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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The good, the bad, the ugly of Panchkula this year

As the eventful year comes to an end, The Indian Express takes stock of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY of Panchkula.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula | Published: December 30, 2019 7:49:41 pm
Panchkula, Panchkula protests, Panchkula crimes, Panchkula murder, Panchkula murders, Panchkula Police, Chandigarh news, city news, Indian Express Panchkula city, considered the mini-capital of Haryana, lying in close proximity to Chandigarh, has seen more than 100 protests in the year. (Representational Image)

THE GOOD

Bicycle Sharing Project

The bicycle-sharing project, which has been on the mind of Chandigarh MC for as long as people can remember, was planned and initiated by Panchkula MC with-in the span of 6 months of this year and was officially launched by the CM of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar on August 21, right before he won a second term in the government.

The project became a quick hit with as many as 15,788 downloads of the application recorded and 9284 bike rides taken under a week’s time.

The people of the city ride the bikes day and night with the records showing that the frequency of bike rides is the maximum from 6-9 in the morning and 5-11 in the evening.

Yaana, the Company managing the project even received complaints of cycle unavailability after which the MC Commissioner Rajesh Jogpal initiated a survey in the sectors that did not get cycle docks the first time, including MDC and trans-ghaggar. The sectors will soon be getting atleast 10 new docks says Jogpal.

According to the officials, the employees of the company have been tasked with keeping an eye over sufficient availability of the bicycles at all times. The bicycles are redistributed in case a dock runs out of cycles. The status is checked by the GPS chips in bicycles or when specific complaints are received by the residents on their helpline.

Within the first five months with data accessed till December 06, the Yaana mobile application, has already seen as many as 37,000 downloads in the past four months since its launch. Against these downloads, almost double the number of rides have taken place, with the number standing at more than 76,000 rides.

It was the Bengaluru four youths, who left their IT jobs to start a public bike-sharing project as a start-up a year ago.

Abhishek Dambhal, Sourav Jain, Brijesh and Shiv Kumar Angadi all in their mid-twenties, quit their jobs in IT companies to start the current project of giving bikes on rent. The concept was further worked upon to help reduce the pollution level in cities, said Sourav.

It was in November 2017, that they had started this venture with 60 cycles with an initial investment of Rs 10 lakh. The four are also running the same project successfully in Gwalior and Bhuvneshwar though it’s Panchkula’s that is doing the best with the most rides taken, even though the population of the city is much less than compared with those two.

Focus on zero waste

Panchkula got another feather in its hat when after making efforts for two long years, the waste segregation finally showed some results. The MC Panchkula now processes almost 60 per cent of its waste even without the presence of its own waste processing plant. Rajesh Jogpal, MC Commissioner gave all credit for the same to successful waste segregation in the city and the venture of the city’s MC into new zones- tying up with private firms for doing their work.

The journey of the same though, was not a piece of cake for the corporation to achieve. The project of undertaking waste segregation had begun in 2017, when talks to tie up with a foreign plant were being finalised. “When we have a plant, the waste is easily and better processed when the waste has been segregated. Since there was an agency to come up, we were waiting for the agency to start working as the work order had been issued. But when it backed out, we thought we better do it ourselves because we knew the tender will take time”, Jogpal talking to the Indian Express had said.

It was then that the corporation started forming policies for the same and implementing them as well. Though it was in 2017, that the segregation of waste had been made compulsory, stringent steps for the same were taken just this year, where as many as 4 lakh 6 thousand has been collected against 615 challans have been issued for the same. The first two years were used to create awareness and educated people while strict measures for the implementation were enforced this year.

Solid Waste Management was another program that began under the segregation project. Under this, the waste collected, has to be segregated, then processed and then disposed off safely. All of this of course, could not have been done in one go. The municipality, first focussed on diving work due to the lack of a waste processing plant that does it under one roof. On a pilot project, a waste composting unit in sector 12 that became successful. A tender was then floated where a pre-existing solid waste management firm of Ambala was finalised for collection of wet-waste.

