C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


UT stonewalls urban reform initiative
May lose out on JNNURM funds

Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
In a development that may bring the UT administration-Central government relations under a strain, the former has been stonewalling the urban reforms initiatives aimed at generating resources for the MC.

The “indecisiveness” of the administration, particularly its civic administration wing, the MC, may cost the city dear on the development front as adequate funds would not be forthcoming under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) if the civic body did not go in for the reforms.

Until now the administration has been able to take a decision only on the rationalisation of stamp duty at 5 per cent while other proposals — hike in water tariff and imposition of house tax — which are an integral part of the urban reforms process have been kept on the backburner.

In Chandigarh, water tariff and property tax (levied on commercial property) was one of the lowest in the country. Repeated attempts to impose property tax on residential property and hike in water tariff have come in for criticism from vested interests.

With the formation of the MC, the decision-making process had been complicated in the UT. While bureaucrats have their own vision for the city, political parties, particularly the ruling party in the MC, often find themselves in conflict with bureaucracy’s interests.

During the past few months, the corporation has been dilly-dallying on the introduction of agenda for these reforms, including water tariff hike and house tax. Since the imposition of taxes has always been an unpopular decision, the Congress-dominated MC was fighting shy of bringing these two decisions to the House meeting on November 30.

The Mayor, Kamlesh, however, claimed that the issues had been referred to the respective committees to reach a broad “political consensus”. Decision on the imposition of any tax on people must be brought to the House meeting after detailed deliberations at the committee level as technicalities were involved, she stated.

Sources said even the administration had been urging the civic body to go in for urban reforms to avail the benefits of various schemes under the JNNURM aimed at upgrading civic amenities. At a recent meeting chaired by Finance Secretary Sanjay Kumar and attended by the Mayor and others, a consensus to levy nominal house tax was reportedly reached.

The sources said urban reforms were part of a strategy by the Central government to make the civic bodies “self-sufficient” and upgrade the civic infrastructure.

Sanjay Kumar said the urban reforms had to be implemented at the level of the MC and the Mayor and the Commissioner had been urged to take a decision to avail financial benefits under the scheme.



Kharar master plan out
Agri-recreational zone introduced
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Mohali, November 27
The Punjab government has proposed the concept of agri-recreational zone in the master plan of the Kharar local planning area released today. Focusing on agriculture-theme uses, the concept allows farmers to “unlock” some value of land while maintaining the predominant agricultural use.

Prepared under the Punjab Regional and Town Planning and Development Act, 2006, the area between the Chandigarh-Ludhiana and Chandigarh-Kurali highways and north of Kharar has been earmarked as agri-recreational zone and includes Pokhri, Radyala, Daumajra, Bhagomajra and Khanpur villages.

On the pattern of the Mohali master plan, the town and country planning department has also proposed low-density population of 175 persons per acre. Similarly, the area north of Mohali and the Chandigarh-Ludhiana track has been marked for residential, institutional and government buildings. The area to the left of Kharar-Ludhiana has been kept for mix land use and institutional.

Keeping in mind the agriculture potential of the area, Singapore-based consultants of GMADA have proposed agricultural use at Badala, Badali and Triprdi villages.

The projected population of the Kharar LPA by 2031 is 2,20,300.

While releasing the master plan of Banur, the department proposed an educational hub along the Chandigarh-Patiala highway.

Already several educational colleges have come up along the highway. The area around the Kharar-Tepla-Banur road has been marked as industrial. However, agricultural zone has been marked as buffer zone between the industrial and educational hubs. The Banur local planning area comprises 31 villages.

The government had initiated work on the master plans in 2007, but it is only now that the planning of the local area of the peripheral towns has been finalised. Before notifying the master plans, objections of the pubic are being sought. The maser plan has been put up at public places.

“After Mohali, Mullanpur, Zirakpur and Dera Bassi, Kharar and Banur would now get master plans that would be governed by the provisions of the Punjab Regional and Town Planning and Development Act,” a GMADA official stated.



Schoolteachers, parents come to blows
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
High drama prevailed at GMSSS, Sector 33, today as the school staff reportedly entered into a scuffle with two parents who were “clicking” photographs in school without permission.

The incident took place at around 11 am when one of the teachers noticed repeated flash in the class and caught Sunita Joshi of Sector 23 and Kusum of Burail taking pictures of her classroom.

When she tried to question them, they allegedly started misbehaving with her and claimed that they were doing a “sting” operation to reveal the poor state of the school.

