C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S

Fire at Taj
Cause unknown; hotel’s firefighting system fails
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
Fire on the ground floor of the city’s prestigious five star hotel, The Taj, in Sector 17 led to its abrupt closure this afternoon, leaving guests in the lurch.
Thick billows of smoke emanating from the ball room (banquet hall) around 3.55 pm not only created panic among guests but also led to complete chaos. Adding to the bedlam, the firefighting system of the hotel failed to respond to the crisis.

While more than seven fire engines were pressed into service to bring the fire under control, hotel staff frantically tried to salvage the furniture, carpets and other expensive articles from the building.

Fire officials said the cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained.

They added that under such circumstances they had to rely on the statements of people present on the scene.

Contrary to the claims of the hotel management that no guest had left the hotel, most of them were seen packing their belongings and leaving.

The false ceiling of the banquet hall was burnt down along with its furniture. Black soot lined the walls, while some marble slabs came off.

As the entire ground floor was filled with thick smoke, firefighters used vacuum machines to suck out the smoke.

During the operation, leading fireman Ishwar Dass, who was the first one to enter the banquet hall, passed out soon after his entry due to trapped smoke.

He was taken to the General Hospital, Sector 16, from where he was later discharged.

The firefighters broke windowpanes in order to vent the hall.

The fire officials claimed that the firefighting systems installed in the hotel, including alarms, failed to respond, leading to chaos.

A fire officer said hydrants and hoses fitted in the building failed to work and firefighters had to rely on their own equipment to contain the fire and smoke.

He added that the failure of the hotel’s firefighting system led to unnecessary delay.

Ranbir Singh Gill, an NRI from the UK who had just checked in a few hours ago, said they had booked three rooms in the hotel to enjoy its five star services.

He had come from Moga along with his five family members.

Mr Gill said: “The hotel staff did not care to inform us about the incident and on the contrary kept insisting that nothing had happened. They were busy shifting the furniture and provided us no assistance. When we saw people run out of the hotel, we too gathered our belongings evacuated the building. No one from the staff offered any help in carrying our belongings out of the hotel.”

Mr Gill’s relative Jasbir Singh said they did not want to stay in the hotel any more. The hotel management had assured them of reimbursing the expenses, he added.

Joint Commissioner and Chief Fire Officer H.S. Kandhola asserted: “We are investigating the matter and will take action accordingly.”

Though no casualty among the hotel staff or guests was reported, some firefighters suffered injuries during the rescue operation.

Hotel general manager Anil Malhotra said: “The fire created unnecessary panic among people. Rooms were fully functional and we had just closed the coffee shop and the lobby during the incident.”

He claimed that the coffee shop was likely to be opened in the evening.

Talking to mediapersons outside the hotel, Mr Malhotra said they were making alternative lodging and transport arrangements to accommodate guests in other hotels of the city.

He added that only eight rooms out of the 43 were occupied when the incident happened. 



PU suspends 2 Readers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
Panjab University Vice-Chancellor Prof R.C. Sobti today suspended Dr Manoj Sharma and Dr N.K. Sehgal, both Readers in the university.
Dr Sharma of the University Business School is facing allegations of fudging data to improve the ranking of the UBS, while Dr Sehgal of the Department of Evening Studies is facing allegations of molestation of a school student, who took tuitions from him.

PU Syndicate members had recommended their suspension yesterday. The two will now face disciplinary inquiries that are likely to be conducted by retired judges. The two will remain suspended till the completion of the inquiry. Preliminary inquiries into the allegations had prima facie found the two blameworthy.

While rendering legal advice on the UBS issue, university’s legal retainer Anupam Gupta had said: “It would be incumbent upon the university to institute a regular disciplinary inquiry against both Dr Manoj Sharma (for his utterly indefensible, if not disgraceful, conduct in fudging the data, conduct wholly unbecoming of a university academic) and former chairman of the UBSD Prof Satish Kapoor (for his appealing negligence/oversight/lack of application of mind in a matter so important).”

He had further pointed out: “In view of the grave nature of Dr Manoj Sharma’s conduct in fudging the data, and the severe damage that it has caused to the university’s reputation and credibility, coupled with his non-cooperation with the fact-finding committee (evidenced by his blithe and complete denial of any role in the preparation and compilation of data), it would also be appropriate and desirable if Dr Manoj Sharma is placed under suspension during the disciplinary inquiry.”



Poll violations under MC’s nose
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 21
The open support by a majority of the Mohali Municipal Councillors to Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress candidate from Kharar, seems to have its benefits. In violation of the model code of conduct, the entire city is strewn with posters appealing voters to support Sidhu and neither council employees nor returning office employees seem to have noticed these.

