C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Exclusive Interview
Bansal takes Admn to task, supports arts panel
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Breaking his silence on local issues that have been generating animated debate, the Union Minister of State for Finance and local MP, Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, today said although the setting up of the Urban Arts Commission was not his brainchild, yet he fully supported it.

Going public on the issue for the first time, the MP, in an exclusive interview with Chandigarh Tribune at his Sector 28 residence, not only spoke at length about the proposed body and its objectives, but also sought to clarify various apprehensions in the minds of the residents. He also made no secrets of his impression about the “governance” in the city.

The excerpts:

Are you the brain behind the Urban Arts Commission?

I must clarify that I am in no way involved in the setting up the commission. It is the outcome of the feedback that the Government of India has got from the people that clearly indicated that their aspirations were not being met. It is a move initiated by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its endeavour to maintain the city’s ethos and character, as envisaged by Le Corbusier. Apprehensions were expressed over the rapidly changing face of the city.

What will be the structure and functions of the commission?

A wrong impression is being created that the local people will have no say in the decision-making process of the commission and that only outsiders will decide on the future of the city. This is not so. The commission will have a number of advisers and experts on different subjects like architecture, town planning, civil engineering, seismology and public health. It will give fair representation to the local talent and expertise.

Why is such a commission needed?

What has been happening over the years is total ad hocism in the development of the city. Certain projects were announced with much fanfare. However, with the change of guard at the top, most of these were either delayed or discarded. Precious public money has gone down the drain in the process.

I also get the feedback that certain bureaucrats have been opposing the move and obliquely trying to condemn the commission as “anti-city”. I would like to emphasise that move is in the long-term interest of the city. The present administrative structure has not been sensitive to the needs of the people and the commission will endeavour to do away with this anomaly.

Who is responsible for the sorry state of affairs in the city?

I would also share this responsibility. I am a member of the Council of Ministers, but, in the present system, most of the powers are delegated by the Government of India to the Administration.

Who do you think are opposing the commission?

Those who fear that they will lose their powers. I have seen Delhi politicians opposing it. However, I would like that decision-making about the future of the city should rest in the hands of experts in the fields of urban development, planning and local government.

Will outsiders have the final say in the commission?

The present system is run by outsiders only. Unfortunately, the only elected body, the municipal corporation, has very limited say in planning the future of the city. As far as I know, the Administration has not referred a single issue to the MC over the past few years.

Will the commission be at cross purposes with the existing laws?

The setting up of the commission will in no way be in conflict with any of the existing laws.

Do you feel the commission should follow the Delhi pattern?

In Delhi, the Chairman of the Urban Arts Commission, Mr Charles Corea, is a renowned architect. I have no doubt that an eminent person of high standing will be appointed here.

There is a fear that certain important projects would be stalled. What are your views?

It is not true. Basically, it is misrepresentation of the facts. The basic concerns of the city are zero-tolerance to garbage and malba on roads. Hassle-free and corruption-free governance, improving the quality of education in government schools and utilising open spaces in these schools for sports facilities is also needed. It is strange that in the past one year, only Rs 1 lakh has been earmarked for the maintenance of open spaces in government schools.

What has gone wrong with the planning?

Why are we planning big malls and allowing conversion of the entire area into a business park? Green space is being gobbled up in the name of providing parking facilities in the Industrial Area. Perhaps, opinion of the stakeholders, including owners of small units, has never been taken into account.

What about the issue of acquisition of land by the Administration?

Time has changed. I feel landowners should be stakeholders on equity participation basis. Besides, all oustees should be rehabilitated. There is need to meet the immediate needs of the people who have been living in the city for years. Their problem of housing needs to solved before inviting more people.

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Migratory birds’ death: Reports awaited
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
The Director Wildlife, UT, Mr Ishwar Singh, today ruled out the possibility of bird flu in the recent deaths of migratory birds in Sukhna Lake.

