C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Budget Wishlist
“Curb price rise, give tax sops”
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25.
Inflation is high on the minds of city residents as they spell out their wish list to the Finance Minister, Mr P Chidambaram, for the Budget 2007-08. Having created a sharp dent in their family budget, city residents look forward to effective steps being introduced through the Budget to control the rising prices.

City residents are also hoping that the Finance Minister will announce some tax sops. They are hoping for an interest rebate on car loans in line with housing loan interest under Income Tax, increasing the bar on income tax rebate and on savings exempt from taxes.

Sudesh Kumari, a housewife and resident of Phase VII Mohali, feels that this year inflation is at an all-time high. “The budget of most middle class families has been severely hit. The budget should focus on controlling inflation and a correction in prices of all essential groceries, fruit and vegetables. Though the petrol and diesel prices have been controlled, the LPG prices have not been reduced. I hope the minister is able to address the problem of a simple housewife, who is forced to cut down on the family’s leisure activities in order to keep the kitchen fires burning,” she added.

Talking to TNS here today, S C Dhall, branch manager, State Bank of Patiala, Kalka, said that they look forward to the proposal to allow income tax rebate for consumers taking car loans, just as in case of house loans.

“In the present scenario when the over 80 per cent of cars and 40 per cent of two wheelers are sold under loans from banks and financial institutions, the move would not only lead to high growth in passenger car sales and will generate revenue for the government, besides benefiting a large number of persons,” he said.

He also added that last year the government had added long-term bank deposits to the list of items eligible for deduction under section 80 C. However, the aggregate limit for rebate remains unchanged at Rs 1 lakh.

“Considering that the individuals have to save and invest higher amount to be able to maintain their post retirement security, this limit should be doubled at Rs 2 lakh,” he said.

S P Goel, a senior citizen and resident of Panchkula, hoped that the Finance Minister would increase the limit for rebate in income tax from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.50 lakh, considering the high rate of inflation. “The government should also raise the bar for rebate in tax savings scheme from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1. 50 lakh. This will also benefit the government in increasing the Amarjit Singh, an officer in Indian Oil Corporation here, said that employees should not be taxed beyond Rs 50,000. “There should be a cap on the total tax collected from an employee because their salary is limited. Instead of being service class centric, the tax structure should be widened and business men, who manage to hide their income should be suitably taxed,” he said.

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Should Chandigarh have an IIC?
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
Should Chandigarh have a centre on the lines of either India International Centre (IIC) or India Habitat Centre (IHC)?

“Yes, why not?, argues Amrit Bolaria, a business woman and a nominated councillor of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation (CMC), saying that “no city is complete without a centre for its elite—academicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, writers, artistes, journalists, businessmen, planners and designers and others—to interact. Unfortunately, Chandigarh is yet to have such a forum.”

Amrit Bolaria, who holds a doctorate in history of temple architecture, is daughter of a noted horticultural expert of the union capital. Married in a business and industrial family of Chandigarh, she says that “not many issues of public interest besides social and cultural events are taken up at any of the existing centres or clubs in the city.”

Chandigarh, she says, has tremendous social and intellectual capital which comprises highly talented professionals in different fields. But in the absence of any forum or a common platform, their expertise and talent is not being utilised. “All they have is to while away their free time in golf Club, Press Club or the northern headquarters of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Each of these institutions is trade specific.

We need a forum where the available expertise cans cohese into one and benefit the society at large. It should be a centre where global knowledge and rich Indian heritage should meet and be used for the benefit of present and the coming generation. A joint capital of Punjab and Haryana besides a Union Territory, Chandigarh has emerged as the second important city of north after New Delhi.

The Administration, she says, should be pressurised to create a forum for the intellectual and social capital of the city. “We are lucky to have such a select pack of highly talented, professionals and experts amidst us. See the number of retired generals, bureaucrats, doctors, engineers, academicians, scientists, writers and intellectuals who have made the city their home. All they lack is a common platform to interact and share their knowledge for the benefit of the society at large.”

A similar proposal was mooted in late 90s and an IIC centre was proposed to be set up on the site earmarked for Bradlaugh Centre in Sector 15 on Madhya Marg. An advisory board even became active. Several colloquiums were organised and members were also enrolled before the change of the guard in the Chandigarh administration nipped the proposal in the bud.

She reveals that persons like Justice M.S. Liberhan are receptive to the idea of setting up a sub centre of India International centre in the city. Let a select group of eminent trustees be set up to oversee the starting of such a centre on the lines of India International centre of Delhi.

