New villages for border residents
27 November 2002
The Indian Express
Jammu: Going ahead with his ‘healing touch’ programme, J-K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed today announced that new villages will be carved out to rehabilitate residents along the Indo-Pak border in the state. The move comes in the wake of reports that over 40 villagers along the border have been maimed in mine explosions during the last two months. The Army had laid mines extensively in the border lands during the recent Indo-Pak troop build up. Just a week ago, Sayeed had given away a relief package of about 10 crore among the border families affected by mines and firing from across the border. The package constituted the money — given by the Army for acquiring the land for laying mines — which could not be distributed in time. The CM told The Indian Express that he was also considering of raising the ex-gratia relief sum of victims of mine blasts to that of IED blasts. As of now, the former gets only Rs 1,000 since it iss classified as natural calamity while latter gets Rs 75,000. Meanwhile, the announcement regarding new villages has raised hopes of the affected. ‘‘Atleast in these hamlets we will not be haunted by bullets from across,’’ said a border resident. For Shrista Devi announcement came as a new lease of life. For the second continuous season she has not been able to cultivate her land. Listening to move on the radio in her Benglad house, resident Shrista Devi said: ‘‘Today, we cannot even move towards our field as the whole area is strewn with mines. The question of cultivating it, therefore, does not arise,’’ . Many like Devi’s family are today devoid of their land — the only source of their livelihood. As per revenue records, post the troop build up along the border last year, about 25,000 acres of land in J-K has come under mines. ‘‘Apart from maiming residents, the mines have killed several cattle too,’’ rued Baldev Singh, president of a displaced border residents group. Singh said he has been making rounds of government offices to get the problems of border residents adressed, but in vain.