“They said they were members of the PTA and had the right to record the ‘misdoings’ of teachers and reveal the callous teaching schedule. This is not the first time that they are troubling us,” the teacher said.

Infuriated, the school staff tried to detain them, which led to a fistfight. The staff members then locked the corridor door and called the police to file a formal complaint against them.

“They are regular troublemakers. Their wards study in the school and one of them was caught cheating in the unit test. We scolded him and since then, they have been trying to create trouble for teachers,” a staff member claimed.

Sources said in the statement to the police, the women denied the allegations and alleged that the school staff misbehaved with them only because they wanted to raise a voice against the school authorities.



Mall owner booked for fraud
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
The police has registered a case against the owner of Centra Mall here and two others for allegedly cheating a Singapore-based NRI of Rs 1.4 crore.

The police has booked the owner of the mall, Manish Uppal, and Balwant Singh Arora and Jerry, manager and GM, respectively. Arora has been arrested and raids are being conducted at various places to arrest Jerry.

Paramjit Singh, a retired naval engineer settled in Singapore, had complained that he had purchased a shop for Rs 1.4 crore, but instead of handing over the shop or returning his money, the accused rented out the shop.


House tax, water tariff hike referred to sub-panel
Aarti Kapur
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
Shirking her responsibility from the issues of imposition of house tax and hike in water tariff, MC Mayor Kamlesh has referred both these agendas to the sub-committees concerned for their recommendation before being tabled in the house for approval.

The Mayor took this decision today in the pre-house meeting of the Congress party.

At the meeting, Kamlesh revealed that the issue of imposition of house tax would not tabled in the coming house meeting, scheduled for November 30, till the house tax assessment committee made its recommendations and these were discussed in the house. Similarly, she rejected the agenda of hike in water tariff to be tabled on the plea that after the water supply and sewerage disposal committee recommendation, this would be taken up in the house.

Interestingly for the past five months, officials of the MC are sending both these agendas to the Mayor for her approval to be tabled in the house, but she has been rejecting them without any reason.

Even at the joint review committee meeting of the administration and corporation two months ago on the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNRUM), the Mayor had assured that she would not only take up both these issues in the house, but also of the recovery of service charges. But till date, she has not allowed tabling of these issues in the house.

Senior officials said as the recovery is not at par with the expenditure being incurred, the revision in the tariff was necessary to reduce the deficit. The MC, each year, suffers a loss of around one third of the total expenditure incurred by it in providing services to the residents of the city.

Legal experts opined that the Mayor has the absolute power to table any agenda in the house for discussion and no recommendation from any sub-committee is required for it.

Sources in the Congress revealed that concerned about her vote bank, Kamlesh has put a spanner in both issues and left these to be tackled by her successor, as her term is ending next month.



Expert dwells on governance, policy-making
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
On an invitation from the Punjab State IAS Officers Association, Professor (Dr) Sebastian Morris from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, delivered a talk on “Economic issues relevant to policy-making and governance” here today.

Welcoming Professor Morris, the association president Sarvesh Kaushal informed that the talk was part of the capacity-building initiatives launched by the association for discharging duty with greater efficiency and result orientation. He said the problematic governmental finances which were bogged down the interest payments and subsidies must be attended on a priority basis.

There is an urgent need to shift resources to industrial development. Punjab should go all out after large firms in manufacturing, engineering, auto, pharma, bio and agro-engineering and grant them all possible concessions to reap huge collateral benefits in the long-run in terms of ancillary development and other related fields.

According to Professor Morris, the main stumbling block is the unsure and deficit power situation in the state, which is the foundation upon which our strong foundation of industry is to be built. He advocated shifting from the present system of power subsidy in Punjab to a direct subsidy model, where the subsidy is an individual encashable asset, which will not only reduce wasteful electricity consumption on one hand, but also ensure assured supply and encashment of unutilised subsidy by the individual for his personal benefit.

This model can also be extended to all agricultural subsidies such as fertilisers, pesticides, diesel, kerosene etc. Dr Morris suggested that in the meantime, Punjab should ensure 24 x 7 power through open access via procured power on a long-term basis.

Professor Morris explained in great detail various models of urbanisation, which could generate a win-win situation. He strongly advocated the amendment of the Land Acquisition Act which, according to him, is imperial and oppressive, where the state alone dominates in site selections, price fixation and take-over of the land of the individual. He elaborated his suggestions by citing successful examples from China, Bombay and Ahmedabad. He said acrimonious land acquisition process could never support wholesome industrialisation.

