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BJP courts controversy again
Flouts STA norms, uses school buses for election rally

G.S. Paul
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
It seems that the politicians thrive on the basic principle of “break all rules and get away with it.” Unfortunately, the ensuing Lok Sabha elections threaten to follow this principle. After roping in schoolchildren for political rallies, the local unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today pressed into service around 15 school buses for ferrying political workers and people to and from a public rally addressed by the national general secretary of the BJP Arun Jaitley at the Sector 27 Ram Lila ground.

If school buses were used for election rally, permits of buses will be cancelled. Earlier too, the bus operators were warned for indulging in this kind of practice, but they did not pay any heed to it

— Transport Secretary Vandana Disodia

What can we do if political parties ask us for buses? This is otherwise against norms. It happens off and on but who could have said no to them?

— A school principal

Ironically, the political bigwigs present on the rally site retorted that it was no way any violation of the Model Code of Conduct. However, they failed to give a satisfactory reply about the violations of the State Transport Authority (STA) guidelines.

The school bus operators enjoy hefty annual road tax concessions because of the provision in the contract entered with the STA, which specifically states that no school bus would be used for purposes other than ferrying schoolchildren.

Despite this, giving two hoots to norms, two buses of KB DAV-7 (CH-03M-5340 and CH-04 -3112) two buses of DAV Model School-15 (CH-04D- 0075 and CH-03V-760), two buses of St Xavier’s School-44 (CH-01-S-7030 and CH-03-N-7205) two buses of St Stephen’s School-45 (CH-03K-4122 and CH-04 -7072), one bus of St Anne’s School-32 (CH-04-248), one bus of Saupin’s School-32 (CH-03-W-5142) and two buses of Government Model Senior Secondary School-16 (PB-11-AA- 3779 (T) and PB -65 G -5130) were part of the BJP caravan.

When contacted, Secretary, Transport, Vandana Disodia, said it was a sheer violation of norms. “If it was so, then their permit will be cancelled. It has been observed earlier, too, and the bus operators were warned for indulging in this kind of practice, but they did not pay any heed to it. Action will be taken tomorrow.”

However, a school principal, preferring anonymity, said: “What can we do if political parties ask us for buses? This is otherwise against norms. It happens off and on but who could have said no to them?”

On March 16, The Tribune had highlighted that the BJP had made students, in the age group of 6-11 years, of GMHS-26 (Bapu Dham) a part of its rally at Sector 15. Following this, the administration was compelled to frame guidelines refraining students from engaging into any political activity.

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Kids at risk of TV, videogame seizures
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
Watching television and playing videogames is a common trigger for photosensitive epilepsy. The nearer you are to the screen, the more likely it is to trigger a seizure, said experts during a workshop on paediatric epilepsy, organised by the PGI paediatric department here today.

This is because a larger area of retina is stimulated by the flicker of the picture, which increases the risk of photosensitive epilepsy.

Precautions

  • Watch the television in a well-lit room
  • Have a small-lit lamp on top of or close to the television
  • Don’t sit too close to the television. Watch from a distance of at least 8 feet
  • Use the remote control wherever possible - from a safe distance - to adjust the television or to change channels
  • If you have to go near the television, cover one of your eyes with the palm of your hand. This will cut down the number of brain cells that are stimulated by any flicker on the screen

As per the figures available with the PGI paediatric department, more than 100 epilepsy cases are being reported every month and out of them, 10 per cent cases are of photosensitive epilepsy.

Expressing surprise over the rise of epilepsy patients in the paediatric department, doctors at PGI said the problem was on the rise because of the changing food habits and lifestyle. The doctors said changing one’s food habit and lifestyle averts the risk of epilepsy.

“In a major case of epilepsy, there’s an involuntary movement of arms and legs, up rolling of eyes and froth out of mouth. There are other subtle cases of epilepsy where children develop changes in behaviour and become absentminded, stop playing or reading, besides degrading performance in studies. In some cases, children wake up in between sleep and start crying,” said Prof Pratibha Singhi, chief of Paediatric Neurology, PGI.

Prof Singhi said the workshop was aimed to familiarise the young doctors and paediatricians with the practical aspects of paediatric epilepsy and at knowing as to why some children develop changes in their behaviour, become hyperactive, irritable and have deteriorating performance in studies. This can be either because of the uncontrolled seizures or because of side effects of drugs. Over 70 per cent of epilepsy starts in childhood and paediatricians are the first point of contact in all such cases. It is important that paediatricians have the knowledge of differentiating true epileptic seizures from various conditions, which mimic seizures. In children, various types of seizures are missed, particularly myoclonic jerks and subtle seizures, said doctors. “Don’t be scared of epilepsy as it is very much curable and needs a little discipline in your lifestyle,” Prof Singhi added.

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Mohali-Phagwara Expressway
Farmers say no to land acquisition
Cong, SAD try to take political mileage
Rajmeet Singh/Tribune News Service

Mohali, April 12
In Punjab, the poll plank of the Akalis of offering realistic land acquisition compensation sells no more.

Despite the party quoting Rs 1.5 crore offered by the state government to acquire land for the international airport at Mohali, landowners and farmers of Mohali, Ropar, Patiala, Nawanshahr, Ludhiana and Kapurthala districts were no more interested in offering their land for the Mohali-Phagwara expressway.

