Parties begin poaching on vote banks
Even though elections to the assembly are more than two years away, the political scene is fully charged with the state witnessing a spate of rallies
Raman Mohan
Tribune News Service

Hisar, December 13
Even though the assembly elections are more than two years away, political parties have begun poaching on vote banks of rival parties.

While the INLD is trying to win over the traditional Congress Dalit votes, the new entrant to the battlefield, Haryana Janhit Congress (BL), is trying to woo mainly non-Jat votes of both the Congress and the BJP. On the other hand, the Congress is vying to retain the support that swept it to power in 2005 polls.

The INLD is working on the surmise that it will be able to win back the support of its Jat voters who had been its mainstay in the state politics till the last election. Its think tank is calculating that if the party is able to bring an appreciable chunk of Dalit voters to its side, it stands a good chance of returning to power. The recent Dalit rally organised by the party here was a step in this direction.

Kuldeep Bishnoi’s HJC will necessarily rely most on non-Jat and Dalit votes and that too from the Congress share. In this, too, the HJC will be banking heavily on urban voters. Being an integral part of the Congress for nearly three decades, the new Bishnoi party will first have to make a dent there before it can approach other parties.

The BJP has been on the sidelines of electoral politics after its divorce with the INLD whose various avatars have been its strategic partners over the years. It is also heavily dependent on non-Jat voters and that, too, in the urban areas. Having lost its sheen in the state, it can hope to stage a comeback only by poaching on upper caste non-Jat voters.

In 2005, the Congress had poached on vote banks of almost every other party. That was the main reason why it swept to power. However, in that victory it had reduced Chautala’s share of Jat votes appreciably, a feat that catapulted Bhupinder Singh Hooda to the office of the Chief Minister.

Naturally then the Congress is working hard on several fronts to prevent any poaching by other parties in its 2005 support base. The spate of benefits being extended to Dalits by Hooda are in fact exercises to first retain the traditional Dalit vote bank so that once he accomplishes that he can concentrate on other castes and communities.

The poaching game is likely to get fiercer as time passes by and elections approach. If the current rallies being organised at unusually smaller intervals are any indication, Haryana is about to witness a truly “Mahabharta” style of political battle before the next Assembly elections.

All this also means that this long run-up to the polls will be the costliest exercise of its kind in the state’s electoral history. The amounts of money being spent on the rallies are already mind-boggling. And with professional event and media managers playing an increasingly bigger role in organising these ostentatious shows, the political parties are going to have a tough time raising the funds.



BJP-INLD alliance unlikely
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
With the emergence of L.K. Advani as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, the possibility of an alliance between the national party and the INLD in Haryana has receded further.

It is no secret that Advani never had a soft corner for Chautala, who is considered to be more close to former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

In 1996, when the HVP of former Chief Minister Bansi Lal and the INLD both were wooing the BJP for an alliance in the state, Advani and his followers prevailed and the BJP tied up with the HVP, leaving Chautala in the lurch. For three years the HVP-BJP alliance continued.

After the 1998 Lok Sabha election, when Chautala extended his party’s support to the BJP government at the Centre “unconditionally”, Vajpayee is believed to have given commitment to the INLD that his party would withdraw support from the HVP.. The commitment reportedly came at the intervention of SAD chief Prakash Singh Badal. However, Chautala had to wait for nearly one year before Vajpayee could fulfill his commitment, following which Chautala became the Chief Minister.

It is also no secret that Chautala was never friendly with several state leaders of the BJP. Repeated representations by them to the high command forced the latter to withdraw support from the INLD government before the 2004 Lok Sabha election, which was contested separately by the two parties. While the BJP was able to win one seat, the INLD had to face the humiliation of not even being able to open its account.

After the victory of the Akali-BJP combine in Punjab early this year, it was hoped that Badal would use his influence over the BJP leadership once again to tie up with the Chautalas in Haryana. But the state BJP leaders say the INLD is not a trustworthy ally and it always tries to eat into the vote bank of the BJP. 



