C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Mohali resident found murdered in car
Tribune News Service

Sniffer dog at murder site.
Sniffer dog at murder site. — A Tribune photograph

Mohali, May 13
A 32 year-old resident of Sector 69, Gurdeep Singh, alias Lali, was found murdered in his car this morning, barely a few kilometers from his residence. The victim’s throat had been slit. His body was laying half outside the car in a pool of blood.

Gurdeep was living off money he had made in various land deals and money seems to be the motive for the murder, said the police.

The murder is said to have taken place last night when Gurdeep, a “chronic alcoholic” left his house at around 11 pm to fetch liquor from a vend at Kumbra near his house.

SSP Ranbir Singh Khattra said the murder could have taken place any time between 11pm and the wee hours. Gurdeep’s car, a black Hyundai Accent, was found on the outskirts of Nanno Majra.

Gurdeep’s wife told the police that he was drinking at home. When the liquor finished, he went to purchase more in a drunken state. Gurdeep did not have a mobile phone. Having bought the liquor, instead of coming back home, he seems to have gone for a drive, as his car was found on a deserted road under construction in one of the upcoming sectors of the township.

The police is not sure if one or more persons had committed the crime. It did not rule out the possibility of the murderer being known to the victim, with whom he may have decided to share a drink in his car.

“The victim was not robbed and we do not think this is the handiwork of wayside looters. We are trying to find out what happened at the liquor vend. Vital clues have been gathered, though nothing has been found from the murder spot,” said the SSP who visited the site in the afternoon.

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Hit & Run
15 deaths in 5 months
Blood on city roads
Ramanjit Singh Sidhu/TNS

Chandigarh, May 13
Despite the presence of police control room (PCR) personnel at almost every corner of the city, the number of hit-and-run cases is on the rise. It seems the PCRs are no deterrent to the offenders, who escape right under the nose of the police.

The number of fatal accidents registered in the city till May 7 is 15. The victims have been left permanently crippled in at least 30 instances. In 2006 , 37 fatal and 76 non-fatal accidents were reported to the police. If we include those cases where no FIR is lodged or those ending in a compromise, the number becomes astronomically high. In 2006, the police recorded 3,345 daily diary reports of such accidents while the figure for 2007 is 1129.

A woman scooterist suffered fractures on both arms and had a broken jaw after being hit by an unidentified motorcyclist near Piccadilly Chowk on Thursday.

Sources said in April this year, two fatal accidents and six-non fatal accidents were registered. On April 16, Sector 20 resident Santosh Kumar was killed after a car collided with his scooter near Labour Chowk.

Though the car number was available, the police took days to trace it. In another accident on April 30 night, 30-year-old Arun Kumar of Sector 34, was seriously injured after a car hit his motorcycle near the traffic lights on the road dividing Sectors 31 and 32. He succumbed to his injuries in hospital. The police is yet to trace the car.

Sources said the families of victims were deprived of compensation as the police failed to trace the guilty. This is because the money is to be paid by the insurance company of the offending vehicle, which remains untraced in hit and run cases.

Invariably the offenders are caught after days and the delay in their arrest helps them escape the medical test mandatory to ascertain whether the offender had been under the influence of intoxicants. 

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Pedestrians at most risk
Geetanjali Gayatri/TNS

Panchkula, May 13
A criss-cross of national highways running through the district has made Panchkula notorious for a large number of hit and run cases. The fact that the highways are virtually unmanned and there is no restriction on the plying of heavy vehicles within the city limits, or outside, only worsens the situation.

There is no proper monitoring of hit and run cases, with only fatal accidents being reported. Also, the district police does not have any data readily available.

While the highway stretch near Ramgarh (on NH 73) is most accident-prone, the Chandi Mandir -Kalka stretch, too has seen many casualties. However, with heavy traffic on the Chandi Mandir-Kalka section at NH 22, it becomes difficult for the errant vehicles to escape after an accident. The Pinjore-Baddi stretch on National Highway 21 A is another dangerous stretch. Most cases reported on this section are either late in the night or in the wee hours.

Even in the city, most hit-and-run accidents occur early morning and involve morning walkers, or late in the evening when there is little checking along the highways. Deaths while crossing the highways are most common.

It is only of late that the district traffic police have stepped up vigil to check over-speeding within the city as also closed a few accident-prone crossings, besides posting traffic police Gypsies at “strategic” locations. "We have highway patrols and two inspectors manning these. A traffic police station has been set up at Surajpur to check the traffic bottleneck in the area while highway patrols are posted in the Barwala and Pinjore areas on a routine basis,” a traffic police official said.