The centre should have workshops, seminars, performances, lecture theatres, exhibition areas, library, work stations, restaurants, recreational facilities and a residential block.

“Now when we are on the threshold of new millennium, there is an urgent need to make full use of the revolutions in Information Technology (IT), bio-technology and nano-technology, which are changing life dramatically. If one does not keep pace with the changes, one lags behind.

“Knowledge, she says, has opened amazing areas. This knowledge needs to be disseminated to empower people, create and set citizens’ agenda,” says Mrs Bolaria.

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Railings between sectors may go
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
After years of mindless erection of steel barricades, the Chandigarh administration is mulling the idea of removing the mild steel railings erected on roads separating sectors in the city.

A senior official confirmed that the issue of removing the green painted steel barricades which separated Sectors 17 and 22 was being taken up.

References of Le Corbusier on the subject were being looked into.

Citing the need to discipline pedestrians and reduce accidents, the administration had over the years used tonnes of steel for portioning, attracting protests by architects, town planners and engineers.

Now the administration wanted to make the city greener with bougainvillea plants.

It had been suggested to consider cheaper and more environment-friendly means to check the wrong way of crossing roads by pedestrians, said the official.

The administration would later move to other roads to remove barricades, he added.

Jeet Kumar Gupta, council member of the Indian Institute of Architects, claimed that the city had the highest consumption of steel in the country.

The administration should challan pedestrians and more subways like the one between Sectors 17 and 22 should be used, he added.

The engineering department, in the process of erecting these nearly six-foot high heavy steel barricades, had not only sacrificed bougainvillea plants on the central verge, but also covered the cables that ran under this verge.

As per norms, railings were meant to guide pedestrians for surface crossing and prevent them from spilling into the carriageway.

The railings should be at least half a metre from kerb channels to give way to vehicles.

The design of the railing should discourage people from climbing over or squeezing through it, but at certain points, railings on central verges had been broken for thoroughfare.

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Nabard to be made regulator for micro-finance institutions
Ruchika M. Khanna Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) will soon get the powers to regulate micro-finance institutions.

A new Bill seeks to give Nabard regulatory powers to keep a watch on the microfinance institutions.

Official sources in Nabard informed TNS that the new Bill would cover over 3000 microfinance institutions across the country.

These include the non-government organisations (NGOs) and cooperatives, which provide microfinance services.

The non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) have not been included in this bill, even though they control more than two thirds of the micro-lending in the country.

Though the commercial NBFCs, which operate on a commercial basis are under regulation of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the NBFCs which act as non-profit entities, are not under RBI regulation. It is not clear as to under whose regulatory powers they would fall, after the introduction of the bill.

The bill seeks to create regulation on the method adopted to extend credit and a regulation on the deposits with these micro-finance institutions.

Considering the wide reach of these micro finance institutions, and so far lack of any regulation on them, a number of complaints, especially from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, were received where NBFCs were charging very high rates of interest (in some cases as high as 30 per cent) for micro- lending.

The long standing demand of the micro financing institutions to be allowed to raise deposits may also be met in the new bill.

These institutions may also be allowed to accept savings from the clients i. e. they may be allowed to tap borrowers savings, but not raise public deposits.

It is estimated that about Rs 5000 crore worth of funds are lent under the microfinance model.

This includes the Self Help Group-bank linkage programme as well as funds lent by the micro-finance institutions.

Therefore, it was imperative for the government to bring these funds under regulation. In the last Budget (2006-07), the Finance Minister, Mr P Chidambaram, had proposed to set up a legal framework for microfinance institutions.

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Hans has crowd swaying
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
After Kumar Sanu’s performance yesterday, the audience was in high in spirits for a Punjabi-flavoured performance today.

Singer Hans Raj Hans Hans’ concert on the concluding day of the Rose Festival had the crowd swaying to beats from the word go.

Though the show started a little after the scheduled time, the audience, outnumbering yesterday’s turnout, was not hassled.

Looking at the temper of the crowd, it was reaffirmed that Punjabi music and singers had not lost their touch in spite of the arrival of other genres of music.

Known for his versatility, the singer started with his trademark, a Sufiana ‘kalaam’.

Judging the pulse of the audience, he immediately shifted to his hit Punjabi numbers.

He rendered the numbers ‘Akhan akhan wich’, ‘Ishq di gali wich’, ‘Khali dil nahi’, ‘Gur nalo ishq’ and ‘Ghar se tyar hoke’.

