C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S

Maid publicly reiterates rape charge against MLA
Says Gaganjit’s wife asked her to change statement
Ramanjit Singh Sidhu
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
In a late evening development, the Bengali maid who had alleged to have been raped by SAD MLA from Dhuri and Tamil Nadu Governor’s son Gaganjit Singh Barnala at his Sector 3 MLA flat on Saturday, today reiterated her statement on the basis of which the first information report (FIR) was registered.

A few hours after being discharged from the Sector 16 General Hospital, the victim was taken to the Sector 3 MLA flat of the accused so that the sequence of events narrated by her in the FIR could be reconstructed.

Talking to reporters, after being dropped at her Nayagaon house by the Crime Branch sleuths, the victim said, “Kaka raped me while his wife was in another room on Saturday.”

Elaborating on the allegations, she said, “Kaka, son of Mr Surjit Singh Barnala raped me.” When asked about full name of accused, she admitted that she did not know his full name, as he was called Kaka by the family.

She further alleged that earlier also “Sahib” (Gaganjit) had made advances to her, but she kept quite as she was under fear of being implicated in some case.

When asked about the delay in reporting the matter, she said, “I was apprehensive that I would be implicated in a theft case. It was only after my condition deteriorated that I spoke the truth to the doctors at the hospital around 8 pm.” She said, “Madam (Gaganjit’s wife) came to me after the incident and asked me not to report the matter. She promised to settle the things. She asked me to change my statement and say that it was an accident and I got injured after tripping over a table lying in the room. After that, madam and Suman (the second maid of Gaganjit) took me to the hospital. Even today madam asked me to change my statement and I even promised her the same.”

The victim said she would fight the case so that such an incident was not repeated with any other poor woman like her.

Earlier in the evening, the victim was taken to the MLA flat by Crime Branch officials led by Inspector Satbir Singh.

Sources in the police said the victim was thoroughly questioned and her statement was cross-checked with her earlier statements. “The victim appeared to be quite confident in narrating the sequence of events,” said an official.

Inspector Satbir Singh said, “We took her to the scene of the crime to reconstruct the sequence of events. She told us that she was raped in the drawing room. We are preparing a rough map of the scene and have recorded her statement. Things will become clear once we receive the medical and the Central Forensic Science Laboratory reports, which will be matched with other evidences.”

The police, however, did not allow mediapersons to talk to the victim outside the MLA flat and she was whisked away from there.

A caravan of mediapersons followed the police to her residence in Nayagaon and waited outside till the police allowed her to talk to them. Neighbours of the victim said she was a God-fearing person

The police has also started working on the theory of evidence having been removed by the family of Gaganjit. “The statements given by the family members of the MLA have to be considered in the light of today’s statement by the victim. The DNA report would ultimately reveal the truth,” said a senior police official.

After being discharged from the hospital, the security at the Nayagaon house of the victim is being reviewed by the police.

A senior police official said, “Being a high-profile case we believe she needs security and, if required, we will request the Mohali police to provide her security as the area falls in Mohali district.”



Tight security for MC chief’s election
Our Correspondent

Mohali, August 16
Tight security arrangements are being made for the election of the President of the local Municipal Council to be held at the Municipal Bhavan in Sector 68 here tomorrow. The election process will be videographed.

Nakas will be laid in the area where the council office building is located. Even the main gates of the building would be manned by police personnel and no member of the public would be allowed to enter into the building.

Mr Varinder Pal Singh, SP (City), said though the police had so far not received any information that some problem might arise, arrangements were being made as a precaution. He said around 50 police personnel would be put deployed at various places.

Mr Narinder Sangha, SDM, Dera Bassi, has been appointed convener for the election by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Tejveer Singh. Mr Sangha said the election would be held by show of hands. Mediapersons would not be allowed to attend the meeting, but would be briefed by him later, he added.

Apart from the election of the president, the election for the post of senior vice-president and vice-president would also be held tomorrow after the swearing-in ceremony.

Though the race for the post of the council chief has intensified, the situation remains fluid as both groups, one headed by Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, president of the Mohali district unit of the Congress, and the other comprising councillors owing allegiance to the Congress, the SAD and Independents headed by Mr Kulwant Singh, former president of the council, have not finalised their candidates for the post of the president.

