Dabwali fire tragedy
13 yrs on, victims await justice
Sushil Manav
Tribune News Service

Sirsa, August 11
Thirteen years after a fire tragedy devoured 442 persons and injured many others in Dabwali town in this district, families of the victim are still not out of the shock and trauma of the incident.

Apathetic attitude of the successive governments towards their woes has compounded their grief.

The only hope of the families is that the justice T.P. Garg Commission that was constituted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on January 28, 2003, to decide the quantum of compensation and those liable to pay it, will finally give its report before its term expires on September 30, 2008.

The one-member commission headed by a former Allahabad High Court judge justice T.P. Garg has already taken more than 10 extensions in its original term.

The task before the commission was too voluminous - it recorded more than 1,200 evidences adduced by 493 petitioners as well as more than six respondents.

As many as 405 petitions for compensation were moved by the families of those who died during the tragedy while 88 other petitions were filed by the injured persons.

In all these petitions, the parties made respondents included the state of Haryana, DAV School, DAV Management Committee, the DHVBN, the Municipal Council, Dabwali, Rajiv Marriage Palace and then deputy commissioner of Sirsa M.P. Bidlan.

Vinod Bansal, convener of the Dabwali Fire Victims Association informs that the state government shunned its responsibility by giving a meager compensation of Rs 1 lakh per victim for the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each to the seriously injured.

It was then that the association approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 1996 by way of a writ petition for relief to the families.

The court constituted the T.P. Garg commission on January 28, 2003.

"As many as 493 individual claim petitions were filed before the commission in which different amounts were sought as compensation for children, adults and earning members of the families. Besides, claims were sought by the injured persons on the basis of the nature of their injuries," informed Bansal, while talking to The Tribune.

The horrific incident occurred on December 23, 1995, during the annual function of DAV School at a marriage place in Dabwali town.

The tragedy had invited nationwide shock and sympathies and the then Prime Minister P.V Narsimha Rao had assured sufficient compensation to the families of the victims.

"But nothing of that sort happened," allege families of the victims. The government has paid Rs 1 lakh to the family members of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each to the seriously injured. The government assured to provide healthcare facilities to the injured at their doorsteps, but the hospital here does not have facilities required for the fire victims.

Victims say they have to go to Rohtak or Chandigarh on regular basis for their treatment. They also allege that out of 90 persons who had sustained serious injuries only 21 were given compensation of Rs 50,000.

Fire victims are now looking forward to the report of the commission. The commission has already completed proceedings like evidence and hearing of arguments. The commission also visited Dabwali recently for the final inspection of the venue of accident.



No end to teachers' protest
Bijendra Ahlawat
Tribune News Service

Jind, August 11
The protest by government schoolteachers' association, started in the hometown of the Haryana education minister, against certain policies and 'substandard' approach of the department has already touched the 122-day mark.

Around 1,000 teachers from across the state have taken part in this agitation since it started on April 9. According to chief of the Haryana Rajkiya Adhyapak Sangh Satyapal Siwach, the body behind the stir, the agitation had stretched to a limit that could be detrimental in many ways if the authorities concerned do not take corrective measures soon.

Demanding that the government should hand over the reins of the education department to an able academician, he said how could one expect a non-graduate to carry on the affairs of a department smoothly.

Siwach said although they had held a couple of meetings with the minister concerned nothing concrete had emerged from it. The last meeting was held at Chandigarh on May 13.

He said while several demands were accepted, the main issue of filling up of vacant posts and recruitment of subject- specific faculty in the government schools, where the new academic session had already started, was pending.

"The government had started a science subject faculty in as many as 101 schools located at block level in order to promote the subject, but there were no subject teachers against the 300 posts which were there," he said.

"The education department should have completed the recruitment and placement of science teachers in all the blocks by now, but nothing has been done so far," said a spokesperson of the Sangh. The union has demanded intervention of the Chief Minister in the matter.

