BSP all set to repeat UP experiment in Haryana,
claims Manhera
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 2
Unmindful of the recent changes at the top of the state Congress, the BSP is confident that it will be able to repeat its "social engineering" experiment of Uttar Pradesh in caste-ridden Haryana also.

The person who has the responsibility of pushing the party agenda forward in Haryana before the next Lok Sabha elections in 2009 is Maan Singh Manhera, general secretary and coordinator for Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. With the assembly elections in the hill state just a few months away, Manhera, an agriculture science graduate, is constantly on the move.

A former Punjab government employee, who quit his job to join Kanshi Ram, founder of the BSP, in the eighties, he says the Himachal elections do not take away his attention from the party's task in Haryana, where by November next, the party plans to have one lakh office-bearers up to the polling booth level, of whom at least 25 per cent will belong to the upper castes.

Under the BSP constitution, each booth committee has three office-bearers and only the office-bearers constitute the membership of the party.

Manhera, though happy that other parties have been forced to emulate the BSP's concept of social engineering, takes pains to explain that for his party, the concept is not new. Rather, the BSP has always been a votary of the concept. When the first BSP government was formed in UP in 1995, the upper castes were given representation in the cabinet. A Brahmin, Satish Mishra, was appointed the advocate-general, a constitutional post.

The BSP is the first party to raise the demand for reservation for economically weaker sections of the upper castes, because Mayawati, the party supremo, firmly believes that poverty has no caste or religion. She has offered to support legislation in this regard if the Congress and the BJP, two major parties in the Lok Sabha, agree to amend the Constitution. If no national unity is evolved on the issue, Mayawati will make rules in this regard on her own in UP.

Manhera says both the Congress and the BJP are incapable of alleviating poverty because these parties are funded by capitalists. Once in power, they are bound to toe the line of the capitalists, who want to further enrich themselves at the cost of the poor. Since the BSP has no truck with capitalists, it alone can tackle the twin problems of unemployment and poverty.

He does not agree with the insinuation that the BSP is confined to the Chamars among the Dalits in Haryana. Pointing out that he himself is a Balmiki, Manhera says the party will field a Chamar from the Ambala reserved Lok Sabha constituency and a Balmiki from the Sirsa reserved seat. From the other eight Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, the party ticket will be given to members of those communities which would not be given representation by the other major parties. For example, he says, since the other major parties normally field Jat candidates in Sonepat, the BSP may go in for a Brahmin nominee from there.

Manhera categorically rules out the possibility of an alliance with any other political outfit. "Leaders are welcome to join the BSP in their individual capacity. But our party will not shake hands with any other party," Manhera, who is among a select few to have direct access to Mayawati and constitute the core of the BSP, says firmly.

In between attending calls on his mobile from dissidents of other parties from Himachal, Manhera says the BSP, which has a Dalit Chief Minister in UP, has projected a non-Dalit Chief Minister in Major Vijay Singh Mankotia in the hill state. It may do the same in Haryana.



HIV cases on the rise in Gurgaon
Aarti Kapur
Tribune News Service

Gurgaon, August 2
The millennium city, Gurgaon, is sounding alarm bells, as HIV positive cases have almost doubled in the district as compared to the national average.

Surprisingly, in Gurgaon around 5 to 6 per cent of the cases screened every month are found HIV positive whereas the figure of the detected cases is around 2 per cent at the national level. This is the data collected every month at the Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre (VCTC) of the local civil hospital.

The data reveals that out of 5 per cent, 0 to 2 per cent HIV positive cases are of pregnant ladies. Around 150 patients approach the VCTC every month for HIV test, out of which 90 persons go for testing in the hospital.

The district health officer, Dr Chander Mohan, informs that around 14 to 15 patients approach the centre everyday for HIV screening, which is double as compared to the last year figures. He says 70 per cent of the patients who come for test are in the age group of 24 to 35 years and 5 to 9 per cent in the age group of 16 to 18 years.

Dr Mohan says the interesting feature is that migrant women are also visiting the centre more frequently to make themselves aware about the disease and its causes. He says due to the staff shortage the awareness programme is going at a slow pace.

Interestingly, for the past five years, the centre is closed on the World AIDS Day, which falls on December 1, as there is only one counsellor at the centre. Whenever some workshop or camp is organised for AIDS awareness in and around the city, the centre is closed due to shortage of staff.



Delhi cop told to pay Rs 5 lakh for seeking info

Jhajjar, August 2
Naresh Kumar Joon, a head constable of the Delhi police, hailing from Noona Majra village near Bahadurgarh, got the shock of his life when he was directed to deposit a whopping Rs 5 lakh for availing information from the senior medical officer (SMO) at Bahadurgarh community health centre, who also acts as public information officer (PIO).

He, however, filed an appeal with the State Information Commission (SIC), following which the SIC directed the PIO to allow the applicant access to the records.

But when I scanned the records most of the documents were missing, he said, adding that he would complaint to the SIC. He also alleged misappropriation of funds of the health centre.

Joon, husband of staff nurse Darshna, who is posted at the CHC, Bahadurgarh, filed an application with the civil surgeon, Jhajjar, on December 12, 2006, seeking information on nine points regarding various kinds of fees being charged at the centre. After dithering for about four months, the civil surgeon entertained his application and directed the SMO to provide the information and charge the requisite fee.

The SMO dispatched a letter to the applicant on April 20, asking him to shell out Rs 492,100 as the cost of providing the information. It includes Rs 375,200 as charge for providing copies of 3,750 medical legal reports (MLRs) at a rate of Rs 100 per MLR and Rs 40,650 for issuing 813 post mortem reports at a cost of Rs 50 per report. Significantly, this amount excludes the charge of photocopy of these documents that totals about Rs 76,250.

He, however, appealed to the SIO against the unreasonable fee. The commission after summoning the applicant as well as the PIO directed the former to personally examine the files and shortlist the information that he wanted.

Joon alleged that his application was put under wraps for about seven months on one pretext or the other. Firstly, the civil surgeon requested the SIC to give three months’ time, citing transfer of officials as reason and then rejected the application saying that the applicant had not signed it. But after he took up the case with the SIC, the civil surgeon in his capacity as first appellate authority directed the SMO through a letter dated April 12 to provide the information to the applicant.

