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Jubilant Patel leads
the celebrations

The state government, however, has
to ensure the rehabilitation of the
displaced, reports A Special Correspondent

Ahmedabad, October 19

Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel led the celebrations here that followed the Supreme Court verdict in favour of the Sardar Sarovar dam. The BJP government, under attack after the recent civic election debacle, finally had something to cheer about.

Patel was seen bursting crackers and distributing sweets in Gandhinagar yesterday. The celebrations spilled over to Thursday with the return of the team of officials and ministers who were camping in Delhi for the verdict. Said Narmada minister Jaynarayan Vyas, "It's clearly a Diwali gift for Gujarat by the Supreme Court."

There were reports of celebrations from various parts of the state, including the cities of Vadodara and Rajkot, and although the court has presently allowed construction of another five meters on the dam, the people see this as the removal of the legal hurdle which had dogged the project for four years.

Gujarat also has
to contend
with the indifference
of the Madhya Pradesh
towards the project

Children of government and private schools were invited to join the victory celebrations on Thursday which was observed as "Narmada Vijay Diwas". Congratulatory messages poured in from Governor Sundar Singh Bhandari and several Congress leaders as well. School children will be taking
out "prabhat pheris" on Friday as part of the celebrations.

The chief minister has announced that work on raising the height of the dam from the present 85 meters to 90 meters will commence in a week. The Supreme Court has said that it will review the environmental aspect after 90 meters are constructed before allowing further clearance to thedam, which has a stipulated height of 138 meters.

Amid the euphoria over clearance to the project, which is often referred to as the "lifeline of Gujarat", the state has to now look at the mounting problem of rehabilitation and resettlement. Of the 40,000 project-affected persons, only about 12,000 have been resettled. Most of those not yet settled are largely from Madhya Pradesh, where the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which is opposing the project, has strong roots.

Apart from the NBA, Gujarat also has to contend with the indifference of the Madhya Pradesh government towards the project. "Without the cooperation of Madhya Pradesh, we cannot rehabilitate the people from that state," says commissioner for rehabilitation Vinod Babbar.

While Chief Minister Digvijay Singh has clearly said that his government does not have land to resettle the oustees, Gujarat has offered an attractive package; five acres for each oustee. However, the NBA has said that the much-touted rehabilitation policy has remained only on paper and that most oustees are reluctant to leave their ancestral land.

Once the euphoria dies down, Gujarat has to contend with the seemingly insurmountable problem of persuading oustees because clearances for raising the height of the dam will be taken only after reviewing the rehabilitation after every five meters.

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