The main demands of the teachers' association include speeding up the recruitment of subject trained teachers, setting up of a new teaching cadre consisting of three categories only, adoption of a just promotion policy which includes no direct recruitment of headmaster or principal, withdrawal of the five-year tenure condition for transfer and the state teachers eligibility test etc. The teachers have also opposed the decision of handing over the government schools or public land to the private companies in rural areas.



Hook-a-crook scheme a success
Raman Mohan

Tribune News Service

Hisar , August 11
The hook-a-crook scheme of the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN) has evoked a good response. Over 8,500 informers have given information about power theft in their neighbourhood so far. Acting on this information, 1,400 cases of power theft have been detected and a penalty of Rs 2.85 crore has imposed on the consumers.

It is learnt that buoyed by the success of the scheme, the DHBVN has raised the incentive to informers from 20 to 40 per cent of the recovered amount of penalty. Besides, the ceiling on incentive money has also been lifted.

Any person can inform the nigam about power theft without disclosing his identity. The individual may give some secret code while parting with the information. On receiving the information, officials will give a unique registration number. On detection of theft, a minimum amount of Rs 1,000 per case will be given immediately to the informer.

If the DHBVN is able to recover the assessed theft amount, 40 per cent of the amount realised will be given to the informer. The information can be given on toll free telephone number 18001801011 or 01662-221527 or email at hookacrook4dhbvn@gmail.com or hookacrook4dhbvn@yahoo.com. The thefts being committed in the area of the Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam can also be informed on the telephone number 01662 - 221527.



Breastfeeding drive fails to take off
Sunit Dhawan
Tribune News Service

Rohtak, August 11
Even as the World Breastfeeding Week concluded recently amidst a host of speeches, seminars, pledges and slogan-raising to underline the significance of mother's milk for infants, propagating awareness in this regard remains a far cry - at least in Haryana.

Thanks to the low rate of breastfeeding in the state, coupled with a wide variety of misconceptions leading to malnutrition in infants, Haryana is bracketed among the top states in infant mortality rate (IMR) with its staggering figure of 42/1,000.

Dr Dinesh Khosla, the state coordinator of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI), a national body working in the area of infant nutrition, shared his concerns on the issue in an exclusive chat with The Tribune here.

"More than 20 lakh infants die in our country every year. Of these, nearly half expire in the first month, while 2/3rd die in the first year," Dr Khosla maintains, adding that diarrhea, pneumonia and neonatal sepsis are three major causes of death during infancy.

The expert notes that timely intervention (read breastfeeding) could bring down the IMR considerably.

"However, lack of proper breastfeeding training and prevalence of widespread misconceptions in this regard deprive many a child from mother's milk at the time he/she needs it the most," he observes.

Dr Khosla asserts that not just common people, but even a majority of medical practitioners are not properly trained in breastfeeding.

With a view to reducing infant and childhood mortality and improving the health and development of infants and young children, the 10th Five-Year Plan had set a target to increase the exclusive breastfeeding rate to 80 per cent from prevailing 40 per cent; increase rate of initiation of breastfeeding within one hour (of birth) to 50 per cent from 15 per cent and increase rate of complementary feeding from 33.5 to 75 per cent.

However, the targets are far from being achieved, largely due to the lack of political will, fine understanding of the issue's significance and health workers' initiative.

Thanks to these, an ambitious campaign on infant and young child feeding (IYCF) skill training in Haryana remains only on paper, and so does a well-defined training module prepared by the state chapter of the BPNI.

This, despite the fact that according to the latest studies, breastfeeding is not only must for the child, it is also highly beneficial to the lactating mother as well.

It may be pertinent to mention here that Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had announced the adoption of the IYCF skill training as part of state policy in 2006. However, nothing worthwhile has been done towards the implementation of the policy in the state.

"It is a matter of grave concern that Haryana, despite having the highest per capita income amongst the big states and an enviable industrial and economic growth rate, lags far behind in saving its infants," observes Dr Khosla.



