Punjab border schools reopen; no word on evacuated villages yet

Chandigarh, Oct 5 (IANS) Schools in border areas of Punjab reopened on Wednesday — although with less than 50 per cent attendance, officials said.

Reports from schools in the six border districts of Amritsar, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Ferozepur, Tarn Taran and Fazilka said that only 35-45 per cent students attended the schools on Wednesday.

The main reason for this was that the Punjab government, which ordered the reopening of the schools, has still not said anything about the villages within 10 km of the International Border with Pakistan that were ordered to be evacuated on September 29.

“Children studying in schools have left the villages with their families and moved to safer locations. How can they be expected to attend classes? Only children from families which have not moved out or are living nearby came to attend classes today,” a teacher in Attari village in Amritsar said.

Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh on Wednesday asked Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to explain why the residents of the border areas could not stay in their homes when schools were being reopened there.

“What is the point in opening the schools when you are forcing people to evacuate (their homes)? You are clearly losing it,” Amarinder said in a statement here.

He said that “the state government’s decision to open the schools in the border areas clearly vindicated the Congress’ stand that the Akali-BJP government was just whipping up war hysteria in the border areas for its political ends”.

“Who will go to the schools when there is nobody staying in those areas. In fact, neither schools should have been closed nor evacuations carried out in the first instance,” he said.

The Punjab government had on Tuesday ordered that schools in the border belt of the state should be reopened from Wednesday.

“All schools in border belt will open from tomorrow (Wednesday). These had been closed due to security reasons,” Education Minister Daljit Singh Cheema said on Tuesday.

The schools, which were situated within 10 km of the international border with Pakistan, had been ordered closed on Thursday last week following the Indian Army’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) to destroy terrorist launch pads.

The Punjab government, based on directions from the Union Home Ministry, had also ordered the evacuation of villages in the border districts.

Though thousands of people were evacuated, many refused to move out of their homes in the border villages, saying that they had to tend to their properties, crops and cattle.

The evacuation order affected nearly 1,000 border villages and a population of over 400,000.

Punjab shares a 553-km-long International Border with Pakistan.



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