C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Former SE gets 3-yr RI for graft
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
The CBI special court of Jagdeep Jain today sentenced former superintending engineer K.B. Goel to rigorous imprisonment of three years on charges of graft. Former home secretary N.K. Jain was acquitted in the case.

The court stated that there were eight complaints against Goel, but he had been held guilty with regard to five appointments made to the posts of clerk in the administration.

As per a complaint on the statement of Surjit Singh, Goel had asked the instructor of the examination held for the post of clerk to send answer sheets to the home department as per the instructions of seniors.

The signatures of members monitoring the examination were to be on the top of the answer sheets and signatures of the instructor at the end.

He replaced five answer sheets that had signatures of the members on the top of the answer sheets.

He returned the answer sheets to Surjit Singh after three days and asked him to sign at the end of the answer sheets.

When he said he had already signed those, Goel told him that he had forgotten to sign on five answer sheets. Subsequently, those five candidates were selected.

When the issue surfaced, a test was again taken of the five candidates, but they failed.

According to the prosecution, the case was registered on April 6, 2000, by the CBI against N.K. Jain, an IAS officer of Haryana cadre, on charges of corruption on the basis of a confessional statement made by K.B. Goel before the SDM, Ashish Kundra, on March 14, 2000, at the UT Guest House.

The case was registered on the complaint of Baljit Singh, Karam Singh, Amarjit Singh and Balbir Singh. Baljit Singh had alleged that the accused had taken money for his appointment in the State Transport Authority. He again made a demand from Baljit Singh and when that did not happen, the complainant’s appointment was reverted.

The issue came to light on the complaint of Baljit Singh to the CBI that Goel had demanded a hefty amount to allow him to remain on the same post.

TATA Infotech had also alleged that the accused had demanded percentage for the implementation of its programme by the administration.



Terror Threat
Diwali mela in schools called off
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
It’s a double whammy for Diwali festivities. As if global recession wasn’t enough to dampen the Diwali spirit, the threat of terrorist strike has forced the administration to shelve the popular Diwali melas in schools.

With the education department cancelling the melas, held every year under the “earn while you learn” project, Diwali will be a quieter affair this time.

The cancellation spells trouble for children from blind schools and economic weaker sections who used these festivities to earn some money.

Confirming the move, the DPI said it was decided by the higher authorities as Chandigarh was on high threat risk and it was a precautionary measure, Samwartak Singh, DPI(S), said.

According to a department official, however, the move aimed at avoiding wastage of academic hours and help students concentrate on their studies. “The DPI told us that it would adversely affect the studies of children and it was a sheer wastage of time,” he said.

The DPI feels if people wish to buy stuff of these children, they can approach them.

If the buzz in the department is to be believed, it is one of the DPI’s ongoing attempts to “undo ambitious” acts of his predecessor, but he denies it.

Whatever be the reason, the decision has disappointed many. “Last year all candles made by me were sold, but this year I doubt if anything will happen. We not only had a good platform, but also enjoyed holding the melas. Diwali will not be that exciting now,” a student said.

“These kids work all through the year and are excited about the mela. It provided them an opportunity to earn. Though people always have an option to reach out to them through other exhibitions, but the response is generally not good,” a teacher at a school for the blind said.

“Initiatives like these provided good exposure to students and the cancellation has taken the excitement out of the festival. Now, all that the students would look forward to is a holiday. The enthusiasm is lacking,” another staff member added.



2 CITCO staffers suspended
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Two senior Chandigarh Industrial & Tourism Development Corporation (CITCO) employees were put under suspension today after the degrees they possessed were found to be fake.

Manoj Kumar, senior assistant and RP Singh, senior accountant, deployed in the head office of CITCO, faced the wrath of the department for concealing the credentials about their qualification.

The department had initiated to scrutinise the degrees of its around 20 employees, out of which six were under scanner.



Fans await big moment
Sachin is just 15 runs away from Lara’s record of 11,953 runs
Akash Ghai
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Local fans of Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar are virtually in soaring spirits with the hope that their cricketing icon will break record to be world’s number one Test run getter in their city.

The “Little Genius” is just 15 runs away to cross Brian Lara’s record of 11953 runs.

“Everyone has been waiting for the big moment. But I think we are lucky as we get an opportunity to be part of the history?” said budding cricketer Manan Vohra, who is quite hopeful that his idol Sachin will cross the landmark at Mohali stadium.

Many other ardent fans of the master cricketer are also looking forward to secure tickets for the second Test between India and Australia to be held at PCA Stadium from October 17 to 21.

