C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S



Principal shoots off letter to admn
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
The situation in Government College of Art is headed for a flashpoint, with officiating principal Brahm Prakash breaking his silence on the hate campaign launched against him by some faculty members.

In a letter to the UT administration, he has sought permission to file a case against the lecturers in question. He has stated that they are acting against the government by filing several (about 10) cases in court and central administrative tribunal, and trying to stall the continuation of MFA course just because they have been disallowed under the rules to teach these classes.

“I may be allowed to file a case against them, for which necessary instructions may be issued to the district attorney. Otherwise they will continue to spoil the college atmosphere and affect studies,” Brahm has stated.

He has also requested the home secretary if the college files could be routed through an officer other than S.K. Setia, joint secretary, technical education, who, he alleges, is fanning the vested interests that are maligning his image.

The UT Administrator had earlier removed Setia as college head of department when the principal had complained that he was interfering with the academic matters. At that time, Setia had passed orders to humiliate me, says the principal, adding, “He had placed Pramod Arya as chairman, college advisory council and dean of academics, even when Arya was the person working against the interests of the institute and UT Administration. The administration had asked the HOD to frame a charges sheet against Arya.”

In his letter, Brahm has also expressed fears of being falsely implicated in cases and has said that his reputation is under threat. In an interview with TNS today, he reacted sharply to April 21 media reports that he is likely to step down. Denying the move, he said, “This is an insinuation. I will fight to redeem my reputation. Earlier, I had requested the administrator to relieve me because I was fed up with this mudslinging, but the orders never came. These lecturers meanwhile went to PU and the All-India Council for Technical Education, projecting me as unqualified to be principal.

“The administration has given me selection grade after 16 years’ regular service as lecturer. No one can doubt my seniority.”

An acclaimed artist and a winner of the Triennale international award, Prakash says he is being harassed and his unblemished career being put at stake. “I am anyway due to retire in March next. Then why this campaign? They just want to disgrace me,” Brahm said. However, Setia maintained that the decision to have principals on a rotation basis was taken by the administration. Denying misgivings against the principal, he said, “Normal differences are there, but there is no hate campaign. This is the principal’s perception.”

It may be mentioned that the lecturers in question (one of whom is facing sexual harassment charges) were earlier issued warnings for writing directly to the Government of India and AICTE in matters pertaining to the college. They even lost certain court cases in which they staked the claim to teach MFA classes. But that was no deterrent for them.

On March 2 when the principal was on leave, a lecturer officiating in his place went to the extent of relieving those teaching MFA classes and assigned the role of teaching to the grieving group. Home secretary had to later stay these orders.

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RTI: Lower-rung officials throw up hands
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
Not all is well with the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in Chandigarh. The sanctity of the law has lost in the bureaucratic rigmarole.

In a number of cases, the information-seekers have filed appeal(s) before the central information commission (CIC), either for being supplied with incomplete or wrong information.

A scrutiny of the applications and reply given reveals that in many cases the disposal of applications under the Act has been half-hearted. As a result, the CIC has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on each of the central public information officer (CPIO) concerned in three cases. Inquiries by Chandigarh Tribune revealed that different departments had not duly catalogued and indexed its record. All record was not computerised even.

Some of the CPIO’s, on the condition of anonymity, said though the Section 5 (5) of the Act empowered them to seek information sought by an applicant, there were teething problems in getting the information. In many of the cases, the officials, who had to provide the information are senior to the CPIOs.

“Since the record is not properly tabulated and computerised, there is invariable delay in getting the information. Even the files under the Act are being marked in a manner as is prevalent in a bureaucratic set up. The heads of department, by making middle-rung officials as information officers, has absolved themselves of the responsibility of providing the information”, said an official.

The CPIOs said they should not be at the receiving end of the problem due to inefficiency of other officers. They rued in some cases vague information was sought.

Local councillor Chander Mukhi, who has filed around 100 applications under the Act, said the officials did not take the Act seriously. “An effort is made to persuade the applicants not to pursue their queries”, he said, adding that in some cases the appellant authority is not responsive to the appeals.

Also, not all departments have made the disclosures mandatory under the Section 4 of the Act. The disclosures, such as “which officer has what responsibility, what is the department’s complaint disposal system, etc” are to be made within 120 days from June 15 last year when the law came into force.

