Two states in Chandigarh’s sector 39
Home to officials of both Punjab and Haryana governments, this sector is a throwback to the times when Chandigarh was known for its uncluttered roads and quiet streets.Updated: Jun 18, 2018 18:15 IST
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Sitting in a quiet, leafy corner of the city, Sector 39 is an oasis of calm in a densely packed part of Chandigarh. If you want to see what it means to be a capital of two states, come to this sector. The flurry of staff cars with flags leads you to houses of ministers, judges, and senior officers of both the Punjab and Haryana government. Officials are not the only ones preening here. The sector is also home to one-of-its-kind peacock park of the country, dedicated to the national bird. The feathered beauties don’t restrict themselves to the park and can often be seen on the walls of the Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH), a premier research centre, as well known for its scientific breakthroughs as for its scenic gardens.
This sector came into existence rather late in the day, its birth dictated by pure pragmatism. The city was growing much too rapidly and so was its officialdom. The planners needed a place where they could build affordable housing for its army of government servants. The land was given to the Punjab and Haryana governments in a 60:40 ratio for constructing houses at an institutional price, far less than the market rates.
This explains why around one-fourth of the sector has government quarters, while the rest are privately- owned flats. Old-timers say the Haryana government employees couldn’t be adjusted in the given accommodation, thereby necessitating the construction of Sector 39-B.
THE FIRST ALLOTTEE
Yashpal Verma, the first allottee of a Haryana government quarter in Sector 39-B, says not much has changed in the sector in the last three decades. “I was additional director, agriculture department, when I was allotted accommodation here in 1996. I was the first occupant of the Haryana government quarters, built on six marlas,” he recounts. Verma, who moved on in August 2011, is happy that the sector has not lost its serenity or the green cover.
It was in the 1990s that the government allotted about 300 High Income Group flats of 8-9 marla and 300 Medium Income Group flats of 6 marla each to its employees.
Back in the 1990s, government servants used to baulk at the thought of moving here. “Initially, people didn’t like it because of the distance from the Civil Secretariat and Sector 17. But now since every household owns a vehicle, commuting from this sector to offices is no longer considered a chore,” says Verma.
The sector continues to be reserved for government officials. Judges moved in here around eight years ago in 2010. They were followed by BSNL officials; Income Tax officers were the last to reach here last year. Even today, there are vacant spaces in the sector, waiting for more officials.
Verma says besides its green cover, the sector has also retained its safety quotient. With so many officers and their security details, there is little incidence of crime in the sector. Strangely, it has also managed to remain non-commercial. The sector market continues to remain underdeveloped. Locals say it’s the secret of their vehicle-free roads and pollution-free streets.
Residents make do with a mini-market with just the bare essentials such as an ATM, a small dental clinic, a fruit juice shop, a chemist, and the like. For the oldest and biggest shops, nip into 39 B.
Owned by Joginder Pal, Aggarwal provision store is a one-stop shop for the locals here. Pal settled here in 1980 and established the store in 1997. Today, it is arguably the largest store in this sector, peddling everything from a pin to a canister.
The sector may not have many shops, but it has a thriving population of peacocks. Come evening and you can hear the loud cries of these magnificent birds that often pay locals a visit, especially during the rains.
Forest officials put their number at over 50. The peacock park coupled with the dense foliage of trees in the sector provides the perfect setting for these whimsical birds.
T C Nautiyal, conservator of forests, Chandigarh, says peacocks were the original inhabitants of the forest in the sector before it was cleared to make way for houses. “It was not the administration, which chose Sector 39 for constructing the park, but the Indian national bird itself. Perhaps, the presence of a good amount of insects in the park prompted the peafowl to settle here.”
Residents enjoy the company of these birds that can often leave behind a gift of their glorious feathers. The forest officials also take good care to ensure that the birds are well fed with grains such as bajra, maize, jowar and chana, etc.
The birds with a lifespan of 10 to 12 years, also feed on fruits, seeds and sometimes even snakes. Even though the peafowl don’t make any nests, they are protective of their young ones. The feathered beauties are also partial to their neighbouring Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH)
The sector is also home to the Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH), which was set up here in 1984. Spread over an area of 47 acres, of which 22 acres are covered by labs and 25 acres by residential campus, this institute keeps the City Beautiful on the research map of the country. Chandigarhians may not know it, but its director Dr Anil Koul was one of the scientists involved in the discovery and development of a novel drug for treatment of multi drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Many of its 55 scientists are also credited with path-breaking research in fields as diverse as cloning, vaccine development, and yeast genetics, the most recent being an easy way to discover whether a woman will have a pre-term or full-term delivery.
The institute also organises an outreach programme called ‘Jigyasa’ to inculcate scientific temperament among students. Beneficiaries include students of some chosen Kendriya Vidyalayas and government schools in the tricity. While the building is not a thoroughfare, its award-winning gardens draw tremendous praise from visitors. If you happen to know any of its 355-plus staff, do take a look.
Soon after the sector found its place in south Chandigarh, a Shiv Mandir was founded in 1986, followed by a police station and a petrol pump. In the initial years, the temple had just a ‘Shivling’ but over the years it has expanded over an area of 4 kanal.
Pandit Mohanlal Nautial, a resident of Uttarakhand, says the temple may have increased its span but it doesn’t get much footfall. “The VIPs living here have everything they need, they don’t find the need to visit the temple,” Nautial makes light of the near-empty courtyard.
Located near Government Middle School, Gurdwara Nanak Sagar is 100 years old. Before the sector came up, it was part of the Badheri village. Though villages turned into sectors, the gurudwara, which is being run by Baba Virsa Singh, Mehrauli, remained in its original place. Much bigger than its original avatar, its new prayer hall can seat up to 1500 devotees.
PREDICTING RAIN AND BRIGHT SUNSHINE
Ever wondered where your weather forecast comes from? Check out the chowk that hosts one of the most important departments of tricity, the metrological department. Ever since the department moved from Sector 22 to 39 in 2009, the chowk is called ‘Mausam Chowk’.
The department, which was established in 1982, monitors the weather of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. Back in Sector 22, it had just two units: weather forecasting and agro-meteorology. Officials recount how trees in the vicinity of their rented office also came in the way of their work. Not any longer. Today the department is spread across 1.5 acres, and has both space and equipment required for a correct forecast.
With a small army of 25 staffers, including four women, the department has state-of-the-art equipment like doppler weather radar, automatic weather station (to measure Met parameters), manual observation system, high performance computing system, maintenance units for Met equipment, climate section, sysmological unit, satellite reception station, air quality monitoring system, a library and a technical unit that stores the archive data.
It’s a big leap for the department that, until 1998, used to employ telegrams to relay its forecasts. By the time the telegram would reach its destination, the forecast would have changed. Now numerical system is used to update the residents of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh about the weather.
A total of eight observations are done round the clock, for which one code is applied and monitoring is done at the same time, all over the world. Each observation is of three hours and involves trillions of calculations.
Director of the Met department, Surinder Paul, remembers how earlier people used to poke fun at them. They would say expect the opposite of what the department predicts, he laughs. But a lot has changed with the advancement of technology and communication. The observation has improved manifold and with a single click, a message is communicated across the world. Paul says the accuracy in monitoring has risen to 90%. The rising accuracy has been accompanied by a rising interest in the Met forecasts. “We are deluged with calls from media organisations and other departments,” laughs a senior scientist. You can’t blame them, who doesn’t want to be weather wise.
First Published: Jun 18, 2018 18:13 IST