Tuesday, January 8, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Put off poll, say border residents
Varinder Walia and Gurbaxpuri
Tribune News Service

Indo-Pak Border (Amritsar), January 7
Panic-stricken residents of border areas who have moved to safer places due to the Army build-up have urged the Election Commission to postpone the Assembly elections scheduled for next month as it is difficult to hold free and fair elections in the prevailing situation.

Notwithstanding tall claims of the state government of making sufficient arrangements for the rehabilitation of the displaced persons, the district administration has failed to come up to the expectations of the affected people. They fear that the election process is likely to be hampered in a big way.

Leaders of opposition parties allege that the Deputy Commissioner who was reprimanded by the Chief Election Commission could not ensure free and fair elections. They said the Deputy Commissioner had become inaccessible.

Moreover, no contingency plan had been prepared to ensure the proper polling in the border area. Mr Amarbir Singh, SDM, Patti, said that he could not say whether the people of the affected border area would be able to cast their votes due to large-scale migration as it was prerogative of the Election Commission. He admitted that there was 90 per cent migration in at least 19 villages of Patti subdivision which are close to the zero line.

He said a special girdawari of such villages would begin in two days so that timely compensation could be given to the affected people.

As per the official figures, a list of which is available with The Tribune, there are many villages where more than 90 per cent exodus has been reported. These villages are Dall, Mastgarh and Mehandipur (more than 95 per cent migration). In Narli, Gillpan, Theh Kalan, Kalsian Khurd, Wann Tara Singh, Thathi Jaimal Singh, Rajoke, Kalia, Sankatra, Noorwala, Kalas and Machhike have witnessed more than 90 per cent migration. The villages which have witnessed more that 80 per cent migration include Khalra, Rajoke and Rattoke.

Meanwhile, residents of the border areas have started digging up trenches. Men of the forward areas, however, said that they had not got any assistance from the administration.

Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), who has undertaken the tour of affected areas, alleged that farmers were not being allowed to water their fields where mines were laid by the Army. He alleged ‘kupps’ (husk stacks) and fields of sugarcanes in certain border areas had been destroyed by the Army. Despite the tall claims of Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and Mr N.K. Arora, Chief Secretary, he said, the villagers were crying for help from the state.

He said the state government must prepare a permanent plan to cope with the border situation as the villagers had been migrating frequently due to fear of a war breaking out.

He also condemned the ban imposed on the movement of mediapersons in certain border areas, saying that in foreign countries, mediapersons had been reporting even from forward areas of war zones.

He alleged that he had not seen any rehabilitation camp in the villages of border areas which were visited by him.

Mr Surinder Singh Ghariala, chairman, Khalra Mission Committee, has urged the Chief Election Commission to postpone elections in the border belt as most of its residents had already moved to safer places. Mr Iqbal Singh of Kalah village said people wanted peace, not poll, in the prevailing situation.

Displaced persons who have taken refuge in Shiv Temple, Patti, while talking to TNS said that they would support any political party that rescued them in these days. Mr Raj Kumar, Mr Balkar Singh and Mr Mohan Singh, residents of Khemkaran who have been accommodated in this temple, however, said that they would vote and support those candidates who would provide proper facilities.

Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, Excise and Taxation Minister and son-in-law of the Chief Minister, claimed that the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal had been helping the displaced persons in every manner.

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