He further explained that Punjab should identify the markets as well as conditions on the basis of principle of comparative advantage. Production should be confined only to the areas as well as to the objects where there is a comparative economic advantage, and not as a matter of casual routine. It is as important to open technical and higher education institutions as it is to ensure that the quality of skills imparted there make youth of Punjab readily employable. Employability should be the core issue in human resource development.

Punjab Chief Secretary SC Agrawal, while appreciating the initiative of the Punjab State IAS Officers Association in inviting Professor Morris advised the civil servants to work out on the possibility of collaboration and consultancy in the process of planning and development with Indian Institutes of Management. According to the Chief Secretary, it is very useful to invite people to pose an outside challenge to the established intellectual beliefs and, thus, open new gateway of knowledge and expertise.

The function was attended by a large number of IAS officers from Punjab and Haryana, IPS and PCS officers besides senior technocrats from various organisations in the Punjab Government.



Police waits for Babla at MC office in vain
Aarti Kapur
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
On a tip-off that absconding Congress councillor Devinder Singh Babla was coming to attend the road committee meeting, scheduled in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation office today, police and CID teams remained stationed at the office and kept a strict vigil for the whole day. But the teams had to return empty-handed, as Babla did not turn up to attend the meeting.

The police, which is in search of Babla in connection with an illegal shed allotment case in the Sector 26 grain market, deployed its teams on the premises of the corporation to arrest him.

Babla, whose bail application was rejected by lower court and then by the Punjab and Haryana high court, is absconding.

Sources in the police revealed that they had information that Babla, who is the member of the road committee, was planning to attend its meeting, scheduled for today.

Sources said the department was keeping a vigil of the corporation premises for the past three days to identify the possibilities from where Babla could enter the corporation building.

According to the police, they had chalked a plan to plug all three entry points from where Babla could enter. Sources said the police had even requested the committee chairperson Anju Beniwala to inform the police immediately if Babla came to attend the meeting.

Sources said the police had little hope that Babla would take such a risk to come to corporation building to attend a committee meeting, but the department did not want to take any chance, so they deployed their personnel in the corporation premises.

Meanwhile, the request letter sent by Babla for the permission of exemption from the general house meeting of the CMC till December is going to be tabled in the coming general house meeting scheduled for November 30 for its approval.

A number of councillors remarked that Babla would get exemption from the house if it found that the reasons quoted in the letter were genuine.



Minister meets Chinese delegation
Tribune News Service

Mohali, November 27
India and China were emerging as major powers on the international scene. Due to the manpower advantage and large consumer market, both neighbours could lead the world on the path of peace and prosperity, said Sewa Singh Sekhwan, minister for information and public relations, Punjab, while presiding over a function organised by the Friends of China Society (FCS) at Paragon School here late last evening.

Sharing their views with the participants, members of the Chinese delegation said teaching mother tongue, English and computers was compulsory at primary level of education there.

The Chinese delegation visited the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) under the educational exchange programme.

The delegates showed keen interest in the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and other rural and special educational programmes being run by various state governments.

They said vocational education was very popular in China as it ensured better employment opportunities. Moreover, private education institutions were better as compared to government institutions there, they added.

The Chinese delegation was headed by Lin Yie, director general of Chinese People Association of Friendship with Foreign Nations.



MLA for installing gates in residential areas
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, November 27
The installation of entry gates in residential areas of the town can act as a deterrent to anti-social elements. The issue will be taken up with HUDA and municipal council authorities, said Panchkula MLA DK Bansal here today.

Bansal, who was interacting with mediapersons at Panchkula Press Club, said he was concerned at the increasing incidents of theft and robbery in the town. He said he would call on Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in this regard.

Efforts would be made to deploy more police personnel equipped with modern technology in the town, he said.

On development works, Bansal said the roads in Industrial Area, MDC and Barwala would be repaired soon and he would try to bring the Haryana Education Board office to the town from Bhiwani.



Night temp down by 4 degrees
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
The temperature has started dipping by about 4 degrees during the night. As per the met department, the temperature will plunge over the next few days.

According to the records of the department, the maximum temperature recorded today was 25.4 degrees Celsius and the minimum 8.4 degrees Celsius.

Met officials said the sky would be partly cloudy over the next few days. Mist or haze during night and rise in morning temperature has also been forecast.

Met director Chattar Singh said the change in weather was due to western disturbances in northern east Afghanistan and north Pakistan. He said the western disturbances had increased the moisture due to which there was less dip in the temperature, but in the coming days there would be decrease in the day and night temperatures. He said there were no chances of rain in the coming days.



