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Punjab not to spare police forces for Gujarat

CHANDIGARH MAY 9. The Punjab Government today expressed its inability to spare its police personnel for deployment in violence-torn Gujarat, citing "non-availability" of reserve forces. While not many officers were willing to comment on the decision, it is said to have been taken after a "review of ground realities,'' especially in the wake of some recent incidents of law and order in the State.

According to an official statement from Delhi, the Punjab Government admitted that the Security Adviser to the Gujarat Chief Minister, K.P.S. Gill, had contacted the Punjab Home Secretary, S. K. Sinha, and requested him to spare some companies of the Punjab police for deployment in Gujarat. (The Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, and at least half a dozen Ministers and senior officers are currently camping in the capital to attend meetings on investment and the State's fiscal situation).

The Punjab Government, however, felt its police forces were permanently committed within the State, especially on its borders with Jammu and Kashmir. After reviewing their position and the State's requirements, the Home Department said it could not accede to Mr. Gill's request. "Therefore, Capt. Singh regretfully decided that no police force could be spared,'' the statement said.

Earlier reports had indicated that the Punjab Government had accepted Mr. Gill's "personal'' request for a full battalion of Punjab police commandos. But when the State Government said it could spare only one battalion of "ordinary'' personnel, Mr. Gill was reluctant to accept the offer, sources said.

Top-ranking officers of the State police were opposed to the deployment of Punjab commando units in Gujarat, as they feared an escalation in the militant activities of Kashmiri terrorists, who a few months ago, struck near the border of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu, the sources added. The decision of the Punjab Government has given rise to speculation. Though insiders concede that it could have been prompted by political considerations, a section of the bureaucracy has said that Mr. Gill over-stepped his brief by making the request, which should have been routed through the Union Home Ministry. It has also pointed to reports of discontent among the ranks of the Gujarat police over Mr. Gill's request.

There are others who feel the Government gave in to pressure from various quarters, which opposed the deployment of the Punjab police personnel in Gujarat.

Gujarat issue rocks LS

Javed M. Ansari reports from New Delhi:

The Gujarat issue once again rocked the Lok Sabha with agitated Opposition members accusing the State Government of ordering the closure of relief camps in the State. The Treasury benches countered the charge and the House was adjourned for two hours.

The issue was raised during zero hour by Madhusudhan Mistry of the Congress who kept waving a copy of the written order asking for the closure of relief camps in Dharod district.

Mr. Mistry came down heavily on the Union Home Minister, L. K. Advani, for claiming in the House that the relief camps would continue to function. Trying hard to make himself heard over the noise created by the BJP members, Mr. Mistry said he had a copy of the written order served by the District Magistrate, Dharod.

Mr. Mistry alleged that the Gujarat Government was not only refusing to help the inmates of the relief camps but was also making things difficult for the camps to continue. "The Government is forcing people to leave the camps, the Chief Minister has no right to continue and must resign.''

He was joined by his party MPs and colleagues from the Left parties, the RJD and the SP, which alleged that the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, was putting thousands of camp inmates to enormous hardship in this scorching heat. The members later entered the well of the House and raised the slogan "Modi hatao, desh bachao''(Remove Modi, save the country).

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