Civil surgeon O.P. Hooda refused to talk on the issue. Joon alleged that his wife was being harassed on account of his sustained efforts to seek information, as she was sent to a village in Mewat district on deputation.

It may be mentioned that the normal charges are Rs 2 per page for the photocopy of documents while in Haryana Rs 10 per page are being charged. Moreover, as per section 7 of the RTI Act, the applicant shall be provided information free of charge where a public authority fails to comply with the time limit, i.e. one month.



VIP involved in Panchkula ruckus
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 2
The alleged involvement of a Haryana VIP in a ruckus at the army flats in Panchkula is turning out to be a political embarrassment to the Hooda government.

A written complaint was lodged at the Mansa Devi police post yesterday that the VIP, enjoying "Z" category security cover, reached the flats at 2.30 a.m. on August 1 in a private vehicle, sans his security. He was accompanied by a friend. When they knocked at the door of the flat, the occupants reportedly informed the security guards of the group housing society that two unknown persons were at their door and should be asked to leave the place.

When the security guards asked the alleged intruders to leave the place, they refused, following which an argument took place, leading to the lodging of the report. Till the time of reporting, no case had been registered.

Vice-president of the Haryana BJP Gian Chand Gupta today demanded that a high-level inquiry should be conducted and the Hooda government should name the VIP involved in the ruckus at the army flats at an unseemly hour.

Addressing a press conference here along with media in charge of the Panchkula unit of the party Virender Garg, Gupta said the government must disclose why the VIP had gone to the army flats and whom he wanted to meet there. It should also be clarified why he was not accompanied by his security guards. Since the VIP had gone without his security cover, the BJP leader said, the “Z" security cover provided to him should be withdrawn immediately.

Gupta said the police had been maintaining that it had brought the matter to the notice of the government. This claim, he said, proved the involvement of a VIP, against whom the police was afraid to take action.



Consumer forum notices to HUDA chief
Faces prison term

Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, August 2
The Panchkula district consumer disputes redressal forum yesterday issued show-cause notices to the chief administrator, HUDA, at Panchkula in two cases under section 27 of the consumer protection act asking him why he should not be sentenced to imprisonment of up to three years and also asked to pay a fine of up to Rs 10,000 for not complying with the orders of the consumer courts.

The Chandigarh state consumer commission had directed HUDA in October, 2006, to hand over physical possession of plot no. 2316, sector 23, Sonepat, to complainant Anil Dewan of Chandigarh, along with Rs 40,000 as compensation and Rs 1,000 as costs. Similar orders were passed in respect of plot no. 1593, sector 23, Sonepat, in favour of Arun Goel of Chandigarh.

These cases were originally filed before the Haryana state consumer commission. But due to a large number of cases pending in the Haryana commission, these cases were transferred to the Chandigarh commission. When HUDA failed to comply with the orders, counsel for the complainants Pankaj Chandgothia filed an execution petition under sections 25 and 27 for compliance with the orders. HUDA failed to file a reply to the petition and also did not comply with the orders in spite of several opportunities granted by the district forum.

Chandgothia submitted that HUDA was deliberately delaying the implementation of the orders, which had not been stayed by any higher court. Therefore, HUDA was legally bound to implement the orders, for which coercive steps should be taken by the forum.

Issuing show-cause notices to the chief administrator, HUDA, in both cases, president of the district forum J.N. Bhardwaj directed him to appear personally before the forum on September 4 next.



Gurgaon to churn in Metro storm
Ravi S.Singh
Tribune News Service

Gurgaon, August 2
The proposed Metro rail link in Gurgaon, work on which is already underway, has the potential to further catapult the city into a more evolved metropolis not only on the material front but also in the cultural and social spheres.

The Metro rail portion in the Haryana sector, which will cost the state government about Rs 680 crore, will make the city a more happening and sought-after place. The Gurgaon link is an extension of the proposed Central Secretariat-Qutab Minar corridor which runs south-west from Ambedkar Colony (Delhi) to Sushant Lok (Gurgaon) via Chatterpur (Delhi), covering a distance of 16 km . In Gurgaon the Metro extension will have stations at Garden Estate, Sikanderpur, DT, IFCO chowk and terminal point at Sushant Lok in Sector 29.

According to former president of the PHD chamber of commerce and industry and founder president of the Gurgaon chamber of commerce and industry P.K.Jain, the Metro link will create several new opportunities for people and give a filip to trade and industry and the economy as a whole. It is not that Gurgaon was inaccessible, but the Metro link project would make the flow of men and material, as well as ideas, so much more important for the growing tertiary sector of the economy, especially the service sector, in the national capital region.

Students appear to be happy about the project. They feel that the link will encourage them more to seek admission to various institutes in the capital. At present, the lucky ones who get admission usually have to come home daily by bus, which is exhausting. The youth in general are also happy on another count. They feel that the Metro will allow them to meet their friends in Delhi more often.

Ritu Singh, a housewife living in the Sushant Lok area, feels happy that the Metro link will increase her mobility between Delhi and Gurgaon and allow her to go on a shopping binge. The stretch in Haryana is of 7.5 km and is expected ease road congestion. What is of significance is that the route/alignment of the Metro link connects the highly developed areas of Gurgaon having malls and posh colonies with Delhi.

There are many who are of the view that the government must maintain a balance between different parts of Gurgaon during the expansion of the Metro project, whenever that happens. The apprehension in several quarters is that the gap between the old city and new city areas will increase. The reason for the anxiety is that the Metro link caters to only one side of Gurgaon.



At your service — not exactly
Common service centre of little use
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Pinjore (Panchkula), August 2
The first common service centre (CSC) of the state, opened at Chiken village of the block over a month back, now awaits the promised facilities. Inaugurated by deputy commissioner Neerja Shekhar, the centre promised services like computer literacy, railway information, e-mail and net surfing, desktop publishing and printing, education and legal consultancy and lots more at nominal rates.

These services were to be added within a fortnight of the launch. But over a month after the launch, there are only two persons at the centre, deployed only to search websites and provide information.

Computer literacy is yet to take off with no staff and inadequate infrastructure, legal consultancy remains a far cry, railway information is of hardly any use to the villagers and printing and education are still grounded.

