C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


All's well with Snehalaya: Report 
Rajinder Nagarkoti
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
“Snehalaya, a home for the destitute, is a success story which none has cared to highlight.” This was stated in an inquiry report by the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), Chandigarh. The inquiry was conducted on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Questioning the findings of a two-member committee, appointed by the UT Administration to look into the state of affairs at Snehalaya, the SLSA, in its inquiry report, has pointed out that the committee members had given their findings without basing them on any facts and figures.

The report mentioned that the reason cited by the inquiry committee that “careless attitude towards the children and negative inter-personal relationship between the children and staff/officials of Snehalaya is also a major factor, compelling the children to run away” also appears to be "conjectural".

The report, which was recently submitted before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, also states that the inquiry committee cites “the agency (Snehalaya) instead of being a life-protecting agency turned into a life-depriving agency.”

However, the SLSA report reads, “It is not clear on what basis such a strong expression has been used. During surprise visits to Snehalaya on different dates at different times, no such activity or environment, which could be termed as 'life depriving’, was noticed. Most of the children appeared satisfied with the facilities and the atmosphere. The staff were taking keen interest in the children.”

The fresh inquiry report prepared by Jagdeep Jain, Member Secretary, SLSA, Chandigarh, pointed out that all children who went missing were particularly those who were either abandoned or had been working before coming to Snehalaya. To say that they left Snehalaya because of inadequate faculties or unhygienic conditions, as had been highlighted by the inquiry committee, would not be a correct evaluation of the situation, the report added.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had, on May 14, directed the Member Secretary, SLSA, to undertake a complete study of the committee constituted by the UT Administration and thereafter give details of the functioning of Snehalaya.

Children quite happy

According to the report, Snehalaya is a unique institution, which maintains sufficiently high standards. It has excellent infrastructure. The environment is neat and clean, safe and protective, conducive for overall development. It is meeting the objectives of safeguarding street children from abusive and hazardous lifestyles on the street and providing them protection against physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect.

The report further reads, “It is a general tendency among children to have complaints against their teachers/wardens. Whenever we visit a school or a hostel, such complaints come to us. However, apart from trivial issues, children at Snehalaya, during an interaction on different occasions, did not come up with any major complaints. They appeared quite happy. This is a success story which none has cared to highlight.”

Kids ran away for making a quick buck

“The Member Secretary interacted with two of the three children who recently ran away, but were brought back. It transpired that one of them had been working in a dhaba before coming to Snehalaya while the other was a runaway kid. They were lured by a third boy that they could earn Rs 3000 to Rs 4,000 per month by working outside.

This was the sole reason why they chose to leave Snehalaya.

The brother of one of them confirmed this. He opted to stay in Snehalaya and helped the authorities in tracing his brother,” the report reads.

Case history

In this matter, a two-member committee — Kavle V Parshuram, SDM, South, and Manju Bhalla, member, Juvenile Justice Board — appointed by the Chandigarh Administration had pointed out lapses in Snehalaya after looking into the cases of missing children from shelter homes.

The issue had reached the Punjab and Haryana High Court through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which highlighted the disappearance of children from Snehalaya. The Public Interest Litigation was filed on November 1, 2011. 

Success story

In its inquiry report, the State Legal Services Authority, Chandigarh, has mentioned that Snehalaya, a home for the destitute, is a success story which none has cared to highlight. The inquiry was conducted on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. 



Phase VII residents to be major beneficiaries of Metro project
Akash Ghai
Tribune News Service

Mohali, September 18
People residing in Phase VII, the heart of the town, and its vicinity will be the biggest beneficiaries of the proposed Metro rail project here.

Within a distance of about 2 km, three Metro stations will be constructed along the boundary line of Phase 7 under the project.

The first station will be constructed near YPS Chowk while the second station will come up near the Phase 7-8 traffic light points. The third Metro station will be constructed near the next traffic point, touching Phase 7, Phase 8, Sectors 69 and 70 whereas the last station under the first phase of the project will come up near 
Gurdwara Singh Shaheedan in Sohana.

These four stations sum up the first phase of the Mohali component of the project while Mullanpur has been earmarked for setting up a control room and a "marshalling yard".

A senior official of the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority said on condition of anonymity that the state had agreed to provide the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation about 30 acres for the purpose.