“Earlier, we decided to watch the proceedings on television but now after the drawn first Test at Bangalore and Sachin’s inches far away from the world record, Rahul and his friends are planning to purchase the tickets tomorrow?”, said Rahul Sharma and his friends.

The PCA authorities are also elated in a hope that the stadium will witness the historical moment. The response towards the sale of tickets was very poor till today, the second day of the sale, but now the PCA authorities are hopeful about picking up of the sale.

“Certainly, Sachin’s fans will turn up in a large number to witness the feat. We are just looking forward to the great moment to come at our stadium?”, said G.S. Walia, PCA office-bearer.

It is to be noted that during the recent India’s tour to Sri Lanka, the hosts tourism department had also tried to encash the event but somehow Sachin could not achieve the feat there.

Teams reach today

Cricketing euphoria is likely to catch the city with the arrival of India and Australia team in the city tomorrow evening.

The members of both the teams are coming by chartered flight and are slated to reach here around 7 pm, said PCA sources.

Both teams will be put up at Hotel Taj GVK in Sector 17 here.



RTI Queries
MC has swank computers, but no email system
Ramanjit Singh Sidhu
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Even as the offices of the top MC officials are equipped with swank computers bought from public money, it appears that the paraphernalia is of little use to the masses as such.

In response to a query made under the Right to Information Act, it may sound surprising in this age of information technology, the corporation has stated that it has no system of emails available with it.

Officially, the MC has given email Ids of all its officials, including commissioner, joint commissioners, mayor, councillors and other authorities, but when it comes to contacting them through these, it’s of no use, alleged 85-year-old Jasmer Singh. “What is the use of flaunting the hi-tech system which is not working and the officials concerned fail to respond to the grievances posted to them through emails?” he asks.

Interestingly, this fact came to light after Harman Sidhu, a resident of Sector 21, was informed by Jasmer Singh about the problem being faced by the “elders” because of the height of the benches at the bird sanctuary in the sector.

“As I am confined to bed due to a near-fatal accident years ago, I lodged a complaint online to the corporation in July this year, but there has been no reply,” Sidhu said.

Frustrated, he finally took refuge under the provisions of the RTI and filed an application. And to his utter surprise, he found that the corporation had no system of addressing online complaints despite having “fancy” email Ids and all the talk about e-revolution and e-governance in the city.

The public information officer of the corporation in its reply in a letter dated September 26 said no emails had been received as they did not have any system available with them. Sources in the MC said the recent house meeting resounded with the councillors demanding laptops for themselves. It is a classic example of squandering money on gadgets which are not going to be put to any use.



Empowered, people keep babus on toes
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Three years after its implementation, the RTI Act has largely been successful in empowering the general public in extracting vital information from the Chandigarh Administration and keeping the babus on their toes.

Even though the implementation of the Act needs much to desired in the backdrop of vested interests trying to sabotage it, yet it has gone a long way in ensuring accountability in public life. The fear of being hauled up in the courts and in the media has kept a majority of the officers "on track".

Terming the Act as a revolutionary step in ensuring transparency in public life, Hemant Goswami, a social activist, said the Act had sent a right message to the bureaucracy that they were accountable for their every act of omission and commission.

In fact, the history of the RTI implementation had certain big decision to its credit in the city. It was on the petition of Goswami that the central information commissioner (CIC) had asked the UT administrator to appoint a central public information officer (CPIO) in his office. Earlier, the administration had been maintaining that since the administrator, who was also the Punjab Governor, has no separate office, there was no need for a separate CPIO.

Similarly, the decision of making Chandigarh India's first "smoke-free" city is also credited to the filing of number of applications about the placing of the "no-smoking" boards in the offices of the Chandigarh Administration by the Burning Brain Society, an NGO.

With the functioning of various departments of the administration under media scrutiny following a spate of RTI applications, the bureaucrats were clearly restrained in their functioning.

R.K. Garg, who blew the lid off the alleged splurging of public money by certain top UT officials during the foreign jaunts, opined that the Act had forced various departments of the administration to maintain the record properly and helped improve their functioning.

Lack of awareness among the public and officials defeated the very purpose of the Act to some extent. However, after three years, the CPIOs have equipped themselves to tackle the questions being put up through RTI applications in a better way.

