusters. But the basic structure of the new excise policy will be retained - allotment through draw of lots, no shifting of vends etc.," informed a top Excise official. 



Helping children realise filmmaking dreams
Payal Pruthi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
The storytellers of the silver screen are here promising to share a dream. A dream that will make amateur filmmakers of the city to be part of something more professional than just a glorified home video. And in this end game of theirs figure the schoolchildren of the city, who would be groomed by the established names of the tinsel town to create a “calling card” and later be among the stars.

Wemakefilmz, the youth film bunch of Speaking Tree Films headed by producer Harish Amin, with films like Dil Chahta Hai, Partition, Being Cyrus, Namesake and many others to his credit and Guneet Monga who too has worked with Canadian filmmakers on projects like Partition and Murder Unveiled – A Love Story, both are out on a venture to help young and creative students achieve their filmmaking dreams.

In the city for a few days now, the duo has already generated the interest of lot of schools like The Gurukul, St Kabir, St Stephen’s and many others in the project.

Talking about the 10-day summer film camp, which is being held at The Gurukul, Guneet says the company has taken the initiative in order to create an environment for the children where they can learn and experience the art of filmmaking.

All of 22, Guneet also wants to guide them through the international style of filmmaking by focusing entirely on practical training.

As for Harish, who has worked for 30 years in the film industry, both Hollywood and Bollywood, its now time to give back something to the industry. Ask him why children, and pat comes the reply, “We want to give every child an opportunity to do great things in life”.

Giving details of the camp for which the child would also have to pay Rs 15,000, he says students will learn and make their own short films and the selected films would be screened and awarded by acclaimed filmmakers at the Children Film Awards-2006.

The students will also get to interact with experienced film professionals from India and abroad who will teach them key elements of visual storytelling, including scriptwriting, camerawork and editing.



Air Marshal briefed about training aids
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
The Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command, Air Marshal B.N. Gokhale, today arrived at the Air Force High Grounds here on an inspection visit to the MiG-27/29 TETTRA School.
He was accompanied by his wife, Ms Meghana Gokhale, president of the Air Force Wives Welfare Association (regional).

On their arrival here, they were received by the Station Commander, Gp Cdr B.K. Sood and his wife, Ms Preetika Sood, who is president of the local chapter of the Air Force Wives Welfare Association.

The Air Marshal was briefed about the training programmes being conducted at the school as well as various innovations and training aids developed there.

He visited various sections of the school, including the X-ray model of the MiG-27 as well as the newly set up MiG-29 training complex.

Lauding the achievements of the school, he urged instructors to strive for excellence in training.

He also interacted with the trainees at the school and motivated them to be professionally sound.

Meanwhile, Ms Sood briefed Ms Gokhale about various welfare activities being undertaken at the station for air men and their families.



Chandigarh Calling

Photo by Pradeep Tewari Who is the real Mr Chandigarh?: A perfect example of grimy politics was witnessed during the Chandigarh body building competitions. In an attempt to score over one another, two parallel bodies of Chandigarh Body Building Associations conducted separate competitions under the same title on the same day but at different venues. Hari Narayan of the gymnasium of Harry Power Club won the ‘Mr Chandigarh’ title at the competition held at DAV College, Sector 10, organised by the Chandigarh Amateur Body Building Association.

On the same day Anurag Pandey, under 75 kg category, won the title of ‘Mr Chandigarh’ in another Mr Chandigarh Body Building Competition held at Sanjay Public School, Sector 70, and this one was organised by another parallel body under the name of Chandigarh Body Building Association!

So will the real Mr Chandigarh please stand up?

Latest earthen pots: In today’s fast-paced existence every product seems to be undergoing changes to keep pace with modernity and to meet the tough competition of the market. Even traditional items like earthen pots, popular during the summers, are seeing transformations. No more dipping of glasses into the narrow opening to take water out. Pots these days are fitted with plastic taps to make the whole process of drinking from these traditional ‘water coolers’ easier. But every convenience comes at a price. These pots are dearer by at least Rs 50, with the starting price at Rs 100 in the city.

