C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S

BSNL caught napping
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
The BSNL was today caught napping when a major fire broke out this morning in the Sector 17 telephone exchange which controls the entire network in the region.

In the absence of any contingency plan, officials could do little in saving expensive electronic gadgets which were gutted. Fire officials complained that a number of cabins on the first floor where the fire apparently broke out were locked and the watchman did not have the keys, thus valuable time was lost.

Though the fire broke out at 6.45 am, an official of the telecom department informed the fire department only at about 7 am. The fire detection alarms did work---they continued to go off even after several hours of the fire---but no one was present to act swiftly to the alarm. Fire extinguishers were also there but no one used them timely.

Though the building is equipped with fire-fighting equipment, the staff was not trained to use it. Instead of using the equipment, the staff ran out, a fire official said, adding that no drills had been conducted under their guidance.

“Unattended exchange led to the loss and disruption of property. Though the exchange is said to be automatic, some one should be posted there to respond to a distress plan,” another official said.

A visit to the spot revealed that the telecom officials had made cabins around the exchange and there was no proper identified disaster management plan in action. Even two hours after the thick black smoke had settled down, the sitting arrangement was haphazard.

Fire officials said when they started arriving, the staff had no contingency and back-up plan. They were not adhering to safety norms.



On The Blink
Emergency services smashed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
Emergency services in the tricity, including hospitals, fire and police, were severely affected following the fire at the BSNL exchange.

“Many incidents of crime might have went unreported as the BSNL lines at the police stations and police posts were not responding,” said an official.

All emergency phone numbers went dead, over one lakh phone subscribers were disconnected and broadband and Internet users were logged out. Banks and ATMs were practically non-functional with lease lines snapping, confirmed telecom officials.

The only solace was connectivity between the subscribers of cellular operators other than the BSNL. Those routed through the BSNL network were badly affected. The entire banking operations in the tricity, fed through the BSNL lease lines came to a grinding halt, resulting in a loss of crores of rupee. Anxious people could be seen arguing with bank officials regarding the emergency to ensure transactions on time. Clearing of cheques cannot resume till the lease lines were restored, said a bank official.

Businessmen complained that purchases through credit cards and debit cards were badly affected.

Customers were dissatisfied at e-sampark centres. The connectivity of stock markets and other financial transactions was cut off throughout the day.

A Sector 22 resident could not contact the fire department or the police from his telephone after a fire broke out in his house following a cylinder leak.

Sources in the police said not many messages on their wireless sets were received. DSP (PCR communication) Roshan Lal said the number of calls they received in the control room were far less today. He said only subscribers of private telecommunication companies managed to contact the police from their telephones.

The health services, including ambulance services, inquiries on phone at emergencies, and ATM services remained out of order at all city government hospitals.

The attendants of patients at the emergency ward of the PGI had to rush to PCOs. The ambulance services at the PGI, GMCH and the Sector 16 hospital also remained dormant in the absence of calls.

Helpline services also remained out of reach. However, the internal network of the PGI was not affected and the faculty staff was able to contact one another as a majority of them were provided with mobile connections of a private company recently.

Those who lost their dear ones faced problem in calling for the funeral van service and the cremation ground.



Misuse Of Powers
Panchkula MC chief in soup
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, June 30
The director, urban local bodies, Haryana, today served a show-cause notice to Panchkula municipal council president Manveer Gill for the alleged misuse of powers under Section 35 of the Haryana Municipal Act 1973.

In the show-cause notice, the director has given Manveer 15 days to explain as to why she should not be suspended for using emergency powers under Section 35 without getting the development works passed by the House. The notice was served under Section 14 (A) and Section 22 (A) of the Municipal Act.

The issue of alleged misuse of powers in executing development works without prior sanction of the house has been hotly debated in the past with a number of persons raising questions over it.

Manveer, when contacted, said she had not misused powers under Section 35 and had got every item passed by the house later on.

“This notice has been issued to all presidents of Municipal Councils in Haryana after it was found that Section 35 was being violated by some councils,” Manveer said.

Manveer added that if councillors had any objections to the development works, they could have refused their clearance. She also claimed that she had been given two months and not 15 days to reply.



UT farmers wrongly taxed
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
Despite a clear decision of the income tax department not to charge tax from farmers whose agricultural land has been acquired, the income tax office has sent letters asking for tax on the total enhanced amount being paid as compensation. Instead of tax on merely the interest, the tax has been levied on the total amount.

Hundreds of farmers from Burail, Kajheri, Palsora, Badheri and Sarangpur, besides other places, who have received compensation, have been affected.

