C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


PNB top floor gutted in Sec 17
Equipment, records destroyed; short-circuit believed to be the cause
Tribune News Service

Fire-fighters take out an LPG cylinder; and (right) a firemen beside the burnt records at the Punjab National building in Sector 17, Chandigarh, on Wednesday
Miraculous: Fire-fighters take out an LPG cylinder; and (right) a firemen beside the burnt records at the Punjab National building in Sector 17, Chandigarh, on Wednesday. Tribune photo: Manoj Mahajan

Chandigarh, August 24
Electronic equipment worth lakhs of rupees and important records of two wings of Punjab National Bank (PNB) were destroyed in a major fire which gutted the top floor of the circle office located at Bank Square in Sector 17 here this morning.

The manual and computerised records were destroyed in the fire, which was first noticed by the area PCR around 3:30 am today. Eight fire engines were pressed into service which battled for about six hours to douse the flames. Though the exact reason behind the fire could not be immediately ascertained, short-circuit is being considered as the possible reason by the fire officials.

A visit to the site presented a ghastly sight with a large number of burnt computers, air-conditioners, fans and manual records being destroyed in the fire. Yet another tragedy was averted as the fire did not reach the pantry where an LPG cylinder was stored.

The top floor of the circle office housed the offices of the information technology, inspection and marketing sections, which were totally destroyed. However, the Office of the Debit Recovery Tribunal of the PNB, which is located adjacent to this section, was saved as fire could be controlled in time.

Station Fire Officer ML Sharma, who led the fire-fighting operation, said the branch did not have a sprinkler system in the building. This is despite the fire department issuing warning to the bank to install sprinkler system in its building only last March.

Officials revealed that due to a tall tree in front of the building, the fire team found it difficult to place the hydraulic platform and begin the fire-fighting operation on arrival. As a result, the officials had to call the police to tow away a car which was parked in front of building so that water boozer could be parked properly for the fire-fighting operation. This took up precious time.

A bank official revealed that for the time being branches of the Chandigarh and Haryana circle, being connected through this server, will get services from Delhi headquarters. Officials stated that they had not installed a fire sprinkler system in the building as an estimate for installing the same had been sent to the PNB head office for approval.

Fire dept issues notice

The fire department today issued a notice to Punjab National Bank for not installing the fire automatic system in the building, which is a clear violation of the Fire Act. The notice also took a serious view of the blocking of the balcony of the building by an iron frame, which is against building bylaws.

Banking work not affected

As the section of the bank gutted in the fire was administrative and the records destroyed are kept as back-up in the Delhi office of the PNB, normal banking operations were not hampered.



Fire zones vanish from parking lots
Aarti Kapur
Tribune News Service
Yellow stripes marking designated fire zones in a Sector 17 parking lot in Chandigarh have vanished
Yellow stripes marking designated fire zones in a Sector 17 parking lot in Chandigarh have vanished; and (right) no access for fire vehicles in a parking lot near CMC Hospital, Sector 17. Tribune Photos: Manoj Mahajan

Chandigarh, August 24
It appears fire department’s pilot project to demarcate fire zones within the city’s parking lots has fizzled out. At a recent meeting of the municipal corporation’s fire & emergency committee, when its chairman, Devinder Singh Babla, enquired about the status of the project, fire officials replied it was still hanging fire as the UT administration had failed to delineate the zones.

MC records show that in 2009 the fire department decided to mark out fire zones with four-inch wide yellow stripes in parking lots of busy markets in the city. The civic body launched the project by delineating these zones in Sectors 16, 17 and 22. The committee had then suggested the responsibility for marking out the zones should be included in parking contracts and contractors should be tasked with managing the earmarked space.

According to reports, during a major fire incident in Sector 22 in 2009, which claimed four lives, the fire brigade faced a tough time taking fire tenders to the fire scene. After this incident the authorities decided to paint yellow stripes in parking lots to set them aside for fire vehicles.

However, while visiting Sectors 16, 17 and 22 it was found the yellow stripes that were painted in parking lots two years ago had disappeared. On a visit to Sector 17 market, where the pilot project was initiated, it was noticed in most parking lots where the stripes had been marked out as fire zones had vanished and the space was being used for parking by the contractors.