“DMRC officials have approved the sites. Under the plan, the starting point of the Metro will be the Transport Terminal (within Eco City), where a control station of the Metro will also be set up,” said the official, adding that three Metro stations - at the Transport Terminal, near the Air Force Station and at Mullanpur village - will come up in the Mullanpur area in the first phase.

From Mullanpur, the Metro will enter Chandigarh via Sarangpur village.

"In our area (Punjab), the total length of the Metro line will be 7.97 km and we have to pay Rs 1,090 crore to the DMRC for the purpose," said the official.

In Mullanpur and Mohali, there will be an elevated track while in Chandigarh it will be underground.

The GMADA official added that discussions were on with the DMRC to work out the expansion of the project in Mohali beyond the first phase. 

Metro stations

Within a distance of about 2 km, three Metro stations will be constructed along the boundary line of Phase 7 under the project. 



NHAI: No additional fee being charged for smart card
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and Himalayan Expressway, in their reply submitted before the Panchkula consumer forum, have stated that "no additional fee is being charged for the RFID (radio frequency identification device), a smart card”.

On a petition challenging the revision of the toll fees and charging of Rs 100 for RFID tags, the respondents admitted that Rs 100 charged for an RFID tag from the complainant, Sangeeta Chandgothia, had been "wrongly mentioned as administrative charges". It has been stated that the said amount is a refundable security deposit. "As on September 6, 2012, there are 5,477 vehicles for which smart cards have been issued. However, only 2,825 persons have opted for the RFID tag. This clearly shows that RFID tags are not mandatory and have been issued only to those opting for the facility," said Anil Kumar Dahiya, Project Director, NHAI, Panchkula.

Regarding the revision of the toll fees, it has been admitted that the revision can take place only once a year, but as per the agreement, it will be revised in September each year instead of April because the Fee Rules, 2008, do not apply to the present toll plaza as the agreement for it was signed in August 2007. However, the next revision will take place only after one year, in September 2013.

Ashok Jain, president of the district consumer forum, Panchkula, directed the NHAI and Himalayan Expressway to file their affidavits with detailed documents on September 26, when arguments in the case will be heard and the case decided.

On August 30, advocate Pankaj Chandgothia and his wife Sangeeta Chandgothia, a Panchkula-based couple, had filed a complaint before the Panchkula District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, alleging that charging of the fees at the toll plaza was governed by the "National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008, framed under the National Highways Act, 1956. Section 5 of the Act says that the rate of fee can be revised only annually, in April each year. Pankaj Chandgothia said the authority was illegally charging Rs 100 for issuing the RFID tag. 



PUCSC president's poll expenditure: ~3,700 only! 
Amit Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
Despite the extravagant campaigning, winning candidates have claimed that the entire exercise was well within the prescribed budget. The figures of the expenditure incurred by the winning candidates during the elections will surprise everyone. Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC) president won the elections by spending Rs 3,700 only. The details of the expenditure have been submitted to the PU by the newly elected president.

Even after organising massive road shows and throwing parties for students, leaders "managed" to do it within the expenditure limit prescribed under the Lyngdoh guidelines.

Every year, student organisations spend lakhs of rupees in violation of the norms, while the authorities "look the other way". According to the guidelines, the maximum permitted expenditure per candidate is Rs 5,000, and in the event of non-compliance, the violator's candidature stands to be cancelled. However, when it comes to revealing the expenditure, all candidates make sure that the figures are below the Rs 5,000 mark.

According to Satinder Singh Satti, a candidate of the Student Organisation of Panjab University (SOPU), who was elected as PUCSC president, he managed all his election expenses with a mere Rs 3,700. He claims to have spent Rs 2,500 on chart paper, pens, stickers and markers, Rs 700 on petrol and Rs 500 on coffee.

Interestingly, the Chandigarh police, in its report, had clearly mentioned that student parties violated the Lyngdoh guidelines, especially with regard to the poll expenses.

The police had mentioned that parties in discotheques, lavish food and trips to hill stations were offered to students in return for their votes. Sources said party leaders backing presidential candidates had spent money in the elections.

With a view to preventing the inflow of funds from political parties into the student election process, the candidates are barred from utilising funds from any sources other than voluntary contributions from student bodies.

A senior fellow at the PU said that in reality, there was no check by the university authorities on the cash inflow.

