The maverick brigade of 2017: Meet Chandigarh’s buzz makers
From Kirron Kher to Varnika Kundu to Gauri Parashar Joshi and the ‘Google boy’, Team HT gives you a lowdown on the interesting personas who spiced the months gone by.punjab Updated: Dec 25, 2017 13:15 IST
They made us smile, they made us fume, they made us cringe, but all of them left an impression that we will carry on for a while
Motormouth mummy: Kirron Kher, MP, Chandigarh
You have to give it to Kirron Kher. She doesn’t give two hoots to political correctness. Our lady speaks her mind loud and clear. When speakers ramble on and on, she knits her brows, and orders the organisers to cut them short. She’s also got a short fuse with people who flock to her home. “Hor kina time dawaan tuwanu,” she is known to snap at them. She is great at mimicry as well, her favourite subject being city BJP chief, Sanjay Tandon. Not even an army of journos can silence her. So it was no surprise when she declared that the rape victim in the auto gangrape case, shouldn’t have boarded the auto. So what? She is like this only.
A judge most just: Justic S S Saron, ex-judge, high court
The 62-year-old judge will be remembered for his stinging observations. Saron kept powers-that-be on tenterhooks as he presided over the PIL roster for a year until his retirement in September. When Centre failed to start international flights from Chandigarh airport, he snapped, “Use it for wheat storage... Shift operations to old terminal.” Fearing for law and order in Panchkula ahead of Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s conviction, he set up a larger bench, which gave a free hand to forces and saved Panchkula. “This was a war-like situation and it had to be fought like a war-like situation,” Saron observed. Miffed with the indifferent attitude of Centre and UGC to the PU financial crunch, he quipped, “Let it be closed as centre of learning… UGC may convert it into a resort.” He is missed.
The nit-picker: Harjinder Kaur, chairperson, CCPCR
If there is one person who sends shivers down the spine of the Chandigah school fraternity, it is Harjinder Kaur, chairperson of the Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The former mayor and anti-helmet warrior, the articulate Kaur has taken it upon herself to ensure that schools treat their students right. From CCTVs and leaky taps to brooms, nothing escapes her eagle eyes. Now she is even turning children into rights warriors with her ‘Baal Adalats’. No kidding.
Flip-flop cop: T S Luthra, DG-P, Chandigarh
It is ironical that TS Luthra’s elevation to the post of the city’s first DGP was accompanied by a spike in the city’s crime graph. The poet at heart—Luthra pens Hindi poems—also drew much ire due to his namby-pamby response to the Varnika Kundu case. It was only after the case hogged the primetime that Luthra swung into action and introduced more stringent sections. But folks at the PU law department say it may have something to do with the half-baked knowledge of this wannabe lawyer. This 1990-batch cop got special permission from the syndicate to take admission to the fifth semester of LLB without passing the fourth.
Mr do-nothing: Kulwant Singh, Mayor, Mohali
Mohali mayor Kulwant Singh is best known for his Zen-like state in the Municipal Corporation. While niggling issues such as cattle menace, stray dogs, unkempt parks and lack of cleanliness had other members crying hoarse, Singh kept his cool. No politics please, declared the man with friends across political lines, promising not to come under any pressure in the drive against stray cattle. But Mohali residents, who had high hopes from the weighing machine operator-turned-real estate tycoon, have begun to wonder if they chose wisely. It’s one thing to say nothing, another to do nothing.
Dr Cool: Dr Jagat Ram, director, PGIMER
Well-known ophthalmologist Dr Jagat Ram, 60, surprwised many when he pipped two frontrunners to take over as the PGIMER chief. Ever since, he’s been working quietly to improve the emergency ward without ruffling any egos—he was at hand when the Panchkula police rushed those injured in the dera violence to the PGI . He’s also managed funds for three major projects – mother and child care centre, neuroscience centre, and Una satellite centre. Fuzzy about details, his secret weapon is his deputy director (admn), who handles the nitty-gritty.
Mr Accessible:VP Singh Badnore, governor
The dapper governor from Rajasthan has made both his office and Raj Bhavan more accessible. Be it for book launches or other social events, the governor house saw a big rise in footfall this year. A gallant Rajput, who happily doffs his hat at MP Kirron Kher, the Guv made waves when he publicly told the UT police to set their house in order. But administration officials, who stand to attention in Guv’s presence say it’s all talk, little implementation. By the way, it was Badnore who mooted the idea of a military literature fest.
Team that failed Panchkula: Gauri Prashar, DC, Panchkula and AS Chawla, police commissioner
Over 30 persons were killed when army opened fire to quell a violent mob in Panchkula on August 25. But this bloodbath could have been avoided had the authorities prevented the buildup of devotees in the streets, days before Dera Sacha Sauda chief’s conviction. Later, police commissioner Chawla tried to blame it on a lacuna in a prohibitory section imposed on the city. DC Joshi, who fled the scene after scaling a wall on the fateful day, ostensibly to call the army, also did precious little in the run-up to the tragedy. Instead of working as a team, Luthra and Joshi stuck to their high horses. Panchkula paid the price.
