C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S

The bitter truth about sweets
Ruchika M. Khanna & Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
Are you aware how the mouth-watering dhodha sweet that you savour, is made? Well, most of the sweetmeats made with a khoya base are dumped together in a vessel and allowed to decay for some time, before this mixture is cooked as Dhodha.

Shocked? Don’t be, because there is worse in store. All the brightly coloured sweets, especially the ones prepared with khoya garnished with silver foil (which is often not silver but tin foil), and displayed neatly in various sweet meat shops, is prepared in the most unhygienic of conditions.

Efforts to contact Dr M.S. Bains, Director Health Service, UT, at his office proved futile as his PA Sanjeev did not permit the correspondent to meet the officer, saying that the meeting hours of his boss were from 12 noon to 1 pm only. 

The city has over a 100-odd sweetmeat shops, offering various delicacies. From the cashew, almond and pista-flavoured sweets in colours ranging from crimson to deep green, to the simple burfi, pinnis, ladoos and gulab jamun, this is the best season for the sale for these sweets in shops in the interior markets of most sectors, as well as those in the main markets of Sectors 8, 15, 17, 19, 22, 26, 34 and 35.

What is beautifully displayed in the brightly lit shops may actually not be as good for your health, as the Chandigarh Tribune team discovered during a visit to sweetmeat factories in Daria village, which source the sweets to most of the neighbourhood shops.

Barring a few main shops which prepare sweets in their own kitchens, the workshops of most of the shops in Daria are dingy rooms filled with cobwebs and soot. The hygiene of workers employed in these shops too is questionable.

None of the workshops have provision for cross-ventilation. As a result, the workers sweat it out, often on the sweets that they prepare. The concept of headgear or gloves is unheard of at these places. Even as the sugar and sweets attract swarms of flies, no provision has been made to keep the flies at bay.

The workers work barefoot in the workshops and as the Chandigarh Tribune team discovered, they even walk out on the roads without any footwear and then walk in the workshops bringing in the dirt and germs.

At least one of these workshops is located near the cement godowns, and as the heavy vehicles continue to ply on the dirt road, the dust just keeps on settling on the raw material as well as prepared ladoos.

A sweet shop owner here informed TNS that the most of the bigger shops get their supply of khoya which is the main ingredient in almost 90 per cent of sweets from Panipat, Muzzafarnagar and Meerut. “The khoya is brought in the most unhygienic conditions in trains, offloaded at nearby stations of Rajpura and Sirhind, and then brought to the city,” informs a worker at a sweet shop in Daria. He informed that though the big sweets shops buy good quality khoya, most of the small sweets shops buy the “khoya” prepared from synthetic milk. “We get the milk powder from Sector 20, and then prepare the milk, which is used for preparing khoya,” he added.

Interestingly, as Chandigarh Tribune team discovered, a large quantity of old barfi, which had not been sold off, was being crushed and added to the synthetic milk to thicken the consistency of khoya quickly. As compared to the good quality “khoya” available for Rs 90 to Rs 100 a kilogram, this khoya is available for Rs 35- 40 per kilogram. These days the khoya was in short supply, because of the festive and marriage season and mostly the scarp of the good quality “khoya” is available to prepare sweets.



No legislative assembly for UT
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
The Union Territory of Chandigarh will not get a legislative assembly, at least not in the immediate future. An important observation to this regard was made on the issue of ‘legislative assembly for Union Territories without legislature’ in meeting of the Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi yesterday.

It has been pointed out that “because of transitory nature of the UT of Chandigarh, the creation of a legislative assembly has not been considered”.

A senior official of the UT Administration said that “Chandigarh remains a transitory issue because Punjab and Haryana have not given up their claim on the city as their respective capital. The Union Government is also undecided on the issue”. It was also pointed out that the small size of the territory, negligible natural resources and lesser avenues for revenue generation were also big question marks in the way of Chandigarh getting the status of a UT.

Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, Minister of State for Finance and the local Member of Parliament, talking to The Tribune said. “The legislative assembly was not a practical solution to the issue. The idea is not economically viable in the context of expenditure and the manpower management details, particularly in the context that the city is a capital of two states”.

Mr Bansal argued in favour of a pradesh council in which the elected members will have the legislative and executive powers. Important matters, however, will need a formal approval of the administration. Union Territories all over the country have expressed a need for change in the existing systems by more participation in public matters. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Lakshadweep and Daman and Diu have also staked a claim over the legislative assemblies.