Ms Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha, OSD to the Punjab Chief Minister, who had reportedly supported some candidates in the municipal elections is said to have sided with Mr Kulwant Singh.

Meanwhile, the Citizens Welfare Council, Phase X, has demanded that the elections for the three posts be held by using the secret ballot so that councillors could cast their vote without fear or any sort of pressure keeping in line with the principles of healthy democracy.



Akalis playing politics over Lalru episode: Cong leader
Tribune News Service

Lalru, August 16
The Patiala MP, Ms Preneet Kaur, is likely to accept demands of agitating residents of Lalru village during her visit to the township on August 19. This was stated by a senior Congress leader and Vice-Chairman of the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation (PSIDC), Mr Deepinder Dhillon, here yesterday.

Addressing a Press conference here, Mr Dhillon said a Congress delegation had called on the MP and the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to apprise them of the circumstances leading to the lathi-charge on villagers.

They had assured the delegation that justice would be done to the villagers.

Coming down heavily on the role of Capt Kanwaljit Singh, a senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and Banur MLA, in the entire episode, Mr Dhillon alleged that the Akalis were inciting the villagers for their petty political gains.

A majority of persons sitting on the hunger strike were not from Lalru, he alleged.

Meanwhile, a delegation of villagers met the Mohali SSP and submitted a representation to him.

The representation demanded the withdrawal of cases registered by the police against the residents.



Domestic workers continue to be vulnerable to abuse, HIV: survey
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
Domestic workers in and around Chandigarh continue to work in exploitative conditions besides remaining vulnerable to HIV/AIDS due to low level of awareness about the infection. The first-ever survey conducted to explore the intervention between migration, reproductive health, access to healthcare and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS among domestic workers has thrown up significant trends.

About 10.8 per cent of those interviewed admitted to physical/sexual abuse and though the rest did not directly admit they had been abused, they said they were uncomfortable answering the question. Of the 10.2 per cent who admitted to abuse, 9.8 said they had been abused by the employer. Three fourths said they had never got a holiday even on festivals. And 20 per cent said they were still working 11 to 16 hours a day.

The survey has been jointly conducted by Namrata, a volunteer with the Chandigarh chapter of the National Domestic Workers Movement (MDWM) and Dr Avnish Jolly engaged with HIV/AIDS advocacy projects. The need for such a study could not be underscored in the wake of incidents of violence against domestic workers in Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali. A case in point is the one involving Punjab MLA Gaganjit Singh Barnala, who faces the charge of rape at the hands of his masseuse.

Data collected by NDWM suggests the majority of women do not have access to or knowledge about modes of safe sex (condoms) and are acutely inadequate in their knowledge about HIV/AIDS and routes of its transmission.

About 22 per cent of 1000 women in the age group 15 to 45 covered by the survey feel HIV/AIDS spreads by a mosquito bite, 18 per cent feel it is transmitted by shaking hands and 17 per cent feel that hugging causes HIV.

The risk of infection is high considering most women interviewed belong to the reproductively active age.

HIV/AIDS apart, as many as 65.3 per cent women had no idea about sexually transmitted infections; 15 per cent still prefer to go to traditional healers, though 48.8 per cent visit private/government clinics for treatment.

Insofar as access to healthcare in government hospitals is concerned, a major deterrent is lack of adequate proof of employment and low education level. More than half of the respondents, who mostly come from Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand belt, have not registered with the respective police stations. Only 39 per cent of them have taken primary level education and a whopping 98.5 per cent have had no vocational training in their lives.

Detailing nuances of the survey, Namrata, who has been associated with NDWM for the past three years and has rescued scores of domestic workers trapped in exploitative surroundings, said, “Even the social profile of these workers is telling. As many as 75 per cent of them claim to be Hindus as they feel they have better prospects of job if they say so. Only five workers who were interviewed said they were Muslims; 19 said they professed Christianity. Most of these women have migrated from Jharkhand and Chattisgarh areas.”

