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Flag meet effect: J-K border farmers head back to fields
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria/TNS

Basmati harvest
After Tuesday’s flag meeting, the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers on Wednesday allowed farmers to harvest their paddy crop up to the Zero Line
The 10-day stand-off had hit the harvest of basmati crop on at least 7,000 hectares in the RS Pura and Bishnah areas
This border belt of Jammu district is known for its basmati rice

Jammu, October 30
The sector-level flag meeting between India and Pakistan yesterday promising peace along the International Border has gradually started bringing farmers from both sides back to their fields up to the Zero Line.

“After the flag meeting yesterday at the Octroi border outpost in the Suchetgarh area of the RS Pura sector, we today allowed farmers to go to their fields located between the fence and the Zero Line along the International Border to enable them to harvest their paddy crop,” said a senior BSF officer.

The Pakistan Rangers also allowed farmers on their side up to the Zero Line to harvest paddy crop. Paddy on the Pakistan side ripens earlier than the Indian paddy.

“There has been no fresh firing by Pakistan since the flag meeting,” a BSF officer from Octroi Post said.

Pishori Lal, a farmer of Chandu Chak in the RS Pura sector, said: “We are glad to have been saved from impending starvation. Had the skirmishes gone on for a few more days, things would have been really difficult for marginal farmers like us.”

Krishan Lal, a landless farmer of Garkhal village in the Akhnoor sector — the home constituency of state minister Sham Lal Sharma — said: “Landless farmers like me were caught in the crossfire.

We sow crop of others and get one-fourth share only after the harvest. Had this shelling gone on, my family would have died of starvation.” Lal has to feed a family of five. Garkhal village alone has 20 houses belonging to landless farmers comprising over 150 members. Omkar Chand (60), another landless farmer from the village, has six daughters, one of whom is scheduled to marry on November 9. “We have pinned all our hopes on our share of the harvest. We can now hope to harvest our crop and marry off our child.”

While harvesting has not gathered pace on the Indian side, especially in the RS Pura and Bishnah areas - known for world famous basmati rice - some farmers who had sown Sharbati variety of the rice have started harvesting the crop as it ripens early. The 10-day-long skirmishes had hit the harvesting of world famous basmati on at least 7,000 hectares along the Zero Line in the RS Pura and Bishnah areas of Jammu district. The basmati is grown on 45,000 hectares, mostly in the RS Pura and Bishnah areas.

Choudhary Dev Raj, president, RS Pura Basmati Rice Growers Association, said since the cost of sowing the basmati was high - Rs 3,200 per kanal - the 2-km zone between the Zero Line and the fence containing agricultural lands of Indian farmers be declared a danger zone.





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