Memorable moment: Ask him about his most cherished memory and it is neither film actors who have frequented his place nor politicians who have savoured his paan. The most memorable incident goes back to when Rajkumar Chaurasia’s now famous paan shop had recently opened. “A car zoomed in and the beautiful young girl driving asked for four jodis. She was absolutely lovely and I could not help looking at her while I made the paan. As soon as I handed the paan to her, she passed on a hundred rupee note and whizzed off, this in a time when the paan cost all of 25 paise!” Of all the reminiscences, this one remains the most unforgettable.

At their creative best: In the city recently to showcase their “paramparic kala” (traditional art form) Kanta and Kachru Khadse, adhivasis from Madhya Pradesh, displayed their unique talent twirling and twisting date palm leaves into a host of unusual decorative products. Chattais, fans, jharus, ornamental flower-pots, lamps they have more than a 100 designs to offer.

Their craftsmanship has taken them to Dubai but they still struggle to make ends meet. “The monsoons rob us of work and we spend our time doing mazdoori until the rains end, the leaves dry up and we can start weaving again. People give our craft respect so we have the courage to keep going,” smiles Kanta.

Comfort for hippos: To provide comfort to water denizens, the Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park, Chhatbir, has installed a water-treatment plant in the zoo with the financial assistance of the Central Zoo Authority. The plant is supplying oxygenated water round the clock to ponds of the hippos. Earlier, the hippopotamuses had to stay in the pond with a capacity of 90,000 litre water for three days. After three days the water was changed. Now the water is purified when needed. The massive thick-skinned herbivorous animal spends most of its daytime wallowing in water. In the evening it comes out of the water for grazing. In Greek, the hippo means river horse. The zoo is home to four adult hippos and one baby hippo.

Great big banyan tree: It lends credence to the ethos of the city, standing as testimony to the city’s vigour and with the changing season, even the great big banyan tree at the Sukhna Lake undergoes a ‘makeover’. Standing tall without any leaves, it nonetheless holds on tenaciously to a small patch of green in its bare branches, heralding the coming of Baisakhi, the beginning of summer, of green fields and spry days.

Contributed by GS Paul, Akash Ghai, Gayatri Rajwade and Vishal Gulati



Liquor Tamasha
Revenue makes UT Admin forget’ Constitution
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
Article 47 of the Indian Constitution says the state (read the government) is duty-bound to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health. This Article, which was finalised after much debate by the Constituent Assembly, also makes it the duty of the state to “endeavour to bring about prohibition of consumption”, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health.

Similarly, the Punjab Intoxicants License and Sale Order, 1956, clearly lays a detailed procedure before any license is granted for setting up a liquor shop.

The rule says that whenever a new liquor shop and a drinking place (ahata) are proposed to be allowed at a particular place, it is mandatory for the local civil administration to ascertain the opinion of the persons who reside in the area and are likely to be affected by the proposal.

Now for some reality check! This financial year, the UT Administration has almost trebled the number of liquor shops that will sell liquor at various places. Similarly, the number of such shops and “ahatas” that have been allowed to be opened in tin sheds has gone up drastically.

Residents of various areas where the new shops have been opened deny having ever been asked to give their opinion on the issue.

Says an angry Arvind Kumar, a resident of Sector 49-B, “Why are liquor shops in tin sheds allowed only in sectors like ours? If the administration really feels that the city can not do without these ugly structures, why don’t they allow similar tin sheds in VIP sectors where the high and mighty reside? For starters, since there is ample empty space near the Punjab Raj Bhawan and the residence of the Adviser, why not have a liquor shop and an “ahata” in a tin shed in that area”.

Incidentally, a couple of years ago, the administration had decided not to allow vends in tin sheds as they had become irritant for the city residents. But, the plan was given a quiet burial.

