Chandigarh, Oct 2 (IANS) The Union government on Sunday allowed the day time harvesting of paddy crop by farmers in border belt of Punjab, from where residents have been evacuated in wake of tensions between India and Pakistan.
The harvesting has been allowed for farmers living in villages of the districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Pathankot and Fazilka with immediate effect, a spokesman of the Punjab government said here on Sunday.
“The decision to allow farmers to visit their agricultural fields has come as a big relief as their paddy and basmati crops which are ready for harvest and the procurement operations have already been started in the state.
“They have also been allowed to go with their tractors and harvesting machines, wherever these are required. This applies to trans-international border fence fields also, for which instructions have already been issued to BSF,” the spokesman said.
Border villages within 10-km of the international border with Pakistan in Punjab have been evacuated following directions from the Punjab government and the Union Home Ministry.
But the spokesman also noted that “owing to the prevailing situation, the earlier orders for evacuation of entire civilian population from area falling within 10-km from international border are not being completely reversed as of now”.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had taken up the matter of the border farmers and their crops with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh so that necessary directions are issued to the Border Security Force (BSF), which mans the 553-km long international border in Punjab, and other security agencies to allow border area farmers to harvest their crop.
The paddy crop in the state is almost ready for harvest. Harvesting is to take place within the next 10 days.
Over 400,000 people in nearly 1,000 villages in Punjab’s border districts were on Thursday asked to evacuate in view of apprehension of retaliation from Pakistani side after Indian Army carried out surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC).
Many villagers in some districts refused to leave their homes saying that they need to tend to their crops, cattle and properties and would not leave. In some other villages, the men folk have stayed back for the same reason.
A number of farmers in the border belt have their agricultural land across the barbed wire fence, which was erected in the early 1990s, where they cultivate crops under vigil of the BSF.
The barbed wire fencing has been erected 500 metres to one km inside the Indian territory.
Badal, who toured border villages on Saturday and Sunday, said the state government has evacuated the population from border regions following an advisory of the central government.
“It was necessitated for avoiding any sort of major loss to life and property of people. In such situations, the enemy could make any move and could not be trusted. As border villages of Punjab are densely populated, it is necessary to evacuate the people for ensuring their safety,” Badal said.
Congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indian Army for conducting successful operation and destroying terror launch pads in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Badal said the Modi government gave an apt answer to the neighbouring nation for its sinister moves of supporting terror groups against India.