He said there was no way the H5N1 virus could have affected the migratory bird stock that died in the lake simply because a large number of the remaining birds have survived.

Although the department has not yet received the reports of medical tests on the birds that were sent to Jalandhar Regional Laboratory and then to Bhopal, the Director said the deaths had, in all probability, occurred due to seasonal factors.

Every season, some migratory birds die in routine, but this time around the Wildlife Department is on its toes because of high rate of mortality rate among the birds. As many as 10 birds had died recently while three were seriously ailing. Both the dead and the sick birds had been sent to labs for further medical testing.

Strangely, the report of tests which should have come long back, has still not arrived, indicating the pace at which such research progresses in the country. Mr Singh also admitted that the report should have come by now as the case was of high priority.

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Auto-rickshaw carrying LPG cylinders catches fire
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
A tragedy was averted this afternoon when an auto-rickshaw carrying LPG cylinders caught fire near Kalagram.

According to the eyewitnesses, the incident took place at around 2 pm, when an auto-rickshaw, of Nirmal Gas Agency, Sector 30, which was coming from the Chandigarh side caught fire due to the negligence of its driver. It all started, when the auto-rickshaw driver, Ajay Kumar, failed to slow down the vehicle as its aerator got struck. Its fuel from the fuel pipe spilled on the hot engine, causing a fire in the vehicle. On seeing this, employees of a nearby petrol station rushed to the spot with their fire extinguishers and doused the fire before it could spread further.

Meanwhile, the fire brigade too reached the spot. However, the petrol station employees had managed to bring the fire under control by then. The police also reached there, but no action has been taken in this regard.

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Price rise hits common man
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
During the past one year, the monthly grocery budget of a household has gone up by more than 40 per cent, with the rate of inflation increasing from 4.04 per cent in February last year to 6.58 per cent this year.

With prices of all essential commodities and groceries showing a sharp rise, the common man is feeling the pinch. Prices of wheat flour, edible oils, pulses, rice, dairy products like milk, butter and ghee, and poultry products like eggs are spiralling.

While all sectors in the economy - manufacturing sector, services sector, financing and real estate, construction et al have shown a rapid increase in growth since last year, the growth in agriculture sector has been slow (3.3 per cent). The stagnant agricultural production, coupled with increase in demand, is largely responsible for prices of all these commodities hitting the roof.

Mr Sandeep Moudgil, an engineer by profession and resident of Sector 29, says: “As compared to last year, the grocery budget for my family of four has almost doubled. Last year, we were spending Rs 2000 a month on groceries. Now, we are spending Rs 4000 a month. Only those families whose income has increased by a minimum of 12- 15 per cent, are able to take this price rise. Others have been forced to cut down on their budget reserved for entertainment, socializing and leisure activities.”

The prices of wheat flour, pulses like urd, moong and rajmah; and spices like saunf and black pepper, have seen the maximum rise in the past one year. The price of wheat flour has gone up by Rs 15 per 10 kg. (from Rs 125 per 10 kg in February 2005 to Rs 140 a kg now). Branded wheat flour prices have increased from Rs 140 per 10 kg to Rs 155 per 10 kg now. Prices of pulses like rajmah have gone up by Rs 20 a kg (a 50 per cent rise). From being sold for Rs 38 a kg last year, this is now being sold for Rs 58 per kg. Gram (chana) prices have gone up by 40 per cent while price of urd has seen a correction since it increased by 30 per cent in December 2006. This is now available for RS 56 a kg. Similarly, moong is selling at Rs 50 a kg. (an increase of almost 30 per cent rise in one year).

A loaf of bread is now dearer by Rs 2 (an increase of 20 per cent), while gram flour (besan) has shown a rise of 40 per cent in a year. The price of toiletries and other FMCGs, too, have shown a rise of 2 to 8 per cent. Tooth paste, washing powder and wrapping foil prices have all gone up during the past year. Even spices, especially saunf, are going out of reach of the common man (from Rs 75 a kg last year to Rs 150 a kg now). Black pepper prices have shot up from Rs 100 - 105 per kg last year to Rs 160 a kg now (55 per cent increase).

