C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Mega Projects
MHA stops land acquisition in city
Orders special audit of allotment of land to IT Park, status of mega projects
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
In another setback to UT Administrator S.F. Rodrigues, the land acquisition and the controversial mega projects of the Chandigarh Administration have come under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) scanner.

In a communication having far-reaching consequences, the MHA has asked the administration to put on hold further land acquisitions under the Land Acquisition Act. Besides, a special audit has also been ordered for the allotment of land to the IT Park projects and the status of the controversial mega projects - Medi City, Film City and Theme-cum-Amusement Park.

The development assumes significance in the backdrop of administration's ambitious plans to acquire land for the Phase III of the IT Park. The mega projects are already under the scanner of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

The development will sound music to the ears UT farmers, who had waged a relentless war against the administration's lopsided land acquisition policies. "The administration should restore us the lands acquired for the mega projects and start the process again under new rehabilitation policy and Act whenever they come into being,” president of the Chandigarh Sanjha Morcha Brig K.S. Kahlon (retd) said.

Now, the MHA wants an institutional mechanism for land acquisition saying that it should be vetted by the Co-ordination Committee and the Administrator’s Advisory Council having representatives of the Ministry of Urban Development and MHA. The administration should implement the National Rehabilitation and Re-settlement Policy, 2007, and should get its policy also vetted from the ministry concerned.

Meanwhile, a team headed by the Chief Controller of Accounts of the MHA would do the special audit. The audit will involve issues of inadequate compensation to farmers on land acquisition, complaints about exemption, violations where land was sold to private buyers or companies with reference to prevailing Rules, allotment of land to IT Park projects and the status of the mega project.

It seems that the heat generated by the controversies surrounding the mega projects have finally shaken the MHA. This, coupled with the CVC probe into mega projects, has put a question mark on the coming up of the mega projects, including the ambitious IT Park.

The new MHA directive in the run-up to the May 13 Lok Sabha elections is likely to hot up the election campaign in the city. In fact, all political parties are demanding enhanced land compensation for the farmers.

Angrez Singh, president of the Pind Bachao Committee, said their long-drawn battle against "forcible" land acquisition had borne fruit.

Chidambaram in city today

While the MHA tightens its noose around the UT administration, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram will be in Chandigarh on April 8. Chidambaram will hold a meeting on security preparations for the forthcoming elections.



MHA directive on land acquisition hailed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The directive of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to the Chandigarh administration to put land acquisition on hold and conduct a special audit of the mega projects has been welcomed by a cross section of society.

Talking to The Tribune, president of the Manimajra Farmers’ Welfare and Environment Protection Society H.S. Johl said the directive would go a long way in checking the indiscriminate land acquisition by the administration.

The special audit will bring transparency in the working of the administration, which had been giving a raw deal to the UT farmers by implementing the “anti-people” policies, Johl added.

A prominent businessman, H.S. Mamik, said a detailed report card on the "unplanned" land acquisition in the union territory was the need of the hour. Even after the passage of the amended Land Acquisition Act and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy in the Lok Sabha, the administration went ahead with the acquisition of land just to score points, he said.

Social activist Hemant Goswami demanded an independent and unbiased investigation into the land acquisition after the removal of the UT Administrator and officials concerned.

150 acres to be affected

The MHA directive will affect land acquisition on over 150 acres of land though the exact quantum of land to be affected is not immediately known. This land includes for various projects, including roads. However, officials claimed that the acquisition for the Phase III of the IT Park would not be affected as the award had already been declared for the said land.

MHA with an eye on poll

The timing of the MHA directive has raised many an eyebrow. It is alleged that the MHA directive to the administration has been timed with the visit of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to Chandigarh on April 8. It is a known fact that Minister of State for Home and Congress candidate Pawan Bansal, who was Chidambaram's deputy when he was the Union Finance Minister, shares a good equation with the Home Minister.



Mehra’s powers still not restored
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Punjab Governor and UT Administrator S.F. Rodrigues seems to be in no mood to restore the powers of his adviser Pradip Mehra to write the annual confidential reports (ACRs) of his subordinates.

