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Gujarat Minister tenders apology to public for hardships during rally
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Gujarat Minister tenders apology to public for hardships during rally

GANDHINAGAR, NOV 1: Gujaratís Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya has tendered an unconditional public apology for the hardships that people were put to during the inauguration of the re-launch of construction on the Sardar Sarovar project at the Kevadia dam site on Tuesday, even as he and his senior ministerial colleague Ashok Bhatt see the ``hidden hand'' of the Narmada Bachao Andolan behind the chaos.

``I tender a public apology on behalf of the administration, for the hardships the surging crowds were put to while heading towards the dam site yesterday, and I assure the people of the state that due care will be taken to prevent such an incident from occuring in the future'', Pandya told mediapersons here on Wednesday.

Though both Pandya and Bhatt expressed identical views claiming that the NBA's ``hidden hand'' behind the mob violence cannot be ruled out immediately after the inaugural re-launch of the dam construction, they offered conflicting views on the total collapse of the administrative machinery, which triggered violence near Garudeshwar, a few kilometres from the dam site. Pandya, however, hastened to add that ``the government has not received any concrete evidence of the NBA's involvement in the violence yet''.

While the Home Minister conceded that there was a total breakdown of the adminsitrative machinery, Health Minister and event in-charge Ashok Bhatt said ``Such a historic event could not have been possible without the help of the state's administrative apparatus that worked with team spirit to make the programme a grand success''.

Replying to a question, Pandya admitted that several factors, including the absence of food and drinking water and sanitation facilities, were responsible for the chaotic and violent scenes near Kevadia. Besides, the unprecedented flow of vehicles (around 3,700 ST buses, 500 private luxury buses, 400 VIP cars and about 3,000 other private vehicles) and people had caused a traffic jam on different routes leading to the dam site.

The minister said five companies of SRP, 1,200 constables, 80 PSIs and 20 PIs, besides the DGP and IGP, were deployed as a part of the elaborate security arrangements in the area. The official cars of five ministers -- Bipin Shah, Mulu Bera, Gabhaji Thakore, Parmanand Khattar and Ramanlal Vora -- were torched by the violent mobs, while at least 10 other government vehicles were badly damaged. Deputy Minister Bipin Shah had to get stitches on the chin when a stone hit him during the violence.

Meanwhile, minister of state Mulu Bera has sought to blame the police forthe Kevadia chaos, saying, ``Had there been adequate police force, the incident would not have occurred and the ministers' cars had not been torched by the unruly mobs''. He said those in charge of the arrangements had failed miserably in anticipating the trouble.

Narrating his encounter with the mob's fury, the minister said, ``I was literally pulled out of my official car by a group of about 15 people who then deflated the tyres of the vehicle. Sensing trouble, I fled the scene and boarded the car of the Narmada Nigam a few yards away. I advised my security guard and driver to take some other vehicle and follow me, leaving behind my car which was later set on fire by the violent mob''.

Bera said he could reach Vadodara in the evening with great difficulty, overcoming the traffic jam on the entire route. It was at late night onTuesday that he could reach Gandhinagar, the minister said.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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