C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S

The buck doesn’t stop anywhere
Contradictions in disaster management plan
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
Yesterday’s roof collapse at Sector 26 Grain Market here has brought forth the contradictions in the functioning of the Disaster Management Committee of the Chandigarh Administration. The accident has once again raised the necessity of a revamp in its operations. The issue of evaluating the committee has gained importance in wake of the collapse, resulting in two deaths.

In fact, the administration has not even carried out a mock drill in the recent past, which is compulsory for the committee, official sources confirmed.

The UT also has no civilian reserve team in place, which can be called in during such emergencies, as was evident yesterday. No civilian or social organisation has been involved or its members given any training on how to respond during such emergencies.


CLOCKWISE: This building in Sector 17, which has developed cracks, is one of many such structures in Chandigarh posing a threat to the public
An ITBP jawan uses a sniffer dog to search for possible survivors under the collapsed shed at the Grain Market, Sector 26.
Rescue workers take out vegetables and fruits from under the collapsed roof in the market.
Lockers built in one of the pillars supporting the concrete shed in the market, which caved in. — Tribune photos by Pradeep Tewari, Manoj Mahajan

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner’s office, which heads the disaster management, says all drills are conducted as per the schedule. But different wings of the municipal corporation and the engineering department of the administration contradict the entire claim saying “the committee exists only on papers.”

The DC’s office claims, “We adhere to the guidelines of the management plan.” Majority of the departments, however, deny any substantial activity in this regard. They also claim that there is no data to show any liaison between different wings of the administration and the general public for any such drill.

The UT also has no list of buildings that are facing threat of a collapse or are weak in their structure. V.K Bhardwaj, chief engineer, said, “We are compiling a list of buildings in the danger zone, which should be ready within a couple of days.”

R.K Rao, deputy commissioner, said “As per the national norms, the committee is mandated to meet only once a year and we do that. Heads of all departments are part of the committee and expected to keep themselves abreast of the latest developments. We are required to keep emergency services in queue for which we stay fully equipped as part of a disaster management plan.”

A senior engineer said, “The disaster management needed to be restudied in wake of the recent Grain Market disaster because, in routine, the main agenda discussed normally at the committee meeting is concerning the seismic zone, prone to earthquakes. The city falls in an earthquake zone, however, a city needs to be prepared for other emergencies as well.”

The tragedy also brought to the fore the fact that the government hospitals, including the PGI, are not prepared to handle any mishap, which can affect a sizeable number of humans. The patients in the emergency wards of the general hospitals were shifted yesterday to the general ward to make way for injured from the market. However, there is no denying the fact that all hospitals need to work out a special plan of action for any untoward emergency.

Meanwhile, certain quarters have objected to the DC being made head of the inquiry committee, which will look into the case. “He is the chairman of the market committee so he should avoid heading this probe panel,” a member of the market association said.

Naunihal Singh, a senior manager in a private bank, suggested, “The UT needs to have mobile medical units in place which should have doctors and paramedics on hold for 24 hours.”



Remaining structure razed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
The UT administration today pulled down the remaining part of the concrete roof over the vegetable and fruit auction platform in the Sector 26 Grain Market, late in the afternoon. No one was found buried under the debris.

Experts on disaster managements from the ITBP had been called to supervise the entire operation. After holding a meeting with the senior officials of all departments concerned deputy commissioner R.K. Rao ordered the demolition of the entire roof.

Even as the experts were discussing the ways to pull down the structure, the remaining part of the roof collapsed when a JCB machine hit one of the remaining 24 pillars. As that pillar broke down, the whole structure came crashing down like a house of cards, said an engineer. The roof had rested on 40 pillars.

The police also called experts from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) to pick up clues regarding the collapse of the roof.

Many of the pillars had lockers, built later by traders, due to which the strength of the pillars sustaining the concrete roof had weakened. As many as three lockers were built in some of the pillars.

Expressing surprise an engineer stated that it was hard to believe that such a heavy concrete roof had lasted thirty years resting on brick pillars. The concrete roof was about four inches thick, having a layer of mud of about one foot, which was covered with tiles.

Sources said earlier the traders had requested the administration not to demolish the entire roof. However, the authorities went on with their plan to raze the dilapidated structure terming it unsafe.

The building of the Market Committee of Chandigarh in the grain market was also declared unsafe by the administration. The building was said to be about 25-year old and had not been given a completion certificate till.

In all eight JCB machines were pressed into the service to bring down the structure and to remove the debris. The experts informed that it would take at least four days to remove the wreckage from the site.

