C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Rodrigues, adviser at it again
Have ‘letter war’ on extension to chief engineer
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
The slugfest between UT administrator SF Rodrigues and his adviser Pradip Mehra on the issue of extension to chief engineer Krishanjit Singh seems to have reached a point of no return with the administrator putting the ball in the adviser's court and attributing “motives” to his opposition to the extension.

Close on the heels of Mehra raising objections to the three-month extension to an officer of “dubious integrity”, Rodrigues today hit back claiming that “the issue whether Krishanjit Singh can be appointed as the chief engineer or not had already been settled by the departmental promotion committee headed by a member of the UPSC”.

The “letter war” between the two began with the adviser taking the arguments against the extension further. “I do not agree with the administrator’s perception of ‘agreed list’. The list is meant not just for surveillance or watch, but to ensure that such officers of dubious integrity, as in this case, do not occupy sensitive posts,” the adviser’s communication to the administrator said.

Since the administrator had already decided to give extension to the officer, the UT should write to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) to take up the proposal with the department of personnel and training(DoPT) as extension beyond retirement to Group A officer could only be given by the DoPT, Mehra said.

However, acting swiftly, Rodrigues rubbished Mehra’s allegations, claiming that when the file of Krishanjit Singh’s promotion was sent by the adviser to him, no such issues were raised. “I also recollect that when the proposals to give additional charge to Krishanjit Singh as the chief engineer of the Chandigarh Housing Board or UT chief engineer were submitted no such issues were raised,” he asserted.

“Facts and circumstances which had been brought to me do suggest that if we do not grant extension to him, we will virtually be without a chief engineer which will adversely affect our functioning,” the letter claimed.

Rodrigues said: “I would like to again emphasise that the adviser is penning down his proposals and views without having any knowledge, information or consultation with regards to rules, regulations and government instructions. Before discussing the matter with the Director, UT, in New Delhi, he should have first referred to the already available instructions of the Government of India and the MHA (dated November 1, 1966).

“This does not require the approval of the Government of India as the MHA has already clarified that the administrator is the competent authority. Unfortunately, as in the past, even this time the adviser had failed to do his home work. I will expect the adviser to send his proposals after duly examining all facts, rules and instructions before the matter is sent to me.

“I understand that many people cannot be repository of all details. In that case, there will be no harm in taking assistance from lower functionaries. This will avoid unnecessary embarrassment to all,” the tongue-in-cheek communication concluded.



Bomb hoax call at High Court
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
A bomb hoax call at the Punjab and Haryana High Court this morning kept the police on its toes for over three hours. The police immediately pressed into service anti-sabotage teams, which searched the premises.

Sources in the police said senior officers did not instruct the anti-sabotage teams to immediately evacuate the building, but preferred to wait for the search to finish.

The police carried out checks in courts, where the work had finished or during lunch hours.

The SP (Security), HS Doon, claimed that the courts were evacuated wherever required and the call was taken seriously, leaving nothing to chance. He said such calls were not taken lightly and the police took all measures to ensure the safety of people. Proper checking was conducted in courts, he added.

Explaining why the entire building was not evacuated, a senior officer told The Tribune that the police had “intuition” that the call was hoax and it did not want to disturb the functioning of the courts.

The police carried out the operation discretely to avoid triggering panic due to sudden evacuation, which could result in a stampede.

Omkar Singh employed at the registrar’s office received a call at 11.20 am that a bomb had been planted in the court. The caller, who was speaking in Punjabi, said he was speaking from Fatehgarh Sahib district and it was a “pen-type” bomb. He then disconnected the phone.

The police was informed and two anti-sabotage teams, a bomb disposal squad, a quick reaction team, a dog squad, fire brigade vehicles and ambulances were pressed into service for the operation that lasted for over three hours.

The high court does not have a caller ID in its exchange, due to which the police could not trace the caller. The police said it had recommended the installation of a caller ID system.



3 killed in accidents
Tribune News Service

Kharar, December 23
Rash driving and dense fog snuffed out four lives in accidents at Kharar and Ropar today. All the deceased were from Kharar.

Parminder Singh, a resident of Dasmesh Enclave, was going towards Amritsar when he met with an accident at around 8.30 am on the Ropar-Nawanshahr road.

