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Maid’s death sparks off violent protest
4 cops hurt, vehicles damaged in Sec 20
Tribune News Service

A posse of police at the scene of mob violence in Sector 20, Panchkula, on Tuesday.
A posse of police at the scene of mob violence in Sector 20, Panchkula, on Tuesday. Tribune photos: Pradeep Tewari

Panchkula, April 14
The death of a 14-year-old maidservant sparked off violent protest when hundreds of jhuggi-dwellers gheraoed Society No. 30 in Sector 20 and pelted stones for over one hour, damaging scores of vehicles, including a PCR vehicle, and windowpanes of houses late tonight. The mob also manhandled a some policemen present at the scene. According to the police, four policemen were injured in the attack.

The situation was brought under control after the police resorted to a lathi-charge following the deployment of heavy police force. SP Amitabh Dhillon was also present at the scene.

Pushpa, a domestic help employed at the house of Vishal Seth, a resident of the society, was found dead at the residence under mysterious circumstances.

The parents of the deceased alleged that the victim was raped and murdered.

Digpal, father of Pushpa, is a rickshaw-puller, while her mother, Sunita, works as a maid in the locality.

Reshma, the sister of Pushpa, alleged that her cheeks bore injury marks, while her tongue was also bleeding.

“I met her around 1 pm and she told me that the family had been harassing her and she had decided to leave the house after this month,” said Reshma.

On the other hand, the Seth’s family claimed that he had left for Delhi around 4 pm for his official assignment.

According to them, Pushpa had gone to the bathroom around 4 pm and Seth’s wife noticed her body hanging from a window grill around 5 pm.

She had used a “chunni” to commit “suicide”, claimed the family.

At the time of the incident, the wife and parents of Seth were home.

The family, however, removed the “chunni” and took Pushpa to Alchemist Hospital in the adjoining Sector 21. There she was declared brought dead.

A forensic team also examined the scene and lifted samples.

Interestingly, this is the third incident of death of an adolescent maid at employers’ house in the past six months here.

However, the police has failed to register a case against the employers even under the Child Labour Act.

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Tribune Impact
School bus operators get notices
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
Taking cognizance of the news item published in Chandigarh Tribune dated April 13 under the heading, “BJP courts controversy again”, highlighting the use of school buses for political rallies while flouting the State Transport Authority norms, the UT today issued individual notices to bus operators.

The Secretary, STA, Vandana Disodia, confirming the action, said the bus operators concerned had been served notices for “personal hearing” to explain why their permits should not be withdrawn.

“School bus operators have been asked to appear in the office of the STA on April 28. They have been asked to explain why did they resort to flouting norms. Not satisfying with their replies, their permits will be suspended for four months”, said Disodia.

She said if still they continued to engage in any sort of illegal activity, the suspension of permit could be extended for another two months and after that it would be cancelled permanently. On April 13, 15 school buses of various city schools were spotted at a political rally organised on the Sector 27 Ram Lila ground. These buses were pressed into service for transporting the local political workers and public.

The bus operators pay annual road tax while entering into a contract with the STA, which specifically states that these buses will exclusively be used for ferrying schoolchildren only. In yet another move, Deputy Commissioner-cum-Returning Officer RK Rao has issued instructions to impound any school bus if being used of purposes other than ferrying schoolchildren.

The DC has communicated to the STA office that the use of school buses for political rallies or religious functions will resort to violation of agreement between contractors and the transport authority, therefore violating bus operators were liable to be prosecution under stipulated transport norms.

It has been observed that for quite some time, school buses, even though having distinct identity as per HC directions, were being engaged from schools under the political influence.

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Price spiral pinches people
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
The rising price of all commodities has hit the common man hard. Sugar, refined oil, pulses, bread and vegetables all seem to be on the boil and burning a deep hole in the common man’s pocket.

As a result of the rise in prices, the monthly household budget has gone up by more than 40 per cent in the past six months. The inflation rate is at an all-time low but the price of food products has been rising in spite of a good harvest and good growth in the agriculture sector.

