Friday, November 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Farmers charged for power never used
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi

Indo-Pak Border (Amritsar), October 31
The misery of border farmers can be adjudged from the fact that they are receiving electricity bills for their tubewells and agricultural land which remained inaccessible to them for the past 10 months due to laying of mines by the Army.

The farmers, whose land and farmhouses are still inaccessible even after the announcement of withdrawal of troops from the international border, will observe ‘black divali’ this time.

However, they got yet another jolt when they received electricity bills for the tubewells and houses which they had not used due to fear of mines. The non-payment of compensation for the land across the border fencing added to their woes.

Mr Baghel Singh, a resident of Rajatal, a few kilometres from the zero line, showed the electricity bills which he received today. He said farmers were already under a heavy debt and the marginal farmers of the border belt were literally living a life of penury as they were left with no source of income to feed their families. They had to sell their cattle-heads, tractors and other valuables to meet their daily needs, he added.

It may be mentioned here that there are at least 474 tubewells in the border area and these can not be operated as they are surrounded by mine fields. As many as 69 tubewells could not be operated since the Army build up. However, Mr C.J. Rai, Chief Engineer (border zone), said the PSEB would definitely reconsider the bills of those farmers who were unable to pay these due to poor financial condition. “I know that there are some farmers who could not run their tubewells due to mining of their fields”, he said.

A casual visit to the border belt revealed that a large acreage under wheat crop stood totally destroyed and it would be difficult to reclaim it for a long period even after the demining operation. Moreover, the residents of the border belt did not rule out the possibility of a large number of casualties during the demining process.

The residents of Mahawa village, where 18 persons, including Army jawans, were killed due to mine blasts, said the memory of those killed still launted them. The mother of daily wage worker Sahib Singh (19), who died in a mine blast, said the government had failed to fulfil its promise of giving a job to one of the family members. She said her all family members continued to earn livelihood working as daily wage workers.

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