Truck loads of perished vegetables and fruits were also removed from the site. One of the rescue workers, Sanjeev Kohli, told TNS that he found Rs 70,000 from shop number 6, which was given to its owner.

Sources said the market committee has been given a part of the land in front of the Sector 26 police Lines for traders to run their activities.

Meanwhile, SHO of the Sector 26 police station inspector Mani Ram Kadiyan said the two deceased had been identified as Kulraj of Jammu and Vinay Shah of Jharkhand, both in their early twenties. They were working as porters. The lower part of Vijay Shah was crushed under the debris. The body of Kulraj has been handed over to the family after the post-mortem.

Also one of the injured Hanuman Tiwari, belied the claims of providing free medical treatment to the victims alleging that he had to pay Rs 200 for his medicines.

Harmohan Dhawan, former union minister and president of the Chandigarh Vikas Manch, demanded that the compensation to the families of deceased should be increased from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.



Kin claim victim’s body
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
While relatives of a victim of the roof collapse incident at the vegetable market, Sector 26, whose body had been kept at the Government Multi-Speciality Hospital, Sector 16, claimed the body today, the majority of the injured in the incident were discharged after being given treatment.

Two injured, including a woman, were still under the observation of doctors at the GMSH and the PGI.

In all, 12 injured were brought to the Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, and the PGI yesterday.

While other injured were discharged form the hospital last night, a home guard volunteer admitted to the GMCH was discharged this morning.

Kanti, being treated at the GMSH for head injuries, was being kept under observation, authorities said.

The condition of the other injured at the PGI was also stable and surgery on his legs, which were crushed under the debris, was being planned.

The body of one of the deceased, Gulraj, a resident of Jammu, was claimed by his relatives. However, relatives of the other victim, whose body was lying at the GMCH, were yet to arrive from Jharkhand.



Probe & Survey

A probe panel, headed by the deputy commissioner, has been formed to inquire into yesterday’s incident of collapse of a concrete shed in the Grain Market, Sector 26. Superintending engineer (B&R) Krishanjit Singh is the other member.

The committee has been asked to submit its report as early as possible, but not later than one month.

The committee will go into the reasons of the shed caving in. The committee will also suggest corrective and precautionary measures to be adopted in respect to other buildings and sheds in the Grain Market complex.

A survey has been ordered by the UT administration. It has ordered all heads of the departments/ corporations/ societies/ institutions/ boards to get their buildings structurally checked from the engineering department of the Chandigarh administration.

UT home secretary Krishna Mohan said that in view of the paramount importance of the public safety, all market associations, residents & other welfare associations/organisations and general public should get their buildings structurally checked from the registered structural engineers.

The administration would also carry out a survey of city buildings to check whether they have any structural problems, said home secretary. If any building or structure is found unsafe it will be got vacated so as to avoid tragedies like that of Sunday, he said. All buildings in the Grain Market Area will be inspected and remedial corrective measures undertaken, if needed, he added further. A Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory team would also inspect the site, he said. 



MC: Clear markets of encroachments
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
Taking a lesson from yesterday’s mishap, the municipal corporation today asked booth owners and office-bearers of market welfare associations of Sectors 15, 19 and 22 to clear encroachments and passageways leading to exits in their markets.

MC officials said the owners had been given a week for the purpose and strict action would be taken against the defaulters.



Rain lifts seared spirits
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
A dust storm followed by thunderstorm late evening brought cheer to people of the city and its adjoining areas, including Panchkula, Zirakpur and some parts of Mohali, today.

The region had been reeling under intense heat wave for the past two weeks.

Thick clouds started enveloping the city around 8.30 pm, while the showers set in at 9.10 pm.

With the spell of rain, which lasted more than half an hour, minimum temperature went down sharply. Many people, who were on their way home from work or those at marketplace, took refuge at bus shelters and similar places by the roadside.

According to the meteorological office, cyclonic circulation over central Pakistan and in the adjoining south-west Punjab, north Rajasthan and west Haryana areas led to the first pre-monsoon showers in the region.

Met department director Chatar Singh Malik said cyclonic pressure existed due to rise in temperature in the region. “More rain can lash the city tomorrow,” he added.

Meanwhile, power failure was reported from many parts of the city, including Sectors 44, 45 and 46, following the dust storm and rain. The power supply had not been restored even after midnight.



Cadet’s Death
Parents see NCC negligence
G.S. Paul
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
The alleged death of Rajat, a 13-year-old student of Moti Ram Arya Senior Secondary School, Sector 27, has opened a Pandora’s box with parents alleging negligence on the part of the NCC authorities.