Of the total 9,400 acres being acquired for the expressway, around 11 acres falls in the Anandpur Sahib parliamentary constituency. Sensing the mood of the farming community, the Congress leadership in the state is trying to mobilise the vote bank in its favour by raising the issue at different forums. Not taken in by the poll plank of the political parties, Kirpal Singh of Sahoran village in Kurali said their village was the worst affected as a junction of the expressway was planned there and around 250 acres of land of their village was to be acquired for the project.

Echoing the feelings of Kirpal, another affected person, Prem Singh of Jangpura village in Banur, said it would deprive many of their livelihood.

The farmers had made it clear that they would oppose the project tooth and nail. “Political parties are welcome to support us on the issue. But they would not be allowed to hijack it,” said Gurnam Singh of Badanpur village.

Many had taken cooperative loans for and sunk tubewells. There were many cases wherein the land of farmers would be cut in parts due to passing of the highway.

“The elevated expressway will result in host of problems for us as the access to the villages will not be at short distances. The government is also acquiring land for mix land use on both sides of the proposed expressway,” said Prem Singh, adding that 20 per cent more land (other than the portion to be acquired) would be affected by the acquisition.

The farmers have demanded that the state government, instead of making the expressway, should widen the existing highways. Hundreds of acres of cultivable land on the basis of which the landowners were earning their livelihood would be affected, said Sandeep Singh.

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Insurance firm penalised Rs 1 lakh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
The Consumers Disputes and Redressal Forum has directed the Reliance General Insurance to pay Rs 1 lakh as the insured amount to the complainant, Ajaib Singh Tung, whose claim for his wife’s gall bladder treatment was rejected by the company.

In his complaint, Ajaib Singh, who along with his family was insured under a group medical insurance scheme, had stated that the company had rejected his claim on grounds that his wife’s illness was pre-existing and hence was not covered under the policy.

However, Ajaib Singh contended that they did not have any knowledge about the existence of the disease at the time of taking the policy, thus he was entitled to the claim.

Ranjit Kaur, wife of the complainant, was taken to Liberty Hospital, Mohali, on September 7, 2007, after repeated complaints of stomach pain, even though she did not have any pre-existing disease.

At the hospital, she was diagnosed with a stone in the gall bladder and according to the ultrasound report, the gall bladder phase was fully swollen and her condition was deteriorating. She was then rushed to Fortis Hospital, Mohali, the next day where she was found to be suffering from serious double vessel disease and underwent a surgery. Subsequently, Rs 5,38,000 were spent for her treatment.

The complainant then filed a claim of Rs 1 lakh along with the necessary documents. However, the company denied the claim saying that the circumstances were excluded in its insurance policy. Even after repeated requests of the complainant, the plea fell on deaf ears.

The complainant, along with 1,682 advocate members of the High Court Lawyers’ Public Charitable Trust had jointly taken up this medical policy. However, even as he claimed to have paid a premium of Rs 36, 56,301 for taking the group insurance Mediclaim policy, his plea for the insurance amount was rejected.

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COMMUNITY

Opposition lacks leadership: Bhattal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
“There is a dearth of true leadership in the Opposition that could match the stature of leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi. None of these leaders ever thought beyond the welfare of countrymen,” claimed former Punjab Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal here today.

Addressing a gathering at Maloya, Bhattal lashed out at the Opposition, calling it a group of fractured parties that had damaged the country socially and economically.

“The functioning of the Opposition reflected poorly on its leadership,” Bhattal said.

She added that while there was a fight for the post of Prime Ministership in the Opposition, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had refused to be a candidate for the post. Instead, she had offered the post to Dr Manmohan Singh.

Promoting Pawan Kumar Bansal as the best choice for the Chandigarh parliamentary constituency, Bhattal exhorted people to support him. “He deserves your vote for he believes in work, democracy and economic uplift of the poor and downtrodden,” she asserted.

Bansal also stressed that the Congress stood behind the common man. He said none of the 22 villages and its residents would be uprooted at any point and the status of villages would be raised.

“Chandigarh residents cannot be fooled and they can judge what is right for them,” he said, adding that the Opposition was never in favour of appreciating the stalling of land acquirement at places like Govindpura, Deep Complex.

Former minister JS Kang said the legacy of the Congress was more than a century old and it believed in marching forward while taking people from all castes and creeds in its fold.

Kharar MLA Balbir Singh Siddhu said Dr Manmohan Singh was an able economist.

When Pakistan was denying to own Ajmal Kasab, one of the accused in the Mumbai terrorist attack, it was Dr Singh who pressured Pakistan into admitting that Kasab hailed from their country.

Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee president BB Bahl said putting Bansal as the Congress candidate was a unanimous decision.

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Jaitley does PM bashing
Smriti Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
Continuing with a tirade against the Congress in general and the Prime Minister in particular, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley today accused Manmohan Singh of “cheating the public”.

Addressing a BJP workers’ rally here today, Jaitley said it was shameful on the part of the Congress-led UPA government to negate the Nanavati Commission’s report and let the two leaders go scot-free.

Lashing out against Manmohan Singh’s another statement, Jaitley questioned as to why the PM did not offer his resignation at the time when the nuclear deal was struck instead of now claiming that had it been not for the success of the deal, he would have resigned.

The BJP leader, while citing a news, referred to Manmohan Singh as a weak Prime Minister - the one who was holding office but not power.

Taking a dig at the grim economic situation in the country, Jaitley said it was rather surprising that India was running without a Finance Minister while the trio of Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and P Chidambaram were considered to be one of the finest economists.

Holding the UPA government responsible for the sorry state of economic affairs in the country, Jaitley said when foreign investors were withdrawing from Indian markets, the Centre had raised interest rates and reduced money supply that gave a shock to the economy.