In a letter to the land acquisition officer by a farmer, it has been pointed out that following an application from villagers, the district court had enhanced the compensation. “While making the payment of the enhanced amount, you deducted the tax on the principal amount as well as the interest. The tax could have been levied only on the interest. This means double loss to us,” it read.

The total amount taxed includes the enhanced rates for the land being paid by the government and the interest due. A senior official of the income tax department said: “According to an amendment in Clause 37 of Section 10, the government cannot tax agricultural land being acquired by the government. In this case, we are not charging the amount of compensation, we are charging tax only on the interest being paid on the compensation amount.”

The documents given to the farmers, however, shows that the rate of 11 per cent was being charged as “amount of income tax deducted” on the “amount paid” which includes enhanced amount of land compensation.

Angrez Singh, chairman of the pind bachao committee, has been paid Rs 4,80,477 as compensation and has been charged Rs 52,852 as tax that works out to 11 per cent of the total amount and not merely the interest on the compensation.

Inder Singh, a farmer of Badheri, has been charged Rs 1,19,598 as tax on a total compensation of Rs 10,87,258. Even he has been charged on the total amount.

Angrez Singh had earlier written to the office of the Prime Minister on account of tax being levied on agricultural land. Following a communication from the office of the Prime Minister, the income tax officer of ward 5(3) called him. The matter also concerns the land acquisition officer. R.K.Rao, deputy commissioner, said he would look into the matter.



Jet Lag
Bhatti, Preity get taste of monsoon
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
Bollywood actors Preity Zinta, Arbaz Khan and poker-faced Jaspal Bhatti had their first experience of southwest monsoon in Mumbai this morning.

Bound for Chandigarh, both Jet Airways and Indian flights from Mumbai to New Delhi, in which the actors were supposed to fly, remained stranded at Mumbai airport for almost five hours each.

Instead of normal three-hour flight with a half an hour stopover in Delhi, it took almost 10 hours for both Bhatti and Preity Zinta to reach the city.

Preity Zinta and Arbaz Khan had boarded the flight almost at the same time as was done by Jaspal Bhatti, but in different aircraft. Accompanying Preity and Arbaz was the whole production unit of a new film, “Mera Bharat Mahan”, shooting of which is scheduled to start here tomorrow.

Talking to The Tribune from on board Jet Airways aircraft from Mumbai airport, Bhatti said while one runway was overflowing with rainwater after Mumbai received a record 174.1 mm of rain since this morning, there were repeated failures to take off because of abruptly changing visibility.

“We all were panicky as all our friends expressed their inability to reach us maintaining that they have been warned against leaving their homes because of the deluge. We were all praying for an early take off which became possible only a little after 3 pm, almost five hours after we had boarded the aircraft,” revealed Bhatti.

“On reaching Delhi, we could not land because of heavy rush there. While our aircraft was running short of fuel, it was allowed to jump the queue and land at Indira Gandhi International Airport after hovering in the air for half an hour. But Preity Zinta and Arbaz were unlucky as the Indian Airlines aircraft had to circle Delhi airport for almost an hour before it could land”, he added.



HIV + children most vulnerable
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
HIV infected and affected children are among the most vulnerable ones who, unlike adults, cannot lobby for themselves or press policy makers to cater to their needs and requirements, and thus suffer from stigma, isolation, diseases and rejection. This was stated by Pooja Thakur, president of the Chandigarh Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS here today.

Pooja, who is HIV positive, was speaking at a meeting held to form a common minimum programme for amelioration of day-to-day problems faced by HIV infected and affected children and women at Drop in Centre, Sector 15.

Pawan Kumar Bansal, union minister of state for finance, along with councillors, including Pallav Kumar Mukerjee, Harphool Chand Kalyan and A.P. Sanawaria, also participated in the meeting.

Suvir Saxena, project director, State AIDS Control Society, UT, was also present on the occasion.

A large number of HIV-positive patients, including children and women, had come from different parts of the region.

Urging the community to come forward to help these children, Pooja said it was felt that active social advocacy and strategic intervention was required.

Highlighting the plight of children of HIV-positive patients, Navendu Jha, programme coordinator of Drop in Centre, said not only were HIV-positive children facing social stigma, children of HIV parents were also victim of it in one form or the other. Many cases had been reported at the centre where people had to lose their job because they were found to be HIV positive.

A pharma company at Nabha asked one of its employees to leave after he was diagnosed HIV positive. Similarly, a resident of Patiala was forced to leave his job by his employer under the same circumstances, said Jha.

Suvir Saxena, highlighting the activities of the centre, said their next big challenge was to start a comprehensive programme for HIV infected and affected children, and women.