Rajat, who attended a 10-day NCC annual training camp at Ahlial, near Palampur, from May 25 to June 3 died of acute encephalitis at the PGI here on June 6.

On the other hand, the NCC authorities at Sector 26 are denying these allegations. “Had we got any inkling about his sickness during the camp, we would have made arrangements to send him back immediately as we did in case of another boy of Government Model School-19, who was suffering from jaundice,” an NCC officer said.

“A court of inquiry has been ordered and every possible assistance will be extended to the bereaved family under the child welfare scheme,” the officer added.

This itself has raised a big question mark on the credibility of the fitness certificates the NCC authorities rely on before taking children to such camps. “We rely on what the school authorities send us,” the officer said.

“Nobody from the school or the NCC office turned up at the kirya ceremony held yesterday,” said an emotional Kamlesh Kumari, the victim’s mother, ruing the attitude of the school and NCC authorities.

According to Manphool Chand, Rajat’s father, the boy was not feeling well from the day he arrived in Chandigarh. “On June 3 at around 5.30 pm, when I went to pick him up, he told me that he was feeling severe headache and drowsiness.”

The following morning, he complained of uneasiness. We took him to Government Medical College and Hospital-32. Later, he was shifted to the PGI where doctors diagnosed him with suffering from “acute encephalitis, a brain-related disease.”

The NCC authorities claimed there were negligible chances of any carelessness during the camp. Around 600 children took part in that camp and “we are fully equipped to deal with any untoward eventuality”.

“My camp staff informed me that he was perfectly alright during the camp and was active throughout. The incident happened after the camp concluded and he landed safely here,” said the officer.



MP Fund Row
Bansal blames it on BJP

Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
Coming clean on the controversy surrounding the construction of a protection wall of the Chamunda Devi Temple out of his MPLAD Fund, minister of state for finance Pawan Bansal today blamed the BJP for the controversy, terming it as the "rantings of frustration" of its leadership.

Addressing his first press conference after the controversy hit the headlines, Bansal asserted that the amount of Rs 8 lakh was sanctioned as per the rules and regulations of the MPLAD Scheme and did not fall in the prohibited category of the scheme. An MP could release an amount of Rs 50 lakh per annum anywhere in India in the event of a calamity, he claimed.

Conceding that he released the grant on account of his "religious feelings" after devotees approached him, the minister made it clear that it was government land and not the temple land where the project was executed. He also released a list of about 12 works which were executed around the religious and charitable institutions in Chandigarh.

The controversy exposed the "anti-religious" face of the BJP and the Himachal Pradesh in charge of the party, Satya Pal Jain, would have a tough time clearing his stand on the issue of development work in Himachal, Bansal asserted.

"In fact, this was not for the first time that I have released funds for Himachal Pradesh," Bansal claimed, adding that in 2001 he had released grant for a natural calamity in the state during the tenure of former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.



P’kula dist chief of BJP suspended
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, June 11
President of the district unit of the BJP Ravinder Sehgal was today suspended for indiscipline and served with a show-cause notice.

The notice, issued by the state general secretary and in charge of the district unit, Kanwar Pal, gave him a week’s time to explain his position.

It states that according to the constitution of the party and its conventions, the president of the district unit does not have the power to expel or terminate membership of any office-bearer.

They can throw me out of the party. I don’t care, but I will not tolerate indiscipline.

— Ravinder Sehgal

Maintaining that Sehgal had gone beyond his powers by expelling media in charge Varinder Garg for six years, the notice mentioned that he had also unauthorisedly dissolved the local unit of the party. It added that instead of resolving differences with the party high command, Sehgal had gone to the media with his statements which had lowered the prestige of the party.

The notice stated that he had been suspended for anti-party activities till the next decision in the matter while he was given a week’s time to explain his position.

Reacting to the notice, Sehgal said district in charge Kanwar Pal was not being fair to him in serving a show-cause notice. “I have stayed well within my powers and am fully justified in suspending Garg. He came screaming and charging at me, attacked me and I have witnesses for the same. Also, the district chief has a lot of powers and I have only exercised these in expelling Garg. I cannot be expected to go around explaining to the top brass when a worker is creating indiscipline,” he said.

Stating that he has been associated with the party since 1952, he said Garg and the others were too junior to teach him what to do. “They can throw me out of the party. I don’t care about that but I will not tolerate indiscipline,” he added.

Sehgal, in response to the constitution of a new district unit, said a letter from the BJP state president had asked him to revive the local body. “The core committee comprising seven members met and finalised the body. There is nothing illegal about it because all members have signed the proceedings,” he explained.

