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December 3, 2001 - December 3, 2001

Sonia condoles Haroobhai's death Monday, December 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Sonia Gandhi has condoled the death of former MP and lawyer-activist Haroobhai Mehta, who died in a road accident on Saturday.

The AICC general secretary in charge of Gujarat, Kamal Nath, in a condolence message sent to Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC), said, "The Congress has lost a fearless advocate of communal harmony."

Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel described Haroobhai's untimely demise as a major loss to the Congress saying that the party would never be able to fill this void. Patel said, "He was a person who never shied from telling the bitter truth before his own partymen when it came to the welfare of the poor, and fought for them right from the High Court to the government,"

Former state chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki described Haroobhai as a man with a missionary zeal, who fought for the rights of the downtrodden.

GPCC president Amarsinh Chaudhary described him as a champion of human rights and added that he had not just lost a partyman but also a friend.

CLP leader Naresh Raval in his condolence message said that Haroobhai never bothered about any controversy and spoke without any discrimination between the government and the Opposition, be it for textile workers, slum dwellers or the Narmada oustees.

Leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Subodh Mehta, who was closely associated with Haroobhai, said that his death has created a void in the legal fraternity. President of Kamdar Swasthya Suraksha Mandal also condoled his death.

After the final respects paid to the departed soul at the GPCC headquarters, the body was taken to the V S Hospital crematorium - amid cries of "Shri Haroobhai Mehta amar raho" - and consigned to flames.

State energy minister Kaushik Patel, minister of state for revenue Haren Pandya, Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court D M Dharmadhikari and several other advocates also condoled the death of Haroobhai.
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News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Mayor's trip controversy an embarrassment for BJP Monday, December 3, 2001

VADODARA: The controversy over Mayor Bharatiben Vyas' trip to Germany to attend a conference on environment protection seems to be becoming a major cause of embarrassment for the city unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The issue was discussed on Friday night during the visit of state BJP vice-president Bhupendrasinh Solanki.

The issue had raked up a major controversy after swords were crossed between Vyas and Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) Standing Committee chairman Bharat Shah. While Shah defended the trip in public, he had expressed his reservations on the trip in the party circles saying that the mayor should avoid it, given VMC's bad financial condition.

In a sharp reaction, Vyas wrote a letter saying that the displeasure of some BJP leaders on her trip had insulted the chair of the mayor. In the same letter, she had stated that she would not join the trip due to this reason.

To avoid the controversy, several options including that of Vyas herself bearing the expenses if she wished to join the conference were being considered to avoid an embarrassment. Commenting on this, city BJP unit president Shabdasharan Brahmbhatt said that no decision in this regard has been taken at the party level.

"We feel the controversy has been raked up unnecessarily. At this stage we are busy with the visit of the chief minister on Sunday. Other things can wait," Brahmbhatt said.

Solanki is, however, learnt to have advised the party functionaries at the local level to avoid any such controversies. He is also learnt to have advised against the trip.

Vyas, on the other hand, refrained from commenting on the issue. "I have stopped discussing the issue and do not even think about it any more," was all she said.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Modi flays Cong bid to thwart unanimous selection Monday, December 3, 2001

VADODARA: Chief Minister Narendra Modi came down heavily on the Congress for its attempts to force polls in villages trying to have unanimously elected candidates to village panchayats. The city unit of the BJP, meanwhile, capitalised on Modi's visit by conducting a handsome rally in a show of strength.

Modi, who was in the city for the first time after taking over as CM, addressed a convention of district BJP unit workers at Tarsali. He used the opportunity to come down heavily on the Congress and hard sell the Samras concept of giving monetary incentive to village panchayats which selected unanimous representatives.

Modi said: "The Congress seems to be adopting a divide-and-rule policy in the villages for political gains. It is trying to force elections in villages which have decided to adopt the policy." He blamed Congress of adopting double standards over the issue. "In 1992, the Congress had come up with the idea of giving incentives to gram panchayats which had unanimously elected representatives. Now they seem to have forgotten it, and are bent on ensuring polls at any cost," Modi said.

He pointed out that election rivalries in villages were deep-rooted, and even lead unpleasant consequences. "This cannot be allowed to continue. Instead, villagers can strive for development by having unanimity," he said. Modi observed that it would be wrong to say that Samras was a BJP programme, and added: "The slogan was given by Vinoba Bhave, and Sarvoday leaders worked for it."