A parking attendant in Sector 17 said the MC had marked out the fire zones two years ago but most of them disappeared after only a month. “How can we stop people from parking their vehicles in these designated fire zones when there are no yellow stripes to mark them? According to our contract with the MC it’s not our duty to mark out these zones,” he added.



Passengers welcome Duronto Express run
But upset at departure timing from Holy City
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

On board Chandigarh-Amritsar Duronto Express
City passengers on board the first Duronto Express felt that the "excellent service" launched by the Indian Railways for commuting between Chandigarh and Amritsar from today needed a little fine tuning for better results.

A majority of passengers travelling to the Holy City (barring those from Amritsar on their return journey) felt that minus the train stoppages at Jalandhar and Ludhiana, the train stood to lose out on account of a sizable number of passengers.

They also said that travelling to Harmandar Sahib was the major attraction for a sizable number of passengers from the city. They wanted the morning departure time from Amritsar a little delayed, as visitors to the Golden Temple would find it very difficult to complete their morning prayers and rush back to the station, in case they planned so.

A number of travellers felt that Mohali was a better destination than Chandigarh, as the bulk of travellers to the major city of Punjab were based in Mohali. "Conceding the reality", a senior railways official, wishing anonymity, said "for obvious reasons, a majority of travellers to Amritsar will be from Mohali".

Harjeet Kaur, a resident of Sector 16, said, "I could not resist the temptation to travel on the train to Amritsar as soon as I read about it. My only concern is that the morning prayers start around 4 am with the ‘parkash of Guru Granth Sahib’. We will barely manage to complete our prayers and will have to rush back to the station.The time gap between the two trains needs to be increased."

Kunal Dhingra, an engineer, said, "I had gone for a conference and my friends from Jalandhar and Ludhiana were also expected to join us, but the train does not stop there. Honestly speaking, in case the train stopped at both these stations, the passenger number will swell to maximum within less than two weeks."

Train Superintendent Ashwani Suri said the return train to Amritsar was carrying 46 passengers in the air-conditioned chair car and 94 in the second class compartments. "The response has been very satisfactory on the first day and the service will definitely catch up in the coming days.

At the same time, the train was carrying at least four different groups in the first train towards the Holy City. Jagjit Singh, with his group of seven from Mohali, Sunderpal Singh, with his group from Kurali, Taranjeet with his friends and Gian Jyot Kaur from Sector 38, talking to The Tribune correspondent separately, said "They had made the programme after reading the news about the train service in the newspapers yesterday. The response of our friends has been impressive. However, they could not come at such a short notice. The numbers will swell gradually".


Maiden run half hour late

“Technical glitches” at Sirhind station and the inaugural function in Amritsar delayed the newly launched nonstop Duronto Express by about half an hour during its maiden run from Amritsar, arriving at Chandigarh at around 10 am on Wednesday.

Morning meals

Welcome drink, water bottle, morning tea, breakfast, comprising cutlets, bread, butter, fruit jam, ketchup and tea, and an omelette for non-vegetarians in place of cutlets.

Evening meals

Water bottle, soup, yellow dal, mattar-paneer, yogurt, chapattis, rice, ice-cream and chicken dish for non-vegetarians in place of mattar-paneer.



6,000 immigration firms making false claims: Police
Aneesha Sareen
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
Exploiting the loopholes in the system and in the absence of any stringent checks from the government, over 6000 immigration firms are active in Punjab, Chandigarh and Panchkula. A majority of these firms are exploiting the loopholes and duping their clients of huge amounts of money on false promises of easy migration abroad.

Disclosing this today, the UT SSP Naunihal Singh said investigations into the cheating case registered against the owners of Healthyway Immigration had revealed that such firms had mushroomed in every nook and corner of the region.

“We have gathered this figure on the basis of information received from foreign embassies, complaints received by the police of other states as well as our own inputs. One in every two documents prepared by the agents are forged and their tall claims are falsified. In all, over 50 per cent of the documentation process done by the firms is forged,” he said.

