C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Chandigarh’s shame
N-choe: The muck in Mohali
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Law came to naught

Under the banner of the Citizens Welfare Council, Mohali residents led by its President, BS Tej, had filed a civil writ petition(CWP) in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2001, blaming the Chandigarh and Mohali authorities of doing nothing about the menace. Consequently, the CWP was disposed off in 2003 with directions to the respondents to form a three-member committee for quick follow up action. But with no follow up action, the petitioners filed a contempt petition. In 2006, during the course of contempt proceedings when Chandigarh officials and PUDA officials in their status reports mentioned about closing outlets discharging sewage in to the N Choe by eating joints, closing of outlets bringing domestic effluents of Sectors 15,16 , 17, 23 and 24 of Chandigarh and closing of outlets bringing sewer of Phases 9, 10 and 11 in to the Choe, the High Court dropped the proceedings with liberty to the petitioner to get the same revised or initiate fresh proceedings. "

It has been almost four years since the status reports were filed, but the untreated sewage still flows into the N-Choe. Rather more outlets have been opened in to the choe, said Ranjivan Singh, the advocate who contested the case on behalf of the Council.

Mohali, April 7
Poor cousin of the City Beautiful, Mohali continues to bear the forced load of the filth, stink and muck flowing down the N-Choe. The repulsive picture of garbage in the sewers and the killing stench offers no hope of respite because there exists no corrective mechanism for clearing the litter, within the Union Territory.

Located in the lower gradient, residents of Mohali are the "end users" of the liquid poison that spreads and strangulates patches of agricultural land. Much to the anguish of the residents, the choe flows through densely populated residential areas of this city. Sadly, the rotting 'choe' flows along the famed PCA stadium, venue of international cricket tournaments, and the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education (NIPER), a national level pharmaceutical research institution. "Our lives are miserable and we don't have a choice to of moving out in the face of this criminal neglect by the authorities", said Alamjit Singh, a resident of Sector 63.

Miseries continue unabated for thousands of residents living along the dreadful water body in Sectors 61, 62, 63, 64 and 67 of Mohali.

A random survey and interaction with a cross section of residents in the area revealed that the Chandigarh Administration had created exit points of sewage at different points along the zigzag boundary shared with its poor cousin. The sewage from the Burail Jail Complex and a sizeable number of multi-storied cooperative house building societies is allowed unchecked to flow into the N-Choe.

Thumbs down

“Before I shifted out of Sector 63, I was among the worst sufferers due to the stinking stream. " I suffered chest congestion problem and burning sensation in his eyes. It is nighmare.”
BS Tej,
President of the Citizen Welfare Federation

"I get frequent calls from the general public, particularly with regard to the mosquitoes breeding in the polluted stream. We keep on sending health department officials to spray insecticides in the stream. This, however, is only a temporary measure."
Amteshwar Kaur, councillor
"Without talking much about the existing problem, the Chandigarh Administration and Mohali authorities need to sit with their head together to find a permanent solution to the sickening problem."
Rajinder Rosy, theatre personality
“It is criminal act on part of the officials. They have been taking residents for a ride and doing little to solve the problem. Accountability, with action on non performance, is the only solution to the problem.”
Sanjivan Singh,
advocate on N-Choe case

During the monsoons of 2009, the swollen 'choe' water had entered houses in Phase IX here. An NRI, Santokh Singh Parmar, who owns a house in Phase 9, suffered a sizeable loss to his dream mansion. Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) officials point out that the severely blocked 'choe' caused serious damage to the structures along its embankment. No cleaning work had been carried out till date.

Joining the bandwagon of polluters, Punjab's Public Health Department too is contributing to this criminal neglect as the network of underground and even open pipes have openings in the flow. Certain landmarks that show the stinking litter in true light included the Leisure Valley, Sector 62 and near both the PCA Stadium and NIPER.

Mohali, Sector 62

Turning pitch dark, the polluted stream enters Leisure Valley, a morning walkers paradise turned nightmare. The noxious water glides through the thick woods. "The sickening view is a blot on the face of Mohali. On certain occasions, one has to gasp for whiff of fresh air", said Balwinder Singh, who has been coming to the valley for the last ten years. Towards the exit point of the garden, the filth and thick domestic waste has settled down on the boulder covered with a wire mash.

Taking advantage of thick foliage along the stream, the public health department is disposing the domestic waste of sector 61 and other nearby Sectors in the choe. Officials admit that at one point of time, even the sewage from the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) was flowing in to the stream.

PCA Stadium, Sector 63

Mohali MC has a garbage collection and segregation centre next to the stinking sewage water flowing in the N choe, adjoining the PCA stadium in Phase 9, Mohali.
Deadly blend: Mohali MC has a garbage collection and segregation centre next to the stinking sewage water flowing in the N choe, adjoining the PCA stadium in Phase 9, Mohali.

Located only a few kilomteres from the world famous PCA stadium, the polluted stream presents a horrible look as plastic waste, rotten vegetables and carcass lie scattered in the 'choe' tract bloacking the flow of even the dirty waters.