Due to fog, he was unable to see a truck coming from the opposite direction and in a head-on collision, Parminder died on the spot.

In another accident, a speeding car ran over two cyclists as the driver swerved in a bid to avert hitting a truck near Daun in Kharar.

The incident took place at around 5.30 pm. The car was following the truck at a high speed and the driver of the truck suddenly applied brakes and the car driver tried to do the same, but he lost control and ran over the cyclists.

One of the cyclists died on the spot while the other has been admitted to the PGI in a critical condition. The deceased has been identified as Inderjit Singh, a resident of Saholi village.

The driver of the car fled the spot.

Lalru: Dense fog claimed a life on the “killer stretch” between Chandigarh and Ambala on Tuesday.

An 18-year-old youth died and three others were seriously injured in a head-on collision between three motorcycles and a truck coming from the opposite side on the Ambala-Chandigarh road. The injured have been identified as Darish, Manik and Gumeet, all residents of Ambala.

According to the police, the accident took place at around 9 am when Rohit Luthra of Ambala city was going to Naraingarh on a motorcycle. Darish, Manik, Gumeet and two others were also on other bikes.

A speeding truck coming from the opposite side rammed into the motorcycles. Two of them had a narrow escape.

The victims were students of Class XII.

The injured were rushed to the civil hospital in Ambala, where Rohit was declared brought dead. The condition of Manik and Gumeet was said to be critical and they were referred to the PGI.

The truck driver fled leaving behind the vehicle. A case has been registered.



Kamlesh is Cong mayoral nominee
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
With three days left for the filing of nominations for the posts of mayor, senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor, the Congress has “finalised” its nominees for the top posts.

According to sources, the party high command has zeroed in on the candidature of Kamlesh (mayor), Vijay Singh Rana (senior deputy mayor) and Rita Sharma (deputy mayor). However, the final announcement would be made by the AICC secretary party observer for the polls, Ved Prakash, here on December 25.

A three-time councillor and a former mayor, Kamlesh wields a considerable influence in the slums of the city, which are considered to be crucial for minister of state for finance Pawan Bansal in the next Lok Sabha elections.

Kamlesh, a non-Balmiki, had been a front-runner for the post from the beginning and with her nomination she seems to have defeated the challenge from other candidates, including Balmiki candidate HC Kalyan. Balmikis reportedly form a majority of the Scheduled Caste votes in the city.

Bansal, who usually has the final say in the selection of the candidates, however, said the final list would be declared on December 25.

The post of mayor has been reserved for an SC member this year. The BJP had already named Ram Lal for the post of mayor and the BSP does not seem to be very interested in the contest as it had failed to either field its candidates or take a decision to support any party.


A year of controversies for education dept
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Tall claims and broken promises is probably the best way to describe the year 2008 for the city schools and colleges. While throughout the year, the administration made “sincere” efforts to revolutionise things, the student fraternity was, however, not much benefitted due to the thoughtless and overambitious plans or lack of implementation, but most of the times lack of accountability on the part of those at the helm of matters.

On the school front, education community witnessed former DPI SK Setia’s ambitions soaring high with more than 50 projects being announced, and later shelved by his successor. While a large number of children awaited basic facilities like benches, books and even potable water in various schools, the authorities were busy chalking out plans for purchase of vitrified tiles and photographs for beautification of schools.

While nothing could ensure a regular attendance of faculty and even the principals, the department wanted to do wonders by providing laptops to principals. The department failed to ensure in-time supply of the course books, but dreamt of turning city into US by professing a concept of “no-bags in schools”. Some projects, like establishment of education board that could have otherwise been beneficial failed too, and this time because of lack of proper implementation. While most of the year was marked by such thoughtless announcements, Setia’s exit did not change much as the department got into an “under consideration” mode as every single complaint, project or file continued to be under consideration and any important decision was hardly taken or implemented.

The laws were made and things were banned, but what irked everybody was that the department could never enforce laws properly and deal with the erring institutions. The move to regulate the school fees by demanding the balance sheets could not provide a solution to the exorbitant fee structures as those who failed to comply were punished with just a “stern” reminder. While the schools got busy into hushing up serious matters like sodomy or overcharging students, the department could never even enquire the truth, leave aside punishing. So, mostly, the schools have a trail of unfinished projects and everybody is keeping fingers crossed for the upcoming ones like ban on autos and speed governors in school buses.

