Cabinet Expansion
Presidential poll over, all eyes on Hooda
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
With the presidential elections out of the way, all eyes in the state are now on Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who has been promising to expand his cabinet after July 19.

There have been two vacancies in the cabinet since Venod Sharma quit following the Jessica Lal murder case controversy. Hooda had earlier kept one berth vacant, obviously dangling it as a carrot before his flock.

With the term of the Hooda government almost reaching half way, many feel that the Chief Minister should now fill the vacancies in his cabinet. Hooda ,too, feels that. But it still may take weeks, if not months, before the hopefuls see their dreams fulfilled.

Being a Congress Chief Minister has its own advantages and disadvantages. As long as a Chief Minister continues to enjoy the patronage of the party high command, he cannot be blackmailed by MLAs, particularly after the anti-defection law has been tightened. On the flip side, a Congress Chief Minister cannot take all decisions, particularly having political ramifications, on his own, like the Chief Minister of a regional party.

Hooda, too, will like to take the party high command into his confidence before expanding his cabinet and awarding MLAs and others in his party with the chairmanships of boards and corporations. And the party high command may take its own time in giving him the go-ahead. With the Lok Sabha elections just less than two years away, the party high command is likely to link the reshuffle in the party organisation and the government. Since cabinet berths are limited, the party would like to adjust the representatives of certain sections, who may not make it to the ministry, in the organisation.

The party high command may also take action against suspended MP from Bhiwani Kuldeep Bishnoi, who has been continuously criticising not only Hooda but also Sonia Gandhi. In that case, if Bishnoi's father, Bhajan Lal, reacts, the party high command would use the cabinet expansion and organisational reshuffle as tools to control the damage.

Hooda, who many a time has to face embarrassment due to the avarice of certain Congress legislators, would certainly like to have his trusted men in the cabinet and the party set-up.

If the party high command permits, Venod Sharma, one of the most trusted men of Hooda, may stage a comeback. Another strong contender is former finance minister Mange Ram Gupta, one-time close associate of Bhajan Lal. Gupta has, however, distanced himself from Bishnoi over the issue of quitting the Congress. After the death of industrialist-turned-politician O.P. Jindal, Gupta is the tallest leader of the Aggarwal community in the state.

It is generally perceived that Hooda and Gupta reached some understanding before the latter distanced himself from the Bishnoi camp. In view of this, Gupta's induction into the cabinet (or in some other important slot) will enhance the personal credibility of Hooda with the MLAs, a trait which helped Bhajan Lal play a long innings in state politics and made him popular with legislators.

Meanwhile, Hooda has acquired the image of being a "gentleman politician" among the public. This public perception is not without reason. No longer are industrialists in the state afraid that deep trenches would be dug to block access to their establishments if the political leadership of the state is annoyed with them. Nor do they receive any "messages" to contribute "liberally" for rallies of the ruling party. Owners of public carriages do not fear that their vehicles would be impounded to carry party workers to political rallies. People are confident that their palatial buildings would not face a demolition threat only because a powerful politician has become envious of them.

The "gentleman politician" may like to use the intended cabinet expansion to tide over the "midway blues" a Congress Chief Minister has to often suffer by the time he completes two or three years in office.

The MLAs, who remain dissatisfied for obvious reasons, gang up against the Chief Minister and approach the party high command for a change of leadership. But with Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh (not to forget President Abdul Kalam) patting the back of Hooda for good work being done in the state, he should not have any problem on this count.



Veggie path to riches
Karnal village a pathfinder
Vishal Joshi
Tribune News Service

Karnal, July 19
After years of hard work, farmers of Padhana village, located on the GT Road in the district, have set an example by becoming self-reliant in marketing their vegetable produce.

Various hypermarkets’ agents approach the farmers here to procure farm fresh vegetables. The quality of the produce can be gauged by the fact that companies like Reliance and Mother Dairy buy their produce through the vegetable procurement centres established at the village.

Now, the proud farmers decide on the price of their produce and also sell it in markets of other states. They supply tonnes of okras, tomatoes, cucurbits, cauliflowers and other vegetables to hypermarkets and mandis.