Over a week after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) directed him to forthwith restore Mehra’s powers to write the ACRs of his subordinate officers, Rodrigues continues to defy the directive. Interestingly, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who reportedly overruled Rodrigues’ contentions of not restoring Mehra’s powers on the pretext of the ongoing vigilance probe against him, will be in Chandigarh tomorrow.

On March 2, the MHA had directed the Administrator to restore Mehra’s powers following a clean chit in case relating to the allegations of misuse of CITCO funds for the renovation of his house in New Delhi.

Caring two hoots for the MHA directive, the administrator ordered a vigilance inquiry against Mehra on March 9 on the basis of the legal opinion submitted by UT’s senior standing counsel Anupam Gupta on certain quasi judicial orders passed by him.

The very next day (March 10), Rodrigues wrote to the Union Home Minster expressing his inability to restore Mehra’s power in view of the ongoing vigilance inquiry.

However, reacting to Rodrigues’ letter, a communication sent by Ashwani Kumar, Director (S), MHA, to the UT Home Secretary on March 31 clearly stated that the arguments of the Administrator were examined but there was nothing to suggest a departure from the laid down guidelines of Government of India that provide for communication of ACRs, whether adverse or otherwise, to the officer reported upon.

The letter further stated: “It has, therefore been decided that the prevalent channel of writing ACRs of subordinate officers by the Adviser and the status quo ante may be restored forthwith.” The letter is explicit that “this issues with the approval of the Union Home Minister”.



Ex-DGP's security officer shoots at gunman
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
An allegedly drunk personal security officer (PSO) of AA Siddiqui, former DGP of the Punjab Police, tonight fired at another gunman, injuring him for not bringing his dinner.

The incident took place around 10.30 p.m. when PSO Shamsher Singh, a head constable with the Punjab Police, had an argument with Balbir Singh, a 37-year-old constable from the Punjab Armed Police, posted outside the house of the former DGP in the posh Sector 8 here.

The police said the accused, who has been arrested, fired three-four bullets from his service revolver which hit Balbir Singh in the chest and hands. Eyewitnesses said two other gunmen of the former officer — Balbir and Balwant — rushed to the rescue of their colleague. However, by that time, Shamsher had already fired the rounds. A profusely bleeding Balbir rushed to the door of the bungalow and fell in the driveway.

He was shifted to Government Multi-speciality Hospital, Sector 16, where his condition was stated to be stable. Har Sahai Sharma, SHO of the Sector 3 police station, confirmed that Shamsher Singh was miffed at his junior for not bringing his dinner.



Pankaj Yadav is Panchkula DC
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 7
Following the order of the Election Commission (EC), Pankaj Yadav has been appointed the new Deputy Commissioner of Panchkula. Earlier, he was working as Director and Joint Secretary, Primary Education Department, Haryana.

Rajinder Kataria, ex-DC, was removed from the post by the EC after receiving a complaint from the Chautala-led INLD that he was a close relative of Haryana Pardesh Congress Committee president Phool Chand Mulana.

Kataria has been posted as Director and Joint Secretary, Primary Education Department.



NCB Driver’s Arrest
Court pulls up police
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Judicial Magistrate, first class, (JMIC) P.K. Lal today pulled up the UT Police for meting out inhumane treatment to Paramjit Singh, a burn victim and a constable in the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Chandigarh, who was arrested on Monday after recovery of 850 litres of petrol from his residence in February.

Paramjit Singh had sustained 63 per cent burns after a fire broke out at his Sector 37 residence on February 14, which led to the recovery of huge quantity of petrol.

He was produced in the court today with his hands, feet and legs bandaged while blood was oozing out from his wounds. The police had put a shawl over him, apparently to keep away flies and dust falling on his naked wounds.

Shocked to see the poor condition of the driver, the JMIC observed, “It is inhumane not provide proper care to the person who has suffered from such serious burns and asked the police to get him admitted to a hospital at the earliest.”