A survey carried out by Chandigarh Tribune revealed that the sugar prices have gone up by 100 per cent in the past one year - from Rs 14 per kg in March, 2008, to Rs 28 per kg now. Desi ghee prices have gone up by Rs 10 per litre in the past month as have the prices of most pulses. Refined oil, eggs, bread, and most vegetables, too, have become dearer in the past couple of weeks.

Prerna Sharma, a housewife from Sector 15, said, “As compared to last year, the grocery budget for my family of four has almost doubled. Last year, we were spending Rs 3,000 a month on groceries, fruits and vegetables. Now, we are spending over Rs 6,000 a month. 

Only those families whose income has increased by a minimum of 12-15 per cent are able to tackle this price rise. Others have been forced to cut down on their budget reserved for entertainment, socialising and leisure activities. In the time of recession, this price rise is highly unjustified”.

Vikas Kumar, who runs a department store in Sector 9, Panchkula, said though the prices of sugar and refined oil had risen because of low sugarcane production and high increase in price of imported palm oil (used for making refined oil), no one knows why the price of other food articles, especially vegetables and pulses, is on the rise.

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Charity dies on hospitals’ doorstep
Anuja Jaiswal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
The paucity of funds has finally caught on with philanthropist Jagdish Lal Ahuja, who had been feeding hundreds of hungry people at his langar at the PGI and the GMCH-32. Unable to meet the daily expenses, which he had managed on his own for the past nine years by even selling three of his properties in the tricity, the banner at his langar site, bhandara April 15 se band ho raha hai, tells a sorry tale of good deed meeting its end.

“It’s sad. I have been eating here for many months and I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow,” says Vinod, a rickshaw puller. There are many more like Vinod, who have filled their bellies with the daily dose of chapati, rice, vegetable and halwa on their visits to the PGI or the Sector 32 hospital.

While his daily clientele are primarily poor people and lots of children, many patient attendants also queue up for food. Some even take it along with them to feed it to their kin in the hospital wards. The long queues at the langar, held between 3 pm and 4 pm at GMCH-32 and from 7 pm to 9 pm at the PGI are a testimony to this fact.

“Yes, I know that a lot of people will be troubled with my decision to discontinue the bhandara but I don’t have many choices left. I have sold three houses, two in Panchkula and one in Chandigarh, to keep the bhandara running but I can’t do it any longer,” he says.

Claiming that he has never got any help from the administration, Ahuja said he had submitted a proposal seeking allotment of a small piece of land around the PGI where he could start a low budget dhabha. “The small earnings from it would have been sufficient for me to run the langar”, he said, adding that though Administrator Gen S F Rodrigues (Retd) had promised to help him, nothing positive came out.

Ahuja, who appeared to be at pains with his decision and also a little indecisive, seemed willing to continue with his good deed even with a “yes” from this correspondent and the photographer. “Agar aap kahen to main isse chaloo rakhta hoon”, he said. But alas what could we have said?

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Auto challan drive deferred; operators adamant
GS Paul
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
Though the Chandigarh administration has deferred its campaign to impound or challan outstation-registered auto-rickshaws for plying on city roads till further orders, auto-rickshaw operators are adamant on staying off road, even for schoolchildren, till their demands are accepted.

The Chandigarh-Mohali- Panchkula joint action committee of auto-rickshaw owners today announced to continue their agitation against the administration’s move to phase out diesel/ petrol driven auto-rickshaws. The committee has decided not to ferry passengers except patients for hospitals.

After the intervention of the Punjab Government, the UT today conducted a meeting under the chairmanship of Home Secretary-cum-Secretary Transport Ram Niwas. It was decided to allow non-LPG auto-rickshaws on city roads till August 31, the deadline set by the administration to phase out petrol/diesel-run auto-rickshaws.

Only 500 LPG-run auto-rickshaws will be allowed to enter the city and vice-versa under the inter-state reciprocal agreement called “uniform corridor policy” after August 31. A similar agreement will be applicable for Haryana.

In the backdrop of unauthorised auto-rickshaws from Punjab and Haryana plying on city roads without valid permit, the administration had put a blanket ban on them.

This led to mass protest by the operators and they refused to ply their vehicles till their demands were met.

