The hysteria surrounding a possible India-Pakistan military face-off may have a devastating impact on the farmers living in the border villages of Punjab. As farmers plight living along the border becomes fodder canon for opposition parties in election bound Punjab, the present government is trying to fight it off by promising protection and support to the farmers along the line of control to harvest their crops.
The Union government and Punjab government were facing flak from within its ranks as well as outside for ordering evacuation of the people along the Line of Control (LoC) on India-Pakistan border, as this action that would cause farmers to lose their paddy harvest.
Realizing the growing alienation with the people from border areas,
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said, “The crops are as dear to the farmers as their children and they could not bear this loss at any cost.” He further said that despite the ongoing tension at the Indo-Pak border, the farmers in the state’s border-belt with Pakistan would be allowed to harvest their produce at “any cost”.
It remains to be seen how the present gable pays off, if the farmers are able to redeem their crops, it will be a great victory for the present government. But if the farmers fail to reap their harvest, it will go against the ruling government. In such a scenario the farmers need to be given 100 per cent compensation by the Punjab government. It is not only the farmer who will suffer. There are also people in the villages who carry out non-agricultural works who would also be hit economically. They also expect assistance from the government to help them lead a decent life.
The farmers from villages near LOC are keeping their fingers crossed on the possibility of the loss of their paddy crop. Eminent agriculture economist at Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) at Chandigarh Dr RS Ghuman says that the finest variety of paddy is grown in the villages along the border and if farmers fail to harvest their crops they need to be compensated by the government.
People living along the Line of Control (LoC) on India-Pakistan border become the first causality whenever there is tension between the two countries. Punjab was put on maximum alert after Indian army conducted surgical strikes on terror launch pads along Line of Control (LoC) on September 29, resulting in significant casualties on the Pakistani side. Villagers close to the border with Pakistan in Punjab have been told to move to safer locations to avoid retaliatory firing by Pakistan Army.
Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh spoke to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal over the telephone to request him to immediately start the process of evacuation of the people residing in the villages falling within ten kilometres of the International border in view of the escalating situation after the surgical strikes.
Harcharan Bains, the advisor to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, said, “Punjab is in a state of maximum alert. Appropriate steps have been taken to ensure the safety of people in the border areas with Pakistan.” The Punjab government has ordered the evacuation of villages in a 10-km belt along the border with Pakistan following the surgical strikes by the Indian Army across the Line of Control.
Local authorities used loudspeakers of Gurdwaras to announce that the people should move to safer zones and leave their homes till the situation on the border comes normal. Punjab shares a 553-km border with Pakistan. All schools and other institutions in the border belt have been ordered shut. All leave of Punjab Police and medical personnel in the border areas has been cancelled.
Nearly 1,000 villages in border districts of Punjab are being evacuated partially or fully. Punjab’s border districts include Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Faridkot, Abohar and Fazilka. Informed sources said that the Border Security Force (BSF) was mobilizing its troops and strengthening the security along the border.
As many as 60 villages in Fazilka, 300 in Ferozepur, 135 in Taran Taran, 137 in Amritsar, 290 villages in Gurdaspur and 65 villages in Pathankot have been affected due to the evacuation exercise. People have mainly moved to their relatives and friends apart from the evacuation camps set up in schools, community centres, marriage palaces and other premises.
According to the officials sources, the BSF has cancelled the Retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border joint check-post (JCP) at Attari, 30 km from Amritsar. The BSF and district authorities have asked visitors and tourists not to move towards Attari for the ceremony. It is not clear when the ceremony will resume.
Amritsar DC Varun Roojam conducted a meeting to discuss further plan of action following orders of the evacuation within a 10 km radius from the IB. Messages have been conveyed to village Sarpanches and local officers to look after evacuation process and shifting the affected people to safer zones.
In Pathankot, transportation was arranged by government agencies to complete scheduled evacuation in border villages in time. The evacuated people have been lodged at Gurdwaras and banquet halls.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has directed the chief secretary and director general of police to ask the deputy commissioners (DCs) and senior superintendents of police (SSPs) to oversee the entire evacuation process in the six border districts of Ferozepur, Fazilka, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Pathankot.
Residents near the border have been asked to switch off lights at night. Farmers whose agriculture land is beyond the fencing wire were ordered not to visit their fields. Panic gripped the residents of villages in many border districts of Punjab, while a high alert was sounded in Rajasthan and Gujarat. In Rajasthan, four districts — Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Barmer and Sriganganagar — share over a 1,000 km-long border with Pakistan, while Gujarat shares a land and sea boundary with it.