However, the court sent Paramjit in judicial custody of 14 days. The counsel for the accused, Paramjit, stated that the victim was suffering from 63 per cent burns and bring him to courts could make his condition critical. Paramjit was not able to walk and was limping. The accused health was in poor condition with his hands, arms, face, legs and face badly burnt, he said.

Talking to the Tribune, Paramjit Singh said: “It is better to die than being brought to courts in such poor condition. I am not keeping good health and I have been brought to the courts when I am facing difficulty to walk.”

Paramjit had been booked under Sections 336 of the IPC and Section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act after the recovery the 850 litres of petrol from his residence following an incident of fire.

Paramjit was posted as driver in the NCB. It may be recalled that the petrol was detected after a fire broke out at Paramjit’s Sector-37 residence on February 14. He was badly injured in the fire.

On the delay in arrest, DSP (East) Jaswant Singh Khaira said the accused had moved court seeking anticipatory bail, which was rejected last month.

He remained elusive to the police and a police team raided his native village, Gharuan, from where it was revealed that he had gone to a hospital in Chandigarh for treatment.

Suggesting the tips to be given to burns patient, Dr Pradeep of the plastic surgery department, PGI, said, "In cases where the patient has received 60 per cent burns, the chances of skin getting infected are very high. The patient's dressing has to be changed every alternate day and should be immediately admitted in the hospital."



Embanking Ghaggar
Punjab, Haryana at loggerheads
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Punjab and Haryana have locked horns over the issue of embanking the Ghaggar. While Punjab has completed embanking a large part of the inter-state river to stop it from causing floods, Haryana has refused to allow Punjab to carry out the work on the rest of the river.

“Haryana had agreed to phase I of the project and we have completed over 22 km of embanking. Now, for the second phase, Haryana is opposing the project for no reason at all,” said Punjab Chief Secretary Ramesh Inder Singh.

The Punjab government had prepared a project for canalisation of the river with the construction of embankments. Phase- 1 of the project from Khanoauri to Makroar Sahib was approved by the Ghaggar standing committee and is currently under implementation. The work is expected to be completed in about two weeks.

Phase II of the project, comprising the remaining length of 17.5 km from Makroar Sahib to Karali, has been submitted to the Central water commission, which had appraised the project pending approval by the Ghaggar standing committee.

Haryana irrigation secretary RN Prashar said the project was not technically sound. “Embanking the river when it nears Haryana would cause it to flood our areas. We cannot approve a technically faulty project. Punjab would have to get the project approved from the Ghaggar standing committee and the central water commission. If these bodies approve the project, we would give our comments on it. We have no objection to a project that does not harm our interests,” added Prashar.

Ramesh Inder Singh, however, pointed out that the matter was discussed in the 21st meeting of the Ghaggar standing committee and though Haryana did not agree, no technical rationale was given for their disagreement.

Apparently, all talks with Haryana over the issue have failed and the Punjab Chief Secretary has now written to the secretary, ministry of water resources, Government of India, to help them get an approval from Haryana.

“In case we do not take up the phase II of the project, there would be no benefit of phase I. The problem of floods would remain and it may worsen in some areas. In fact, canalisation is a part of national strategy to ensure optimal utlisation of surface water and there does not seem to be any reason to oppose the phase II of the project when phase I was agreed to,” states the Chief Secretary’s letter.

Prashar said Haryana had approved the first phase of the project as it was deep within Punjab’s territory. “We have no problem with what Punjab does in its own area. But now when the river has to be embanked near our territory we will object to it,” he said.

“Instead of objecting to what we are doing, Haryana should embank its portion of the river also. We have also asked the secretary, GOI, to issue a technical advisory to Haryana in this regard,” said Ramesh Inder Singh.


Code violations
Poll panel not taken seriously
Aarti Kapur
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
It seems that no political party or individual is taking the notices served by the Election Commission seriously for violating various codes of conduct as the reply or comments asked by the commission is seldom sent on time.