While Jha suggested starting a “sewa sadan” at International Hostel in Sector 15, where patients coming to the PGI could stay for short durations, thus helping in generating resources for the welfare of HIV infected and affected people, especially children and women, Pooja reminded Bansal about his and councillors’ commitment regarding arranging a proper place for the care and adoption of HIV infected and affected children, and women.

Prominent among those who participated were Madhu P. Singh and Amit Sethi, advocates, Parmod Sharma, coordinator, Yuvsatta, Sandeep Mittal, NGO adviser, State AIDS Control Society, UT, and Gaurav, Commonwealth youth ambassador.



People face harassment at RLA office
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
Even as the Chandigarh administration is going all out to announce people-friendly facilities at the office of the Registration and Licensing Authority (RLA) here, those visiting the office today had to face a lot of harassment.

A number of people complained that they were not given their driving licences and registration papers of their vehicles.

Reason, the officials concerned had not signed the documents.

The RLA office has been dealing with staff shortage by outsourcing manpower from different departments.

As no additional post has been sanctioned by the Government of India, in spite of the work of the authority “increasing manifold”, the Chandigarh administration has 
been resorting to pooling of resources and manpower from other departments.

Incidentally, the UT administrator is scheduled to inaugurate a new facility at the RLA office on Tuesday. 



Labouring to learn the alphabet
Gayatri Rajwade
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
Phoolmani Devi was 45 years old when she picked up a pencil for the first time to write. Bogged down with feeding and looking after her ten-member family, the adult literacy programme seemed just another pipe-dream. Today, a month later, Phoolmani can not only read and write, she is even doing simple maths.

What makes this 45-day literacy initiative by the Regional Resource Centre (RRC), Adult and Continuing Education, Panjab University, different is that it is being conducted for migrant labourers working on construction sites on the campus for the first time.

“They were hesitant and viewed everything with a natural suspicion. It is an uphill task but what is important is to keep at it. Even if they do not study beyond this, they will educate their children,” avers RRC director, Manjeet Paintal.

However it was not easy. Not only did the supervisors on the construction sites have to be convinced to send the labourers, the women came just to learn how to apply ‘lipstick and powder’ and the men came simply to keep an eye on what their women were doing.

Today as they write, read sentences aloud and draw pictures, the prospect of finally reading the letters that come from home thrill them.

Raju did not know a word of Hindi when he joined. Today, he says he is the best in the group at ‘likhayee’ (writing). What is more, the marginally literate among them have ‘graduated’ to doing sums the BODMAS way too.

“Educating the mother is equivalent to educating the family because of the time she spends with all of them,” said RRC’s enthused project officer Anuradha Sharma.

The programme has already attracted 42 adults and the children who accompany their parents are taught too.

The men folk are helped along by student volunteer Satbir Singh from Guru Gobind Singh College, Sector 26, who has spent the entire month among them, spurring them on. He is determined, he says, to ensure that they at least know as much as a government school student from Class III knows. “This is opening up a whole new world for them,” he said.

However, the benefits extend further. Issues like health, hygiene and social problems are also being tackled simultaneously.

Vaccinations for polio, hepatitis and BCG, street plays in Bihari on AIDS, drug abuse, female foeticide, puppet shows, magic shows and films are all being used to help them learn while having fun.

Vidyavati from Tikamgarh now wants to learn Punjabi after “mastering” Hindi. Her mother asked her to come back home for a while. “But I told her I cannot come as I am going to school,” she smiles.



Sahib Singh’s death mourned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
The Punjab unit of the BJP organised a condolence meeting here today to mourn the death of Sahib Singh Verma, party in charge for the state, who died in a road accident in Rajasthan.

Senior leaders, including Manoranjan Kalia, Punjab minister, Brij Lal Rinwa and Balramji Dass Tandon, lauded the services of the departed leader to the party and the nation.



Rights body for Indian students’ cause
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
A human rights organisation - Global Human Rights Council - today decided to take up the issue of exploitation of Indian students in the UK and Australia with the Amnesty International.

Besides, the organisation has also decided to check the alleged injustice of the Chandigarh police with residents.

It was also decided to move the court against the "dictatorial attitude" of the Chandigarh administration towards the Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh.

Terming the decision of LPG dealers of not supplying gas cylinders on the doorstep of consumers as "arbitrary", the council decided to approach the petroleum ministry in this regard.

It also criticised the MCC for its alleged failure to gear up for the monsoon.