“The demand for legislative assembly, in respect of certain UTs, has been made on the ground that the existing democratic institutions such as panchayati raj bodies and municipalities do not completely fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the people. Another reason which has been mentioned is that legislative control is exercised by the parliament located far away from the people and hence the people do not feel a sense of involvement in the governance of the territory”, papers of the meeting said.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its 121st report on administration in UTs had recommended that the Pradesh Council be revived in Andaman and Nicobar. It added that “Panchayati Raj cannot be a substitute for the pradesh council because the Panchayati Raj institutions deal only with some of the development schemes, while the Pradesh Council would review and supervise the functioning of the administration”.



CBI sleuths swoop down on stockist of 
Indian Potash Ltd

Ramanjit Singh Sidhu
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
Sleuths of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Internal Vigilance of government-owned Indian Potash Limited carried out searches at three godowns of a Rajpura-based buffer stockist of the company and found over 3,000 bags of DAP (Diamonium phosphate) fertiliser missing.

The role of some IPL officials had also come under the scanner with the unearthing of misappropriation of stocks in such a huge proportion, said a CBI official.

Sources in the CBI said a joint search operation was conducted in the wake of reports of dearth in the DAP stocks in Punjab.

Acting on a complaint, the teams from both investigating agencies carried out raids at the godowns of the Deepak Trade Links which is owned by Mr Deepak Aggarwal.

It was alleged that Mr Aggarwal, who is one of the buffer stockists of the company, had misappropriated the stock and a large number of DAP bags were missing in his stock.

It was further alleged that the stockists were restricting the supply of the DAP, thus creating artificial shortage in the market only to sell it at the peak of the wheat-sowing season at inflated prices.

The misappropriation was being done with the connivance of some IPL officials, it was alleged.

Sources said Mr Javed Sheikh, Senior General Manager of the IPL, accompanied the CBI officials during the raid. He is the highest-ranking officer of the IPL in northern India.

During the search, 3,225 bags of DAP were found to be missing. The market price of a DAP bag is said to be around Rs 230.

The CBI officials said so far they had calculated that the loss caused to the IPL was about Rs 7.42 lakh. They added that the material belonged to the IPL.

A senior CBI official, when asked about the action being taken in this connection, said they were contemplating over the future course of action as they had to keep many things in mind given the fact that the role of the IPL officials as well as its Internal Vigilance Cell was not found to be above board.



Children living with HIV being treated
for infection at PGI

Need to establish more antiretroviral therapy
centres in North India
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
A significant number of HIV positive persons north of Delhi continue to remain uncovered so far as treatment for the infection goes. Until very recently, the PGIMER, Chandigarh, was the only hospital in the region administering antiretroviral therapy (ART) to those in need of it.

Even after three centres have been added – two in Punjab (Jalandhar and Amritsar) and one in Haryana (Rohtak, PGI) – PGI’s load continues to mount for obvious reasons. It has better-trained staff to handle and administer ART and it inspires faith among adults as well as children on treatment.

Progress under ART programme at PGI, Chandigarh, since January, 2005)

  • Total No of HIV patients registered at ART Centre — 1644
  • Total number of ART patients registered at ART Centre — 1205
  • Patients infected with both HIV and TB – 19
  • Patients lost during treatment – 123
  • Patients transferred out to other ART centres – 43
  • HIV patients who have died while on ART – 63

That explains the reigning statistics – 1644 people living with HIV (PLHIV) are currently registered at PGI’s ART Centre which came up in January last year. These hail from northern India, including Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana which now have a few of their own ART centres.

A noticeable trend is the increased registration of children living with HIV/AIDS. Of the total number of PLHIV registered with the PGI, maximum are men (907), followed by women (534) and children (203). Of the total registered cases, 1205 persons are on ART – 722 being men, 367 women and 116 children.

These and other facts came to light during an interaction which Dr Archana Mohan, Senior Medical Officer at PGI’s ART Centre had with over 40 PLHIV who were in Chandigarh to learn about access to HIV treatment.

They had come from far off areas like Karnal, Gurgaon, Fatehabad, Hamirpur and Sangrur. Along with them were their HIV positive children — some who have been on treatment at the PGI for as many as seven years and have been healthy. The event was a special interaction on treatment access organised for PLHIV at the Commonwealth Youth Centre, PEC, by the Chandigarh State AIDS Control Society and the Chandigarh Chapter of PLHIV.