These posters are pasted on trees, walls of public buildings like the Primary Health Centre in Phase 3B1, Bal Bhawan in Phase IV, electricity poles, signboards and even the MC direction boards.

According to Mr Babu Lal in the EC office, candidates are not allowed to paste posters on public property. Even in cases where these posters are pasted outside private houses and shops, the permission of the owner has to be taken by the candidate.

Interestingly, the returning office staff claimed to have removed each and every poster in the constituency. “Candidates of all parties and independent candidates have pasted posters all over the constituency and these are being removed on a daily basis. As far as our information goes there are no more posters on the city walls,” said an official.

Under normal circumstances, the council employees would have been asked to remove these posters under the Defacement to Public Property Act but with President of the council Rana busy campaigning for Sidhu, much is not expected from the council.



Liquor price war sees contractors on a high
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
Price war between liquor contractors in the city is hotting up. To woo customer, certain liquor contractors have lowered the prices of different brands of whisky.
They are offering popular brands of whisky at prices lower than the minimum retail prices (MRP) fixed by the UT Excise and Taxation Department.

Brands like Royal Stag are being sold at Rs 140 a bottle as against the MRP of Rs 180.

Sources in the liquor trade say apart from competition within the city, the new excise policy brought out by Haryana recently may compel traders to cut their profit margins even further.

The price war is more evident in areas where more than one liquor shop is located in the vicinity or vends located on borders with Mohali and Panchkula.

The lure is such that a customer buying a case of 12 bottles save up to 30 per cent in discounts.

“Even the department does not object to the trend of retailers charging for 10 bottles in case of 12 bottles,” says a contractor.

A random survey has revealed that a liquor shop in Sector 51 is selling a bottle of Royal Stag at Rs 160. While another shop in Sector 56 is selling the same brand at Rs 140.

Other popular brands like Red Knight and McDowell No.1 are available at anything between Rs 150 and Rs 160 per bottle at vends in Mani Majra.

Another brand in the semi-delux category, ACP, is being sold between Rs 110 and Rs 140 per bottle.

Though the department has been tough against such practices, contractors have been resorting to such tactics to earn quick profit in the past.



Go international, stay local and pay less
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
Are you planning to go abroad and stay connected without paying any roaming charges? Yes, there are companies who have an extensive global customer base and who provide you SIM cards for the countries you intend to visit and charge you in Indian currency on your return.

“We provide local mobile phones and SIM cards for 23 countries, including the UK,the USA, China, Singapore, Germany, Australia, South Africa, Greece and Sri Lanka.The mobile communication services we provide are up to 60 per cent cheaper than one’s own international roaming number”, says Ms Himani Seith of Falcon Business Resources.

“After the launch of our operations in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, we plan to expand our business in Chandigarh and Punjab. We initially intend to serve corporate clients,” says Ms Seith. Falcon Business Resources was established in 1983 and is the world’s leading phone rental specialist. Clay Solution is a division of Falcon Business Resources that takes care of its international communication services.

It has alliances with over 20 networks worldwide and provides a range of global rental solutions and different airtime proportions.

“Our corporate mission is to provide the best mobile solutions anywhere,” she adds. Comparing the international roaming and local solution, she says that if a client travelling from India to England carries a SIM card from Clay International and his friend carries his own SIM card using international roaming, the former would end up saving Rs 37.05 per minute for calls made on the same network and landline.

With TmobileSIM card of Clay, he will spend 12 pence while his friend using Indian SIM card with international roaming will pay 55 pence. For making a call to India from England, the one using TMobileSIM card will spend 77 pence while the other using the Indian card will spend two pounds and 12 pence. While all incoming calls on TMobileSIM card are free, his friend will pay 40 pence per incoming call. “Our clients get all their incoming calls free and all cards given by Falcon Business Resources are VAT- free,” reveals Ms Seith, holding that “in Europe to buy a charge card, one has to pay a minimum of 40 to 50 Euros while our clients pay a monthly rent of 7 pounds and pay for what they use. In nutshell, carrying international cards from India for a specific country works out to a minimum 20 per cent cheaper than taking call cards from outside. They work out to a minimum 40 per to 60 per cent cheaper compared to carrying Indian SIM cards with international roaming,”she adds.



After difficult surgery, child struggles with poverty now
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Simran with her mother
Simran with her mother

Chandigarh, January 21
For the four-month-old Simran, who survived a major medical emergency some months ago, life is not getting any easier.
Diagnosed with hydrocephaly (accumulation of water in the brain), Simran had a variety of problems when the doctors at PGI first examined her in July last.

