LoC (Pargwal), Dec 9: Displaced thrice by cross border firing and devastating floods that hit Jammu and Kashmir, border residents of Pargwal sector say their compensation claims are yet to be heard and they will vote for change this time.
Over 30 villages situated along the Indo-Pak border and banks of river Chenab in Pargwal sector of Chammb Assembly Constituency of Jammu district became the target of heavy Pakistani firing and shelling, forcing their displacement in August and October and subsequently due to floods in September.
Pargwal sector will go to polls in the last phase of elections in the state on December 20. The two major elections issues in Pargwal sector, which has a population of nearly 40,000, are cross border firing and floods apart from local development and employment issues. Singh feels a new government will address their problems.
"We want to vote for permanent ceasefire between India and Pakistan and no firing pact. Besides that we want a full fledged flood-channelling plan for river Chenab to save people of 30 hamlets from annual flooding", NS Pura's Simrano Devi, whose several acres of land with paddy was washed away in the September floods, said.
Like them, most of the people of flood-hit NS Pura, Brahmana-de-Kothe, Sajwal, Kulley Megha, Chib-de-Kothe, Gurha Manhasan, Danpur, Hamirpur Kona in Pargwal sector want to vote for a change.
Hamirpur was virtually cut off for a fortnight as a bridge was washed away due to floods in September. Only the Army came to their help and constructed an iron bridge on river Chenab connecting Hamirpur Kolia in Pargwal belt of Jammu district.
Over 400 families living in Hamirpur have been connected with the rest of the district. The worst floods in a century had submerged villages, ruined crops, destroyed hundreds of homes, washed away agriculture land, snapped communication and road links and left lakhs homeless, killing 250 people.
Even as the people come to terms with the devastation caused by the floods, they have to still live under the fear of cross border firing that had left many border residents injured.
"Security is our biggest requirement. How long will our homes be shelled and people killed and injured", says student Surinder Kumar. Batting strongly for a 'no firing' pact between India and Pak, Kumar, whose relative was killed in Pak firing here, said people are voting for a change and formation of the government which will ensure their security and bring peace to the area once and for all.
Like this border youth, 64-year old Neik Chand of Hamirpur said, "It is time to vote for security. What is the need for development, if we are devastated by firing year after year. We need plots for safe living. But previous governments promised but did little. Now it is vote for change".
Border villagers of Hamirpur Kona, Gajral, Nikkowal, Burj Channi, Nai Basti, Mala Bela, Mahent-De-Pattian, Nazwal, which faced burnt of Pakistan shelling, were evacuated from their homes and put up in camps at safer places.
Pargwal belt is part of Chhamb (SC) Assembly Constituency, where Deputy Chief Minister and three-time Congress MLA, Tara Chand is facing a tough battle to retain the seat.
As many as 10 candidates are in the fray including Bhajan Lal (NCP), Tara Chand (INC), Janak Raj (JKNPP), Shakti Bala (NC), Dr. Krishan Lal (BJP), Madan Lal (PDP), Manoj Kumar (BSP), Subash Chander (All J&K Kissan Mazdoor Party), Biru Mal (Ind) and Mohinder Lal (Ind).