C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Finally, UT Adviser Pradip Mehra goes
  Makes way for KK Sharma   Raj Bhawan was unhappy with his performance
Pradeep Sharma/TNS

Chandigarh,February 10
City lad and Adviser to UT Administrator, Pradip Mehra, who courted considerable constroversy for a major part of his almost three-and-a-half years tenure in Chandigarh, has been replaced by Kewal Kumar Sharma, a 1983 batch IAS officer, who is currently Prinicipal Secretary, Public Works Department, in the Government of Delhi. Mehra is expected to relinquish charge either tomorrow or on Monday.

Mehra was engaged in a bitter slugfest with former Punjab Governor and UT Administrator Gen. SF Rodrigues over the latter’s pet but controversial mega projects, including the Medicity, Film City and Theme-cum-Amusement Park in the backdrop of the alleged irregularities in land allotment to big realtors. In the wake of his opposition to the mega projects, Mehra was sidelined during Rodrigues’ tenure with junior officers having a direct access to Raj Bhavan.

Sources said Mehra’s sudden and swift transfer, which was first reported by Chandigarh Tribune on February 6, came on the directions of UT Administrator Shivraj Patil who, in addition to being unhappy with Mehra’s performance, wanted a new team of officers at the helm of affairs. Development in the city had virtually come to a standstill during Mehra’s mostly lacklustre tenure, which, in fact, was reflected in his own Republic Day speech only last month. As the senior most civil servant and also a local lad who had studied and grown up in the city, Mehra had every opportunity and authority to shape initiatives and clear bottlenecks in project execution and therefore cannot escape the blame for a tenure marked mostly by non performance and under achievment.

This was Mehra’s second assignment to the top post after having earlier served in UT from November 1995 to April 1997. Mehra, a 1975 batch IAS officer, is an additional secretary level officer who is expected to be posted to the Government of Delhi.

Trigger Point

Highly placed sources said Mehra’s swift transfer came on the directions of UT Administrator Shivraj Patil who, in addition to being unhappy with Mehra’s performance, wanted a new team of officials at the helm of affairs.

Stood up to Rodrigues

Mehra is credited with dissenting with Rodrigues on the issue of allotment of land for controversial mega projects such Medicity, Film City and the Theme-cum-Amusement Park. He was overruled by Rodrigues with support from then Standing Counsel Anupam Gupta. A vengeful Rodrigues had later withdrawn Mehra's powers to write annual confidential reports of his subordinate officers, which were later restored by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

‘He was ineffective’

Pradip Mehra was absolutely ineffective in initiating various projects for the welfare of the people. He failed to enthuse confidence among the 
general public.

— PC Sanghi, chairman, Federation of Sector Welfare Associations

Though otherwise a gentleman, Mehra failed to bring developmental projects to the execution level. In fact, the after effects of the slugfest between Rodrigues and him over mega projects continued to haunt the rest of his tenure which adversely affected his performance.

— Sanjay Tandon, Chandigarh BJP president

Even after Rodrigues’ exit, he failed to regain control.We approached him many times with various problems related to education but probably due to discontent amongst officers there was no immediate reaction which worsened things between us and UT Administration.

— HS Mamik, president, Independent Schools Association

The new Adviser

Born in Jammu and Kashmir on February 2, 1958, Sharma will be the youngest Advisor in recent years and only two batches senior to UT Home Secretary Ram Niwas.

A civil engineer by qualification

Previous assignments include Commissioner of the Delhi Development Authority(DDA) and a Commissioner in Arunachal Pradesh.

Rome burnt while Nero fiddled

But after Rodrigues relinguished charge, Mehra became more known for his indifference, if not negativity, and an overall lacklustre performance.

He maintained conspicous silence and indifference while UT Home Secretary Ram Niwas, who until recently handled the Education portfolio, mishandled the 'Right to Education Act' and Economically Weaker Section (EWS) clause for private schools.

He initially hesitated in taking action on the UT Teachers Recruitment scam

Several projects, including the Metro project, made little headway during his tenure

Did little for preserving the city's heritage even as auctions continued overseas of the city's heritage items

Infighting amongst senior bureaucrats was at its worst during his tenure. UT Administration earned the dubious distinction of becoming least sought after by HCS and PCS officers.

Bansal pins hopes on new incumbent

City MP Pawan Bansal, with whom Mehra reportedly shared a good rapport, sidestepped a question on Mehra’s exit. Instead he pinned his “hopes” on the new incumbent. “KK Sharma’s vast experience of creating new infrastructure while serving in the Delhi Development Authority and the Public Works Department should stand him in good stead while initiating major development works”, he said.

Mehra mum

Mehra refused to comment on his tenure in Chandigarh.

Another trouble for Mehra?

A local court today initiated evidence proceedings against Pradip Mehra in a case filed by advocate Arvind Thakur under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The case relates to Mehra’s role in facilitating the resumption of prime properties while exercising his quasi-judicial powers.

Land acquisition controversy

Mehra, who opposed acquisition for land for mega projects, was asked by the Ministry of Home Affairs to explain the land acquisition for the Phase III of the IT Park here.