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City song to woo tourists
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
The Chandigarh administration has decided to associate a song with tourism in the city beautiful. The song is being prepared with a view to giving the city a distinct artistic and cultural identity.

Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd), UT Administrator, has asked the public relation department to initiate the process at the earliest.

Confirming the development, director, public relations Vivek Atray said: “The ‘Chandigarh song’ is being prepared to give a lyrical logo to tourism. The Madhya Pradesh government has a musical composition, which is being used in a promotional advertisement being flashed on air and on television.”

Schools, colleges, cultural troupes or unprofessional enthusiasts will be asked to compose a song and music on fresh lyrics. A time frame to submit their entries will be fixed.

The administration will organise a contest to choose the best entry. The date will be announced shortly, Atray said.

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Woman cop kills herself
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
Savita Kumari, a head constable in the CRPF, was found hanging from a shower in the camp near Hallo Majra village, here this morning. As no suicide note was found, the police was yet to ascertain the reason behind her extreme step. She was 25 and unmarried.

Sources in the Sector 31 police station said they received the information about her death at around 9:30 am. The body was hanging from shower by a dupatta.

Her colleagues described her as a jolly and helpful person. They said they did not notice anything amiss with Savita.

A player of water sport, Savita, had reportedly been suffering from depression since her father died in January. She belonged to Patna.

The investigating officer in the case said he had spoken to Savita’s brother-in-law, Rattan, who expressed helplessness in coming to the city to receive the body. He further said they were shocked to learn about her death as Savita was always known for being in high spirits.

The police said Savita had been in the force for the past over seven years.

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Banks asked to distribute and accept coins from customers
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has taken strong exception to the non-distribution and acceptance of coins by bank branches in the region.

Senior officials in the RBI informed TNS that a large number of complaints had been received about coins of various denominations being in short supply. However, on closer monitoring of the situation, the RBI officials found that banks were not distributing or accepting coins from their customers.

The RBI has now issued instructions to the banks, reminding them that all coins are legal tenders and it is the responsibility of bankers to accept the coins whenever tendered by the public at their counters.

The RBI has also removed soiled notes worth Rs 1322.46 crore from circulation with the assistance of various public sector banks. This was done as part of the RBI’s initiative to remove all soiled/ mutilated currency notes from the currency chests of various banks.

The RBI had issued guidelines that these mutilated notes cannot be issued to the public but shall be deposited in currency chests for onward transmission to RBI offices as chest remittances.

Interestingly, the RBI has also detected 3758 pieces of fake notes (from 3110.94 lakh pieces of soiled notes) that have been received from the currency chests. This showed that the banks were not reporting the forged notes detected at the bank branches to the police and the RBI, as is mandatory.

RBI officials said though the quantity and amount of soiled currency notes received by the RBI from the currency chests in the region was encouraging, a number of currency chests had still not sent soiled notes remittances for the past over two years.

“We have now requested the banks to indicate soiled/mutilated notes position in the chest slips, so as to help us lift these notes from the currency chests,” said a senior official in the RBI.

The official added that banks were still not providing the exchange facility to public for these soiled notes, though it was an important part of the banks’ customer service.

Officials said there was an adequate supply of fresh currency notes and a total of 2831.28 lakh pieces of bank notes had been issued since January, 2006. “The RBI would be sending fresh notes remittances to the currency chests at least once in two years.

Diversion orders for the currency notes are also issued as and when a request is received from a currency chest,” added the official.

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Fruit prices hit the roof
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
The season for relishing the choicest fruit is here. But, with the prices of fruits sky-rocketing, these have gone beyond the reach of the common man.

Musk melons, water melons, mangoes, bananas, papaya, grapes, oranges and bananas have all flooded the market. As the mercury soars, the demand for the water-based fruits (melons and grapes) and other sweet and nutritious delights is high.

Blame it on a poor crop or the rising inflation, prices of most fruits are up by 25-30 per cent compared to last year.

Watermelon, which has flooded the markets as well as the roadsides, is selling for anything between Rs 12-18 per kg. Last year, the fruit was available for Rs 8-10 a kg. The vendors say this year the watermelon crop in Rajasthan is not good. The watermelons are being brought to the city from Bangalore. While the ones from Rajasthan are available for Rs 12, those brought from Bangalore are available for Rs 15- 8 a kg.