The SSP said it was not mandatory for the firms processing a student visa to procure a licence. “The travel agents prepare bank documents to show financial capabilities of applicants by depositing money in their accounts, only to take out the amount at later stage,” he said, adding that a large number of visa applications were thus rejected. “Most embassies do not verify loan document and whether the bank is authorsed to sanction education loan. The firms do not require a licence, which is another reason for their mushrooming,” added the SSP.


Healthyway fraud estimated at Rs 5 cr

With 30 franchisees across North India, liasoning with 133 colleges abroad, the estimated fraud by owners of Healthyway is estimated to be Rs 5.01 crore. The accused raked in lakhs from their clients and prepared forged documents, resulting which their visas were rejected. The UT police said it had received around 150 complaints against the firm following the registration of the case and recovered 262 fake loan documents from the premises of the company. “We are receiving at least 15 complaints daily ever since the registration of the case,” said the police.

Two more arrested

The police today arrested two financers of the company Rajat, a city resident and Anil Verma, a resident of Jalandhar for the fraud. DSP Anil Joshi said the two used to open fake accounts for their clients in banks and were part of the conspiracy. “From filling of the forms to opening of accounts, the agents knew everything and used to charge huge amounts,” said Joshi. Meanwhile, the police remand of prime accused Amit Kakkar, owner of Healthyway, was extended by another two days today.


Roads, parks in insanitary conditions at Phase I
Kulwinder Sangha

Wrong parking causes traffic jam; (below) a park being used as a car parking space
(Above) Wrong parking causes traffic jam; (below) a park being used as a car parking space; and (bottom) debris scattered on ground at Phase I in Mohali. Tribune photos: Vicky Gharu

Mohali, August 24
Potholed roads, unkempt parks, heaps of garbage, non-functional streetlights and stray animals are the hallmarks of Phase I, which is among the oldest areas of Mohali.

Many areas of Phase I have broken roads with deep potholes at a number of places, which can lead to accidents. The road berms have a lot of wild growth and are not cleaned on a regular basis.

Unhygienic conditions prevail in some areas, especially on sector separating roads, as garbage is dumped in the open. As the humid weather still prevails, foul smell emanates from these areas and it is difficult to pass by. Garbage can be seen lying in the open at two points on the road separating Phases I and VI. Similarly, unhygienic conditions also prevail near the Punjab State Power Corporation office in the area.

Parks are not only in a state of neglect, but are also being misused by residents. People are using green areas to dry their clothes and park their cars.

“It becomes very difficult to go for a walk in the park due to the vehicles parked there,” said Uma Sharma. She further said that, “The level of the park outside my house is low and whenever it rains the park gets filled with water and the area becomes a breeding place for frogs and mosquitoes. Very small sized frogs then enter houses of residents. Repeated requests to solve the problem have failed to yield any results.”

Manjeet Kaur, former municipal councillor, said sanitation was in a state of neglect. “Safai karamcharis come to clean the area only once or twice a week and only complete a formality instead of doing their work properly.”

An official of the Municipal Corporation said garbage was lifted on a daily basis and the area powdered with insecticides. “Nobody has brought to my notice that streetlights are not functioning. The repair of roads would be done after the rainy season gets over,” said the official.



Scrapping of Recruitment
CTU to re-employ retired conductors
Will be hired on contractual basis till fresh recruitments are made
Amit Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
The UT Administration’ s decision to scrap the recruitment of 144 Chandigarh Transport Undertaking (CTU) conductors has come as a setback to the latter, which is already struggling with staff shortage.

The CTU is now planning to re-employ retired employees on contractual basis to bridge the gap till the time fresh recruitments are made. In the absence of required staff, the frequency of buses has been affected while many routes have being scrapped.

The recent decision of the UT on the recruitment of conductors has hit the plans of the transport department to ensure better public transport system in the city.

CTU general manager SP Parmar said till the time fresh recruitments of conductors are made, the CTU has planned to re-employ conductors who have retired from their services on the contractual basis. “To meet the demand and to maintain the frequency of buses, the conductors are working overtime. This leads to workload and health problems. So, we have planned to re-employ retired employees,” Parmar said. CTU officials said a representation has already been made to Adviser to the Administrator KK Sharma for his approval to re-employ retired employees on contractual basis. Parmar said the staff would be hired as soon as they get nod from the UT Administration. This, he said, would help in increasing the frequency of buses that has been affected due to staff shortage.