A kidnapping that wasn’t
Class VIII student concocts story, police remains on toes for 3 hrs
Aneesha Sareen
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
Yet another kidnapping call informing that a 13-year-old class VIII student of Shishu Niketan School in Sector 43 had been abducted and later released sent the Chandigarh police in a tizzy today.

The police was on its toes for over three hours when it later came to light that the girl had, in fact, concocted a story to hide the fact that she bunked school yesterday.

The girl, who had apparently gone on a date with her boyfriend during school hours, cooked up a story of her kidnapping as her classmates saw her at the gate after the full break yesterday. Her classmates, who knew her as being absent during the day, then informed the teachers about the girl being seen at the school gate after the full break. Her uncle had dropped the girl to school in

morning yesterday. When her teachers quizzed her today, the girl, who is a resident of Sector 23, replied that four boys abducted her in a Maruti van yesterday from the school gate, blindfolded her with a black cloth and after taking her to various locations dropped her back to school. She also said that they threatened her and told her that next time they would seek ransom from her family. Her teachers immediately informed the police and summoned her parents. Taking no chances, the police recorded the statements of the girl and also took her to various locations to ascertain where all she was taken by her ‘kidnappers’. However, as the police probed deep into the mystery, numerous contradictions were found in her statements and she later broke down and narrated the true story that she spent the day in a park in Sector 35 with her boyfriend.

A daily diary report has been lodged in Sector 36 police station. SHO, Sector 36 police station, Inspector Sukhbir Rana said they could not have taken any chances and thus explored all angles, but later it was found to be a concocted story.

Previous incidents

This is the third incident since the past month when the police has been on tenterhooks investigating kidnapping cases that never happened.

January 14: A hapless mother had informed the police that her 11-yr-old son had been kidnapped. After a search of two hours, the police discovered that the son had reached home in Sec 33 on his own as he was annoyed on being denied a delicacy by the mother.

February 3: A 19-year-old student of Chitkara College alleged that she was abducted and later dumped in Sec 21. But the police found numerous contradictions in her statements. Purnima, a resident of Sec 21, had stated to the police that two men abducted her in a car in Sec 21 when she had alighted from her college bus. She also said that the two beat her with a belt in a moving car and later dumped her.



Mock drill finds fire extinguishers non-functional
Aarti Kapur/TNS

Chandigarh, February 10
The tall claims by the fire department of enforcing safety arrangements in the city’s ‘rehri’ markets fell flat today when a team of municipal corporation officials, during a mock drill, found none of the fire extinguishers installed there functional. Interestingly all the extinguishers randomly checked by the team bore authentication marks, certifying they were in working condition. Not only did the mock
drilled expose the lackadaisical attitude of civic officials, the shopkeepers in the markets also had no idea about the “do’s and don’ts” in case of a blaze. On being asked to operate a fire extinguisher, most of the shopkeepers expressed their ignorance. “We’ve installed the extinguishers more as a result of compulsion”, confided one of them.

The drill began after the fire department received a call from the Sadar market in Sector 19. Fire tenders from Sector 17 and the Industrial Area reached the site on time. The tenders had to be parked on the roadside as they could not get easy access to get to the spot where the drill was being conducted.

Ironically, during the past four years the market committee failed to install even a single water pipeline connecting the market to the water tank that was constructed near the booths to provide water during any fire incident. Sources close to the fire department said though fire officials asked shopkeepers to deposit money to lay the pipeline no funds have been collected till date.

The team also found most of the shopkeepers had not refilled their cylinders that had been installed in their shops. MC fire & emergency committee chairman Davinder Singh Babla, who led the team, issued a warning to the shopkeepers to refill their fire extinguishers by Monday.

“A fire committee team will ensure separate space for parking fire tenders marked with a ‘no parking’ signboard is set aside in every market. If any vehicle is found parked in that area the owner will be fined. A communiqué will be sent to the UT chief engineer’s department to ensure electricity wires are properly fixed in the city’s market places to prevent any fires due to electrical short circuit”, Babla stated.



After Gauba’s exit, VC extols his virtues
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
Days after the HSJ Institute of Dental Sciences and Hospital director, Dr GK Gauba paid a heavy price for being a disciplinarian, the Panjab University (PU) authorities seem to have woken up to the need for not only enforcing discipline in the college but are even out to preach it.

Addressing a meeting of students, faculty and non-teaching staff of the dental institute at the law auditorium, university Vice-Chancellor RC Sobti exhorted the students to the virtues of maintaining discipline and obedience, particularly for those aspiring to take up medical profession.

During the controversy, Sobti, however, had mostly watched protest by students from the sidelines. Students went on the protest after Gauba ticked off a girl student for dressing up casually in a message T-shirt with the words “I love NY”.

Sobti, however, was cautious in referring to the issue. “Professionals, whether in law, business and medicine certainly need to look better to be acceptable to their clients and patients. However, we are not there to compel you on this count. You have to think yourself and the reasoning about the option for dress has to come from within you.”