During the ongoing IPL matches, organisers have put up blind panels to hide the horrible sight from the eyes of the visitors. BS Tej, President of the Citizens Welfare Federation, Mohali, said even the waste from the PCA was flowing in to the stream. Adding insult to the injury, the MC has its garbage collection and segregation centre at the spot.

NIPER, Sector 67

The repulsive look of the sick stream gets hidden behind the wild growth of reeds in the stream passage. The passage of the dirty water too becomes difficult resulting in the expected horrible smell.

KK Bhutani, Officiating Director of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), blamed the wrong design of stone pitching the base of the choe for the muck.



Tribune Impact
UT assures High Court of clean up
Saurabh Malik

Two days after The Tribune raised a storm over sanitation concerns going down the drain, the Chandigarh Administration today made it clear to the Punjab and Haryana High Court that it was serious about cleaning-up the city’s image by giving the “n-choe” a neater look.

As the “suo motu” case based on The Tribune report came up for hearing this morning, Chandigarh’s senior standing counsel Sanjay Kaushal told the Division Bench of Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal and Justice Jasbir Singh that they all felt strongly for the city.

Kaushal said as a city resident he was as much concerned about the city as the court was; and would see what could be done about the n-choe. He also informed the Bench that the departments concerned would be called up for discussion to find a concrete solution to the watery problem. Kaushal was, prima facie, of the opinion that the security guards on VIP duty in the vicinity could be behind the insanitation problem.

As the Bench was hearing the matter, advocate Ranjivan Singh expressed his desire to address the court on the issue. He told the Bench that the issue was raised before the high court earlier also by him; and sought the court’s permission to produce the copies of the orders time to time issued in the matter.

Taking note of his contentions, the Bench asked Ranjivan Singh to assist the court. Before parting with the orders, the Bench appointed him as an amicus curiae, or the “friend of the court”.

The case now stands adjourned to April 21 for enabling the Chandigarh Administration to file its response to the petition and place before the court a detailed proposal.

Chief Justice Mudgal on Tuesday had asked the Administration to specify “the steps contemplated to improve the condition of the choe”.

The news-report in these columns was directed to be treated as a public interest litigation.

The Chief Justice had observed: Le Corbusier, who planned the City Beautiful, wanted to retain the water body to keep the residents of the city in contact with nature.

“The Choe is a seasonal rivulet and the water flowing through it without there being rains for long makes one curious about the origin of water flowing through it”.



Finally, MC to install treatment plant
Aarti Kapoor

Chief Engineer SS Bidda inspects a site showing stagnant water in Sector 16, Chandigarh.
Chief Engineer SS Bidda inspects a site showing stagnant water in Sector 16, Chandigarh. A Tribune photograph

Chandigarh Municipal Corporation will install a sewerage treatment plant (STP), with a capacity of at least 15 Million Litres per Day(MLD), at Kahjeri to avoid flow of sewerage water of nearby colonies of that area in Natural Choe (N-Choe) of the city.

Admitting a technical flaw, the corporation said that "sewerage and sullage discharge from Nehru Rehabilitation Colony and Housing Board Colony, Sector 52, and some discharge of Kajheri village is finding its way to the choe as the outfall sewer near V-4 roads of sector 52 is the higher level since its inception. Since outfall sewer is at a higher level, pumping is required to dispose off collected sewage in N-Choe."

"Sometimes, the pump don't work", an official conceded.

The development comes following the story on the pathetic condition of the choe being highlighted, continuously, in the Chandigarh Tribune, since Tuesday onwards. The Tribune highlighted the miserable condition of N-choe at various points in the city and reported that many residents had illegally opened their sewerage in it, resulting in foul smell and danger of outbreak of diseases. The committee including the MC Chief Engineer, S S Bidda and the Public Health, Superintendent Executive, R K Goyal today inspected the entire length of N-Choe and submitted a detailed report to the Commissioner.

During a visit to Kajheri, today, committee found "some" sewage and sullage discharge from Nehru Colony Rehabilitation Colony and Housing Board Colony of Sector 52 and "some" discharge of sewage from Kajheri village into the N-Choe. Interestingly, a senior officer, not wishing to be quoted, said that approximately 14 million litres sewage, per day(MLD), was pouring in the N-choe near Kahjeri. The quantity quoted by the officer definitely does not fall in the category of "some", as claimed in the official press release.

Talking to the Tribune team, during visit at one of the problem sites in Sector 16, the Chief Engineer said "there are certain water and possibly sewerage pipes which are leaking. He also referred to the overflow from the tubewells and taps in green belts. The matter will be sorted out at the earliest."

Interestingly, the team, in the official press release, did not find any "stink" near Shanti Kunj, Sector 16 nor near Beant Singh Memorial, Sector 42. "How can the administration belie the pictures in your newspapers and quotes by eminent residents?" said Naresh Kumar, a resident of sector 42, when called for his reaction.



Driving on highways gets safer
HC asks Punjab, Haryana not to permit vehicles to ply on wrong sides
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Travelling on the highways will soon be safer. Driving home the message on road safety, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear to the states of Punjab and Haryana that vehicles should not be permitted to travel on the wrong side of the national highways.