Penning success stories year after year
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
Writing is a passion for Dr Chander Trikha and his romance with words continues even 48 years after he first wielded the pen. Since then, he has come a long way, penning down success stories wherever he went.

Adding another feather to his cap, this former director of the Haryana Sahitya Akademy has been awarded the Shiromani Sahityakar award by the language department of the Punjab government. Comprising a cash prize of Rs 2.5 lakh, a citation and a shawl, the award is given by the Punjab government in every language annually.

“The written word has a lot of power. It has the capability of creating better individuals, a sensitive society and a cultural ethos for a code of conduct. The inputs given by the writers are important to the extent that these can influence mindsets and usher in a change when and where it is needed,” Trikha says.

Having started writing in 1960, he went on to become a journalist and worked in different capacities with various newspapers till 2001. “I think that writing is never outdated or redundant. These remain connected in some fashion to the times they are read in. Munshi Premchand is as relevant today as he was in the past. I believe that writers of the past continue to inspire generations to come and have lessons in whatever they have written,” he maintains.

Trikha, who has served as a former director of the Haryana Sanskrit Akademy and a consultant with the language department, Punjab, has also been honoured by the Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh governments.

He was selected for the Shiromani Sahityakar award on the basis of recommendations made by former awardees, the public and also other literary institutions. No applications are invited for this award based on performance and achievement.



Govt offices in unsafe buildings
Satish Seth

Kaithal, August 11
Though crores have been spent on the construction of government buildings, a number of offices in this town have been functioning from dilapidated buildings.

The huge three-storey mini-secretariat building has fallen short of space and as a result several government offices continue to operate from private buildings or old government buildings. The city police station, office of social welfare department, office of tehsildar sales and the residence of the SDM are some of the buildings which have become unsafe long ago, but there seems to be no hurry to shift these offices to other places.

Most of these offices are situated in the ancient buildings that were constructed during the time of erstwhile rulers of Kaithal state. These buildings have outlived their age. Over the years, the buildings, which attracted local public and tourists, had developed cracks and their one portion or the other had already collapsed or had to be demolished to save the rest of the building from further damage.

The building being used as the residence of the SDM has been repaired a number of occasions and its rear portion where the offices of social welfare and tehsildar sales are located is in a bad shape and plants have grown in cracked walls.

The building at present housing the city police station has been repaired several times but the cracks have appeared again. The area under occupation of the police department has shrunk over the years.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the Archaelogical Survey of India is planning to take over some old buildings to preserve as cultural heritage and start restoration work. Deputy commissioner Vikas Gupta said the complex comprising the SDM residence and adjoining building would be shortly undertaken by the ASI, which had already started the restoration work of an old “bawri” constructed hundreds of years ago near the civil hospital here.



Challenges ahead for Kuldeep Bishnoi
Yoginder Gupta

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
Kuldeep Bishnoi, president of the Haryana Janhit Congress (BL), is in a hurry. The rush is to plant the roots of the youngest party in the state before it faces the Lok Sabha elections. His party was formed on December 2, 2007, when he addressed a massive rally in Rohtak. That way, the HJC is just an eight-month-old infant, struggling to find its feet in the cruel world of politics.

The party was not even six months old when it had to face three assembly byelections. Whatever may be the reasons, for the record sake the HJC was able to win one seat while ending up second in another seat. Its leader could justifiably claim to have put up better performance than the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), a party which enjoys the status of the main opposition party in the state, having ruled it on a number of times. The INLD could not win even a single seat and its candidate was at number two slot only in one constituency.

Bishnoi says his party had to face the elections even before it could set up its organisation. “Under the circumstances, our performance was impressive by all standards and the election results prove that the HJC has emerged as an alternative to the Congress in Haryana,” says the rebel Congress MP from Bhiwani.

Now, the HJC has to face the Lok Sabha elections in another few months. Two elections in just one year of its existence are not an easy task for a new party. And Bishnoi knows it. He is undertaking a whirlwind tour of the state, trying to build up his personal support base, independent of his father Bhajan Lal. For the past several weeks, Bishnoi is addressing on an average at least one public meeting a day.