Musk melon prices, too, have hit the roof with the Punjab sunehri variety available for Rs 25-35 a kg and that from Bangalore selling for Rs 40- 50 a kg. Last year, the Bangalore variety was available for Rs 30 a kg.

The king of fruits, mango, too, has arrived in the market. While the pairi variety is available for Rs 100 a kg (last year Rs 80 a kg), the safeda variety is available for Rs 50-60 a kg (last year this was available at Rs 40 a kg). These high prices are in spite of the fact that the mangoes are still not ripe enough.

Banana prices, too, have shot up in the past couple of days from Rs 25 a dozen a fortnight ago to Rs 30 a dozen now. The only fruit, which has seen a correction in the price is orange (down to Rs 40 a dozen from Rs 60 a dozen last month).

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Renovation work deferred to June
Tagore Theatre reopened
S.D. Sharma

Chandigarh, April 22
“A national theatre is worth having for the sake of the nation’s soul,” Bernard Shaw had once said and accordingly the centrally-located Tagore Theatre had been deemed as a pride of the City Beautiful.

On March 1, the engineering department of Chandigarh administration closed the theatre for major renovation spanning four months.

However, in view of the renovation schedule being deferred to June, according to chief engineer V.K. Bhardwaj, the theatre has now been made available for functions till May-end.

The proposed renovation included augmentation of its seating capacity by around 350 seats from the existing 578 units and replacing the manually-operated light and sound equipment with ultra-modern electronically-controlled programming.

Besides, shifting the performance stage with green rooms to frontal areas and lighting controls and canteen to the rear portion have been envisaged.

But the closure of the theatre for 48 days without the initiation of renovation work has elicited sharp reaction from the artiste fraternity.

They have expressed divergent views on the inconvenience caused to them and the loss of revenue to the government.

Welcoming the administration’s gesture for providing latest facilities, Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademy chairperson and actor Kamal Tewari emphasised the need for an entirely new, bigger spacious auditorium with the state-of-the-art infrastructure, while negating a major overhaul of the existing theatre.

The city population has grown fourfold and it has achieved the distinction of emerging as a major cultural centre.

“The neighbouring Panchkula, with much less cultural activity, has come up with a monumental theatre, ‘Inderdhnush’, with 1,400 cushioned seats and modern stage equipment,” says Tewari.

“Minor changes or improvements are necessary but a major overhaul with almost complete demolition is just ridiculous,” says Aditya Parkash, former chief architect and maker of the theatre.

The art is an “intimate aesthetic experience” and the theatre hall should be revered as a temple and not a cinema hall.

“Tagore theatre is a landmark like Rock Garden and not a commercial centre.”

Pracheen Kala Kendra director and Tagore theatre committee member M.L. Koser lamented the dictatorial attitude of the engineering department for refusing booking for their golden jubilee function and Odissi festival during March even when the theatre was available and no renovation process initiated.

National Sangeet Natak Akademy Rattan thespian Gursharan Singh, unaware of the reopening of the theatre, opined that in the absence of professional theatre concept in the city the existing hall suited the pocket of all amateur performing groups.

Supplementing his views, thespian G.S. Channi opined that the administration should have shared their proposed renovation programme with artiste bodies, the ultimate beneficiaries.

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Mohali bus stand: A picture of neglect
Akash Ghai
Tribune News Service

Mohali, April 22
Big potholes, piles of garbage, stinking toilets, pigeon droppings and broken benches welcome commuters at the inter-state bus stand, Phase VIII, here.

The bus stand of model city of the state lacks most basic amenities. The broken road and big potholes at the entrance tell the story of the state of affairs there.

To help commuters, four ticket counters were set up but these are being used for dumping debris instead of issuing tickets or handling queries.

Out of the five benches which have been set up in the name of sitting arrangements, three lie broken. The stink and the flies also make it impossible for anyone to sit and wait for a bus.

Dirty toilet, unhygienic drinking water and birds’ droppings all around add insult to injury. “I am the only sweeper here to look after the whole area. Besides cleaning toilets and mopping the floor of the bus stand, I have to fill the water tanks in the morning,” said Mahinder Singh, sweeper at the bus stand.

The condition of the area where taps for drinking water have been installed was equally pathetic. “Brooms and mops lying near the taps make the place feel like hell,” said Sunita Kumari, who was waiting for a Punjab Roadways bus for Moga.