On March 31, the commission sent a notice to the Panjab University authorities to give comment within 24 hours how the extension of PU Vice- Chancellor R C Sobti was not the violation of the code of conduct. Interestingly, the commission received a letter from the Panjab University authorities today that they will file the reply by the evening, but on inquiry, till the filing of the report, no reply had been received in this regard.

The commission also asked the PGI authorities on a complaint on April 2 as to how the extension of the PGI Director K K Talwar was not the violation of the code of conduct. The commission asked the authorities to comment on it and file a reply within 24 hours. But the authorities filed the reply at their sweet will on April 6 caring least about the fixed time.

Similarly on April 3, the commission asked for the comments from Congress minister Pawan Kumar Bansal as to how he inaugurated the swimming pool at the Press Club during the imposition of the code of conduct. According to sources in the commission, he was to file a reply within 24 hours, but so far the reply is still awaited.

In another complaint in which the commission had asked for the comment from Congress councilor and chairman, Chandigarh Market Committee Board, Devinder Singh Babla, for the misuse of official vehicle in election campaign, the reply is yet to be filed by Babla in this regard.

Chandigarh Joint Chief Election Commission Hargunjit Kaur stated that if any party or individual did not file the reply within the stipulated period, the commission extended the time limit. But till date no action had been taken against anybody for delay in filing the reply.

BJP member Arun Sood, who is dealing with the Election Commission office, stated that when an FIR could be filed against Lalu Prasad for violation of the Model Code of Conduct for his remarks against Varun Gandhi at Kishanganj in Bihar, why the Election Commission was waiting to get the directions from Chief Election Commission, New Delhi, to take action against AICC minority cell chairman Imraan Kidwai for inflammatory speech even though the BJP had filed a complaint with the commission many days ago.

Standing panel meets today

A meeting of the standing committee for the code of conduct will be held tomorrow to discuss the violation. Official stated that at the last meeting, a few parties had sent their representatives at the meeting but this time only those would be allowed to attend the meeting, who are the members of the committee.



150 outstation students fill forms for voting
Neha Miglani

Chandigarh, April 7
In a unique effort by four students of Panjab University, over 150 forms (Form 6 and 1D) of outstation students were filled in PU hostels to get their names in the voter’s list in one day’s time.

Ekansh Anand, Rohit Yadav and Vibhor Garg, all students of the third year, UIET), and Vipul Sharma, who is working with an NGO, started this awareness drive from their hostel (Swami Vivekanand hall - Boys Hostel 7).

Says Ekansh, “We had put up notices in all PU hostels asking for two passport size photographs, one document of age proof and residence proof and gave our cell numbers. The response was amazing. We then went and submitted their forms as well.”

The last date for filling the required form for getting name shifted in another constituency, if name already existed in voting list elsewhere, and depositing was April 7 till 5pm.

Says Hargunjit Kaur, Joint Chief Electoral Officer, “There is a misconception that you cannot vote if you do not belong to a place and the address in the voter’s card is of your native town. One just has to fill form 6 and form 1(D) and the name is added in the existing place list after verification.”



Cong lodges 2 complaints
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The Congress has lodged two complaints with the Chief Electoral Officer of Chandigarh alleging violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

Chittranjan Kumar, a resident Mani Majra, has alleged that a Deputy Advocate-General of Punjab Antar Singh Brar had arranged an election meeting at Pipliwala town at Mani Majra on April 1, which was addressed by BJP candidate Satya Pal Jain.

Kumar said Brar was also instrumental in getting a number of people to attend the rally, where Jain was seeking votes for his party. Kumar claimed as per Section 123 (7) of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951, neither any candidate nor his election agent can obtain assistance of any government employee (gazetted officer) for furtherance of prospects of their candidate’s election and if he does so, it amounts to corruption.

The second complaint is by Chandigarh resident Ramesh Goyal, who has demanded action against the organiser of the Mahaila wing of the BJP for taking the services of school buses for plying workers at a rally held at a park adjoining Nanksar Gurudwara Sahib in Sector 28 recently. The school buses, he said, were meant for transporting the schoolchildren. As evidence, he has sent photographs of buses in which one is shown displaying the BJP party flag on the front windscreen.



