C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


CIC reprimand for housing board
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
The alleged dilution of the RTI Act by the Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB), the construction arm of the Chandigarh Administration, has come under the scanner of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

Coming down heavily on the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the CHB for summoning RTI activist Manpreet Singh and seeking from him explanation about the information sought, a violation of law, Central Information Commissioner ML Sharma has directed the CHB to provide the information sought by the applicant.

During the hearing, the CPIO of the CHB admitted mistake and said it was due to the lack of understanding of law that the applicant was asked to attend the board’s office in person and was contacted on phone to explain the information sought.

The CHB’s CPIO further admitted before the commission that all information sought by the applicant could not be supplied as the board was not maintaining records regarding encroachments for the past 10 years.

On June 22, Manpreet Singh had sought information on 11 points in public interest. However, instead of providing information as per the Act, the CPIO wrote back on June 30, saying "your question is not clear".

The RTI application filed by Manpreet shows that there is no apparent ambiguity in the point-wise information sought by the applicant. Information on such public matters as total number of encroachment complaints filed by public with the CHB in the past 10 years, total number of building violation complaints filed by public with the board in the past 10 years and total number of building violation cases in the past 10 years in which proceedings were initiated by the CHB on its own has been sought.

In his complaint to the CIC, the applicant had accused the CHB’s CPIO of adopting the tactics of intimidation and delay. The CPIO, in a letter, had asked him to be present at the board’s office and later on telephone demanded from him explanation about the information sought.

The Information Commissioner in his decision placed “on record the fact that calling the complainant to the Housing Board office for collecting information and thereafter telephonically asking the purpose for seeking the information, is not in conformity with the law and this practice needs to be eschewed in future”.



Financier dupes shopkeeper of Rs 25 lakh
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, February 11
The dream of having a BMW car cost the son of a shopkeeper of Sector 7 here dear. After allegedly losing more than Rs 25 lakh to a local finance company, he has now sought the intervention of the police after receiving threats.

Receiving a complaint in this regard the superintendent of police, Maneesh Chaudhary, has ordered an investigation into the case.

According to Avinash, the owner of Chaman Sweets, Sector 7, a local financier lured his son Rajit promising him a BMW car. For this Rajit was asked to deposit Rs 10,000 every day with the company.

Rajit, who helps his father in the shop, without informing him about the deal, kept on depositing the money for the past one year, alleged Avinash in his complaint. A few days back Rajit came to know that the finance company had duped one of his acquaintances in a similar way and asked the company to return his amount, stated the shopkeeper in his complaint.

The officials at the finance company, however, managed to get some blank cheques on the pretext of delivering the car to Rajit and now they were instead threatening him of dire consequences, stated Avinash in his complaint.



Land acquisition policy: UT farmers call on Patil
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh,February 11
The "lop-sided" land acquisition policy of the Chandigarh Administration came under sharp focus today, with UT farmers calling on Punjab Governor-cum-UT Administrator Shivraj Patil and bringing to his notice the "mindless" land acquisition for the controversial projects.

Bringing the land acquisition policy under a cloud in the backdrop of the controversial mega projects--Amusement Park and Film City--coming under the CBI scanner, the farmers pointed out how the administration was paying peanuts for prime commercial land. While the usual land acquisition rate in Chandigarh ranged from Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 30 lakh per acre, the rate in the neighbouring Mohali was around Rs 2 crore per acre, president of the Chandigarh Sanjha Morcha Kuldeep Singh Kahlon said. The market rate of the Chandigarh land is pegged anywhere between Rs 20 to Rs 40 crore per acre.

While the adjoining Mohali has surplus thousands of acres of land, the land was scare in the city with an area of only 114 square km. And that limited land is being acquired for the mega projects, including the Third Phase of the IT Park.

It was highlighted that the acquisition of land measuring 125 acres of the IT Park in Kishangarh was welcomed by the farmers. However, changing the character of the IT Park, another 225 acre was acquired for the Phase II, followed by 272 acres for the Phase III. This was despite the fact that the first two phases are yet to be developed.

The farmers alleged that non-IT activities in the form of hotels and multiplexes ruled the roost in the IT Park. The area adjoining Sukhna Lake, a national wetland, was earmarked for purely residential complex now under the scanner. This “IT Habitat” alone covers an area which is more than one sector of the city.

The administrator, on his part, promised that the compensation paid by the Chandigarh Administration was too low and needed to be enhanced to the present market price. "The Administrator said that he will review all pending projects, including the third phase of IT Park,” Kahlon claimed.