Violation of labour laws
460 handloom units found guilty
Vishal Joshi
Tribune News Service

Panipat, December 13
As a part of the final survey report prepared by the district administration, owners of as many as 460 industrial units of this handloom township are reportedly found guilty of violating various labour laws.

The figure came out only after the state agencies were forced to conduct a through survey after 10 workers were charred to death on October 7.

It was for the first time that the district administration had undertaken a survey to ensure that the workers engaged in numerous industrial units were getting PF, ESI, minimum wages, besides safe working environment.

Officials said hundreds of workers engaged in these 460 units did not form part of the legitimate workforce, as they were not registered as the employees.

Confirming this, deputy commissioner Mahender Kumar said the survey confirmed that there were about 3,000 odd factories in the town. He said a labour inspector had been deputed to look after the irregularities made by the factory owners. A comprehensive detail of the unprivileged workforce would be prepared to cover them as per the laws.

The administration has asked the erring factory owners to update the mandatory safety measures and to make the units safe for workers, failing which strict action would be initiated against them.

The survey focused to ensure the safety arrangements at these factories, which were otherwise overlooked by various regulating agencies.

The report also highlighted the poor safety measures in several factories. Loosely fitted electricity wires in the units had been identified as a major cause of concern, revealed the DC.

He added that the scores of factories were not well equipped with emergency exits. The survey report further highlighted the poor working conditions, including the absence of fire-fighting systems etc in various units. 



MDU shifts distance education wing
Approvals delayed, staff inconvenienced
Sunit Dhawan
Tribune News Service

Rohtak, December 13
This is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. The recent shifting of the Directorate of Distance Education (DDE) at Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU) here defies logic, apart from exposing the lackadaisical working style of the university system.

The directorate was housed in a building constructed especially for it at a cost of about Rs 5 crore. The directorate authorities had applied for the approval of the Distance Education Council (DEC) and the National Council for Teachers’ Education (NCTE), for which they had paid fees of Rs 8.40 lakh and Rs 2 lakh, respectively.

They were confident of getting the approval as the directorate had the required infrastructure and other facilities as per the DEC and NCTE guidelines. However, while the visits of the inspection teams were awaited, the university authorities suddenly decided to shift the directorate to some other and much smaller building. According to sources, efforts are now being made to get the inspections postponed, which obviously means that the approvals will be delayed.

Strangely, the department of engineering and technology, for which the DDE building has been vacated, has still not got the kind of infrastructure it requires, as the building has not been designed for engineering courses. This fact defeats the very purpose behind the move.

What makes the matter even more suspicious is the manner in which the shifting was executed. The office furniture and other material was shifted on Saturday (November 24) and Sunday (November 25), which happened to be holidays, and that too without the consent or even knowledge of the then director, Prof Daleep Singh, who was out of station at that time.

On being contacted, present director N.K. Garg refused to comment on the issue. However, according to insiders, the shifting was carried out under the directions and supervision of an OSD, who reportedly did so on verbal orders of previous Vice-Chancellor R.S. Dhankar. The said OSD has now been transferred to the university’s academic branch.

The shifting put the directorate staff as well as visitors to great inconvenience, with non-teaching employees staging protest demonstration and faculty members giving representations to the university authorities.

Vice-chancellor Ram Phal Hooda conceded that the present arrangement was just a stopgap one and the department of engineering and technology, for which the DDE building had been evacuated, would be shifted to a new building.

Registrar S.P. Vats asserted that the DDE had been shifted following specific recommendations of the space allotment committee of the university to this effect. He said the vice-chancellor had ordered to have a new building for the engineering and technology department and work on it would begin soon.

All in all, the manner and undue haste in which the DDE has been shifted to a smaller building sans the required infrastructure surely puts a big question mark on the functioning of the university administration.



Talk of renewable energy has her charged up
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
For Sumita Misra, popularising this alternative source of energy has been a mission rather than just another assignment.

The laurels bagged by the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA) at the national level vouch for her zeal which has furthered the cause of energy conservation.