Right now, the PGI is under severe strain insofar as availability and access to HIV treatment goes. Dr Mohan told The Tribune: “Our major challenge is loss of patients to follow up. We have lost 123 patients who did not adhere to treatment – something which is a must to keep the infection under control and avoid the urgency of second line treatment which is very expensive. Also, 63 of our patients on ART died between 2005 and 2006.”

Considering PGI’s treatment load, it is no surprise that doctors have been calling for more and more effective ART Centres. Dr Surjit Singh from PGI’s Advanced Pediatrics Centre which handles therapy of children living with HIV/AIDS said, “The first HIV positive child was detected at the PGI in 1991. Right now we have 250 registered children, among whom are those infected by HIV as well as those affected by it.

The latter category comprises children who are not themselves infected but whose parents are HIV positive. We are equally concerned about the wellbeing of such children and we are happy to see that not a single child orphaned due to AIDS has been left in the lurch. He or she has always been adopted by extended families.”

Children living with HIV/AIDS, Dr Singh said, presented different symptoms as compared to adults. “Children can be infected through two routes – blood transfusion and infected pregnant mothers. In the second case, chances of transmission are only 10 to 15 per cent and lesser if the infected mother takes precautions like discontinuing breastfeeding which can transmit the virus,” Dr Singh said. The worrying symptoms for children at HIV risk can be — consistent weight loss, diarrhoea, chest infections and pneumonia.



More social groups needed to fight drug menace
Tribune News Service

Ms Zoe Selhi
Ms Zoe Selhi

Chandigarh, October 18
Ms Zoe Selhi, a Canadian citizen, feels her advanced study in the field of psychiatry could not have been completed without a feel of how things work in India.

Currently spending most of her time at the PGIMER, Chandigarh, Ms Selhi feels a big country like India needs more active participation of the community in effectively fighting the menace of drugs and profession-related psychiatric problems.

Ms Selhi, whose father is a Sikh of Indian origin, is pursuing her doctoral studies in the US.

“Basically, what India needs is more social support groups outside the family structure. These could include both the non-government organisations and government ones. While the strong family support system that exists in this country does compensate for absence of adequate number of social or community groups, but this is only to an extent. The society as a whole will have to play a more effective role in this regard,” she maintains.

Referring to the kind of drug abuse that is prevalent in India and the west, particularly the US, Ms Selhi says in the US, it is basically the hard drugs that are causing major problems. “But, in India, it is tobacco products and liquor that is wrecking havoc. But, the problem is too acute here also,” she adds.

She also says that one of the major problems that exist in India is that patients, particularly those who have psychiatric problems, don’t come for treatment straightaway. The reason, she adds, is that the fear of social stigma looms large in the minds of such patients.

“But, growing awareness is bringing about a positive change in this regard,” she says.

Talking about the standard of healthcare in India, Ms Selhi feels it is comparable to the best in the world.

“The best thing here is that for as little as Rs 10, a patient has access to the best medical brains in renowned institutes like the PGI. You won’t find this in the US. Access to cheap healthcare is still a problem area in the US,” she adds.



In Town

Former international hockey player-turned golfer, Balwant Singh Gill, is in the run for honours in the second Mid-Amateur Golf Championship in progress at Shivalik Army Golf Course here. At the end of the second day, he was tied a second spot with a score of 156 strokes. Incidentally, it was his best day today as he returned a score of 77 with an eagle on hole number 9.

Gaurav Gupta



Watch out

The junior international cricketer Gaurav Gupta will wield his willow against Haryana team in the Colonel C K Naidu U-22 Cricket Tournament being played at DPS, Rohtak.

A student of S D College, Sector 32, Gaurav played the key role in thrashing Punjab by hitting an unbeaten century (170 n o) in the match of the tournament last week. 



Ex-servicemen not being short-changed: PESCO
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
The Punjab Ex-serviceman Corporation (PESCO) today described as baseless and factually incorrect recent reports in a section of the media, which have alleged irregularities in the payment of wages to the ex-servicemen employed by it.

Addressing mediapersons here, Mr Barinder Singh, General Manager, PESCO, claimed that the all employees of PESCO are given employment based on the agreement indicating the complete breakdown of wages with the principal employer.