"The PU doesn't keep a record of funding during the elections; neither are the expenditure figures crosschecked by the authorities," the fellow said. 

Satti spent Rs 700 on petrol

PUCSC president Satinder Singh Satti, who was a candidate of SOPU, claims to have managed all his election expenses with a mere ~3,700. He claims to have spent ~2,500 on chart paper, pens, stickers and markers, ~700 on petrol and ~500 on coffee 


Chaos at parking lots 
MC fails to reframe policy on allotment of these lots
Aarti Kapur
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
Ignoring the financial loss of crores of rupees due to the non-allotment of vacant parking lots for the last more than eight months, the Municipal Corporation has taken no initiative to re-auction them. In fact, the authorities are also the least bothered about the trouble which the commuters are facing due to mismanagement in these parking lots.

Though amendments were made to the norms of the allotment of parking lots three months ago, there is a lukewarm response to the auction of these parking lots. Contractors felt that stringent actions were incorporated in the fresh norms, which were not in their favour.

Additional Commissioner of the MC Lalit Siwach said the department was reframing the policy on the allotment of parking lots and would table it in the coming finance and contract committee meeting for approval. He said after the approval of the fresh policy, auction of all vacant parking lots would be conducted by the department.

The records of the corporation have revealed that at present six parking lots are lying vacant. From each of these parking lots the corporation used to earn Rs 5 lakh per month. For the past eight months, four parking lots, including the ones at the Sukhna Lake in Sector 5, MOH and CMC Hospital at Sector 17 and at Sector 34, have not been allotted to any contractor due of low bidding during the auction held in January.

Contract of two more parking lots located at Sector 17 expired recently. Sources said that the next meeting of the finance and contract committee was scheduled for September 21.

When the authorities re-auctioned the CMC parking lot of Sector 17 and MOH lot after the January auction, no contractor turned up at the auction. Of the four parking lots, the lease of the CMC lot expired in October last year. The MC authorities tried to auction it again in October but no successful bidder came forward to bid for it.

A senior official stated that the issue of re-auctioning of these parking lots was tabled at a meeting of the finance and contract committee in April where it was decided that a few amendments would be made to the auction rules. Until these amendments are approved by the finance and contract committee, no auction of parking lots could be done by the authorities.

During a visit to Sector 17, a commuter, Sanjeev Verma, was seen waiting near his four-wheeler as somebody had parked his vehicle right behind his car. Anguished at the wrong parking by the owner of the other vehicle, he said it was strange that the MC was more concerned about earning more revenue rather than convenience of the public. He suggested till the authorities allotted these parking lots to contractors, it should deploy its own staff to manage them.

Token system didn’t last long

At the parking lot near the Empire Store at Sector 17, the token system was introduced by the MC to streamline parking. However, it didn’t last long, as the term of the contract expired soon. No interest was shown by the MC to allot the parking lot to some contractor, at least to continue its own pilot project.



States to benefit from 51% FDI in retail, says MP
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
The Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Pawan Kumar Bansal, while defending the decision of the Centre to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, said the BJP was spreading disinformation about it.

Interacting with the media here today, he said the FDI would not only boost the country’s sagging economy but also generate employment.

The Centre was acting as a facilitator and the main beneficiaries would be the states as they would be able to generate more revenue.

Hinting at the stand of the SAD government in Punjab, he said Punjab, being an agrarian state, could benefit from the Centre’s decision on FDI as 40 per cent of its produce perished due to inadequate cold-storage facilities.

On the issue of an increase in diesel prices and limiting the number of LPG cylinders to six per year, he said despite the hike in diesel prices, the subsidy on the petro product was Rs 13.50. “Since 80 per cent of the petroleum products are imported, the international prices reflect on the domestic market”. The under recoveries from petroleum products was alone Rs 45,000 crore during 2011-12.

He said: “Consumers had to practise restrain while using LPG. A cylinder should last two months on an average”. 



CHB may revise auction price
Decision on prices of 147 booths and shops to be taken soon
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
The Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB) is contemplating to revise the auction prices of its 147 built-up booths and shops across the city.

The move follows the inputs received by the CHB after it sought opinion of interested bidders on the anticipated bid money of the properties. A senior official in CHB said the ‘expression of interest’ was invited in a sealed envelope to ascertain the viewpoint of the prospective bidders.