The picture is not rosy in colleges either. While the MCM fiasco over the alleged “favouritism” by the principal in nomination of a candidate as the student council president rocked the campus, all that the department could do was to promise to probe the role of principal in the entire matter. In a similar incident, when a girl approached the administration for justice after college’s failure to take any step in a brawl case on the pretext that it happened outside the gate, all that she gained was a written apology. Looking at larger issues, 40 years on, and the department has no valid reason for having been unable to finalise the lecturers’ seniority list. While the engineering department deemed Government College for Girls-11 principal’s lodge perfect for accommodation, the department allowed the principal to reside outside and claim HRA while the property worth lakh of rupees remained vacant, and nobody gave a thought of utilising it for holding classes. The entire education fraternity today debates about the use of college land and most of the times “resources” for the marriages of the principal’s relatives, authorities are clueless whether it is legal or illegal.

The worst thing that hit many is the fact that the department never even cared to formally enquire any anomaly highlighted by the media, and considered these revelations an outcome of cynical minds.



Fiscal Gloom
Bail us out, hotel industry sends SOS to government
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Hit hard by the dwindling tourist flow in wake of the Mumbai terror strikes and global financial crisis, the hotel industry is now looking at the government to bail them out of the present financial gloom. With the high realty prices and slowdown in credit flow, growth in the hotel industry has hit a plateau.

Hoteliers are now demanding a rationalisation in taxes by the governments; tax sops; and that they be treated as part of the infrastructure sector, rather than the real estate sector. They are also demanding that the floor area ratio (FAR) for the sector be increased, so that there is more investment for creating budget hotels.

Talking to TNS here today, Vijay Pande and S.M. Shervani, president and honorary secretary of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India, said the hotel industry was going through a tough phase. “Even though the hotel industry has grown to be a $ 10.7 billion industry in India, we do not figure high on the list of the government when it comes to a bailout. The fact that of the 2-lakh hotel rooms to be built by 2010, only 60,000 will be built because of the slow down shows that the industry is faring badly. The government will have to take proactive steps in order to ensure that investments in this sector continue, especially after the big real estate majors like DLF and Unitech have already shelved their hotel projects for the time being,” they said.

The duo were in town to meet the officials in the Haryana government and request them to rationalise their tax structure so as to give some relief to hoteliers. They met Tourism Minister Kiran Chaudhary and officials of the Excise and Taxation department. “Haryana charges the highest VAT on liquor at 20 per cent. Though it is ok to charge this high tax on liquor served in five star hotels, it is unjustified to do so in the one, two and three star hotels. The government should also rethink on the uniform luxury tax being imposed on all hotels in the state,” said Shervani. Pande said the Central government was examining a proposal to give a 50 per cent tax exemption on foreign exchange earned by the hotels, if it were to be ploughed back for the expansion of the hotel.



Citco MD: Tiwari’s name cleared at last
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Almost five months after the Punjab government sent the panel to the administration for the post of managing director of Citco, the union government has cleared the name of DK Tiwari for the post.

With the appointments committee of the cabinet (ACC) giving a nod to Tiwari, the “officer crunch” in the UT administration is set to ease.

At present, the post of Citco managing director, otherwise a secretary-level post, is being held by an SDM-level officer, Niharika Rai, as an additional charge.

Sources said the ACC had forwarded the name of Tiwari to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) for onward transmission to the administration. The administration would get a written communication in this regard in a day or two, sources said here today.

With the appointment of Tiwari, a selection cadre officer, the post of secretary (tourism) of the administration could also go to him. The post was taken away from the Citco MD and entrusted to the home secretary as Rai could not hold a secretary-level post.

The Punjab government had sent a panel of DK Tiwari, Vikas Partap Singh (both 1994 batch) and Rakhi Gupta Bhandari (1997 batch) for the post. The administration had recommended the name of Tiwari.

The post has assumed more importance with the administration’s hospitality arm initiating major projects, including a makeover for its flagship Hotel Mountview, renovation of Hotel Shivalikview and expansion of its budget venture, Hotel Parkview.