The chief minister said he was not averse to the idea of Congress representatives being selected unanimously to village panchayats. "Let anybody get elected unanimously, but at least do it," he said.

Meanwhile, city unit workers of BJP took out a rally through the city with Modi greeting the citizens. The CM moved with the rally from the airport to Tarsali village. Representatives of various areas greeted him on route to the venue for the party convention. The CM also kicked off the state-wide Intensive Pulse Polio Vaccination drive by administering the vaccine to a child in a school in the Gita Mandir area of the city.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Govt. to give cash compensation to Narmada oustees Monday, December 3, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat government is determined to go ahead with the idea of giving cash compensation to Madhya Pradesh oustee families to be submerged because of the Narmada dam.

"If necessary, we will amend Clause 11 of the Narmada Water Distribution Award, which specifically refers to the oustees resettlement issues by introducing cash compensation as an option, proposed by Madhya Pradesh at the last Narmada Control Authority meeting", said a senior bureaucrat. "We are ready for an early meeting to finalise the issue. We are just waiting for a positive signal from Madhya Pradesh."

Officials are working overnight for making the issue of cash compensation a reality. While one option being suggested is to give outright cash compensation at market price for the oustees unwilling to buy land, the other one is to give a 50 per cent of cash compensation as advance to allow them to negotiate for buying land at a chosen site, with the rest being paid after the final purchase papers are submitted. "We are in a hurry. We want to take the dam height to 100 metres at the earliest by finalising an attractive compensation package for Madhya Pradesh oustees. We badly need Narmada waters", the bureaucrat said.

Officials are of the view that there is "no legal hurdle" in amending the award, as suggested by certain pro-dam forces. Only, the four states have to agree to make necessary change in the award for giving cash compensation against the land being lost by Madhya Pradesh oustees. Already, the state has declared its willingness to set aside Rs 239 crore to be given to Madhya Pradesh to suitably compensate the oustees.

"One must understand Madhya Pradesh plight", said an official. "It is in a deep financial crisis. It can't even pay salaries to government employees." Officials do not rule out that the state might have to pay more, at a time when it is losing Rs 600 crore as annual interest on debts for the Narmada project.

Meanwhile, top Gujarat researchers on dam resettlement issues say, it is "next to impossible to lure the Madhya Pradesh oustees to come all the way 200 to 300 kilometres away to Gujarat to take the land here at a time when they are losing only a portion of their lands." Says Gujarat Institute of Development Research director Sudarshan Iyengar, "The land the Madhya Pradesh farmers are cultivating in the Nimad area is extremely fertile. Even if they lose a part of it in submergence, they would not like to leave what they have to reach out a place they just do not know".

Emphasises Prof Iyengar, who has been studying Madhya Pradesh oustees' problems for the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam, "The non-tribal farmers of Madhya Pradesh, especially of Badwani with whom I have interacted, feel they could well be compensated with cash for the land they might lose. The only thing one must ensure is, the farmers get a market rate, apart from the solacium stipulated in the Narmada tribunal award. At a time when the neighbouring state cannot give land against land when the farmers do not want to leave whatever land they are able to save after submergence, there is nothing wrong if cash is provided."

Says Prof Iyengar, "The Narmada tribunal award makes it very clear that it is the primary duty of Gujarat to take special care for the resettlement of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra oustees. Afterall, the dam is being built in Gujarat, while it is the oustees of the two neighbouring states who are suffering the most." Suggesting that the cash compensation issue can be settled even by issuing a government resolution, he underlines, "The operating principle should be that the affected families feel they are getting anything less than what is offered. It is Gujarat's duty to ensure that the oustees are able to retain their standard of living."

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Railway police look for shelter over their heads Monday, December 3, 2001

NADIAD: The Nadiad railway station is the chief junction on the Ahmedabad-Vadodara route of the Western Railway. The Railway Police personnel here have since long been facing an acute problem of accommodation.

For a total of 75 railway constables, there are only 11 quarters at the local railway station premises. Due to this acute shortage, the policemen have had to keep put their kit-boxes on the railway station just near the police station. The railway police authorities' repeated pleas to railway authorities for allotment of land for construction of police quarters has not met with a favourable response.

At the Mehmedabad railway station _ the next halt after Nadiad _ policemen stay in tents pitched up on the railway platform. There is not even a proper railway 'chowky'.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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