Taking up contempt of court petitions seeking implementation of directions earlier in the traffic regulation and pollution control case, Justice Rajive Bhalla asserted: “It has been brought to the notice of this court that the national highways that traverse the states of Punjab and Haryana are unsafe, as a large number of vehicles travel on the wrong side of the road.

“The officers of the states of Haryana and Punjab, in charge of traffic on the highways, shall ensure that no vehicles travel on the wrong side of the road, except when the road is under repair.”

Justice Bhalla has also asked the states to “file a response as to whether heavy vehicles should be directed to travel in demarcated lane, and if so what measures are proposed.”

In his detailed order, Justice Bhalla further directed the two states and Chandigarh to “ensure that unauthorised insignia, names, etc., are not affixed on number plates. The respondents shall also filed an affidavit, disclosing the number of licenses that have cancelled for repeated offences under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988”.

Earlier, Justice Bhalla had verbally expressed his opinion against the carrying of names and insignias on the number plates.

The case also saw the state of Punjab praying for two weeks time for “filing an appropriate record-based affidavit with respect to the removal of encroachments on the berms and roads, the arrangement for parking of vehicles in the holy city of Amritsar and compliance with orders passed by this court”. The matter will now come up for further hearing before the court on April 20.


Census timings have teachers fuming
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The census department’s latest declaration asking government school teachers to perform both census work and also the normal teaching left hundreds of teachers protesting in resentment at various city schools like Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 32, Government School, Sector 23, and Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 33, which are currently also doubling up as the census training centres.

The teachers who are on a three-day-long duty were supposed to get their data collection sheets and related stationery today.

Before this was handed over to them, the census officials declared that they were supposed to conduct the census work from 6 am to 8 am and then proceed to their respective schools and then once again resume data collection after the completion of the teaching session for the day. The announcement led to a huge uproar among the teachers, who refused to accept their census duty bags and even staged a walkout. The teachers were even joined by some UT Education Department officials who are also on duty and have similarly been asked to carry out their census work before 9 am and after 5 pm.

Census officials initially tried to justify the move, which is yet to be communicated in written form, saying they were being paid. But when the teachers tried refusing, they were threatened with immediate suspension.

“We were supposed to get our census data sheets today. But when we reached the training centre, they told us that we would have to do both the census work and teaching.

It might be acceptable to the male teachers, but what about our female colleagues? Out of 70 teachers training at our centre, 60 are women who will be going to slums etc. Is it safe for them to go there and collect data in the evening? Moreover is it possible for us to do justice to the work after we have spent six hours on regular duty?” asked a teacher who was undertaking the training at the Government School in Sector 32.

“How can we work for 12 hours a day? Who would entertain us at around 6 a.m.? We refused to continue the training but we were told that as we were being paid, we could not refuse this. They also threatened to prosecute and suspend us all if we tried to resent against the move,” said another teacher at Government School in Sector 33.

Interestingly, no such declaration has been reported from any other part of the region, leaving many curious about the element of uniformity in the census work.

Some teachers claimed that census officials had promised to direct school principals to give them an off for the first half of the school time to carry on with the census work. However, this again is only a verbal assurance.

Census officials declared that teachers were supposed to conduct the census work from 6 am to 8 am and then proceed to their respective schools and once again resume data collection after the completion of the teaching session for the day. The announcement led to a huge uproar among the teachers, who refused to accept their census duty bags and even staged a walkout. The teachers were even joined by some UT Education Department officials who are also on duty and have similarly been asked to carry out their census work before 9 am and after 5 pm

While many doubts continue to cloud the association of teachers with the census work, both secretary census Brijendar Singh and the officer-cum-census in charge Hargunjit Kaur did not respond to the numerous calls made to them over the past two days. Home Secretary Ram Niwas, however, claimed that although he had no details of the declaration, he asserted that the teachers would have to abide by the instructions of the census department.



Amendment in Rent Act
Tenants in a tizzy, get eviction notices
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
An amendment in the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction (Amendment) Act, 2001, empowering non-resident Indians (NRIs) to recover immediate possession of the residential and non-residential buildings has sent many commercial establishment owners in major shopping centres of the city in a tizzy.

Since October last year, when the Union government amended the Act and extended it to Chandigarh, a number of NRI landlords have shot off notices to commercial tenants, including prominent business establishments, to vacate their property. Prominent among those who have received eviction notices include a popular restaurant and a nationalised bank in Sector 17, a well-known hospital in Sector 9, a couple of hotels in Sector 35 and also some commercial properties in Mani Majra.

Scores of properties in prime commercial areas such as Sector 17, Sectors 8 and 9 (on Madhya Marg), Sector 34, Sector 35 and Mani Majra belong to NRIs.

The UT administration had recently received a notification from the Centre regarding the extension of the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction (Amendment) Act 2001. An amendment, 13-B, has been added after Section 13-A in the notification of the principal Act, which provided that the NRIs get immediate possession of their properties by simply applying to the relevant authority.