Farmers of this prosperous village, located 18 km from Karnal, and the adjoining areas have become key suppliers of vegetables in the northern region.

According to official figures, the total area under vegetable cultivation has reached to 53,637 acres. In 2006-07, farmers in Karnal district produced 2,672,680 quintals of different vegetables. More than 57,000 quintals of tomatoes were produced in the district.

On an average, the fertile land of Padhana and adjoining villages produces about 50 quintals of vegetables per acre, reveals Satpal Singh, horticulture development officer. He says farmers here are getting good returns of their produce and have set an example in the state by producing quality produce in good quantity.

“All sorts of vegetables are grown in the villages of the area, including Padhana, Ganger and Gharaunda. But tomatoes, okras and bitter gourd are the most popular,” says Roshan Lal, a local farmer. He has a large farm and mainly grows bitter gourd in summers. “Farmers are getting innovative and open to new technology,” he adds.

In 1990, a family in the village had experimented with hybrid tomatoes, which proved very successful. Encouraged by the results, other farmers, too, took to growing vegetables after years of failed wheat and paddy farming.

An elderly farmer of Padhana, Mann Singh, says farmers of the village gave up traditional paddy farming over two decades ago and diversified into vegetables. Today, no one regrets the decision, as vegetables have spelt prosperity, he adds.

The lives of the farmers now revolve around tomatoes, okras, green chillies, cauliflowers and other vegetables, he quips.



On a Different Front
Eco-battalions to conserve forest land
Aarti Kapur
Tribune News Service

Gurgaon, July 19
The government is constituting eco-battalions of retired defence personnel in order to maintain greenery and extend the green cover in the state.

This initiative has been taken by the state government keeping in view the Union Government’s decision to observe the current year as resettlement year for defence personnel in the country.

Sources in the Forest Department say that initially a proposal had been mooted to set up two eco-battalions, each comprising 1,000 retired army officials. According to this plan, the state would be divided into zones and each battalion would be responsible for maintaining greenery in the area allotted to it and also take care of the existing forest land.

An official says though Haryana is considered an intensively cultivated state, it is deficient in natural forests due to the small area under forest cover, which is only 6.63 per cent of the total geographical area. However, the government proposes to increase it to about 10 per cent by 2010 by adopting social forestry, he says.

The sources add that forests are mainly distributed in the north-eastern and south- eastern districts. There are three forest types: tropical dry deciduous in the eastern part; tropical moist deciduous in the Shivalik region; and tropical thorn forests in the western part of the state.

The official says forest regeneration and protection is a challenge and the aim is to develop a management practice that combines the economic interests of forest users and their active involvement in its conservation. The basic idea of forming such a task force is to entrust experienced manpower responsibility to maintain greenery, besides providing them employment.

When contacted, the minister of state for defence production, Rao Inderjeet Singh, said the idea of forming eco-battalions was inspired by the successful work of a similar battalion in Uttarakhand, which covered an area from Dehra Dun to Mussoorie. Rao said if one went by the figures about greenery in Haryana, it was surprising that facts were altogether different from ground realities. He hoped that the forest land cover would certainly improve in the near future with the formation of the task force. He added that Haryana was leading in the resettlement of retired defence personnel in the country and the proposal would not only benefit the retired officials but also facilitate the state in getting things done in a more professional manner.



Thermal power project steams up locals
Shiv Sharma

Bhiwani, July 19
The proposed coal-based thermal power plant project of Bhiwani Textile Mills has become the target of locals. Residents and local bodies members, who consider it a threat to the environment, have opposed the project.

Several municipal councillors have submitted a memorandum to finance and labour minister Birender Singh. They have asked the minister to stop this project and order a probe into the matter.

The councillors said the mill was located near the residential area and people living therein were already facing bad effects of the waste material released by the mill.

Municipal councillor Satender Mor said about 20 tonnes of coal would be used in the proposed thermal plant on a daily basis and dangerous gases would spread in the atmosphere, directly affecting the health of the locals.

The memorandum said about 70 years back when Bhiwani Textile Mills came into existence, it's location was several miles away from the residential areas, but with the passage of time, many colonies had come up around the mill.