Tribune employee retires
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
Prem Gorkhi, reviser in Punjabi Tribune proof-reading section, retired today after putting up about 29 years of service in the Tribune group. He joined Punjabi Tribune in July 1978, and headed proof-reading section for more than 26 years.

He was given a warm send off by H.K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief of the Tribune group, G.S. Sidhu Damdami, Editor, Punjabi Tribune, and members of the Punjabi editorial and proof-reading staff.



6 PGI employees retire
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
Prof K.K.Talwar, director, PGI, presented mementoes to six employees on their superannuation here today. They were handed over beneficiary cheques comprising the GPF, gratuity and group insurance today itself by Ritu Dhillon, financial adviser.

Natha Singh, office superintendent, department of dietetics, Lakhbir Singh, assistant public relations officer, Asha Devi Vanaik, deputy nursing superintendent, A.D.Malhotra, technical assistant, department of biochemistry, Gopal Krishan Mehta, technical assistant, department of haematology and Sukh Ram, head mali, department of horticulture, retired from the PGI after serving at the medical institution between 36 and 41 years.




Residents face problems

The recent shifting of the Pinjore bus stand has surely eased traffic at the police station, but has created problems for the residents of the town. It has become difficult for children, ladies and senior citizens to cross the busy national highway now as no rickshaws operate in the town.

The situation gets worse at night and walking becomes highly dangerous as the drainage in the area is uncovered. The municipality should cover the drainage for the safety of the public.

Moreover, the buses must halt at two more places - on the Kalka and Nalagarh roads - for the convenience of the commuters.

Babu Ram Dhiman, Pinjore

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



Tips for safe driving

Use of lights

Flashing of headlights may be used only to indicate your presence to other road users. Do not flash headlights to demand right of way or to signal other road users to proceed.

You must

  • Always use headlights at night
  • Use dipped headlights in built up areas
  • Dip your lights when meeting or following another road user in order not to dazzle him
  • Slow down or stop if you are dazzled by oncoming headlights
  • Use fog lights when visibility reduces to less than 100 metres.
    Do not use fog light at other times.

‘Use headlights to see and let others see too!”

Courtesy: Safe Driving, compiled by Cdr Swarup J Sarma



Snatchers rob two women
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
Two women fell prey to snatchers in a span of 30 minutes, here today.

Sources in the police said two unidentified youngsters on a black colour motorcycle snatched the gold chain of a woman in Sector 44 and after about 30 minutes, they snatched another woman’s bag in Sector 37. The bag contained over Rs 73,000.

In the first incident, Manju of Sector 44 C reported to the police alleging that her gold chain was snatched from a private school in Sector 44 at around 5.30 pm. She told the police that the pillion rider was wearing a red T-shirt.

In the other incident, Asha Sharma of Dhanas reported to the police that her bag containing Rs 73,500 and four gold rings was snatched by unidentified motorcyclists from the Sector 37 market at around 5.45 pm. She was coming out of a jeweller’s shop after selling her gold ornaments. Asha was accompanied by her mother.

Although she tried to chase the miscreants with the help of a man who came to her rescue, they failed to keep track of them.

Two separate cases have been registered in this regard.


Shiv Kumar of Moriwala Town, Mani Majra, lodged a complaint with the police alleging that at least 12 persons, armed with weapons, forcibly entered his residence and assaulted him, late on Friday night. He was attacked with swords and other sharp-edged weapons. Kumar was admitted to the Sector 16 Government Multi-Speciality Hospital.

The police said Kumar’s finger was badly hurt in the assault. A case of rioting, trespassing, causing injuries and criminal intimidation has been registered in this regard. Efforts are on to trace the accused. 



Cop in CBI net for graft
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
Sleuths of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) caught Chandigarh police head constable Shiv Kumar red-handed for accepting a bribe of Rs 5,000 from a proclaimed offender (PO) to help him in his case.

Shiv Kumar is posted at the police station, Sector 26.

Sources in the CBI said Sharda Kumar resident of Sector 47 lodged a complaint with the anti-corruption branch of the CBI alleging that Shiv Kumar had demanded financial favours from him to help him avoid arrest. Following this, a trap was laid.

The accused settled a deal for Rs 5,000 with Sharda Kumar, who was declared a proclaimed offender by a local court in connection with a case registered against him by the Chandigarh police.

Shiv Kumar went to the shop of the complainant in Sector 47 to get the money in the afternoon.

He, however, escaped after taking the money before sleuths could lay their hands on him.

He was later intercepted near the Tribune Chowk, said a senior CBI officer.

Shiv Kumar is the seventh officer of the Chandigarh police to have been arrested by the CBI on charges of corruption in the past couple of months.

A case under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against him.



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