NK Sharma at the forefront
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, April 7
If Jasjit Singh Bunny is the only heir of his father’s political legacy, he may be right to an extent. But there are many more who are cashing in on the political legacy of the former Cooperation Minister.

Zirakpur MC president NK Sharma, a betenoir of the minister, who opposed the latter in the later part of his political career, is now in the forefront to cash in on the minister’s political inheritance on the SAD platform.

Interestingly, Sharma had been expelled from SAD for his anti-party activities on the insistence of the minister.

“If Jasjit seeks sympathy votes in the name of his father, his political opponents have decided to seek votes to fulfil the dreams of the minister.

Prem Singh Chandumajra, SAD candidate from the Patiala seat, and Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, SAD candidate from the Anandpur Sahib seat, would use the strategy as the minister was mobilising his voter base for both candidates”, observed a political analyst.

Not denying that the decision of Bunny to contest as Independent would have effect on election campaign of SAD in the entire state, a SAD leader said a negative message had gone among veteran Akali leaders.

A political analyst said despite NK Sharma taking over Chandumajra’s election campaign in the area, Akalis were nervous over Bunny contesting on the seat. The sympathy vote netted by Bunny would make a dent into the SAD’s vote bank.

All while the minister was at the helm of affair, NK Sharma (who could turn out to be Sukhbir Badal’s trump card) was kept at bay though he was seen at gathering of the BJP. The Akalis are expected to hand over the reins of the election campaign to Sharma at a public rally here on April 10. The gathering would be used as a show of strength and send message to the turncoats.

SAD leadership has directed Morinda MLA Ujjar Singh Wadali to rope in rival Akali groups in support of party candidate Dr Daljit Singh Cheema in Kharar and Morinda segments.

SAD youth president Kiran Bir Singh Kang, Bunny Badal and Amrik Singh Mohali, who do not see each other eye to eye, are being asked to iron out their differences.



Health facilities vital in emergency cases: Experts
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
To mark the World Health Day, the Indian Public Health Association (IPHA), local branch, School of Public Health, PGIMER, organised a symposium on the theme “Save lives and make hospital safe in emergencies” here today.

The symposium focused on health facilities and the readiness of health workers who treated those affected by emergencies. About 80 participants attended the symposium from different departments of the PGI.

Prof Rajesh Kumar, head, School of Public Health, and president, IPHA, delivered the inaugural address. He said partnerships between different sectors, including emergency services, were vital to ensure that health facilities received priority attention when an emergency occured. Prof Anil Kumar Gupta, medical superintendent, PGI, spoke on the concept of “safe hospital”.

“A hospital must have adequate facilities during critical period and well-trained personnel to handle the impact of emergencies during disaster,” he said.

Health centres and staff are critical lifelines for vulnerable people in disasters - treating injuries, preventing illnesses and caring for people’s health needs, he added.

Dr PVM Lakshmi, assistant professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, also delivered a lecture on this occasion. She explained the role of health facilities in emergencies. She said hospitals were more than just buildings. Due to the central role played by hospitals in our communities, we all share the responsibility of making sure they are resilient in the face of emergencies,” she said.

“Different types of emergencies bring typical patterns of injuries, such as crush injuries in earthquakes and hypothermia in floods, with corresponding needs for training and supplies,” she said. Dr Shiva Nanda, lecturer, Centre for Defence and National Security Studies, Panjab University, also spoke on disaster management in India with respect to hospitals and also the gaps and future challenges.



Market loans fill 57 pc of states’ kitty
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Decline in collections under National Small Savings Fund (NSSF), market loans have emerged as the most important source of financing the Gross Fiscal Deficit (GFD) of state governments.