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20 pc cases unsolved
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, May 13
Of the hundreds of road accidents reported in Mohali district annually, the police estimates that one-fourth are hit-and-run cases, many of which remain unsolved.

Hit-and-run accidents, which often happen at night, are extremely difficult to solve if no registration number of the offending vehicle is available. Residents, however, say that even if a description of such a vehicle is provided immediately to the police telephonically, the police usually is not prompt enough to nab the culprits.

Although the exact figures of such cases in Mohali town and other areas in the district were not readily available, the police estimates that 20 per cent of these cases often remain in the “ untraced” category. Little headway is made in such cases due to several reasons, including the lack of adequate details of the offending vehicle; lack of cooperation from witnesses, who remain silent fearing harassment; half-hearted efforts on the part of the police to find the offender; poor training of personnel in tackling accident cases; shortage of police staff; absence of a scientific approach to crime detection; and graft among police personnel.

On September 24 last year tragedy struck the family of Suresh Kumar (35), a dhaba owner of Sector 21, Chandigarh. Suresh Kumar, his wife and two-year-old son were killed in a hit-and-run case in Phase IX here.

Two months ago on March 1 two employees of an international call centre were killed here. On February 9 this year Lt-Col Labh Singh ( retd), a veteran of the 1965 and 1971 wars, was hit by a vehicle on the road dividing Radha Soami Satsang and the Godrej factory when he had gone for a walk. He later died in hospital . His son-in-law said the vehicle was stopped at a police naka, about 100 metres from the accident scene, but the offender escaped.

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Boy falsely implicated: family

Chandigarh, May 13
The family of Vivek, who was arrested by the Chandigarh police yesterday on allegation of abetment to suicide following the hanging of a 16-year-old girl known to him, today alleged that he was wrongly booked in the case.

The police had arrested Vivek following a statement made by the victim’s mother that he was harassing her daughter of late. He was today sent to judicial custody.

Vivek’s father today told mediapersons that his son had gone with the girl to Shimla a few days ago and they stayed there for three days. When he came to know about the matter, he went after them and brought them to the city on May 11. He apprised the girl’s mother of the issue, who took her daughter back.

The girl was found hanging in her Sector 32 residence on Saturday evening and she left no suicide note. — TNS

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IT Habitat
Explain Rs 1,200-cr loss, UT told
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 13
The Rs-821 crore land deal to develop IT Habitat - a residential and commercial area adjacent to Rajiv Gandhi Chandigarh Technology Park (RGCTP) - is in the eye of the storm.

In June 2006, the Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB) struck a deal with Parsavnath Developers to develop the residential and commercial area spread over 123 acres.

Pointing out that the deal had been struck at a “much less market value,” the principal accountant-general has told the administration that it had suffered a loss of around Rs 1,200 crore due to transfer of land at the concessional rate.

The administration has been asked to explain the loss due to the transfer of land at subsidised rates. It may be mentioned that other prestigious projects in the area had been auctioned at much higher rates. A four-acre residential complex in Mani Majra was auctioned for around Rs 108 crore. A hotel site to DLF had been auctioned for Rs 75 crore.

The audit department said as the price of the land came to around Rs 18.50 crore and the auction would generate around Rs 1,200 crore, a revised allotment letter was issued on August 2006 for 123.79 acres. It has been pointed out that the estate office did not even demand a memorandum of understanding between the CHB and the developer.

Recently, minister of state for finance Pawan Kumar Bansal had sought details of various projects being undertaken under the IT park. A senior official said contractual obligations had already been undertaken in the project.

While doing the audit of the estate office, audit department found that 129 acres of land in the IT park was transferred to the CHB in December 2005.

A letter of intent issued in May 2006 states that the price of land will be decided later. However, the CHB signed the deal in 2006, after the developer was declared a successful bidder. The CHB is to earn 30 per cent of the total revenue from the sale of residential plots.

The income tax department has also sought income tax on the total deal amount as it was a commercial activity. The CHB has replied back to the income tax department after seeking legal advice.

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Premature retirements in Army, Navy
Officers not to negotiate while in service: MoD
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 13
In the backdrop of the number of officers seeking premature retirement in the Army and the Navy shooting up, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has categorically stated that senior armed forces officers are not permitted to negotiate for commercial employment in private sector while in service.

The number of Army officers seeking discharge has shot up from 435 in 2004 to 811 in 2006, while in the Navy the figure rose from 116 to 257 in the same period.

The Air Force, however, saw a declining trend in premature release, with the number of applicants coming down from 238 in 2004 to 207 in 2006.

According to the MoD, officers of the rank of colonel and above and their equivalent in the other services are required to obtain permission of the government before taking commercial employment within two years of the date of retirement.