Crying foul over the discrimination, the operators questioned the rationale behind phasing out diesel-run auto-rickshaws when diesel-run CTU buses were allowed to run.

“The administration is framing policies unilaterally without bothering to include us in decision-making. Where is the justification to allow new registration to diesel-run Tata Magic cabs? said Kamla Kantt, chairman of the committee.

Opposing LPG-run vehicles, Balbir Singh, vice-president of committee, said he had bought an LPG-run auto-rickshaw, which was not found to be technically reliable and comfortable for passengers.

“A family of two adults and two children cannot be accommodated in this vehicle, besides there is lack of luggage space in it. Even passengers avoid sitting in it as it emanates foul smell of gas. Also, there are very few LPG filling stations here,” he said.

However, Ram Niwas said: “These vehicles are technically safe and good on environment. We are providing easy loans to operators for which no collateral has been asked. Adequate steps are being taken to install additional LPG filling stations in Chandigarh as well as neighbouring states.”

In the UT, in addition to two existing LPG filling stations, two more are being set up. CITCO will soon set up another LPG station.

Meanwhile, the CTU has put 22 additional buses in its grid system to ease pressure on its buses in the tricity on account of strike. Also, frequency of buses has been reduced from 25 to 20 minutes.

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PU to reinstate six employees after 6 yrs
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
After as long as six years, Panjab University is all set to reinstate the six non-teaching employees who were suspended on charges varying from misplacing the records to loosing the admission forms.

According to sources, the committee constituted to look into this matter recommended reinstating them in wake of realisation that they were proving to be a ‘burden’ on PU’s resources.

“After their suspension these people were getting 70 per cent of their total salary and DA also. They were residing in their official residences only. They were availing all these facilities, but the university was not getting anything in return from them. We recommended reinstating them so that the university can reap the benefit in lieu of facilities enjoyed by them,” asserted an official.

The committee has also specified not to put these employees in any important financial and administrative task.

Sources said it was the outcome of the sub judiced status of the cases that has prompted the recommendations. One of the senior officials commented saying, “It is strange that it has taken full six years for the university to realise that these suspended officials are a burden on its resources. 

It is the perfect example of the modus operandi of our university that needs a committee to throw light on evident or prima facie facts. Almost all of them moved to courts and it is the sub judiced status of cases that has prompted the university to leave their fate to courts.”

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Fire Services Day
Tributes paid to firemen
Tribune News Service
Mayor Kamlesh attends a Fire Services Day function at the fire station, Sector 17, in Chandigarh on Tuesday.
Mayor Kamlesh attends a Fire Services Day function at the fire station, Sector 17, in Chandigarh on Tuesday. A Tribune photograph

Chandigarh, April 14
Chandigarh Municipal Corporation fire and emergency services organised Fire Services Day today at fire station, Sector-17. Fire Brigade jawans held a parade that was inspected by Mayor Kamlesh, followed by flag-hoisting ceremony.

A two-minute silence was observed in the memory of all those firemen who lost their lives while on duty. Leading fireman, the late Amarjit Singh Mavi, who sacrificed his life during a fire incident last year, was also remembered.

The Mayor applauded the bravery of fire personnel during crisis. She appreciated the fire department’s work during the flood and major fire incidents such as recent fire incident in Sector 22. Certificates were given to firemen for their meritorious services.

She said Fire Services Day was being observed throughout the country since 1944, the year when more than 500 persons, including 66 Fire Brigade personnel lost their lives in a major fire in Mumbai.

Fire Brigade officials said in 1944, a huge consignment of arms and ammunition, kept at the Mumbai dockyard, caught fire. Over 500 persons lost their lives in the fire. About 66 Fire Brigade personnel, who valiantly fought the fire, also lost their lives.

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Ambedkar’s birth anniversary celebrated
Our Correspondent

People pay tribute to Dr BR Amedkar on his 118th birth anniversary at Sector 24 in Chandigarh on Tuesday.
People pay tribute to Dr BR Amedkar on his 118th birth anniversary at Sector 24 in Chandigarh on Tuesday. Tribune photo: Manoj Mahajan

Mohali, April 14
The 118th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar was celebrated here today. 