“The minimum wages are protected while negotiating the agreement in each and every case. In order to ensure transparency, salaries of all employees are credited directly into their accounts, while detailed salary slips are issued to each of them. There is no cash handling at any stage,” he said.

Making a special mention of the case of ex-servicemen working with CITCO, Chandigarh, Mr Barinder Singh said all such employees were being paid the minimum wages.

A team of the Vigilance wing of the Chandigarh police had a few days ago raided the Sector 34-based head office of PESCO following media reports about anomaly in the payment of minimum wages.

Today, the GM said the cops were provided whichever document that they sought.

“We have nothing to hide. PESCO is a transparent organisation and all records, accounts and details can be inspected at any time for verification of facts. Selective publication of any information without its detailed verification with PESCO will lead to mis-representation, confusion and avoidable rumours which can do great harm to business development and hence rehabilitation of ex-servicemen,” Mr Barinder Singh said.

At present, the corporation has 6,800 personnel on its rolls, who have been provided employment in about 160 projects and organisations spread over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and the National Capital Region.

About the ongoing PIL concerning alleged sale of bullet-proofing material to an unauthorised company, the GM claimed all necessary rules had been followed and the facts would be brought to the notice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court soon.

“Various types of steel was purchased by an auto workshop started by PESCO between 1992 and 1999 during terrorism. After closure of the workshop, the raw material, spares and machinery were lying in disuse and deteriorated condition. They were required to be disposed of most economically and allow use of the space for other projects. Between 2000 and 2006, many attempts were made in this regard but nothing came out. Finally, we managed to dispose of the material as per procedure to the highest bidder after getting the same evaluated by a government-approved evaluator,” he added.



Property dealer alleges cash stolen from car

Chandigarh, October 18
A city-based property dealer yesterday alleged that Rs 5 lakh were stolen from his car in the Sector 37 market in broad daylight. Although a case of theft has been registered, the police is being cautious, a senior police officer said.

The DSP (South), Mr K.I.P. Singh, said Kulwinder Singh of Kishangarh village lodged a complaint, alleging that a bag containing Rs 5 lakh was stolen from his Ford Fiesta car. He told the police that the window-pane of his car was broken and the bag, which was lying on the rear seat, was missing.

“There were no trace of splintered glass in the car. Finding something amiss, we called a CFSL expert. Bystanders and shopkeepers expressed ignorance about the incident,” the DSP said. — TNS



UT employees burn Chidambaram’s effigy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
Hundreds of employees and workers of various departments of the UT Administration and the MC held a rally at Matka Chowk here today.

A four-member delegation of the coordination committee forwarded a memorandum to the UT Administrator and burnt the effigy of Finance Minster P. Chidambaram.

The employees of 28 departments are demanding bonus and implementation of the Bonus Act and regulation of daily wages, among other things.

They threatened to intensify the stir from the first week of November. Mr Rakesh Kumar, convener of the coordination committee, said the employees had launched a peaceful protest for the past over 15 months but the authorities had not paid any attention to their demands.

Lambasting the role of Union Minister of State for Finance Pawan Kumar Bansal, he said Mr Bansal should honour his promise to the UT employees or resign.



Divali rush: more ticket counters at railway station
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
To deal with the rush of passengers on Divali and Id, additional arrangements have been made for passengers at the Chandigarh Railway Station by the Northern Railways, Ambala Division. Additional ticketing counters have been set up at the station, apart from adding an extra coach each in two trains from the city.

According to senior railway officials, additional ticketing counters have also been set up at Sarhind, Rajpura and Ambala. The coaches have been added in Sadbhavana Express (Chandigarh to Lucknow) and Kalka Mail (Kalka to Howarh).

The extra coaches will be added on these trains on October 19 and October 20.

Extra employees have been deputed to man these additional ticket counters. According to officials, retired employees will be asked to help out.



Madanpur plan of development hangs fire for 5 years
GMADA bid to give it concrete shape
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, October 18
A scheme to rehabilitate residents of Madanpur village here has hung fire for over five years even as haphazard construction and unhygienic conditions continue in the area.

The village, located in Sector 54, presents a pathetic sight with milch cattle all over, heaps of cowdung, unplanned construction activity going on in full swing and small shops springing up at short intervals. Rooms have been given on rent to migrant labourers leading to further deterioration in sanitation. Taking a couple of steps from the main road, which leads to Sector 42 in Chandigarh, into the village is like going back several decades into the past in the matter of development.

