C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


RTE Round 3: All talk, no action
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 8
Ambiguity continues to haunt the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act in the city as the third meeting over draft rules ended inconclusively today. Expecting a response to queries and suggestions furnished by them in the last meeting held a fortnight ago, representatives of private schools said they were left shocked when confronted with demand for more suggestions.

“It was back to square one. Ever since we first met at the Tagore Theatre last month, schools have been repeating suggestions regarding draft rules but we are yet to hear the UT Administration’s response. We are getting together to design the final implementation policy but it seems to be an RTE seminar for the Administration,” said Independent School Association president HS Mamik.

“We had written to them seeking a clarification on the implementation norms in case of minority schools. But even after three meetings they are yet to say a single word on it.

The meeting culminated without conclusion today as we were once again asked to repeat what we have been saying in the last two meetings. It is time for the Administration to speak now so that a policy can be finalised. It claims to be already on the job to clarify issues,” added Kavita Das, principal of St John’s School, Sector 26, who is representing minority schools in the deliberation committee.

Differing with this view, DPI (Schools) PK Sharma said: “They were asked to furnish their queries in writing, but barring a few, nobody did. The schools continue to contest the RTE without realising that the Administration cannot amend the Act. We can just change the draft rules for which we are consulting them. Some queries have not been answered because we need to get legal opinion and also need to consult the ministry of human resources development. The Administration will be ready with the draft of the Act this month itself.”

Questionable presence

Private schools have again expressed dissent on the presence of Hemant Goswami of Burning Brains Society in the committee and have threatened to walk out if he attends the next meeting. “He complicates issues and paralyses dialogue. What has he got to do with education? When we arrived for the meeting, he was not there else we would not have participated. He came late and we thought it would be rude to move out then. He claims to have filed a PIL in the case. If I file a case against some Administration-owned hotel, will I be invited to attend CITCO meetings? The same is with Pankaj Chandgotia whose only ticket to the meeting is a case filed in this regard.”

— HS Mamik, president, Independent School Association

Administration firm

“Both the members were nominated to the committee in the presence of representatives of over 50 schools at Tagore Theatre. Why didn’t they object when their names were read out from the stage?”

— PK Sharma, DPI (Schools)

Parents’ representation

The Administration engaged in selective representation at the meeting. It did not invite representatives of private school parent teacher associations (PTAs). However, representatives of PTAs of several government schools of Sectors 33, 45, 56 and Khuda Ali Sher were invited.

Minutes issue

Independent Schools Association president HS Mamik’s decision to circulate minutes of the last meeting did not go well with the Administration. It insisted that it was its job to circulate the minutes, but Mamik claims the Administration had “forgotten” to do it. “We had not received minutes of the last meeting. The Administration should have done it,” he said.

RTE loses relevance

While the Administration continues to struggle with finalising RTE guidelines and implementing it in the city, the Act seems to have lost its relevance in nursery admissions. With almost 50 per cent schools going ahead with the admission procedure, a majority have overlooked the 25 per cent reservation policy and the “random selection” procedure. Hence, even if implemented, the Act may not be of much use this year.

“We also follow our academic calender. We have already delayed the admission procedure but cannot wait until March. Many schools have left 25 per cent seats vacant. We have abided by the circular issued in November. The seats were advertised twice and those who applied were admitted. If the seats were left vacant, we converted them to the general category. We cannot abide by the RTE until it is notified and implemented. It is the Administration’s fault that we do not have child mapping results to date.”

— HS Mamik, president, Independent School Association

Demands against RTE spirit: DPI

Demand: The Administration should conduct centralised admissions for 25 per cent seats meant to be reserved under the Act.

DPI: As far as admissions are concerned, the Administration is the facilitator. Admissions will have to be done by schools themselves. How can they justify admitting 75 per cent students and being incapable of admitting the remaining 25 per cent? Such admissions may end up taking away the right to choose an institution from many children.

Demand: Reimbursement for 25 per cent seats should be provided in advance. It should also pay complete reimbursement even if seats are vacant.

DPI: This decision does not rest with the Administration. We will work the way the union government does. If it is not happening anywhere else, we cannot amend the Act to suit them.