Frivolous complaints

Blame in on ignorance or lack of guidance, there are frivolous complaints with the CPIOs. An applicant wanted to know how the record was being maintained in one of the departments of the administration. For what purpose the information was needed was never disclosed by the applicant

Tool to settle 
personal scores

R.K. Garg has alleged that the Act is being used to settle personal scores and is rarely used for doing social service. In fact, with a view to empowering the public, Garg has started an RTI helpline. Every individual should file at least one RTI application per year, he says

The Act has forced various departments of the administration to maintain the record properly and helped improve their functioning

— R.K. Garg

The Act has sent a right message to the bureaucracy that they are accountable for their every act of omission and commission

— Hemant Goswami, a social activist



No more for public purpose
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
The Right to Information Act just becomes another means for the citizens to know the status of their pending cases with the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation rather than the queries which affects the residents of the city. Interestingly, if one goes through the RTI application received by the corporation, most of it were related to the information of the individual property or regarding the property owned by third person in the city.

There were hardly any queries about the public interest schemes or projects.

The aim of this Act was to empower people in asking about any type of information from the authorities so that the working should become transparent and there were less chances of delay or red tapism in the implementation of the programmes and policies of the government.

The trend shows that people are still not aware about the power they have been delegated with after this Act coming into force.

The appellate authority-cum-joint commissioner, MC, T P S Phoolka, stated that there were rare cases where the appellant asked for useless information through the RTI in the corporation.


IAF houses in state of disrepair as UT holds up clearance
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
A large number of newly-constructed houses for Air Force personnel at Chandigarh continue to lie vacant several months after completion. While the UT administration has held up issuing of occupation certificates on account of certain violations of the local building bye-laws, Air Force authorities claim that the houses were constructed in accordance with rules stipulated in the all-India manual governing construction of military assets.

Vacant houses and lack of civic infrastructure has led to the structures falling into a state of disrepair in some places even before being put to use. Added to this is the problem of maintenance and security.

As many as 1,010 family quarters, constructed under the mammoth Married Accommodation Project (MAP), were completed by April-May this year. Built in four packages at an estimated cost of about Rs 85 crore, these would reduce the shortage of dwelling units for IAF personnel.

Of the 1,010 units, the UT administration has issued occupation certificates to just about half of them. Further, in some pockets in Sector 31 and 47, where the new units have come up, the administration is yet to provide civic amenities like roads, electricity and water lines.

Air Force officers said the UT administration was informed about the likely date of completion a few months before the construction ended so that they could initiate the tendering process for awarding the contract for civic amenities. So far no contract has been awarded.

UT administration officials said occupation certificates for 300 units were expected to be issued later this month. Some issues concerning violations were yet to be resolved in the remaining 199 units.

Air Force sources said after the violations were pointed out in the first batch of the constructed houses, some alterations, wherever possible, were carried out in the structures and the defence ministry paid the requisite penalty in respect of houses for which certificates had already been issued.

According to senior officers, construction was done as per stipulated Military Engineering Service (MES) norms, which are adhered to all over the country and now it is not possible to carry out major modifications.

They also pointed out that with the houses remaining unoccupied, maintenance and upkeep has also become an issue. During monsoon, the compounds and surrounding area was engulfed with wild growth, which is yet to be cleared. Silt and debris has also chocked drains.

Another issue of concern is watch and ward of the unoccupied houses, with IAF officers claiming that there have been a few instances of miscreants breaking into the houses and stealing fixtures.

Of the 1,010 houses, out of which 34 are for officers, only about 250 quarters have been allotted to IAF personnel so far.



Non-functional garbage unit
No MC action yet
Aarti Kapur
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
It seems that the MC authorities are least bothered to ensure the complete functioning of the garbage-processing unit at Dadumajra as even after the expiry of the one-month show-cause notice to the company, only 40 per cent of the plant is working.

Interestingly, rather than cancelling the contract of the company, the MC has sent the case to the legal remembrance to seek its advise on it. The authorities have forgotten to go through its own agreement with the company, in which there is a clause that if the plant stops due to technical, mechanical or electrical defect, the MC could fix a penalty of Rs 15,000 per day for 16 to 21 days and Rs 25,000 per day for 22 to 30 days, with the maximum penalty up to Rs 3.5 lakh.

If the problem persists for more than 30 days, the corporation could cancel the contract.

On August 22, the mayor, Pradeep Chabbra, had paid a surprise visit to check the functioning of the plant. He had noticed that the plant was not functional and even the installation of the machinery was not complete.

A show-cause notice was issued to the company to get the plant functional within a month, but so far only 30 to 40 per cent of the plant has become functional and no action is being initiated against the company.

The mayor said around 40 per cent of the plant was functional and the rest would be made functional soon as per the company claims. He said the case had been sent to the legal remembrance and action would be taken on the basis of the report.