Before granting permission, competent authorities will have to satisfy themselves, inter-alia, that any official information, knowledge or contacts which the officer might have gained while in service would not be used to give the prospective employer an unfair advantage.

Further, appointments with companies or firms which operate in sensitive areas of defence procurements or which have subsidiary firms having contracts with Ministry of Defence as also appointments with foreign government or foreign firms are not allowed.

Information released by the ministry this week states that defence officers have been seeking premature retirement or have been resigning for various reasons which include supersession for promotion, being placed in a permanently low medical category, compassionate reasons involving family matters, failure to acquire minimum technical qualifications prescribed for promotion and increase in employment opportunities in the civilian sector.

A growing economy coupled with management qualifications and a vast experience of handling men and material acquired by them during the service has opened a lot of opportunities for service officers.

The number of cases approved for discharge in 2006 was 464 for the Army, 176 for the Navy and 80 for the Air Force. Already a large number of senior retired officers are holding some key positions in the industry.

To improve post-retirement job prospects, the Army has tied up with the Indian Institutes of Management for short courses for officers nearing retirement so that they can re-orient them for a suitable job after they hand up their boots. Several such officers, according to reports have got lucrative positions in the corporate world.

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Dharamshala as health centre resented
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 13
The move of the Chandigarh municipal corporation to convert the Harijan Dharamshala in Ram Darbar into a primary health centre (PHC) has met with resistance from local residents. Though the finance and contract committee of the MC has approved the conversion of the dharamshala, the locals are criticising the decision saying the area already has two health care centres.

The dharamshala was under the social welfare department and was being looked after by a committee of the local residents for the last 20 years. However, the MC recently decided to take over the building and set up a PHC there. The locals, however, lamented that there were already two health care centres, including a government dispensary and a health centre run by the Lions Club in the area.

Satish Kainth, a former general secretary of the Chandigarh Congress who is a member of the ward committee of the area, alleged that the dharamshala committee was kept in the dark and was not informed that the premises were being transferred to the MCC.

Many Harijans of the area lamented that the dharamshala was the only place in the locality that could be used by the poor for functions like marriages as the charges here were less when compared to other places in the city. They said there was resentment among the Harijan community who were now being denied the privilege.

Meanwhile, mayor Harjinder Kaur, when contacted, said the open space in the dharamshala would be allowed for community purposes and social functions. She said the PHC would provide an additional service to the residents. She said it was a positive move and the locals should appreciate it.

However, the Harijans contended that the building would be occupied by the PHC staff and only the open space would be available for social functions. They said in case of rain during a social gathering, there would be no shelter. Besides, the toilets would be placed under the PHC.

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Colony protest continues
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 13
The joint action committee (JAC) of residents of Janata Colony near Nayagaon continues to demand withdrawal of cases of attempt to murder and rioting registered against them by the Chandigarh Police and “stern action” against the SDM Ankur Garg for assaulting a minor boy.

At a meeting in the colony tonight, the residents demanded withdrawal of cases and an access road to the locality until the issue was permanently solved.

Maha Singh, president of the JAC, said they had met the UT Administrator General (retd.) S.F Rodrigues a few days ago in this regard. Maha Singh said the administrator had asked them to meet the home secretary and they would meet him tomorrow.

He said they would launch a peaceful protest in the colony to press their demands.

Residents assembled at the body meeting raised slogans against the administration, the police and the SDM for thrashing hapless women and children. They demanded justice for Bittu.

They alleged the police went “berserk” and booked Seema, a mother of a two-month-old infant in a case of attempt to murder and rioting.

Another victim 38-year-old Umesh Kumar, who suffered multiple fractures on his right leg and arm said: “The police action has left me incapacitated for months. I was in the private security of the PGI and I cannot go back to work for months due to the injuries. I have five children to feed. As if this was not enough, I was booked in a case.”

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Voter cards
Residents queue up third time
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, May 13
Residents of Sector 20 here are hoping that they will be lucky third time and will get their voter identity cards without having to get themselves “shot” again. The district administration held yet another photo session for 200-odd voters whose identity cards have not been made after over a year at the community centre here today.

Vineet Kathuria, who came with his family members the third time to be clicked, said, “The officials never seem to get it right. The process of making the voter identity cards has been on for over a year. I am coming for the third time after I got a written request.”

Alokeshwar Tuli, who also queued up for his turn before the camera, added that every time the authorities seemed to mess up their cards. “It was over a year back that I along with eligible members of my family came for the shoot. While my wife and father got their cards, I got a note saying that I should come for my picture again. I went again but to my surprise, instead of my card, I yet again got a letter asking me to report for a third time,” he rued.