Admn crosses revenue mop-up target
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
The Chandigarh Administration has crossed the revenue mop-up target fixed for the fiscal 2008-2009.

In the fiscal 2008-09, the department notched up a revenue of Rs 33.8 lakh, which was Rs 6.79 lakh more than the target of Rs 26 lakh. In 2007-08, it had collected revenue of Rs 26,26 lakh against the target of Rs 26 lakh.

The major part of its income comes from verification and compounding fees.

Vandana Disodia, Controller, Weights and Measures, Chandigarh, said, “The Metrology Department had last achieved its target of revenue collection in 2003-04, when it netted Rs 10 lakh. It has been topping the target for the past two years and its revenue collection now exceeds Rs 33 lakh.” And the uptrend continues in the current fiscal.

The department collected a revenue of Rs 21,32,889 between April 1 and October 31, 2009 against Rs 20,34,612 in the corresponding period last year.



Snag hits Idea network
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
Thousands of Idea subscribers were disconnected today for more than an hour when an apparent technical snag led to a disruption in its network. Users complained that for over an hour they could neither make nor receive any calls.

The problem began around noon. Arun Kumar, a businessman, said he was in the midst of a conversation with an associate when the network went off. “For almost two hours, I remained disconnected,” he said. Not only Idea users, mobile users from other networks, too, could not get across to Idea subscribers.

An official spokesperson said: “Due to security requirements a technical upgrade was being implemented in the network, as a result of which some customers faced difficulty in making and receiving calls. The problem has been resolved now.”

Over the past few days, Idea subscribers had also been facing call-drop problems.



Excise officers to hold dharna in Delhi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
On a call given by the All-India Association of Central Excise Gazetted Executive Officers, over 100 officers from the Chandigarh zone, comprising Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, will participate in a procession from Jantar Mantar to Parliament in New Delhi on November 30 in support of their demands. According to a press note, a dharna will be held and a memorandum will be given to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister by the protesters.

The press note alleged that a majority of superintendents, who have been recruited as inspectors of Central Excise, are retiring from the same post after only one promotion during their entire service of 33-35 years in comparison to ministerial cadre and IRS officers, who are getting four-five promotions in the same department. Even the preventive officers and examining officers in the Customs side were getting at least three promotions in the same department. The officers posted in the offices of Chief Commissioners/Commissioners would also stage dharna on the same day throughout the country.



Employees stage protest against govt policies
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
Hundreds of employees, under the banner of the Punjab Mulasam Sangharsh Committee, organised a protest rally against the state government in Sector 34 here today.

Addressing the gathering, leaders of various employees unions said the state government, led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was initiating anti-employee policies by privatising public sector undertakings like the Punjab State Electricity Board. They further alleged that the government had failed in providing education, water supply and health services to people in the state.

They demanded the regularisation of services of daily wage workers in various departments of the state, besides implementing the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission.

Later they submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister through the OSD that if the government failed to resolve the issue, they would be forced to intensify their agitation, and a meeting to this effect would be held on December 4 to decide the next course of action.



Rodrigues’ greetings on Id-ul-Zuha
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
Punjab Governor and UT Administrator SF Rodrigues today extended his good wishes and greetings to the people, especially Muslim brethren, on the occasion of Id-ul-Zuha, a festival observed in commemoration of Prophet Hazrat Ibrahim, for his unflinching devotion to Allah.

In a message, Rodrigues said Id-ul-Zuha symbolised the spirit of sacrifice, manifested by unshakable faith and firm commitment.

The day also reminds us of the need to foster peace and harmony among all and to care for the disadvantaged sections of society.



Solan boy dies of swine flu
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
The number of patients dying from swine flu in city hospitals reached 7 after an 8-year-old boy from Solan died at the GMCH-32 here yesterday.

A 48-year-old woman from the same district had died of swine flu at a Mohali hospital on October 18. Until now, all patients who died of swine flu were from states of Haryana, Punjab and Himachal.



Termination of lecturer’s service
DAV College gets notice
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notice of motion to DAV College, Chandigarh, on a petition filed by a lecturer against termination of his service.

Justice Surya Kant also issued the notices to the college governing body in Delhi, Panjab University and education department for December 21.

The petitioner — Dr Rajinder K Singla - alleged that the principal had terminated him from service illegally.