The notification has spread panic among established businessman. “It has taken me 20 years and investment worth lakhs to set up a business in Sector 17. Now, the landlord has suddenly served me a notice to vacate the properly - a move which would adversely hit my business,” said a Sector 17-based businessman. Many NRIs on the other hand had been claiming that though the tenants had been raking in big money, they were yet being paid peanuts by way of rent for properties otherwise worth crores. There is nothing wrong in getting our properties vacated for our personal use, observed an NRI.

In a decision apparently aimed at avoiding backlash from the traders community, the Chandigarh Beopar Mandal has, meanwhile, decided to take up the matter with UT Administrator Shivraj Patil and Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources Pawan Bansal.

Another fallout

Some prominent businessmen claimed that they would now think twice before renting commercial properties owned by NRIs in the backdrop of this notification. Commercial property is a major source of investment for NRIs in Chandigarh as is evident from recent auctions conducted by the UT Estate Office

More notices in offing

Given the skyrocketing prices of commercial property in Chandigarh, a large number of tenants in the prime sectors are also likely get eviction notices. As the rents are not high, particularly for properties rented out several years back, NRIs would prefer to open their offices and businesses in the premises according to the “personal use” clause in the Act



Sector 63 housing scheme
Draw of lots held, but two years’ wait still
Smriti Sharma Vasudeva
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The 3,420 allottees of the self-financing scheme flats in Sector 63, who were finally informed the floors on which their respective flats would be located, are in for a long haul still. They will have to wait for at least two more years and, worse, pay monthly instalments ranging roughly between Rs 4,000 and Rs 10,000 till their flats are constructed. Currently, all that exists is barren land and no sign of construction by the Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB).

CHB officials, however, maintain that two years is a normal waiting period for flats to be constructed. But it is quite likely that completion of construction could take well over two years.

Many of the allottees that this reporter spoke to were unhappy that they would be forced to continue to pay instalment even while residing elsewhere. “For us it is a triple burden. We will have to continue paying rent where we are staying; pay interest on loans taken; and then keep paying installments even before the construction has begun,” said Manoj Dhawan, an allottee soon after the final draw of lots was completed at the auditorium of the Government Medical College and Hospital in Sector 32. He also pointed out that even the tenders had not yet been floated for the construction of the single, double and triple bedroom flats.

The allottees have already paid 10 per cent as initial payment and they now fear that the delay in construction would result in a hike in construction cost and result in a further rise in the price of the flats.

“First, the scheme was marred by land dispute between Mohali and Chandigarh. Then the design was found to be faulty after which two more floors were added followed by a year-long wait for environment clearance. The board should have thought out some mechanism to compromise the inordinate delay,” said Rajesh Kumar, one of the allottees.

The allottees also claimed that furthermore, due to e-tendering, it would take another two to three months for floating of tenders as well.

While the preliminary draw of lots for the scheme was held in November 2008, the floors were allocated only today.

“It is for the first time, that the houses were allotted long back, but we are only getting to know it today which floor my house would be situated on,” said RK Pal, a property dealer who also has a flat under this scheme.

CHB chairman Mohanjeet Singh said, “The earlier delays were due to fault in design and additional floors but now all that has been sorted out and the construction of these flats will take about two years time.”

Under the scheme, there are 304 three-bedroom flats, 836 two-bedroom flats, 532 one-bedroom flats and 304 houses under the EWS scheme. The approximate price of a three-bedroom flat with an area of 1,424 square feet is 39.57 lakh, if the payment is made upfront. The category ‘B’ two-bedroom flat, with an area of 1,075 square feet has been fixed as of now at Rs 29.14 lakh. Meanwhile, for one bedroom under the EWS scheme, the price has been fixed at Rs 17.2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh. However, these prices are tentative and the board reserves the right to revise the prices

The final draw of lots for 160 houses under the economically weaker section (EWS) scheme 2009 was also held today. Interestingly for 160 houses under the EWS scheme, the CHB had received over 10,000 applications. The draw of lots was held for 96 houses under the general category and another 19 were short-listed but they have kept in the waiting list. CHB chairman Mohanjit says the physical possession of these houses would be given in June



Army officer killed in freak accident
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Just two days back, a 23-year-old cavalry officer from the city was planning his vacations with his cousin. Fate, however, had something else in store as Lt Nishant Karol was killed in a freak accident during an ongoing Army exercise in Rajasthan last evening.

According to Army sources, Nishant was killed when the tank he was commanding fell into a blind well. As a pall of gloom descended on his Sector 27 house. His parents were inconsolable and his mother had to be put on sedatives. His mortal remains are expected to reach the city tomorrow.

His father, GK Karol, is a manager with the State Bank of India while his mother is a manager with the Bank of Baroda. His elder brother, Shushant, is pursuing MBA in Singapore.

After spending his early years in Dharamsala, Nishant moved to the city along with his parents and completed his schooling from Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 16, before joining the National Defence Academy. He was commissioned into 44 Armoured in December 2008.

His cousin, Vikas, said he had a passion for the services and was always keen to join the Army. Besides being active in sports and extra curricular activities, he was fond of poetry and social networking. He had last visited his parents on February 12 during a transit visit and was expected to come again after the exercise was over.