The prices of dairy products - milk, butter, and desi ghee - have increased by 10- 25 per cent, with a maximum hike in prices of cottage cheese (paneer). Edible oils are now dearer by Rs 4-10 a litre. The only product whose prices have come down has been sugar - from Rs 23 a kg in November to Rs 17 a kg now.

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Ministry sanction not needed for paying arrears: Officers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Reacting to Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt’s statement that the Defence Ministry has recommended to the Ministry of Finance to release arrears arising out of Fourth Pay Commission (FPC) anomalies, some military officers have contended that the Finance Ministry’s sanction is not required in this matter.

The order for implementation of the pay panel’s recommendations was issued by the Defence Ministry through Special Army Instruction 1/S/87 (SAI) and not by the Ministry of Personnel as was in the case of other government establishments.

Under government regulations, the ministry has the authority to amend its own orders, officers familiar with procedures and legal issues claimed.

“Since the Defence Ministry, by recommending that arrears be paid, has accepted that a mistake was committed in the fixation of pay, all that needs to be done is amend the instructions,” Col S.K. Aggarwal (retd), a former Judge Advocate- General officer, said. “If a single sentence in this order is corrected, the issue would be sorted out,” he added.

He has also written to the President and the Prime Minister this month, urging them to ensure that officers affected get their dues.

What apparently happened, officers said, was a “drafting defect” in the orders which resulted in fixation of pay at scales lower that those recommended by the Pay Commission.

Para 3 of the SAI stated that officers from second lieutenant to brigadier would get an integrated pay scale of Rs 2300-5100 and in addition to basic pay, rank pay from captain to brigadier was admissible.

Further Para 6 (a)(i) said that for officers who were already in service as on January 1986, their pay was to be re-fixed by adding 20 per cent of the existing emoluments.

Officers here reveal that Para 6 (a)(ii) of the SAI, however, stated that after the existing amendments have been so increased, an amount equivalent to the rank pay held by the officers would be deducted.

Thereafter, the officers’ pay would be fixed in the revised scale at the stage next above the amount thus computed.

It is the first sentence of this paragraph which is faulty as it is in direct contradiction with other provisions contained in the SAI, including revision of basic pay and grant of rank pay, officers said.

Pay and allowances of armed forces personnel are drawn from the Defence Budget and not through any other means. “Hence, the Defence Ministry need not seek additional funds from the Finance Ministry for paying out arrears,” a senior officer here said. “In case funds are not available with the Defence Ministry, it should cater to this expenditure in the next budget,” he added.

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Ryan issue: Administration’s assurance to students
G. S. Paul
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Finally, the concerned parents of students of Ryan International School, Sector 49, saw a glimmer of hope, after the Chandigarh Administration gave its nod to sponsor the affected students. The CBSE is now likely to accept the plea that these students may be allowed to take the Class X examination in March, as a one-time special measure. The examinations have been scheduled to commence on March 2.

When, the Home Secretary, Chandigarh Administration, Mr Krishan Mohan, was contacted, he assured to extend all possible help to the students. “Yes, we are by all means, ready to adopt these students. I will personally make arrangements for their sponsorship through some government school.”

“ I have already written to the Chairman of the Board , Mr Ashok Ganguly, to grant special permission to these affected children. Actually, our objective was to accommodate them so that their one year should not go waste”, he said.

It all happened after the intervention of the Human Resource Development Ministry in the matter where the career of over 81 students of class X was on stake.

It has been reliably learnt that Mr Arjun Singh, Human Resource Development Minister, has contacted the Chairman of CBSE, to take the sympathetic view.

The students were passing through stress for not being able to appear in the final examination in the current session. The reason being that their school, Ryan International School, did not get affiliation from the board.