Residents of many areas, particularly the Southern sectors, also allege that the administration is simply not bothered about the safety of the citizens.

“Every evening, you can see long line of vehicles standing on the roadside while the drivers are either purchasing liquor or drinking the same inside the “ahatas”. There have been so many cases of drunken people fighting in the middle of the road, but no action is ever taken”, claims Harish Gupta of Sector 61.

The UT officials, however, are dismissive about the protests and attribute the same to minor issues.

“We have allowed shops to be opened in tin structures only at those places where there are no proper markets. As for the protests by some residents, they are motivated,” asserts Mr I.S. Sandhu, Additional Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Chandigarh.

However, senior Punjab and Haryana High Court lawyer Mohan Jain rubbishes the officer’s claim. “The administration’s entire approach is flawed. Not all protests can be motivated. This is a serious issue which is unfortunately not being handled properly. In their bid to generate more revenue, the officers are throwing all norms to the winds,” Mr Jain notes.



Liquor shops woo customers
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
Customer is the king in the city’s new liquor scene. Thanks to the new liquor policy, the liquor contractors have now donned the role of shopkeepers and are going all out to woo the customers.

An unheard trend during the previous liquor policies, customers can now chose from a wide range of liquor brands at competitive rates. “Due to the monopoly of the liquor cartel last financial year, customers were forced to chose between a few brands at exorbitant rates”, said Mr Naresh Mittal, a city resident.

The new entrants in the liquor trade are wooing customers by displaying different brands of liquor in glass showcases. “This will give the affect of an up market wine shop and attract the customers who were earlier reluctant to buy liquor from a shop located in unhygienic location”, said Mr G.S. Chinna, who has opened a liquor shop near Palsora.

Mr Satpal, owner of a liquor shop in Sector 38 (West), said, “To remain in the competitive market, customer would have to be valued. Rude behaviour on part of the employees at shops is a thing of the past”.

Going one step ahead, a salesgirl has been engaged at a liquor shop in Sector 8. “A woman drinker would feel comfortable to approach such shop. Generally, women have to request a male colleague or a friend to fetch liquor for them”, said a woman drinker on the condition of anonymity. Mr Chinna said he had plans to run all-saleswomen vend.

In the race of attracting the customers, the owners of “ahatas” have not remained behind. Tiled floor, hygienic conditions and rebate in eatables and no charging for tap water are some of the in thing at the “ahatas”. The owner of “ahata” in Sector 22 has gone one step ahead by allowing customers to bring eatables from outside. An “ahata” owner, Mr Sat Pal, said , “We do not have a kitchen and only sell packed eatables at the price printed on the items. Nothing would be charged for the tap water”.

Mr Aman Sharma, a consumer, said the administration should continue with the allotment policy.

Meanwhile, liquor prices may rise after two weeks if the landing cost of liquor was not brought down, say liquor contractors.

Delay by the liquor companies to intimate the Chandigarh Administration about the landing price of liquor could cost the consumers heavy. The liquor prices, including those of beer, are likely to shoot up by at least 20 per cent in the coming few days.



Billboards a traffic hazard
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh April 10
The Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh continues to throw road safety norms to the wind by allowing banners, billboards and hoardings to stay at “traffic sensitive points” on internal and external roads running across the city.

In one such instance, the MC first permitted the Air Force authorities to set up a board, announcing the recruitment drive and an air show, at “vulnerable spots and then allowed the same to continue even after the event’s conclusion.

One such advertisement is standing tall along the road winding its way to Sector 18 Government Girls Model Senior Secondary School even though over a week has lapsed since the events came to an end. As the advertisement is on the turning opposite the Tagore Theatre, it prevents the travellers from getting a glimpse of the traffic whirling in from the other side.