As they have little or no family support in their place of work, most of them are living with their partners. In such a situation, it becomes critical to provide them proper information about the transmission of HIV/AIDS and modes of safe sex. But a majority of them have no access to free condoms. Addiction was also found to be common in the surveyed group, with 62 per cent admitting to a history of addiction.

The NDWM plans to submit details of the survey to the Chandigarh Administration and the Governors of Punjab and Haryana.



Hem Kunt Sahib route to be made pollutant-free
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
Rotary International has joined hands with three corporate houses of the union capital to keep the route to historic shrine at Hem Kunt Sahib free of all pollutants, including the solid waste material.

Faced with a massive problem of growing quantity of solid waste and other pollutants, especially during the pilgrimage season, the Himalayan Environment Trust heaved a sigh of relief when the former Chairman of National Commission for Minorities and currently a member of Parliament, Mr Tarlochan Singh, promised to get four incinerators installed en route.

While Rotary International will put up a giant-size incinerator at the base camp at Rishikesh, Ms Buble Charanjit Singh of Meridian Hotel, Bhai Analjit Singh of Max India, and Mr Kuldeep Singh Dhingra of Burger Paints agreed to bear the cost of one incinerator each to be installed en route.

The Himalayan Environment Trust, says Mr Tarlochan Singh, will organise special staff to collect all solid waste, including mineral water or soft drink bottles, cans and other types of solid waste to be burnt in the four incinerators to be located between Rishikesh and Hem Kunt Sahib.

To ensure that smoke from burning of solid waste does not add to the pollution of the hills, it has been decided to go for high-size incinerators, says Mr Tarlochan Singh.

According to an estimate, several tonnes of solid waste is left behind by the pilgrims every year.

The waste, which subsequently decays, not only acts as a major pollutant of air and natural water channels of the region but also poses a major problem for its disposal.

The proposed incinerators would be installed at Gobind Dham, Gobind Ghat, Srinagar Garhwal and Rishikesh. Each unit will cost Rs 5 lakh each.

Located at a height of 15,000 ft, it takes pilgrims almost three days to trek 20 mile stretch between Rishikesh and Hem Kunt Sahib. This year, in the first two months, as many as five lakh pilgrims have already visited the sacred shrine which remains closed to the public from October to May every year.

It may be worthwhile to mention here that the Union Government had recently sanctioned Rs 84 lakh for installation of solar lights along the 20-mile long route. The work on installation of solar lights has already started, adds Mr Tarlochan Singh.



Devotees throng temples
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
Janmashtami was celebrated with fervour at various temples in the city. Thousands of residents thronged the temples that were decked up on the occasion. The local chapter of ISKCON celebrated Janmashtami with ancient Vedic tradition at Hare Krishna Dham.

The main attractions of the programme were “108 deep daan”, and “108 kalas abhisekam”. As part of the celebration, dramas, nritya natikas and maha raas were staged by children.

A seminar on “Art of mind control and stress management” was also organised by the ISKCON Youth Forum.

Janmashtami was also celebrated with pomp at Sree Chaitanya Gaudiya Math. Specially designed jhankis were displayed. A bhandara would be organised on the Math premises tomorrow.



Devotees rock cradles
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, August 16
Janmashtami was celebrated with fervour here today. Most temples were illuminated and cradles were set up with idols of Lord Krishna.
Devotees stood in long queues and rocked cradles at Laxmi Narain Temple, Shri Radha Madhav Mandir, Pracheen Shiv Mandir, Sanatan Dharam Mandir and Shiv Mandir.

At the Sector 4 temple, devotees climbed over one another’s shoulders to break the butter pot.

At Jai Shri Govind Dham in Sector 12, celebrations began in the wee hours and continued past midnight.

At St Teresa Convent School, students made tableaux and presented dances and songs on Lord Krishna.

New India Senior Secondary School, Sector 15, also celebrated the festival. Students came dressed as Radha and Lord Krishna.



Kidnapped in Nepal, youths to return today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
After undergoing trauma for about 24 hours, family members of two city residents allegedly kidnapped by Maoists from a restaurant on the Indo-Nepal border yesterday, heaved a sigh of relief when they were released this morning. They called up home to say they were returning.