There is only one canteen which has been selling food items including soft drinks at exorbitant rates. On being asked, the contractor simply reasoned, “I pay Rs 15,000 per month as charges.”

During its visit at the place, the TNS team found no Punjab Roadways bus there. Instead four buses, being run by private operators, were parked to pick passengers.

“It is mandatory for all roadways buses to report at the bus stand while going or coming from other stations but most drivers do not bother to come here due to a lack of concern of the officials,” said a roadways official on the condition of anonymity.

“Private operators have been making the most of the opportunity. They park their buses here for over half an hour while the rules do not allow them to park for more than five minutes. This causes a major blow to the revenue of the roadways,” he added.

The authorities have given permission to 200 private operators to pick the passengers from the bus stand. They charge Rs 20 every time a bus enters the stand.

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Baby Swapping
No male born on April 12: GMCH
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
Reacting to the allegations of baby swapping, the Government College and Medical College, Sector 32, authorities today claimed that no male baby had been born in the hospital on April 12 last.

A resident of Mauli Jagran village, Shagufta Praveen, had complained to the hospital authorities yesterday that her male baby was swapped with a female one immediately after the birth at the hospital on April 12.

“Three deliveries took place at the hospital on April 12, the day when the baby was born to Shagufta,” said Dr Harsh Mohan, medical superintendent of the GMCH.

And all three babies born were female, leaving no chance of swapping, as alleged by the complainant, added Dr Mohan.

Moreover, the hospital file filled at the time of the baby’s birth mentioned Shagufta’s baby as female, said the medical superintendent, adding that the footprints of the baby had been taken at the time of birth to make the system foolproof.

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Tribune employee dead; family alleges foul play
Tribune News Service

Kharar, April 22
Sohan Singh, an operator with Punjabi Tribune, died at his in-laws’ house under mysterious circumstances at Khanpur village, near here, yesterday.

According to the deceased’s family, Sohan (45) had left for his in-laws’ village on April 20.

He had reportedly not been having cordial relationship with his wife.

Suspecting foul play, the brother of the deceased, Raghbir Singh, has demanded a thorough probe into the matter.

“Sohan left for his in-laws’ house on April 20. A day after we received a call from his in-laws that he was serious and admitted to the Civil Hospital, Kharar. On reaching there, we were told that he had died. We suspect that he has been killed”, he said. His in-laws have denied the allegations.

The post-mortem examination on the body was carried out at the Civil Hospital today after insistence by the deceased’s family members.

According to the panel of doctors, Sohan died due to head injury. Meanwhile, the last rites of the deceased were performed at his native Bara Sherpur village.

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Himalayan griffon sighted in Morni hills
Vishal Gulati
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
As the number of the three Asian species of vultures- the white-backed, the slender-billed and the long-billed - has declined catastrophically, a migrating species, the Himalayan griffon, can be spotted these days in the Morni hills of Haryana.

The Himalayan griffon vulture is found in Central Asia at altitudes generally over 4,000 feet. During winter it can be spotted at lower altitudes in the north. It feeds on carrion, insects, eggs, droppings of carnivores and can be seen even sifting garbage.

During a recent visit to various isolated pockets on the Panchkula-Ramgarh road, a large number of Himalayan griffon vultures along with the Egyptian vultures and raptors were seen feeding on carcasses.

Vibhu Prakash, principal scientist (Ornithology), Vulture Breeding Centre, near Pinjore, attributes its increase in number to the plenty of food available. Of course, dogs and raptors are multiplying fast because they have free access to carcasses with the decline of the gyps vulture.

He says this species migrates from Central Asia during the winter. These days these birds might be migrating back to their breeding grounds. In India, the bird is found in high plateaus of Ladakh and north Sikkim along the Indo-Tibet border.

He says the use of veterinary drug diclofenac is also affecting the population of the Himalayan griffon. However, the chances of their decline in population are less because usually the young ones migrate and their parents stay back at their breeding grounds.

Prabhat Bhatti, a Nangal-based bird watcher, has sighted the species a number of times in Ropar and Nangal areas.

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A week too long

Chandigarh, April 22
The engineering department of the Chandigarh administration has failed to keep its promise of reopening the road separating Sectors 31 and 32 within a week after it was closed in the last week of March.