Referring to the BJP manifesto, he said the party had promised that senior citizens, pensioners and defence personnel would be kept out of tax net as is the case with the MP’s and farmers.

Slamming the government for not maintaining record of economic growth because of the discord in the ruling alliance, Jaitley alleged: “Those supporting the government did not let it take decisions and it failed to deliver.”

State BJP president Kamla Sharma and party candidate for the Chandigarh Lok Sabha constituency Satya Pal Jain were also present on the occasion.

Meanwhile, Sushil Kumar Bansi, in charge of the Congress Sewa Dal, Mauli Jagran; Arvind Pandey; Shripal Verma; and Umesh Gupta, former sarpanch, Hallomajra village and vice-president of the district Congress committee (rural); today joined the BJP.

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Chinks in BJP?
Supporters rally behind Joshi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
As the D-day draws closer, fissures in the BJP are coming to the fore. This was visible today during a BJP’s workers’ rally addressed by party general secretary Arun Jaitley.

Well aware about the presence of the senior BJP leader, party workers owing allegiance to Jairam Joshi sought his candidature for the Chandigarh seat.

Driving the message home, hundreds of supporters assembled at Jairam’s house while the rally was in progress and urged him to contest, irrespective of whether the party gave him a ticket or not.

Led by former municipal councillor Rajinder Kumar, the activists landed at Joshi’s residence in Sector 15 and demanded that the former BJP president of Chandigarh unit contested the elections.

Joshi, who was not present at his residence and was attending a Sewa Bharti function, rushed home after learning about the development.

He tried to pacify his supporters saying he was a “soldier” of the BJP could not oppose the official candidate of the party.

The supporters who seemed to be in no mood to relent threatened to sit on a dharna outside his residence.

Joshi then asked for some time to think to which his supporters gave him one week. They later reassembled at a nearby park.

Rajinder Kumar reminded the activists of the cudgels taken up by Joshi on issues like regularisation of power connections, rehabilitation of labourers and holding of dharnas and hunger strikes.

Former president of the BJP labour colony cell Meghraj Verma said it was because of Joshi’s effort that Gwala Colony at Railway Chowk was rehabilitated as Indira Colony, Mani Majra.

Among the activists who attended were former president of the BJP SC cell Zora Singh, former Pradesh secretary of the BJP’ local unit Ram Sunder, former BJP mandal chiefs Sher Singh and Charan Singh.

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Brahmin Sammelan
BSP leaders skirt caste, eulogise Mayawati
Smriti Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
BSP’s Brahmin Sammelan turned out to be a stage for leaders to eulogise party supremo Mayawati at Parshuram Bhawan, Sector 37, here today.

They were joined by high-profile campaigner and party general secretary SC Mishra, who was here to address the sammelan.

While BSP candidate Harmohan Dhawan chose to clear the air regarding the controversy that surrounded the event yesterday when a rival party “tried to sabotage the event by linking it wrongly with a particular community”.

Perhaps realising the seriousness of the issue, Mishra purposely didn’t make any political statement and got the banner of the Brahmin Sabha removed from the stage, which was hanging there before his arrival.

This proved no deterrent for Dhawan, who, apparently looking for a change in his fortunes, went all out to woo the Brahmin community.

Mishra praised Mayawati for her role in Uttar Pradesh besides underlining his own ‘judicial lineage’.

While both leaders first claimed that the party didn’t belong to any specific caste, Dhawan contradicted this stand, when — in an apparent bid to please the Brahmins — he started counting the number of Brahmin councillors in local municipal corporation.

Playing the communal card, Man Singh, senior party leader, also said it was Mishra who could single-handedly manage the support of lakhs of Brahmins because of his own Brahmin status.

In his parting statement, Mishra said Chandigarh had a sizeable population from Uttaranchal, the erstwhile part of UP, and should therefore support Dhawan, leaving them with a promise to get an Uttaranchal Bhavan constructed.

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Frittering away a legacy
Raveen Thukral

I never imagined that the political legacy of senior Akali leader, Capt. Kanwaljit Singh, will flitter away so soon and in such a manner. Just 12 days after his death his bête noire, NK Sharma, who was expelled from the Shiromani Akali Dal for opposing him in the MC elections, is back in the party fold and is being projected as its new face in the Banur area, once considered a stronghold of the late Capt.

And the man responsible for this is Capt. Kanwaljit's son, Jasjit Singh Bunny, who showed immense political immaturity by his flip-flops of first quitting the party and then meekly returning to it.

Though Capt. Kanwaljit Singh, whose political wisdom I have always respected, was a friend, all I know about Bunny is from the newspapers. So when I first heard about his decision to quit SAD and contest elections as an independent candidate from Patiala constituency, I was taken aback and I immediately called up another very close friend of Capt. Kanwaljit Singh hoping to get wiser.

However, that friend too was flabbergasted and had no inkling as to what had motivated Bunny to take this decision. By the evening as the news about Bunny's unexpected revolt spread, leading to all sorts of rumours of SAD being on the verge of split, I thought, albeit for a moment, that may be this young man had something up his sleeve.

As emissaries from the Badals kept pouring in at Bunny's residence throughout that evening and even the next day, giving signals of a reconciliation being underway, I, like many others, was hopeful that a deal will ultimately be struck and this revolt, though ill-timed (it came even before the Bhog ceremony), would turn out just a pressure tactic adopted by the family to extract the maximum. What added to this feeling was the statement of the Badal's that they were willing to take that extra step to accommodate the late Akali's family.

