C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S

Panic after fire in High Court
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 26
Panicky staff rushed out of the office of Punjab advocate-general in the High Court here today, following a blast in the electricity meter box on the ground floor of the office, which led to a minor fire.

The blast occurred due to a short circuit barely a few yards from the advocate-general’s room. There was a commotion which hampered work for at least two hours. There was no collateral damage.

A fire tender was called but even before it could act, the fire had been doused by the security and support staff. Importantly, there was no fire-extinguishing cylinder in the gallery.

An employee said the design of the building was such that there was little room for escape in case of an emergency. Worse, there were no devices to check the spread of fire.

The meter box was full of filth. “Today’s blast which resulted in a fire, though minor, could have assumed serious proportions but for timely intervention by the security staff,” he said.

Advocate-general H.S. Mattewal, when contacted, said he would ensure that modern fire-fighting systems were put in place as early as possible.



SI held for bid to rape, suspended
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 26
SI Satpal Sharma of the Chandigarh Police was arrested today for bid to rape a woman of Maloya Colony at her residence on Tuesday. He was placed under suspension.

The 40-year-old woman, a mother of two, had lodged a complaint with the SSP, following which the complaint was marked to DSP (South) KIP Singh.

The case was registered this afternoon after residents of the colony assembled at the Maloya police post and raised slogans against the police.

The police swung into action late in the afternoon and arrested SI Sharma on the allegations of attempt to rape and trespass under Sections 376, 511 and 452 of the IPC.

The victim in her complaint to the SSP said her husband had lost his mobile phone and they went to the police to report the matter on July 23. The following day, at 8.30 am, the SI reached their house. Her husband was away and she was bathing. The SI allegedly pushed open the door and tried to molest her. She struggled to free herself. She managed to kick him off. Thereafter, the accused warned her of dire consequences and left.

She also alleged that the SI threatened to implicate her husband in a case and get him “suspended from his government job.”



3 more cellular operators get notices
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 26
Three cellular operators have been issued notices for violating provisions of the periphery Act in Kishangarh village. They have been given seven weeks to explain as to why action should not be initiated against them for erecting towers on agricultural land.

This is the second instance when the office of the land acquisition officer (LAO) has issued notices to service providers for erecting mobile towers in the periphery. As of now, there is no policy for allowing towers in the periphery as this amounts to commercial activity.

Sources said a survey was being undertaken to ascertain the number of such mobile towers. A number of mobile users live in villages and densely populated areas adjoining the periphery.

Mobile towers are allowed only in commercial areas with certain riders. Various proposals by cellular operators to the administration are under consideration.

Last month, the deputy commissioner had ordered demolition of mobile towers raised on agricultural land in Kaimbwala village. However, the company erecting the towers was given time, considering the fact that the administration was thinking of revising its policy.

The mobile operators had stated that the towers had been erected in the periphery to help the mobile users in respective areas. Demanding time, they had sought that they be allowed to install common towers in the city.

With common towers, the operators would have one site for multiple service providers. This was required in the light of the increasing number of mobile users and the growing connectivity problem, they had argued.

UT Finance Secretary S.K. Sandhu said the proposal by the operators was being studied and nothing had been finalised yet.



Death At Mall
Experts examine lift shaft
Take blood samples
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 26
The death of Yogesh Dutt, director of Bangalore-based multi-crore Glass Company, who had a fatal fall at the Centra Mall here yesterday, remains a mystery.

The police today called experts from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), who examined the lift shaft into which Dutt fell and died.The CFSL team took samples of blood and other objects lying at the bottom of the shaft. “We are waiting for the experts to submit their report to ascertain the factors leading to Dutt’s death,” said a senior police officer.

The lift shaft is 41 ft deep.There is adequate light in the passage leading to the lift, but it is dark near the entrance.

Construction work at the site remained suspended for the second day today.The police was trying to identify and contact labourers present at the time of the incident to establish the sequence of events leading to the death.