From being a second and third and fourth additional charge with any bureaucrat, Misra, who was given the charge of HAREDA over two years back, has made its issues her priority. Driven by environmental concerns and with support from her seniors, she has been able to put Haryana right on the top as far as application of renewable energy gadgets is concerned. Once during the two-year stint, the charge of the agency was transferred to another bureaucrat but it was given back to her for the interest with which she had handled the subject.

Haryana was recently awarded the first prize in the country for its best performance in the solar urban areas programme and in the solar cooker programme. It has also won second prize in solar photovoltaic demonstration programme at the national level in the awards given on the occasion of the silver jubilee celebrations of the ministry of new & renewable energy.

Misra received these awards on behalf of the state from the President of India, Pratibha Patil, at a ceremony in Delhi recently.

"We popularised solar cookers in the environmentally fragile Shivalik belt. The collection of wood was a problem for the women and chopping down of trees for the environment. So, we tied up with the Shivalik Development Agency, gave subsidy over and above whatever was being offered in the rest of the state and took solar cookers to every home," she explains.

Now, the agency has roped in Kukukshetra University to write two recipe books, one for summer and another for winter cooking, for those using solar cookers. With a deadline of February set for the books, the agency will hold special cooking camps for the benefit of the public.

The department has also diversified into introducing solar streetlights in every district headquarters as also blinkers, charge controllers for auto switching of streetlights.

In the rural areas where power is in short supply and evening bring darkness, the agency has provided solar lanterns, solar home lighting systems and solar street lighting systems to the people and panchayats.

"We were selling a 10-watt solar lantern which was very heavy. Realising the inconvenience caused by its bulkiness to the public, we got the lantern redesigned and now we have a 5-watt model costing much less and more portable," she said.

So far, the gadgets have been heavily subsidised to attract the public. So much so that the agency managed to rope in the power department to offer discounts in bills for the installation of gadgets. 



Inside Babudom
13 IAS officers set to retire next year
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 13
If the proposed move to increase the retirement age of Central government employees and members of the all-India services does not come through soon, Haryana will be deprived of the services of at least 13 IAS officers of its cadre in 2008.

It must be a record of sorts that so many IAS officers will retire in one year. It is not that all those who would retire belong to the same batch. Their batches range from 1971 to 1990. Of course, the retiring officers of the 1988, 1989 and 1990 batches made to the IAS from the state civil service.

Many among those who would retire next year are known for their intelligence, brilliance, integrity and the gift of gab.

The retirement procession will be led by chief secretary Promilla Issar, who will demit the office on February 29, 2008. Issar joined the IAS in 1972. Her immediate senior, Deepa Jain Singh, who is currently on deputation with the Centre and belongs to the 1971 batch, will retire on July 31, 2008.

Promilla's husband, Ranjit Issar, who is also her batch mate, will retire seven months later on September 30.

The batch mate of the Issars, Pius Pandarwani, will say goodbye to the premier service on April 30.

The IAS officers of the 1973 batch who will retire next year are Anil Razdan and H.S. Anand. While Anand will superannuate on August 31, Razdan will follow suit four months later.

S.P. Sharma and K.S. Bhoria, both of the 1974 batch, retire on August 31, 2008 and October 31, 2008, respectively.

But before them two officers of the 1975 and 1976 batches would retire. While H.C. Disodia (1975 batch) retires on February 29, 2008, R.K. Ranga (1976 batch) is due to retire on June 30, 2008.

D.R. Dhingra of the 1988 batch retires on May 31, 2008, followed by M.P. Bidhan (1989 batch), who will complete 60 years of age in July, 2008. Anand Sharma of the 1990 batch will bid farewell to the service on the last day of 2008.

One wag remarked next year the Haryana IAS Officers Association will be quite active, organising farewell dinners. On the serious note, the IAS will be left poorer. 



Citizens’ Grievances
IT refund awaited

I fled my IT return for the financial year 1999-2000 on 28.6.2000 showing a refund of Rs 1,573 and for the year 2000-01 on 18.6.2001 showing refund of Rs 1,123. In spite of a number of reminders I have not received any communication from the Income Tax Department nor did I get the refund amount.