“So far no major accident has taken place. But minor mishaps involving schoolgoers and other motorists occur almost on a daily basis,” says a science teacher on the condition of anonymity. “It’s nothing but a traffic hazard.... The civic and police authorities should do something about it with immediate effect.”

Though senior officers associated with the traffic wing of the Chandigarh police refuse to comment on the issue, the sources in the police headquarters agree that the advertisement in front of a school should not have been allowed to come up in the first place as the spot is otherwise also “sensitive” due the presence of so many students.

They add that advertisements on the bus queue shelters and public conveniences for earning revenue are “still okay” as they do not obstruct the view.

But such advertisements, along the turnings, and those in front of schools, should be pulled down.

The sources add that the courts in judicial pronouncements have time and again observed that hoardings that pose a risk to the lives of the motorists by diverting their attention should not be allowed to come up along roads.

A senior MC officer says that permission for setting up banners, hoardings and advertisements is given to organisations concerned after taking all the facts and circumstances into consideration. “In the instant case, the Air Force authorities took permission from the corporation for putting up just the banners, but installed the advertisements.... These are not hoardings as are smaller in size. In any case, they should have pulled these down by now. As they have not acted so far, we will send a team to dismantle it,” he concludes.



Sector 17 to get facelift
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
The Municipal Corporation is all set to giving a major facelift to Sector 17.
In a press statement issued today, the MC stated that due to the renovation works, the public might have to face some inconvenience. The note stated that the corporation regretted the inconvenience and requested the public to bear with it.

The MC along with the UT Administration has taken up the work of facelifting and revitalisation of Sector 17. The pavements will be interlocked. The concrete flooring in the central Plaza is being replaced with quality concrete. It will be completed by June 15. The area in front of Sindhi Sweets and Batra Building will be completed by August 30. The water feature in the Central Plaza will also be completed by June 30.

All public toilets in Sector 17 have been upgraded to international standards on a BOT basis. The open space near the Bird Fountain has been developed through a private sponsor.

The remaining open spaces will also be developed, the lights in the Central Plaza replaced with decorated lights by June 30 and in the remaining area by August 30. The new dustbins will replace the old ones by June 30.

The Municipal Corporation has already engaged a consultant for the construction of a multi-level parking through a private sponsor adjoining Azad Hind Store. This parking is likely to be commissioned within one year.

The work of improvement of the infrastructure in the markets of Sectors 9, 19 and 22 will also be taken up shortly. 



Zirakpur traders oppose 4-laning
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, April 10
The ambitious four-laning project of the Zirakpur-Ambala “killer stretch” of the National Highway 22 may run into rough weather with shopkeepers up in arms against the issuance of demolition notices to them.

In fact the issuance of the demolition notices to scores of shopkeepers, including prominent property consultants, on both sides of the highway for their alleged encroachments on public land has come as a bolt from the blue. Already in the wake of the proposed 1.8 km flyover at Zirakpur, which will just fly over the township, the shopkeepers are at the receiving end of the recession in the property prices.

Alleging pick and choose policy by the Revenue Department, the shopkeepers claimed that the Revenue Department had resorted to wrong measurement which had led to issuing of the demolition notices to them.

Mr Baldev Goel, a prominent property consultant, who had been asked to “demolish” a part of his building encroaching upon public land, alleged that the revenue officials never measured the land coming under the construction of the flyover at Zirakpur in his presence.

“If we were told in advance about the encroachment, then we would have willingly left the area, which is now being termed encroachment”, Mr Goel, who recently renovated his office, said. The department measurement of land is a mere eyewash, he added.

Another shopkeeper claimed that the exact measurement was never done. In fact this came to the fore when certain shopkeepers went to Mohali for the personal hearings by the authorities. The shopkeepers were reportedly told by the authorities that they had relied on the reports of the revenue officials while issuing notices.

On the other hand the revenue officials allegedly never contacted the individual shopkeepers during the course of measurement. It may be recalled that the issue of the removal of encroachments on both sides of the highway had always been a sensitive issue with the shopkeepers opposing it tooth and nail.