“We have not seen any official visiting the place to see if the centre is working at all. There are two boys who are here always but they can’t seem to address our problems. The railway enquiry hardly interests us. A few boys come and chat on the net and check other websites. Beyond this, the centre serves little purpose,” an anaganwari worker says.

Maintaining that most of the queries relate to making documents and depositing bills, a member of the panchayat adds that those facilities are yet to begin. “We don’t understand why the district administration was in such a hurry to start the Centre when the facilities could not be provided. We think we will have to just keep waiting for the administration to fulfil its promises,” the panch says.

The operators at the centre said they had received over 60 queries about licenses and payment of bills in the past four weeks but they were helpless. “The administration has to give us the powers to deal with such needs. Also, no charges are being levied as of now though a nominal fee will be taken subsequently,” they remarked.

Barring the operation of the centre as just another internet café, the villagers have got no facilities. Located in one room of a dharamshala, the café resounds with music downloaded from the internet all day since the operators have little work to do without the facilities.

However, at the launch of the centre, the DC had said through these centres the government wanted to start some G2C services like land records, electricity bills, birth and death certificates, caste, income, domicile certificate, application forms for driving license, registration of vehicle and passport.

When contacted, Neerja Shekhar said while teaching computers was the responsibility of the company handling the programme, the various G2C services were yet to be made available. “We are working on that,” she said.

The government under the National e-Governance Plan (NEGP) has planned to establish 100,000 CSCs (one CSC for every six villages all over the country).

Accordingly, 1,159 rural and 104 urban e-Disha Ekal Sewa Kendras (common service centres) are to be established all over Haryana. All CSCs are likely to be made operational by April 2008.



Kalka awaits return of its splendid era
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Kalka (Panchkula), August 2
Once known as the gateway to the Himalayas, Kalka has now lost its glory. Located at farthest northern end of Haryana, the town has been getting a shabby treatment in terms of civic infrastructure and development. Despite the fact that the state Deputy Chief Minister Chander Mohan represents the constituency, the problems of the residents are a plenty.

Traffic bottlenecks, potholed roads and lack of civic infrastructure are the main problems haunting the town.

Like human beings, cities, too, have their eras of glory and downfall. Located at the foothills of Himachal Pradesh, Kalka shot into prominence in 1850-51 when the construction of the Hindustan-Tibet road commenced here for an onward journey to Shimla. This road was opened to traffic in 1860 after a 560-ft long tunnel was constructed beyond Sanjauli, near Shimla.

Today, the same road is congested and full of traffic snarls as it passes through the town inhabited along the highway. A Kalka bye-pass proposed decades ago is yet to see the light of the day. Visitors crossing the Haryana-Himachal Pradesh border can see the woeful plight of the “battle honour” in the form of a small park with a captured Pakistani tank surrounded with overgrown Congress grass and other wild vegetation. A slum-like habitation has come up at the place that was once touted as pride of the state.

The town provided a base camp for tired British officials who passed here at least twice a year after 1864, when Shimla was declared the summer capital of India. At the turn of the century, the British built the nation’s second railway line here for connecting the plains of Punjab with Shimla in 1889. The Kalka-Shimla railway line became functional in 1903. The railway station here still presents a magnificent remnant of the British era.

A functional hydraulic stopper at the railway station, installed by the British, is a marvel that fascinates people with a scientific bent of mind. Slowly, the town became a hub of commercial activity serving as a major city link between Shimla and Ambala. The place saw mushrooming of many hotels, inns, etc to cater to the travel needs of officials of the British Raj.

The town housed elephant and horse stables, many elegantly built churches still exist here and so do a city library, commissioned in 1948, to cater to the country’s elite travelling on this route. Though, the churches are still well maintained, the library is merely an apology.

The town has seen many national and international figures stop or pass-by from here. These include India’s last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten and his wife Edwina, Prime Minister Jawhar Lal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi, the list is endless. In 1931, following talks between Lord Willingdon and Mahatma Gandhi at Shimla, the Father of the Nation travelled in a special train from Shimla to Kalka to enable him to reach Mumbai catch S.S. Rajputana to England to discuss future of the nation and the country’s independence.

Today, the residents of this town have become a victim of state politics. During the previous government, the elected legislator belonged to the opposition, while the same legislator, Chander Mohan, despite being the Deputy Chief Minister of the state, is unable to do much as his father Bhajan Lal and brother Kuldip Bishnoi are known detractors of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.



Inside Babudom
Using the rule book to rein in ministers
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 1
Senior babus of Haryana have been asked by the state government to function as bulwarks against ministers who overstep their brief.

Haryana chief secretary Prem Prashant recently wrote a letter to all administrative secretaries asking the recipients of his communication to follow the “Rules of Business and Standing Orders and instructions of the government issued from time to time”.

The chief secretary wrote that it had been observed that sometimes a decision on a particular issue was not taken at the level prescribed by the Rules of Business. He wrote it was the responsibility of the administrative secretary of a department to ensure that a decision was always taken at the “appropriate level”.

The chief secretary added that even if a file was “downmarked” and it came to the notice of the administrative secretary that the decision had not been taken at the required level, he should refer such a case direct to the level which was competent to take a decision on the matter.

The chief secretary wound up his letter by asking the administrative secretaries to ensure that there was no lapse in the observance of this principle.

It is learnt that the letter, marked as “confidential”, has been written in view of the tendency of some of the Haryana ministers to take decisions on matters that should be ideally left for the Chief Minister for decision. The freedom enjoyed by the ministers under the present Congress regime has given rise to this practice, which is undermining the official procedure and setting a bad precedent.

Importantly, the then chief secretary, G. Madhavan, wrote a similar letter two years ago on the same subject. Madhavan’s letter, written on August 1, 2005, was less guarded than the one by Prem Prashant and had spelt out clearly the problem it was addressing.

Madhavan wrote that Rule 28(1) of the Rules of Business mentioned the classes of cases that should be submitted to the Chief Minister before the issuance of orders. “Instances have come to light that this provision is not strictly complied with by some departments. It is the duty of the administrative secretary to ensure that government business is transacted as per the rules and cases which require the approval of the Chief Minister are invariably submitted to him”, wrote Madhavan.



