C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S

Colony No. 5 inferno claims 9-yr old
60 jhuggis gutted; six get burn injuries
Tribune News Service

Kundi connections in slums often cause sparking, thus increasing possibility of fire

Chandigarh, June 3
A nine-year-old boy was burnt alive, while another sustained serious injuries, in a major fire that broke out in the slum of Colony No. 5, here this evening.

Around 60 jhuggis were gutted in the fire that was reported around 5.30 pm.

The fire reportedly started from a stove in one of the shacks located in the corner of the slum and spread rapidly to the other jhuggis.

Those who lost their dwellings in the fire said it took less than 10 minutes for the fire to engulf other jhuggis.

The nine-year-old boy, who lost his life in the incident, was identified as Pankaj. Another child who suffered serious burn injures, could not be identified, but was taken to the GMSH, Sector 16.

While he was reported to be out of danger, doctors said he had suffered serious injuries on the legs. Five more persons sustained minor injuries in the incident.

The fire was followed by a stampede, as panic gripped the inhabitants of the area, who rushed to nearby PCOs to call up the fire brigade. No one was reportedly injured in the stampede.

Ram Bharosse, one of the affected persons, said soon after he spotted the fire he went to a PCO and called up the fire brigade.

On returning from the PCO, he found most of the jhuggis destroyed.

The dwellers used sewerage water to fight the blaze. Naresh Kumar said they managed to control fire in most of the jhuggis even before fire tenders could reach the scene.

He lamented that it took firefighters at least 30 minutes to reach the scene.

However, fire officials claimed that prompt action was initiated soon after the fire was reported.

Station fire officer, Sector 17, M.L. Sharma claimed that the fire was reported around 5.35 pm and a fire tender from Sector 32 reached the scene within five minutes.

He said after firefighters reported the magnitude of the fire, five more engines from Sectors 38 and 17, and Industrial Area were pressed into service.

Refuting allegations made by slumdwellers, Sharma said if fire engines had not reached the scene in time, the entire slum would have been brunt down. He said it took over 30 minutes for six fire engines to control the flames.

In spite of congested lanes that hindered the rescue operation, the firefighters managed to reach the flames by laying out six extra pipes, he said.

It was believed that wind and combustible material used to erect jhuggis increased the intensity of the fire. 



In the line of fire
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
Disaster still looms large on slum-dwellers of Colony No. 5 as kundi connections over the jhuggis constantly pose a threat of another fire.

Even as today’s fire reportedly broke out due to a stove in one of the jhuggis, the impending danger posed by kundi connections continues to jeopardise the lives of thousands of slumdwellers.

These shacks are vulnerable to fire as these are largely built of combustible material like hay, wood and tarpaulins.

The dangling kundi connections are located barely a few meters away from the jhuggis, inviting a tragedy.

In today’s fire, jhuggis built from combustible material were burnt down completely, while damage to the ones built from bricks was far less.

One of the fire officials present on the scene said the issue of kundi connection needed to be addressed immediately or else the consequences could be staggering.

Ex gratia for boy’s kin

The district administration has announced an ex gratia of Rs 50,000 from the district relief fund to the family of Pankaj, the nine-year-old boy who lost his life in the ravaging fire. Deputy commissioner R.K. Rao said teams of the administration visited the scene to ascertain the damage and work out the relief to be given to the families whose dwellings had been destroyed. He said the administration was bearing the cost of medical treatment being given to those who injured in the fire. — TNS



Sobti skips senate meeting, gets job done by post
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
In an unprecedented move, Panjab University vice-chancellor has got a senate agenda approved by post.

While a section of senators are up in arms against what they term as the beginning of the end of senate’s powers, vice-chancellor Prof S.C. Sobti said it was just a money-saving move.

The agenda containing five items relating to various issues that needed to be settled before the beginning of the new session was circulated by post to the 90 members of the PU senate. The covering letter of the agenda pointed out that the last meeting of the senate was held in March, 2007 and the next meeting was not likely to be held before September, 2007. “However certain items approved by the syndicate at its meeting held on April 28 are urgent in nature. In view of the urgency of the matter and under the directions of the vice-chancellor it is required to have your approval of these items in circulation,” explained the letter.

