Monday, October 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Border farmers badly hit by hike
Tribune News Service

RAJO KE (Ferozepore), Oct 1 — The Central Government’s decision to increase the rate of diesel by Rs 2.60 per litre has severely hit farmers, who have land close to the Indo-Pak border near here.

As most farmers in the area do not have electricity connections for irrigation of their lands across the security fencing raised to check infiltration, they largely rely on diesel engines to run tubewells.

The hike in prices have therefore evoked criticism in over 20 frontier villages. Mr Makhan Singh, the Sarpanch Rajo Ke Gatti village said the hike would squeeze poverty stricken farmers “most of whom are relying on lands leased out by the Irrigation Department for a living”, he said.

Condemning the hike, Mr Raj Singh of Kundar Gatti village said farmers having lands close to the zero line were entirely dependent on diesel engines in the absence of power connections. “Even though the farmers have applied for connections way back in the eighties those with land across the fence continue to rely on engines”, he said.

These villagers feel the hike will add to their current difficulties, like restriction on cultivation hours imposed by the BSF and threat to their crops from wild boars. “We are virtually caught between the enemy (Pakistan) and the “babus”, who do not realise our difficulties while effecting him in prices”, Puran Singh of Pakhra village remarked.

Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee secretary, Major Harminder Singh Bhullar, urged the state electricity board to provide power-connection to farmers of border villages on a priority basis.

Former member of the Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission, Mr Gurnaib Brar said spiralling diesel prices will further squeeze farmers, reeling under increased costs of production. Condemning the 110 per cent increase in diesel prices within a year, he said, “This will severely hit poor farmers of the border district”.

Sources in the PSEB attribute the reluctance in installation of power connections across the fencing to an unwillingness to risk their equipment for fear of war. The area witnessed two successive wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971.

However, PSEB Executive Engineer, Mr Manjeet Singh Rajput said the board had no difficulty in providing connections to these villages and the delay was of a technical nature. The connections shall be released turn by turn, he added.

MUKTSAR: Mr Gurdas Girdhar former President, DCC (I), today urged Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to break his party’s association with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to express the resentment of Punjabis over the hike in prices of diesel, petrol and LPG.

He said farmers were reeling under heavy debts due to a downturn in agriculture and the hike in prices would affect their economy further.

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