Rohtak’s HUDA sectors lack civic amenities
Sunit Dhawan
Tribune News Service

Rohtak, August 2
When the HUDA sectors came into being, the authorities promised the best-possible facilities to the residents who chose to reside in these urban localities. As the size of population grew, the available infrastructure failed to cater to the growing needs of the residents.

This led to the establishment of residents’ welfare associations to press for the fulfillment of their demands.

As of now, the inhabitants of several HUDA sectors are facing numerous pressing problems. The welfare associations have been trying to get these sorted out, but thanks to the indifferent attitude of the authorities concerned, coupled with the red tape, much remains to be done.

For instance, there is no post office in any of the sectors 1, 2, 3, 4 or 14, causing inconvenience to the residents. There is only one bank branch in all these sectors, which is obviously unable to cater to the ever-increasing rush.

There is also no government dispensary, health centre, hospital or polyclinic in Sectors 1, 2, 3 and 4. When the community centre of Sector 1 was shifted elsewhere, the residents demanded that the old building, which had been rendered spare, be converted into a health centre.

However, the residents’ pleas notwithstanding, the authorities concerned first gave it to the power wing and then to the Land Acquisition office. The new community centre is not spacious enough and is located away from the main road. A proposal to link it to the main road is gathering dust.

Of late, the residents have been facing the nagging problems of low water pressure and erratic power supply. The sector residents are now facing the problem of low voltage, which was earlier considered peculiar to the villages.

The sanitation and security facilities are also not up to the mark, with heaps of garbage being dumped at various places and even burnt. Stray animals and hoards of monkeys also pose threat to the residents. The soft music played at Chaudhary Devi Lal Park, which used to be a major attraction for the morning-walkers, has been discontinued for long. The park, by itself, is badly in need of maintenance.

The residents of Sector 1 have also been demanding a temple so as to arrange condolence meetings and other social gatherings. The HUDA authorities have invited applications twice in this regard, but no decision has been taken so far.



Environment hazards in Faridabad

For some years now, developers and land mafia to the callous degradation of the environment have been recklessly destroying the pristine beauty of the ridge between the Badkhal Lake and the Surajkund Tourist resort. While the ridge plateau in Delhi has been protected under laws, in Faridabad, the Badkhal-Surajkund ridge is being consistently converted into concrete jungle.

The ridge, once a habitat of flora and fauna, is now interspersed with tree felling, illegal construction, environment pollution and vandalism of natural heritage. On the road between Badkhal and Surajkund have come up several farmhouses, entertainment joints, schools and colleges, a telephone exchange, a petrol pump and several housing colonies. Soon, the 7-km stretch will have concrete structures all over surrounding the Aravalli hills.

The Supreme Court had banned all kinds of construction within 1 km of the area. However, construction activities continue unabated on the ridges despite the intervention of the apex court.

Despite the statutory provisions, there has been mushrooming of luxury farmhouses with roads, swimming pools, power connections, etc. and other building activities in the forest areas, as found out by the Vidhan Sabha committee formed by the Chief Minister to look into the matter.

In the interest of maintaining ecological balance and environmental ambience, change of land use for the purpose of any construction on the ridge should not be allowed. Perhaps those with vested interests would disagree with this opinion.

C.D. Verma, Faridabad

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Young Achiever
Crop diversification recipe for success
Naveen S Garewal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 2
With barely 7 acres of land, Pawan Saini of Prem Nagar in Hansi is today dreaming big. So are those who want to replicate his farming model in growing chillies and mushrooms. Hailing from a family involved in the cultivation of vegetables that could barely make ends meet, Pawan got interested in the schemes of the National Horticulture Mission. Taking advantage of Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) inputs, he diversified in growing chillies.

With an initial investment of Rs 15,000 per acre per crop on seedlings, he gets anything between Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000 for a crop that gets ready in a five-month period. Cultivating two crops a year with an opportunity in-between to grow coriander, bitter gourd and other seasonal vegetables, he was encouraged to adopt modern farming techniques.

Soon he discovered that the adoption of technology not only established him as a progressive farmer but also fetched better price for his produce. Having achieved success, Pawan handed over cultivation of chilly and other crops on profit-sharing basis to Munshi Ram and himself got diversified into mushroom farming.

He built a shed that could house 2,000 quintals of straw and 3,000 bags of spawn. During November to April, he produced 800 quintals of mushroom i.e. 40 per cent of the total straw. He made a total sale of Rs 15 lakh during the season and earned about Rs 5 lakh after deducting Rs 7 lakh towards the cost of the inputs and Rs 3 lakh towards labour.

Now, he intends to put up a permanent structure so that he does not have to construct a shed every year. Looking at Pawan’s success, several other villagers followed the pattern. Today, in Prem Nagar alone, 2,000 hectares of land is dedicated to growing vegetables that yield Rs 50,000 per acre per crop.

Many farmers in the area, who aped Pawan, have recognised the advantage of their proximity to Delhi and opt for sparing a portion of their land for the cultivation of mushrooms for six months, thereby supplementing their incomes considerably.



CSSRI head to attend Brazil congress
Vishal Joshi
Tribune News Service

Karnal, August 2
The director of the Karnal-based Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI), Dr Gurbachan Singh has been invited to chair the technical session of the 6th International Congress on Cactus Pear and Cochineal, scheduled to be held in Joao Pessoa, Parabia in Brazil, from October 22 to 25 later this year. The organising committee of the international congress has selected Dr Gurbachan Singh to chair a session on fruits and napolitos production.

Nopales is a vegetable made from the young stem segment of prickly pear. It is very rich in insoluble and soluble dietary fibre. The cactus fruit has been reported to have anti-diabetic properties too. Cactus are commonly grown either as an ornamental plant in home garden or as bio-fence around fields to protect crops from wild animals.

Due of its high biomass yielding potential with minimum use of water, the crop has tremendous potential to generate alternative source of livelihood in arid and semi-arid regions of India, said the senior scientist, who had received the prestigious Rafi Ahmad Kidwai Award of the ICAR for his contribution in natural resource management.



