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Wednesday, May 30, 2001

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Defence Ministry refutes Gehlot's charges

JAIPUR, MAY 29. Last week's fire in the Wardhwal ammunition sub- depot in Rajasthan has sparked off a controversy with the State Government accusing the Defence Ministry of keeping it in the dark about the blaze and the latter denying it.

The State Chief Minister, Mr. Gehlot, in a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, said the Ministry and local Army authorities had not informed his Government about the blaze. The findings of a probe into last year's fire in an ordnance depot in Bharatpur had also not been revealed, he added.

Mr. Gehlot charged the Ministry with not providing adequate compensation to the affected people because of which the State had to bear the burden. The letter, a copy of which was sent the Defence Minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, was written on May 24, when the fire broke out in the sub-depot.

Mr. Singh, in his reply on May 26, said, ``the brigadier (administration) of the corps had informed the district magistrate of Hanumangarh about the fire within 45 minutes of the incident. Within the next hour, the brigadier also conveyed the information to the district magistrate of Bikaner and administrative officials of Suratgarh.

In fact, officers of the State Government, particularly, the Principal Secretary, Home, were regularly in touch with the Ministry of Defence in this regard.''

- UNI

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