Reliable sources further disclosed that after considering the matter in the interest of the students, the CBSE office has communicated the orders to their counsel, Mr Harsh Aggarwal, to proceed in the matter sympathetically in the court in case the Chandigarh Administration is ready to sponsor the students through some government school.

However, Mr Harsh Aggarwal could not be contacted on phone, despite repeated attempts. Earlier, the parents were disheartened after the preliminary hearing in the Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh on February 12.

The CBSE, through its counsel Mr Harsh Aggarwal, argued that according to the bylaws of the board, the school cannot be granted affiliation.

However, the court has directed the counsel for the board, to file their reply tomorrow i.e. on February 19.

Meanwhile, as many as 60 concerned parents and students today assembled on Advocates’ Society premises at Sector 49, here, today. The somewhat relived parents thanked Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, State Finance Minister, Mr Arjun Singh, HRD Minister, Ms Brinda Karat, a CPM Leader, who showed concern in their matter. 

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Surgeon does his bit for polio-afflicted
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Until the beginning of this month, Ati Sharma(7), Sandeep (12), Satbir (14), Shivani (14), Mange Ram (20), Devinder Kaur (39) and Lata Devi (40),all from Haryana, could not walk straight because they had polio-inflicted foot-and-ankle deformities. But today all seven of them can walk straight, thanks to the surgeries performed upon them by a world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Sigvard T. Hansen of Seattle, USA.

Most of the patients had severe deformities and very meager resources to get the reconstructive surgery done on their own.

Dr Hansen was in Faridabad from February 2 to 14 where he not only performed eight surgeries on polio-afflicted poor and needy patients, but also conducted orientation courses for Indian doctors at the Central Hospital and Research Centre in Faridabad for foot-and-ankle surgery medical technology transfer. Dr Hansen did it all for free.

This transfer of technology, says Dr Rajvir Dahiya, another US-based cancer specialist, will not only save hundreds of crores of rupees, but also help hundreds of polio-afflicted patients to walk like normal beings.

It may be a coincidence that in March last year when the former Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, went to the United States, he also underwent foot-and-ankle surgery at the Dr Sigvard T. Hansen Jr Foot and Ankle Institute, which is a part of the Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington, Seatle.

“It was a complicated foot-and-ankle reconstructive surgery. Now Mr Chautala can walk with little or no support,” says Dr Dahiya. It was at the behest of both Dr Dahiya and Mr Chautala that Dr Hansen, a highly talented surgeon and an expert on foot-and-ankle deformities due to arthritis, deformities, genetic anomalies and sports and traumatic injuries, agreed to come to India.

Dr Hansen has successfully treated major foot-and-ankle reconstructions, total ankle arthroplasty for ankle arthritis, revision of total ankle failure, neuromuscular deformity, rheumatoid feet, char cot and other diabetic foot conditions.

Dr Hansen, who is a close friend of Dr Dahiya, may come back for a return visit to see how doctors of Haryana and Delhi trained by him are treating foot-and-ankle deformities.

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Market body to file case against HUDA
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, February 18
The Market Welfare Association, Sector 7, has decided to file a contempt of court case against the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) for not complying with the court orders.

Stating this at a press conference on the premises of the District Courts, the president of the market, Mr B.B. Kochhar, said they would file the case against HUDA for failing to open the sector entry points as was ordered by the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate.

“The order very categorically stated that these points, which were closed by HUDA at the instance of the police, should be opened immediately. They can move court against the order, they may seek intervention of the high court against the decision but they must comply with the orders of the lower court first,” he said, accompanied by Mr Lalit Gupta, president of the Bar Association.

Mr Gupta said HUDA officials were sitting over the orders issued by the court and had failed to initiate any work to remove the barricades, obstacles or tiles that had blocked the entry points.

In reply to a question, Mr Kochhar said shopkeepers of various markets and a number of resident welfare bodies had come forward to express their solidarity for the cause.

“In a show of strength, we will call for a Panchkula bandh shortly,” he maintained.