Taking up the issue in the board meeting, the CHB authorities pointed out that there is a wide difference in the reserved price fixed during the 2009 auction and the bid money offered by the people.

Another reason ascertained was the chargeable ground rent fixed by the CHB. For a property attracting Rs 30 lakh, the ground rent came to Rs 75,000 per annum.

During the 2009 auction, the reserve price of shops was fixed at Rs 1,44,500 per sq yard and the bid money came to Rs 1,08,98,190 against which an expression of interest had been received for Rs 30 lakh.

In the past, the CHB had failed to get a good response during the auction of its commercial properties. Barring Mani Majra and few other sectors, there have been a few takers for the CHB properties. The CHB properties in Maloya, Kajehri, and Sector 51 had a few takers. 



Sukhna water level near danger mark
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
Today’s rainfall has increased the water level of the Sukhna Lake to 1,162 feet, only one foot short of the danger mark of 1,163 feet. The concerned authorities are monitoring the situation closely.

A senior official of the Engineering Department said they were monitoring the water level of the Sukhna regularly. They would soon inform senior officials and the governments of neighbouring Punjab and Haryana when the water level reached the 1,163-foot mark.

This year the Engineering Department had carried out a massive de-silting drive on the bed of the Sukhna during which workers had lifted 92.54 lakh cft of silt.



Need for awareness to curb cataract among children, says PGI study
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
The problems of accessibility, lack of quality cataract surgery and awareness in rural areas have proved a big hurdle in preventing blindness among children.

A study conducted by PGI ophthalmologist has showed that the parents often do not turn up for the post operative care, which can lead to the permanent vision loss.

The prevalence of cataract blindness in children in developing countries is probably 1 to 4 per 10,000.

Dr Jaspreet Sukhija, Assistant Professor, eye department, PGI, has won Orbis International Gold medal for the study at the recently concluded Annual Conference of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery held in Milan, Italy.

The study showed that blindness due to cataract in children in our country needs much more attention and care as most of the children are from lower socio-economic status and come from the remote areas.

Through operating, the rate of blindness could be reduced. It is a cost-effective intervention, second only to immunization. In developing countries, many parents seek approach doctors vey late. Camps held in the rural areas provide a means for seeking medical help.

The study shows children who do not come for post-operative care increasing each year. The reason for this was that the children in rural areas usually came from scattered and remote areas with problems of accessibility. 



Woman undergoes surgery for cancer at 78, discharged
Our Correspondent

Mohali, September 18
Kanwal Bakshi could never have imagined that her life would fall apart so suddenly, that, too, on approaching the age of 78. After some sporadic symptoms, she was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer. At Fortis Hospital here, she not only recovered, but also became one of the oldest women in the country to have undergone such an extensive surgical procedure involving the abdomen and heart.

Kidney cancer is asymptomatic. She was passing reddish urine, but that problem resolved quickly. Later, it was the swelling in her legs that alarmed the doctors. An ultrasound examination revealed a 20 cm tumour in her right kidney. The tumour had invaded major blood vessels going through the liver reaching up to the heart.

Treatment was done through surgery involving the abdomen, liver and heart in order to extract the tumour. What followed was an operation that lasted five hours during which the doctors were able to remove the tumour from the kidney, liver and heart. She later recovered well and was discharged.

Dr Priyadarshi Ranjan, Uro-Oncologist and Kidney Transplant Surgeon, who led the team, said: "Usually we do not undertake such a marathon surgery at the age of 78 years. Most patients are in the age group of 40 to 50 years, but it was the attitude and willpower of the patient that made me believe that she would sail through.” 



Experts dwell on Kashmir issue
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
A special lecture on “Kashmir's Special Status: Myth and Reality” by Prof Noor Ahmad Baba, Kashmir University, Srinagar, was organised by ICSSR North-Western Regional Centre on Panjab University Campus today.

During his address, Professor Baba said although Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and had high degree of autonomy as compared to other states, yet a closer look on the issue would reveal that even the undiluted autonomy that the state enjoyed prior to 1953 was nothing more than that all states of the Unites States of America enjoyed under their Constitution.

He said in present context one could argue that because of the erosion of the empowering provisions, particularly during 1953-75, the state was politically the most dispossessed within the Union of India. “This erosion of autonomy happened under the governments that lacked in representative character and operated mainly at the behest of the Congress governments at the Centre,” Baba said.