Demand: Floor area ratio of schools should be increased to accommodate students.

DPI: The decision does not lie with us. We will do our best to facilitate schools but only within the purview of the law.

Demand: 15 per cent EWS quota imposed earlier by the Administration was irrelevant to the RTE provisions.

DPI: This reservation is an obligation mentioned in school allotment letters of many institutions. It’s a contract which cannot be broken. The RTE is very clear about such obligations and we will go by the Act.

Administration adamant

“The RTE will be implemented this month and every school will have to abide by the 25 per cent reservation clause even if they have completed admissions. They cannot escape implementation of the Act. Any noncompliance will be dealt with according to the provisions of the Act.”

— PK Sharma, DPI (S)



Admin ignores ministry’s order
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 8
An overzealous UT Administration has devised an admission procedure for unaided schools to make them abide by the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act but has, in the process, ignored the inherent freedom granted to unaided schools by the ministry of human resources development (MHRD).

Claiming to uphold the “no screening” postulate of the Act, the Administration in its recently issued instructions has asked all schools to adopt a lottery system for admissions up to class VIII for all seats, including even those which are not even reserved under the Act.

Apparently, the Administration has overlooked guidelines issued by the department of school education and literacy of the MHRD with regard to the postulate issued on November 23, 2010.

A directive by the department states that while unaided and “specified” category schools will follow a random selection from the list of applicants for the 25 per cent reserved seats, the remaining 75 per cent seats will be filled on the basis of an admission criteria categorising applicants on a rational, reasonable and just basis.

“With regard to admission to 75 per cent of seats, each school should

formulate a policy under which admissions are to take place. This policy should include a criteria of categorising on a just and rational basis with respect to objectives of schools. No student will be profiled on the basis of parental educational qualifications. The policy should be placed by schools in the public domain, be given wide publicity and should be explicitly stated in the school prospectus. There shall be no testing and interviews for both the parents and children,” the guidelines clearly state.

The guidelines were issued following a meeting at the MHRD where representations received by various unaided schools from across the country were discussed. A majority of these schools had sought clarification on Section 13 (1) of the RTE Act, which bars a school from subjecting any student or parent to any screening procedure for admissions. Several schools had objected to the postulate being contradictory to the objectives of their establishment.

We respect the MHRD’s decision but even schools need some freedom. Maximum schools have conducted nursery admissions, but who has publicised the admission criteria? They also need to abide by the requisites.

— DPI (S) PK Sharma



Khushpreet’s Murder
Informer to get Rs 5 lakh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 8
Following its failure in solving the gruesome murder of five-year-old Khushpreet, the UT police today enhanced the reward money for anyone who would give information regarding the killers to ` 5 lakh.

On December 23, the police had announced a reward of ` 1 lakh. The enhancement of award comes three days after the officiating SSP, HS Doon, told mediapersons that they had got “vital clues” regarding the murder.

Talking to the media on January 5 in Mohali where Khushpreet’s body was found, Doon had said they had got vital clues from the spot and were close to cracking the case. “Keeping in view the seriousness of the case, the police is enhancing the reward. The names of informers will be kept secret. The phone numbers are 0172-2746097 (Crime Branch), 0172-2740554 (DSP/Crime), and 0172-2749194 or 100 (Chandigarh Police Control Room),” the police said in a statement to the media.

Fingerprints to be matched

According to sources, the police will quiz all those known to the family for clues. Fingerprints found from the spot where the body was found will be matched with those found on the mobile phone which was recovered from Sector 33 five days after the kidnapping took place. The mobile phone belonged to Khushpreet’s uncle and was said to have been taken away by the kidnappers when they fled with the ransom.



60,000 SSA aspirants descend on Panchkula
Residents of Sectors 2, 4, 10 and 11 told to remain indoors
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, January 8
More than 60,000 aspirants for the posts of assistant block resource coordinator under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan project (SSA) today brought the city to a halt when they descended on it from different parts of Haryana to submit their application forms at the office of the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) at Sector 2 here.