At the recent house meeting, a committee had been formed to monitor the status of the project, but no meeting of the committee has been convened so far.

A member of the committee, Subhash Chawla, said he had not got any letter from the MC saying that he was member of the committee.

Sources in the health department of the corporation said a survey report was submitted to the authorities that if the solid waste project was not constructed on time, there would be no place left to dump garbage in the next one-and-a-half decade.

As per the records available with the department, there is a collection of around 500 tonnes of garbage of the city per day, for which chemicals worth about Rs 80,000 are used.

The records reveal that full-scale operation schedule was put off thrice on various counts and till date, the plant is under construction.



Admn to seek balance sheets from pvt schools
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Following the move to scrutinise and regulate the fee structure of government-aided schools, the UT administration, is all set to tighten the noose on private schools.

After failing to elicit a positive response from the private schools to its earlier demand of furnishing their balance sheets, the administration, both the education and the finance department seem determined to crack the whip once again by issuing fresh notices to the erring institutions.

Speaking to The Tribune, Samwartak Singh, DPI (S) said, “We will issue fresh notices. If it was issued earlier also and school have not adhered this time we will make sure that they do so.”

Even the finance secretary, Sanjay Kumar, who had earlier too spearheaded the move, is determined to take the issue to its logical conclusion. “I will take up the issue again and make sure everybody complies with the notice. If these schools procure land from us at concessional rates they will have to justify every single penny charged from students,” he asserted.

It may be noted Sanjay had issued notices earlier but hardly any private school responded to it by furnishing their balance sheets. The issue was taken after several parents had complained about the arbitrary fee structure being imposed by certain private schools.

In a bid to rein in such schools, the administration had sought their balance sheets to assess their claims that money, charged from students, was being ploughed back for the welfare of the children. The schools had justified their excess fees in the name of “best of facilities”, like AC rooms, sports infrastructure, transport, instructors, and gymnasium, being made available to the students.

However, the administration’s stand was that barring the schools run by trusts or societies, no privately run school can legally divert the money towards raising fixed assets for the school. According to the Education Code under Clause 18, these schools could be questioned if they hiked fee to divert such expenditure to raise capital.

The officials said that in the second phase of scrutiny, balance sheets of the schools would be checked.

Sanjay said the basic idea of seeking accounts was to see whether the fee structure is commensurate with the facilities offered by these schools or not. However, only aided schools submitted their reports and hardly and private school adhered to it.”

Though the mechanism will be same but administration plans to enforce it with iron hand now.



Punwire owes Rs 19 cr to PF office
RMI Cycles, 2 Mohali firms also on defaulters list
G. S. Paul
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Punwire, the acronym for once SAS Nagar-based Punjab Wireless Systems Ltd, is in news again. The defunct telecom firm that had once an annual turnover of over Rs 300 crore is liable to pay Rs 19 crore to the office of the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner here against the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).

The state-owned company, which was under liquidation following closure, left thousands of its employees jobless. The company originally defaulted on Rs 4 crore as payment into the EPF accounts of its employees. Till date, the recovery of EPF amount has been pending. Now after including the penal interest, this amount has reached to a whopping Rs 19 crore.

Regional Provident Fund Commissioner S.K. Aggarwal confirmed that the office was expediting the matter and the claim pertaining to recover the amount has been filed with the High Court.

Taking into account the financial losses for employees, the office of the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Sector 17, here, as part of “compliance exercise” is in the process of identifying establishments in Punjab and Chandigarh that are defaulting on depositing EPF in time.

The other Rajpura-based firm RMI Cycles, two Mohali-based firms Ajay Electricals and Tech Tools, and several other institutions are on the defaulters list of the EPF office.

RMI Cycles has to pay Rs 58 lakh in addition to penalty and interest amount of Rs 10 lakh while Ajay Electricals and Tech Tools are accountable to pay Rs 60 lakh and 18 lakh.

Aggarwal said the recovery procedures got delayed as most of the defaulters went into litigation at EPF tribunal, High Court or Bureau of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR), etc.

The Regional PF office covers approximately 20,000 organisations and the authorities estimate that around 5 per cent to 10 per cent default on payments into EPF accounts of their employees.

Aggarwal said most of the defaulters later were found to be inoperative, but the employees’ money deposited with the office is always safe. Around 96 per cent of the cases are settled within 30-day period.

Last year, the department had recovered 759.98 lakh after assessing 526 cases of Punjab and Chandigarh for the session 2007-08 under the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1952.