The presence of the both the senior and the junior Badal at the bhog ceremony and their statements of declaring Bunny as the rightful political heir of his father's legacy were also initially seen as a result of a reconciliation between the two Akali families. However, Bunny's reiteration of quitting the party at the fag end of ceremony was nothing but a public rebuff to the Badals.

I don't know what others, including Bunny, thought would happen after this, I was sure that the rift between the families had only got wider as Badals are not the ones who can swallow such humiliation that easily. And last week's events have proved this.

The only choice hence left for Bunny was to go ahead and do what he had said - quit the party and contest the elections.

While I do not view Bunny's initial decision to quit the party as a wise one, I can quite understand his frustrations. Whatever one may say, it's a fact that Capt. Kanwaljit Singh was not too happy the way things were going for him in the recent past.

After having been the Finance Minister of the state in his earlier stint as a minister, he was hoping to get the same portfolio but it went to a much a junior colleague and Parkash Singh Badal's nephew, Manpreet Badal. It's also well known that he was not in favour of Sukhbir's elevation and had made a statement (though he later denied) to the effect sometime back.

Capt. Kanwaljit Singh did pay for his utterances in the last Zirakpur MC elections as his detractors, primarily NK Sharma, had the tacit support of the powers that be within the Akali Dal and they worked to ensure the defeat of his candidates. Despite being suspended from the party NK Sharma and his nominees swept the polls, much to the embarrassment of Capt. Kanwaljit.

As for Bunny, one may like it or not, his future within the Akali Dal as such has no bright prospects. He belongs to a generation where he has to compete with not one but many of Badals' kin besides the heirs of the political legacy of other veteran Akalis. With Sukhbir, his wife, Harsimrat, his brother-in-laws, Bikram Majithia and Adesh Pratap Kairon, and cousin, Manpreet, already there, prospects of Bunny or for that matter any other second rung Akali leader, reaching any heights within the party or the government are anybody's guess.

So these issues could have played heavily on his mind and influenced his decision to revolt but he was in no position to make demands as he is still a greenhorn in politics. At best he could have remained satisfied playing the second fiddle to the Badal family and accepted what was given to him - a ticket for the by-election.

But after having revolted and embarrassing the Badals, there was no room for him to return. Sticking to his decision, howsoever immature, to contest and perhaps loose the Patiala Lok Sabha seat would have put him on a higher political pedestal than where he is now.

At least he would have come out as a young political leader who had the conviction to do what he said and also the guts to take on the most powerful Akali family in the state. But unfortunately his acts, which can be dubbed nothing but a tragedy of errors, brings him out as a wavering, an undependable and an opportunist politician.

I wish him luck and hope the best for him since he happens to be a friend's son but as a politician he has surely lost my vote.

Write to cityeditor@tribunemail.com

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GMSH-16
New OPD block to be ready by year-end
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
The Chandigarh administration’s new initiative, though on experimental basis, on emergency cases has turned out to be a boon for patients at the Government Multi-Speciality Hospital, Sector 16.

Under the initiative, critical patients brought to the emergency are provided with free treatment for the first 24 hours of admission.

On an average, around 100 patients are brought to the emergency wing of the hospital every day. The scheme covers the cost of treatment, medicines, ECG and X-ray in accident and medico-legal cases.

The hospital authorities had stocked medicines, surgical items and catheters worth Rs 10 lakh before launching the scheme.

Now, spadework is being done to widen the ambit of the scheme, apparently from June 1, under which routine investigations relevant to the critical ailment warranting a patient’s admission to the emergency will be included.

Explaining the rationale behind the scheme, Dr MS Bains, Director, Health Services, UT, Chandigarh, said: “In such cases, first 24 hours are crucial for the life of a patient. Our prime objective is to save precious lives by doing all that we can for patients and spare attendants the bother of arranging funds and things in the immediate.”

Helpers are available round the clock at the emergency to assist a patient on a stretcher or a wheelchair.

He added that the new OPD block was expected to be made operational by year-end. It will house all OPDs, which are now scattered all over the hospital complex, in one building, making things easier for patients and their attendants, Dr Bains said.

The new block, which was initially estimated to cost Rs 8.5 crore, will involve an expenditure of Rs 11 crore upon completion.

The administration has also taken steps to make medicines available at cheaper rates at the hospital. While 35 per cent rebate is allowed on all generic medicines bought by patients on the hospital complex, all branded medicines cost 10 per cent less than the MRP, Dr Bains added.

A proposal has also been initiated to upgrade the Industrial Area dispensary into a primary health centre and funds have been released for the purpose.

Besides, expansion of the Civil Hospital at Mani Majra to 100-bed capacity has been approved and work on the project will commence this year.

The expanded health centre will cater to the needs of the poor and labourers residing in the surrounding areas, Dr Bains added. 

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States should adhere to fiscal discipline, says RBI
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
Stressing that states have to adhere to fiscal discipline, hard budget constraints in other words, under the rule-based framework of fiscal responsibility legislations (FRL), the Reserve Bank of India has said that state governments should relate expenditures by focusing on the provision of core public and merit goods.

Further, there was a need to improve allocation towards development expenditure, particularly in view of the fiscal space being created on account of decline in debt servicing in recent years, the RBI has stated in its report on State Finances: A Study of Budgets of 2008-09.

The RBI has said state governments may relate expenditures to outcomes in terms of quality, reach and the impact of government expenditures. In this context, the quality of public finance management assumes importance.