Inhabitants of border villages in Amritsar district — Rasoolpur, Bhania, Doekey, Bheropal, Hardo Rattan, Dhariwal Udhar, Dhaoney, Rajatal, Mahawa, Bachiwnd, Shahura, Kiralgarh, Chak Allahbaksh, Kakar Rania, Ajnala, Ramdas — have been evacuated.
A similar situation prevailed in the border villages of Patti, Khemkaran, Gazal, Khalra, Nausher Dhalla, Mehndipur, Ratokey, Chhina, Muthiawall in Amritsar’s adjoining Tarn Taran district.
The emergency wing at the Pathankot civil hospital has been vacated. Patients undergoing treatment there have been shifted to other wards. “Eight beds will remain vacant for any war-like emergency,” Pathankot’s Senior Medical Officer Dr Bhupinder Singh said.
Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee President Avtar Singh Makkar directed the heads of all the gurdwaras in villages to accommodate people leaving their homes. People in Naushehra Dhalla village in Amritsar, which is very close to the international border, said they are unhappy about being displaced again. They said the village faced tough times in the 1965 and 1971 wars.
“Human beings can be moved, but what about our crops and animals,” asked Angrez Singh.
People in villages in Ferozepur district close to the border were evacuated. Schools within a 10 km radius of the border were shut down for an indefinite period. The Ferozepur district administration is working on contingency plans to set up relief camps in schools and community centres. The health department has been directed to keep adequate stock of medicines and emergency drugs.
“We are in a state of panic and are scared,” Kulwant Singh, a resident of Kamalewala village, said, adding that following the announcement of an evacuation he packed his baggage and left home.
Jaspal Singh, a youth from village Hastewala, who along with his wife and two children left the village, said he is scared to go back to his village and will stay with relatives in Ferozepur city.
After getting orders about the evacuation of residents from all the 32 villages that fall under the Dera Baba Nanak sector, Batala Senior Superintendent of Police Daljinder Singh dispatched police parties for smooth evacuation. Farmers whose agriculture land was beyond the fencing wire were ordered not to visit their fields.
Residents in places near the border have been asked to switch off lights at night. The authorities also made arrangements to disconnect power supply to the border villages at night.
In Punjab, inspector generals of police, district collectors and superintendents of police have been asked to take stock of the situation on regular basis.
The state Anti Terrorist Squad and Quick Response Teams along with the Punjab police have been put on high alert. Special security arrangements are being made to protect vital installations in the state along the border districts.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has put the entire government and political machinery in an emergency mode following developments on the Indo-Pak border.
There is no doubt that the Punjab border has been quite peaceful in the recent past but the border with Jammu and Kashmir has been quite volatile since surgical strikes. Army spokesperson Lt Col Manish Mehta said, “We are giving a fitting response to Pakistan. Will hit them where it hurts the most. It is very unprofessional act of the Pakistan army to target our residential areas in border areas in Jammu and Kashmir,”
In the repeated shellings – which sometimes took place even thrice a day — 22 civilians have been injured. The villages in the targeted areas have been evacuated. In last two weeks, eight soldiers have been killed in Pakistani firing. Eight civilians were killed in firing by Pakistan across the International Border and Line of Control last week.
Since India’s surgical strikes on staging areas for terrorists in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on September 29, Pakistan has violated the ceasefire more than 60 times firing at Indian military posts and villages. Indian forces have said they have responded to the firing with appropriate force killing dozens of Pakistani troops.
India summoned the Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan, Syed Haider Shah, to register protest over the recent escalation in ceasefire violations by Pakistan at the Line of Control and the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir.
Looking at the present scenario, the peace along the Indian Pakistan border seems to be a distant dream. Realizing the complication of the situation the Punjab Chief Minister has granted Rupees One Crore to all border districts’ deputy commissioners (DCs) of six border districts to meet out any exigency arising out of prevailing situation. This order has not gone well with the opposition parties as they think that this is an alibi to distribute money among the poor people just before the election to create a vote-bank of the people who have been evacuated from border areas in Punjab.
The opposition parties are blaming the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal- Bharatiya Janata Party alliance for creating war hysteria to divert the attention from lack of performance and bad governance. Most of the politicians have suspicion that this could be an attempt to make the India-Pakistan tensions an issue in the upcoming Assembly elections Punjab and divert attention from the disaffection against the Akali-BJP government in the state.
21 Jan 2018
22 Jan 2018