Stress taking toll on CTU drivers
Lack of health monitoring facilities to blame
Arun Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The Chandigarh Transport Undertaking (CTU), dubbed as one of the best transport undertakings in the country, is oblivious of the health problems being faced by its staff.

This is the reason that some employees of the CTU lost their lives due ailments, particularly heart failure, or accidents on duty.

Out of the total workforce of around 2,100, the number deaths due to some ailment was as high as 21. The CTU still does not find any reason for a routine health check-up or teaching stress-busting tips to its staff.

Inquiries revealed that no health check-up of the staff except the eyesight test, was ever conducted by the administration.

Surprisingly, even the death of three drivers due to heart attack while on wheels in the recent past failed to move the authorities concerned. Fortunately, the drivers were able to put the buses with passengers on board to halt before they collapsed on the steering wheel due to heart failure, said Raj Kumar, general secretary of the CTU Workers Union. All the three drivers, however, were declared brought dead at the hospitals, he added.

It was in December 2009 when Thuman Singh, a driver with the CTU, suffered a heart attack when he was parking his bus after retuning from Khizrabad- Mullanpur. His colleague, Surmukh Singh, who used to ply bus on route No. 3 also suffered a heart attack near Bartana railway crossing. The hapless driver ignored the severe pain and took the bus to the railway station and dropped the passengers. However, he died before he could reach his destination at ISBT.

Another driver, Santokh Singh, fell on the steering wheel at the traffic lights near the railway station a year ago in 2008 and was declared brought dead at a hospital.

Many others, including bus conductors, were found dead while sleeping in buses during a night halt. Though no inquiry or study was conducted in these deaths, the union leaders term it the outcome of stress facing the crew during duty hours.

Staff shortage, long duty hours, and lack of health monitoring were the main reasons behind deaths on duty, said a union leader.

With a fleet of 417 buses, the CTU is short of around 100 drivers and the same number of conductors. Out of this, around 225 buses were being plied on long routes. A driver on long route has to work on an average for 12 hours. Long route drivers have to drive for 14 hours in one go before returning back. Though the drivers are paid overtime charges, the practice has taken a toll on their health.

Studies conducted in various countries indicate that drivers are prone to fatigue, tension, mental overload, sleeping disorders, problems in back, neck and shoulders.

CTU director ML Sharma, however, denied that any of the staff members had died while driving the bus. They were suffering from diseases and died only when they were not in the driving seat, he said. “Still I would look into such problems and steps would be taken to take care the health of the staff,” he said.



Staff want pay anomalies to go
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Employees of the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking (CTU) held a gate meeting at the office of the CTU director here today.

They were demanding recruitment of regular staff, increase in uniform allowance, check on the plying of private buses illegally from the city and removal of anomalies.

Following the meeting, they presented a memorandum, consisting of 40 demands, to CTU director ML Sharma.

Addressing the employees, CTU workers union president Jagdish Singh said private bus operators had been plying their buses illegally from the city withut check, eating into the revenue of the CTU as well as the Chandigarh administration.

The practice had been rampant for years as nobody bothered to keep a check on it, resulting losses worth crores, he said. Rights of employees were being ignored though many representations had been made to the administration, he said.

Staff salaries were revised on January 1, 2006, but salaries of many juniors were increased against the salary drawn by their seniors, leading to heartburn, he said.

Similarly, many employes working as assistant storekeeper, cloak room attendant, parking fee clerk and diesel pump attendant were merged into office clerk at that time, but they lost their seniority, he said.

Union general secretary Raj Kumar said the technical staff was forced to purchase uniform from their own pocket as the allowances for this, fixed in 1996, was not sufficient.

For winter uniform, Rs 576 was being paid every three years and Rs 701 was being paid for summer uniform after every two years, he said.

Other demands included better canteens and removal of recruitment on contract and ceiling on recruitment on compassionate grounds.

The CTU director assured the employees of considering their demands on merit and pursue the matter with the administration.



Food in Trains
Change in menu on cards
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Railway passengers can hope to relish tastier food as the railway authorities have decided to bring about some changes in the menu being served in Shatabdi and other major trains.

The authorities have to send directives to the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to implement the changes.

The railway authorities want to improve the quality of food in trains keeping in view the health of passengers.

The authorities have also sought feedback from passengers regarding the quality of the food being served.

Last week, a team from Delhi visited the railway station here and tried to find out what type of food passengers would prefer.

The railway board had shot off letters to different zones for the implementation of changes in the menu.

The board had given directions that only branded ingredients and products of reputed brands, specified by the IRCTC, having pan-Indian visibility would be used.

Jugal Kishore, a passenger, said it would be a great initiative by the railway board if it was thinking to improve food quality in Shatabdi and other major trains.

The passengers had to shell out a huge sum of money, but despite that, if the food quality was poor, it created a bad impression, he said.

Monica Sabharwal, another passenger, suggested that the authorities should implement this change as soon as possible and other trains must be included in the category.

Karan Singh, senior divisional commercial manager, Ambala division, said the railway board had taken this decision keeping the health of passengers in mind.