On earlier occasions also, the removal of encroachments had assumed political overtones with the dominant political group in the nagar panchayat being accused of its partisan role. And with the elections to the Punjab Assembly round the corner, the issue again threatens to snowball into major controversy.

Official sources, while urging the shopkeepers to cooperate in the construction of the flyover in public interest, claimed that the encroachments would be removed at all costs. Recently, the Centre had cleared the four-laning project between Ambala-Zirakpur. Among other things, the project entails the construction of a flyover at Zirakpur. It is for the construction of the flyover that the shops are being demolished at Zirakpur.



Stolen paper used to market product, claims PGI
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
The PGI today claimed that one of its research papers had been stolen by a private company and was being used to market its product on the Internet.
Addressing a press conference, here today, Dr A.J. Kanwar, Head of Department of Dermatology, maintained that the research paper on “Topical tacrolimus for treatment of vitiligo in Asians” was published by three doctors of the Department in January 2004.

“It’s a very significant research and a number of companies are manufacturing medicines containing tacrolimus. However, our objection is that a paper on the Internet, with the same content as ours, is being used to promote a brand of medicine. All names and addresses listed in the paper are fictitious as far as we have found out,” Dr Kanwar said.

Maintaining that one of his patients tipped him off about the “duplicate” paper, he said that their names had been substituted in the paper while retaining the same group of patients and the methods.

“We tried finding out the ayurvedic institute that claimed to have carried out the study. It does not exist. While surnames have been retained, fictitious first names have been added. We are contemplating registering an FIR in the matter and even sending a letter to the Health Ministry through the PGI Director for action,” Dr Kanwar said.

He said that the target group of the herbal product, which was using the PGI paper to attract customers, was probably targeting the Asian population in the United Kingdom. “Pigmentation is a big problem and childhood vitiligo is more of a stigma in society. People tend to lap up any such cures which are backed by authentic research. This makes it all the more important to expose such unethical and unjustified practices," he stated.



Encroachments demolished amid protests
Our Correspondent

Mohali, April 10
The enforcement wing of the local Municipal Council carried out a demolition drive at Mataur village here today.
Land in the village which had been illegally occupied by some persons was got vacated amid protests.

Some women of the area tried to obstruct activity in protest against the drive.

Women police personnel were called in to bring the situation under control.

Employees of the enforcement wing demolished a shed and a boundary wall to vacate the area.

They said notices had been issued to the encroachers to vacate the land, but they failed to do so.

The land was reserved for the construction of a dharamshala, which could not be done as it had been encroached upon.



Mobile thieves’ case: probe ordered
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 10
The UT Inspector-General of Police (IGP) today ordered a probe into an incident in which two underage mobile snatchers were allegedly let off by the police at the Sector 43 police post on Sunday. According to the spokesman of the UT police, the IGP directed Deputy Superintendent of Police (South) K.I.P. Singh to probe the matter.

It was alleged that neither any FIR nor any entry about the arrest of the two snatchers, who were caught by the public, had been made in the police record. In one of the incidents that occurred in Sector 43 apni Mandi, Mr K.K. Bawa, the complainant, after a chase nabbed one of the thieves and handed him over to the Sector 43 police.

In the second incident, too, a mobile snatcher was caught red-handed while stealing a mobile and was handed over to the police. The in charge of the police post, Mr Devinder Kumar Sharma, had said then he was aware about the incident. 



Sikh body passes constitution
Tribune News Service

Mohali, April 10
On the second day of the International Sikh Confederation being held at the auditorium of Shivalik Public School, Mohali, General Kartar Singh today presented the revised constitution of the confederation and the members present unanimously approved it.