Mor said the pollution from the proposed unit would directly affect the population of over 35,000 people. About 12 educational institutions, including an orphanage and various schools and colleges, surround the mill area.

Mor ridiculed the statement of mill owners, who claimed that the thermal plant would be non-pollutant and was being framed as per the rules. Criticising the system, the councillor said the government had set norms to curb pollution in the state even then coal is being used in bricks kilns. The opening of brick kilns was prohibited in the control areas of the towns, but in this case also various departments took no time in giving the no-objection certificate, he added.

He said as per rules such units should be at least at 1 km away from the residential areas whereas several thickly populated colonies were within the 500-m radius to this unit.

Seeking enquiry into the matter, he said by sanctioning the project, the role of the pollution control board, municipal council and town planner seemed doubtful and corrupt practice used in it could not be ruled out.

Other councillors said the residents were already affected by the pollutants emitted by it and latest development would add to their woes. They threatened to begin an agitation if no concrete action was taken in this matter.



Two districts turn 10
Fatehabad lacks education facilities, big industry
Sushil Manav

Fatehabad, July 19
Although there has been some development work in Fatehabad district, which completed 10 years on July 15, much still remains to be done. It was in 1997 that Fatehabad, a nondescript town at that time, was accorded the status of a district.

The then ruling party had won a byelection at Jhajjar and the Fatehabad assembly seat had fallen vacant due to the sudden death of local MLA Harminder Singh.

The then Chief Minister, Bansi Lal, who had promised Jhajjar voters district status for their town, kept his word.

Even after a decade, the district still lacks good education facilities.There is no engineering or technical college in Fatehabad town, no facilities for the teaching of science subjects at the undergraduate level and no provision for studies at the postgraduate level. Even coaching facilities for those preparing for the pre-medical test (PMT) and the pre-engineering test (PET) are missing here. No big industry has been set up at Fatehabad though there is good scope for agro-based units in the town.

Despite a long-standing demand of the residents for a rail link to Fatehabad, no efforts are being made to fulfil it.

The national highway passing through the heart of Fatehabad town has led to an increase in the number of road accidents, many of them fatal, but the authorities have not taken any step towards the construction of a bypass, another long-standing demand of the residents.

Ratia, one of the subdivision-level towns of the district, lacks various basic facilities, including sewerage .

Among the development works witnessed by Fatehabad during these 10 years are the setting up of a mini-secretariat, a judicial complex, police lines, a government college for girls, a stadium, a district library and a HUDA sector.

P.C. Bidhan, who was the first deputy commissioner of this district, is, incidentally the commissioner, Hisar division, under which Fatehabad district falls.Bidhan claims that district status brought with it many development projects for Fatehabad, which was otherwise a small, little known town.

Deputy commissioner O. P. Sheoran says a number of projects are either nearing completion or are at various stages of planning or execution. A rail overhead bridge is to be constructed at Tohana. Slum development schemes for Fatehabad, Ratia and Tohana, at a cost of Rs 30 crore, are under process.

A solid waste management project for Fatehabad town is underway and the building has almost been completed, says the deputy commissioner. The district will also soon have its own kendriya vidyalaya.The authorities are busy selecting a suitable site for it. The plan for the second phase of the mini secretariat is being finalised and work on it will start soon, according to the deputy commisioner.

On the power front, Sheoran says, the newly constructed 400 kv substation at Matana will solve most of the electricity-related problems of Fatehabad town when it starts functioning in August.



Jhajjar town yet to measure up

Jhajjar, July 19
People of this small, dusty town must have had big dreams about development when it became a district headquarters in 1997. Today, a comparison of "then and now" brings a sour expression on their faces.

The population and the residential areas of the town have shown only a marginal increase in the past 10 years which indicates that it has little attraction for people in terms of facilities, commented an old-timer who had worked for securing district status. Though the total population of the district is around nine lakh, in terms of civic facilities and infrastructure development, there has been very little improvement.

The wait for the rail link to the town continues. Roads are in poor shape and the perennial traffic jam at the Silani gate is the bane of the town. The sewerage and water supply facilities were put in place about 50 years ago and are in tatters now.