The first concrete road in the city was closed merely two months after it was formally inaugurated in January.

A senior official had then said that minor works needed to be carried out to up the performance level of the road. As a result of which it had to be closed for “only a week”.

Talking to Chandigarh Tribune today, chief engineer V.K. Bhardwaj said the cement structure needed curing, which meant it had to be watered for some time before the firmness set in. The road will be opened by Wednesday, he added. — TNS

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Police books complainant
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 22
Bowing to the pressure from the "higher-ups", the police today booked 50-year-old Ramesh, a complainant in an assault case, late last night. He complained that Sumit Singh, the boy beaten up at the CIA office in Mansa Devi two years back, had hit him on his head with a brick after he stopped him from consuming a "solution" for a kick.

Though senior police officials were unavailable for comment, sources said the case was registered as a preventive action to ensure that yesterday's attack had no fallout in terms of a clash in the jhuggis where the two parties stay. The police also admitted that Sumit's "high-profile case" and the fact that Ramesh had also allegedly beaten up the boy, invited the action.

In his statement to the police and press last night, Ramesh said he was occupying a booth in Mansa Devi and that there was a wedding nearby. On returning from the wedding, he found that Sumit, along with two of his friends, was consuming a solution.

"I had seen these boys drinking this addictive solution on some previous occasion as well. I asked them to stop immediately or to move away from where I stay. This agitated the boys and Sumit attacked me with a brick and ran away," he said. He was taken to the General Hospital, Sector 6, where his wounds were bandaged and the police was called in. Subsequently, Sumit was also brought to the police station along with his mother. The boy was tortured by the CIA staff two years ago on their own premises for which a case is on in court. Following directions of the court, the police had provided him security and a PCR is stationed near his house.

After the police received this complaint, Sumit was brought to the police station where a petitioner in the CIA case, Utsav Bains, alleged that the police allegedly beat him up during the day at the instance of Sant Ram, a suspended police personnel. He said the entire story about the attack on Ramesh was a concocted story and the police was acting at the behest of a suspended cop.

Interestingly, when the police tried to convince Sumit to accompany them to General Hospital to see if he had consumed any solution, Sumit, his mother and Utsav fled from the scene on a motorcycle without signing their statements saying they were not safe in the hands of the local cops.

Sources said the police, expecting trouble since Sumit's case is pending in the Supreme Court and in a bid to dodge negative publicity, booked Ramesh under pressure despite being convinced that he had been injured.

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Driver found dead
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 22
A driver was found dead under mysterious circumstances in his tent in Raipur Rani last night. The deceased, identified as Lala Singh, alias Lala, a resident of Punjab’s Barnala district, was found hanging by a nylon rope by his roommate, Satpal.

In his statement to the police, Satpal said they had come to Raipur Rani on a contract to level the area and had been stationed at the place for the past two months.

Last night, the two met at the tent after work and decided that one would cook dinner while the other would go and fetch diesel.

Satpal, also a driver, left for petrol station and returned after over two hours. He found Lala’s body hanging in a kneeling position from the tent’s top. The police has registered a case of murder under Section 302, IPC.

Police sources said the case was based on the statement of the complainant, though a clearer picture of the cause of the death would emerge only after Lala’s post-mortem report came in.

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CPM leader Bhagrana succumbs to injuries
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
CPM leader Inderjit Singh Bhagrana, who was seriously injured in an armed attack at Balsuha, near Rajpura, on April 4, succumbed to his injuries at the Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, here today.

Bhagrana was allegedly attacked by a group of people led by Shamsher Singh Lala, Rajinder Singh Raju, Jasbir Singh and Bittu, while he was on his way to Rajpura from his native Bhagrana village.

Old enmity was stated to be the cause behind the attack.

The police had booked eight persons in the case. Later, Lala and other accused had surrendered in a Rajpura court.

A prominent leader of the Patiala district, Bhagrana had unsuccessfully contested the recent Punjab assembly elections from the Rajpura constituency.

Meanwhile, the police said Section 302 of the IPC would be added in offences against the accused.

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Man held for carjack

Chandigarh, April 22
The local police arrested a Sector 49 resident for forcibly taking away an MUV from a taxi driver near the Sector 48 motor market on Friday.