President of the Chandigarh Government Transport Union Jagdish Singh said the administration should make fresh recruitments at the earliest so that the buses parked in CTU workshops are again put into service. “The recruitment of staff would not only strengthen the public transport system, but also lessen the workload on employees,” Singh said. 



Chandigarh scan

Interactive session

There are activities of human brain, which seem beyond the realm of artificial intelligence of computers, as computers could not compete with the natural wisdom of human brain. The renowned US-based Indian neuroscientist and a distinguished professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, Prof Mriganka Sur stated this while addressing school and college students at the Tagore Theatre on Wednesday. The lecture and interactive session, “Brains, computers and intelligent machines of Sur” had been organised by the Society for Promotion of Science and Technology in India. Adviser to UT Administrator KK Sharma presided over the function.


The bi-annual conference of the All-India Postal Employees’ Union was held on Wednesday. The union elected its office-bearers where Laksham Singh was chosen as president, while Jagdish Dhiman was elected as circle secretary. Gurnam Singh became cashier and Iqbal Khurmi was chosen as the supreme council.

Aadhar camp

The Chandigarh Social Welfare Board (CSWB) in collaboration with the Central Bank of India on Wednesday opened a special aadhar camp for senior citizens and differently abled at the Karuna Sadan, Sector 11, here on Wednesday. CSWB chairperson Lalit Joshi Bhardwaj inaugurated the camp.

Orientation programme

Dr Paramjeet Kaur Tulsi, professor, education and educational management, National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research, Chandigarh, inaugurated the four-day orientation programme at the Government College of Education here on Wednesday. Dr Tulsi elucidated learning methods for improving instructional effectiveness.

panchkula scan

Debate contest

The Gurukul, Sector 20, Panchkula, won the debate competition in the Fanta Fiesta 2011, which was organised on Wednesday at Satluj Public School, Sector 4, Panchkula. A total of 31 teams from the tricity and nearby areas participated in the debate competition.

Students honoured

Around 120 students were felicitated during the “Achievement Day” celebrations at Chamanlal DAV Senior Public School, Sector 11. A cultural programme was the highlight of the event.

— Tribune Reporters



Haryana karamchari sangh demands more wages
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, August 24
More than 10,000 members of the Haryana Sarv Karamchari Sangh took out a huge procession in Panchkula in support of their demands. They had planned to gherao the Haryana assembly, but were stopped at the Panchkula-Chandigarh barrier. Later, they dispersed after the Haryana Chief Minister invited them for a talk through senior Haryana Government officials.

The protesting employees demanded regularisation of adhoc employees, perks at par with the Centre Government employees, increase of minimum wages to Rs 15,000. Employees were also against the outsourcing and privatisation policy.

In the morning, employees assembled at Yavnica Garden in Sector 5 from where they took out a procession that passed through Sectors 5, 2, 6, and Sectors 17 and 7 roundabout and later they were stopped near the Housing Board chowk, where the Panchkula and Chandigarh Police had made elaborate arrangements to check any violence. The police from Kurukshetra, Jind, Karnal and some other districts assisted the Panchkula Police. However, no untoward incident was reported.

After the rally reached near the Housing Board chowk, RS Doon, Deputy Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, accompanied by Panchkula DC Ashima Brar and SP Maneesh Chaudhary reached the spot and handed over a letter to Sangh president Dharamvir Phogat, inviting the delegation for a talk tomorrow. The invitation was accepted by the president.

Commuters suffer

The police had to block traffic on various roads in Panchkula for the protest march due to which commuters faced inconvenience. Similarly, passengers travelling in Ekta Express train and those who were waiting for the train at Chandigarh railway station had to face difficulties due to a large number of sangh members travelling in it.



Poll time
Rallies, campaigning mark poll mood in colleges
Neha Miglani
Tribune News Service

Students campaign for the forthcoming student council elections at DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh
Students campaign for the forthcoming student council elections at DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh. Tribune Photo: Vinay Malik

Chandigarh, August 24
A vibrant campaigning was witnessed within and outside Postgraduate Government College, Sector 11, campus today. The atmosphere here was livelier than other colleges because class-to-class campaigning and a huge election rally by students was going on.

