Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Commissioner Dilip Band presented draft proposal for a Rs 1073-crore budget to standing committee chairman Ajit Gavahane, laying emphasis on quality roads, 24-hour drinking water supply, completion of drainage works, health and education while there has been no increase in water or property tax. Last year's budget was at Rs 1002 crore. As much as Rs 437 crore has been reserved for roads and construction work, while installing water meters finds a provision of Rs 30 crore. "Nearly 60 per cent of the water meter installation work has been completed. By April end, the work would be completed. And after that citizens will get 24-hour water,' he said. Band said compared to the Pune Municipal Corporation that is giving 1,000 litres water for Rs 15, PCMC would be the same for Rs 2.50. "In one paisa, citizens will get 4 litres of water,' he said. "Also charges will be as per usage,' he said, adding that the closed pipeline work from Pavana dam has been taken up under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Making a provision of Rs 10 crore for works ahead of the Commonwealth Youth Games, Band said his administration has taken up beautification and advertisement work on war footing. Rs 10 crore has been provided for purchasing buses for PMPML and an additional Rs 12 crore for setting up bus stops and providing other amenities. "We are also looking at cogeneration of power. The corporation will enter into a tie up. It definitely is on top of our agenda, but nothing is decided as yet,' he said. Band said mechanised cleaning operation has begun at PCMC. "Road sweepers, compactors and new vehicles are being purchased. These will help in keeping the town clean at a faster rate.' The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority has been urged to issue a tender for the 40-km tram and monorail project on PCMC's behalf. Regarding land acquisition, Band said, "What had not happened in last 25 years has taken place in two years. We have acquired 60 per cent of the land reserved for development.' He however said his administration will go slow on land acquisition to avoid any unrest in town. "For instance in Kalewadi, 300 houses will be displaced, if we acquire land for a playground,' he said.

After facing road blockade for 40 days, the Dow Chemical Research and Development (R&D) centre took the help of State Reserve Police (SRP) to ferry three trucks to the construction site at Shinde village in Chakan on Tuesday. The villagers of Shinde and Vasuli had dug up the road to protest the setting up of the R& D centre and were preventing vehicles from plying to the construction site. The trucks and a special SRP force van crossed the dug up road at around 4 pm, said Sunil Deukar, one of the villagers. "With only a few villagers at the entry point today, we were outnumbered. Besides with their use of the SRP force we could do little to stop them. But we will not allow the trucks to leave the village,' he said. The members of Lokshashan Andolan, B G Kolse Patil and Vilas Sonawane, who are backing the villagers, said this was the first time that the company had used police support. "Our agitation began with the support of villagers on January 17 and since then construction work has been stalled with no vehicle allowed to pass through the village,'' said Kolse Patil. A State-level committee was appointed to look into the Dow imbroglio under the chairmanship of the environment secretary S K Goel. It met for the second time on Monday and is expected to release its report soon. Meanwhile, agitators from Lokayat submitted a memorandum to the committee expressing their firm protest against the company. Dow Chemical officers were unavailable for comment when contacted.

With 1.67 million cases of malaria and around 1,000 deaths last year, the government has changed the drug policy and directed states from January this year to introduce the ACT (artesunate and sulpha pyrimethamine) combination as the first line of anti-malarial drug treatment in chloroquine-resistant areas. Dr G S Sonal, Joint Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVDCP), told The Indian Express that there has been concern over the increasing number of plasmodium falciparum (PF) cases of malaria. India contributes to 77 per cent cases of malaria in South East Asia. PF in the 70s amounted to less than 15 per cent of the malaria cases, but this has now gone up to 50 per cent of the total malaria cases. Moreover the dangerous PF has developed resistance to chloroquine in various parts of the country. Sixty-five per cent of cases of malaria in various pockets of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal are due to PF and drug resistance to chloroquine is high here. Chloroquine however is useful in states like Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. At least one million ACT course drugs will be supplied to the high endemic states. So far the government had supplied 20 crore tablets of chloroquine in the country. This quantum of drugs will be slightly reduced, Sonal said. According to Dr A P Dash, Director, National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR), the PF species of malaria is spreading wider due to migration of population from endemic to non-endemic areas and drug sensitivity studies from various states have observed that there is resistance to the drug chloroquine - which is being used as the first line of treatment for malaria cases. The last time the policy was revised was in 2003. Vaccine for malaria Two sites have been selected for trial of a vaccine against malaria. Epidemiological and immunological data will be collected from the sites selected in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh to test the vaccine. The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Delhi, has developed the vaccine and will be tested at these two sites, Director, National Institute of Malaria Research Dr A P Dash said.