The lecture focused on the ongoing debate of restoration of autonomy in its original shape for the resolution of the conflict. Prof RK Kohli, Dean University Instruction (DUI), while presiding over the lecture said violence and militarisation were linked with the economy of Jammu and Kashmir. The ecological conditions of the state were not used to the maximum extent, he added.

Dr Deepak Kumar Singh, chairman of the Department of Political Science, while summing up the lecture said: “Kashmir is going Palestine way and the situation demands immediate attention of the government." it was only recently the Central Government had accepted that Kashmir problem was not a law and order problem but a political one, he added.

Restoration of autonomy

The lecture focused on the ongoing debate of restoration of autonomy in its original shape for the resolution of the conflict.



Punjab to recruit 600 docs
Our Correspondent

Mohali, September 18 
All community health centres in Punjab will be developed as nodal kendras and 600 more doctors will be recruited soon in the state. This was stated by Health and Family Welfare Minister Madan Mohan Mittal after laying the foundation stone of a Rs 40 lakh primary health centre in Khizrabad village, near Kurali today. 

The minister said the community health centres would be equipped with modern facilities. He said 600 doctors would be recruited by the government soon. Recently, 108 dentists had already been recruited by the Health Department and efforts would be made to overcome the shortage of paramedical staff in the state as well, he added.

Mittal said the aim of converting community health centres into nodal kendras was to provide better facilities at village level so that villagers could get treatment for routine ailments there itself . He further said that there was a proposal to set up a hospital on the pattern of the PGI, Chandigarh, near Nangal or Ropar. We would ask the Central Government to provide assistance for the hospital, he said. "The hospital will reduce the patient load on the PGI, " he added.



pu senate elections 
Campaigning picks up
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
With all eyes set on the last phase of PU Senate elections, which are going to be held for 15 seats of graduates constituency, the contenders have intensified their campaigning by sending their promise charts and polling booth numbers on the doorstep of the voters. The appeals are also being made through social networking sites to garner the maximum support.

Besides, the elections to the graduate constituency, elections to the eight seats, each in arts college principals and teachers constituency, will also be held on September 23.

Anu Chatrath, former mayor and a sitting senate member, is busy sending appeals to the voters through pamphlets those carry the registration number besides the information about polling booths.

Another sitting senator Munish Verma has been making appeals through social networking sites to reach the voters of far away places.

Around 64 candidates are in the race for 15 seats. Among the total contestants 15 senators are in fray for re-election. Prabhjit Singh, Jarnail Singh, BC Josan, Kailash Nath and DPS Randhawa, who are canditates from the college teacher’s constituency, are also busy visiting PU affiliated colleges to attract the voters.

Dalip Kumar, a sitting senator from college teacher’s constituency, said he was visiting the residences of the teachers because it gave sufficient time to have a detailed discussion on agendas. 



Student council members sworn in
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
The Students' Council of Government Home Science College, Sector 10, was sworn in by the Principal of the college in a solemn ceremony at the college auditorium today. 

The students took oath to work unanimously for the welfare of the college and elevate its performance in all spheres with perseverance and sincerity. Principal Madhu Nanda congratulated the council. During her address she inspired the council members to set an example before the fellow students by shedding their egos, working in a selfless manner and always be righteous in their deeds and conduct.



White-coat ceremony held
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
Beginning a new trend Dr Harvansh Singh Judge Institute of Dental Sciences and Hospital, Panjab University, held white-coat ceremony here today. During the function the budding dentists, in the presence of their parents, were given white coats for the new session.

Prof Ashish Jain, prinicipal of the institute, asked the students to serve the society and be true to the nobility of the white coat. PU Vice-Chancellor Arun Grover presented the white coats to the first year students. While speaking on the occasion, Grover said the university had decided to develop the dental college as a national icon in the upcoming years.

After donning their coats, the first year students took the student induction pledge of beginning a process of professional development that would never end throughout their life.



St John's adjudged best school
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18
The Education World Magazine has declared St John's High School, Sector 26, as the top ranked school of the state, today. 

The school also bagged the place amongst the top 20 schools of India, followed by Carmel Convent School and Strawberry Fields School. According to all India ranking, all the three schools stood at 18th, 23rd and 24th places respectively.



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