Last year, the Lok Sabha passed the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007, and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007, spreading cheer among the farmers. However, the Bill fell in the Rajya Sabha on technical grounds.

Under the new Bills, the acquisition for the “public purpose” had been restricted to “strategic purposes vital to the state and for the infrastructure projects where the benefits accrue to the general public".

“The provision of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, is also used to acquire private land for companies. This raises a question mark on the desirability of such state intervention when land could be arranged by the company through private negotiations on a ‘willing-seller, willing-buyer’ basis, which could be seen as a fairer arrangement from the point of view of the landowner. In view of this, it is desirable to omit the provisions of acquisition of land for companies in the Act,” the Bill had said.

Since then , the farmers have been up in arms demanding the implementation of the policy in letter and spirit.



Sodomy Case
ASI gets 4-yr RI
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
Additional district & sessions judge Raj Sekhar Attri sentenced assistant subinspector Dalwinder Singh to four years’ rigorous imprisonment under sections 367, 377, 342 & 506 of the IPC for sodomising a teenager in 2008.

The judge also slapped him with a fine of Rs 50,000, in the case of default of which he would have to undergo rigorous imprisonment for another three months. The amount of fine, if recovered, shall be paid to the victim as compensation under section 357 (1)(b) of CrPC, the order said.

It may be recalled a youth had accused Dalwinder of sodomising him at his Sector 20 home on November 28, 2008. The victim had claimed he was sitting at a bus shelter in Sector 30 when the cop came on his motorcycle at about 10:30 pm on that day and forced him to sit on the pillion of his bike, threatening to shoot him if he did not comply. He stated Dalwinder later dropped him at his house at 4:15 am in the morning.

When the youth told his parents about the incident they went to the police, an hour after the crime.



PU to allot hostel rooms only during admission
Neha Miglani
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
In a major change in hostel accommodation regulations, Panjab University will now allot hostel rooms to students only at the time of admission in the upcoming academic session beginning July-August 2010. With a view to streamline the process and after having experimented with other procedures in the past, the university administration resolved to discontinue the practice of assigning rooms throughout the year.

Last year the administration decided students of various departments would be allotted rooms on the basis of need and in proportion to the demand in these departments according to merit. The formula worked well but gradually loopholes were detected. The new procedure will be similar that followed in other major higher education institutions in the country, including the University of Delhi.

Following a recent case highlighted by the Chandigarh Tribune in which mathematics department students protested against varsity officials for not being allocated rooms according to the allotment waiting list, a detailed inquiry into the matter was held and records checked. Consequently, the PU administration decided to do away with the practice of allotting rooms throughout the year.

“Starting from the next session hostel rooms will be allocated only at the time of admission in the university, which would do away with the confusion prevailing throughout the year. Last time we had introduced the practice of allocating rooms according to the requirement of various departments, which had eased the problem to some extent,” said dean of students welfare Naval Kishore.

At the start of the current academic session last year PU officials had faced the problem of accommodating all students who had gained admission in the face of a shortage of hostel accommodation on the campus.

Later during the session, MPhil students who had sought extension for their course from their respective departments were directed to vacate the rooms to accommodate freshers who had long been waiting in the line. A few students who continued to stay in the rooms did so only after paying guest charges.

While student unions also took up the issue with the PU administration, it was found many students had been misusing the extension of hostel rooms only to prepare for competitive exams. Simplifying the procedure, the PU authorities have also offered students the option to share a room with a friend, of course if the latter was willing to do so.


Wrong info on bridge query under RTI Act
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Dairi (Mohali), February 11
Residents of Manauli and surrounding villages have been fighting a battle with the Punjab PWD (B&R) for the early completion of a bridge linking Manauli with Dairi and other villages in Mohali’s periphery.

Highlighting the issue on public forums, the persons affected have sought detailed information about the bridge under the RTI Act from the department.

Dr Jasdeepak Singh of Kambala said when the issue had been highlighted, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission took note of their plight.

After the PWD failed to present its side on the first date of hearing, the commission fixed February 19 as the next date of hearing.

Pursuing the case under the RTI Act, Dr Jasdeepak Singh got a shock when the PWD furnished details of another bridge, linking Kambali with Dharamgarh.

Forwarding details, the official concerned attached a copy of the contract awarded to a private contractor regarding the Kambali-Dharamgarh bridge.