A function was organised by Sri Guru Ravidass Naujwan Sabha in Phase VII where JP Mehmi, Additional Sessions Judge (retd), was the chief guest.

President of the Sabha RA Suman said Dr Ambedkar played a crucial role in framing the constitution and launching socio-economic programmes for the upliftment of the poor. He was a crusader against untouchability and social injustice. 

He was a great votary of liberty, equality, and fraternity and also believed in freedom of expression, association, worship and congregation.

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Ban on misuse of water from today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
Due to increased demand of drinking water in summers, the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation authorities prohibited watering of lawns, washing of courtyards and vehicles in the morning water supply hours from tomorrow.

According to a spokesperson of the corporation, wastage or misuse of water is also considered illegal if anybody found overflow from overhead and underground water tanks, leakage from water metre chambers, wastage of water due to non-installation of bib taps, leakage in pipeline from ferrule to water metre, leakage and overflow from desert coolers and installation and use of booster pumps direct on the water supply line authorities.

The action would be taken against consumers, if found indulging in any of these acts.

On first violation, a notice would be served to the defaulting consumers for getting the defects and faults rectified within a period of 24 hours of the issue of notice.

On detecting the violation for the second time, a fine and penalty of Rs 500 would be imposed, which would be recovered through regular water supply charges bills. Any material like booster pumps being used by the defaulter would be confiscated.

On finding the violation for the third time, the water connection would be disconnected immediately without any further notice.

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Auto-rickshaw Row
Strike harasses commuters
Our Correspondent

Mohali, April 14
Hundreds of commuters faced inconvenience as auto-rickshaws stayed off the road in Mohali district throughout the day here today in protest against the decision of the Chandigarh administration not to allow auto-rickshaws from Punjab and Haryana to ply “illegally” in the Union Territory.

The strike, however, was called off in the evening as the Chandigarh administration gave over four months time to auto operators to convert their vehicles to the LPG system instead of running these on petrol or diesel.

Auto-rickshaw operators gathered in large numbers at the Dasehra ground in Phase VIII in the morning where they held a rally. The protesters raised slogans against the Chandigarh administration and demanded unconditional plying of vehicles in the UT.

School students, however, did not suffer due to the protest of auto-rickshaw operators as it was a holiday today. But persons travelling in these vehicles from the surrounding areas had a tough time.

Sources said the SAS Nagar Auto-Rickshaw Union had called off the strike around 7 pm as the UT administration had given them time to operate without the LPG till August 31. Union leaders would meet officials in Chandigarh to get the time limit extended. 

The union said CTU buses and even autos in Chandigarh were running on diesel then why discrimination was being done against those plying outstation autos. The auto drivers said if their demands were not accepted they would resort to road blockades.

DTO Karan Singh said it was in the larger interest of the society to switch over auto-rickshaws to LPG in order to reduce pollution. He said the Chandigarh administration had installed three LPG filling stations and was also ready to give loans on marginal rate of interest to help auto-rickshaw operators to switch over to non-polluting fuel.

As many as 71 outstation autos were impounded by the UT administration on April 9. The next day auto operators of Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula held an agitation jointly in the UT which had left hundreds of commuters high and dry.

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CAT asks postal dept to release pension
Swati Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
In an interesting order, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has directed the postal department to provide pension to the applicant wherein the latter had claimed he served in the department for more than three decades but was not 
regularised.

Pronouncing the orders, the tribunal held, “We take note of the fact that the applicant claims to have served the department for two to three decades and ultimately his qualifying service, despite regularisation against group “D” post, has been calculated to be for five years, four months and 15 days only.

In view of the matter, it benefits to such employees, and in the present case, we hold that the applicant is entitled to get his service counted as work charge employee as qualifying service for pension. 

Thus, we direct the department to consider the claim of the applicant for grant of pension and pensionary benefits, if otherwise admissible to the applicant, by counting full or half service rendered by him prior to regularisation as Group D.”

The applicant stated that the postal department had rejected the claim for grant of pension and pensionary benefits on the plea of not having rendered the qualifying service of 10 years, as required under the rules.