About the realisation of amount, Aggarwal said the department had powers to impose financial penalties on the defaulting establishments. The department imposed a penalty of 12 per cent per annum if the delay in deposits was for two months, between two and four months the penalty interest is 17 per cent and for four and six months it is 27 per cent. If payments were not deposited after six months or more, then it can attract penalty at the rate of 37 per cent per annum of the arrears. In addition to this, 12 per cent interest was also levied on the arrears.

The department has further advised the employees to establish cordial relations with the employers in order to encourage voluntary compliance.



Recruitment of 121 ayurvedic officers
Sikh body seeks CBI probe
Our Correspondent

Mohali, October 13
The Sehajdhari Sikh Federation has demanded a CBI probe into the recruitment of 121 ayurvedic medical officers on contractual basis alleging that these appointments have been made in an arbitrary manner.

Addressing a press conference here today, federation national president Dr Paramjeet Singh Ranu said the demand for a probe had been made in a letter written to the Punjab chief minister.

He said the recruitments were made under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) by the directorate of ayurveda, Punjab.

C-DAC had registered candidates online for vacancies even when Internet facilities were not easily available in the rural areas targeted under the NRHM scheme. He said the first advertisement issued for the recruitment of 121 ayurvedic medical officers had no mention of any test being conducted for applicants and recruitments were to be made on merit.

Later, another advertisement was published that stated that a written test for applicants would be held in Ludhiana on Septembers 10 and 11 and candidates were divided into four groups for these tests.

Four sets of question papers were given, which was unjustified as parity could not be maintained because some candidates must have got easy questions while others difficult.

No fictitious roll numbers were allegedly used to keep the secrecy intact while checking answersheets. He alleged that the department did not engage staff from any of the universities falling in the state for setting question papers or for getting the answersheets checked.

Ranu further said according to the merit list some couples were selected for the posts and interestingly these couples scored the same percentage of marks in the written test, qualitative weightage and experience.

He alleged that a retired official was favoured as three members of his family were selected and their names figured in the merit list. No details about the reservation quota were published, which were required to maintain transparency. A selection committee was formed and later allegedly dissolved as no interview was held and no official from the social welfare department was taken while adopting the scrutiny process for the reserve quota, he added.



Course on quality assessment of drugs gets under way
Tribune News Service

Mohali, October 13
A two-week intensive course on “Advanced analytical techniques: Basic principles and application for quality assessment of drugs and pharmaceuticals for export” organised by the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) started here today.
NIPER director Prof P. Rama Rao speaks at the inaugural function of a two-week course in Mohali
NIPER director Prof P. Rama Rao speaks at the inaugural function of a two-week course in Mohali on Monday. A Tribune photograph

After inaugurating the programme, secretary, department of pharmaceuticals, ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, Ashok Kumar said: “India has become one of the leading international players in generic medicines and has been able to considerably improve access to low-cost medicines for common people not only in India but many other developing countries.”

He added that a number of western pharmaceutical companies already had R&D collaborations with Indian pharmaceutical companies in the field of new drug research.

He appealed to international participants of the course to bring awareness among officials of regulatory bodies in developing countries on various aspects of the prevailing standards of quality with respect to good manufacturing practices (GMP) and good laboratory practices (GLP).

This would help better understand and appreciate systems.

At least 19 participants from Sudan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Laos, Mauritius, Tanzania, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are attending the workshop.

NIPER director Prof P. Rama Rao said 220 personnel of regulatory and research organisations from 36 countries had been trained in previous eight programmes.

He appealed to participants to utilise the state-of-art-facilities of the institute during the workshop.

Head, department of natural products, NIPER, Prof K.K. Bhutani also spoke.

Explicating the objective of the course, head, department of medicinal chemistry, NIPER, and course coordinator Prof A.K. Chakraborti said it would provide an update on theoretical and practical aspects of key issues related to “quality” of pharmaceuticals.



Apni Mandi
Customers being fleeced: Welfare body
Our Correspondent

Mohali, October 13
Consumers are being fleeced at apni mandis as they have to buy vegetables at double the rates specified by the Punjab Mandi Board, even as officials present there look the other way.

Citizens Welfare Federation president B.S. Tej said the system of apni mandi was adopted to provide maximum benefit to producers and consumers through direct interaction, by eliminating the middleman whose only motive was to earn undue profits.

The control of the system was handed over to the Punjab Mandi Board, which was to charge mandi fee and fix rates of vegetables.

Earlier, sellers other than farmers refused to sell vegetables at rates fixed by the board but now even farmers were not selling their produce at the specified rates.