Meanwhile, sources in the BJP said a meeting of the state unit would be convened shortly where Sehgal would be given an opportunity to explain his position. A new president for the district could be in place very soon.



Mohali police at it again
Senior citizen assaulted, booked
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Mohali, June 11
The functioning of the Mohali police has come under a cloud again with a senior citizen alleging a raw deal at the hands of police personnel.

Harbhajan Singh Punia, a resident of Sector 71, along with other residents, has been booked on the charges of assaulting another resident Vaneet Inder Bajwa. This is despite the fact that Punia had a fracture in his right hand, besides injuries on face and feet, which he sustained after he was allegedly assaulted by Bajwa.

The incident happened when Punia and Bajwa reportedly had an altercation on June 5 over playing of their children in a common area. Even as Bajwa and Punia lodged counter complaints with the police, the police conveniently ignored the complaint of the latter and a case was registered against Punia allegedly under pressure from a senior functionary of the police.

“The attitude of the police had been biased from the very beginning. The police should have conducted an independent inquiry taking into account the statements of residents of the area before registering a case,” Punia said, demanding the registration of a case against the other party.

Even the medical reports of Punia, who spent four days at the Civil Hospital, corroborated his version. However, in his complaint with the police, Bajwa alleged that he was assaulted and his car was damaged by Punia and other residents.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that following media criticism, the Mohali SSP has transferred the case to a DSP-level officer. The national general secretary of the SAD (youth wing) had reportedly met the SSP in this connection following which the case transferred to the DSP, sources said.



CYP Asia centre to be centre of excellence
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
Chandigarh is set to add another feather to its cap with the Asia centre of the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) here being converted into a centre of excellence in the field of youth and local self-government.

The authorities concerned have chalked out a Rs 12.3-crore programme aimed at upgradation of the infrastructure and improvement of the programmes of the centre for the benefit of the youth, Raj K Mishra, regional director, told The Tribune here today.

While an amount of Rs 3.3 crore, to be spent on the upgradation of the infrastructure, would be spent by the Indian government, the Rs 9 crore programme cost would be borne by the Commonwealth secretariat, London.

In fact, the centre has already tied up with the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development for the execution of the project spanning over a period of five years beginning next year. The programme would cover capacity-building seminars and workshops, research studies, fellowships, e-learning through distance education, publications and documentation.

These activities would go a long way in giving the young persons from the eight member countries a platform to play a dynamic role in democracy in general and local self-government in particular, Mishra hoped.

"The primary objective is to provide a platform for Commonwealth Asian countries and later Commonwealth countries to come together and discuss and exchange views and experiences in their respective countries concerning young people in democracy, participatory developments and local self-governance," he asserted.

The expected outcomes are increased awareness about programme amongst local government functionaries and young people from the Commonwealth countries, sharing and dissemination of information and best practices, and above all, capacity development of young people in the area of grass-root level planning, development and local self-governance, officials added.

The regional director said among the facilities would be a world-class conference hall. Better residential facilities to the delegates will be provided.

On a proposal mooted by the Indian Government, the Commonwealth youth ministers, at their meeting in Bahamas in May 2006, had agreed to transform the local centre into a centre of excellence.



Mohali Market Fire
Rs 1-cr relief for fire-hit
Our Correspondent

Mohali, June 11
The Punjab cabinet today approved a grant of Rs 1 crore as compensation to the 377 khokha owners of the Janata rehri market whose shops were destroyed in a major fire, here on June 1. Each victim will be paid Rs 25,000 as interim relief.

Property worth crores of rupees was reduced to ashes, hitting the livelihood of hundreds of people. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had visited the market and assured the affected persons of financial help.

The shopkeepers had filled in the required forms to avail of compensation from the government. These forms were submitted at the SDM office.



City boy drowns in Giri

Nahan, June 11
A 24-year-old youth from Chandigarh, Pankaj, drowned in the Giri river at Giri Pul last evening. According to the Rajgarh police, three boys had come from Chandigarh yesterday to the area. To beat the heat, they entered the river for a bath.

Pankaj slipped and drowned in the deep waters. His friends took him to a Solan hospital, where he was declared brought dead. After a post-mortem, his body was handed over to his family members. — OC



Adviser plays host to PM’s daughter
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
Adviser to the UT administrator Lalit Sharma played host to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s daughter and son-in-law today.

Manmohan Singh’s daughter Upinder Kaur and her husband Vijay Tankha are on their way to Shimla for a brief vacation. Upinder Kaur is teaching history at Delhi University and Vijay Tankha is head of the department of philosophy there.