The applicant was initially appointed in the department as delivery agent in 1963 and was paid out of contingent funds. In October 1991, he was approved for regular appointment and on November 7, 1991 he joined as group D in the Bilaspur head office.

Then he was transferred to Una head office in May 1992.

He was confirmed in service on November 15, 1993 and superannuated on March 31, 1997.

He claimed to have rendered service of 35 years. In case even half of the service rendered by him prior to regular appointment is counted towards qualifying service, then he would be having more than 20 years of service to his credit against the requirement of qualifying service of 10 years under the rules.

He asserted in the application that on his retirement, all pension papers were prepared and got signed by him but no pension, except meagre amount of GPF, was released.

The department argued that prior to the appointment of the applicant in government service on regular basis as a Group “D”, the applicant served as an EDDA till November 14, 1991.

Thus, the said service was governed under a different set of rules.

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Brahmin Sammelan
Dhawan replies to EC
Says notice holds no ground
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
BSP candidate Harmohan Dhawan today replied to the notice sent to him by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Chandigarh saying that the show-cause notice was devoid of any merit and should be withdrawn.

In a reply letter sent to the CEO, Dhawan said the Parshuram Bhawan was neither a temple nor a place of worship. In fact, Parshuram Bhawan was a multi-cultural, social and community place that was open for holding functions like weddings, community programmes, cultural, social and political meetings, etc.

Dhawan further clarified that the managing committee of the bhawan did not have any objection to holding Brahmin Sammelan there.

No violation of the model code of conduct had taken place, as no inflammatory words were uttered and no communal hatred against any community took place, he added.

On the contrary, the grievances and lawful demands of the Brahmins were discussed during the sammelan. “We are not aware of any refusal from the Returning Officer (HQ) and have not received memo number Elec-2009/UTC/193, dated April 10, 2009. However, we have informed vide fax message dated April 12, 2009 to the CEO, Chandigarh, about the programme of the Brahmin Sammelan.

It was a peaceful gathering and no one had objected to it and no law and order problem had occurred, he said.

He said Parshuram Bhawan was built on a piece of land that was allotted to the Brahmin Sabha as a sarai and not as a temple or place of worship.

The complaint by the Chandigarh Welfare Council was frivolous and not based on facts.

In fact, nothing had ever been heard qua its existence and activities. The organisation had no base and was being run by few Congressmen who had filed a false and frivolous complaint, he said.

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Brahmins to open card on April 19
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
After a recent storm over organising a meeting by the BSP at Parshuram Bhawan in Sector 37, the Shri Brahmin Sabha, Punjab, led by Devi Dyal Parashar, today clarified that the sabha had got nothing to do with the BSP.

Addressing a press conference here today at the Press Club, Devi Dyal said the Brahmin Sabha was a socio-religious organisation and had no affiliation with any political party so far. He added that, however, the sabha would extend support to the party which respects it.

Things will be clearer on April 19 when the sabha would organise its annual Brahmin Mahasammelan. This time it is being organised at Mandi Gobindgarh and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will be the chief guest.

Devi Dyal said it was shameful that despite having better talents, Brahmin children were deprived of jobs and admissions due to reservations.

On being asked if the sabha was supporting SAD in the coming elections, Dyal stated that all political parties had been sent invitation for the mahasammelan and things would be clear after that.

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Turncoats’ effectiveness under cloud
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
Can turncoats, who have sent Satya Pal Jain (BJP) and Pawan Bansal (Congress) into a tizzy, be vote catchers for them? Even as the election campaign reached a crescendo in the run-up to the May 13 polls, questions were being asked about the ability of the turncoats to get votes for their “adopted” parties belying the hopes of the BJP and the Congress candidates.

Sources said the switching of sides by major leaders, primarily by slum chieftains, ahead of the poll could be a major morale booster for parties. Yet their support base could not always be translated into votes upsetting the calculations of the main contenders, sources added.