Girl interrupted: Varnika Kundu, professional DJ
Two weird–in-the-head youngsters from Haryana had no idea who they were messing with when they stalked Varnika Kundu, 29, on her way home on a balmy August night. The feisty young lady, one of the first woman deejays of the region, called the cops and lodged a case. Today she is the poster girl for all women battling any form
of sexual harassment. At the helm of a campaign to make stalking a non-bailable offence, Kundu is also a much-in-demand talking head at TV shows. You go, girl!
Mayor Mum: Asha Kumari Jaswal, mayor, Chandigarh
Mum’s the word for Chandigarh mayor, who took over in January this year. It’s impossible to get a word out of her mouth. Her contribution to MC is simply a smile. When members get really worked up, her eyes tend to glaze over, making many wonder whether she is taking a nap. She comes out of her reverie only to play the role of a mummy. “Aisa mat kaho… maafi maango,” she wags her fingers at the errant councillors. But you can’t dismiss her as a “goongi gudia”; close buddy Arun Sood will vouch for that. So will BJP councillor Heera Negi, who accused Jaswal of playing “dirty politics” when she (Negi) lost the finance panel polls. Silent but deadly, eh?
Mr Needy: Arun Kumar Grover, vice-chancellor, PU
If there is one person who will be glad to see the end of his extended tenure at Panjab University, it has to be V-C A K Grover. Now on his last leg, Grover has spent most of his time with a begging bowl for a cash-strapped varsity, while fending off “vultures” on the campus. His decision to hike the fees triggered unprecedented violence on the campus, but he didn’t back off. Though a long way from becoming sustainable, the PU generated 270 crore in the last two years. Good going, we say.
The headline hunter: Amy Singh, selectivist
A poet and social activist, Amy, alias Amrapali Singh, is very picky when it comes to championing causes. So when Varnika Kundu stalking became top news, she knew she had to do something to garner publicity for herself. Singh cobbled together some student leaders and set out to reclaim the streets for city women with a ‘bekhauf aazadi’ march. It’s another matter there were more media persons than locals who attended it. But once the Kundu case died, so did Amy’s aazadi movement. So much so that even the auto gangrape couldn’t resuscitate it.
Madam in trap: Shilpi Pattar, HCS officer
This year sealed the fate of this Sacred Heart girl. This 35-year-old HCS officer seemed to have seen too many Hindi movies, the kinds where government officials get rich quick by taking bribes. But unbeknown to her, the businessman whose showroom she’d sealed was also into movies, the kind where they show the common man teaching the corrupt officers a lesson with the help of CBI. To cut a long story short, Shilpi madam was arrested along with her husband for accepting a bribe of Rs 50,000 to de-seal a Sector 26 showroom. But don’t worry, she has a Plan B. A qualified dentist, she can repair your teeth and get rich.
The shy stalker: Vikas Barala, son of Haryana BJP chief
If there was an award for ducking the paparazzi, Vikas Barala (23), son of Haryana BJP chief, Subhash Barala, who was arrested in the Varnika Kundu stalking case, would get it hands down. Photographers of the Indian sub-continent, who had descended on Chandigarh to capture the skinny young man, tried to shoot him from every possible angle, but failed. The law student lunged, bent double, hid in the armpits of the escorting cops, walked like a chimp, and managed to keep his comely face away from cameras. Some sports enthusiasts have suggested that he look for an alternative career as a gymnast. Good idea, considering he’s got ‘reappear’ in five subjects
The letter warrior: Upinder Kaur Walia, mayor, Panchkula
Who says letter-writing is dead? It’s alive and kicking in Panchkula, thanks to mayor Upinder Kaur, who penned over 300 in her war with former commissioner Lalit Siwach. While he didn’t respond in kind, his successor, Shaleen Kumar, shot off a damaging missive to the chief secretary accusing Walia of threatening him. But the letter bombs have cost the city dear. The much-touted Paris of Haryana not only lost the smart city race, but was also ranked among the dirtiest cities of India this year. Now the Municipal Corporation’s very existence is in danger with the state government deciding to exclude Kalka and Pinjore from its jurisdiction.
Music man to conman: Surinderpal Singh ‘pehalwan’, ex-GMADA official
If there is one man behind the accident-prone airport road in Mohali, called the rolling road due to its undulations, it is Surinderpal. To him goes the credit for introducing the region to a road that could rival any joyride with the bobbing motion it gives your vehicle. Known as the ‘pehalwan’ of the Badals, Singh, 50, bent and broke rules to award contracts for several roads and buildings to companies of his choice as the officiating chief engineer of GMADA. While his bank balance got fatter with every contract, the bitumen on the roads got thinner. Now booked by Vigilance Bureau for corruption, he is also in the dock for forging his date of birth. He shaved four years from his age.
A departmental hoax:Google boy
The City Beautiful got its very own Google boy when a Class XII student of Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 33, sent an ‘offer letter’ from Google giving him a package of 1.4 crore to his principal and teacher. The elated principal, Indra Beniwal, sent the ‘offer’—it was riddled with grammatical errors—to her bosses at the education department. Blame it on the falling standard of English, and the rising levels of gullibility, but the t PRO shared the letter on a WhatsApp group with nearly 50 officers, many of whom even lauded the child. Later, Google denied any such offer, and the poor child was diagnosed with ‘confusional psychosis’. Left red-faced, the education department initiated a probe, but nothing much came out of it.
(compiled by Manraj Grewal Sharma, sketches by Daljeet Kaur Sandhu)