DSP (East) Davinder Tahkur said: “We have learnt that Harmeet Singh, a consultant with Dutt’s company, and his cousin, Vikas, along with three others were holding a meeting at the first-floor of the mall when the incident took place. Dutt was with them but he went out to attend a call on his mobile phone.”

The police was trying to contact Harmeet, who was in Bangalore, while Vikas was in Delhi.They were expected to return to the city any time. The police was trying to contact the Delhi-based project manager of the company, who was inaccessible.



Bird flu in Manipur may affect poultry prices
Amrita Dhaliwal 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 26
The incidence of bird flu in Manipur is set to affect the poultry industry in the region, with prices of poultry products expected to drop in the coming days. According to industry experts, exports are also likely to be hit with the international market being sensitive to the bird flu scare.

Talking to TNS, Surjit Singh Sagri, president, north zone broilers breeders association, stated that because of the bird flu scare, exports would get a big setback. “The government has failed to divide India into zones. Whenever there is an outbreak, complete India is out of bounds internationally. However, in many countries they declare the zone as sensitive.”

He stated that as the flu was localised in Manipur, there was no fear of it spreading to the region. However, prices of poultry, he said, would fall. “There is no possibility of the bird flu spreading here. The birds carrying the virus were allegedly from Burma and not of Indian origin,” he added.

Meanwhile, the central government has already told all states to take necessary precautions. “All state governments have been advised to take actions. There is no reason to be panicky,” states Ajit Singh, chief executive member, NECC.

Also stating that a ripple effect was expected, he said the prices of poultry were expected to fall. “I don’t foresee any major crash of rates in the region immediately, but if not controlled, prices will fall,” he warned.

“There is no reason to panic and we are confident that the region will not be effected. We are too far away for that to happen,” stated Darshan Kumar, president, Haryana poultry farmers association.

Poultry experts feel that after the first bird flu scare in India, awareness has been created and thus, people are more cautious.



RTI cases need more care, DC told

Chandigarh, July 26
The Central Information Commissioner (CIC) has cautioned the Deputy Commissioner, Chandigarh, to be fastidious in overseeing disposal of cases pertaining to the Right to Information Act.

The orders have been passed by CIC Wajahat Habibullah while deciding on an appeal filed against the estate office by Hemant Goswami of the Burning Brain Society. The officer has observed that the matter could have been solved by the DC, to whom an appeal was made first and to which there was no response.

The appellant in an application to the CPIO had sought information on implementation of the provisions of the ‘Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commence, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003’ and the‘Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Rules, 2004’.

Mr Habibullah heard the appeal through video-conferencing on July 12. — TNS



PU suspends 5 for ragging

Chandigarh, July 26
Panjab University today suspended five students for ragging juniors on the campus. Last night five third-year students of BE (UIET) reportedly ragged first-semester students in Hostel No 2.

Taking cognisance of the offence, the central monitoring committee formed to review such incidences, decided today to expel Assem Yash Bhatiya, Anil Santlani, Abhimanyu Kapoor, Ravi Kant Swami and Amit Soni from the hostel with “immediate effect”. They were asked not to attend classes till further orders.

Warden for Hostel No 2, J.K. Goswamy said the university guidelines on ragging were being strictly followed. — TNS



BSNL services still in ashes
No sabotage, says probe report
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

The chief general manager telecom, Punjab circle, said the subscribers experiencing problems should intimate the department at toll-free telephone number 1500. However, connecting to 1500 seems to be a Herculean task with repeated attempts failing even today.

Chandigarh, July 26
Investigations into the fire in the BSNL exchange on June 30 that had disrupted telecom, broadband and mobile services across the region, have ruled out the possibility of sabotage.

A report prepared by various intelligence agencies says that the fire was possibly caused by a short circuit that could have resulted due to an over-used air conditioner. However, the report points out BSNL’s laxity in handling the building safety and also lack of a backup plan in case of such a mishap.