He said directions had been issued to ban the use of palm oil and hydrogenated vegetable oil, adding that a proposal had been sent to provide the same facility in mail and passenger trains.

“Only branded refined vegetable oil will be used to prepare food. It was necessary to improve the quality of food because several complaints were being received,” he said.



GMCH project gets govt nod
To be developed as centre of excellence
Anuja Jaiswal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The Union Health Ministry has accepted a project of Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Sector 32, to develop it as a centre of excellence under the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP).

Confirming the move, Dr BS Chawan, head of the psychiatry department, GMCH, and in charge of the centre of excellence project, said if everything goes well, the paramedical courses of MPhil in clinical psychology and MPhil in psychiatric social work would start from this academic session. These courses are being introduced for the first time in the region.

Apart from the GMCH-32, 10 more centres of excellence are being developed in the country. Talking to The Tribune, Dr Chawan said: “With depression set to become the second most common disease by 2020, there will be a huge demand for psychiatrists.”

“As compared to the national demand of around 35,000 psychiatrists, we only have 3,500 and that, too, in urban areas,” he said, adding that meeting the challenge of mental illness would be a major task. The government was working on a strategy to set up training institutes in various hospitals to create a pool of manpower.

Giving details, Dr Chavan said the project would cost around Rs 30 crore. He said institutes offering postgraduate courses in clinical psychology and psychiatric social work and diploma in psychiatric nursing would be set up under the project. The faculty positions, however, are yet to be finalised. There will be 20 seats for diploma in psychiatric nursing, eight for MPhil in clinical psychology and 10 for psychiatry social work.

For starting the MPhil courses, the hospital will seeking affiliation from Panjab University and for the psychiatric nursing course, affiliation will be required from the Nursing Council of India. Dr Chavan said the process for the same had been set in motion. He said inspections by the Nursing and Rehabilitation Councils are scheduled for the end of this month.



Report puts blame on departments
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Contrary to the initial attempts of the UT engineering department to fix the responsibility for the March 29 fire at the trauma operation theatre of Government Multi-Speciality Hospital (GMSH) on a nurse, the hospital authorities have now blamed the “poor coordination” between the engineering and the electrical departments for the mishap.

While the report, which was submitted to the Director Health Services, has blamed “poor coordination” between the departments as the cause of the fire, it has failed to fix the responsibility for this failure on any individual. “The departments don’t coordinate by themselves. It’s the officers who are supposed to ensure coordination between them,” said a senior UT official, claiming that the report was merely an effort to save individuals by compounding issues and shifting blames.

Sources said the UT engineering department, which had installed air-conditioners in September-October 2009, tried to wash its hands off the responsibility on a plea that they had only installed the ACs and not given clearance for its use. They had put the blame on a nurse, claiming that she had switched on the AC when they weren’t supposed to be used.

On its part, the UT electrical department had claimed that it had not installed the required switches for the ACs as they had no supplies. As for the hospital, it defended the nurse, Nirmal, saying that she herself had a narrow escape and was the one who alerted the others.

Dubbing the report as a “half-hearted” attempt, sources said rather than arriving at any conclusion and fixing the responsibility, those entrusted with the task had blamed “coordination” for the mishap and cleverly exonerated individuals from it. “What is the use of such inquiries which hide more than what they are supposed to reveal,” said a senior UT official.



Complainant withdraws case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The American girl, who had levelled allegation of rape against Panjab University law student, Nitin Jindal, during the 56th Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN), a conference organised by final year law students of Harvard University at Park Plaza Hotel in Boston in February 2010, has reportedly withdrawn the case.

The next hearing, which is expected to be just a formality to wind up the case, is scheduled on April 9, confirmed Nitin’s parents and also a close friend. Reports of the two parties entering into an “out-of-the-court settlement” before the hearing today have also surfaced.

Reliable sources also said Nitin was hopeful of returning to the city and appearing for his examinations starting from April 16. But his taking the exams may not be easy, as the university has already banned him from taking the exams.

“He pleaded to the local court in Boston that his exams were approaching shortly and produced his examination datesheet also to support his plea. The complainant girl has withdrawn the case,” said a close associate of Nitin.

University officials said Nitin had been absent from the department for several weeks now and as per the university rules his name would ideally be struck off the rolls. “The governing body of the university (the Syndicate) will take a timely decision. For now, he is debarred from taking the exams,” said Panjab University Registrar Prof SS Bari.

While his friends and juniors at UILS, Panjab University, have launched a massive campaign on the social networking website “Face Book” comprising 469 members, while also accusing the media for allegedly flaring up the matter and terming Nitin “an accused” even before the allegations could be proved.

Meanwhile, Nitin’s parents who are currently in Bathinda at their residence in Tagore Nagar, expressed relief on his probable acquittal.

Nitin’s mother, Sulochana Jindal, also confirmed that they have been in touch with their son over the phone almost daily. The police detained Nitin only for two days, she added.

“He will soon return to Chandigarh and take his exams. The case has been withdrawn and the next date of hearing is April 9,” said Nitin’s mother.

Boston Case

Contradictory rumours of seven-year imprisonment to Nitin continued to pour in from the UILS department during the evening, but no official confirmation has been made on the issue.