Tej said at apni mandi held in Phase VIII yesterday, cauliflower was being sold at Rs 40 per kg against a price of Rs 20 per kg fixed by the board.

Similarly, capsicum was sold at Rs 60 per kg even when the price fixed for this vegetable was Rs 30.

Certain consumers objected to the exorbitant prices and brought the matter to the notice of board’s supervising staff, who allegedly refused to take action claiming that higher authorities did not support them in this regard.

He said the attitude of the supervising staff showed that additional rates were being charged allegedly with their connivance.

The matter would be taken up with the mandi board as well as the deputy commissioner, he added.



Traders seek permission to put up stalls
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, October 13
The Panchkula Beopar Mandal has urged the district administration to allow them to put up stalls at various markets of the town during the festival season. Festivals like Karva Chauth, Dhan Teras and Diwali will fall within the next two weeks.

A mandal delegation, which met deputy commissioner Rajender Kataria, has initially sought permission for three days i.e. from October 14 to 16.

“The deputy commissioner has asked us to submit a list of shopkeepers who want to put up stalls,” said mandal senior vice-president B.B. Kochhar.

Some guidelines have been issued by the administration to ensure proper security arrangements and prohibiting damage to public property, he said. It was also not allowed to put up of stalls in parking areas.

It will be ensured that only permanent shopkeepers were allowed to put up stalls in markets, Kochhar added.



Rajasansi Airport officials under scanner
Ramanjit Singh Sidhu
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Investigations into the sensational passport scam have revealed that the actual number of passports stolen from the Regional Passport Office (RPO) in Sector 34 can exceed the present known number of 48. Interestingly, the investigations are also indicating the involvement of certain officials of the Rajasansi airport in the scam.

According to sources, the prime accused in the case, Gurjinder Singh Lucky, has made certain startling revelations. The police had recovered seven passports from Lucky and of these five were stolen from RPO. Of the remaining, while one belonged to Lakhwinder Singh, who had allegedly given Rs 9 lakh for sending him abroad, the applicant of the seventh passport was yet to be confirmed.

The sources further revealed that Lucky had also confessed to having “forged” four other passports. He told the officials that these passports were submitted for visa at the Visa Facilitation Centre, Global Italy, at their Jalandhar or Delhi office. He reportedly told the investigating officials that these passports had work permits along with them and could have reached the Italian Embassy for processing.

A police officer said the source of these passports would also be ascertained to find out whether these had been stolen from RPO or obtained through other nefarious channel. He added that Lucky’s disclosures also shed light on involvement of certain high-level officials at Raja Sansi Airport at Amritsar in the scam. Their role is also under scanner and at some point of investigation, going by the disclosures of the prime accused, the Chandigarh Police will also question the authorities at the airport to unravel the nexus.

A police team had taken Lucky to Kapurthala and other places in Punjab for recovery of more passports and other incriminating material.

DSP (crime) KIP Singh told TNS that they would take up the issue with the Italian Embassy and seek their assistance to get the details about the four passports to confirm their status and authenticity. He also added that the role of the officials at the airport would also be examined at the later stage of the investigations as and when substantial evidence crops up during the course of the investigation.



Dogar elected
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
R.P. Dogar elected the president of the Ambedkar Awas Yojna Welfare Society, Mauli Jagran, yesterday.

He defeated his nearest rival Ramesh Chander in a straight contest by 136 votes.

As many as 650 members used their right to franchise from 300 houses in the society. The president will form his team by nominating 11 members on October 19. He will remain on the post for two years. 



Music appreciation workshop ends
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, October 13
The five-day ‘Music appreciation workshop’ organised by the Indian National Theatre (INT), concluded with an impressive classical vocal recital by the Delhi based maestro, Manjit Singh, at the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan hall here today.

A disciple of the Late Shanti Sharma and Manjit Singh commenced the recital with the exposition of raga ‘yaman’ through alaap and compositions. He also bared the melodic character of raga ‘megha’ and ‘hansdhwani’ before concluding the programme with a beautiful devotional composition. Winner of the prestigous “Surmani award”, Manjit Singh, brought alive the serenity and melodic grandeur of the ragas with consummate ease.

Earlier, the noted virtuoso and course director, Vinita Gupta, familiarised the course members of the workshop with the basic concepts of Indian music. Acclaimed musicologist performers, Dr Nivedita Singh, (vocalist) of Punjabi University, Patiala, Tarun Das (tabla maestro) and sitarist, Barik, (sanawar) explained the emotions (rasa) of various ragas. Dr Arvind Sharma (PU) delved on the different classical forms of vocal music and regaled the audience during his interactive session.