Through another unanimous resolution, an eight-member interim committee of elders was appointed to manage the affairs of the confederation, which would be convened within a year. The interim committee members are - Dr Kharak Singh, Mr Gurdev Singh, Dr G.S. Kalkat, Lt-Gen Kartar Singh Gill, Dr Gurbux Singh (NRI member), Mr Charan Kamal Singh, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta and Mr Sukhmandar Singh (NRI member). It was also resolved that the interim committee would select and appoint a secretary-general from amongst the members through a consensus.

Bhai Ashok Singh Bagrian suggested that the Sikhs should call themselves independent rather than having a separate identity because the word separate creates misunderstanding among the rest of the Indians.

Principal Harbhajan Singh said the confederation should concentrate on the preaching of the Sikh philosophy. 



New PUDA Chief Administrator
Our Correspondent

Mohali, April 10
Mr Som Parkash has taken over as the new Chief Administrator (CA) of the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) here today.
According to a press note, Mr Som Parkash is an IAS officer of the 1988 batch of the Punjab cadre. He is the 10th CA of PUDA since its establishment in 1995. He had succeeded Mr A.S. Chhatwal, who had taken over as Managing Director, Punjab Infrastructure Development Board.

Mr Som Parkash had earlier worked on various important assignments like Deputy Commissioner, Jalandhar, Director, Social Security and Labour Commissioner, Government of Punjab.



Fauji Beat
Dismal tale of Indian MBT

The recent statement of the Chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Mr M.Natarajan, in Chandigarh, that the Army is satisfied with the main battle tank (MBT) Arjun, can only he accepted with a pinch of salt. The project to manufacture this tank was launched in 1974 with a promise to start the production of the tank by 1984.

Mr Natarajan, who has been associated with the project since its inception, also said in Chandigarh that the tank was now ready for trials in this summer. It is rather premature for the DRDO chief to say that the Army is satisfied with Arjun when he knows that during the trials held at the Mahajan Field Firing Rangers in Rajasthan, last year, the temperature inside the tank rose to 49ºC.

Incidentally, Arjun was formally declared inducted into the Army in June 1993. Yet again, it was unveiled by the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao on January 9, 1996, when it was said the MBT was likely to be inducted into the Army within a year.

The Arjun project has been languishing for the past 36 years due to the confused thinking about its design, specification and fabrication. The Army and the DRDO have also differed with each other on this tank. The difference of opinion in certain areas still exists between them. Though the estimated cost of this project was Rs 15.50 crore in 1974, Rs 210 crore had already been spent on it by 1994.

Patients' inconvenience

After the issue of recent instructions from the Central Organisation of the Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS), Delhi Cantonment, patients are being put to great inconvenience. Of several such examples, only one is quoted here. A patient needing urology treatment was referred to the Command Hospital, Chandimandir, by the Chandigarh polyclinic. The Command Hospital did not accept the patient because of the non-availability of a bed and urologist.

The right action in this case for the Command Hospital should have been to send the patient to an empanelled hospital through the polyclinic located in it. But this was not done and the patient was referred back to the Chandigarh polyclinic from where he was referred to the empanelled hospital. Since this is happening in most of the cases now, why is the Chandigarh polyclinic not allowed to check the availability of treatment from the Command Hospital on telephone, rather than sending the patients there. And if the treatment is not available at the Command Hospital, then the polyclinic should refer the patients to an empanelled hospital.

Don't the ECHS authorities realise that the patients who are above 75 years are not fit to travel to four places before their treatment is started? "It is sad that a good health scheme has been ruined by its managers", say most of the ECHS members.

Evolution of para training

The basic parachute training was started in India in 1941, on an ad hoc dropping zone, west of Delhi Cantonment. In those days, para dropping attracted a large number of spectators. Subsequently, training companies were authorised for each para battalion. These were later merged to form the Parachute Troops Training Centre in Delhi.

Since Delhi did not have a proper training ground for para-trooping, the Parachute Brigade was moved to Cambellpur and the Airlanding School to Chaklata. Later, even the Centre was shifted to Rawalpindi. All these towns are in Pakistan now.