Meanwhile, the administration wants to retain special secretary (finance) and director higher education Raji P Srivastava, whose tenure ended last month, for another year. “Her case is pending with the central government and we are expecting a positive response,” a senior officer said.



5,000 join in Christian procession
Priya Chadha

Chandigarh, December 23
Various Churches, Christian institutions and congregation in the tricity today took out a procession for the resolution of the communal rights in Orissa. Over 5,000 people joined the procession.

Younas Massey, president of the All Churches Association, flagged off the procession with a prayer, and while conveying a message to the masses, he said: “On the eve of Christmas, I pray for peace, unity, harmony and development of the nation.”

“It’s time to spread peace by cutting down violence and by respecting the silence and unity, our motive this time is to put in efforts in wiping out terror with love and peace,” said Father Stephen Fernandes of Catholic Church, Sector 19.

The Church authorities had already decided to have low-key Christmas celebrations this year due to the terror attacks. “We had a condolence prayer session to pay tributes to the departed souls in the terror attacks, and we also prayed for the resolution of the communal riots in Orissa,” said Lawrence Malik, secretary of the All-India Christian Council. “In the procession, we tried to create the same kind of atmosphere that prevailed at the time of Jesus Christ’s birth, and we also highlighted the purpose of Jesus, which was to bring peace and to destroy the hostility,” said Emanual Nahar, secretary of Christ Church, Sector 18.

Concluding the programme, K.V. Lahashe, territorial commander of the Salvation Army, briefed the people about the life and sacrifices of Jesus Christ with word of prayer and benediction.



Parking ban being flouted in cops’ backyard
Archit Watts

Chandigarh, December 23
Even as the local police has banned the parking of vehicles on the road adjacent to the parking lot behind the Chandigarh police headquarters in Sector 9, visitors continue to flout the ban with impunity, under the very nose of the top brass.

People prefer to park their vehicles by the roadside as a stretch of the parking lot has been vacated due to security reasons and it is more convenient for them. Although boards displaying “no parking zone” have been put up by the roadside, people prefer to park their vehicles on the road without much fear. “Not even a single policeman has been deployed there to handle the situation, which results in frequent traffic jams ,” said Jagroop Singh, a senior citizen.

“It is strange that a stretch of parking lot has been vacated and people have been barred from parking their vehicles there. We don’t want to park our vehicles on the road, but the nearest parking space is at some distance and it is not easy to park the vehicle there and walk all the way back,” said Abhishek, a local resident. When The Tribune team visited the area, some policemen, coming out from the headquarters, said a stretch of the parking lot had been vacated, but there was proper parking space there. A senior police official said policemen were deployed there regularly to control the situation and if they were not doing their duty properly, action would be taken against them.



11 cops transferred
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
The Chandigarh Police today transferred four inspectors and seven sub-inspectors.

Sources in the police said Inspector Kehar Singh had been transferred from the CID wing as the Station House Officer (SHO) Mani Majra police station from January 1, as the incumbent SHO of the police station, Hari Kumar, is going to retire on December 31.

Inspector Malkiat Singh, who was recently promoted, has been appointed as in-charge of the Mauli Jagran police post, while Inspector Dalip Rattan has been shifted from Sector 11 police station to CID wing.

Similarly, Inspector Devinder Sharma has been transferred from the Police Lines to the Operations Cell.

Among the sub-inspectors, Lakhbir Singh has been shifted from the Sukhna Lake police post to the Neelam police post in Sector 17, Udhay Pal Singh has been transferred from Sector 11 police station to Bapu Dham Colony police post, Ajinder Singh has been sent to the Sector 17 ISBT police post from woman and child support unit, Pargat Singh from Maloya police post to Sector 11 police station and Ram Rattan from ISBT, Sector 17, to Maloya police post.



1.31 lakh immunised in polio campaign
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
As many as 1,31,832 children were immunised in the national pulse polio immunisation campaign carried out for three days with one-day booth activity and two days of house-to-house coverage. During the campaign, held from December 21 to 23, 463 stationary booths and 66 mobile teams were deputed for effective coverage of 0-5-year-old children against this disease.