The senators were asked to send in their approval to the agenda items by May 25. “In case your reply is not received by the stipulated date it will be presumed that you approve of these items,” concluded the letter.

In response to this letter, some of the senators wrote back to the vice-chancellor pointing out that the date of the next meeting should be advanced if there were pressing items that needed to be discussed. They pointed out that getting an agenda approved in circulation and by post was not just undemocratic but also was setting an unholy precedent.

In his letter to the registrar, senator Rabinder Nath Sharma demanded that the university should not go ahead with such a move. “This is illegal. There is nothing in the PU calender that authorised the vice-chancellor to substitute a senate meeting with a postal meeting,” he said.

Another senator Prof Tarsem Bahia added that such moves undermined the authority of the senate. “I believe very few people wrote back to the university approving the agenda. I sent a formal letter objecting to the move. What about those who did not reply? Should that be automatically considered an approval on their behalf?” he questioned. He said the items were important that needed debate.

Defending the circulation of the agenda, the vice-chancellor pointed out that faculties are also chosen by post and so this was not unprecedented. He said he had called an informal meeting of the local senators and placed the agenda before them, which was duly passed.

“The senators were given an opportunity to object. Only two letters came to us, which said this should not be done. Each senate meeting costs Rs 6 lakh. Calling the entire senate for a few items would have been a waste of precious funds,” said the vice-chancellor.



Retd Colonel held for fraud
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
A team of Punjab police arrested a Sector 16-based retired Colonel for fraud from his residence this morning.

Sources in the police station, Sector 17, said the accused, Col G.S. Cheema (retd) of Sector 16, had been booked in several cases of cheating in Punjab.

A team of the Punjab police, armed with arrest warrants issued by a Fatehgarh Sahib district court against the accused, approached the local police to arrest the accused.

The police said the accused had been involved in several cases of cheating wherein he had duped people of their earnest money on the pretext of selling them property in Chandigarh.

In some cases, he had duped people by promising to send them abroad.

Sub-inspector Janak Rana of the local police said two cases of cheating had been registered against the accused in the economic offences wing (EOW) of the Chandigarh police.

Election commissioner, Punjab, A.K. Dubey, who is a retired IAS officer, had also lodged a complaint against the accused alleging that the latter had duped him of Rs 1 lakh paid to him as earnest money for purchase of property in Chandigarh.



Land Acquisition
Villagers form front to fight it out
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
Farmland owners and villagers formally launched their common front, Chandigarh Sanjha Morcha, at a rally organised at Khuda Ali Sher village here today.

Pind Bachao Committee president Angrez Singh was nominated patron of the morcha. Addressing the gathering, he said original settlers had not been rehabilitated to date and they had been involved in litigations.

He advocated a joint fight against forcible land acquisition by the administration.

“The administration with its policies was turning Chandigarh into “‘Chandigram’ like Nandigram”, retorted the patron. He named K.S. Kahlon as president and Jyotii Subramanian as secretary and spokesperson for the morcha.

Residents of Mani Majra, Kishangarh, Khuda Lahora, Khuda Jassu, Sarangpur, Makhan Majra, Mauli Jagran, Dariya, Dhanas, Raipur Khurd, Raipur Kalan, Kajheri and Saketri took part in the rally.

It was announced to form a committee in the next couple of days comprising representatives of all villages to chalk out the future course of action.



Now, lady cab drivers
Chandigarh set to storm another male bastion
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
Chandigarh is all set to become the first city in the country to have uniformed women cab drivers.

At least five girls have responded to an advertisement published in newspapers last week. There have been additional queries, as well.

It has been specifically mentioned in the advertisement that "girl students who are holding valid driving license can contact for part time driving at a time convenient to them".

The part-time employment offer is seen as a bigger attractive feature for girls and women who can expect working hours suited to their personal choice. It is a known fact that South India has cases of women autorickshaw drivers. A lady is also learnt to have picked up a driving license for buses in Delhi.

"Girls will be driving Maruti Esteems. The company has specified that girls and lady drivers will be employed for assignments during daytime only. The global positioning system (GPS) installed on the cars will make their location available to the control room on a screen. The cars also have telephone and pager installed which will make them easily accessible and definitely more secure," Arvind Rohilla, senior representative of the cab service said.