For years, residents in Khadki have been facing severe shortage of water. And the situation shows no sign of improving. Civic activists say both the Pune Municipal Corporation and the Khadki Cantonment Board have been passing the buck while doing little to improve water scarcity situation. Compounding the citizens woes, the water being supplied to some inner areas of Khadki is allegedly contaminated. Yuvraj Jain, a resident of Juna bazaar, says people have been affected by jaundice due to contamination of water during the early showers last year. "We get water supply only for 15 minutes daily and then it stops. How are we supposed to store it for the entire day?' says Kulsumbi Maniyar, a resident of Khadki bazaar. The Ram mandir area, Mangalya Society, Gadi Adda, and Depotline are some of the areas affected by water shortage. Also, drinking water is getting mixed with drainage water. According to Santosh Gayakwad, junior engineer from Holkar Water Supply centre, Khadki, "Drinking water gets mixed with polluted water due to unauthorised pipelines drawn underground. This is done at night so that nobody notices it.' When contacted, a KCB official said water supply is not under the board's control. He however said water tankers are ensuring that residents get their daily quota. PMC deputy city engineer Anil Talathi declined to comment on the issue.

THE FACULTY AND STUDENTS OF MAHINDRA United World College of India have created a unique biodiversity park and reserve spread over 170 acres in Pune. Inaugurated on 9 February, the project aims to enhance the flora and fauna in the reserve on the Western Ghats, which itself is a global biodiversity hotspot. The second part of the project covers about 95 acres and consists of a conservation reserve. The forest department will add 80 acres of forest land to the reserve.

UPA's thrust on education is massive, says M.A.A. Fatmi The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government has laid thrust on education, M.A.A. Fatmi, Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development has said. Inaugurating the library block of H.M.S. Institute of Technology (HMSIT), near here on Saturday, Mr. Fatmi said the UPA Government would increase allocation to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan by Rs.10,000 crore and to the mid-day meal programme by Rs. 5,000 crore. He said while the percentage of school dropouts was brought down considerably at the primary level, it remained as high as 63 per cent at the secondary level. Mr. Fatmi regretted that only 9 per cent of those who finished secondary education, entered colleges. Less than 2 per cent got admission into professional courses. "We still need to set up lakhs of polytechnics and thousands of technological institutes,' he said. "We have permitted existing polytechnics to run courses day and night to cater to more aspirants.' Three new Indian Institutes of Technology in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar, and three new Indian Institutes of Science in Maharastra (Pune), Punjab, and West Bengal (Kolkata) were being set up, he said. Sixteen new universities were being formed. There would be at least one Central University in each State, he added. He promised to process the sanction of a new IIT for Karnataka and said: "I will see that it is located in Tumkur.' Mr. Fatmi asked students to give equal priority to sports and academics and said: "If you play well, you will be much inclined to read books.' "Acquisition of sportive spirit when you are young will enable you to become a good leader,' he said, inviting engineering graduates to enter the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies.

The general body meeting of Pune Municipal Corporation witnessed a row over the effluents and sewage water being released into the Mutha-Mula Rivers on a large-scale. However, Municipal Commissioner Praveensinh Pardeshi admitted that at present the PMC only has half the number of sewage treatment plants (STP) needed for the city. Mayor Rajlaxmi Bhosale even called for White Paper about the entire situation from the civic administration, to which the commissioner asked for a "minimum period' of one month. The debate started with the Shiv Sena leader Shyam Deshpande pointing out that the civic body is satisfied only with desilting the rivers and not actually keeping them clean in the real sense. "Desilting the rivers is fine, but what about the huge quantum of effluents being released into these rivers?' he asked. Corporator Anil Shirole said, "PMC received Rs 200 crore under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, some of which are being spent on the rivers. But what is the use of such huge funds, if unclean and sewage water is let out into the rivers.' Pardeshi said, "As against the need of the city, only half the number of STPs are functioning in the city. The total amount of sewage water generated in the city is 700 MLD, out of which only half is being treated and then released.' Corporator Vikas Mathkari asked the civic administration to carry out a probe into functioning of the agencies, who are given a contract of handling the STPs. Meanwhile, on Wednesday Shiv Sena corporator Sachin Bhagat had allegedly carried a pistol into the general body-meeting hall. NCP corporator Mohansingh Rajpal had raised questions about this during the same meeting. Thursday's meeting also witnessed some initial discussion on the same. While Congress corporator Aba Bagul objected to carrying weapons into the meeting hall, NCP corporator sought a metal detector at the entrance of the GB hall.

With mercury levels rising, Mayor Rajlaxmi Bhosale has agreed to convene a special general body meeting to discuss the issue of water scarcity with corporators representing scarcity-hit areas within the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) limits. Leader of House, Anil Bhosale pointed out the PMC's failure to stick to their commitment of resolving the issue water scarcity at a faster pace. "The problem is likely to aggravate this summer, and the issue needs to be tackled with proper planning,' Congress leader Ulhas Bagul said.

School children can now look forward to environmental education through eco friendly parks as the State Social Forestry Department is all set to revamp the 29 nurseries spread across all districts of the state to convert them into national green corps parks. "In 2001, the forest ministers of all states in the country met at Coimbatore where they resolved to spread environmental education by conducting orientation for students. This was under the scheme National Green Corps,' said Prakash Thosre, director, Social Forestry, Maharshtra.

The small car meets the aspirations of the consumer but may just compound the problems for the society he lives in. V.V. DESAI shows how.