Highlighting the importance of the bridge, dejected villagers said residents of several villages were being forced to take a detour to reach Manauli or Mohali.

Manauli village met the basic needs of several villages around it. The bridge connected Dairi, Manakpur, Chau Majra, Giga Majra, Nagari, Menda Majra and other villages. It had been six months work on the bridge started. On Friday, when a Chandigarh Tribune team visited the spot, construction was not complete.

It would take at least one year to complete the bridge, which was scheduled to be completed by May this year.



GMADA asks encroachers to vacate land
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 11
The estate office of the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) has asked residents of Lambian village to vacate the land which had been encroached upon by them in order to avoid the tough action of the enforcement wing of the authority.

Balbir Singh, estate officer, said today that encroachers had been given an ultimatum but residents of the village had asked two days time to vacate the encroached area. They had already started the work in this regard and he wanted people to cooperate so that GMADA was not forced to act tough.

Lambian residents, who had opened up shops, had encroached upon the land near their shops to stock their materials. But this proved to be a traffic hazard as persons frequenting their shops were forced to park their vehicles on the road. Some part of the village had got stay orders from a court.

He said earlier notices were sent to some residents in Phase III-B1 who had been using the back courtyard area for running shops in violations of the norms. Work on closing the back gates in the area was in progress.

Notices were sent to 18 persons out of which eight had stopped the misuse after getting the warning. Others were also being asked to cooperate in this regard.

He said there were more than 80 shops functioning from residential premises in the town in violation of the norms. Such a misuse would have to be stopped as residents coming to make purchases from these shops often parked their vehicles on the road creating inconvenience for others. He said the misuse would be stopped in a phased manner.

Some houses falling in Phase IV, which were using the back courtyard area for running furniture shops, were also in the notice of the estate office. These houses fell on the road separating Phases II and IV on which heavy traffic moved and vehicles parked near the illegal shops hampered the smooth flow of the traffic.



Sugarfed chief takes over amid controversy
Tribune News Service

Sugarfed chairman Sukhbir Singh Vahla seeks “blessings” from Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in Mohali on Thursday.
KOWTOW: Sugarfed chairman Sukhbir Singh Vahla seeks “blessings” from Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in Mohali on Thursday. Tribune photo: Vicky Gharu

Mohali, February 11
In an embarrassment for the Akali Dal government, the taking-over ceremony of Sukhbir Singh Vahla, chairman of the Sugarfed, was marred by absence of the elected board of directors of the federation.

Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, along with two Cabinet ministers, Sucha Singh Langha and Sewa Singh Sekhwan had come on the “swearing-in” ceremony.

The Akali Dal government has nominated the chairman. Feigning ignorance about the nomination, some of the board directors claimed that they were never taken into confidence. Sawarn Singh, director of the Nakodar Sugar Mill, said none of them was aware about the antecedents of a new chairman.

“The chairman should have been elected among the board of directors”, said another member. Justifying the nomination of Sukhbir Singh Vahla, the Deputy CM said the Akali Dal wanted to bring youth to the fore. Youths played a vital role in forming the government, he added.

Meanwhile, officials of the district administration remained on their toes as the Deputy CM programme was postponed by two hours. The most affected were the policemen, who were posted since 10 am. They were sent off duty after the VVIP left. “ It was nothing but the wastage of public money. The government should invest time and funds on constructive work”, remarked an official.



Days to warm up, nights to stay cold
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
Weather in the city as well as in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana continued to remain warm today with the met department forecasting a partly cloudy sky in the coming days along with a further rise in the day temperature.

The city recorded a minimum temperature of 8.8 degrees Celsius today as against 6.6 recorded yesterday, a rise of 2.2 degrees. Ludhiana and Patiala registered minimum temperatures of 8.2 and 7.5 degrees C, respectively.

"For the past three days clouds had been prevailing in Chandigarh and in most parts of Punjab and Haryana. Due to the presence of western disturbances in the region we are expecting rainfall by tomorrow morning," said a met official here.

In Haryana, Ambala, Hisar and Karnal recorded minimum temperatures of 7.6, 8.3 and 7.4 degrees C, respectively.

The sun shone bright over the city as well as Punjab and Haryana today, leading to the mercury rising and bringing relief to residents after days of cold weather and chilly winds. After remaining the coldest city in the region for several days, Amritsar saw a rise in temperatures with the minimum recorded at 6.5 degrees C, one degree above normal.