The INT director, Navjivan Khosla, IAS (Retd.) hailed the workshop on a rare subject of music appreciation, as informative, educative and entertaining. On public demand such workshops would be a regular feature, he added.



No freebies this festive season
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
The global financial meltdown is casting its shadow on India Inc., which has failed to see any significant growth during the on-going festival season.

The festival season is generally boom time for the consumer durables, electronics and auto industry (with growth going up by 50 per cent in October). But the credit squeeze this year has led to a flat growth for these companies. The near negligible growth in some sectors is only in the value terms (because of rise in retail prices), rather than in volume terms.

The worst hit is the auto sector, which is witnessing a flat sale, inspite of offering value addition discounts and launching of new models of vehicles. Though this sector has witnessed a six per cent growth over the past one year, the poor show in second quarter - thanks to the fuel price and steel price hike - has failed to enthuse buyers. Jnaneswar Sen, vice-president, marketing, Honda Siel Cars India, says that their growth in the A 3 segment has been flat owing to the high fuel price, price hike in cars because of high input costs; and general recession sentiment in the market.

“People have been putting off their decision to buy high value products like cars because of the global meltdown and fear of a cascading effect on India,” he adds.

Says Ravinder Zutshi, managing director, Samsung India and chairman of Consumer Electronics and Appliance Manufacturers Association, “This year, there are no freebies or cash discounts on offer for the festival season. Most of the consumer electronics manufacturers, including Samsung, have launched new, high-value products to woo customers. There is a liquidity crunch in the market, which is affecting sales, but for our industry, the picture is not so bad.”

LG Electronics, too, has launched a wide range of new products for the festival season, while doing away with any discounts.

Another reason for the poor show during the festival season has been the credit squeeze created because of banks and car loan companies’ unwillingness to clear more loans. Most of the companies admit that they have failed to have as many tie-ups with banks for providing finance to customers, as during the previous year. Zutshi adds that this factor, too, has contributed to a slow growth in festival season.

Cyril Mani, head, marketing communication, Sony India, says that though as of now the Indian economy is not as flexible as the world economy, the Indian consumer has become a little more cautious because of the ongoing crisis. “However, we are unaffected at the moment. We have already witnessed Durga Puja and Dussehra festivities and sales have not been affected much as compared to last year,” he adds.



Shamsheeda’s kin to move court for her release
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, October 13
Shamsheeda Begum’s husband and son, who arrived here today, said they would file a petition in the local court for her release.

Her husband Salim Saifi and son Saddam who had gone to the courts today said they could not file the petition and would file it on Wednesday, as the courts would remain closed tomorrow.

Shamsheeda Begum was arrested by the local police for attempt to commit suicide yesterday after she had gone on fast in front of the Haryana police headquarters in protest against police inaction.

Earlier, she was admitted to the local hospital after she fainted due to starvation.

Shamsheeda, a resident of Yamunanagar, had threatened to commit suicide in front of the police headquarters on September 8.

She has accused the police of not taking action against her tormentors who include police officials.



Seminar on rural poverty
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
To discuss the issues related to the panchayati raj and rural poverty, the Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), New Delhi, is organising a national conference on “NREGA and Panchayats” tomorrow at the Constitution Club in New Delhi.

Over 1,200 elected panchayat representatives from all over the country are expected to participate in the conference, which will be inaugurated by the minister for panchayati raj Mani Shankar Aiyar. Minister for rural development, Dr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, will also address the delegates.



Sec 29 resident dies after fall
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Dalip Singh (28) died after suffering a fall from the first floor of his Sector 29 house in the wee hours today. The police has ruled out foul play behind the death, terming it an accident.

According to Industrial Area police station SHO Yashpal Sharma, Dalip tripped over the parapet of the first floor accidentally after he slipped on wet surface around 12.30 am.

He fell head-on to the ground, resulting in severe head injuries. He was taken to the Government Medical College and Hospital, 
Sector 32, where he was declared brought dead.

Dalip is survived by his wife and two minor children. He was working as a salesman on a bookshop in Panchkula. Experts from the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory examined the scene and the body. The police later handed over the body to the family after a post-mortem examination.



Rodrigues greets people on Valmiki Jayanti
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Punjab Governor and UT administrator S.F. Rodrigues today extended his greetings to people on the occasion of Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti and advocated the need for concerted efforts for socio-economic empowerment of the disadvantaged sections of society.