The police had a tough time controlling the audience, which started dancing in front of the main stage and on seats.

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COMMUNITY
 

‘Muskaan’: Being positive with HIV positive
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
Lushin Dubey’s latest play “Muskaan” is inspired by the pain of millions living with HIV. Born out of the artiste’s urge to demystify the epidemic, it makes the desired impact and leaves the audience with a precious message.

In the root of the production is the sense of alienation, which infected persons endure and battle. Their lives remain eclipsed by discrimination and are always cut short not so much by the infection as by the stigma of it.

In the play staged at Tagore Theatre today, Lushin and Daman unveiled layer after layer of suffering that the infected have to live with. In subtle tones, they bring sensitive messages home - that HIV is different from AIDS; that HIV can be prevented by avoiding risky behaviour; that sexual route is not the only route to HIV infection.

“People die of cancer and TB all the time, yet these diseases are not feared as HIV/AIDS,” said Lushin, whose production house Theatre World has dabbled in many socially sensitive and relevant themes. Not too long ago, she directed a production on the Buddha and the universality of His message. Later, she dealt with child sexual abuse in “Bitter Chocolate” which has been staged across the world.

“Muskaan” follows in the footsteps of these productions and goes much further. It is a bold production based on true life stories of people cared for by Naaz Foundation, Delhi. The script went through several stages of editing to come out fair, clean and sensitive.

“It was not an easy play to direct but we took one thing at a time. Anjali Gopalan of the Naaz Foundation helped a lot. We met several people living with HIV to connect to their fears. Stigma and discrimination emerged as their primal fears. And it became urgent to talk about them,” Lushin said in an interview.

The production was brought to the city by Oorja and Blood Bank Society. Lushin plays Chitra, a lower middle class woman who gets the infection from her husband. She allows her fears to take control till the time she meets Vish who is also HIV positive. He changes her outlook towards life.

Interwoven into the play are stories of victims who come from different classes. They are, however, united in their suffering - be it the vulnerable truck driver, the helpless sex worker or the Army man who has just lost his job to HIV.

Through these stories and that of Chitra and Vish, Lushin inspires hope in the face of despair.

“The play is an attempt to bring the story of their suffering to the world and to initiate dialogue. The idea is to get people to talk and to understand that HIV is like other infections that make people suffer. It is not a disease out of the blue. It is not impossible to cope with,” Lushin said.

In many ways, “Muskaan” strikes a chord with the audiences. It delivers the required message and inspires the required response. No wonder then that the production is supported by Richard Gere and the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. It is also patronised by the Heroes Project in India.

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Housing Blues
‘Potholed roads a great embarrassment’
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
Zirakpur is emerging as the township of shopping malls and apartments with the entry of the major real estate players. However, the provision of basic amenities, particularly approach roads in various colonies, continue to be its Achilles' heel.

In fact, thousands of residents of at least six colonies on the Zirakpur-Kalka road are virtually being denied the approach with potholed roads making people's lives difficult. And repeated representations to the Zirakpur Nagar Panchayat have failed to improve the things, residents alleged.

For the residents of several colonies like Highland Society, Yog Vihar, Defence Colony and Hem Vihar existence is miserable as they had to wade through partially-carpeted roads in the inclement weather, specially in the raining season. "It is embarrassing to invite guests to our homes as potholed roads greet them at regular intervals", complained Mr Surinder Kumar, a resident of the Defence Enclave.

With the functioning of the streetlights remaining erratic, driving on these roads had been a nightmare, complained Mr Darshan Singh, another resident. Accidents, sometimes even involving the four-wheelers are a routine affair. It seems that the authorities concerned are waiting for a major accident to happen to wake up from its slumber, another resident added.

Official sources claimed that the civic body was doing its best to lay the roads in different existing and upcoming colonies. However, with the township virtually bursting at seams, it becomes difficult to relay every road in the township.

The sources said with the formation of the new government in Punjab after February 27 the things should look up as the peripheral towns such as Zirakpur were high on the agenda of all political parties.

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‘Valuers need to be bold and honest’
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, February 25
The Chandigarh Branch of the Institution of Valuers organised a workshop on "Valuation of Property", here today. B.S. Rai, regional manager, Vijaya Bank, who was the chief guest, inaugurated the function.

Rai stressed upon the need to work with honesty, dedication and according to professional ethics. He called upon the valuers to help the banking sector in eliminating non-performing assets. Chairman B.L. Luthra, who presented the keynote address, highlighted the role played by the valuers in serving financial institutions and society with a true sense of professionalism.