Guneeta Sodhi, worker at a department store, says, "I have a driving license and will definitely like to apply for the job of a driver, on a part-time basis. I can afford to work for some hours in the evening which will help me raise some additional pocket money. I have certain apprehensions regarding the working conditions which I will like to clarify before I apply."

Simran Kaur, a college drop-out, says, "I am born and brought up in the city and know the roads very well. I have taken up small jobs earlier. However, the salaries were paltry. I am definitely interested in joining the profession as a driver, on a part-time basis."

She says, " I know the city is a very secure place. However, there are certain apprehensions attached with the profession which make it unwise for women to join. I will like to clarify all my doubts before attempting an entry. In fact, it will be nice of the taxi service to organise an orientation programme or for the knowledge of the ladies before they could apply."

Rohilla says, "The company has worked out a detailed plan to ensure decent working conditions for women. It is a changed world and ladies are coming forward in all walks of life, so, why not driving?"



Ex-VC Khehra joins elderly
Tackling menace of attacks on senior citizens
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
Alarmed by the growing incidents of fatal attack on senior citizens in the Tricity and the growing menace of drug addiction among youth in the region, former Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, Amarjit Singh Khehra, has decided to have another stint in public life, this time as a volunteer.

Heading the Mohali chapter of the Senior Citizens Association, an affiliate of the Senior Citizens Federation headed by P.H. Vaishnav, former chief secretary of Punjab, Amarjit Singh Khehra has been busy organising old people, especially couples, who have little or no avenues of any regular social activity to keep themselves gainfully occupied.

Besides the old age health problems, they need some forum to meet and interact with each other and work out some mechanisms which makes them secure, both in and outside their homes.

“Recent incidents of violence, especially those in Chandigarh and Panchkula in which senior citizens were fatal targets of suspected domestic helps, have sent shock waves among the senior citizens.

“With more and more youngsters going abroad in search of green pastures there, the number of old people left alone to fend for themselves in the twilight of their lives, has been on the rise,” says Khera.

“It is why we are trying to organise senior citizens of Mohali and will gradually encourage other cities in Punjab to have similar chapters,” says Khehra revealing that though there are some groups actively associated with the welfare of senior citizens in different parts of Punjab, there has been no organized effort so far.

In April, when the Mohali unit was launched, as many as 600 senior citizens turned up at the auditorium of Shivalik Public School in Phase VI.

“We have plans to weld the senior citizens into one large family and to motivate them to continue playing a constructive role in society,” he says stressing the need for early implementation of the National Policy on Older Persons which, even after seven years, remains just on paper.

Vaishnav suggests pre-emption of resources from existing schemes like Poverty Alleviation and MPLAD Fund for exclusive use on senior citizens within the designated category. To avoid losing focus, he recommended inclusion of paragraphs regarding senior citizens in the annual reports of departments concerned as well as in the Governor’s address. He announced financial support of Rs 25,000 to the nascent organisation.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who inaugurated the Mohali chapter, rued the decline in traditional values due to socio-economic compulsions, urged members of the association to help reverse the growing trend of drug addiction in the society, especially in Punjab. He announced a grant of Rs 2.5 lakhs to Mohali Senior Citizens Association. Since Government resources would never be adequate to meet all welfare requirements, he said, NGOs must come forward to fill the void.

Harchandan Singh, Secretary-General, Mohali Senior Citizens Association, said that one-time life membership fee had deliberately been kept low (Rs 500 for individuals and Rs 800 for couples) so that every senior citizen could join and be benefited by its activates. 



Mohali fire
Minister’s son visits site
Tribune News Service

Mohali, June 3
Jasjit Singh Bunny son of Punjab minister Captain Kanwaljit Singh today visited the site of the rehri market in Phase 3B1 to meet the victims of the fire incident.

Bunny assured the victims of support and promised to get the best possible compensation for them. He added that an emergency fund might also be released for the victims by tomorrow. The victims, led by Nanak Singh, have been camping at the site of the fire for the past three days.

The Ramgarhia Gurudwara and the Sacha Dhan Gurudwara along with members of the Punjab Property Consultants Association have started a free langar service for the victims.



Riya makes a freshening appearance
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
Riya Sen continues to count on her oomph. And she must, for that’s the only sure talent she has. Having tried her best to hone acting skills, she has never quite struck gold with films, hence this new role.