The rehabilitation scheme of Madanpur was cleared on June 1, 2001, at a meeting presided over by the then Housing and Urban Development Minister and Chairperson, PUDA, Dr Upinderjit Kaur. It has now been taken up for implementation by Mr M.S.Narang, Additional Chief Administrator of the newly formed Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA).

A meeting in connection with the implementation of the five-year-old scheme was held last month with residents of Madanpur which was also attended by the President and the Executive Officer of the Municipal Council. At the meeting the council representatives were asked to take a decision on whether development in the village would be carried out by the civic body or the GMADA.

Although the civic body has not yet sent a reply to the GMADA authorities, the Executive Officer of the council, Mr Amarjit Singh Sekhon, told The Tribune that a rough proposal had been drawn up for the development of Madanpur which would be presented at a meeting of the council soon for clearance.

According to the scheme drawn up at the June 1, 2001, meeting a detailed plan for the re -development of the village in situ was to be worked out after a survey was carried out of the village by PUDA. The total cost of development, both on and off site, was to be apportioned among the land owners in proportion to their land holdings. Besides, land owners were to provide land required for widening or rationalising of the road network and other public open spaces.

Another important decision taken at the 2001 meeting was that no animal or dairy was to be allowed in the village area. All construction to be done in future was to be governed by the PUDA rules and prior permission was to be taken before undertaking any addition, alteration or new construction in the village. Further, under the scheme no change in land use was to be permitted and no residential plot was to be used for commercial purposes or purpose other than subservient to residential use. It was also decided that all residential plots which were being used for purposes other than residential would be restored to residential use with commercial use discontinued.

It was further decided that all vacant land available in the village would vest in PUDA, which would have the right to plan and use the sites as it deemed proper for the overall and integrated development of the village and the surrounding areas.



Passing Through

Abhinav Maik
Abhinav Maik,
senior manager, New Horizons India

How is the New Horizons IT training centre different from other computer institutes?

We are the world’s largest IT training company and have today started our centres in Chandigarh, Jalandhar and Patiala. We intend retaining our No. 1 position in India and are thus offering the best of facilities and infrastructure at competitive rates.

Are you associated with any government training programmes in India?

We are empanelled with various government departments and agencies like Ministry of External Affairs and the Army and Navy. In fact, we train Army and Navy personnel whenever they want to enhance their IT knowledge. We have also opened
our centre at Aizwal in Mizoram, where we have tied up with the Mizoram Government to train 500 students.

What are your expansion plans?

This year, we have set aside Rs 80 crore for our expansion. We propose to open centres in Ludhiana, Amritsar, Karnal, Hisar and Rohtak shortly. Another 15 centres will also be opened in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

— Ruchika M. Khanna



Opulence is buzzword this Divali
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Services

Chandigarh, October 18
Gleaming crystals loudly cascading down the glamorously glittering fabric; jewels, pearls and semi-precious stones boisterously lending charm and grace to georgette, satins and silk; rich wool-work along with heavy zardosi, brocade, embroidery and beads — that’s Divali dhamaka in dresses for you.

If you still haven’t finalised the “explosive” outfit for the great Divali evening, go to some of the exhibitions and designer-wear stores across the city, now. You will find soft flowing embellished blouses, lehangas, kurtas and tunics designed especially for the occasion. For, the festival of lights is all about dressing up brightly.

“Opulence is the buzzword in the festive season of 2006,” says Prakriti Chawla, a young fashion designer and a graduate from the Delhi-based National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). “For residents with the royal look on the top of their agendas, garments in cheerful hues with a little bit of shimmer and a slight tingle of silver or gold are in like never before.”

Taking you around her exhibition of festive special designer wear on the first floor of garment house “Just Casuals” in Sector 9 market, Prakriti suggests: “You should actually go in for saucy silhouettes in aqua, coral, pink, black and white georgette, even chiffon and crepe if the opulent look is what you want.”

Gala is the word to describe her prêt design collection dazzling under synthetic daylight at the exhibition. Stylish and stunning, the hot couture has a poetic charm with an unpredictable, dramatic and festive look. The ensembles involve the reinvention of the classics with layering and random prints overstating the old to give you that contemporary look.