Residents of Sectors 2, 4, 10 and 11 were told to remain indoors. A traffic jam followed which continued for over six hours. SP Maneesh Chaudhary said they received frantic calls from residents and about 300 policemen had to be deployed in the area to maintain peace.

He said candidates damaged windowpanes of the DIET building. More than 30,000 candidates, along with their family members, had camped in the city last night, blocking the entrance of many houses located near the office.

Residents, especially office-goers, were delayed due to the rush. There was almost a stampede-like situation as candidates jostled with one another to enter the DIET complex to deposit the forms when the gates were opened this morning. Some applicants had entered the complex by jumping over the main gate, forcing the authorities to call the police.

Alka, a resident, said she could not move her car out of the house as the road was blocked till 12.15 pm. She said last month also such conditions prevailed when the DIET had conducted some interviews.

MK Mittal, another resident, said vendors selling bread and milk could not enter the area as a majority of roads were blocked.

Pankaj Yadav, Director of the department of elementary education and training, said they had informed the civil and police administration to make arrangements since a large number of candidates were to deposit forms.



14 laptops, computer accessories stolen
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 8
Electronics item dealers, particularly those dealing in laptops, computers and LCD plasma screens, seem to be on the hit-list of burglars, who have been striking at night and committing thefts worth lakhs in one go.

In another such theft reported last night, laptops and computer accessories worth Rs 10 lakh were stolen from a showroom at Sector 34.

Vishal Sharma, owner of The Metal, the showroom at Sector 34, discovered the theft this morning when he found the locks of his shops broken.

As per his estimate, 14 laptops and 45 processors were stolen. In addition, computer peripherals worth lakhs and Rs 5,000 were also missing from the showroom.

“The entire shop was found to have been ransacked. I am still calculating the estimate, but it is a big loss to me,” said Vishal, a resident of RCS Enclave at Sector 49.

The showroom owner had installed a security alarm system, but it did not work. The police registered a case of theft at the Sector 34 police station.

Sorry Stats

According to statistics available with the police, 391 laptops have been stolen from various parts of the city since 2007. There have been two major burglaries at computer showrooms in Sector 35. In 2008, 33 laptops were stolen while in 2009, 39 laptops were stolen in one go. In 2009, the police had arrested two Panjab University students and recovered 17 stolen laptops from them. This was the only major laptop theft case cracked by the Chandigarh Police. A total of 96 laptops had been stolen from showrooms or cars parked at Sector 35 alone in the past three years. The police said laptop theft was being committed by organised gangs.


Excise Officials, Liquor Contractors
After 4 yrs, finally, they meet
Smriti Sharma Vasudeva
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 8
After almost four years, the UT excise department finally took the first step to thaw the ice between liquor contractors and its officials after an informal meeting today.

About 20 liquor contractors and wine merchants of the city attended the informal meeting with the officials, wherein the contractors put forward the problems being faced by them and made suggestions for the upcoming UT excise policy for 2011.

Once again, the liquor contractors rued that they were losing a majority of business due to the non-rationalised quota of liquor per vend on the pattern of neighbouring states.

One of the most pertinent points that came out of the discussion was that despite any provision granted by the UT Excise Commissioner to increase ex-Distillery/brewery price (EDP), there had been sufficient increase in EDP of different brands, though prior permission was never sought from the excise department.

As per excise policies framed after 2006, no provision to increase EDP was provided in the absence of permission being sought from the excise and taxation department, said Satyapal, one of the oldest liquor contractors in the city, who raised this point at the meeting.

Sources claimed that officials were in the process of a draft policy on liquor for the next financial year and all suggestions that came up today would be taken up with the higher authorities.

The UT administration was expected to come up with the liquor policy by March. The contractors also suggested that liquor vends in the city be transferred to pucca showrooms.

In fact, liquor contractors had earlier been pointing out that liquor trade was, on an average, bringing in over Rs 600 crore as revenue in the city, yet since the UT administration switched to the licence system in 2006, there had hardly been any dialogue between it and the stakeholders.

In 2006, makeshifts vends were allotted on the basis of draw of lots. The authorities had been saying those would be shut as soon as those created social problems such as drinking in the open, disorderly parking around liquor vends or drunken driving resulting in accidents.