Supporters of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had gathered at PGGC, Sector 11, for a rally while members of the Students Organisation of India (SOI) were seen huddled together inside the campus discussing election strategy.

Other student bodies, including Students Organisation of Panjab University (SOPU) and Panjab University Students Union (PUSU) active at PGGC, Sector 11, have already decided their presidential candidates for polls, whose names they are yet to announce formally.

At DAV College, Sector 10, following the Tuesday incident in which the police had nabbed certain outsiders who had entered the campus, today witnessed mild canvassing with no major incident or any scuffle.

Students were spotted flaunting printed coloured stickers on their outfits and canvassing was chiefly being done in small groups within the campus.

A notice was put up at Postgraduate Government College, Sector 46, informing the students about important recommendations of the Lyngdoh committee for student elections.

The notice mentioned that students were not permitted to deface the campus with any printed election material and expenses to be incurred by the student organisations had to be below the limit of Rs 5,000.

Students, who had put up posters at certain places within the campus, were told to remove them on Tuesday evening by the college officials.The convener of the student elections at the college, Shashi Wahi, said, “A majority of students who wish to contest the elections are not aware of the election guidelines. Hence we are putting all fresh notices and instructions on the notice board for students to read them carefully first.” 



Unlike PU, colleges have no offices for student leaders
Neha Miglani
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
One long-pending grievance common to student representatives across most city colleges is their struggle to get a formal office or a meeting room inside the college campus. Unlike Panjab University student council members, who enjoy the luxury of separate offices for each council member, including the president, vice-president, general secretary and joint secretary, in city colleges, however, boasting of a room meant for student activities is a rare privilege for the student council.

The issue of a separate office for council members has even led to brawls and unrest in colleges in the past. In one such case, members of the Panjab University Students Union (PUSU) whose candidate won the post of the president at DAV College, Sector 10, last year, insisted on having a room allocated for student activities. Later, certain representatives of a rival student organization, H.S.A, objected to this and the room was left in shambles following a fight between the members of the two sides.

“There had been a scuffle on the issue of room allocation for the student council last year. Since then, the college officials are not keen to allot them a place,” said Somanshu, a DAV College student. As a result of the students’ tiff, the room allotted to the students inside the DAV premises, is currently in shambles, with the door partially broken and walls defaced.

In another incident, student leaders of Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, Sector 26, had demanded allocation of a separate room for the functioning of the student council in 2010. “There has been no proper place for the functioning of the student council. A demand has been made for the provision of such a room for years now but all in vain,” said Manoj, former president, SGGS College, Sector 26. The student representatives from other colleges said that they were “helpless” in expressing their concerns to the higher authorities fearing implication on their internal assessment sent by the college authorities to PU.

“The onus of ensuring rights of students lies with the UT administration or Panjab University,” said a student of Postgraduate Government College, Sector 46, on the condition of anonymity. “Even in the premier colleges of the city, there is no provision of any separate office or a meeting room for the student council members. The strictness is so much that students are not even permitted to speak anything on matter pertaining student welfare in general, leave aside raising any specific concerns and issues,” opines Amit Bhatia, former president, GGDSD College student council and Panjab University Campus Student’s Council (PUCSC). 



Student barred from entering SD College campus
Presidential candidate of SDCU-SDHU alliance caught carrying a weapon
Neha Miglani
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
Vikram Singh (Gopala), a first year student of GGDSD College, Sector 32, who entered the college in an inebriated state on Tuesday night carrying a sharp-edged weapon, was today debarred from entering the college campus for an indefinite period.

Responding firmly to the situation, the college authority today formed a committee to decide on Vikram’s fate. His admission is likely to be cancelled as per the college and Panjab University guidelines.

Vikram, who was enrolled as a Bachelor of Arts (I) student at GGDSD this year, was also the presidential candidate representing the alliance of two student organizations, SD College Union (SDCU) and SD Hostel Union (SDHU), to contest the forthcoming student council poll in September.