The bus stand in the middle of the town is small.There is no park for residents. The Haryana urban development authority also has not found this town suitable for setting up a residential sector.According to the deputy commissioner, Suprabha Dahiya, HUDA is all set to develop sectors 6 and 9. This will also lead to the development of Shaheedi Park besides the creation of a new one.

In the absence of good private health services, the 25-bedded civil hospital continues to cater to the needs of residents with whatever limited facilities it has. A blood bank was promised to be set up, but despite all arrangements, it has not become functional for reasons best known to the authorities.

The education facilities are almost the same as before 1997 except that a new college came up in Birohar village this year.

However, on the brighter side, the construction of the mini secretariat during the Chautala regime and the opening of a district library about a month ago are welcome developments. The construction of the police lines complex and a court complex are underway. Ironically, the newly built Rs 10 crore waterworks is waiting for a VIP for commissioning.

As a whole, the district has witnessed lopsided development with Bahadurgarh subdivision drawing a bigger portion of government funds during the INLD regime while Jhajjar town is facing neglect, says Congress leader Manphool Singh.



Inside Babudom
Where you sit is what matters in secretariat
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
The new additional principal secretary to the Chief Minister, K.K. Khandelwal, and special secretary, general administration department (SSGA) Sumita Misra are set to be new entrants to the fourth floor of the Haryana secretariat here.

Two new office rooms are being made ready on the fourth floor for seating officers. Khandelwal, who is also the director, public relations department, will sit in the room now given to the special secretary, political and services (SSPS). The SSPS will shift to one of the two new rooms while the other new room will go to Misra.

The fourth floor is always associated with power in Haryana because it houses the Chief Minister and his staff officers. The chief secretary and officers assisting him also sit on the fourth floor. That is how the office of the SSPS is also located there. The SSGA, who also reports to the chief secretary, was uprooted from the fourth floor when it was being given a facelift. Now with the creation of the new office room, the SSGA will again be stationed on the fourth floor.

The joint secretary, secretariat establishment (JSSE), has turned out to be a loser in the exercise undertaken to renovate the fourth floor. The JSSE used to have a room in an extreme corner of the fourth floor. The renovated fourth floor has no space for the JSSE and he is likely to shift to a fifth floor office from his present office on the eighth floor.

The fresh allotment of a fourth floor room to anyone inevitably figures in the gossip of jealous bureaucrats. Among visitors, the occupants of a fourth floor office inspire awe.

The lavish facelift given to the fourth floor offices in the first phase had cost approximately Rs 3 crore. Carried out last year, the renovation attracted attention for splitting the occupants of the floor into two sections. Post-renovation, the part that houses the Chief Minister also houses the principal secretary to the Chief Minister (PSCM), the additional principal secretary to the CM-I (APSCM-I) and the chief secretary.

Two OSDs and two advisers, who earlier used to sit on the CM’s side of the floor, found their room on the other side of the floor after the renovation.

In other words, those members of the staff, whose recruitment fell in the category of political appointments, were pushed outside the Chief Minister’s enclosure while two IAS officers attached to the CM got themselves stationed inside the enclosure.



Rewari govt schools in doldrums
Students fret over poor exam results
Nawal Kishore Rastogi

A mockery of system

  • The Rs 1.81 crore new building of Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Sector 4, is lying vacant even as old schools are holding classes in the open due to the shortage of roofed accommodation
  • Inordinate delay in filling vacant posts of teacher in most schools has hit studies
  • While students are forced to sit on the floor, benches, supplied by the state education department under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, have been lying in store rooms for about three years

Rewari, July 19
The lackadaisical approach of the authorities to school education in the district has adversely affected the performance of government schools.

The perfect example of official apathy is the Rs 1.81 crore new building of Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Sector 4, here, which was inaugurated by education minister Phool Chand Mullana on May 27. The building has been lying vacant since then though it was announced at the inaugural function that the new school would lessen the burden of old government schools of the town by accommodating a sizeable strength of its girl students.