According to the report, an assessment of the consolidated expenditure pattern of state governments revealed their average total revenue and capital expenditure as a ratio to the GDP declined from 15.9 per cent from 1991-95 to 19.9 per cent during 1996-2000.

The ratio improved to 17.1 per cent during 2001-05, but declined 10 15.9 per cent thereafter. Given the limitation in increasing public expenditure, state governments have set up expenditure reform commissions for rationalising spending.

In view of the predominance of non-development components in expenditure, however, the expenditure reform had remained a challenge at the sub-national level, the report said, adding that rising levels of fiscal deficits led to interest payments constituting a significant portion of the state expenditure.

A positive feature in recent years, the report pointed out, related to measures taken towards reducing fiscal deficits under the fiscal consolidation process and restructuring of state government liabilities.

This facilitated reduction in the ratio of interest payments to GDP. After touching a peak of 2.9 per cent of GDP in 2003-04, interest payments declined to 2.2 per cent of GDP in 2006-07.

This was partly due to the debt-swap scheme and debt consolidation and relief facility as recommended by the 12th Finance Commission and partly due to fall in interest rates.

The report also observed that expenditure for development purposes showed signs of improvement in recent years, but was still lower than levels achieved in the early 1990s. The average social sector expenditure as a ratio to GDP also declined in recent years.

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Water supply to upper floors
HUDA shrugs off responsibility
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 12
The Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) has laid off its responsibility to supply the drinking water to people living on the upper floors of residential buildings. HUDA superintending engineer AK Aggarwal said his department was to ensure water supply up to ground floor only and from there it was the responsibility of residents to take the water to the upper stories.

The comments of the HUDA official came after residents of Sector 19, irked over erratic drinking water supply, assembled in the locality and raised slogans against the officials concerned. They said those living on upper floors did not get water supply for the last three weeks.

The general secretary of the joint action committee of the residents, DR Sharma, said the locality was being supplied water through three tubewells and these remained out of order for one or another reason. While the transformer of tubewell in the Industrial Area was replaced on Friday after remaining out of order for 25 days, another tubewell set up in Sector 19 developed snags two times during the last 3 months, he said.

It was not just the complaint of residents of Sector 19. In fact major part of the town goes without water supply on the upper floors during summers. The residents of Sector 10 had already faced the hardship when a transformer at tubewell was not replaced as HUDA and the UHBVN kept on fixing the responsibility on each other.

Now, HUDA officials said the residents had to make their own arrangements for supply of water on upper floors. “The residents could dig up water tanks and install electrical motors to lift the water to upper stories,” suggested the superintending engineer.

When asked that how could residents of housing board quarter on upper floor get the right of installing water tank on the land of house owner of ground floor, Aggarwal said, “It was they (consumer) who had to solve the problem”.

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City without chief fire officer for 6 years
Aarti Kapur
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
The filling of the post of chief fire officer, which has been lying vacant for the past six years, in the fire and emergency service department seems to be last on the priority list of the Chandigarh municipal corporation.

Since 2004, no permanent chief fire officer has been appointed on this highly technical post.

Sources say the authorities of the corporation have invited a panel from Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh a number of times in the past but they have failed to get a suitable officer for this post.

Sources add that the problem lies in the lack of interest shown by the municipal corporation coupled with comparatively low pay scales.

Sources say there is no post of chief fire officer in Punjab, so the Punjab Government has never sent any name to the corporation for the post.

MC Commissioner Dr Roshan Sankaria says they have invited panels from the adjoining states but nobody has applied for the post. Consequently, they have given additional charge to Additional Commissioner PK Sharma.

Official say the department has imparted intensive training to their employees to make them eligible for promotion to the post. However, they have never been considered for promotion to the post in spite of it being vacant for such a long period.

Sources question the logic behind imparting training to employees when they are not to be considered for promotion.

Dr Sankaria had stated at a recent general house meeting that if eligible employees were available in the department to fill the post then no outsider would be considered for it.

However, despite the statement the post is still lying vacant even though officials are available within the department.

Meanwhile, nominated councillor Arshad Khan has written to the administration and suggested that provisions should be made to resume the property of violators of the fire and safety norms.

He has also proposed that a specialist paramedic team should accompany firemen in their ambulances to provide first aid to fire victims. He says he will propose the setting up of a fire institute in the city to train fire personnel.

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CME on internal medicine
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
The department of internal medicine, PGI, organised its annual continuing medical education programme on “Emerging issues in medicine” here today.

Over 120 delegates from the city and its surrounding areas participated in the CME.

After a welcoming address by organising secretary Dr Navneet Sharma and chairman Prof Subhash Varma, experts from AIIMS, New Delhi; SGPGI, Lucknow; and PGIMER delved into different emerging issues in the field.

The first symposium was on leptospirosis, an emerging zoonotic threat.

After a clinicopathologic discussion and demonstration of an autopsy-proven case, clinical features in India and diagnosis along with treatment modalities were discussed.

In the second symposium on rheumatology, discussion was held on “Tackling early rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoporosis” and “Concerns about the gastrointestinal safety of painkillers”.

Other topics included “Bleeding in critically ill patients”, “Disorders of salt-water imbalance”, “Emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria”, “Dealing with acute liver failure” and “Increasingly recognised metabolic syndrome in India”.

The CME concluded with a quiz session and distribution of prizes to winners followed by the vote of thanks by the chairman.

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Bahuguna for development of Himalayas
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
Highlighting the need to tackle the problem of global warming at the earliest, environment activist and Chipko movement champion Sundarlal Bahuguna stressed upon the need to have a sustainable development vision for the Himalayas at a press conference here today.