For all recyclable waste, the MC found a simple solution and left it up to the rag-pickers, to sell it to scrap dealers and earn some side money without any overview by the MC.

At present the city produces almost 117 tonnes of garbage, of which 60 per cent is wet and the rest is dry. About 65 per cent of the wet waste is being composted as manure and the dry waste is being recycled.

As many as 300 rehris against the budget of 46 lakhs Rs have also been distributed by the corporation to the rag pickers of the city that have segregated spaces for both dry and wet waste in green and blue. Plastic-free marriages at the community centre have been incentivised and several exchange booths where plastic is taken in return for daily products have been made.

Free Parking

The concept of free and regularised parking has also been initiated by Panchkula MC, in this year. While many have opposed it, saying the MC will start charging for it soon, the MC Commissioner, denied having a paid parking agenda on the Corporation’s mind.

The parking facilities, according to the corporation, shall remain free till an elected house of the MC decides to make it paid. The parking is not just being regularising but will also see an upgrade where public bathrooms, a shelter and availability of RO water will soon be provided.

The MC also decided to start fining people, not parking at designated places, once the project is fully up and running.

In the first phase, staff was deployed in sectors 8, 9 and 10 where as many as 12 men, including four each at a single parking was stationed. A total amount of Rs 14,000 is being given to each of these 12 men working for the MC, according to officials. Two men each at entry and exit of these parking started issuing parking tickets, free of cost while directing and helping people to park their vehicles.

The second phase, will include the parking of Sectors 7, 11 and 15 will be rolled out next month, depending on the feedback they collect from this system.

THE BAD

Protest Capital

Panchkula city, considered the mini-capital of Haryana, lying in close proximity to Chandigarh, has seen more than 100 protests in the year. The protests that began well in June kept swelling in numbers as the elections drew closer and the moral code of conduct came into being. While many camped and lived in the Protest ground of Sector 5, Panchkula, others who stayed in the city itself, would carry out processions that would meet their end at the Housing Board Chowk where the Panchkula entry gate stands, drawing the line between the UT and the city. The protests before elections saw their end as the code of conduct came into being. But the end of the year saw the protests rise again, with the vendors of the city taking to the roads, showing their anger against their eviction from various sectors in a drive carried out by MC that has been going on for more than a month now. The protestors squatting outside various offices that they think might have the strings to pull what they want.

As many as 28 different groups of people, having various different demands, have protested during the year. The protests that generally began in the month of July, saw an uprising in August and reached its climax and its end in September.

According to the data collected from the Panchkula police department, while July saw as many as 14 protests, number rose to 19 in August and reached a record 25 till September 20. As the code of conduct came into being on September 21, the day saw a few protests which eventually died, realising nothing could be done now. And these are only the numbers that required some police force to be used.

The up-rise of protests again in December, recorded as many as 12 protests, all by vendors and one by JBT teachers.

Things during protests this year, took an ugly turn, as the police lathi charged on a group of computer teachers staging a peaceful sit-in on the main road leading to the DC office.

The use of force left 20 men and women injured in the protest.

Arc of Iron

It was on July 10, that the arc of iron, popularly known as the ‘Panchkula entry gate’ began its supposedly 9-day-long work. This was the main road, that connected Panchkula to Chandigarh. The route saw constant traffic jams twice a day as thousands of vehicles that made use of this route for their everyday commute had to be re-routed via the Mauli-jagra road, which itself remains broken.

Though the gate was expected to be top-notch and as the city waited for the extravagant gate to be built, they were only welcomed by a basic arc of iron, which does not even serve its purpose.

While more than 25lakhs were spent on the arc, the people of the city only feel anger looking at it. Jarnail Goyal, a resident of Sector 18, says, “That is not what an entry gate looks like. I do not know why did they build it. Sometimes it is invisible to people and other times, it just makes us angry. All the money and manpower spent and the misery caused to us. It now stands there posing threat to our lives if it were to fall on somebody someday.”