After Independence, Sqn Ldr T.S. Gopalan, moved from Chaklala along with 20 parachute jumping instructors and a few safety equipment workers. They established a parachute training school at Agra in November 1949, which was later turned into Paratroopers' Training School. After the basic ground training at this school, followed by five descents, a training is graduated to jumping with combat loads. Subject to his success in this, he is awarded "paratroopers' wings". Training being a continuous process, a paratrooper keeps on adding to it throughout his career. Specialised skills such as combat skydiving also form part of his training.

— Pritam Bhullar



Old-age ashram opened

Mohali, April 10
The Guru Nanak Dev Old Age Ashram and Charitable Training Institute was inaugurated by Bhai Kashmir Singh, Chairman, Akal Charitable Trust, Punjab, at Jhanjeri village on Saturday.

Bhai Inderjit Singh Jodhka, president of the St. Jodh Sachiar Social Development Council, Punjab, said the opening ceremony started with gurbani kirtan and was followed by the recitation of poems with a religious theme. He said Baba Kahan Singh Sewapanthi awarded diploma certificates to 42 students of Guru Nanak Dev Handicrafts Institute. OC



Governor’s greetings on Mahavir Jayanti
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
The Punjab Governor and Administrator, UT, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd), has extended his greetings to people of Punjab and the Union Territory of Chandigarh on the occasion of Mahavir Jayanti. In a message, General Rodrigues said Lord Mahavir was an apostle of ahimsa, peace and harmony and epitomised the spirit of non-violence, universal brotherhood, compassion and sacrifice.



Railway employee gives commentary
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
Mr Harvinder Singh Walia, an employee of Northern Railway, gave running commentary during the final of the Beighton Cup hockey tournament played between the Border Security Force and Punjab and Sind Bank at Kolkata today.
The live commentary was available on the national network of the All-India Radio. Mr Walia is a commentator with varied and rich experience in sports. 



4 snatchers held
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 10
The Chandigarh Police today claimed to have solved 13 cases of snatching that took place in various parts of the city with the arrest of four youngsters, including a minor. It recovered three mobile phones from the youths.

The DSP (Central), Mr S.S. Randhawa, said the youths were arrested yesterday. Those arrested were Gurpreet Singh, 23, and Anil Kumar, 21, both residents of Burail village, and Roshan of Sector 33. Their fourth accomplice was also a resident of Burail village and he was sent to juvenile home. The police managed to arrest the accused after tracing the registration number of their scooter following a snatching incident in Sector 8 here.

Giving details of the sequence of events that led to the arrest of the accused, the DSP said on April 6 two of the accused, who were on a scooter (HR-03-A-0835), snatched a purse from Ms Karamjit Kaur, a resident of Sector 7 B. The purse contained Rs 770 and some documents. The police checked the registration record of the scooter and managed to arrest one of the accused. This led to the arrest of other accused.

The DSP said all these youths except Roshan were unemployed. Roshan was working as a bus conductor on a private school bus. They used to target women pedestrians walking alone in the evening hours. They were active in the city for the past over two months. They had committed crimes thrice in Sector 43, twice each in Sectors 18 and 22 and once each in Sectors 35, 46, 44, 8 and also in Mohali and Panchkula. 



Wife’s murder accused dead
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 10
After struggling for life for over two days after murdering his wife, Shyam Sunder Verma of Haripur village in Sector 4 here breathed his last at the PGI in Chandigarh yesterday morning.

Though hospital records and sources pointed that Verma committed suicide, the Panchkula police claimed that he died of a urinary infection.

After being admitted to the General Hospital in Sector 6 here on April 6, Verma gave the hospital authorities the slip and eluded the Panchkula police.

He was admitted to the PGI the next day while the Panchkula police was clueless about his whereabouts.

Verma allegedly strangled his wife to death on the night of April 5 and consumed some poisonous substance.


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