Punjab border farmers complain of official neglect

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Noshehra Dhalla (Indo-Pak Border), Aug.9 (ANI): India and Pakistan has a long stretch of border where a barbed wire works as a fence to prevent any militant from sneaking in. But the same wire is also a major roadblock for Punjabi farmers who want to tend to their own land.

Resident farmers living in the few villages, situated just a few metres from the barbed fencing in the Attari and Ajnala sector, today rue the fact that the Punjab Government has not taken their livelihood concerns into consideration.

These farmers are now unable to cultivate their land which is spread beyond fencing.

These farmers can cultivate their land but only with the permission of Border Security Force (BSF) and the other state department officials.

The villages namely Noshehra Dhalla, Bidhi Chand Chhina and Haveliayan, Kakkar have more than 1500 acres of land beyond the fencing. But the non-issuance of tubewell connections by the electricity board prevents the farmers from cultivating their land, say border farmers.

Farmers like Harbhajan Singh, who has 10 acres of land beyond fencing, allege that some of them have already deposited the fee while others are ready to deposit it. But the department has not provided them with the connections.

He adds that they are not allowed free access to their land and there are only select entry points. Some farmers have to cover a distance of two to three kilometres to reach their fields.

Besides, farmers say that it felt like a double set back to them when the government stopped paying them rupees 2,500 as compensation money that was paid 10 years ago the last time.

Farmers say they are not even allowed to grow crops and have to depend on traditional crops, wheat and paddy.

Kuldeep Singh, who owns nearly 30 acres of land beyond the fencing, says he harvested sesame for 20 years. Now, he says the security personnel are not allowing him to harvest the crop.

He contends that the sesame crop can be cultivated even when there is a shortage of water.

The farmers have urged the government to either acquire their land across the barbed fencing or take their land on contract. The farmers today fear low produce due less electricity supply and a delayed monsoon.

Perturbed by the erratic electricity supply, Kehar Singh, the village head of Noshehra Dhalla, pointed out that farmers who are keen to take labourers for cultivation, also face harassment. A major portion of the land across the fencing is not utilized due many hurdles including the non-friendly attitude of the electricity department.

But State electricity officials deny having wronged the farmers.

Rajiv Kumar, Chief Engineer, Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), Border Zone, said that those who had applied before 1990 were given the connections and none of the applications was pending in the border areas.

Kumar said that normally throughout the year the PSEB supplies electricity either between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 10a.m. to 5 a. m. according the availability of the electricity.

Kumar informed that in the coming five years, the PSEB would provide a transformer to each tubewell.

He, however, assured that if he received the representation from the farmers he would try to rectify their problems in a better manner.

India had fenced the Punjab frontier in the early 1990s by erecting barbed wire along the Indio-Pak international border to keep terrorists and smugglers at bay.

The 553-kilometres-long international border between India and Pakistan, which has 300 gates along the electrified barbed wire fencing in Punjab, also involves thousands of acres of land of the Indian farmers. By Ravinder Singh Robin (ANI)

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