However, the weatherman has predicted a partly cloudy sky with mist or fog during night and morning in the city in the coming two days. “Isolated spells of rain are expected in Punjab and Haryana within the next 24 hours,” the met official said.

With the days gradually growing warmer most residents felt it was time to bid adieu to this winter. However the met office report says nights will continue to be cold in the region in the coming days.

"From now on the maximum temperature will rise gradually, making the days slightly warmer. However, the nights will remain cold in the region with the maximum and minimum temperatures expected to be between 23 and 11 degrees C, respectively”, the weatherman has forecast.



Point Counter Point
Does MC need more powers?

Need of the hour
Anu Chatrath In a democratic set-up, the government is by the people, for the people and of the people. The issue of more powers for the municipal corporation (MC) has to be seen in the backdrop of the 74th Amendment to the Constitution. There is a strong case for the implementation of the 74th Amendment in the city and wide-ranging changes in the Punjab Municipal Act to improve the ability of the MC so that it is able to discharge duties effectively.

Provisions for the devolution of greater functional responsibilities and financial powers to MCs are in line with democratic principles of people’s representatives calling the shots. The division of powers and responsibilities between the MC and the administration is heavily loaded against the former. While the MC has to maintain various civic amenities, resource-generating departments are with the administration. The civic body has to remain at the mercy of the administration and the Centre for grants-in-aid.

With Chandigarh growing by leaps and bounds, particularly the third phase (Sector 48 onwards) and expectations of residents going up, an increase in administrative and financial powers of the MC is the need of the hour. We will have to amend the Act to strengthen municipal governance in the city. We have taken up the matter of amendments in the Act with local MP and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources Pawan Kumar Bansal. Contentious issues such as writing annual confidential reports of officials by the Mayor and an extended term for the Mayor can be taken care of in the new Act.

A strong corporation will be able to meet its obligations to the people in a better way as the administration and the MC complement each other’s functioning for a better lifestyle of residents. The incorporation of provisions of the 74th Amendment in the amended Act and its strict implementation seems to be a panacea for Chandigarh. —Anu Chatrath is city Mayor

More of rhetoric
Ajay Jagga The local municipal corporation is one of luckiest corporations, constituted at a time when all functions were performed by the Chandigarh administration. The only change with the constitution of a democratic set-up in Chandigarh was the transfer of employees and functions from the administration to the MC. This implies that all functions of the corporation were being performed by the administration earlier and there were hardly any taxes then.

After the formation of the MC, several new taxes, such as property tax and parking fee, have been levied, enriching the MC’s coffers. The demand for more financial powers is illogical and irrational. The functioning of the corporation is governed by the Punjab Municipal Act. The Act also bestows certain powers on elected and nominated councillors to take decisions on important issues. As far as obligatory functions of the corporation are concerned, those have to be performed by making adequate provisions in the Budget and this was being done by the elected body.

Apart from grants-in-aid, the MC earns a substantial amount from the auction of prime commercial property which had been transferred by the administration. Apart from this, all powers with regard to business transactions by the corporation are at a par with other elected bodies.

The MC is in a better position that other civic bodies as it has nine nominated councillors, having voting rights, whose expertise it can use while taking decisions. The interference of political parties in appointments and other administrative functions should be kept in check as it will lead to bickering among councillors and officials.

Writing annual confidential reports is controlled by Service Rules, which empower the appointing authority or the superior authority to do so. Since the elected body is neither the appointing authority nor the superior authority, this power cannot be vested in elected representatives. The issue of more powers for the MC is more of rhetoric than reason. All the MC has to do is to make judicious use of its current financial and administrative powers. —Ajay Jagga is local Janata Party president



Pre-Valentine’s Day bash at PU
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
Students of the Panjab University gathered to celebrate a pre-Valentine’s Day bash at the Student Centre here today.

Punjabi artistes Gurdas Maan and Bhagwant Mann participated in the event and promoted their upcoming film ‘Sukhmani’.

Hundreds of students participated in the event, which lasted a few hours. It was organised by the Panjab University Campus Students Council.

In the wake of restrictions to celebrate the Valentine’s Day on the campus on February 14, the celebrations had been taking place a few days in advance each year.

A few students of the arts block criticised the students’ council for organising events which disturbed their studies.

Students of philosophy and law, besides others, mailed the Vice-Chancellor about the disturbance caused to them because of the event.