A colony leader, who switched sides recently, conceded that these leaders could get crowds for the rallies of the big leaders. However, converting these crowds into votes was an uphill task and major political parties know this fact well, he added. The BJP and the Congress were the major parties afflicted by horse-trading recently. While Congress colony cell chairman Shambhu Banerjee joined the Trinamool Congress bandwagon, the chairman of BJP’s colony cell Shashi Shankar Tewari switched over to the Congress.

While Trinamool Congress’ support to any party was yet under wraps, Tewari’s effectiveness in getting votes for Bansal was also under a cloud. How could a BJP leader, who swore by the Sangh Parivar ideals till recently, adopt the Congress principles and identify with rank and file of the party, a senior Congress leader asked. 

It was widely believed that the colony politics in Chandigarh was highly-commercialised and the slum chieftains could go to any extent to get their pound of flesh. In fact, shifting parties had been the favourite pastime of the most of the prominent colony leaders of Chandigarh. 

And the major political parties obviously succumbed to their pressures tactics. “Since a majority of the urban voters do not come to the polling booths to cast their votes, we have no alternative except to “give in” to the demands of the colony leaders and slum dwellers that constitute a majority of those exercising their right to franchise,” a senior politician added.

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Round-up
Jain launches website
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
Website of BJP candidate from Chandigarh Lok Sabha constituency Satya Pal Jain, www.satyapaljain.com, was officially launched today. With access to website, blog and SMS it has become easy for voters, especially the youth, to connect with their candidate.

The website will provide a forum to youngsters to raise their opinions.

Tributes paid

Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal today took part in the ongoing celebrations of Baisakhi and BR Ambedkar's birth anniversary celebrations in the city. Bansal said the backward classes in country had been benefited by the policies of the Congress.

BSP campaign

BSP candidate Harmohan Dhawan today greeted people on the birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar. Meanwhile, Dhawan addressed meetings at the booth market in Sector 23, Ambedkar Bhawan in Sector 37, Gurdwara Sant Sar in Sector 38 (West), Colony No.5 and in Sector 29.

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Old markets sit on powder keg
Aarti Kapur
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
Old city markets are a virtual deathtrap with almost no fire-fighting arrangements in place there. In case of an exigency, these markets stand a real chance of being reduced to ashes.

Markets like Sadar Bazaar, rehri markets of Sectors 22 and 19, and markets of Sectors 34 and 20 are among the most fire-prone areas.

These markets are located in congested areas with haphazardly parked vehicles further clogging them. In case of a fire, it is nearly impossible for fire engines to reach the scene.

According to a fire official, in case of a fire, fire tenders will find it extremely hard to manoeuvre through narrow lanes. These markets don’t follow a single fire safety measure.

These markets were constructed over 20 years ago, when installation of fire safety equipment was not mandatory under the building bylaws.

To compound the problem, shopkeepers care little about following fire-safety measures or taking up the matter with the owners of their booths.

A visit to various rehri markets in the city revealed a serious threat of fire due to unauthorised encroachment on corridors.

In some markets, there is gross violation of allotment rules. Encroachment not only causes inconvenience to visitors but also poses a risk to lives and property.

Vendors often use LPG cylinders and gas lamps, which can become a major source of fire. Even in some areas, shopkeepers run their business amid a maze of loose electricity wires.

However, officials claim they have been advising shopkeepers to take necessary precautionary measures. They, however, express helplessness as far as enforcement is concerned.

MC Commissioner Dr Roshan Sankaria says they have issued notices to various markets for violation of fire and safety norms.

With fire safety week starting from April 14, the corporation will organise special awareness camps for all buildings and markets in the city.

He urged market associations to take a lesson from the Sector 22 fire incident in which four persons lost lives due to mismanagement and violation of building bylaws.

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Hottest day in city
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14
The residents of Chandigarh experienced the hottest day today as the temperature touched 38.8°C, five degrees above normal. As dry and hot weather prevailed in the city, the maximum relative humidity was recorded at 56 per cent.

The Met department informed that the dry northwesterly winds had caused sudden rise in temperatures. 

As per the forecast of the department there would be partly cloudy sky with dust and thunderstorm tomorrow due to which there could be fall in day and night temperature. 

When contacted weather department, Director Chhatar Singh stated that there are chances of rain in the city tomorrow.

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