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Improve service, SBI officers told
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Hundreds of officers of State Bank of India from all over the country gathered here today to participate in the eighth triennial general council of the State Bank of India Officers' Association (Chandigarh circle).

The conference was inaugurated by Mr Om Prakash Bhatt, Chairman of the State Bank of India, while Mr T.S. Bhattacharya, Managing Director (CB) of SBI was the chief guest. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Bhatt stressed upon the fact that SBI officers would have to work hard so that the bank retained is numero uno position in the banking industry.

He said the need of the hour was to improve customer service so as to ward off competition from other banks - private sector as well as public sector banks. He asked the officers to come early to the bank so that they are settled in before they deal with the customers. “Officers should be punctual and service customers better by organising customer meets regularly at the district and town level. The ambience of the branches should be improved and response time for customers should be reduced,” he said.

Apart from top management functionaries of the SBI, top brass of employees' and officers' at all-India level also participated in the deliberations. Discussions were held on retaining the banks number one position in the industry, with emphasis on customer service; improvement in service conditions; emphasis on wage revision; merger and acquisition of banks etc. 

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Eminent scientist G.P. Sharma passes away
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Dr Ganpati Parshad Sharma, the legendary Professor Emeritus, Panjab University, and one of the seniormost eminent scientists of the country passed away today after brief illness. He was 89. He is survived by a son, an automobile expert , and a daughter, an eminent advocate.

His cremation was attended by a large number of scientists, university fraternity, doctors, lawyers and admirers, including present Vice-Chancellor and former Vice-Chancellors.

Dr R.C. Sobti, Vice-Chancellor , who was among the first to reach Dr Sharma’s residence on hearing of his death, expressed shock at his sudden passing away. Dr Sobti said in his death, the world has lost an eminent scientist, a wonderful researcher and guide, an ideal teacher and a perfect human being who was a perennial source of inspiration to everyone. His absence will be felt for a long time.

The university faculty, staff and students will hold a condolence meeting on Monday, February 19 at 10 a.m. at the university auditorium, according to university sources.

Born on 11th December 1917 at Ambala, Dr Sharma did his Ph.D. from Panjab University, Lahore (1945) and from the University of Edinburgh, U.K. in 1947.

His specialisation was Cytology (Nuclear and Cytoplasmic). His association with Panjab University as a member of faculty began in 1951.

He was regularly teaching his students and continuing with his research till date. Dr Sharma elucidated the role of cytoplasmic inclusions like the mitochondria and golgi elements in the formation of gametes and that of chromosomes in speciation. This piece of research is considered highly significant. He also studied the effects of environmental chemicals on the genome of invertebrates (mosquito) and vertebrates (rat and man). Dr Sharma had more than 350 research publications in national and international journals. He was honoured with Omen Prize, U.G.C. National Lecturer and was the recipient of Roll of Honour, university and overseas scholarships and held prominent positions, including CSIR Emeritus Scientist, Dean, University Instruction, Fellow/Member of the Panjab University Senate/Syndicate and Dean, Faculty of Science and Mathematics.

Dr Sharma had been a Fellow, National Academy of Sciences (India), Academy of Zoology (Agra), the Indian Academy of Zoology (Lucknow), the Zoological Society of India, the Zoological Society (London), the Royal Microscopical Society (London), and Society of Cytologists and Geneticists, (Bangalore); Member, INSA Council (1977-79). 

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Mart blamed for creating garbage dump
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, February 18
A recently opened mart in Sector 5 has become a bane for morning walkers visiting the area. With plastic bags strewn all around, the open area adjoining the mart has become a virtual dumping ground.

Residents expressed concern over the misuse of the ground by the mart, stating that they should be penalised for this act. The mart uses the open space to dump unwanted cartons and packagings, entire waste from the mart is dumped in open. Presenting an ugly picture, the place has become an eyesore for passersby.