Bahuguna was a part of the ‘Himalaya Bachao Rally’ at Bilaspur on April 9, which was held for the cause of displaced people because of building of Bhakra Dam. He condemned the growth of mining projects in mountain states due to the havoc that they play with the mountains.

He further smiled and said: “Journalists have no fixed time to eat and sleep, so its better to keep your wife happy.”

He added, “The journalists should make efforts to remove superstitions and lay emphasis on the news that tells the truth behind events.”

As a part of the conference, a manifesto was announced at the end of a public meeting. Some of the demands in the manifesto included- proper rehabilitation of Pong Pandoh and Bhakra Dam outsees, scrapping of the Land Acquition Act, 1894, scrapping of SEZs in the state and strengthening mountain specific development policies for the state. The demands that evolved under the ‘Himalaya Niti Abhiyan’ were presented to the political parties, who were asked to make specific statements and comments.

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Rotary Club honours three
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 12
The world president of Rotary International (2009-10), John Kenny, honoured three eminent members of society for their dedicated service to humanity here today. He gave away crystal mementos as the Rotary Club made the roll call of honour citing many distinctive accomplishments of the personalities that were being honoured.

He was presiding over a free health awareness and check up camp organised by the Young Health Society of Panchkula under the aegis of the Rotary Club in collaboration with experts from the Apollo Group of health care delivery.

Among those who were honoured were Dr KLN Rao, Chander Prakash Bansal and Naresh Kumar Sanghi for their unstinting efforts towards the betterment of humanity.

Dr Rao, an eminent paediatric surgeon, presently head of department of paediatric surgery and urology, had a 30 years distinguished career in the field and was the most erudite scholar in his field.

Bansal, DGP-cum-MD, Haryana Police Housing Corporation (Vigilance), and the doyen of ‘Green Buildings’ was a man of principled living and as a global citizen concerned with the vital issues that afflict our environment today.

Sanghi showed exemplary commitment to justice and law and put his heart and mind to helping the less privileged after putting in several years of illustrious service.

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Exhibition to focus on peace for children
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
An exhibition of photographic panels is all set to zoom in on the issue of “building a culture of peace for the children of the world”, with the support of United Nation’s culture of peace initiative.

The organisers--- Bharat Soka Gakkai-- say the exhibition comes to the tricity when “the world is feeling helpless in face of growing terrorism”. It concentrates on concepts such as dialogue and tolerance, barriers to peace and the role of nations. The intention is to leave onlookers with the feeling: we can move the world from culture of war and violence, to a culture of peace.

“The exhibition, starting from April 18, will click instantaneously, as it celebrates the limitless potential of an individual to build peace in today’s world,” says the organisation’s local coordinator Ruchika Majithia.

The exhibition is being organised at Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10 from April 18 to 24; at Mohali YPS from April 25 to 27; at New Public School, Sector 18 from April 28 to 29; at Panchkula DAV SSS-8 from April 30 to May 1; and Panchkula Satluj Public School, Sector 4 from May 2 to 3.

An earlier version of the exhibition was organised at the annual world federation of United Nations Associations, Barcelona, in 2003.

It was subsequently viewed at the Club of Rome meeting in Amman, Jordan, and at the Graduate School of Education Library at Harvard in November 2007.

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‘Need to expand aviation industry’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
With the 2010 Common Wealth Games scheduled to be held in New Delhi drawing nearer, there is a need to expand and streamlining the growing aviation industry in India.

Stating this here today, Punjab Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said the domestic air traffic in India was increasing by 25-30 per cent annually, whereas the figure for the international traffic was 15 per cent. She was addressing participants at the Aviation Seminar for Pilot Training and Aviation Hospitality-2009, organised by the Circling Skies Institute of Aviation in collaboration with California Flight Academy.

Bhattal said India had 80 modern airports and this figure was likely to increase to 500 during the next 12 years that included 100 new Green Field Airports involving an investment of $15 billion. She added that many global companies were planning to invest in India, many of which had a direct bearing on the civil aviation sector.

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Shopkeeper goes missing
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 12
After the spate of dacoity cases, the town of Panchkula has been witnessing incidents where its residents go missing under mysterious circumstances. Close on the heels of a 40-year-old lawyer of consumer forum gone missing since March 30, now a resident of Sector 19 had been missing since yesterday.

According to his family members, Raj Kumar alias Raju (36) left home for his shop on scooter around 10 am yesterday. Soon the family noticed that keys of shop and his mobile phone were lying on the sofa set in the drawing room. Raju was running a shop of crockery at Baltana in Zirakpur and living with his wife and two kids in Panchkula.

First the family presumed that he left for temple before going to the shop and when he did not turn up a search was started with the relatives and friends, said Dinesh, a cousin of Raju.

The police started investigation into the matter today after the receiving the complaint.

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Bittu plays PM card to woo voters
Tribune News Service


Residents wait for Ravneet Singh Bittu to arrive at Phase II in Mohali on Sunday. A Tribune photograph

Mohali, April 12
Congress candidate from the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat Raveneet Singh Bittu today played the card of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to woo the educated voters of the city. Addressing a public rally here late this evening, Bittu said the PM had a clean image and knew about the issues and problems of Punjab. He was taking a lot of stress for the betterment of the state, he added.

Talking about the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat, he promised to set up a university in the holy city of Sikhs. Referring to the Prime Minister again, he said brining world class institutions in the proposed Knowledge City in Mohali and the IIT in Ropar were due to the efforts of Manmohan Singh.