Sources said a special probe had been conducted to look into the sabotage angle. But so far the evidence did not reflect any sabotage. The Central Government had expressed concern after the fire and sought a separate report on this due to the sensitive nature of the installation.

The exchange housed several sensitive telecom routing equipment. That included a part of the system for the defence services, entire mobile network and the complete equipment for BSNL’s broadband services that links the banks and the ATMs through a countrywide network. The exchange also provided telecom connectivity to the offices and residences of the chief ministers and Governors of Punjab and Haryana, the main secretariat, the Punjab mini secretariat, the Haryana mini secretariat the UT Administration, the Punjab police exchange and the Chandigarh police exchange, besides leading business establishments in Sector 17 and 22.

With entire governments having been “cut-off” it had sent the alarm bells ringing in the security establishments .

Sources said more loss had occurred due to water used for extinguishing the fire than the fire itself. Chemical foam should be normally used to contain such fire where electronic equipment has been damaged. But it was not available with the BSNL on the spot. The water damaged the “sensors” in the cable and rendered them useless.

The loss of equipment and other systems was no more than Rs 2 crore, says the report. However, the loss of business for more than fortnight - till the time the exchange was made operational completely - ran up to hundred of crores.

Railway and airline bookings were also affected.

It has also been found that the doors and access points to the exchange were locked and firemen wasted valuable time in finding the source of the fire.



Helplines, phones still non-functional
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 26
Certain BSNL helplines are still non-functional in the wake of the June 30 fire in the Sector 17 telephone exchange causing harassment to telecom subscribers

In fact even as the BSNL authorities put up a brave front claiming the equipment damaged in the fire have either been set right or replaced and all telecom services have been restored, the subscribers continue to be at the receiving end with scores of landline connections yet to be restored.

While claiming normalcy in the services, SR Aggarwal, chief general manager telecom, Punjab circle, had said on Tuesday that the subscribers experiencing problems should intimate the department at toll-free telephone number 1500.

However, connecting to 1500 seems to be a Herculean task with repeated attempts failing even today. Even when the call got through, the complaints were not redressed, alleges Madan Gupta Spatu, an astrologer based in Sector 20, whose phone had been “dead” for several days. Also there was no response at the telephone number given by the helpline, he alleged.

Not only this, a large number of Mohali phones, too are still bearing the brunt of the telephone exchange fire. Amardeep Sharma, a telephone subscriber of Phase IX, Industrial Area, alleged that despite repeated complaints to the BSNL authorities his phone was yet to be set right. “Every time I complaint the stock reply is that the problem was due to the damage in the wake of the fire,” he alleged.

The individual complaints could be on account of defective telephone equipment or some other technical fault, sources said, adding that the complaints were being attended to as per the department policy.



Talks — HUDA’s strategy to curb encroachments
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

The Sector 7 market gets converted into an open dhaba in the evening
The Sector 7 market gets converted into an open dhaba in the evening. — Tribune photo by Malkiat Singh

Panchkula, July 26
‘Table-talks’ is the new buzzword at Haryana Urban Development Authority’s Estate Office, which has resolved to curb the growing encroachment menace with this new strategy.

After everything else failed, the authority has recommended that the various market organisations be invited for table talks to remove encroachments from the market place.

Sources in the Estate Office said the first round of talks would begin from next week, where the problem of the Sector 7 problem will be discussed.

Every evening, the Sector 7 market place gets converted into an open dhaba, with every inch of space encroached upon. Amidst allegations that these small-time vendors pay money to the shopkeepers to use space in front of their shops, the business continues to thrive.

Whenever HUDA tried to rein in the culprits, the drive was met with protests and attacks by the vendors. Unable to stop this ‘flourishing trade’, the Estate Office had almost given up. The staff now ‘keeps busy’ by removing jhuggis, without tackling the real problem.

“The problem has aggravated because most of these stalls come up only in the evenings. The staff’s duty ends by 5 pm when there are practically no encroachments. We will first have to persuade the shopkeepers to remove all encroachments, failing which action would be initiated against them in way of challans or taking away their belongings,” an official said.