Prof P.K. Gupta, Bathinda

Medical bill pending

I retired from the UHBUN, Panchkula, on 30.6.2005. I underwent a major heart operation at CMC, Ludhiana. My medical bill for Rs 18,061 is lying pending with the chief auditor and the SE (Admn), UHBVN, Panchkula, since March 2007. Despite my several letters I have not received the payment till date.

Gurdip Singh, Ludhiana

MDU 'biased'

I appeared for the state-level B.Ed. (regular) entrance test conducted by MDU, Rohak, on August 18, 2007, (roll no. 663317) and secured 36,500 rank under Arts stream. During counseling on October 11, 2007, held on MDU campus, I was denied admission to any B.Ed. college in Yamunanagar on the plea of non-availability of seat. So, I got admission to NC College of Education, Ballana village, Israna, Panipat. Later, I came to know that seven students were allotted seats in Jankiji College of Education, Marwan Kalan, Yamunanagar on October 13, 2007. Is anyone responsible for this injustice and mental harassment caused to me?

Sonia Sharma, Yamunanagar

Poor roads in Sec 7, Pkl

For the past three years, there is no maintenance of roads in Sector 7 of Panchkula because of political reasons, as the sector reseidents elected two BJP councillors for the area. The roads look like village roads. Some roads in Sector 8 are being recarpeted for the obvious reason that Deputy Chief Minister resides in that sector. The work could have started from Sector 7, which hosts the busiest market in Panchkula, but for political reasons the residents have to drive on potholed roads.

May God give some sanity to our councillors who should work for the residents and not to take revenge? So, I request the HUDA administrator to take responsibility of the maintenance of this town.

Dr B.S. Aggarwal, Panchkula



Amenities in a mess in HUDA sectors
Suman Bhatnagar

Ambala, December 13
Residents of various sectors of HUDA in Ambala City are facing a lot of hardships and their dream of residing in a well-developed residential colony seems to have been shattered due to official apathy.

Basic amenities like sanitation, sewerage, roads etc are in bad shape in most of the sectors while sectors like 1, 8, 9, and 10 are developing at a slow pace.

The oldest and considered to be a pioneering sector of HUDA here, Sector 7, is also facing a number of problems. The parks in this sector are lying abandoned. The inner roads of the sectors need immediate repair. There is also no proper disposal of sewerage.

The HUDA welfare associations of these sectors have been running from pillar to post for the redressal of their grievances, but to no avail. The residents are feeling led down due to the lack promised developments in their sectors.

The streetlights are not properly maintained in Sectors 9 and 10, which led to the increase in theft incidents here. All most all streetlights of main approach road coming from Model Town are out of order for the past several months. The slow pace of development is a deterrent for many plot holders to construct their home and start living there.

Senior office-bearers of residents’ association Virender Singla and Jagdish Ahuja say they had settled in these sectors assuming that the facilities of a posh colony would be available but now they came to know that the old part of the city is better than these so-called posh colonies.

A slum colony has developed near Sector 8, which creates nuisance for the residents, who had already submitted memorandums to the authorities several times. Strangely, the residents of this area have been issued ration cards by the administration and therefore, they are not ready to vacate the land.

Stray cattle are another major problem. The green belt of the sectors is used by stray cattle for grazing, which in fact is a place meant for the morning walkers.

A new township is coming up near Sector 10. Vatika group is developing a city center over 170 acres of land where besides residential houses, swimming pool, mall, shopping complex and multi-storey flats have been planned. This new township would benefit residents of the nearby sectors.  



Registration of society flats
‘Owners will cease to get group housing benefits’

The recent notification by HUDA regarding the registration of apartments in the cooperative housing societies under the Haryana Apartment Ownership Act, 1983, by the payment of stamp duty has stirred a hornet’s nest. The cooperative societies are up in arms against the decision. The two-month reprieve to the allottees by the Punjab and Haryana High Court would not bring about a permanent solution until all stakeholders sit together to evolve a consensus on the issue.