The range, richly embellished with semi-precious stones, mother of pearls, crystals, sequins and even velvet and leather is vibrant, wearable and “full of life”. Rather, her collection of fireworks has everything to make the heads turn.

You can pick up stuff right from kurtas with “leather” stars and mother of pearls designed to give that three-dimensional effect to classy and quirky stuff that promises to work wonders for you on the big day. The prices of the stuff range between Rs 450 and Rs 10,000. So go shopping for style to celebrate not just the festival, but an occasion called life. 



Probe against institute sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
The Chandigarh Territorial Janta Dal (U) in a representation to the UT Administrator has demanded a high-level enquiry in to the alleged unsavoury going on at Frankfinn Institute of Air Hostess Training, Sector 34 here.

While addressing a press conference, Mr Surinder Bhardwaj, President of the local unit of the party, claimed that the institute was collecting crores of rupee by charging advance fee. Quoting incidents, Mr Bhardwaj claimed that there were incidents of sexual exploitation of the staff and students. He demanded a CBI probe in to the amendments of the Promoter-Director of the Frankfinn Institute.

Reacting to the contents of the allegations, Mr Rakesh Aggarwal, Managing Director of the Frankfinn Institute of Air Hostess Training, in a faxed released claimed that Mr Bhardwaj had organized the press conference at behest of another academy which was recently in news regarding cheating and malpractices by being adopted by another academy.

It was further mentioned that Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, a member of the National Commission for Minorities, had written to the Punjab Chief Minister regarding the unsavory happening in the other academy.



CMP holds sainik sammelan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
The Western Command Provost Unit celebrated the 67th anniversary of the Corps of Military Police (CMP) at Chandimandir military station today. A special sainik sammelan and a social get-together were organised to mark the occasion.

In his address to CMP personnel, Chief of Staff, Western Command, Lt Gen A N Aul, who was the guest of honour felicitated them for the commendable task they had performed over the past year and urged them them to keep up the good work, a statement issued here said.

Addressing the Sainik sammelan, the unit’s Commanding Officer, Col S.K. Chauhan greeted all ranks and their families, and exhorted them to maintain their spirit and exuberance.

While the origin of the Corps can be traced back to the months preceding World War II, the first Indian Provost was raised from troops drawn from the 7 and 11 Indian Cavalry Regiment of the Fourth Indian Division in 1939. On October 18, 1947 the CMP shed its British connections and was re-christened as the Corps of Indian Military Police (CIMP) and then renamed as the Corps of Military Police in January 1950.



230 donate blood

Dera Bassi, October 17
As many as 230 persons donated blood at a camp organised by the Sri Sukhmani Institute of Engineering and Technology (SSIET), here, today.

A team of doctors from the PGI, Chandigarh, conducted the camp, which was inaugurated by Ms Kanwaljit Kaur, Director of the SSIET. — TNS



Gang of liquor shop looters arrested
Our Correspondent

Mohali, October 18
The police has arrested a three-member gang which had allegedly looted a liquor shop at gunpoint and injured two of its employees in Bakarpur village on Monday night.

The gang had allegedly injured Puran Singh and Pardeep Kumar and decamped with cash and liquor bottles. They were arrested at a naka laid at Chao Majra- Dhurali chowk under the supervision of Inspector Tejinder Singh, CIA in charge. Two country-made .12 bore pistols along with 15 cartridges, an axe and a rod was seized from them.

Mr Naunihal Singh , SSP, said while addressing a press conference here today that the gang consisted of three brothers- Sattu, Suraj Pal, Inderjit- hailing from Muradabad district of Uttar Pradesh and were living in Rajpura for the past 10 years. The gang had been looting liquor shops and had even killed two persons in different incidents. They were wanted in connection with at least six cases registered against them.

Mr Naunihal Singh further said that there was a possibility that the gang would have killed some more persons while attempting to loot liquor shops. As such it was a big challenge for the police to nab this gang of criminals.

Disclosing the modus operandi of the gang, the SSP said that one of the brothers used to recce an area to track liquor shops located away from populated areas and even used to purchase liquor from the shop that was to be looted. Later, all the three used to approach the shop barefooted and then fired on sleeping employees. After creating a scare they used to break the shutter and loot cash, liquor and other valuables.