Sources said the couple spent most of the day at the adviser’s residence. The adviser and the academic couple are known to be thick friends.



Vote for Taj

This has reference to the photograph of Gaurav Gaur that appeared in Chandigarh Tribune on June 8. Gaurav is encouraging people to vote for Taj Mahal so that it is included in the seven wonders of the world. The seven wonders will be shortlisted from a total of 21 world famous monuments in a democratic manner. People can send their votes by SMS, internet or telephone.

Music director A.R. Rehman started the voting campaign with a song 'one love'. Various cinestars, business houses and sports personalities also requested people to vote for Taj. I have already sent my vote and request you all to vote by sending an SMS or logging on to www.indiainfo.com. For SMS you have to write 'Taj' and send it to 4567. You can also call at 1255545.

Your vote will help Taj Mahal figure in the list of the seven wonders of the world.

M.L. Garg, Chandigarh

Readers are invited to write to us. Send your mail, in not more than 200 words, at news@tribuneindia.com or, write in, at: Letters, Chandigarh Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh – 160 030



Chain snatching continues unabated
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
In a span of one hour, snatchers pounced upon three women in various parts of the city, early this morning.

In the first incident, Harcharan Kaur of Sector 15 reported to the police alleging that two unidentified motorcyclists snatched her gold chain from outside her residence at around 6.40 am. She had come to fetch milk from the milkman, when the miscreants approached her as if to enquire about some address.

In another incident, two unknown youngsters snatched the gold chain of Kasturi of Phase VII, Mohali, at around 7.15 am. The police was given the registration number of the motorcycle (CH-03-4492). Just 30 minutes after this incident, Nirmla Goyal of Sector 32-A lodged a complaint with the police alleging that two unidentified motorcyclists snatched her gold chain in the Sector 32 market at around 7.40 am.

Vehicle stolen

Munishi Gupta of Sector 7-C reported to the police alleging that her Scorpio (CH-03-Z-8460) was stolen from in front of her residence in the early hours of today. In another incident, Dilraj Dhaliwal of Sector 10 reported to the police alleging that his Maruti (CH-03-Z-8254) was stolen from the Sector 10 market on Sunday. Two cases of thefts have been registered in this connection.


Gurparkash of Sector 41-D reported to the police alleging that an unidentified man riding a Honda Activa scooter (PB-65-B-6134) robbed him of his gold chain at knife point last night from near the Badheri Chowk. A case has been registered.


Sidharath Huglani of Sector 21 reported to the police alleging that his bag containing cash, books, clothes and a mobile phone was stolen from his car on Sunday. The car was parked near Sukhana Lake. 



Two killed in accident
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
Two persons were killed in an accident that took place at a level crossing in Mani Majra today. The deceased were identified as Mahenderpal Singh Sodhi (38) and Prem Srivastava (27) of Sector 10, Panchkula.

According to police sources, both were on their way to Chandigarh when a Tata 709 (HP 18 0709) hit their motor cycle from the rear at the railway station light point around 4 pm.

Prem Srivastava died on the spot whereas Sodhi succumbed to his injuries one hour after being taken to the PGI. The driver of truck sped away. 



Youth found dead in lake
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11
The body of a 22-year-old Dhanas resident was found floating under mysterious circumstances in a lake near Dhanas village here this morning.

The deceased, Shiv Kumar, had reportedly left his house yesterday afternoon. In the evening, his family came to know that his clothes were found lying near the lake. Shiv was working as a driver.

The body was noticed at around 10.30 am and the police was informed about it. Though no suicide note was recovered from there, the police believes it is a case of suicide.



Tenant attempts suicide after dispute
Our Correspondent

Mohali, June 11
A resident of Phase IX allegedly consumed some poisonous substance after a dispute arose with the owner of the house. Jaspal Kaur was admitted to a private hospital in the area and was still not in a position to give any statement.

The police said the family of Jaspal Kaur was living on rent in Phase IX and was to vacate the house yesterday . In the midst of the house being vacated, the owner started shifting his belongings to the house. A dispute arose and later the woman consumed some poisonous substance.



Woman drugged, robbed of jewellery
Our Correspondent

Mohali, June 11
A woman living in Phase VII was allegedly drugged and robbed of her gold ornaments yesterday.

According to the police, Sudesh Gupta had gone to a congregation at Sector 45, Chandigarh. On her way home, she was allegedly drugged and deprived of her gold chain, rings and earrings. She was dropped in the Industrial Area in an unconscious state.

A PCR team spotted the woman, who was taken to the local Civil Hospital from where she was referred to the PGI, Chandigarh.



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