Describing Maharishi Valmiki as a great spiritual ambassador and father of Indian poetry, Rodrigues said he authored the sacred epic Ramayana, which set out the path of ideal and virtuous living, universal humanism and oneness of mankind.

As a social reformer and messiah of the downtrodden, the contribution of Maharishi Valmiki in emphasising the concept of social justice, equality and emancipation of oppressed groups will always be remembered.



Not scary for PU authorities
Smriti Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
The RTI Act does not seem to ring any bells as far as Panjab University is concerned. Blame the lack of awareness or the fear of revelation of identity, but the students of the university have not shown much interest in seeking information through this provision under the Act.

Though the university’s website has all the details on how to go for filing an RTI application, the visitors on the website seem to hardly notice that.

For in three years’ time, apart from minor applications, wherein a few former students had sought information regarding their reevaluation cases and their degrees or detailed-marks cards not reaching them, there has not been any noteworthy application.

However, one of the applications, which shook the university authorities, deserves a mention here, wherein the university was asked by members of a local NGO and others to provide information regarding the cutting of trees on the campus.

The applicants had sought documents of permission from the relevant authorities for cutting of more than 120 trees on the campus.

During the course of the application (seeking and providing information), the university authorities had a tough time battling with the volley of questions thrown open by the students, mediapersons and even the university fraternity who later joined in.

Apart from this, on two occasions, the central information commissioner had penalised the university for not providing the required information and delaying the information.



MBA forms available from Oct 15
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Application forms for MBA and “handbook of information 2009” would be available at the State Bank of India extension counter, Panjab University, on payment of Rs 1,000 (Rs 500 for SC/ST candidates) from October 15 to November 15. The forms can also be obtained by post from October 15 to October 31 from the manager, publication bureau, PU. The application form can also be downloaded from the website http://ubs.puchd.ac.in. Completed forms must reach the chairman, University Business School, PU, latest by 5 pm on November 15.



PTA funds stopped in schools
G. S. Paul
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
A scam that has been going on for several years involving the misappropriation of Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) funds worth lakhs met its logical end. Courtesy: the powers of Right to Information Act (RTI).

The revelations of RTI applications highlighted the self-styled governance of the principals of the schools and the parents’ helplessness to raise questions for the sake of their children. Consequently, there happened ‘mass cheating’ of the funds and the amount being spent on the whims and mercy of the principals.

When all these irregularities came to light, the adviser to administrator Pradip Mehra, directed the UT education department to instruct the schools to stop collecting PTA fund from students.

A number of forgery cases came to light in the past where the heads/principals had tampered with the bills, payments made to ‘never existing firms’; amount spent on ‘never done works’; forged salary bills for appointments through PTA. The ‘wrongdoers’ managed to get scot-free because this fund was never audited by any government agency.

However, taking serious note of the funds being collected by several reputed heads of the government schools under the PTA head, which were being systematically misused, V.B. Khanna, former member, PTA, Sector 19 GMSSS, filed an application under RTI asking for allocation of PTA funds at various schools.

The schools included GSSS-8, GMGSSS 18, GMSSS 19, GMSSS 33, GMSSS Manimajra, GPS, Maloya, GMSSS 32, GMSSS-22 and GHS, Hallomajra.

After the startling revelations, an inquiry was conducted by H.S. Hurria, a senior retired IAS officer. It was found that the school heads used to charge Rs 100 to Rs 250 per child per year against the officially sanctioned amount of Rs 2 per child per year. No sanction was ever obtained from the administration for increasing the membership fee.



Verma gets addl charge of public relations
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
The Chandigarh administration has assigned additional charge of director public relations and cultural affairs to R.S. Verma, additional director (administration), Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32.

According to a press release, DPI (schools) Samvartak Singhm will hold the additional charge of director tourism and work relating to projects of theme-cum-amusement park and education city.

Director IT Manjit Singh Brar will look after work related to film-cum-multimedia centre. The work related to milk village/plant project has gone to UT special secretary (finance) Raji P. Shrivastava.

Joint secretary (finance) Pirthi Chand has been assigned the additional charge of joint secretary technical education and joint secretary housing. Meanwhile, the administration has also given the charge of labour commissioner to deputy commissioner R.K. Rao in addition to his own duties, relieving ADC Inderjit Singh Sandhu.

SDM (south) Prerna Puri will hold the charge of joint director, food and supplies, in addition to her own duties.

Meanwhile, the Chandigarh administration today relieved Vivek Atray, director public relations and tourism. Atray and and former DPI (schools) S.K. Setia were given farewell by HCS and PCS officers of the administration at UT Guest House in the evening.



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