The mart authorities maintain that they line up the unwanted packaging from the mart over an entire week, which is picked up by a pick-up van. They said that in the absence of any other source to destroy unwanted material, they have no choice but to dump it in the open space.

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Doda resident awaits good Samaritan
Tribune News Service

Abdul Latif
Abdul Latif

Chandigarh, February 18
After meeting with an accident while working at a stone quarry in Kullu district, Abdul Latif (29) has been facing hard days for treatment in the city.

Abdul got his leg fractured when a stone came crushing on him. Initially, Abdul sought treatment at the IGMCH, Shimla, but was later referred to the PGI. He underwent surgery here and later developed complications in absence of medicines due to his poor financial conditions.

Hailing from Doda district in Jammu and Kashmir, Abdul who was the only earning member of the family, spent his savings on the treatment but to no avail. Son of a mentally challenged father Abdul, has been running from pillar to post for financial aid in the city.

Presently, Abdul has been putting up in Hari Sarai, PGI, and donors could contact him at phone number: 9815119076.

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LPG distributors’ strike today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
The All-India LPG Distributors Federation has decided not to supply LPG cylinders in the wake of a one-day strike in the city tomorrow. The strike is in protest against the illegal registration of a case against M/s Bhatia Gas Centre. The General Secretary of the Federation said the police had registered the case without verifying the credentials of the complainant.

The federation has demanded registration of cases against the users of illegal connection. It has been alleged the registration of an FIR was a move to extort money from the distributor. 

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SBI donates vehicle, cash for blind
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Extending help to visually challenged, the State Bank of India (SBI), donated a 10-seater TATA Victa vehicle to Chandigarh and Punjab branch of the National Association for the Blind, here today.

Mrs Jyotsna Bhatt, wife of the chairman of the SBI, Mr O.P. Bhatt, handed over the keys of the vehicle to association president, Mr Vinod Chadha, at a formal function held at Aruna Asaf Ali Bhawan, Sector 44-A. The association also presented a cheque of Rs 2.5 lakh to the Eye Care Society of the PGI for expending it on blinds undergoing treatment under the ‘Drishti’ project. 

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Ex-servicemen kin given sewing machines
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 18
The All-India Anti Terrorist Front(AIATF) yesterday donated 16 sewing machines to widows and wards of ex-servicemen at the CSD Canteen here.

According to a press note issued today, the function was organised in collaboration with the Shirdi Sai Seva Samaj and the Ex-Servicemen Grievances Cell.

Mr Rajesh Sharma, president of the Chandigarh unit of the front, Lieut-Col Sohi (retd) and Capt Harpal Singh, father of Shaheed Major Harminder Pal Singh, gave away the sewing machines to the widows and wards of the ex-servicemen.

Mr Hemant Khanna, Sanjiv Babbar and Vinod Kumar Sonu were prominent among those present on the occasion.

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Workshop on industry-institute interaction
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
As many as 200 delegates from academic institutions, research labs, government organisations and the industry are expected to participate in the two-day national workshop on the industry-institute interaction to be held here at Hotel Shivalikview here from Monday. The workshop is being organised by the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Kurukshetra. The participants shall include heads of leading technical educational institutions, scientists and engineers from R&D institutions and also eminent persons from the industry.

The deliberations of the workshop will highlight the need for a collaborative effort in finding quality solutions to live problems. Vice-Chancellors of universities and Directors of NITs are also expected to attend the workshop.

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Fraud by ex-student: Negligent college, bank at fault
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
It was the negligence on the part of the college authorities as well as on the part of bank officials that allowed Rajneesh Ranjan (29 years) of Kansal village, a former student of Shri Guru Gobind Singh (SGGS) College, Sector 26, to defraud the college of over Rs 40 lakh, stated investigating officials in the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Chandigarh Police.

Rajneesh, who aspired to become an IAS was preparing for the same and had a bright academic record. He was a postgraduate in history and sociology. The police so far managed to recover article and cash worth about Rs 30 lakh from him. He was arrested on February 13 and has been sent to judicial custody after two days of police remand.