On being asked, Nitin’s father, Bhushan Jindal, denied the rumours of imprisonment

After the “Support Nitin” campaign on the social networking website “Orkut”, Nitin’s friends, classmates and juniors in UILS have started a community “I support Nitin Jindal” on the other popular networking site “Face Book” with 469 members. While some have prayed for Nitin’s safe arrival, others have accused the media of being unfair to Nitin.

The introductory paragraphs of the community say “The biggest asset of a person is his reputation and we request you to join this group to make him (Nitin) feel that we are always there to support him in this hour of need and his reputation is safe.”



Wheat arrivals in city yet to pick up
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Though the procurement season entered the sixth day yesterday wheat has yet arrive in large quantities in the city’s grain market in Sector 39. Small amounts of the grain have begun trickling in from adjoining areas like Kharar, Mullanpur and Banur.

According to information, the total wheat arrivals in the market till date are only 1,200 quintals as against 8,000 quintals during the same period last year. It is learnt Food Corporation of India has till date lifted a maximum of 1,000 quintals with the private procuring agencies appearing to be staying away from the market.

According to sources, most of the wheat stocks that have arrived in the ‘mandi’ (market) have a moisture content of about 14 per cent, whereas procurement is permissible only where the content is less than 12 per cent.

An FCI official at the grain market said only about 2,000 bags of wheat had been procured during the past five days. The grain that arrived on Monday had a moisture content of over 13.5 per cent.

Mohan Lal, an ‘arhtiya’ (commission agent), said FCI had this time been assigned the task of procuring wheat here. He feared lifting of the grain might be delayed as FCI’s godowns were already overflowing with stocks of the previous crop.

SS Sandhu, an agriculture department official, said though Punjab had been expecting a bumper wheat crop this year the variation in day and night temperatures (high during the day and low at night) had led to a slight delay in maturing of the crop. “However, there’s nothing to worry about”, he added reassuringly.

FCI expects to procure about 200,000 bags of wheat from the Chandigarh ‘mandi’ this year as compared to 169,000 bags lifted last year. “The total market arrivals this year will be more than those last year. We are expecting the arrivals to go up in the next one week when procurement is likely be in full swing,” said Kamaljit Singh, a FCI official.



Shenoy’s music treat for ears
SD Sharma

Chandigarh, April 7
“Yatha Guru tatha shishya”, acclaimed classical vocalist Mahalakshmi Shenoy, a disciple of Grammy Award winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, who proved her mettle by enthralling the music lovers at a special music concert organised by the Pracheen Kala Kendra here today.

She began her recital with the exposition of raga bageshwari in a vilambit gat “Sakhi mann lage” set to “ek taal” followed by a fast paced drut gat “Mohse manna aye” in teen taal.

She evoked the spiritual bhava in the raga and brought out its distinctive melodic character. She embellished the raga with a reposeful alaap with matured imagination and dexterous knowledge as also high-speed taans living up to reputed status of her famed guru.

Mahalakshmi was at her best in the concluding Meera bhajan “Giridhar aage nachoongi mein” which received applause from the audience.

She was accompanied by Prof Muralidhar on harmonium and Avirbhav on tabla, while Taposi provided drone on taanpura.

Kendra registrar Guru Shobha Koser and secretary Sajal Koser honoured the artistes.



MC to take care of 70 green belts
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, April 7
The responsibility of maintaining 70 green belts and triangles in various parts of the town has finally been shifted to the municipal council. The work was earlier being done by the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA).

The green belts which would be maintained by the civic body were located in commercial areas and the triangles at the entry points of the town. The green belts fall in Sectors 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63 and 64, and the triangles at the back of the stadium, YPS chowk, and entry point to Sectors 55-56. A meeting was held at the level of the Chief Administrator, GMADA, on March 31, where it was decided that the maintenance work of green belts and triangles would be handed over to the council on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis.

GMADA had done the work on an experiment basis and since advertisement rights in the municipal areas were with the civic body, the work of maintenance had to be done by the council.

Soon after the meting, the GMADA divisional engineer (horticulture) sent a letter to the executive officer of the council, stating that the record related to green belts and triangles and copies of the agreement with the agencies executing the work had already been sent to the council office. The civic body was asked to ensure that the agencies be asked to produce certificates of satisfactory work before they were given an extension in the work period.

Though GMADA had earlier tried to hand over the maintenance work related to green belts to the civic body several times, the latter always tried to wriggle out. Last such attempt was made in January when the council expressed its helplessness to take over the maintenance work on the pretext that the proposal would first have to be cleared by the general house. A peculiar situation had arisen on February 1 when GMADA had claimed that the responsibility of maintaining green belts and triangles in various parts of the town had been shifted to the civic body and the latter expressed its inability to undertake maintenance work of the green areas before April 1.



Excise, VAT collections up
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Collections from VAT and excise for 2009-10 are up in the city. According to a press note issued here today, the Chandigarh administration has earned a revenue of Rs 921.18 crore in 2009-10 from excise on liquor, entertainment tax and VAT in 2009-10, 9.29 per cent (Rs 78.27 crore ) more netted in 2008-09.