The campaign was successful under the guidance and active inspections carried out by Ram Niwas, Health Secretary, UT, Chandigarh, Dr MS Bains, mission director-cum-director (health and family welfare), UT, Chandigarh and Dr Usha Bishnoi Kapoor, joint director (health and family welfare)-cum-medical superintendent, GMSH-16, in various slums and colonies.

Non-government organisations, religious leaders, municipal councillors of UT, Chandigarh, too, contributed in the campaign by motivating the parents to participate in this drive by bringing their children to the booths for getting oral polio vaccine drops.



Fog delays flights
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
The weather has taken its toll on air connectivity from the city. Flights of all major airlines are being delayed by one to three hours due to fog and bad weather.

Various flights were rescheduled today, including Jet Airways flight from Mumbai-Delhi-Chandigarh, by an hour. However, flights for tomorrow are operating as per schedule, a Jet Airways official said.

Kingfisher airlines’ Chandigarh-Mumbai flight was delayed by almost three hours.

The flight was scheduled to take off at 11 am but could only take off at 2.30 pm. The same flight has been rescheduled to fly at 12 noon tomorrow.



GAIL donates Rs 9 lakh for needy patients
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), Chandigarh, donated a sum of Rs 9 lakh to the Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, for the treatment of poor patients here today.

“No other company has so far provided such an amount as donation for the treatment of poor patients. Corporates must provide financial assistance for such projects,” said Prof Dr Raj Bhadur, Director-Principal, GMCH-32.

The cheque was handed over by GAIL officials to the institute’s Dr Raj Bhadur at a function today.

Prof Bahadur assured that the money would be judiciously used in the interest of poor patients at the hospital.

He requested people to extend help for the welfare of poor and needy people.

Zonal general manager, North zone, GAIL, V.C. Chittoda, was also present.

He explained the activities undertaken by GAIL under its corporate social responsibility programme.



Lok adalats a boon for litigants

The two days lok adalats held as a part of Samadhan-2008 at various places in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh have proved to be a boon especially for the poor litigants.

The growing feeling of disillusionment and frustration among litigants on account of delayed justice has dispelled fears especially when thousands of cases of different nature were settled during these two days.

These lok adalats were held at a time when the judicial delivery system has been alleged to be at the crossroads. The steps taken by Justice T.S. Thakur, Chief Justice of Panjab and Haryana High Court would certainly restore the shaken confidence of the men in the street.

S.K. Khosla, Chandigarh

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PU to go soft on late fee penalty
Smriti Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
After many deliberations, a committee constituted by the Panjab University authorities to look into the issue pertaining to late fees and penalties on various accounts has recommended rationalisation of fines/ late fee charges imposed on the students. The committee was formed to look into the late result cases of the students due to accumulation of huge money as late fees. The recommendations of the committee have been sent to Vice-Chancellor Prof RC Sobti for his approval.

A meeting of the committee, including fellows GK Chatrath, Prof Naval Kishore, Ashok Goyal and others was held today. According to sources, the members have recommended rationalisation of the penalties imposed on the students for depositing their admission forms late or having paid lesser amount than the prescribed fee while depositing the forms. The recommendations also authorised the vice-chancellor to exercise his rights for waiving off the penalty in accordance with the university calendar.

If the insiders are to be believed, the members have also recommended that a lenient view should be taken in genuine cases and the penalties imposed should be such so that the students are not overburdened.

The committee was specifically formed to look into the cases of those students whose result were pending for over two years now because of the failure on their part to pay the imposed late fees with late fees.

In fact, in some cases the late fees was so high that many students were not in a position to pay the same and were unable to get their results cleared from the university.

The issue was taken up in the recently held first meeting of the newly constituted Panjab University senate where it was proposed that the students having genuine reason should be exempted from the late fees.



Silver jubilee reunion at PU today

Chandigarh, December 23
A grand silver jubilee reunion -2008 is being organised by University Business School (UBS), Panjab University, tomorrow to felicitate the batches of 1982 and 1983 to mark the silver jubilee of their passing out. The reunion is a continuation of the tradition of honouring the alumni on the occasion and also to provide an opportunity to the students of UBS to get mentored by their seniors. — TNS



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