Ambala Sadar rehri market
Shifting plan stuck in limbo

Rahul Das
Tribune News Service

Ambala, August 2
The plan to shift the Hill Road rehri market in Ambala Sadar to a site near Indra Park has not been implemented even as the market has denied the quality of life to the residents of the area. The residents have repeatedly complained that vegetable vendors throw unsold and perished goods into the adjoining drain, which gets blocked. Also, the busy road is littered with garbage and motorists find it difficult to traverse through the area.

A proposal was mooted to shift the rehri market. It was decided by the Municipal Council, Ambala Sadar, that the market would be shifted to a vacant area between Gurguria drain and Indra Park.

However, the plan has not yet been put into action. The council had asked for financial grant from the state government, which through its letter no. TA/2/2006/63914 sought a detailed proposal about the shifting plan. However, the municipal councillors failed to reach a consensus on the proposal. The location of the rehri market seems to be the bone of contention. Members of Green Circle, an NGO, have opposed the proposal of shifting the market near Indra Park on the plea that the vendors will spoil the entire area.

The Green Circle suggests that the market should be shifted to a site close to the municipal car parking area. It states that the area provides better connectivity and the large open space is suitable for the rehri market. Meanwhile, R.P. Gupta, a resident of Hill Road, says he has complained to the police against vegetable vendors who consume liquor in the open and resort to hooliganism during late hours.

“Life has become miserable for the residents of the locality. Women are most unsafe in the area. Once the market is shifted to a new location, it will bring about a qualitative change in our lives," he adds.



Hisar — city of traffic offenders
Raman Mohan
Tribune News Service

Hisar, August 2
Indifferent policing and the lack of public cooperation have earned Hisar the dubious distinction of being Haryana’s “city of traffic offenders”.

Visitors to the town from other parts of Haryana as well as outside the state are appalled at the rule of the jungle that prevails on the roads.

Over the years every new deputy commissioner and superintendent of police has tried to regulate traffic and somehow restore a semblance of order on the roads, but in vain.

When deputy commissioner Deepti Umashankar began her second stint in the district a few months ago, she and the then SP, A. S. Chawla, made a serious attempt to regulate traffic and identify parking lots. However, the attempt proved futile.

Now, Srikant Jadhav has joined as SP recently. He has promised to restore order on the roads. But the police campaign so far is limited to ticketing cars and commercial vehicles for minor documentary lacunae rather than actually regulating traffic and enforcing the traffic rules. However, the police can pat itself on the back for having issued tickets to 3,500 vehicles in a month.

The main problem is that most of the town’s traffic is on the stretch of the Delhi road that passes right through the length of the town from the Sirsa road intersection to Hisar cantonment.

This stretch has many crossings and arterial roads that lead to the interior parts of the town. The town’s busiest crossings are all located on this stretch.

Even where the traffic lights are in place, policemen have to regulate traffic manually because in their absence nobody ever cares to stop on seeing the red light. There are many who will still jump the light regardless of the presence or absence of traffic policemen.

Secondly, there are no proper parking lots in any of the markets located on the two sides of the Delhi road except the Green Square and Red Square markets. People have to park their vehicles haphazardly.

The parking problems are accentuated by loaded trucks that are parked on roads leading to areas like Urban Estate II and Model Town. These trucks are engaged by industrial units owned by the family of the late power minister Om Parkash Jindal whose widow, Savitri Jindal, is now a minister and son Naveen Jindal an MP. However, complaints by residents have had no effect. The police never books the truckers for unauthorised parking.

The situation has come to such a pass that it can now take a motorist up to an hour to negotiate the less than 10 km stretch from the Jindal level crossing to the Sirsa road intersection.



Micro-hydel project fails to generate results
B.S. Malik

Sonepat, August 2
The joint efforts of the Krishi Gyan Kendra (KGK), Sonepat, and IIT, New Delhi, to experiment a micro-hydel project at drain no. 6 has failed to give desired results, as it became nonfunctional within a short span of time. However, the scientists at the KGK are hopeful to make it operational again.

With the aim to generate power and to provide water for irrigation, a micro-hydel project, check dam, was launched at drain no. 6, near Jagdishpur village in 2003.

In the first phase of the project, a 12-m wide check dam was constructed to stop the flow of water in the drain. A turbine was also installed under the gravity fall of the released water and its gear system was capable to lift the water by 50 ft through pipes for irrigation purposes.

In the second phase, an imported electricity converter was installed at the site for power generation.

Though the project worked for more than a year, but it became nonfunctional mainly because of presence of heavy metals, carbonic compounds, detergents and other wastes in the water. Due to this, the iron channels of the gate got rusted, leading to decay of water. The pumping system was also blocked by the accumulated wastes of polythene bags in the drain.

Senior agriculture scientist of the KGK Dr Surinder Dahiya informed that the project was launched to experiment the residual effects of drain water in irrigating crops as well as to generate electricity. However, it failed because of the presence of heavy metals and acids in drain water, which passes through Sonepat town and a number of industries release chemically waste in the drain. He also clarified that the project had not been abandoned and it would be made functional.



Admn inert as maxi cabs play with lives
Rahul Das
Tribune News Service

Ambala, August 2
While the Blue Line buses of Delhi have been dubbed killer buses, the same perhaps holds true for maxi cabs here.

The killing of 11 passengers of a maxi cab following a road accident in Naraingarh has brought the issue into sharp focus. The cab involved in the accident did not have the required permit and was not registered.

At maximum risk

Overcrowded and overspeeding maxi cabs give not only a nightmarish experience to the passengers but also pose a traffic hazard. The problem is compounded by the fact that while there are only 95 cabs which have permits, more than double the number of such vehicles are operating without permits

Maxi cabs are a common mode of transport in Ambala, as they provide better connectivity to different parts of the district. Maxi cab services run from Ambala Cantt and Ambala City to Saha, Naraingarh, Kala Amb, Mullana, Do Sarka and Jagadhari.

However, the benefit of better connectivity is outweighed by the way in which passengers are packed into these vehicles. The passengers are practically packed like sardines in these cabs, which run at breakneck speed.

The overcrowded and overspeeding maxi cabs not only give a nightmarish experience to the passengers, but also pose a hazard for the traffic.

The problem is compounded by the fact that while there are only 95 cabs running on permits, more than double the number of such vehicles are operating without permits.

Following the Naraingarh accident, the authorities have swung into action and started checking the maxi cabs. As a matter of fact, many of the maxi cabs did not operate for a few days right after the accident.