He assured the gathering that he would urge the Prime Minister to announce stimulus package to revise the industry in the region.

With today’s rally, Bittu intensified his campaign in the urban segment of the constituency. Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress MLA from Kharar, also addressed the gathering.

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‘Punjabi Parivar Milan’ today
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, April 12
The Punjabi Bhaichara Mahasabha, Panchkula, will organise a “Punjabi Parivar Milan” programme on the occasion of Baisakhi tomorrow.

The programme, which will be held at Janj Ghar of Sector 10, is an attempt to bring together members of the community and spread a feeling of oneness and brotherhood.

Mahasabha president RK Kakkar said the two-hour culture programme would see Punjabi singer Dolly Guleria perform.

The function would start with shabad kirtan by Sudeep Kumar from Ambala, followed by a performance by comedian Sufi Jagjeet, also from Ambala.

The mahasabha plans to give assistance to needy families from time to time.

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Auto-Rickshaw
2-day stir from today

Chandigarh, April 12
In a decision taken at a joint action committee meeting, auto-rickshaw operators from Mohali-Panchkula-Chandigarh have announced to go on a two-day strike from tomorrow. Earlier, the committee of auto-rickshaw drivers of Mohali, Panchkula and Chandigarh had handed over a memorandum to the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) demanding release of impounded vehicles without any fine. — TNS

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Letters

Tricity roads in dire need of repair

This refers to the article “Are we drivers or killers” written by Raveen Thukral on April 6. Everyday, hundreds of people are killed in accidents and traffic violations are on the rise.

I was shocked on the death of Capt Kanwaljit Singh in a road accident. Most of the roads of Punjab and Haryana states are broken. The roads of the tricity are also badly maintained. The states hardly have road safety councils. The road safety should be the result of contributing efforts of the government and the residents. The roads should be properly maintained and widened.

The drivers should follow traffic rules of speed limits. They should not drive vehicles rashly and use mobile phones while driving. We should avoid crossing red light.

The government has not improved the roads.

Sahil Garg, Chandigarh

II

This week, the column “City Scope” discussed the wrong driving on the roads happening everywhere, including the city. The other day, when I was driving my vehicle after the lights turned green, suddenly two cycle-borne small girls came right in front of me. As a result, I rammed into them. Luckily, no one was injured, I heaved a shy of relief and with damage to my vehicle, I left the place. During this period, the girls kept laughing as if nothing had happened.

In the city, number of bicycle riders and rickshaw-pullers is increasing everyday. Most of them are illiterate and do not follow the road rules. They do not care even as they are least bothered of life and accidents as they are more bothered about claims and beating up etc. There are bicycle and rickshaw tracks but they are used only when directed by man on duty, otherwise every cyclist wants to enjoy the main road. The IPC and Motor Vehicle Act are so lenient that the driver who kills a person due to his sheer negligence get bail instantly. The case of the accidental death of Punjab minister, where drivers immediately got a bail, is an indication. Things will improve only if accident deaths are treated as murder and wrong driving is treated as an attempt to commit a murder or suicide.

RK Garg, Chandigarh

III

This is really condemnable that the licencing authorities in the country are very careless in taking driving tests. It is a fact that the traffic inspector is found busy signing files pushed by numerous touts surrounding him.

I agree with the Thukral that he had to go through all the aspects as required by the traffic laws in getting his driving licence in Canada. How the examiner there made him drive around for full 45 minutes and made him do almost everything that he had read and done in his driving classes. In India money is everything. It is sad to see that the principle “Throwing money and tasting honey” is working at every sphere of life in our country. The authorities must curb this tendency.

RK Kapoor, Chandigarh.

IV

The situation of driving is worsening day by day instead of improving. VIP vehicles are being driven at a high speed and always jump red lights. The result of rash driving is recent killing of Capt Kanwaljeet Singh. I do not blame driver but the person sitting inside the vehicle who fully supports rash driving.

You have correctly mentioned about getting driving licenses without any training and test. The violation, otherwise, is increasing such as lot of vehicles plying on roads without number plates, old two-wheelers and three vehicles polluting lot of smoke, driving by minors and many other violations mentioned by you.

The present infrastructure can manage traffic system without any extra expenditure but in our country one is treated powerful who breaks traffic rules. The city police is still managing the traffic better than the neighbouring towns. I hope we learn some lesson from the incidents and allow free role to the administration, which teaches and enforces traffic rules and we all follow habits of developed countries.

OP Garg, Chandigarh

V

I fully share the anguish concern expressed in Raveen Thukral's write-up that the roadside killings will keep a pace by 2030 and road deaths per year will mount to 2,60,000 if the present state of affairs allowed to continue unabated. Everyday, hundreds of people are killed in road accidents and traffic violations are the fashion of the day with total anarchy on the roads. I recollect having filed a PIL in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, wherein road killings were placed on records and horrible picture was portrayed on account of reckless driving by untrained drivers and was argued before the Chief Justice for placing on records a fool proof mechanism in the matter of issuance of driving licences by the concerned DTOs. I recollect that a DTO placed it on records that the latest guidelines issued by the State Transport Commissioner, in a matter of issuing driving licence, had not been received at his office, but in the same breath, confirmed by way of an affidavit that these revised guidelines were being complied within his district, in letter and spirit.