The police said it had talked to the victims, Lakhbir Singh and Rajiv Kumar, on the phone and they said they had crossed over to India and would reach the city tomorrow.

Mr Bachan Singh, father of Lakhbir Singh, said: “We received a call from him saying that he was released by the Maoists this morning.”

Rajiv Kumar’s uncle, Mr Vijay Kumar, said: “We received a call from him at 2 pm saying that they were alright and were released without any harm. They were having breakfast at the restaurant when some persons, who later identified themselves as Maoists, kidnapped them believing them to be rich. Later, when things were explained to them, they released them without taking anything.”

The SHO of the Sector 34 police station said they received a fax massage from the Champavat police station in Uttaranchal in the wee hours today, saying that the incident took place about 300 km from India.



Cold war between Mayor, Deputy Mayor
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
The ongoing cold war between Mr Surinder Singh, Mayor, Municipal Corporation, and Mr Shyama Negi, Deputy Mayor, surfaced once again last evening during the inauguration of the Shivalik Garden in Manimajra.

The Deputy Mayor allegedly was not invited on to the dais and was instead seated among the audience. Mr H.S. Lucky was present on the dais along with Commissioner P.S. Aujla and Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, Union Minister of State for Finance.

Mr Negi alleged that the Mayor was trying to settle old scores. However, other officials denied the same. Mr Negi, it is learnt, left the venue as a mark of protest midway during the programme. Meanwhile, Mr Bansal inaugurated the garden in the presence of the crowd.

The garden has been made in a record time of seven months in an area of 19.5 acres at an estimated cost of Rs 2.40 crore.



Netherlands firm teams up with Lions Club
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
Experts from PUM Seniors, a Netherlands-based firm which is helping 94 developing countries find solutions to environment-related problems, will team up with Lions Club International, District 321-F, to organise an environment week in Chandigarh.

Announcing this here today, Mr Joop Rakhorst and District Governor R.K. Rana said the week will be organised from September 17 and will focus on solid waste management. Senior experts from The Netherlands will be present on the occasion to hold workshops. Mr Rana said three senior experts will be visiting Punjab to make the event a success.

Meanwhile, Mr Rakhorst said their firm was keen on concentrating on environment projects in developing countries. He also said PUM would welcome applications from small and medium-sized enterprise-government and non-government organizations and service clubs.

“We are looking at the following areas for collaboration - domestic waste collection, recycling, transportation and land filling; industrial waste, its decrease, recycling and change in industrial process aimed at sustainable development; drinking water, prevention of wastage of water and its treatment and clean technology in industry and agriculture,” he said. 



Cops rehearse for Kalam’s visit

Chandigarh, August 16
On the eve of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s scheduled arrival in Chandigarh for inauguration of War Memorial at Bougainvillae Garden in Sector 3, the Chandigarh police today intensified patrolling throughout the city.

It also launched a massive operation to verify the antecedents of recent settlers in Chandigarh. As a part of the security preparations, a massive rehearsal was also carried out by the police. A number of vehicles went from the airport to the venue. The entire exercise lasted for hours. — TNS



5 booked for molestation
Our Correspondent

Mohali, August 16
The police has booked five persons of Nadiali village on charges of outraging a woman’s modesty.
According to the police, Ms Parvinder Kaur of Nadiali village complained that the persons had tried to outrage her modesty after consuming liquor.

She stated that a complaint was being looked into by the women’s cell in Patiala and a compromise was reached on August 13 and later the complainant was brought to Nadiali by her husband. On the same night, the crime was committed.

The police has booked Bachitter Singh, husband of the complainant, Sukhwinder Singh, Darshan Singh, Dalvir Singh and Babli under Sections 354, 323 and 34 of the IPC. 



Nabard changes timings
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has changed its office timings from August 14. The office will be open from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm on Monday and from 9.30 am to 5.15 pm from Tuesday to Friday. It will remain closed on Saturday and Sunday. — TNS



Biz Clip

Jet Airways
: Jet Airways has launched a value-added service for its passengers by way of a special one-fare pass booklet on its domestic routes which rewards them with a free return ticket on international flights of their choice. This offer, including ticketing, date of travel and the free ticket can be availed from August 1 to October 31. — TNS



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