She had a malignant boil on her hips and she had extremely poor reflexes. The only way out for the four-month-old Simran then was to undergo a life threatening surgery that could have had any result - positive or negative.

The cost of surgery was high and following a report in The Tribune, the readers rose to help Simran and her hapless mother Rajni, who is a perfect example of courage in times when cases of female feoticde and infanticide are on the rise.

Despite knowledge of the fact that the surgery was going to be expensive and that it may never ensure life or ability for the child, Rajni went in for the same. God answered her prayers - Simran survived and the boil was gone but her legs remained dysfunctional.

At this time when Rajni needs most financial help for her child, her own money is lying with the PGI Patient Welfare Fund and she is not able to use it.

And though the financial help came from Tribune readers when it was needed, it did not really reach the family which so desperately needed it.

In April, lakhs were received as donation but because the entire money was placed in the PGI Director’s Patient Welfare Fund, it could not be taken out for Rajni who still needs it do badly to treat to take care of her child - who still cannot move her legs.

In this case cheques came for Simran. And the PGI authorities, despite their best efforts, have still not been able to release money for Rajni though she alone can use that money for the betterment of Simran.

PRO, PGI Ms Manju Wadwalkar says: “The donors who sent their cheques to us in July must call us up individually and tell us they don’t mind if the money of given to the child’s mother.

Under the present arrangement, the money has gone into a general pool and it can only be used for medical purposes. For us to release individual cheques to Rajni, we must have the donors’ contest afresh.”

And though it might sound vague because the donors obviously gave money for Simran and for her future welfare, the PGI is restricted by its own rules.

Meanwhile, Simran - now nine-month-old is braving poverty as is her courageous mother Rajni who has taken up the work of a domestic help to support her child.

The tragedy is that Simran may never be able to walk, but Rajni does not mind.

“My world brightens up when I look at her. I just hope the donors convey their wishes to the PGI so that Simran’s money can be used for her welfare,” says the mother.



Sajjad suggests evolutionary model on Kashmir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
Chairman of the Jammu Kashmir People’s Conference, Mr Sajjad Lone, today suggested an evolutionary model to tackle the situation in Kashmir, which would accommodate the aspirations of the people within the current territorial dynamics.

He said his model envisaged a power-sharing structure between India and Pakistan on some key aspects while granting liberty to the local authorities to run their socio-economic affairs. “Ground realities have to be taken into account and an answer to the imbroglio has to be a blend of aspirations and realities,” he said.

He was here to deliver a special lecture on Vision for Kashmir as part of the two-day interactive session on “India-Pakistan Dialogue : What Next”, organised at the Centre for Research in Industrial and Rural Development. A few days ago he had released a 300-page vision document on Kashmir, in which he had been working for the past about a year or so following a meeting with the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.

He opined that though the Kashmiri people wanted independence, there was no point in talking about it now. They would have to accommodate India and Pakistan, he added. Towards this, he recommended going in for the British-Irish agreement and the Chinese-Hong Kong example, where there is considerable freedom to manage commercial activities and other local issues.

In Kashmir, he suggested that some aspects like foreign affairs and defence could be left to India and Pakistan to control in areas where they are already doing so, while the whole of Jammu and Kashmir could be made into a single economic entity.

He called for “overlaps” between Delhi-Srinagar, Islamabad-Muzaffarabad, and Srinagar-Muzaffarabad to extend economic and social activities across the Line of Control.

He said that the people of Kashmir on either side of the LoC should be free to travel. He said it should not be restricted to Kashmiris, but Indians who wanted to visit Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Pakistanis who wanted to visit Jammu and Kashmir should be allowed to do so

He cited the example of the Indo-Nepal model of 1950s, which could be applied to Kashmir to give free access to people across the Line of Control.

On the economic front, he said goods produced in Jammu and Kashmir should have duty-free access to Indian and Pakistani markets. He also added that industry and investments should be encouraged in Jammu and Kashmir.



Road-laying work causes inconvenience
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, January 21
Lack of coordination among various government agencies is proving to be a nightmarish experience for residents here. The digging of roads in the Saini Vihar (Phase III) for the laying of sewerage lines is a case in point. Residents allege that careless digging of roads has caused inconvenience to residents, with the result that passing through the area has become a nightmarish experience.

Mr Jaswant Singh, president of the Secular Welfare Society, alleged that with the departments working at cross-purposes, residents were at the receiving end. If the departments had worked in tandem, the careless digging of the roads would have been avoided, he added.

