Thursday, June 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Bridge on river Ravi, oh no!
From Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

SHEHZADA (Indo-Pak border), June 14 — Farmers of various villages along the Indo-Pakistan border have to carry tractors on large boats to cultivate their fields across the Ravi. The government has failed to construct a bridge even after 53 years of Independence.

The plight of farmers of this region gives an impression that they are still living in the medieval period. The farmers have to wait for hours for their turn to load the boats. The condition of some of the boats is miserable which could lead to a mishap anytime.

Farmers here witnessed the biggest ever holocaust of the subcontinent at the time of Partition, apart from suffering during the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971. They had to go to safer places at the time of the Kargil conflict. However, the state and central governments hardly come to the rescue of the residents of villages doting the Indo-Pak border. During terrorism, residents here suffered at the hands of terrorists and the police as well. What is worse, they suffer colossal damage in case of floods. The farmers of the area complain that many of them have not received any compensation for the construction of bunkers by the Army on their land.

Hundreds of acres of land across the Ravi gets eroded at the time of floods. Apart from this, the farmers of border areas who have agricultural land across the Indo-Pak fencing are virtually at the mercy of the Border Security Force. They open gates at their will. The farm labour charge much more for working in fields across the fencing. The farmers get limited time to cultivate their land. Most of the time the produce gets damaged due to several reasons. There is hardly any arrangement for power supply across the Ravi and the Indo-Pak fencing. Many farmers who live along the dhussi bundh allege they have not received any compensation even after 12 years of floods which had done colossal damage to their standing crops.

Farmers allege they have been going from pillar to post to get compensation in vain.

Mr Khajan Singh, a resident of Musa village, alleged the large boat in which they carry their tractor across the Ravi was in a terrible condition. A mishap can occur any time with the result that tractors which most of the farmers have got on loan may be sunk. Mr Pritam Singh, who has 20 acres of land across the Indo-Pak fencing, alleged three acres of his land was acquired for constructing the dhussi bundh near Shehzada village. However, he has not got any compensation for this so far. Apart from this, 50 acres of Shehzada village was acquired for constructing bunkers along the bundh. However, no compensation has been given to the farmers so far.

On the other hand, Army had constructed a “ring” across the Ravi for defence purpose. However, no compensation had been given for the 17 acres of land used for the “ring” even after a lapse of 30 years. Mr Bachan Singh, another farmer, said he had 70 acres of land across the Ravi. He was leading a hand-to-mouth existence as he gets minimum produce from the land. Mr Khajan Singh said out of a total of eight acres which he has six acres was eroded by the river.

Mr Mohinder Singh, Nambardar, Ghonewal village, said more than 1,000 acres of village land was across the Ravi. The villagers are always at the mercy of the rain god. In case of floods, most of the villagers are unable to cook food for days together.

The condition of government schools is even worse. There are a number of vacancies in schools of the border belt. The teachers who fail to get themselves transferred to urban areas hardly go to schools with the result that children’s education suffers the most.

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