"Fraudulent borrowers are out and out to bend the system for their financial gains at the cost of the society. Valuers have to work in this scenario. Therefore, they should be very alert, bold and honest. Banks are not issuing the list of the defaulters. Bad borrowers are defrauding money of one bank and getting loan from other bank without any difficulty," he stated. He further mentioned that valuation was a noble profession and not a business or trade.

S.S.K. Bhagat, national vice-president, Institution of Valuers, New Delhi, cautioned the valuer about the indifferent stipulations made in the Delhi Master Plan 2007 and bylaws framed by the State Urban Administrations and Municipal Corporations and their impact on the working of valuers.

B.L. Luthra and O.P. Khosla delivered a lecture on “the valuation of plant and machinery and immovable property”. While proposing the vote of thanks, Rakesh Dutta, secretary, expressed appreciation for the co-operation given by the Vijaya Bank and participants in making this function a great success.

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Protect us from our children, plead senior citizens
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 25
The Senior Citizens Federation today urged the Central Government to enact a law to protect the elderly from harassment at the hands of their children.

Raising this demand at a function organised to mark the 10th anniversary of the federation here, its president S.K. Sharma called for the implementation of the National Policy for Older Persons, 1999, in letter and spirit.

Listing demands, the federation demanded hike in exemption limit for senior citizens from Rs 1.85 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh and increase in rate of interest for senior citizens from 9 per cent to 11 per cent.

In the commutation cases of pensioners, full pension should be restored after 10 years of retirement, the general secretary Manmohan Singh Walia said.

Pension to the extent of 50 per cent and IT exemption to DA, and HRA on the pattern of employees were the other issues listed in a memorandum submitted by the federation to minister of state for finance Pawan Bansal.

The memorandum demanded that pension under the national old age pension scheme be hiked from Rs 200 to Rs 500 per month for the persons above 60 years of age.

Introduction of the community policing, issue of identity cards to senior citizens and 50 per cent concession for senior citizens in state transport buses and railways were the other issues highlighted in the memorandum.

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Tributes paid to Kalpana Chawla
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
Punjab Engineering College Old Students Association (PECOSA) on the occasion of their annual general meeting held at Punjab Engineering College (PEC) paid rich tributes to their glorious alumni Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian women astronaut, who lost her life on the US Space Mission in 2003.

Kalpana Chawla did her aeronautical engineering from PEC in 1982 and today was a special day as her batch was celebrating their silver jubilee. More than 50 engineers from her batch had gathered from all over India to remember their gritty batch mate, who is now the Citizen of the Galaxies. Besides these there were over 150 alumni along with their families ranging from as back as 1952 to as recent as 2006 who had collected to share memories and roam the corridors which they once frequented. They could be seen explaining with pride, to their spouses and children, the various portals of knowledge they passed through to reach the present position.

Opening the annual general meeting, PECOSA President Vikram Hans said PECOSA organises various activities for the alumni like get-togethers, cricket match, lecture series, mentoring services for the students and try to give back to their alma mater in whatever little way they can. He explained that every year PECOSA distributes scholarships worth over Rs 90,000 to meritorious students of the college, which were given today.

Another highlight of the day was honouring of the Golden Jubilee batch of the College. About 17 wizened men who passed out in 1957 were present and were given mementoes by Dr Vijay Gupta, director PEC.

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Kerala Food Festival a big draw
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The Malayalee Samajam Mohali, a voluntary, socio-cultural organisation, today organised the sixth Kerala Food Festival at the Kerala Bhavan in Mohali.

Giving a low-down on the annual event, Benny Thomas, president of the samajam, said, ‘The idea behind organising the food festival is to bring together all Malayalee families on a common platform and the festival provides an insight into the art and culture of Kerala”.

Right from the word go, the event saw a huge crowd, including many non-Malayalee families, who turned up to savour the delicacies.

While the menu was full of mouth-watering delights, including kappa fish curry, porrotta and curry, Kerala style biryani, pottukadal, iddiyappam, palappam, bananas, tapioca roots and coconuts.

Binoy Viswam, minister for forest and housing, Kerala, inaugurated the event.

The guest of honour was K.M. Ranmanandan, CEO of non-resident Keralite affairs.

The first Malayalee family migrated to the city in 1962 and the present count of families from Kerala in the tri-city was about 15000, said Benny.

The members of the samajam had prepared all food items at their homes to collect funds for the ongoing construction of the Kerala Bhavan in Mohali.

Besides the annual food festival, a sports meet and Malayalam classes was on the cards.