“The bash and loud music disturbed our studies and the campus should not be used for commercial activities like movie promotion,” said Moonstar, an MA-II student.



200 students get training in first aid
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
The department of paediatrics of the PGI, along with NSS volunteers of the National Institute of Nursing Education (NINE), organised a workshop at the Advanced Paediatric Centre for nearly 200 students of St John’s High School.

This is an initiative to teach the first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training at young ages in schools. These types of initiatives empower the children to become responsible citizens and further improve bystander initiated first aid and rescue efforts.

According to experts, basic life support is the first step in the chain of survival. After that, the steps include checking airways, breathing and performing chest compressions and rescue breaths.

Students took initiatives in learning the basic skills and they were also informed of the various existing helpline such as childline (1098) and traffic helpline (1073). Nursing students taught the students various ways to apply bandages and slings.

Prof Sunit Singhi, head of the paediatrics department and chief of the emergency and intensive care, had been one of the pioneers to bring the advanced life support to India. He felt that teaching basic life support skills to school students would go a long way in empowering the community.



Lifetime achievement award for PU ex-don
Tribune News Service

Dr Surinder Sharma
Dr Surinder Sharma

Chandigarh, February 11
Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College for Women, Kamalpura, Ludhiana, conferred a lifetime achievement award to Dr Surinder Sharma, a retired professor of chemistry, PU, a veteran comedian of Punjabi films and present advisor to the Vice-Chancellor, for his contributions in the field of art and academics.

The award was given during an inter-college art and craft festival, “Jashan-e-Baharan” today on the college premises. Dr SM Kant, director youth welfare, Panjab University, presided over the function.

Dr Sharma has trained about 10,000 students from various schools, colleges and universities in the field of dance, drama, music, debates and other cultural activities for participation at the zonal, inter-zonal, inter-university and international level.

Dr Surinder Sharma has represented the country in festivals of India in USSR and UK as a leader, dancer, singer and director. He has given more than 200 performances in the US, Canada and gulf countries. He has directed so far more than 200 plays and acted in about 100 plays like Oedipus, Antigony, Ashad-ka-ek-din, Kanchan Rang, Teen Fristey and so on.

He has also acted in 70 Punjabi films as a comedian and nine Hindi films, which included “Karam” with Rajesh Khanna, “Khel Muquadar Ka” and “Bhakti Mein Shakti”. This versatile man has written scripts for Punjabi films and has also penned a book “Samajhdar Log”. His first comic break came with Punjabi movie “Sat Sri Akal”.



Hallmark school celebrates annual day
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, February 11
Hallmark Public School, Sector15, here, celebrated its Annual Day- “Srijan -2010” with grandeur and enthusiasm at the Tagore Theatre, Chandigarh, today.

The spectrum of creative cultural presentations left dignitaries, parents and all present spellbound. KK Sindhu, Inspector-General of Police, Ambala Range, was the chief guest on the occasion.

Students excelled in choreography of classical, Manipuri, hip-hop, jive dance forms. The children appealing “Parents, not parenting” left all present in an introspective mood with tears rolling down the cheeks.

Faculty members, Deepika Bhardwaj, Sushma Sharma and Rupma Mendiratta were given ‘Award Of Honour’ for their outstanding contribution.

Farewell: Students of Class class XI of DAV Senior Publc School, Surajpur, organised a farewell function for the class XII students at Raju Palace, Kalka, today. The juniors sang songs, performed dances, and skits for their seniors. Tushar Sharma and Tanya Mahajan were titled as Mr and Miss D.A.V. while Sarthak Garg and Vishaka were honoured with the titles Mr Debonair and Miss Elegant.



Orphan sent to Children Home
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, February 11
The SDM (south) today sent an 8-year-old orphan boy to Children Home, whose father Kamrudeen — a beggar — had died on February 7.

It may be mentioned here that heated exchanges were witnessed between two communities of a locality in Phase I in the Ramdarbar area here yesterday over the custody of the boy. The police had also sealed the house of the deceased, Kamrudeen, which was forcibly occupied by unidentified persons.



Shivalik school report submitted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
The inspection committee constituted under SDM Abhishek Deo to inspect the Shivalik Public School formally submitted its report to the Home Secretary today.

The school, in addition to have been found lacking on the mandatory 15 per cent EWS quota and reserve fund, has failed to produce the occupation certificate.

While a decision regarding recognition to the school will be taken by next week, the department will not support the school in any way, according to sources.



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