Sources in the Economic Offences Wing said the investigation revealed that had officials concerned in the State Bank of India (SBI), Sector 7 branch, exercised caution while clearing the cheques submitted by the accused to the bank for the transfer of money to his account in a private bank, they would have caught him. The officials also pointed out that negligence on the part of the college authorities, who did not bother to cross-examine the records even after such a huge amounts were transferred.

A police officer told TNS that the accused had even managed to transfer the amount from the account of Mrs Jaswinder Kaur, Principal of Pharmacy Institute of the college, to the account of Mr Kuldeep Singh, Principal of the SGGS College, and then managed to transfer Rs 12.45,987 by forging signatures of Mr Kuldeep Singh.

Sources added that Rajneesh allegedly managed to steal a cheque book of the college from the SBI extension counter located on the college premises. He approached a key maker boy in Sector 11 market, posing himself as an employee of the bank and took him to the college to open the lock of the extension counter of bank. He stole a cheque book from there after marking an entry into the register, where already a cheque book was issued against a number. This also went unnoticed.

It was also found that bank officials also did not bother to cross-check the antecedents of person presenting the cheque and match the signatures of the Principal. However, bank officials, ruling out the involvement of its employees in the scam, maintained that as per records all transactions were processed through at least 100 different employees of the bank, who were working on rotation basis.

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Three vehicles stolen
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Mr Naveen Kawatra of Sector 37-C has reported to the police that his Tata Indigo car (CH-01-T-7796) was stolen from his residence on Saturday night. In another incident, Mr Gurmukh Singh of Sector 70, Mohali, has reported that his Maruti Zen car (PB-65-A-8739) was stolen from outside Radha Krishan Ashram.

Mr Abhishek Singh of Sector 31-D has lodged a complaint with the police alleging that his Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle (CH-03-S-8665) was stolen from the Sector 35 market on February 4. Three cases of theft have been registered.

Property defacement

Gian Chand Yadav of Colony Number 4 has been arrested under the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act for allegedly pasting posters on an electricity box near plot number 141 in the Industrial Area.

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Coach held

Chandigarh, February 18
Pritpal Singh, a resident of Sector 38 (West) and president of the Super Cooperative House Building Society, Sector 49, was arrested for forgery last night.

An FIR under Section 420 of the IPC has been lodged against him at the Phase VIII police station in Mohali. At present, he is employed as a judo coach with the Sports Authority of India. — TNS

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SBI to focus on rural and semi-urban areas
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
The State Bank of India will now focus on expanding its base in the semi-urban and rural areas. The leading bank in the country will make its presence felt in these areas through mobile banking and setting up of kiosks.

This was stated by the Chairman of the State Bank of India, Mr Om Prakash Bhatt, during an interaction with The Tribune here today. He was in town to preside over the Eighth Triennial General Council of State Bank of India Officers’ Association. “The Rural Business Group of the SBI will not open new branches in these areas as it would lead to high transaction costs. We propose to service these areas through technological interventions rather than creating infrastructure here. This focus on rural and semi urban areas will help in the growth of the bank as there is less competition in these areas,” he said.

When questioned about the reported move of merger of its associate banks with the SBI, Mr Bhatt said though there were talks on the issue, these were still inconclusive. “Now, there is a realisation that consolidation of banks is good for the banking sector. To attain a global ranking as a bank of repute, the Indian banking sector will have to move towards mergers of smaller banks with the larger ones,” he said.

Mr Bhatt said that during the next fiscal, the bank would focus on capacity building- both in terms of employees and including new bank branches. “We will be recruiting anything between 3000-4000 officers over the next one year. Also, we propose to add over 200 new bank branches all over the country. These branches would be added across the spectrum - in urban, semi-urban and rural areas. By the end of next fiscal (2007-08), the total number of branches in the country would increase to over 9500,” he added.