With an unwieldy strength of 3,200 students, the old Government Girls School on the circular road here has been running in two shifts. However, in spite of that hundreds of students have to sit in the open due to the paucity of roofed accommodation. What happens to such classes on rainy days can better be imagined than described.

However, the reported unwillingness of most of the parents to shift their daughters to the new school on account of the 5 km long distance between the two schools is a problem which is difficult to solve. The availability of only 13 classrooms in the new school, which can accommodate only 800 students, is also proving a handicap.

In another such case of neglect, the affairs of the newly established Government Model and Sanskriti School, Tatarpur Istmurar, which is now the most prestigious senior secondary school of the district, are in disarray. The school, which comprises both English medium and Hindi medium units, has a strength of over 400 students in each unit. While the English medium classes are held in the morning shift, the evening shift is meant for the Hindi medium classes.

Interestingly, the inordinate delay in the posting of teachers for both sections has made a mockery of this premier school.

According to school principal Mahender Singh, only five teachers have joined against a minimum requirement of 18 teachers in the Hindi medium section while the English medium unit suffers from the lack of lecturers in chemistry, Hindi and certain other subjects.

Village sarpanch Kishan Singh laments that their repeated requests to the district education officer for filling the posts have remained unheeded.

Similarly, hundreds of students in over 12 recently upgraded high and senior secondary schools in Meerpur, Turkiawas, Kapriwas, Malahera, Hansaka and various other villages of the district are facing a difficult situation caused by the non-posting of teachers in these schools. Their studies have been suffering for no fault of theirs and they are worried about their performance in the first semester examinations, which will be held in September.

It is also agonising that while benches, supplied by the state education department under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, have been lying in lumber rooms for about three years, children in most of the schools of Rewari city are forced to sit on the floor.

A senior official of the primary education department said that the benches could not be utilised due to the unavailability of spacious accommodation in some primary schools of the city.



Four state-level institutes for Rohtak
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
Rohtak will soon get four state-level institutes, which will be set up there at a cost of Rs 60 crore.

The institute of art, the institute of fashion design, the institute of professional studies for women and the institute of film and TV will start functioning at a common complex from the next academic session.

This was revealed at the first meeting of the technical institutional society, Rohtak, held under the chairmanship of financial commissioner and principal secretary, technical education, Ajit M.Saran here yesterday.

Saran, who is also the chairman of the society, said the northern region in general and Haryana in particular lacked training facilities in the areas of design and fashion technology, fine arts, film and TV, and professional studies. These four institutions would be set up on the lines of the college of art and the national institute of fashion technology in Chandigarh and Delhi and the National Film and TV Institute of Pune.

HUDA had agreed to allot 22 acres for these institutes, which would have an intake capacity of nearly 8,000 students. Initially, the degrees to the students would be given by MDU, Rohtak.



Young Achiever
Marginal farmer, hefty earning
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
Two years after his matriculation in 1995, when Sushil Kumar lost his father it was time for him to grow up overnight. Being the eldest, the responsibility fell upon him to take care of the family. With less than two acres of land in possession it was a tough ask.

The family led a miserable life in Kamalpur Roran village in Karnal district till last year when Sushil attended a camp organised by the Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), he knew exactly what was in store for him.

He saw a bright future despite his meagre landholding. He saw an opportunity right away to put his land to optimum use with the help of ATMA and various departments associated with it.

After days of deliberations with agricultural experts, he finally decided to go ahead with digging a pond for fish farming. To begin with, he used quarter of an acre of his pond for farming Jhinga to get a production of 375 kg, which was sold at a rate of Rs 225 per kg. Having thus succeeded, Sushil opted for the poly culture and got a yield of 40 quintals of fish and was truly on his way to becoming a progressive and innovative farmer.

He still had one and a half acres of land. At another camp of ATMA, he learnt about mushroom farming and decided to use some bit of his land for that. Initially, the Department of Horticulture provided him 300 bags of spawn. But he decided to farm with a total of 1,000 bags of spawn, making his own investment in another 700 bags.

With an investment of Rs 31,500 and another Rs 13,500 from ATMA he got a marketable production of about 3 kg per bag. On an average, each bag brought him Rs 80, fetching him Rs 80,000 over a period of six months.

