Farmers on border starving
18 May 2002
RS PURA (JAMMU): Amid Indo-Pakistan tension, farmers along the border on the Jammu frontier have been condemned to a life of near starvation. The belt was once a ''rice and wheat bowl'' of the State and used to export to the rest of the country. But now, the people there cannot get sufficient food even for themselves. Last year it was drought that severely affected the border families. This year, though rain was abundant resulting in a good crop, harvesting has not been possible due to the border tension. In the past, at this point of year, there were meetings of field commanders — between the BSF and Pakistani Rangers — in which modalities were fixed so that no civilian became a victim of the exchange of fire while harvesting his fields. This year, according to the Inspector General for Jammu range, BSF, Dilip Trivedi, the meeting has not been held. Farmers say if they are not able to harvest the standing crop it will get spoilt. Already, a sizeable portion of the crop has been destroyed in the firing. In RS Pura sector, 2,000 acres of standing wheat crop has been destroyed in which 14,000 quintals was lost. The affected areas are Sangal, Abdulliah, Suchetgrah, Malwal and Samsa. While talking to The Hindu, villagers of this belt allege that there has been total disregard by the administration to their loss. Only 8 acres of the standing crop has been taken into account by the administration till now whereas the loss is much more. The villagers are completely dependant on agriculture for their livelihood. One of the villagers, Vijay Singh of Korotana village, says: ''For over a week in many of the homes, no food has been prepared as we are facing severe financial constraints.'' With the beginning of the new academic year, there is no money for paying the school fees of and buying books for their children. An officer in-charge of relief operations for the border migrants said that in a few days the State Government would announce compensation for the farmers affected. Mohal Lal of Abdulliah village says: ''Our loss has been two-fold. We have not been able to carry out cultivation in the fields because of tension on the border and mines laid down on the fields. But whatever we have cultivated cannot be harvested.'' Now, with fresh heavy exchange of fire between the two countries for the last two days, the villagers'' hope of harvesting their standing crops has diminished further.