The VAT revenue aggregated Rs 787.78 crore in 2009-10, 11.03 per cent more than registered in 2008-09. In 2007-08, the collection was only Rs 648.45 crore. The department registered an excise revenue of Rs 133.65 crore in 2009-10 which is Rs 27 lakh more than Rs 133.38 crore in 2008-09. In 2007-08, the excise collection was Rs 127.93 crore.



‘RTI Act a tool to check corruption’
Our Correspondent

Mohali, April 7
The Right to Information Act has been able to bring about transparency, good governance and reduce corruption, said Darbara Singh Kahlon, Punjab State Information Commissioner, here today.

The commissioner, while addressing public information officers, at a seminar

organised to create awareness in connection with the Right to Information Act, 2005, said officials of various departments should be aware of the provisions of the Act and should provide information whenever asked. He asked officials to maintain registers in their respective offices in which entries were made in connection with the information provided to interested persons.

The Act should not be misused and instead the public should take advantage. He said the act was proving to be helpful in changing the old administrative system and was also helping in checking corruption.

Kahlon said several laws were framed in our country, but these were not implemented easily.

The Central government had made a law that it was compulsory for every child to attend school in order to put an end to illiteracy, but even then about 10 crore children did not attend schools. He said presently 40 lakh youth in the state were unemployed and one of the reasons for this was that required changes were not brought about in the education system.



Ultrasound centre sealed
Our Correspondent

Mohali, April 7
The district health authorities have sealed the ultrasound centre of Silver Oak Hospital in Phase IX here today, as the raiding team noticed some deficiencies in the centre.

Dr PK Sridhar, Civil Surgeon, told this correspondent that a team comprising district family welfare official, Dr AK Handa, epidemologist, Dr Sunita, and another official raided the ultrasound centre and found some deficiencies after which it was sealed. The shortcomings were brought to the notice of the hospital authorities.

He said checking of the ultrasound centres was done under the PNDT Act, according to which it was mandatory for the authorities concerned to fill form F. But the hospital had not done this for the past one month. Some other shortcomings were also noticed.

He said a meeting of the advisory committee would be convened to review the matter.



Stress on holistic landscape plan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The Chandigarh-Punjab chapter of the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) in association with the University of Western Australia, Perth, and Alumni Association of Chandigarh College of Architecture organised an Indo-Australian symposium on “Landscape architecture” here yesterday.

UT Home Secretary Ram Niwas said the Chandigarh Administration was developing the “Valley of Springs” and “Garden of Conifers” in the southern sectors of the city.

He said the “Patiali-ki-Rao” rivulet and three lakes at Dhanas offered good potential for development. He also said we should have a holistic landscape plan for Chandigarh.

Chapter chairman Surinder Bahga said with the growing imbalance in ecosystem and global warming, the role of landscape design had become important.



Free books distributed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
Punjab and Haryana Court Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia and K Kannan today distributed books to the students of Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 26, here today.

In an event organised by the Indian Oil Corporation India Limited in collaboration with NGO Yuvsatta, as many as 450 nursery and Class I children, who are studying under the Sarv Sikhsha Abhiyan in the school, were provided free books.

Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia said, “Everybody is entitled to basic education and the Right to Education Act is definitely a right step in achieving this.”



Woman crushed to death

Chandigarh, April 7
Bhushan Rani, a 48-year-old woman, was allegedly crushed to death by a truck near Fun Republic here this evening. Thr truck diver reportedly fled.

The victim was rushed o the Sector-32 Government Medical College and Hospital where she died. The police has impounded the truck.

Bhushan Rani of Water Works Colony in Sector 26, was returning home on her scooter from her office Seed Corporation, Haryana, in Panchkula when the mishap occurred. The truck driver was overtaking the scooter at the time of collision. The victim’s husband is a junior engineer with the UT Public Health Department. She is survived by husband and two children. — TNS



Spreading health awareness
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The Centre for Public Health, Panjab University, celebrated World Health Day by organising different activities for students and staff here today.

A workshop was conducted for security personnel of PU to spread awareness regarding health issues.

Prof UN Roy from NITTTER spoke on sustainable development and technical strategies. Dean science faculty Prof AS Ahluwalia acted as evaluator for the poster-making competition on “Urbanisation and Health”. Prof VL Sharma, co-ordinator, Centre for Public Health, briefed the students regarding the significance of the day.



‘Gourmets Affair’ released
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 7
The annual day of Dr Ambedkar Institute of Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition, Sector 42-D, was held at the auditorium here today. DK Tiwari, IAS, managing director, CITCO, was the chief guest and Tanuj Beri, assistant general manager, State Bank of India, Chandigarh, was the guest of honour.

The college magazine “Gourmets Affair” was also released. The students presented a variety of cultural programme, which kept the audience spellbound.

Various prizes were awarded to the students for excelling in academics and other co-curricular activities.

Principal of the Institute Navin Kumar Nanchahal read out the annual report of the Institute highlighting various activities and achievements undertaken by the Institute during the year. DK Tiwari highlighted the growing needs of trained manpower in the hospitality industry.



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