Today, encouraged by the experiment, he plans to set up his own chamber to produce pasteurised compost for spawn seeds for growing mushroom. Simultaneously, Sushil has decided to breed fish seed for meeting the increasing demand in the state. This year, he is all set to breed the seed near his pond where he has a breeding tank and two holding tanks.



Money power rules roost in Karnal jail, says ex-inmate
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
For P. P. Kapoor, a trade union activist who spent over 60 days in the district jail at Karnal last winter, the most important challenge during the period of his incarceration was how to while away time.

Kapoor checked out the jail library located in a tiny room on the jail premises. It had some old issues of a career and competition periodical, some English fiction of the best-seller variety and some religious books in Hindi. There was no contemporary magazine or journal in the library.

“People play cards throughout the day to kill time”, Kapoor, who was taken to prison in December last year and released in February, says.

An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Hardcore criminals lodged in the jail use the leisure time to make plans for future hits after securing release from the jail.

The latest activity report of the jail department in Haryana boasts that 3,000 calories are provided to a prisoner daily in the form of flour, pulses, vegetables, sugar, tea leaves, bread, ghee and spices. Kheer is also supposed to be given on Sundays.

Kapoor, however, has a different story to tell. The inmates, he says, try to get work in the kitchen because it enables them to ask for remission of sentence. Inmates, who are able to influence the jail authorities to secure jobs in the kitchen, are not interested in cooking and it shows in the food. Well-to-do prisoners, says Kapoor, convert money into coupons to purchase vegetables, pulses, oil, etc, from the prison canteen. The food is then prepared by the inmates themselves and eaten with chapattis from the prison kitchen.

Those who do not have money power to purchase vegetables and other raw materials from the canteen work as servants for wealthy prisoners and obtain food from them in exchange for their labour.

The food supplied by the jail kitchen tastes bad.

Kapoor has written to the high court here as well as to the Supreme Court about what he saw in the prison.



Ambala dairymen reluctant to shift
Suman Bhatnagar

Ambala, July 19
Owing to the unplanned and slow working of the administration, the dairies of Ambala City and Ambala Cantonment could not be shifted outside the urban areas even after five years when it was first proposed. The state government has already sanctioned crores of rupees for this project.

Now, the administration has fixed July 20 as the last date, but none of the dairy owners has made any arrangement for shifting. Most of them feel that this would adversely affect their business.

It is to be mentioned that during the regime of the Chautala government it was planned to shift all dairies of Ambala City and Ambala Cant outside the urban areas. Land was acquired in Khatoli and Kaulan villages for shifting of 220 diaries of Ambala City and in Kardhan village for shifting dairies of Ambala Cant. Around six months back, plots were allotted to the dairies at subsidised rates.

The project remained abandoned for two years despite the availability of huge funds. After the formation of the Congress government, local MLA Venod Sharma again initiated the process. He summoned the dairy owners and the officers concerned a number of times to settle the matter. A few months ago, the municipal council issued notices to the dairy owners in this regard, but none of them was ready due to the lack of basic amenities in villages.

President of the dairy owners association Karnail Singh Bhai said they were ready to shift but the administration should provide basic facilities there. One of the dairy owner said no one was ready to go outside the city, as it would affect the business.

Deputy commissioner R.P. Bhardwaj said the dairies would be shifted by the end of this month at any cost.



Settlement date for water dues extended
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
The state government has extended the one-time settlement scheme launched to recover the arrears of water and sewerage charges in the municipal areas for two more months.

Public health minister Randeep Singh Surjewala said here today the scheme had been extended up to September 10.

He said to give further relief to the urban consumers and also to rationalise the rate of surcharge, it had been decided that 10 per cent surcharge or penalty would be levied on the current charges only if the water and sewerage charges were not paid within the due date and not on total amount of the bill in subsequent bills also.

Under the scheme, the entire surcharge, interest or penalty is waived off if consumers deposit the actual amount of water and sewerage charges in lump sum or in three equal monthly installments.

He said the scheme was framed in order to clear the arrears which had accumulated to the tune of about Rs 43.42 crore.



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