In fact, senior Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD) leader and candidate from the Banur Assembly segment in the Punjab elections, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, had a first-hand experience of the administrative apathy with dug-up roads greeting him the other day.

Interestingly, the roads were laid in the colony for the first time in many years. Now with the digging of the roads, these would have to be relaid, wasting precious government resources.

Official sources, however, stated that the civic body was going in for a massive sewerage-laying exercise. And there was no way to lay the sewerage lines except digging the roads.

Meanwhile, the sources claimed that a strategy was being worked out under which the road-laying work would be done after the laying of the sewerage lines.



6 file papers for F&CC poll
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
Six councillors have filed their nominations for elections to the finance and contract committee (F&CC) of the Municipal Corporation. They are Kamlesh and Kuldip Singh from the Congress, Jatinder Bhatia of the CVM, Rajesh Gupta of the BJP and nominated councilors M.P.S. Chawla and Pallab Mukherjee.

Meanwhile, the term of members of the committee has been reduced from five years to one year.

Councillors have to elect five members from among themselves to the committee.

This decision has been taken to give all councillors an opportunity to be a part of the committee. Only five councillors can get elected to the committee. Elections will be held on January 25.

Members to the water supply and sewerage disposal committee, the road committee, the city beautification and environment committee, the sanitation committee, the electricity committee, the fire services committee and the house tax assessment committee have also to be elected.

Elections have to be held to posts of chairman and vice-chairman of the committees.



Looks, clothes get undue attention in glamour world: Ashley Rebello
Smriti Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
His patterns have been a rage with the Bollywood fraternity ever since he started his career 15 years ago. He happens to have designed Hollywood star Nicole Kidman’s outfits for ‘Moulin Rouge’, an opportunity only a few get.

But most interestingly, Ashley Rebello was in the news lately after Malika Sherawat performed on New Year’s Eve in Mumbai’s plush J.W. Marriot wearing a diamond studded outfit created by him, sparking off a controversy. “It was all media-hyped. To be honest, Malika was in fact, covered in a full body suit than she usually is,” he says.

This versatile couturier is a rare combination of a designing career and a 10-year long training in western music. Ashley, who believes that looks and clothes get undue attention and hype in the glamour world even though it is performance that actually takes any actor places, wishes to open a lifestyle store in Mumbai soon.

Ashley, who forayed in designing outfits for film stars with ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander’, has also been creating gowns worn by Miss India contestants in international pageants. He was in town yesterday on an invitation by Flying Cats Institute, Sector 8.

Replying to a query on how designing for Indian and Hollywood stars is different, the designer says when it comes to style, global trends are a little Indianised and styles are tailor-made so that they go well with the rich culture and traditions of our country.

Ashley, who has fashioned clothes for the who’s who of the entire Hindi film industry, desires to style for Hollywood’s heartthrobs, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock.

But when it comes to the gowns that Miss Indias wear at international shows, he keeps in mind global vogue and what kind of dresses other contestants wear, in addition to the fact that the contestant will be representing India at the global stage.

After getting rare reviews for his outfits in films like ‘Pyar Ke Side Effects’, ‘Dor’, ‘Hera Pheri’, ‘Company’, ‘Page 3’ and ‘Chandni Bar’, Ashley is all set to make an impression again in Aamir Khan’s ‘Sitaron Se Aage’ and ‘ Na Jane Tu Na Jane Na’, directed by Abbas Tyrewala.



Kerala Samajam celebrates New Year

Chandigarh, January 21
Kerala Samajam, Chandigarh, celebrated Christmas and New Year jointly at a function here this evening.
A large number of Malayalees from the tri-city attended the function held at Government Women’s Polytechnic College at Sector 10.

Prof Kumara Verma of Punjab University, Chandigarh, inaugurated the function by lighting the traditional lamp. It was followed by a rich cultural programme in which children presented several items that showcased the cultural heritage of the state.

The Samajam felicitated the top scorers in the 10th and 12th board examinations by giving them cash prizes and certificates of merit. The function ended with a community dinner served in traditional style. — TNS



65 initiated into ISKCON
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
An initiation ceremony was performed at Hare Krishna Dham, Sector 36-B, here, under the patronage of H.H.Gopal Krishna Goswami Bhagvadpadji Maharaj, spiritual master of ISKCON, who is a senior disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder acharya of ISKCON, today amid veda chantings.