The samajam celebrated Kerala Day every year on November 1.

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Martyr's father seeks flat from UT Admn
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The father of an Army jawan who was killed while on active service during Operation Parakram is running from pillar to post to get a flat allotted to him from the UT Administration on compassionate grounds.

Subhash Chand, a resident of Sector 45 and son of a freedom fighter, has alleged that despite having written to the Governor-cum-UT Administrator and other officials concerned several times, things have not moved. He had applied for allotment of a flat from the commissioner's quota in 2005, the record of which is duly entered in official documents.

His son, Kuldeep Singh, was weaving with the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles in Dras, and was killed on June 20, 2002. He was just 21 years old at that time and it was his first posting.

Presently working as a machineman with a national English daily, Subhash said though the Army authorities had promised a job to one family member on existing welfare provisions, it had also not materialised.

He had forwarded the name of his daughter for employment about four years ago, but was later informed by the Regimental Records Office at Jabalpur that she could not be given a job as she did not figure in the merit list.

Claiming that his wife was a heart patient and the death of their young son further aggravated her health problems, he said he was difficult for him to make both ends meet because of high rents and other expenses.

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Rose Fest: Gaiety, traffic chaos at venue
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The annual Rose Festival concluded today amidst gaiety, revelry, … and traffic chaos. The visitors at the venue had the roads blocked and the traffic police completely at bay as to how to ensure a smooth flow of traffic. The festival saw thousands of people, not just from the tri-city but also from the neighbouring cities and townships in the region. Being a Sunday, the concluding day of the festival saw the maximum flow of visitors, who were here to be a part of the festivity. Over 500 exotic varieties of roses were displayed.

The highlight of the day was the Antakshri competition held at the Rose Garden. The participants sang the songs in gay abandon. Roohi Malhotra and Shalini of Government College of Education, Sector 20, on the first position in the Rose Quiz Competition for college. The first prize in the Rose Quiz Competition for school was won by Navpreet and Tanmay Batra of Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 16.

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Sex scandal: Inquiry makes no headway
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The much-publicised scandal involving allegations levelled by a woman against the director of the Sainik Welfare Board, Punjab, has made no headway. Actually the woman inquiry officer, Tejinder Kaur, a senior IAS officer, has returned the file to chief secretary expressing her inability to do so, said sources.

The development is of the past one week.

It may be mentioned that Raj Kaur, a clerk with the Board, had alleged that the director, Brig J.S. Jaswal (retd), had been harassing her. The director, however, had claimed that the woman was levelling baseless allegations.

The chief secretary is yet to allocate the inquiry to any other official.

The sources said Tejinder Kaur expressed inability as Raj Kaur had demanded that the inquiry should be as per Supreme Court guidelines for sexual harassment cases.

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CRIME
 

Purse snatched from Sector 32 resident
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
An unidentified person riding a scooter snatched the purse of a woman at the road dividing Sectors 32 and 46 on Saturday.

The police said Bobby Jain of Sector 32 lodged a complaint alleging that her purse contained Rs 5500, gold tops, identity card, driving license and registration certificate. A case has been registered.

Car stolen

Sanjay Kumar of Khudda Jassu village has alleged that his Maruti car was stolen from his residence during the intervening night of February 23 and 24. A case of theft has been registered.

Minor abducted

A resident of Mauli Jagran filed a complaint alleging that Vimal Kumar of Daria village had abducted his minor daughter on February 20. A case under Sections 363 and 366 of the Indian Penal Code has been registered.

Injured

Ashok Kumar of Behlana village, who was riding a cycle, was hurt after being allegedly hit by a scooter in Sector 30 on Saturday. He suffered serious injuries and was admitted to the Sector 32 Government Medical College and Hospital. The police has arrested the scooter rider, Deepak Raj of Phase II, Ram Darbar, on the allegation of causing hurt due to rash and negligent driving in this regard.

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Body found
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, February 25
A 35-year-old man was found dead in Abdulpur village of Pinjore block here today. The body with closes removed was found in the river bed near the cremation ground of the village. It was discovered by the sarpanch of Vasudevpura, Jaswant Singh.

While the hands of the body were tied at his back, his feet were also tied. The police suspect that he was strangled with a shawl found around his neck. The body is suspected to be eight to 10 days old since it had begun to decay. The police said that the body could be that of a labourer.

A case has been registered. A forensic team visited the spot later in the day. The body has been sent to the hospital for post-mortem examination. The DSP, Manvir Singh, also visited the spot.

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