Deputy commissioner R.P. Bharadwaj said instructions had been issued to the transport department officials to ensure that the maxi cabs obeyed the rules. A transport department official said they were about to start a special drive against these cabs so that all documentation could be checked.

Maxi cab union district president Nar Singh Bidlan said 78 maxi cabs had permits for running from Ambala Cantt to Saha, Naraingarh, Mullana, Do Sarka, and Jagadhari while 15 vehicles had permits to run from Ambala City to Naraingarh up to Kala Amb.

He said all members of the union were instructed to remove the foot stand from the rear of the vehicles so that no passenger could travel by standing on it. “The stands of all authorised maxi cabs have been immediately removed. No passenger would be allowed to stand outside the cabs. Only the company-fitted small foot stand for getting into the vehicle has been retained,” he said.

Bidlan said the drivers had been directed to follow the speed limits. “The cabs should not run over 60 km per hour. The drivers have been told not to drive rashly and all documentation must be complete,” he said.

The passengers, who frequently travel by maxi cabs, are of the opinion that speed governors should be installed in maxi cabs so that no cab runs at a high speed.

“Maxi cabs are always in a tearing hurry to pick up passengers and the race between maxi cabs can be a frightening experience,” a passenger said.



Sharma set for Bhajan Lal bashing
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 2
Kuldeep Sharma, newly appointed working president of the Congress in Haryana, has given clear indications of his readiness to match his predecessor, Ram Prakash, in launching attacks against disgruntled Congress leader Bhajan Lal.

Bhajan Lal bashing was an important political activity of Ram Prakash and he was faithful to this agenda all the time he was at the helm of the party in the state. Sharma is all set to step into his shoes in this respect.

“They should not try to turn personal misgivings into political issues”, Sharma said about Bhajan Lal and his son, Kuldeep Bishnoi. Talking to this reporter on the phone from Karnal yesterday, Sharma said rebellion against the party’s decision was not a healthy practice. A party member should have the discipline to accept the party’s decisions, he said.

Interestingly, Sharma himself had rebelled when he was denied the Congress ticket for the Karnal Lok Sabha seat in the 2004 elections. He contested as an Independent and was thrown out of the party as a result.

It was his equation with Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda that paid off and Sharma, who had been maintaining a low profile ever since he lost the election, was catapulted to the position of working president in an unanticipated development.

It was no surprise that Sharma would count Hooda among his mentors. “I have become the working president due to the blessings of Sonia Gandhi, Chief Minister Hooda and AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi”, Sharma said.

Son of former Karnal MP Chiranji Lal, Sharma said his mentors had chosen him for the post of working president because they valued his work as a politician. Sharma, who was the president of the Karnal district Congress committee when Hooda was the PCC chief of Haryana, said he had recently completed 50 years and his experience would prove useful in running and expanding the Congress organisation in the state.

Like Ram Prakash, Sharma, too, is all praise for the state government headed by Hooda. Asked if he would like to suggest any step for improving the performance of the government in a specific sector, Sharma said the government was doing a wonderful job on all fronts.

On the issue of cooperation with the PCC chief, Sharma’s response, however, was markedly different from that of his predecessor. Ram Prakash always ducked questions on his working relationship with Bhajan Lal when the latter was the PCC chief of Haryana and Ram Prakash the working president.



Green cover shrinking in Sonepat, Panipat
B.S. Malik

Sonepat, August 2
The landscape in the NCR townships of Sonepat and Panipat is fast losing its green cover.

Forest officials are concerned about the declining forest cover in Sonepat district. They are being flooded with requests from the administration for the felling of trees in many parts of the district. But despite the alarming environmental degradation, there is no proposal to launch a major plantation drive to make up for this loss.

Forest department sources said that forests --- earlier 7,359 hectares of the total land in Sonepat district --- had reduced to a mere 0.01 per cent of the total area. This land includes trees and the surrounding vacant area. The situation is even worse in neighbouring Panipat district where the green cover is merely 4,176 hectares of the total land. The sources admitted that the forest cover was fast shrinking in the two districts.

"These districts do not have any forest zones and the entire greenery is found along roads, rail tracks and canals and on agricultural land. The towns are developing as major centres for industries and business activities due to their location on National Highway no 1 and proximity to the national capital", the sources said. Moreover, real estate developers, who had acquired nearly 3,000 acres for building residential complexes, would turn these towns into concrete jungles.

A senior forest official said the district administration's files seeking the cutting of trees continued to pile up in their offices. The widening of roads, setting up of industrial and residential zones and digging of canals were the major reasons for vanishing trees.

Similarly, thousands of trees coming in the way of the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal express highway are also likely to meet the same fate. While completing the six-laning of the GT road from Kundli to the Haldana border in Panipat district, thousands of trees have been axed over a period of four or five years. This exercise is being continued on both sides of the GT road in Panipat district.



Rohtak takes lead with 90 pc coverage
Sunit Dhawan
Tribune News Service

Rohtak, August 2
With a view to extricating the poor villagers from the shackles of moneylenders and providing them affordable credit through banks, the Rohtak district authorities have taken the initiative in getting the Financial Inclusion Scheme implemented in all villages of the district. Several nationalised banks have been roped in for the project.

It has been decided to do away with cumbersome process of opening a bank account and simplify the procedure. Even the norms mandatory for the purpose were relaxed and villagers are getting no-frill accounts at their doorstep.

Financial Inclusion Scheme

  • The main aim of the scheme is to provide banking services at affordable cost.
  • Norms eased for opening bank accounts and villagers are getting no-frill accounts at their doorstep.
  • Revolving credit up to Rs 25,000 is available through general credit card (GCC) without collateral security.
  • According to official figures, more than 90 per cent rural households in the district have been covered.

A no-frill account is a basic bank account with nil or nominal balance, low maintenance and service charges.

“The rural branches of the banks are organising camps to open no-frill accounts on the spot with minimum formalities,” says H.C. Azad, chief manager, Lead Bank Office, Rohtak. He adds that the deputy commissioner has directed the local officials concerned to motivate the sarpanches and other key functionaries at the village level to popularise the campaign.