Seeking directions, Dr Singla added he should be treated as a regularly appointed employee from August 10, 2007.

The petitioner submitted that he joined DAV College as a botany lecturer on August 10, 2007, after selection against a government-aided post.

The petitioner completed over two years in the college. Going into the background, he said the college authorities initiated the recruitment process to fill up two vacant posts, but the governing body deliberately advertised one post as permanent and another as temporary.

The vacancies were created against substantive and permanent posts. Interviews for both the posts were conducted on August 6, 2007, and the selected candidates — Dr Ranju Gulati and the petitioner — were made to join the college four days later.

Both candidates possessed the same qualifications and were selected through the same selection committee against the permanent vacancies, but were treated differently.

The petitioner was made to continue without any break in the service or any confirmation.

On January 31, the senior-most faculty member and head of the department also retired and one substantive post of the lecturer became vacant from February 1.

Instead of filling up the vacancy from the next academic session, the principal served him one-month notice on July 22 for terminating his services.

The principal relieved the petitioner on August 21. The fourth permanent post of the lecturer after the retirement of the head of department was kept vacant. But the post against which the petitioner was selected over two years ago was advertised on August 11.



Central University Status
PUTA members differ on committee name
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
Going by the claims of some PUTA members, internal differences between the association’s two internal groups have already started to surface.

According to sources, though the association had called a joint meeting with student council to discuss the issue of Central university status, it was the joint action committee that stole the show.

It may be noted that two prominent members reportedly entered into a heated argument over the name of committee as while one wanted it to be a PU joint action committee and the other insisted on PU student-teacher joint action committee.

“Earlier, the issue suffered due to such differences. The argument took away so much time that the council members asked us to solve our issues and then call them for meeting,” said one of the members.

However, PUTA president Manjit Singh rubbished it by saying that things were being blown out of proportion.

“It was a healthy discussion which is a must for any decision and somebody’s loud voice cannot be taken for argument. All decisions are taken unanimously,” he added.

Meanwhile, it has been decided to launch an awareness campaign about the advantages of the central university status.

In December, posters, pamphlets and banners would be distributed and displayed to educate the students and employees about the issue.

Comparative tables and charts would be made to put in perspective the disadvantages that PU suffers on account of irrational fee-structure, lack of grants and aid vis-a-vis central universities of the country.



MA Fine Art
Students protest against delay
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
Students of Government College for Art held a protest in the college against the delay in commencement of masters of fine arts today.

The students asserted that the course should have started earlier, as its delay was causing a huge academic loss to them.

“We are through with with our bachelors but still waiting to start with our masters. Though the course should have started long ago, nothing has happened so far and college has no reason for the delay,” said one of the students.

The college authorities, however, blamed Panjab University saying that they never approved the course till date.

Meanwhile, the PU authorities have assured to start the course in 15 days.



Migrated students to PU not allowed to take exam
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27
Three students, who had recently migrated to the Panjab University’s city campus from Ludhiana centre, had a harrowing time today when their admit cards were allegedly snatched before their examination.

The UILS students Shailja Thakur, Navjeet Singh and Kajal Sharma had come to appear for their third semester examination. Their roll numbers were taken away due to poor attendance.

“If our attendance was short then they should have not issued us the roll numbers,” said one of the students.

“Why were we not informed about our attendance shortage? Questioned one of the students. “We have been marked absent in one paper and that too without any fault,” added another.

It may be noted that students did approach the authorities but nothing happened and they have now been called on Monday.

“The director sent students to controller examination who asked them to meet on Monday. Tall claims of the university have fallen flat and this shows lack of coordination between two centres and callous attitude of authorities because of which we were made to suffer,” said one of the student leaders.



Teach folk literature at primary schools: Tiwana
Tribune News Service

Mohali, November 27
Punjabi Sahit Academy (Ludhiana) chief Dr Dalip Kaur Tiwana today gave a call to teach folk literature at the primary schools in the state to create keen interest in education to beginners.

She was speaking during a writers’ conference organised by the Punjab School Education Board at the culmination of a “Punjabi development week“ observed by it.

The programme was presided over by board chairman Dr Dalbir Singh Dhillon.

Dr Tiwana said traditional knowledge and drawing of local role models was necessary for overall social development.

The conference was preceded by three-day workshop by the board to discuss necessary changes for modernisation of Punjabi syllabi for all board classes.

Various subject experts of Punjabi Vikas Kendra, teachers and literacy personalities held brainstorming session on the issue. Findings of these sessions were discuss during the conference.



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