Tribune staffer Pradeep Sharma talks to B.K. Sanghi, president of the Haryana Group Housing Federation, the apex body of the cooperative housing societies, about the issue.

Q: Why are coop societies protesting the decision?

A: The Act will expose the apartment owners to detrimental situation in the times to come. Today, the group housing society is an umbrella organisation and an individual has only a share in the land ownership. However, if he were to pay for his apartment individually, he would be merely buying space. The apartment value would tend to depreciate over the years and many of the apartments will need to be renovated or rebuilt. The societies will then back out from repairs and the individuals would be left to fend for themselves.

Imagine the status of the elderly apartment owners in the post-registration regime. They will have to run from pillar to post for essential repairs. The very tenets on which the cooperative group housing societies have been formed will be shaken. The decision- making is easier in the group housing societies where members usually back the decisions for society’s welfare.

Q: Are their any other precedents of this Act in other states?

A: Certainly. The Act adopted by HUDA takes its origins from Gujarat and Maharashtra. It was envisioned in 1983 to deter the private builders and promote the group housing societies. HUDA adopted the Act, but did not modify it to suit its needs. It was brought into play to prevent the larger builder cartels of Delhi from swallowing up the neighbouring prosperous Gurgaon lands. Now with the development of Gurgaon, HUDA should take another look at the Act and its repercussions for the shareholders in the small cooperative group housing societies.

Q: What is the difference between the individual ownership and group ownership vis-à-vis this Act?

A: The strength of the cooperative group housing society is that all members are shareholders for joint action in the procurement, construction and subsequent maintenance of the homes. However, if an individual becomes the owner then their welfare under the purview of the society ceases to exist. 



Raina challenges farming theories, reaps dividend
Ramandeep Singh
Tribune News Service

Salimpur (Shahabad), December 13
In the quaint hamlet of Salimpur, Ranjit Raina, a progressive farmer, is boldly treading a path taken by a few and in doing so challenged many set theories and perceptions about the farming culture prevalent in the region.

Ranjit, an alumnus of Lawrence School and Panjab University, is an agro-forester. He is growing eucalyptus trees, not the normal variety but a revolutionary new strain called clonal eucalyptus. “Eucalyptus is perceived to be a very water-intensive tree, but 1 kg of eucalyptus wood requires 511 litres of water while 1 kg of wheat and rice require 1,500 litres and 4,500 litres, respectively,” says Ranjit.

He joined a tea plantation company in West Bengal soon after graduating in biochemistry from PU while his father, Commander B. K. Raina (retd), looked after the farm.

He left his job and joined his father in 1996. Ranjit says at that time they were the largest producer of sugarcane and supplier to the Shahbad Cooperative Sugar Mill. He says they have been practising clonal eucalyptus agro forestry model since November 2001.

“The soil in our village is heavy clayey. After planting clonal eucalyptus in October/November 2001, we intercropped this area with sugarcane in February/March 2002. We harvested two crops of sugarcane in the first two years and a wheat crop in the third year,” he says.

The advantage of growing crops with the trees is that fertilisers for the crops help trees in their growth, Ranjit adds.

“Clonal eucalyptus is developed through the vegetative propagation of eucalyptus. It grows more rapidly than a seed eucalyptus and its growth is more uniform. Its wood is knot free and it is self-pruning,” he says.

Ranjit says the colonial eucalyptus plantation can be harvested in 3-4 years for pulp wood production and for timber 7-8 years are required.

“Both ways a farmer can get a remuneration of Rs 25,000-35,000 per acre/annum which is more than what he gets through the paddy-wheat rotation,” he says.

“Eucalyptus requires very little attention, once it starts growing it is easy on the pocket. To maintain the soil fertility, dhaincha can be grown in between trees,” says Ranjit. They have sourced the plants from Pragati Biotechnologies, Semi village, Jalandhar district.

Ranjit says in countries like Sweden, they have an economic association of 35,000 forest owners, which process their own forest wood.

“We can replicate the same model here in the region which will not only generate employment but also save precious foreign exchange”. 





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