Thanks to the joint efforts of the district authorities and nationalised banks, the picture has begun to change. “The people here used to go to private moneylenders for loans. But now, more people are turning towards banks to meet their financial needs,” asserts Kitabo Devi, sarpanch of Dattaur village.

Her words ring true as an old widow of the village, Bhano Devi, maintains that she has applied for revolving credit facility under the general credit card (GCC) at the local branch of Punjab National Bank.

Satish Kumar of Gizi village has recently got a no-frill account opened, and feels good about his newfound patronage. The winds of change have also crossed Meham, Sampla and Kalanaur townships, as well as numerous other villages of the district.

Rohtak district was identified for total financial inclusion at a meeting of the state-level banking committee in March 2007, though the work on this project had been going on for the past one year. All 144 villages and three townships of the district were distributed among the branches of different banks. The work was supposed to be completed by the end of July 2007.

“As of now, more than 90 per cent rural households of the district have been covered under the scheme and all-out efforts are being made to cover the rest,” says Vijay Singh Dahiya, additional deputy commissioner, who has been instrumental in the successful implementation of the scheme.

The initiative taken by Dahiya and his team has been acknowledged at the highest level, with the Reserve Bank authorities appreciating their efforts.

As access to affordable credit can improve the livelihood opportunities, the banks involved in the scheme have been advised to offer revolving credit up to Rs 25,000 through general credit card (GCC) without insisting on collateral security.

“Apart from the credit discipline and affordable loans, encouraging saving habit and awareness about various financial welfare, insurance and credit schemes are other benefits of the scheme,” says Dahiya.

He explains that the Financial Inclusion is a central scheme aimed at providing banking services at affordable cost to the vast sections of disadvantaged people of low-income group.



Negligence deprives Rewari of tourist hotspot tag
Nawal Kishore Rastogi

The historical Tej Sarovar in Rewari.
The historical Tej Sarovar in Rewari. — Photo by writer

Rewari, August 2
Rewari is dotted with several monuments, mausoleums, mansions and tanks, which are of great historical, religious, social and cultural importance.

Among the historical tanks, Tej Sarovar, popularly known as Bada Talab, Nand Sarovar or Chhota Talab and Solah Rayee, the medium-sized tank, need special mention.

It is, however, deplorable that these tanks, which were once the pride of the town and rendered valuable services to the citizenry, are now lying in the state of total neglect owing to the apathy of the administration and the government.

According to a municipal committee’s plaque, affixed at the entrance of Tej Sarovar, the tank was built by former ruler Rao Tej Singh in 1775. Rao Man Singh, a contemporary historian of Ahirwal, had stated that the tank was constructed at a cost of Rs 1.83 lakh.

Measuring 270 ft by 270 ft, this square-shaped tank is a symmetrically designed double-storied structure of architectural excellence and masterful masonry. While turrets, chhatris and pavilions add to its stability, beauty and purposefulness, separate and numerous bathing ghats for men and women as well as gau ghat for cattle delineate its usefulness for the entire community.

The tank is surrounded by temples on all sides. Hanuman temple on its western side, temples of Lord Shiva, Lord Panchmukhi Hanuman and Durga on the southern side and Lord Vishnu’s temple on its northern side have made it the most cherished religious hub of the region.

Several fascinating stories are also linked to its inception. Legend has it that as soon as the tank got ready, some petty chieftains, who were jealous of the enhanced popularity of Rao Tej Singh, complained to the then Moghul emperor of Delhi that Rao Tej Singh had slighted the imperial authority by not seeking prior permission for the construction of the tank.

However, Rao Tej Singh, who got wind of it, got an Idgah erected overnight in the vicinity of the tank and when the emperor’s messengers came to ascertain the veracity of the complaint, Rao Tej Singh made it known to them that the tank had been primarily built to facilitate Muslims to wash their hands and feet before offering namaz at the Idgah. Needless to say this spontaneous ingenuity of Rao Tej Singh not only frustrated the grudging chieftains but also earned him accolades from the emperor.

Another story pertains to the magnificent statue of Lord Hanuman, which was incidentally recovered from a remote field of the Bawal area and which later had its miraculous installation at a temple erected on the western bank of this tank. This ancient temple is now among the most prestigious temples of northern India.

However, owing to the decrease in rainfall, hefty encroachments upon its rainwater channel and massive wear and tear, this historical tank fell on evil days in 1960s. Since then it has been lying dry and waterless and in the utter state of neglect.

There has been an incessant demand for a permanent canal water channel, like Tej Sarovar, its complete renovation and revitalisation to ensure its purposeful usage as a swimming pool as well as a fascinating place for the tourists. But unfortunately, it has remained a cry in the wilderness.

However, there is a good news for the citizens that the union minister of state for defence production Rao Inderjit Singh, who also happens to be a great grandson of Rao Tej Singh, has sanctioned Rs 10 lakh out of his MPLAD funds for the restoration of the tank.

Simultaneously, the Rewari chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), too, has evinced interest in the renovation project by extending its cooperation for its implementation.

Similarly, Nand Saovar or Chhota Talab, which now lies at the back of the old Sadar police station here, was built to perpetuate the memory of Rao Nand Ram, former ruler of Rewari, in the first half of the 18th century. Unfortunately, this historical tank, too, has been lying in shambles for a long time.

Solah Rayee, which now lies in the vicinity of the Housing Board Colony, was built by the people of Rewari over a century ago. While mourners had ablution in it after their participation in funeral rites at a cremation ground in its vicinity, it also served as a bathing place for the people as well as a watering place for the cattle. Besides, an old temple of Lord Shiva, lying on its bank, has also been the abode of great saints like Baba Hanuman Das and Baba Bulbul Walla.

This historical tank, which now lies in ruins, has a potential to be developed into a swimming pool as well as a an excellent tourist spot.



Power board ups eligibility
Vocational diploma holders face axe 
Sushil Manav

Fatehabad, August 2
Over hundreds of gramin vidyut pratinidhis (GVPs) with vocational diplomas, appointed recently by the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN), fear the loss of jobs. The power board is appointing GVPs under its ambitious programme to make village panchayats its franchisees in distribution network.

After imparting training to these GVPs, the board suddenly found that persons with vocational diplomas were not eligible for such posts and only those who have diplomas from the industrial training institutes (ITIs) should be appointed. The DHBVN has already started rejecting fresh applications from vocational diploma holders and indicated that those who had already been appointed would be removed soon.