Tilak Kataria, clearly irked by the request to come for a photograph, said, “This amounts to harassment of the public. If the officials have got everything wrong twice, they should go door-to-door clicking pictures. Why should the public be inconvenienced because they can not perform their job well? Next time we are not coming to get the job done,” he maintained.

An official of the administration, present at the centre, said the floppy which contained the pictures of the voters had been corrupted. “We only asked the people to come if they could spare time failing which we would have used their earlier pictures. There was no compulsion,” he tried to justify.

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Traffic lights at Tribune Chowk
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 13
The UT engineering department has started work on installing traffic lights at Tribune Chowk here.

Workers of the department were today seen installing poles at the roundabout. Sources in the traffic police said a proposal to install the traffic lights at the roundabout was sent to the UT administration in the past.

The roundabout witnesses traffic jams during rush hours, leading to chaos and mishaps. In order to ensure smooth flow of traffic, the proposal to install traffic lights was moved.

DSP (traffic) Jaswant Singh Khaira said he did not have the details regarding when the lights would be functional.

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Workshop to hone writing skills
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 13
The British Library, here, today held a workshop to hone the writing skills of participants. Manager of the British Library Bipin Kumar said the aim of the workshop was to provide a medium for discussing principles and practices of English language.

Illa Vij, a freelance ELT professional, was the resource person. During the workshop, various attitudes of teaching and writing the language were discussed.

The focus was on introducing and practising a variety of activities for developing the writing skills. Potential problems that may arise while teaching writing skills were also discussed.

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Kher auditions 55 budding actors
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 13
Actor Prepares, a project of the Chandigarh administration in collaboration with Bollywood actor Anupam Kher, will start its first class from June 4 onwards. An important announcement in this regard was made by Anupam Kher in an informal session with the mediapersons here today.

Kher accompanied by a team of experts conducted an audition of approximately 55 students for admission to 25 seats at the institute. At least 15 aspirants were girls. The youngest lad who appeared for the interview today was 17-year-old and the eldest lady was 55-year-old.

The institute will start its classes for the six-month course at Central Crafts Institute, Sector 11. Results of the interview will be declared within three days.

Clarifying queries regarding infrastructure at the institute, he said, "Ours is only an acting institute. We only need lights, space and actors. We have two acting experts on the faculty, one from Delhi and another from Mumbai.

We have also conducted interviews for yoga teachers and also for other administrative staff. The local talent, both actors and staff, is very impressive," he said.

Talking about the poor response that the acting school had got , Kher said "Ours is an acting school and not a talent hunt school. Any decent institute takes nearly five years to establish itself. Our institute in Mumbai started about two years ago and the placement results in industry, television and related spheres is more than 50 per cent already.”

“Deepika, who is starring in a Shah Rukh production, and Sonia Mehra are just two among many stars from our institute who have entered mainstream bollywood," he added.

“I want to clarify that our institute does not promise any placement guarantee. We are a training institute only.

We will have an interface with the Mumbai industry. One of the platforms will be Talent Management Company. Certain actors might get a break even without training for a single day with us at this forum. Leading lights from bollywood will be regular visitors at our institute," he further said.

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Hit & Run
Killers of Isha’s parents still at large
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, May 13
Eight months ago, four-year-old Isha lost her family in a tragic hit and run accident in Phase IX here. Till date, the police is clueless about the offenders.

“To think that there is someone out there who knows that he is responsible for having wrecked the happiness of a small hard working family and yet not come forward to own up his crime kills one’s faith in mankind,” said Kashmir Kaur, a neighbour of the family.

On September 24 2006, tragedy struck the family of Suresh Kumar (35), a dhaba owner of Sector 21, Chandigarh. Suresh, his wife Aarti (32) and two-year-old son Harry were killed. The family was returning home after dinner at his brother's dhaba when a speeding unidentified four-wheeler near the PCA Stadium hit their scooter.

“The police has not bothered to come home and talk to Isha about the accident,” said Isha’s grandmother Shiv Devi at their two- room house in Phase XI here.

Living with her grandmother since the fateful day, Isha is a sad child. Despite the care and attention that her uncles and aunts shower on her, she often sits alone and cries for her parents. “Initially we did not tell her about her parents. But now she knows they died in the accident. She only recalls her falling off the scooter and hitting a pole. She suffered a fracture.

Monetary help poured in for Isha and with the help of the then MLA Kharar Bir Devinder Singh, Rs 3 lakh was collected for Isha. “We have put the money in the bank in a fixed deposit to use it later for her higher studies,” said her uncle Ravi .

But the many promises made by the administration remain unfulfilled. 