College sources revealed that Vikram’s father has been called up and asked to withdraw his son from the institute.

“The boy was caught with a weapon, which he was trying to bring inside the college premises. We will not tolerate any indiscipline and have already formed a committee to look into the matter. His parents have also been informed. A decision will be taken shortly on the matter,” said Dr Meena Prabhakar, officiating principal of GGDSD College.

On the flip side, when contacted, Vikram, had a different version to give. “Nothing major happened. I just had a heated argument with the college gate security staff on Tuesday,” said Vikram who denied having brought any weapon.

In stark contrast to the above statement, a college student revealed on the condition of anonymity that when Vikram was entering the college in an inebriated state on Tuesday, the gatekeeper stopped him. An argument between the two followed and a kirpan was found with Vikram by the security on checking.

When contacted, Sector 34 police station SHO Kirpal Singh informed that the police did not receive any formal complaint from the college and the case of this student was being handled by the college authority at its own level.



Poll fever yet to catch on PU campus
Regionalism the new success mantra
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News service

Chandigarh, August 24
Both issues and fervour seems to be evading the Panjab University student elections where ‘regionalism’ seems to be the new success mantra.

Protests, rallies, awareness campaigns are to absent on the campus which bears a deserted look. The hostels have turned into new election centres where parties are seeking prospective voters on basis of places that they hail from as issues have apparently failed to prove a unifying factor.

The regionalism is the new success mantra, as various parties have made hostel committees to prepare a databank of the native places of hostellers and tap them accordingly.

Interestingly, having been the most preffered lot till last year, the Haryan lobby seems to be loosing out to segment of students from Punjab who are being urged to vote for leaders from their hometown.

“ Its not new but it has been there for ages . It’s just been two months since these freshers came here so how can you expect fresher to feel for an issue? The idea of having a common home town instills a sense of security amongst students and comes as a handy political tool” said Robin Brar , president SOPU.

“ I have been in student politics since 2001 and regionalism has been existent since then. however, over the years, the issues have been trivialised making it more prominent. Not just the leaders even the students themselves are either not aware or are hesitant to highlight their problems. Regionalism does impact politics in a big way,” said Paramjeet Singh Batth, a senior PUSU leader.



PUSU, SOPU enter into verbal spat
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
Members of PUSU and SOPU entered into a verbal spat today near the PU law department over staring and abusing each other.

While SOPU members accused PUSU president Sukhjeet Barra of abusing supporters every time they passed him, PUSU held SOPU president Vicky responsible for it. The two groups gathered near the law department to settle scores, but the PU security intervened and dispersed them.

Dean Student Welfare AS Ahluwalia claimed that everything was in control and PU will not have any violent incident this election time.



‘Haryana-based varsity responsible for delay in results’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
After PU, it’s now the turn of other universities of the region who are being blamed for delay in results of over 10 courses. While the PU authorities refused to reveal the name of the universities, sources say that a Haryana-based university was the key culprit, which not only failed to complete the evaluation on time but also did not respond to numerous reminders.

The revelation came to the fore today when the Panjab University Teacher Association (PUTA) members cornered controller examination AK Bhandari on his alleged claims of PU teachers being made responsible for the delay. Issuing an official statement Bhandari said that he had never blamed the PU teachers for the delay in the results and it had been wrongly attributed to him by a section of the media.

The issue meanwhile was also taken up in the first executive meeting of the newly constituted PUTA that upheld that while the results were delayed due to the inefficiency of the examination branch, the PU evaluators were made the scrapegoat.

“They have constantly been blaming the PU teachers but have not even once mentioned that the examination branch delayed the distribution of papers.” said PUTA President Akshay Kumar.



Human rights of undertrials discussed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
Justice KG Balakrishnan, chairperson, National Human Rights Commission, today inaugurated a three-day training programme on “Human rights and custody management of undertrials” organised by the Institute of Correctional Administration (ICA) here.

Upneet Lalli, deputy director, ICA, said the aim of the training programme was to sensitise participants on human rights aspects on custody management of the undertrials.

Ram Niwas, Home Secretary, Chandigarh Administration-cum-Director ICA, mentioned that the institute has been a flag bearer in organising the training programmes.



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