SHO of police station, Sector 31, said the accused, Sandeep Kumar of Pushapak Complex, Sector 49, was arrested from the same Sector following a tip-off last night.

The stolen Toyota Tavera (PB 12 G 3915) was recovered from him.

The complainant, Karanjit Rana, a taxi driver working at Sector 22 taxi stand, told the police that he had gone to the Sector 48 market on Friday night to get his vehicle repaired.

As he had returned from a long trip, he fell asleep in the vehicle after parking it in the market.

Around 11 pm, he was woken up by the noise of someone entering the vehicle.

Before he could react, the accused gagged him and threatened to shoot him if he tried to raise the alarm.

The man pushed him out of the vehicle and sped away. The shocked Rana reported the matter to the police the next morning. The police said they gathered information and nabbed the accused, who was said to be a drug addict.

Sandeep used to drive a taxi, but had sold his vehicle to sustain his addiction. — TNS

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Gold ornaments stolen from Sec-40 house
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
Thieves decamped with gold ornaments from a house in Sector 40.

Inderjit Singh of Sector 40 reported to the police that a gold chain, a gold ring, gold locket and a pair of gold tops were stolen form his residence yesterday.

A case has been registered.

Held for piracy

The local police arrested Avtar Gupta of Sector 15 and Naresh Kumar of Sector 25 from their booths in Sector 15 on allegations of possessing pirated CDs yesterday.

The police seized 868 and 430 CDs from their possession, respectively.

A case under Sections 53 and 63 the Copy Rights Act has been registered.

Smack seized

The local police arrested Trima of Dadu Majra Colony while carrying 12 grams of smack yesterday.

A case under Section 21 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act has been registered in the police station, Sector 17.

Scooter stolen

Amrit Pal of Sector 44 lodged a complaint with the police alleging that his Bajaj Chetak scooter (CH 01 E 8165) was stolen from Sector 22 yesterday.

A case of theft has been registered.

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Shop burgled
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, April 22
An electric shop was burgled in Pabhat village here on the intervening night of April 20 and 21. According to a complaint by the owner Yash Partap Singh, certain items were stolen from the shop. A case has been registered.

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Two beauties and brawn
Smriti Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 22
Mention celebrities in town and the fan meter begins to go off the scale. And when celebrities in question are Miss India World 2007 Sarah Jane Dias and Miss India Earth 2007 Pooja Chitgopekar excitement is bound to rage.

In town to inaugurate first-of-its-kind in the city, Revolution Store, the flagship of Liberty Retail Revolutions, the beauty queens accompanied by Haywards 5000 Mr India World Kanwaljet Singh Anand spoke about winning their respective crowns and plans thereafter.

Unlike in the past, when Miss India Universe was seen as the only winner, the three tried to change it all this time.

Clearing the air regarding her crown, Sarah Jane, a former VJ with a music channel, said: “The pattern of Miss India pageant was changed this year and we were aware of it. They wanted to choose three girls who could best represent our country at the respective international pageants”. “Moreover the global reach and popularity of the Miss World pageant is much more than the universe contest”, adds Kanwal.

Interestingly, as a custom, Sarah was handed over the Miss India sachet and crown by Natasha Suri, former Miss India. Sarah had crowned Natasha in an earlier beauty series on a music channel.

A food and travel buff, Sarah feels that being crowned is like being on the other side of the fence. Refusing to comment on the failure of other Indian contestants to bring the crown back to India, a confident Sarah remarked with a wit: “Until of course I return without one. It would be of no use making any statement.”

Originally hailing from Bangalore and pursuing a degree in MBBS from New Zealand, besides part-time modelling, Pooja was crowned Miss India New Zealand Worldwide in 2003.

Claiming to be a traditional Indian girl in thought and practice, Pooja said: “If I win the pageant, my area of concern will certainly be the health of deteriorating standard of Indian masses.”

On the male-dominated Indian society, this beauty with brains said though the times were changing and Indian women were standing up to their male counterparts, a lot was evolving in terms of striking a balance.

Expressing his concern on male models not being given their due as compared to female ones, Kanwal, a graduate in industrial psychology, said: “Nevertheless modelling is a profession that is a class apart and fate has brought me into it.”

When it comes to ‘Bollywood beckons’, which is perhaps the most predictable fate of participants of such pageants, the three were in unison in saying: “It’s always wise to take the opportunity as and when it comes.”

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