The SBI Chairman also said that the bank was now seriously looking at an overseas acquisition to service their overseas clients better. Though he refused to divulge much, he said, “Instead of expanding their overseas branch network and going piecemeal (presently they have 73 branches outside the country), the SBI is looking at acquisition of a foreign bank.

Mr Bhatt admitted that the bank had lost its market share in deposits by 2 per cent and in advances by 1 per cent during this financial year. “However, this was primarily because we removed the stress from bulk deposits. With a focused approach on better customer service, we will be able to regain our market share. We have asked our officers to be punctual; service customers better by organising customer meets; reduce response time at the bank; and, offer a bouquet of financial services at the bank, including life insurance and health insurance,” he said.

Asked about the changes he saw in the banking sector in the coming two years, Mr Bhatt replied that banking would get extremely competitive and there would be a lot of innovation in the fee income of banks.

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LIC Samparak Offices inaugurated
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Two satellite Samparak Offices of the Life Insurance Corporation of India, Chandigarh Division, opened on Landran Road Kharar and in Sector 37-D, Chandigarh, today.

Mr Ashok Shah, Zonal Manager, Northern Zone, LIC, inaugurated both these offices.

At the impressive inaugural functions, Mr Ashok Shah dedicated the modernised and computerised offices to policy holders of the corporation. He also felicitated the first policy holders of these satellite samparak offices.

With the opening of these two satellite Samparak Offices the total number of the offices opened by the corporation has gone up to 101 and soon more such offices will be opened.

These offices are connected on wide area network (WAN) and a policy holder can pay renewal premiums pertaining to any of the branches of the corporation in these offices.

Besides selling new policies, these offices will also provide latest information on various initiatives taken by the corporation in the areas like new insurance products and policy holders’ servicing areas such as alternate channels of premium payment, knowing status of one’s policies, net asset value (NAV) of ULIP plans and quotations for loan, surrender and revival of various policies.

These offices will also augment the self employment opportunities amongst the youth by providing career in insurance selling by becoming an LIC agent.

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Trader-friendly bylaws need of the hour: New CBM chief
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
Trader-friendly building bylaws and representation of traders in the various bodies of the Chandigarh Administration are high on the agenda of the new president of the Chandigarh Beopar Mandal (CBM), Mr Charanjiv Singh.

"With the entry of MNCs and big companies in the retail sector in the wake of the liberalisation and globalisation of the Indian economy, the businessmen are under tremendous pressure making retail sector a competitive segment," Mr Charanjiv Singh told The Tribune after assuming office here today.

Calling upon the administration to effect "liberal and need-based" changes in the building byelaws, the trader leader said the obsolete laws needed a complete overhaul in the interest of the trading community and state exchequer.

The need of the hour is to grant maximum relief to the common trader in the current recessionary trends, he quipped.

And with a view to checking the "inspector raj", a general body meeting of the CBM would be convened soon to chalk out an effective strategy , the traders' representative said, adding that coordination with various wings of the administration would be top priority of the CBM." We want to be partners in progress with the administration," he added.

Since the issues like the balanced rent act and VAT have wider ramification, the CBM would collaborate with traders' bodies of other states to evolve a consensus on these issues. In fact, the governments of the Northern Region needed to evolve a common strategy to address the traders' grievances and avoid the multiplicity of taxes.

Underlining the need for unity among the traders, Mr Charanjiv Singh said the unity was a must to take on the onslaughts of the MNCs which often took advantage of division in the trading fraternity.

Mr Charanjiv Singh, who is also the president of the Chandigarh Wholesale Cloth Merchants Association, said he was aware of the problems being faced by the cloth merchants and special attention would be paid to them.

Earlier at the meeting, Mr Subhash Sethi, outgoing president of the CBM, was given a warm send-off at the general body.

Meanwhile, Mr Gursharan Batra, general secretary of the Chandigarh Wholesale Cloth Merchants Association, has hailed the election of Mr Charanjiv Singh saying that it was a victory for the traders' unity.

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