While delivering a discourse on "initiation", he stated that it was a process of attaining real knowledge to surrender unto the feet of Lord Krishna. After initiation, one was liberated from all illusions, developed in him the qualities of fearlessness, purification, charity, self-control, austerity, simplicity, non-violence, truthfulness, tolerance, etc and get rid of six evils — ego, lust, greed, passion, anger and pride.

As many as 65 devotees got initiated into ISKCON. The ceremony consisted of three parts — chanting of hymns from Brahma Samhita and Vishnu Sahastranama, auspicious yajna (fire sacrifice) and prize distribution for those who distributed 11,000 books of Bhagvadgita in December.

The devotees were also given "prasadam" at the end of the ceremony.



Ex-Registrar gets 3-year jail
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
A former Registrar of the Punjab Homoeopathic Council, Sunil Gautam, has been sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs 2,500 for forging cheque of the council and illegally withdrawing 20,000 from the council funds.

Another co-accused, RK Sharma, was exonerated by the Judicial Magistrate (First Class), Mr AS Shergil. In 1995, a case under Sections 467, 471 and 420 of the IPC was registered against them.

While pronouncing the orders, the court observed that the prosecution was successful in proving that Sunil committed an offence of cheating and used forged documents as genuine. The court held Gautam guilty under Sections 467, 468, 471 and 410 of the IPC.

The period during which Sunil Gautam remained in the police custody would be set off against the sentence awarded to him.



580 servants, 1,891 tenants registered 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
The police today held a servant and tenant verification camp at 11 places across the city. The police said in all, 580 servants and 1,891 tenants were registered in the camp.

The police said the camps were held by all 11 police stations in which antecedents of 369 strangers, 590 servants, and 1,891 tenants, besides 130 paying guests, were verified. The police said the drive was a step in prevention and detection of crime in the city.



Central Bank employees’ strike today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
Employees of the Central Bank of India, under the aegis of the United Forum of Central Bank Unions, will go on a strike and hold a demonstration by sporting black flags in protest against the bank management tomorrow.
The rally and demonstration will be held at the Bank Square in Sector 17 here. 



Enforce lane driving, cops told

Chandigarh, January 21
A Noida-based NGO today called upon the Chandigarh traffic police to enforce lane driving along with other measures to ensure free flow of traffic on city roads. It was also suggested that the police should hand over warning cards to violators for the first offence instead of issuing a challan. TNS



Jewellery worth Rs 1 lakh recovered
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
The police today arrested a Sector 8 resident, an accused in a case of burglary at a Sector 24 house here early this month, and recovered jewellery worth about Rs 1 lakh from him.

Sources said 22-year-old Ramesh Singh was arrested following a tip-off. The police recovered four gold bangles, two gold chains, two pair of earrings and other articles from him. He had allegedly burgled the house of Dr Muket Bhans in Sector 24 on January 1, this year. He was produced before a local court which remanded him to police custody till January 24.

Thefts: Mr Sanjiv Sharma of Sector 18 reported to the police that Rs 2,500 and a portable TV were stolen from his shop during the night on January 19. In another incident, Mr Dilbagh Singh of Sector 52 lodged a complaint that a CD player, a jacket, a pair of shoes and other articles were stolen from his residence between January 17 and 20. Two cases have been registered in this connection.

Injured:  cyclist and a motorcyclist were seriously hurt in a road accident when their vehicles collided near the Sector 52 dividing road on Saturday. The cyclist, Mohinder Singh of Sector 52, along with the motorcycle rider, were shifted to Sector 32 Government Medical College and Hospital. A case has been registered in this regard.

Smack seized: The police today arrested Varinder Puri of Sector 4, Panchkula, from Sector 22 for possessing 25 grams of smack. In another incident, the Special Crime Investigating Cell of the UT Police has arrested Sohan alias Sonu of Dadu Majra Colony from near CTU Workshop, depot Number 3, on Saturday for carrying 17 grams of smack.

Two cases have been registered in this connection.



Don’t shift Citco sales depot: Chamber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
The Chamber of Chandigarh Industries has urged the UT Administrator not to shift the Citco sales depot from Industrial Area, Phase I, to Daria village, here.
Mr Surinder Gupta, president of the chamber, said the move to shift the shed was detrimental to the interest of the small units which took their supplies from Citco on day-to-day basis. The shifting would push up the transportation costs of the raw material

Last year alone, the depot conducted a business of over Rs 240 crore from these units. Little purpose would be served by shifting the yard as the workshop of Punjab Roadways, Haryana Roadways and Pepsu Roadways and Chandigarh Transport Undertaking are operating from the industrial area.

They have demanded that persons running industries should be involved in decision making. 



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