Amritsar: Tilling land beyond border fence, farmers feel ignored : The Tribune India

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Amritsar: Tilling land beyond border fence, farmers feel ignored

Say no candidate takes up their concerns I 3,801 acres of such fields in Amritsar district alone

Amritsar: Tilling land beyond border fence, farmers feel ignored

A BSF official follows a farmer tilling his land beyond the Pakistan border fencing in Amritsar. file



Tribune News Service

Manmeet Singh Gill

Amritsar, May 21

Hundreds of farmers tilling agricultural land across the border fence alongside the International Border with Pakistan feel that they do not even find mention in the long list of promises being made by politicians during their election campaign.

Geographically located between the barbed fence and the Zero Line, the owners of these fields have to face tiring security checks by BSF, restrictions on working hours, damage to crop by wild animals from Pakistan side, restrictions on cultivating crop higher than four feet and other hiccups.

Well aware that politicians can promise anything and everything to win an election, the farmers still feel that the promises would help them highlight their cause.

In news reports too, the farmers are often reported as visiting officials or staging a dharna to get the money released.

In Amritsar district, as much as 3,801 acre agricultural land is sandwiched between the barbed fence and the Zero Line – the actual border with Pakistan. Though farmers were able to get a compensation of Rs 10,000 per acre after intervention of the courts, the money seldom reaches them in time.

A total of 21,600 acre land in 220 villages of six districts — Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Ferozepur and Fazilka — was left on the Pakistan side after government installed barbed fence during days of Sikh insurgency in late 1980s.

Arjan Singh of Hoshiarnagar said, “Usually farmers are allowed to work in their fields from 10am to 4pm on working days. But sometimes, the time is wasted in additional security checks or due to foggy conditions in winters when farmers are allowed to work for even less hours.” He added that even labour is not ready to work in fields beyond the fence as they can earn more by working for longer duration on this side.

Even the machinery which farmers require is screened minutely which means they have to spend more time at security gates.

Another farmer, Ranjit Singh, of Bhangala village in Tarn Taran said, “Of the total 13 acres I till, eight acres are on other side of the fence. However, the yield of crop from five acres on this side is more than the eight which are across fence.” He added that getting tube-well connection or making other improvements in land across the fence is an impossible task due to requirement of various permissions.

When asked about the reason why the problem of these farmers have not been acknowledged by politicians so far, Rattan Singh Randhawa of Border Area Sangarsh Committee said, “Recently in city, the residents of posh localities where land costs Rs 10 lakh per marla, had staged protest to highlight lack of basic amenities. If politicians are not serious about those rich people, then why would they be bothered about poor farmers who practically own nothing on this side of the border fence?”

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