Bishnoi has also proved that he is different from other politician-sons. By and large sons of politicians swear by their fathers and operate under the shadow of their illustrious or not-so-illustrious fathers. Bishnoi minces no words in projecting himself as “the leader” of the party. He also leaves no one in doubt that if his party manages to come to power, he, and nobody else in his family, would be the Chief Minister.

He is different from other politician-sons in another respect also. While others usually allow their fathers to take the lead during the formation days of their parties, Bishnoi has himself donned the mantle of leadership, allowing his father to take it easy. Otherwise also, Bhajan Lal never enjoyed the reputation of leading campaigns in public. His speciality was to be popular with MLAs. Sources close to Bishnoi say he does not want any past “weakness” of any of his family members to come in his way to rule the state.

Differences between supporters of Bishnoi came out in the open at certain meetings, putting their leader in an embarrassing position. Spokesman of the HJC Satpal Kaushik says such incidents are signs of the growing popularity of the party in the state. More and more people are jumping upon the HJC bandwagon. Just as people jostle with each other to find a place in a crowded bus or coach, HJC men some times lose control over their emotions. Kaushik says these are minor incidents and the warring party men hold Bishnoi in high esteem.



Benefits for war veterans sought
Amrita Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Ambala, August 11
Haryana Ex-servicemen League’s initiative to help war veterans reached a high point recently when 17 veterans were brought together and honoured.

The veterans aged between 80 and 96 included six widows. Col M.S. Jakhar informs that the initiative was taken to honour their contribution and also to enquire about their good health.

“These veterans have fought in the World War II. Although a part of the Indian Army, they were under the British before Independence. After Independence, these veterans were released from their services without any pension. Many were young at that time and had a future ahead of them,” he says.

Some of these veterans have been decorated with war medals and even gallantry awards while a few have been mentioned in dispatch. “They were ousted without any benefit. The Haryana government identified them and is one of the few states to give a pension of Rs 1,000 per month to these veterans.”

Meanwhile, on the initiative taken by the Indian Ex-servicemen League, the Commonwealth Ex-servicemen League was informed about their case and since then they have been giving us some funds and each veteran is now paid Rs 300 per month. In Ambala, there are 17 veterans eligible for the pension, which is being disbursed from the headquarters of Indian Ex-servicemen League. The members of the league, however, want the Central government to contribute and pay some pension to these veterans.

“There are many more veterans who have not been honoured. A monthly pension of Rs 1,300 is very minimal, the Central government needs to recognise them,” states Colonel Jakhar.



Criminals on bail under police scanner
Ravinder Saini

Jhajjar, August 11
Under an elaborate plan chalked out to curb crime in Rohtak range, the police will keep an eye on the hardcore criminals who are out of jail on bail or parole, apart from questioning them about various incidents of crime.

Directions in this regard have recently been issued to all SSPs of five districts i.e. Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonepat, Karnal and Panipat falling under the Rohtak range, from the office of the IGP.

According to sources, the police authorities of these districts have been directed to prepare records of such criminals who have been involved in crimes like murder, dacoity, kidnapping etc and now out of jail on bail or parole.

Officers are of the view that these criminals might be involved in some of the criminal activities and it would be easy to keep track of their activities and nab other criminals involved in the crime.

“The aim behind the plan is not only to control the crime but also tighten the noose over the hardcore criminals so that they could not commit crime again,” said V. Kamaraja, IG, Rohtak range.

“Nakas have been set up at all sensitive points in the districts in order to launch checking drive as well as keep a watch on the activities of people with dubious character.

Apart from this, patrolling have been intensified especially at night by deputing some more teams to maintain the law and order as a majority of criminal incidents take place during night, the IG maintained.



