Monday, September 3, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Refinery will be completed, assures Badal
Tribune News Service

Chhapar, Ludhiana, September 2
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said there was no proposal to close down the Bathinda oil refinery. Talking to reporters here today, he said he had got the issue clarified with the Centre and work on the refinery would not be abandoned.

Mr Badal pointed out that the Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone of the refinery and he had committed and it would be completed.

Mr Badal hinted that further projects may be slowed down for want of funds, but not the Bathinda refinery.


30,000 villagers face starvation
M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

Samba, September 2
Panic is writ large on the faces of people at Regaal village and its adjoining villages in this sector following step-up in Pakistani firing on the border villages along the 187-km international border from Akhnoor to Kathia.

“Our children crawl to schools to avoid getting hit by bullets,” said Tholu Ram of Regaal village. He said in the past Pakistan Rangers would resort to firing during the night but during the past three months “our houses have been hit by Pakistani bullets during the day also.”

A senior BSF officer said: “Usually the Pakistan Rangers would target BSF posts and positions but now they have been targeting villages.” He said at least three villagers had been killed and several injured in various border villages during the past three months.

During the ceasefire period, the Pakistani forces fired around 1,500 rounds. In August last, at about four lakh rounds were fired the BSF posts and villages, he said.

“We were forced to retaliate by firing over 1.5 lakh rounds,” he stated.

This had hit farming practices in scores of villages. According to the revenue authorities, more than 3.72 lakh acres of fertile land had been reduced to a vast barren belt.

As more than 30,000 villagers in the Samba, R.S. Pora, Hiranagar and Akhnoor sectors are on the verge of starvation, the Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Mr Anil Goswami, has sent a project to the Centre under which the state sought Rs 1870 crore as relief to the border villagers affected by Pakistan firing. “So far there has been no response from the Centre,” a senior Revenue officer said.

Tholu Ram said: “Our village will be the first to report starvation deaths. What ever foodgrain we had have been exhausted. We do not have a morsel to eat and our cattle continue to famish.”

Shano Devi said: “Traders have stopped giving foodgrain and other essential commodities to us on credit as they know that we cannot carry out any sowing.”

They said: “We remain indoors as death will be waiting for us if we go outside. As such, the question of carrying out farming practices does not arise.”

Government records reveal that more than 50,000 persons have been affected by the escalation in firing and shelling in the Akhnoor, Samba, Hiranagar and R.S. Pora areas. The worst hit is Pallanwala and its 24 adjoining villages from where villagers have migrated to safer places and are living in camps for the past over two years.

A BSF officer said: “We have assisted the villagers in some areas in carrying out sowing and harvesting but it has been a limited exercise as our boys have to remain vigilant in checking infiltration and arms smuggling from across the border”.

According to Gandharv Singh they have become labourers from landlords. “We, including our womenfolk, work as labourers”, he said, adding that, “since, our villagers are close to the zero line, we have not been working in the fields.”

A VDC member, Sham Lal, said: “I move about with my gun but my relatives and neighbours remain indoors all the time. We lie under the bed. We do not even stand in our rooms as we fear being hit by bullets.

“Our youths are jobless. There is no government job for them and even the educated ones work as labourers,” he said.

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