Market loans financed 58.9 per cent of GFD during 2007-08 as compared with just 16.9 per cent during the previous year, while the provisional figure for 2008-09 is 56.7 per cent, according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Commenting upon the recent developments in the market borrowing programme of state governments in its report on State Finances : A Study of Budgets of 2008-09, the RBI stated that 20 state governments had participated in the programme in 2008-09.

The report stated that during 2007-08, the Central government provided an additional Rs 35,780 crore to the states on account of shortfall under the NSSF, thereby resulting in the gross allocation of market borrowings amounting to Rs 80,570 crore. During the previous year, the total figure was Rs 26,596 crore. In 2008-09, the gross market borrowing stood at Rs 71,474 crore.

Since 2006-07, all state governments have been raising market loans through the auction route. The weighted average interest rate on market loans witnessed a rising trend during recent years. The loans raised during 2007-08 had interest rates in the range of 7.84-9.90 per cent, while during 2008-09 interest rates were 6.95-9.90 per cent.

During 2007-08, four state governments, including Haryana, did not participate in the market-borrowing programme. On the other hand, 12 state governments including Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan raised 100 per cent of their gross allocation.



Servant commits suicide
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Apparently upset over his honesty being questioned by his longtime master, Surinder Bisht, a servant, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself at his employer’s residence in Sector 15 here today. The 37-year-old servant held no one responsible for his death.

According to the police, the death came to light around 2:30 pm when the employer, Jasmail Singh, came home and their servant was nowhere to be seen. His wife went to their first floor bedroom and found Surinder hanging. She raised an alarm and the police was informed about the incident.

The SHO of the Sector 11 police station inspector Sukhbir Rana said the police recovered a suicide note from the spot. He held no one responsible for his death and said no action should be taken in this regard. He also had written to his master about the money, saying the same was not in the house.

The SHO said the employer told him that around Rs 70,000 had gone missing from his house about a fortnight ago. He questioned all his servants, including Surinder, about the money. He also said that his driver had quit job after 10 days the theft was committed.

The police said the spot was examined by forensic experts. The body was shifted to the Sector 16 Government Multi Specialty Hospital. His wife lived at their native village in Garhwal.



School celebrates 25th anniversary
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Students and staff of Stepping Stones Senior Secondary School went on a trip down the memory lane while celebrating the 25th anniversary of the school.

The day became very special for the students when they saw their teachers and principal perform on stage. Ex-students, too, joined in the celebration and talked of those cherished moments with the staff over a cup of tea. There was also an interactive session between the teachers and students, both present and past, in which they exchanged their views and vision to ensure their school always ranked first among equals.

A new student council was also formed for the session 2009-2010. The captains and vice-captains were given badges by the principal.



Theatre workshop ends
Tribune News Service

Mohali, April 7
A 21-day theatre workshop in collaboration with CEVA, a city-based NGO, concluded at British School, Mohali. The workshop imparted “valuable lessons in body movements, tableau, voice modulation and other theatre techniques.”

Students performed a play “The Indian Dream”. The play unfolded in the form of a dialogue between a boy and a girl, who talked about some lofty visions and ambitious dreams for a greater India. The play ended with a positive note, where the young actors were seen taking an oath to make their contribution to build India as a great country - an India of their dreams. The workshop brought a dramatic change in the students, said the school principal, Parvinder Kaur.



100 units of blood donated
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Late Phinoo Teresa Memorial Education and Charitable Trust, in collaboration with Govt Model Senior Secondary School Sector 32, organised a blood donation camp at school premises here today.

Home Secretary UT Administration Ram Niwas who was the chief guest. Niwas appreciated the school staff and the principal for making this contribution to the society.

He also exhorted the members of the trust and school authorities to organise a mega blood donation camp for which he promised all help. About hundred members of staff, old students and parents donated blood.

Dr Savita Basu, head of the blood transfusion department, GMCH 32, who along with her team had been there to conduct the camp, was highly enthused with the response of the donors and appreciated the efforts of the school and the trust.

The students had organised a live exhibition on drug abuse and eradication of other social evils. Amar Vivek, advocate of Punjab and Haryana High Court, who has donated blood on 103 occasions, was also present.



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