Such talks will be held with all market organisations to seek their cooperation in clearing encroachments and the Estate Office is finally gearing up to take action against the violators.



Ramshackle roof needs repair
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 26
The roof of a passage in the Sector 37 market is on the verge of collapse. Amritpal, a local resident, had a providential escape today afternoon when one of the bricks fell right at his feet. The structure is witnessing a gradual dismantling since the past more than two years.

Rohit Sood ‘Dandi’, president of the market welfare association, said the roof had been collapsing in bits and pieces since the past two years. However, the authorities had not responded despite repeated reminders.



Road stretch in darkness
Our Correspondent

Mohali, July 26
A stretch on one of the main roads has been lying in darkness for the past one month with the authorities concerned failing to fix the streetlights.

Municipal councillor Sukhminder Singh Barnala, who lives in Phase XI, yesterday said streetlights on the main road leading from NIPER to Phase XI were out of order and had caused a number of accidents.

He said a power cable was damaged during the construction of a road pavement by the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA).

He said the matter was brought to the notice of the executive officer of the municipal council, who requested GMADA officials to do the needful but to no avail.

He said the stretch had remained in dark for a long period earlier also when the road was being widened.

At that time too a power cable was damaged and streetlights were made functional only after the problem was brought to the notice of the authorities concerned.



Reliance Comm not reliable, say Mohali residents

Mohali, July 26
Residents have complained harassment at the hands of Reliance Communications for “not providing” broadband services as promised.

Harmeet Singh of Phase IIIB 1 here said he had applied for a broadband connection on June 25 and given a cheque for Rs 500 in this regard. He was assured of being provided with the connection in three days but to no avail, in spite of reminders.

He said Amarjeet Singh, a resident of Phase VII, had also not provided with a connection for over a month. He said Jagdeep Singh of Phase XI, however, managed to get a broadband connection after 20 days, but only after numerous visits to the head office. Madhur Bansal, company’s team leader, said carriers in the area had been installed for prepaid services, which had not become popular. — OC



A tribute to Kargil martyrs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 26
The Chandigarh unit of All India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF) today held a memorial service on Vijay Diwas in the memory of Kargil martyrs at DAV College, Sector 10 in the city today. Floral tributes were paid and slogans were raised for the war heroes.

Prof Harbans Lal Sagar, father of Shaheed Major Sandeep Sagar, Sardar Gurbax Singh Dhindsa, father of Shaheed Flt Lt Gursimrat Singh Dhindsa, Sudesh Sharma, mother of Shaheed Capt Atul Sharma and Neeraj Vats, father of Shaheed Major Navneet Vats attended the Memorial Service.

A wheelchair was presented by principal of the college S Marriya and the family of the martyrs to rifle man Rajak Mohammad.

Rajak, a resident of Bada Gaon village in Ambala from 6 Rajputana Rifles, was hit by bullets during an encounter with terrorists in Kazikund area of Anantnag District in Jammu & Kashmir on May 23 2002 as a result of which he suffered complete paralysis of his lower limbs.




Menace of stray animals

Last year my daughter and I visited Chandigarh for the first time, and we were pleased to note how clean the city was as compared to other cities in India. The traffic is also well managed here. However, we were somewhat disappointed at the sight of stray animals on the streets, particularly dogs and cows.

This year my wife and I travelled to Chandigarh again and I noticed that the number of the stray animals have increased to some extent, particularly by those of dogs. The dogs tended to be aggressive as my wife was almost about to get bitten by one of them.

Furthermore, these animals dirty the place they live around. I would urge that the authorities round up all these animals and put them to sleep humanely, and help avoid possible public health disaster. Those protesting on the basis of animal rights and on religious grounds may be asked to adopt these animals as pets. Chandigarh needs to present itself as a clean well organised city if it is to attract tourists and foreign investment.

Shangar S Nandra
Hillsborough, NJ, USA

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