The gang had killed a liquor shop employee on June 29 at Ucha Reuna village falling in Fatehgarh Sahib, had killed a salesman of a liquor shop in Mohi village under Banur police station on July 2 , had injured a salesman of a liquor shop in Sialoo village under Ghanaur police station on July 4 , had fired on a liquor shop in Tesembali village under Lalru police station and looted it on August 31 and had injured another salesman at a liquor shop in Kurni village and committed robbery on the intervening night of September 20 and 21 .

Nr Naunihal Singh said the gang had admitted that such crimes had also been committed by it in villages of Ambala district.



Widow attempts suicide
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
A 65-year-old widow allegedly attempted suicide by setting herself afire at her Burail residence, here, this morning.

The victim, Sheela Devi, was rushed to the Sector 32 Government Medical College and Hospital, where the doctors termed her condition as critical, said the police.

According to the police, Sheela Devi, a mother of three daughters, was mentally upset after the death of her husband. Her husband had died about nine months back. All her daughters are married.

The incident came to light this morning, when neighbours of Sheela Devi, noticed her pouring kerosene oil on herself. They rushed to her residence and prevented her from lighting her herself. The neighbours took her to their residence and persuaded her to change her clothes drenched with oil. She went to the bathroom and there she set herself afire, the eyewitnesses said.

The neighbours came to know about her act only when they saw smoke coming out of the bathroom. By the time they managed to take her out she was engulfed in flames. The police was informed about the incident and they shifted her to the hospital.

A case of attempt to suicide under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code has been registered in this connection.



Husband, wife suffer burns
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
A husband-wife duo suffered burn injuries early last morning at their Bapu Dham Colony residence here. The incident took place when 31-year-old Silvi was cooking something on a stove and suddenly oil spilled over her clothes which caught fire.

The police said Silvi’s husband, who was not in the house at that time, rushed for her help hearing her cries. He also sustained minor burn injuries. Silvi was rushed to the PGI, where doctors said her condition was critical as she had sustained 60 per cent burn injuries.

Ruling out the possibility of any foul play behind the incident, the police said the victim had recorded her statement before the magistrate terming the incident as an accident.

A mother of four children, Silvi, is a vegetable hawker and her husband works as a driver in Chandigarh Housing Board.



TV, mobile phones recovered
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
The local police has arrested a Burail resident on the charges of theft and has claimed to have recovered a stolen TV and three mobile phones from his possession.

Sources in the Crime Branch of the Chandigarh Police said, Purshotam Kumar (22), a resident of Burail, was arrested from Sector 33 and 34 Traffic Lights Point on Tuesday following a secret information. During interrogation he admitted that he had stolen a colour TV from Sector 25 and three mobile phones from various other places.

He was today produced before a local court, which remanded him in one-day police custody.

The police said Purshotam was involved in various cases of thefts and had been convicted by local courts in as many as five cases earlier.

Vehicle stolen

Mr Sanjay Sharma of Sector 43-B has lodged a complaint with the police alleging that his Maruti car was stolen from parking lot in Sector 34 market complex on Tuesday.

In another incident, Mr Pankaj Dhawan of Sector 49, reported to the police that his Hero Honda motorcycle was stolen from Sector 26 market place on Tuesday evening.

Two separate cases of theft have been registered in this connection in this connection.



CBI swoops on city-based contractor’s house
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
The CBI today raided the residence of a city-based contractor, who had worked on the national highway between Sonepat and Panipat under a project allotted by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).

Sources in the CBI said a team from Delhi came to the city to raid the residence of the contractor, Mr Ashok Kumar Garg, in Sector 9 here. The CBI officials reportedly seized some incriminating documents pertaining to the highway construction work and his property during the raid.

The raid, which started at around 6.30 a.m., lasted for over 12 hours. The CBI officials, however, refused to talk to the media about the findings. Garg had been allotted the contract for Rs 6 crore. It was alleged that sub-standard quality work was done. Moreover, Garg had allegedly in connivance with certain officials obtained the amount without completion of work as mentioned in the agreement of contract.

The CBI has booked Garg along with higher officials of the NHAI in a case of cheating, forgery and abuse of official positions under various sections of the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act. Sources said similar raids were being conducted at the residences of officials concerned in the case in various parts of the country.



Cracker prices to explode this season
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
High-tech crackers and rockets promising a dazzling performance after exploding into a thousand stars with a bang in the midair are sure to burn holes in your pockets.The prices of crackers have sky-rocketed this year.

Even though the maximum retail price (MRP) of the crackers prepared by almost all major manufacturers across the country is more or less the same compared to the previous year, the rates have still exploded in 2006.