I remember to have suggested that the State Transport Commissioner should issue guidelines to all DTOs in the state to confirm by 10th of each succeeding month, that all the driving licences issued at their office, in the preceding month, were only on the successful passing of driving test conducted by the motor vehicle inspector (MVI). But truth is that in many districts, MVIs have not been posted and the task has been assigned to clerical staff, with no background of road driving rules. Driving licenses, by and large, are procured without any test, through touts, in large number of districts in the states. In this backdrop, only judiciary can direct these authorities to place on record a mechanism to issue driving licences only on passing of necessary driving test so that driving licences to persons, who had lost their two-wheeler licences could not be issued in the prevailing system by proper gruelling exercise by the department concerned.

Krishan Gopal Sharma, Advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh

VI

Raveen Thukral’s write-up is a matter of deep concern for the public and a matter of utmost important to the government to make concrete efforts to control this menace of road accidents by overhauling completely the method of issuing and renewing driving licenses. The judiciary has to amend all the loopholes and bring such drivers causing death by negligent driving in the category of murders, beside imposing heavy financial penalty. Everyday hundreds of precious lives are lost on roads due to negligent driving and unsafe roads. Driving licence can be easily obtained and one can crush anyone with maximum of six months’ imprisonment. No political party or a politician has ever made this as one of the point of their election manifesto agenda?

This is universal wisdom that when the governance fails, it is the public who should rise to the occasion and take care of people. The NGOs, people and press must force the government to form a people’s movement.

“Suraksha”, an NGO, has proposed to create road safety measures on the Chandigarh-Ludhiana road as a pilot project, deploy road marshals, establishing first-aid trauma centres at various places with medical, police and fire-fighting facilities. There is an urgent need to make the road safer by erecting road dividers with speed breakers, constant patrolling by the traffic police on the roads, to check unsafe driving by the heavy vehicles. The procedure of issuing driving licences must be made tough as is being done in other foreign countries.

Capt Amar Jeet Kumar, Mohali

VII

It is not only from the helm that things can be managed. The persons, who take the driving licences should learn and practice the rules of driving responsibly before launching themselves on the roads.

When I got my first driving licence from Patiala, the DTO introduced a short exam at his office before issuing licence to the drivers. He would ask them to recognise the road signs. I remember a few of the drivers, who were asked these questions coming out of his office grumbling or may be cursing him. We as citizens do not want to learn the rules.

The loss of the life of Capt Kanwaljit Singh is not going to teach us anything about road sense or safe driving. Many illustrious lives will continue to be lost because we fail to learn from our mistakes. Instead we reaffirm our faith in destiny.

Prikshat Verma, Canada

VIII

The tricity roads are fast turning into death traps and residents have lost their lives. The roads in Punjab and Haryana are extensively damaged, carved in at number of places and dotted with potholes. The roads are without any quality work.

The broken roads should be built with concrete and latest technology, which will have no effect of heavy traffic load and of rains. There is a need for carpet on the roads with the use of good quantity of bitumen and polymer to construct roads. One-way traffic and traffic lights should also be installed. The speed should be reduced to 40-50 km per hour.

The Loss Prevention Association of India Ltd, engaged in promoting safety and loss control through education, training and consultancy, should also be consulted. The police should regulate a traffic plan.

ML Garg, Chandigarh

IX

I appreciate the concern shown by Raveen Thukral about the ever-increasing road fatalities in his article. It is true that the major cause of road-accidents is the ill-trained drivers. When a person can get driving licence either by some influence or by dishing out a fixed amount to a tout, he cannot be expected to be fully aware of the traffic rules and abide by them causing mishaps on the road.

Particularly youngsters are reckless drivers and become the cause of most of the accidents. The writer has given the example of stringent rules prevailing in Canada for obtaining a driving licence. I am sure if such stringent measures are adopted in India, the graph of road accidents would certainly come down.

Lajpat Rai Garg, Chandigarh

Readers are invited to write to us. Send your mail, in not more than 200 words, at news@tribuneindia.com or, write in, at: Letters, Chandigarh Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh – 160 030

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EDUCATION
 

7,000 take IIT entrance test
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
Around 7,000 students appeared for the IIT entrance test conducted at various centres here today. The test was held in two shifts, each of three-hour duration. The minimum qualifying marks for students in general category will be 60 per cent in aggregate. The ranking in the merit base will be declared for those who attempted both the papers.

“Based on the cut off marks in each subject as well as aggregate marks in the test, a common merit list will be prepared without any criterion,” Physics lecturer Prof KV Upadhaya said.

Students said while the Physics and Chemistry tests were in accordance with the syllabus and the pattern declared by the institute, Mathematics was tough and lengthy.

“It was good for extraordinary as well as average students. The students are happy with the new pattern of the examination,” said another lecturer Prof SC Gupta.

Whereas few found the mathematics portion tough. “Few questions needed lengthy calculations, which consumed a lot of time,” student Mohit said.

Meanwhile, the results will be declared in May and the qualifying candidates will be informed about their All-India Ranks by post and will be called for identity verification.

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Seminar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 12
A seminar on “Advances in Communication Technology” was organised by the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering at IET Bhaddal yesterday. Dr Manjit Singh, associate direcdtor, TBRL (Terminal Ballistic Research Laboratory), Ramgarh, was the chief guest and Pramod Madan, general manaer, Himachal Futristic Communications Ltd Mohali was the guest of honour on the occasion.

Dr Singh talked about how the advancements in communication system had facilitated human life. He also talked about the opportunities for young engineers in DRDO. Dr Singh invited the faculty and students at IET Bhaddal to start projects in collaboration with TBRL.

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