The traffic jams being caused by the barricading had caused a huge problem to ambulances that move through the area as patients from Civil Hospital of Panchkula who are referred to PGI or GMCH 32 for further treatment were getting stuck midway. In the morning and evening hours when the traffic surged, the ambulances going to and fro from Chandigarh would get stuck.

Rakesh (32), an employee of the National Ambulance Service who works at the hospital, had said, “since the building of the gate has begun, it has become difficult to take patients to other hospitals. Where it used to take him 20-25mins to transport the patients to PGI, now it takes him atleast 35-40minutes.”

THE UGLY

Murdering Manholes

Even though the residents of the city had been complaining for the whole year about the broken manholes and road gullies, it was only after a man was found dead on November 16 in HSVP’s uncovered manhole, and consequently, a case was registered under section 304 A of causing death by negligence, did the authorities of the city fling to action.

The manhole on sector 15/16 diving road that killed the victim covered two days later while people employed by HSVP building new manhole covers can be spotted all around the city.

Though the HSVP did get all of its manholes covered, the Municipal Corporation of Panchkula claiming to start a survey assessing the areas and spaces that might require repairs, has not yet done anything about the open road gullies.

While 32 sectors of the city fall under HSVP, most of the area of the Kalka area of Panchkula district lies under MC Panchkula. When asked about the survey of open manholes in Kalka area, MC Commissioner Jogpal had said, “We are only doing it in the city and not district.”

The brutal murder

A brutal murder rocked the city on a Sunday morning of August 11, when a man was hacked to death at the backside of Tau Devilal Stadium, Panchkula in broad daylight at 8.30am.

As the body lay in a pool of blood, with not even a single eyewitness ready to come forward, the police suspected many angles while knowing it was a simple case for them. Even though the accused was absconding, the weapon used to kill the man, a Gurkha Knife (khukuri), was found at the scene of crime, covered in blood and fingerprints.

The 37-year-old victim had lacerations at atleast four places on his arm, head and face.

As the story slowly unfolded, it was clear who the murderer was and what intention he had to murder the victim.

It was after two days that the accused was nabbed by the Panchkula police from his hometown- Rampura, Bhatinda and the whole plot was revealed.

25-year-old Sandeep had allegedly committed the crime as he suspected that his sister (22) had an affair with the 37-year-old victim, Gagandeep. His suspicions were confirmed when he had come looking for her in the city, after which he bought the weapon, before reaching Gagandeep’s house and murdered him the next morning, after trying to do the same at night.

According to the police Inspector who questioned him after his arrest had been made, “The accused confessed to us the instant he was arrested. The accused was ready for the arrest. After seeing the CCTV footage of her sister entering the hotel with the victim and coming out the next day, the accused was furious and it was then that he planned the murder. He planned for one whole night and bought the murder weapon. He murdered the victim in cold blood.”

Floods of the city

There are a few sectors of the city that get flooded each time it drizzles. While the administration blames other departments and other departments blame their workers who in-turn blame the citizens, it is the people of the Sector that suffer.

Sector 8, which is considered to be one of the posh sectors of Panchkula, flooded several times during monsoon this year. The flooding happens at one particular corner of the Sector near house number 532 where the water even enters the houses.

The problem is so huge, that the owner has placed permanent logs under all his furniture as the water that comes in spoils it. He had also put up a one-foot barrier at each side of his house, to prevent the water from entering the house.

Another sector with the same issue is Sector 19. The rain brings the life of the area to a standstill. The water here enters the homes of people on a regular basis throughout the monsoons while locals struggle to commute to their workplace.

The residents even felt duped where Kamlesh, President of the House Owner’s Welfare Association, Sector 19, said that Rajesh Jogpal, Commissioner MC Panchkula, had promised them last year that the issue has been taken care of and that this problem won’t arise again but as soon as the rainfall began this year, the sector again got flooded.

A Municipal Corporation Engineer had told that the problem exists because of the railway line near sector 7. The pipe that was designed to take the water out of the area has clogged up and they have sought permission from the Ambala railways to access it. The DC of Panchkula had also put in a letter to the same but no concrete step has been taken as of yet inform sources.

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