13 gangs busted in one month

Jhajjar: The Rohtak range police claimed to have busted 13 gangs of criminals with the arrest of 44 members of various gangs during the last one month in five districts, Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonepat, Panipat and Karnal, in the range. Kamaraja said the police busted four gangs of thief with the arrest of 12 persons. With this nine cases of theft had been solved and stolen property worth Rs 1,22,000 was recovered from the possession of the arrested members. The police arrested 17 persons belonging to three gangs of dacoits, he said, adding that 11 cases of dacoity were solved and looted property worth Rs 14.3 lakh was recovered.

The police also arrested six robbers belonging to two gangs and recovered property worth Rs 27,000 looted in three cases. Seven persons belonging to two gangs of vehicle lifter were also nabbed, he maintained, adding that property worth Rs 1.90 lakh were recovered and 12 cases of this nature were solved.



Villagers sore over land acquisition by HUDA
Hemant Kumar

Kalka, August 11
Farmers of the erstwhile state of Panchpur (Pinjore), as was called by Maratha invaders, are on the verge of losing their ancestral land to the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA).

“The sons of the soil have become refugees in their own homes. The land developed by their ancestors is now going into the hands of outsiders,” they allege.

Landowners in Pinjore and its vicinity are anguished over the proposed policy of HUDA of acquiring their land. Harbans Mehta of Rampur Jangi village said the proposed area meant for acquisition, which comprises of a sub-mountainous zone on Shivalik foothills, was already witnessing deterioration in ecology.

He said people who depend entirely on agriculture and dairy farming for a livelihood were at the receiving end in the absence of any rehabilitation plan by the government.

The “invasion of outsiders who have turned Pinjore into a concrete jungle” has brought villagers on their toes. The development of many urban centers and mushrooming growth of slums has put extra pressure on the natural resources.

HUDA has already begun the process of acquiring land at arbitrary rates. The land would further be carved out into plots or flats and sold at higher prices. Besides, the surrounding land would be later encroached upon by migrant labourers, apprehend villagers.

Ram Gopal Mehta, INLD leader, threatened to launch an agitation if the government continued the process of forcible acquisition.



Flood control: Panipat admn ropes in NGOs
Manish Sirhindi

Tribune News Service

Panipat, August 11
The district administration has decided to rope in non-governmental organisations in its efforts to gear up for any eventuality arising from floods during the rainy season. The authorities have chalked out plans to initiate flood protection measures that are required to be carried out immediately.

The NGOs are being asked to assist officials in the execution of the measures so that floods can be prevented. While presiding over a meeting of senior officials of the administration, deputy commissioner Vijay Singh Dahiya discussed the details of works that were required to be carried out.

It is learnt that the administration has identified areas more prone to floods. The main focus is on clearing drains so that overflowing rainwater could be flushed out immediately.

The deputy commissioner said the de-silting and de-weeding of all drains and minors in the district was being undertaken to ensure that there was no eventuality due to incessant rains that created flood-like situations in some of the districts of the state.

The topography of the district is such that rainwater quickly flows out. But to ensure the smooth flow of the water, it is must to initiate several measures.

Dahiya said all officials had been asked to take personal interest to ensure proper implementation of the flood prevention plan. Besides, arrangements to deal with any circumstances arising from floods were also being made, said the DC.



Use plastic waste in roads, says minister
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
Haryana minister of state for forests and environment Kiran Choudhry strongly feels that the problem of disposal of plastic bags can be tackled to some extent if the public works departments start building roads by using at least 5 per cent to 10 per cent plastic waste in place of bitumen.

She says the use of plastic waste will not only result in the disposal of bio-non-degradable plastic but would also save costly bitumen, which is a petroleum product.

Choudhry, who is an active environmentalist in her own right, has asked officers of her department to take strict action against those who degrade environment with impunity. Such violators, she says, can be identified as, among others, polluting industries, hospitals and clinics for bio-medical waste, HUDA and the water supply and sanitation departments for maintaining sewage plants, municipal bodies for solid waste management, mining, owners of stone crushers, diesel sets, hot mix plants, washing and screening plants and manufacturers and users of plastic carry bags.

She has asked officers that no mining activity should be allowed on any forestland and the Aravalli belt.





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