The board has already appointed over 1,000 youths for these posts. The appointments are being made as per the provisions of the National Rural Electrification Policy (NREP), notified by the Ministry of Power on August 23, 2006, which mandated that the panchayati raj institutions be encouraged to take over the management of rural electricity distribution functions.

The panchayats would undertake activities like meter reading, bills distribution, cash collection, maintenance of distribution network, new connection facilitation and recovery of arrears etc.

The scheme provided for the appointment of rural youths as GVPs, whose salary would be borne by the board and whose number would depend on the number of consumers in a particular village.

The power board prescribes ITI diploma, provided by the state technical education boards, as qualification for these posts. But, according to sources, more than 60 per cent of these youths possess diplomas of government vocational education institutes. All was going well for these candidates till last week when board officials took the decision that has led to resentment among vocational diploma holders, who allege discrimination by the authorities.

They allege that while vocational diploma holders were working as regular linemen with the power board, they were not being considered for a contractual appointment of lesser importance.

Those who have already received training said they had spent Rs 2,000-Rs 3,000 on the one-month training, but now they were being told that they were not eligible for the posts.

DHBVN public relation officer D.P. Dhull said the qualification prescribed for the GVP was ITI diploma and not vocational diploma and hence, vocational diploma holders could not be considered.



Skewed Sex Ratio
42 Bhiwani villages stand out
Shiv Sharma

Bhiwani, August 2
After registering itself above among the districts with low sex ratio for many years, Bhiwani has finally shown some improvement. There are about 42 villages in the district where the number of girls in the age group of 0-6 years is equal to that of boys or even more in some villages.

These villages could be role models for the society in curbing the menace of female foeticide. Figures received from the Census department show that the sex ratio in the district is 841 (844 in the rural areas and 827 in the urban areas).

Out of 481 villages in the district, 42 villages have sex ratio in favour of girls.

It is mentionable that the state government has implemented several schemes, including Ladali, Indira Priyadarshini and Kanyadaan, to curb the menace of female foeticide. Besides, schemes for free education and scholarships are already running in the government schools.

The administration, social organisations and NGOs have also launched an awareness movement in the district. Deputy commissioner Mohinder Kumar launched anti-foeticide move through the Red Cross Society last year.

However, there is no let up in the number of foeticide cases in the state. A number of ultrasound centres are still engaged in sex determination tests despite ban. Though it is commendable that these 42 villages have set an example for themselves, more attention is needed to those 400 villages where sex ratio is between 600 and 950.



Govt plans to boost power generation
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 2
The state government has drawn a comprehensive plan to attain self-sufficiency in power generation over the next few years. This has been done keeping in view the sharp rise in power requirement of the state, especially in the industrial and commercial hubs.

Power distribution networks have envisaged an average increase in power consumption by nearly 15 per cent annually in most areas, except in the national capital region (NCR) where the demand is rising by nearly 20 per cent per annum.

Currently, the state’s own stations generate 1,587 MW while 937 MW is received from jointly developed projects. The rest comes from the central projects. As against the current demand of 877-902 lakh units, the state has availability of 822-826 lakh units.

To counter the shortage, the state has made power generation a priority sector during the current five-year plan, hoping to generate around 5,000 MW of power. The government is already working out modalities for the construction of a 1500 MW plant at Jhajjar in collaboration with New Delhi and assisted by the National Thermal Power Corporation.

Financial commissioner and principal secretary, power, Ashok Lavasa has claimed that the state would set up a 4500 MW plant before the commencement of the Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi in 2010. It hopes to provide support to the games in the form of residential accommodation for those associated with the games and those who come to watch the games.

In a massive plan to boost power generation, reduce transmission and other losses and improve distribution across the state, huge chunks of money have been earmarked. The power generation will get Rs 12,000 crore during the current 11th Five-Year Plan. This money will go into starting one 600 MW thermal power plant at Yamunanagar in November this year and another 300 MW plant three months later.

Other power generation plants to be commissioned out of these funds include 1200 MW (2 x 600 MW) power plant at Khedar village in Hisar and 1500 MW power plant at Jhajjar. Yet another power plant of 1200 MW is expected to be set up at Jhajjar. Both units of the Khedar power plant, which were inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in May and will be built by Reliance Energy on a turnkey basis, are expected to be complete by December 2009, and commissioned by March 2010.

Another Rs 12,000 crore has been earmarked for improving the transmission and distribution system by April 2012. Haryana reportedly loses one-third of power in the form of thefts and transmission losses. In recent months, the power utilities in the state have exercised stricter control on power distribution, disconnecting several thousands power meters, besides introducing innovative concepts of placing electricity meters outside residential and commercial properties.

The state is also contemplating the setting up of a nuclear power plant in Fatehabad district. This was recently disclosed by the Prime Minister. “I am told that a site in Fatehabad has been selected and very soon work on developing a nuclear power project will start. This will help to reduce power shortage in the next two-three years,” he had said.



An economical machine for farmers
Vishal Gulati
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 2
The department of agriculture, Haryana, is promoting the use of the reaper binder among farmers for harvesting paddy, wheat and other grain crops.

The department has procured eight binders under the central scheme of demonstration of agricultural implements. During the harvesting season, the department educates farmers in its use. Initially, the campaign has been launched in Karnal, Kurukshetra, Sonepat, Kaithal, Ambala, Panipat, Jind and Rohtak districts.

The reaper binder harvests and binds the crop in a single operation. The cutting height and sheaf sizes can be adjusted.

It is a diesel-driven, 11 horsepower machine with five gears, including the reverse. Its harvesting capacity is one acre per hour.

Giving reasons for promoting the binder, an official of the department says it is low cost (as compared to the combine harvester), has low fuel consumption (1 to 1.25 litres per hour) and its cutting height is low.

He says other methods of harvesting are labour and cost intensive. He says the harvesting and threshing cost (per acre) by using a combine is roughly Rs 2,930, while harvesting by manual labour is Rs 2,300, by the tractor reaper Rs 2,100 and by the reaper binder Rs 1,467. He says 32 manhours are required for bundling one acre of crop harvested by the tractor reaper.





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