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Farmers on Indo-Pak border want to mend fences

Barbed wire fencing was supposed to be erected at a distance from zero line

HARKIRAT SINGH

Amritsar

The barbed wire fence that came up along the 553-km Indo-Pakistan border primarily for checking infiltration of terrorists and flow of weapons and explosive material, was supposed to be erected at a distance of 50 to 100 metres from the zero line dividing the two countries but this rule seems to have been flouted along certain stretches of the border. It is error is quite visible near Ranian and Kakkar villages of Amritsar district where about 2,000 acres of fertile land came under the fence causing hardships to its owners who have to go through the routine procedure everyday of frisking by the Border Security Force (BSF) when they cross the fence (through gates) at day time to carry out farming activities and the exercise is repeated when they return before dusk. It is has limited the working hours of around 25-30 families who are owners of this chunk of land which is close to the Ravi river and disappears into Pakistan territory near Ranian village. The fence in this particular stretch is around 2.5 km from the border line against the distance that was official fixed by a committee.

Farmers Indo-Pak border fences

Kapur Committee

The distance of the fence from the zero line was fixed by a committee that was formulated for this purpose way back in 1986-87 when the fencing work commenced. The committee was headed by former Punjab Chief Secretary S. L. Kapur and it comprised senior officials of the Central government, the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), who monitored the fencing which was carried out by private contractors. Army officials were also consulted on the gigantic project executed for the security of the nation. While on major portions of the border stretch the 50-100-metre rule was followed, there were a few isolated stretches like the Ranian Kakkar areas where this was overlooked. It is occurred in the riverine belts of the Ravi and Sullej rivers (Ferozepur). None of the CPWD officers stationed in Amritsar presently or those of the BSF could provide any reasons for the contractors having flouted the distance rule. Their simple reply was on being contacted, “ We were not here when the fencing was being erected”. Even the current district officials refused to comment saying, “ We were not here then.” However, Border Area Kisan Sangarsh Committee president Rattan Singh Randhawa feels that the private contractors had deliberately done this as putting up the fence in the riverine belt of the Ravi would have involved higher costs and then there was the looming threat of the fence being washed away by the currents of the Ravi during the monsoons. “I think only a detailed inquiry will bring out the truth and will also uncover a lot of hidden facts, including under the table exchange of money between the contractors and officials. I do not blame the officers of today for this lapse,” said Randhawa, who has been fighting for the cause of the farmers whose land has been fenced and has demanded that the restrictions imposed, including limited working hours, should be relaxed as Punjab was no longer a turbulent state.

Farmers Indo-Pak border fences

Erection of a rear fence

Randhawa said that had the Kapur Committee rules been followed, the fence should have been erected across the Ravi (towards Pakistan) and not on this side of the river as is the case now. This would have provided hassle-free access to the owners of this land.A number of residents of Kakkar when contacted said that an additional 2,000 acres of agricultural land of 50- 60 families had been fenced

Farmers on Indo-Pak border want to mend fences first on Latest Punjab News, Breaking News Punjab, India News | .

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