Be ready, chill here to stay
No takeoff as flights remain cancelled for fifth day
Anil Jerath/TNS

Chandigarh, January 8
The wind chill factor, which has made temperatures in the city plummet in the past few days, is not likely to go away any time soon, the weatherman cautioned today.

Fog would make a comeback tomorrow morning, he added. Meanwhile, air travellers were the worst sufferers as no flight landed or took off from the city today.

The day temperature was 13.3 degree Celsius, as against 11.8 degree Celsius yesterday. The minimum temperature went up by two degrees, from 4.4 degree Celsius to 6.4 degree Celsius.

An almost overcast sky during the morning prevented the sun from offering solace. Things were not expected to improve over the next 24 hours.

The Met department said the minimum and maximum temperatures were likely to be around 5 degree Celsius and 14 degree Celsius, respectively.

Thanks to snowfall in Himachal Pradesh, chilly winds would continue to lash the city. The department forecast a partly cloudy sky, with mist or fog during the morning and evening.

A number of people thronged markets to purchase hot equipment like geysers, room heaters and immersion rods. There was a hike in prices of wooden coal.

Flights remained cancelled for the fifth day today while trains continued to be delayed. Early morning fog caused another harrowing day for fliers. It led to the cancellation of all flights due to poor visibility in the city.

Charanjit Singh of Sector 35, who was scheduled to travel by the GoAir Airlines’ Chandigarh-Delhi-Mumbai flight this afternoon, lamented that the airline staff behaved rudely with him.

Many passengers alleged that they were denied refund by the airline and were forced to book fresh tickets. It did not bother to hire a taxi up to Delhi for passengers, they rued.

Not only did passengers lose a lot of money in the process, but many were forced to look for alternative modes of travel. The airline justified the move, saying cancellation was not its fault.

Trains delayed

The Delhi-Chandigarh Shatabdi (2011), scheduled to arrive at 11.05 am, was 45 minutes late. The Lucknow-Chandigarh (2231) train, which was to arrive at 10.15 am, was three hours and 30 minutes late. The Howrah-Kalka (2311) train, having a scheduled arrival time of 3.20 am, was 10 hours and 10 minutes late.



Zirakpur-Kalka Highway
Level crossing closed for 10 days
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, January 8
The level crossing on the Zirakpur-Kalka highway, near Dhakoli, will remain closed to vehicular traffic for 10 days due to the ongoing construction of a railway overbridge (ROB) on the highway. An official of C&C Construction Company, which is undertaking the construction work, said they had taken the permission from the railway authorities to close the level crossing from January 14 to 25.

The official added that the work on setting up girders at the site was under way and the level crossing would remain closed to vehicular traffic for safety reasons.

However, the traffic police will divert traffic through alternative routes to avoid snarl-ups. A traffic police official said light vehicles going from Zirakpur to Panchkula would be diverted via Baltana and Dhakoli villages. Heavy vehicles would not be allowed to enter the area.

Traffic policemen would be deployed at key points to ensure smooth flow of traffic, the official said.

Zirakpur traffic police in charge Devinder Singh said they had got the information from the construction company about the closure of the level crossing on the Zirakpur-Kalka highway. Traffic police would be deployed at key areas, he added.

Woman hurt

An unidentified woman sustained minor injuries after an piece of construction material fell while she was walking on the Zirakpur-Kalka highway here this evening. Passersby took her to a nearby private hospital for treatment. A shopkeeper said it was a miraculous escape for the woman as the iron piece missed her head. Officials of C&C Construction Company said no such incident took place while their men were at work.



Entertainment unlimited
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 8
Entertainment unlimited with abundance of humour and satire, but laced with words of wisdom and didacticism marked the annual “Hasya Kavi Sammelan” organised by the Rajasthan Kala Parishad here today.

Acclaimed poets of national eminence were led by Surender Sharma, who presented the other gems of laughter, including Dr Sita Sagar (Lucknow), Aaskaran Atal (Mumbai) Yousuf Azad, Mahender Ajnabi and Meerathi, who spelt magic with jokes and captivating couplets.

As expected Surender stole the limelight with his meaningful and socially relevant poems, besides the overflowing humour, much to the delight of the audience.