This piece of advice came as a surprise to many given the fact that the university never publicly supported this idea when professed by Guaba. Despite being absolved of all charges, the university had officially done little to uphold Gauba’s stand, which was endorsed by Sobti today.

Review decision: Faculty

Both dental college faculty members and Panjab University Teachers’ Union (PUTA) have urged the VC to review the Syndicate’s decision to accept Dr Gauba’s request for repatriation.

“I never availed leave during the past five years. I have requested for time until April so that affiliation of the college is not hindered. I decided to exit because of agitating students. I am hurt that despite my dedication, PU could not do the bare minimum of guarding my self respect.” — Dr GK Gauba


MC to prepare list of habitual encroachers 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
The enforcement department of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation has been directed to prepare a list of habitual offenders within a fortnight and action taken against them till date.

This was decided in the enforcement committee meeting held here today under the chairmanship of MPS Chawla. The committee directed the officials of the department to prepare a list of habitual encroachers marketwise so that appropriate action could be initiated against them. The committee also instructed officials to adopt zero tolerance to encroachments in Sector 17.

The committee members also mooted a proposal that the MC should fix a particular colour for each category of rehri in the city and issue licences.

Committee members said this would facilitate the enforcement department to easily identify illegal rehri owners and challan them. They also suggested that the MC should issue new licences to handcart owners in view of increased population in the city.

Instructions were given to the field staff to wear their uniforms provided by the department while conducting any encroachment drive in the city

The committee further decided that a joint mock drill of the enforcement and the fire departments would be chalked out for major markets in Sectors 15, 19 and 22. The encroachments from motor markets in Sectors 15, 21, 27, 28 and 48 will be removed during special drives, the committee said. 



Mohali roads in for a makeover
Panel set up by CM prepares blueprint to upgrade infrastructure
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 10
Mohali roads are in for a makeover in the coming months. A high-powered committee set up by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for an upgrade of the city’s infrastructure has prepared a blueprint of the schedule for re-carpeting of all the roads and parking lots, especially those crying for attention.

All streetlights to have timers

The MC has decided to install timers in all streetlights across the city.

Various government agencies are spending Rs 13 crore on the re-carpeting of roads from Phase 1 to 11.

The Municipal Corporation, Mohali, has set a target to re-carpet around 10- km stretch of the road, apart from the potholed parking lots of Phase 3B2, 5, 7, 9, 10 and 11. Similarly, the Greater Mohali Area Development (GMADA) in the process of spending Rs 3 crore on carpeting of the roads from Sectors 66 to 69.

Similarly, the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) has also been asked to re-carpet the potholed roads in Phase 7, 8 and 9 of the Industrial Area.

The roads in Phase 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Industrial Area come under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Council. Mohali Municipal Commissioner Parveen Kumar said due to multiple agencies handling the development works in the city, confusion persists over the maintenance of roads. The agency concerned has also been asked to identify the road sections being handled by them, he said.

“In the first meeting of the committee scheduled to be held soon, effort would also be made to achieve a coordinated development of the city. We would try that on the city’s map, the roads are marked in different colours so as to identify the agency handling the job,” he said.

As part of beautifying and illuminating the roundabouts, it has also been decided to install high-mast lights at all the rotaries across the city.



Power cables damaged
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
The widening of the inner roads of Sector 36 has left residents fuming.

The underground electricity cable has been damaged due to the unplanned digging work being carried out by the contractor engaged by the Municipal Corporation.

A JCB machine, engaged to dig earth, damaged the electricity cables.

Area resident JS Sodhi, a former chief engineer with the PWD, complained that the power supply of his house was cut  off due to damage to cables.

He said he called  up the electricity department to repair the damaged cables but  to no avail. 



2 cars, scooter damaged in fire

Panchkula, February 10
Three vehicles including two cars - a Honda Accent and a Suzuki Swift - parked at a house in Sector 16 were damaged in mysterious circumstances here yesterday. According to the police, in addition to the cars a scooter was also damaged in the incident.

The owner of house (no 410), Naresh Kumar, told the cops the son of his tenant, Gaurav, told him at night the vehicles had caught fire. Immediately the fire brigade was informed but area residents managed to control the blaze before the firemen could reach the scene. Though the house occupants do not suspect any “foul play” the police is investigating what caused the fire. — TNS



Class XI student shot at accidentally
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
A Class XI student of DAV School, Girish Bhardwaj, sustained injuries on his hand when a pellet hit him after Gagandeep, a resident of Sector 8, fired at a monkey from his air gun this evening.

Girish was taken to the Sector-16 hospital. The police has registered a case.



Orders cancelled
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
Consequent upon the transfer of administrative control of civil dispensaries to the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, Commissioner Roshan Sunkaria today cancelled all the earlier internal orders of doctors issued by Health Department, UT, Chandigarh.

During inspection of seven dispensaries, the Commissioner found that some doctors had been given dual charge to work at other places, besides in civil dispensaries, due to which patients had to suffer. To avoid this mess, the Commissioner ordered that the doctors posted in dispensaries would work there only. 



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