In fact, the prices have shot up by almost 15 to 20 per cent in case of rockets, crackers and other explosives. This is primarily because many dealers in the city are offering little or no discount to the revelers on the MRP this time .

Explaining the trend, a city-based wholesale cracker dealer says, “As the excise duty is calculated on the MRP, the manufacturers have not touched the same. But in an attempt to maintain their own margins against the rising cost of production, they have reduced the profit. As a result, the sellers are simply unable to offer much discount to the revelers in this season.”

Commenting on the price rise, Punjab and Haryana High Court advocate-cum-avid firecracker-buster Raman Sharma says he will be buying less number of crackers this year.

He adds that until last year, the dealers were offering discount up to 50 per cent on the MRP to him as he was a regular customers. But now with reduction of profit margins, they are offering a less noisy Divali with just 10 to 12 per cent discount.

Giving details of the prices, a Sector 37 cracker-dealer says, “This year if you wish to buy five extra-long ‘fuljaris’, you will have to take out Rs 55 from your wallet as against Rs 45 last year”.

The dealer adds that the price of ‘bombs’ range anywhere between Rs 5 and Rs 100 per piece, one can buy 10 ‘bullet-bombs’ for just Rs 40. ‘Anar-cum-bombs’ are a bit expensive. One will have to pay Rs 35 for a pack of five pieces.

For a pack of 10 whistling ‘hawais’, one will have to pay approximately Rs 140. The one which explodes into hundreds of stars in a single shot can be had for just about Rs 1,700. A pack of ‘anars’ can be had for Rs 110.

Those wishing to explode ‘hydrogen bomb’ will have to pull out approximately Rs 45 for 10 pieces. For small string crackers that create a deafening din, one will have to take out Rs 5 per 25 pieces. For the ‘big bombs’ one will have to pay anything between Rs 20 and Rs 200.

The dealers add that even though residents will have to pay more for the explosives, their choice will still be limited this time. For, the manufacturers have hardly added any new explosive into the category. Rather, the range has shriveled over the years due to overall reduction in demand. 



Mobile set prices slashed by 15 pc
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 18
Cut-throat competition has forced major players in the mobile handset market to substantially cut down prices, so as to retain or enhance their market share. This has meant windfall for the customers, with prices of all popular handsets going down by 10- 15 per cent in the past 10 days.

The prices of most handsets of Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and LG, which were selling over Rs 20,000 ten days ago, are down to below the Rs 19,000- mark. Similarly, most handsets selling at over Rs 10,000, too, have been slashed to below Rs 9,000. Interestingly, the reduction in prices has ensured that the mobile now becomes a common man’s tool, as a wide array of handsets ( GSM Technology) are now available between Rs 2000 – Rs 3500. And most of these handsets have features like coloured screen, FM radio and speaker phones.

Industry sources attribute the fall in prices to the fierce competition between market leader Nokia and their main competitor, Motorola. While Nokia has a share of over 65 per cent, Motorola claims a share of 21 per cent in the city. “In order to increase the market share, Motorola slashed the prices of its best selling models like Motorazor V3i, Motorola SLVR and Motorola 168. As a result, Motorazor, which was available at Rs 11,000 , is now available at less than Rs 9000 ( RS 8800- RS 8900),” informed Mr Vishal Sethi, proprietor of Bombay Communications, Sector 22.

With Motorola taking the lead, Nokia, too, had to slash its prices to retain its position as market leader. Prices of most of its N-series mobiles have been reduced by RS 2000 on an average. Even the Nokia communicator (Nokia 9500) is now available for Rs 22, 500 (in the grey market it is available for around Rs 16,000). Ten days back, this was selling for RS 27,000.

Seeing the trend set by these major players, others like Sony Ericsson, Samsung and LG, too, have cut down their prices on their best selling mobiles. A senior marketing official of Samsung, requesting anonymity, said that prices are generally reduced around Divali so as to give the best value for money deals to the customers. “Each year, sales increase around Divali and with the cutting down of prices, we are expecting a rise of 25 per cent in sales during this week,” he said.

With at least 10 new handsets being launched every month, the prices of old handsets are bound to go down. “That is one of the reasons that I buy mobile sets that have been launched at least six months ago, and when the price is reduced, I buy it,” says Rohit Malik, an engineering student.



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