He was at his best in his poem on joint family system.

Dr Sita Sita Sagar excelled in the rendition of her classic poem- “An ode to Chandigarh”. She weaved the reference of places, warmth of people like Nek Chand and cultural splendour of the city, which makes it the City Beautiful.

Popular Meeruthi was applauded for his couplets like “Mohabbat ho gayi hai Sultana daku ki beti se”, “Naa jaane kis gali mein zindagi ki shaam ho jaye”. Traditional humour and satire was reflected in the poems by Aasskarn, Atal, Yousuf Azad and Mahender Ajnabi, who focused the theme of poetry on 
social evils, corruption, religious bigotry and contemporary issues.



Nagar kirtan taken out

Panchkula, January 8
A colourful nagar kirtan was taken out to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru, falling on January 11.

The procession started from Nadda Sahib Gurdwara around 10.30 pm. The procession passed through various Sectors 1, 2, 4, 11, 14, 12, 12A, 15, 16, 10, and 6 before culminating at the historic shrine.

Thousands of devotees riding motorcycles, scooters, tractor-trailers and trucks took part in the procession.

Sweets were distributed along the route. Stalls and tents were set up to welcome the procession.

Refreshments, including tea and fruits, were served to the devotees at various places.

A large number of Gurbani-reciting groups from various parts of the town joined the procession.

Performances by “nagara” and “gatka” parties were the highlight of the procession.

The Panj Piaras in their traditional costumes walked in front of the bedecked palanquin carrying Guru Granth Sahib.

Different tableaus displaying the arms used by the 10th Guru during childhood were also displayed during the procession.



Civic body videographs violations in markets
To use as evidence in court
Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 8
The municipal council has videographed the encroachments carried out by shopkeepers in the local markets and will serve notices on offenders soon after the government issues a notification for the formation of the new municipal corporation.

As the wait continues for the controversial notification, encroachers in the markets are having a field day, with the council authorities looking helplessly.

An official of the council said the earlier notices issued by the civic body to shopkeepers had failed to elicit the desired result.

The civic body was left with no choice but to drag offenders to court. A legal adviser to the civic body had suggested that the complaints filed in the court against the offenders should be supported by evidence. Hence, videography was carried out 10 days ago.

Notices have not be issued as these will be rendered meaningless once the municipal corporation is formed. As such, these will be issued once the civic body acquires the status of a corporation.

After the notification, the civic body is expected to become more powerful due to less political interference, added the official while pleading anonymity.

A survey was carried out by the council in September after which it had identified around 250 shopkeepers who had encroached upon market verandahs.

These shopkeepers were issued notices under Section 173 of the Punjab Municipal Act, 1911.

In the notices, the council had asked the shopkeepers to remove their goods displayed or dumped in verandahs within three days, lest the the council staff removed these and take action against the violators.

The shopkeepers were also to be held accountable for any damage that took place during the anti-encroachment drive.

The notice further asserted that the items would not be returned and the shopkeepers would also have to bear the expenditure incurred on the exercise.

While offenders ignored the notice, the civic body, too, failed to act tough with them.



Peaceful Protests
Student leaders flay PU’s reaction
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 8
Student leaders of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), Panjab University, today condemned the attitude of university officials when students protested to put forth their demands.

Student leaders claimed that even attempts to carry out such non-violent protests on the campus was met by threatening response from the police and officials concerned.

Although the Dean Student Welfare couldn’t be contacted, students claimed that each time they protested university officials asked them to show their identity cards.

They also condemned the rule set-up by the university of not to permit protests outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office and the administrative block.

“Vice-Chancellor is the higher authority and if we are not permitted to sit in front of his office and protest peacefully, then where else should we go? The prices of forms were rolled back once we protested, but why were they hiked at the first place?” Questioned Sunny Mehta of NSUI.

NSUI student leaders added that it must be told to the students that each time they take to protests for their demands their attendance record was checked.

“Peaceful protests must continue and university officials must not suppress students to voice their opinions,” he added.

Mehta added that the students would meet the UGC team officials visiting the campus on Monday to discuss the issue.



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