As the Limca girl, the struggling actor does not need to do much, expect sprinkle some oomph here and there. So she did today, as part of her official trip to Chandigarh, where Limca is seeking to broaden its market share.

There are some other Punjabi cities too in the loop, but to begin with, Riya made an appearance in the city today. The crowd that stood to welcome her in the Sector 15 main market was thin by all standards, courtesy Sunday mood. For a while, one wondered why a holiday was chosen for a promotional tour. 



Ward body for more powers

Chandigarh, June 3
The ward No. 21 Social Welfare Association has demanded that senior deputy and deputy mayor should be given financial and administrative powers to expedite development works in the city.

During a meeting of the association held today, the members appreciated the efforts being put in by the two for initiating major developmental works in the city. — TNS



Man alleges harassment
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, June 3
Vijay Kumar, a resident of Saini Vihar in Baltana, has alleged harassment at the hands of certain persons on the behest of an official of the Mohali police.

Kumar alleged that the police official was siding with the above persons in a tenant-landlord dispute even when the matter was pending in a Rajpura court. The local police should be play a neutral role in the dispute, Savitri Devi, wife of Kumar, in a complaint to the Mohali SSP said.

On March 7, certain persons allegedly ransacked Kumar’s house and decamped with Rs 60,000. The culprits were identified and booked, but they were let off by the local police, Kumar alleged.

The couple feared that they might be framed in some case by the police under pressure from the police official.



1 killed in mishap
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, June 3
A resident of Sector 19 here, Dheeraj (35), died in an accident last night. Police sources said Dheeraj had gone to pick up his wife from Sector 12 A when his scooter was hit by a Mahindra pick-up truck.

He was rushed to the General Hospital, Sector 6, from where he was referred to PGI where he succumbed to his injuries. 



Workshop on traffic rules

Chandigarh, June 3
The Chandigarh traffic police today organised a workshop at Colony No 5 as a part of its ongoing drive to educate people about the traffic rules and regulations.

The police said people of various age groups participated in the workshop. Officials of the traffic police imparted information about road safety.

Till date, the traffic police has covered 17 villages as a part of the awareness drive. Traffic Marshal Gurnam Singh, a member of the Traffic Awareness Organisation, was also present during the workshop. He urged the people to follow road safety rules in order to avoid accidents. — TNS



Traffic rules for all

It seems that traffic rules are meant to be followed only by the drivers of registered vehicles. Any violation thereof attracts a challan, a fine or penalty for not complying with the rules.

As cyclists and rickshaw-pullers et al don’t have to take pain in this regard they ply on the city roads without abiding by the rules. They jump traffic signals, don’t ply on the tracks made especially for them, make wrong entries, park at no parking zones and the like, reason being immunity against any penalty. No wonder these riders are the makor source of accidents in the city and are the ones who exact compensation from the other party.

Action should also be taken against these riders who go on flouting the rules unabated. There should also be some mechanism so that they don’t become traffic hazard. The law enforcers ought to keep a tab on them in order to keep the traffic on track

Harbinder Singh



Man held for criminal intimidation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
A minor altercation took a violent turn this morning when a group of persons allegedly attacked a Mauli Jagran resident with bricks and rods. The person suffered head injuries.

The police said Raj Narain of Mauli Jagran filed a complaint alleging that Rajpal, Mukesh, Thapa and Balwinder came to his residence at around 10 am and attacked him with bricks and rods following an altercation. He, along with another person, sustained head injuries.

The police has arrested Rajpal for rioting, trespassing, causing injuries and criminal intimidation. It was learnt that Rajpal also lodged a complaint with the police later, alleging that he also suffered a fracture on his arm. The police had sent him for medical examination. Further action will be taken on the basis of the outcome of the medical examination.



SBI, Maruti tie up for car loans

Chandigarh, June 3
The State Bank of India (SBI) has launched a SBI-Maruti Udyog Limited online application system for quick processing of car loans. The new system was inaugurated by S.W. Tanksale, general manager, SBI Chandigarh Circle, at the bank’s loan centralised processing cell yesterday.

With the new system in place, when any Maruti car buyer walks into any dealership in tri-city with minimum basic documents, his profile would be uploaded online by the dealer to the SBI and within one hour conditional sanction would be conveyed. — TNS




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