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Suicide probe begins
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 13
The Chandigarh police has started investigations to find out from where Nargurinder Singh Brar procured the countrymade pistol with which he shot himself to death in the football stadium on the Panjab University campus yesterday.

Sources in the Sector 11 police station said investigating officials had started probing the matter as it again raised a serious issue regarding availability of illegal weapons in the city and also to university students.

Brar in his suicide not had mentioned that he took bullets from one of his friends.

SHO of the Sector 11 police station Puran Chand said Brar’s friends would be questioned about the pistol and bullets. The police has also searched a Sector 40 house, the address of which was found from Brar’s cards, but could not find anything pertaining to the matter. A friend of Brar lived in that house.

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Baltana power complaint office without phone
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, May 13
The electricity complaint centre at Baltana, which caters to the complaints of the thousands of the residents, has been functioning without a telephone, lot to the inconvenience of power consumers.

In the absence of the telephone, the residents had to come all the way to the centre to lodge complaints.

In fact, the lack of the telephone is not the only problem afflicting the centre.

The centre is functioning from a booth near a school in Baltana and it is difficult to locate it, alleges Varun, a resident of Hem Vihar. The office has infrastructure at all. There is no furniture even for employees, leave alone the visitors, he added.

Faced with an acute staff shortage, the functioning of the centre leaves much to be desired and repeated representations to the PSEB authorities to provide a spacious centre with basic amenities have fallen on deaf ears.

Since most of the wiring in the township is old and outdated, power tripping is common in the transmission system. As unscheduled power cuts are a routine affair, the residents are forced to lodge complaints with the centre, whose record of complaint redressal is dismal.

This has forced the residents to get their power problems rectified from private electricians, another resident added.

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Cosmopolitan Chandigarh
Keeping Maharashtrian tradition alive
Smriti Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 13
Notwithstanding their number, the Maharashtrians residing in the tricity of Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali have been able to keep their traditions and cultural ethos alive and kicking. The first Maharashtrian family came to Chandigarh in the early 60s.

Since then more and more families kept pouring in and today there are about 250 Maharashtrian families residing in the region.

Earlier, they started having get-togethers at their houses. But with the passage of time and with more and more people coming together, the idea of forming an association came forth. Hence, the Maharashtra Mandal was formed in 1971-72. Later on, with the help of the Maharashtra Government and of the local administration, Maharashtra Bhawan was established in Sector 19 in 1978. Since then, all community gatherings, cultural events, sacred days etc are organised at the bhavan.

Their festivities and functions actually start with the onset of their new year according to the Hindu calendar. ‘Gudi Padawa’ is the first event marking the New Year in the month of March-April. Traditionally, a bamboo shoot is erected in every courtyard with a new cloth or a silver, brass or steel utensil on the top which is removed before the sunset.

No Maharashtrian festivity is complete without savouring delicacies. On Gudi Padawa, one of the most popular delicacies Puran Poli, a preparation of jaggery and gram dal stuffed in wheat flour and shreekhand, a sweet curd preparation, is served. Next in line is Haldi-kumkum celebrations in the chaitra month wherein the womenfolk of the community worship Goddess Gauri for the well being and long life of their husbands. Prayers are held at individual homes as well as at Maharashtra Bhavan, informs Madhav Sane, president of the mandal.

May 1 is observed as Maharashtra Day which is marked by events, including ‘lavni’, a traditional dance of the state, kolhi dance, a folk dance associated with the fisherman community, rangoli competitions, singing competitions for ladies and shloka uchharan contests for children.

All community functions are followed by contributory dinners, states Sane. Ganesha Chaturthi, the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha, is their main festival celebrated in September. The 10-day festival begins with the installation of the idol of Lord Ganesha amidst chanting of religious mantras. Cultural programmes, including bhajans, kirtans, natya sangeet, classical recitals, dances etc, mark the festival and finally on the 10th day visarajan of the idol takes place.

Even Dushera holds a special importance for the community members as on this day youngsters offer leaves from shami tree known as gold leaves to their elders seeking their blessings. Laxmi Puja on Divali and Lojagiri Purnima are also among the auspicious days celebrated by the community with traditional fervour.

Though most of the Maharashtrians in the city are engaged in various professions, many of them are popular goldsmiths.

On any given occasion, they do all cooking right from starters to main course dishes from desserts to even sweets at their homes using groundnuts and dry coconuts for the typical Maharashtrian flavours.

With so many festivals and celebrations running all through the year and more and more non-marathi people participating in these, the understanding and relationship among the locals and the Maharashtrians is getting stronger thereby enriching the culture of the cosmopolitan city.

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