Hundreds of farmers whose fields lie between the barbed wire and the Zero Line on the India-Pakistan border in Punjab are fed up with persistent problems that make it difficult to cultivate their land.
Farmers from six border districts – Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur and Fazilka – are now ready to submit declarations to sell their land to the central government.
A delegation of Punjab Border Area Kisan Union (PBAKU) led by its president Raghubir Singh Bhangala and vice president Surjit Singh Boora recently met Minister of State for Jal Shakti and Tribal Affairs Bishweshwar Tudu and expressed their inability to cultivate their land lying outside from the fence, which is manned by the Border Security Force (BSF). “We have several difficulties that we have been facing for the last many years in cultivating our land. The Government of India should solve our problems immediately or they may get our land which is outside the fence. Even the government can hand over the land to private companies for cultivation and we will not have a problem,” Bhangala said while talking to HT over phone.
Talking about the problems, he said, “Heavy flash and radar lights set up to guard the border continue to damage our crop up to 100 meters area. However, we do not receive any compensation for the damaged crop.”
“There are two tracks along both sides of the barbed wire fence used by the BSF. In some locations, BSF does not allow farmers to use these ways to reach their fields. “Because of the conflict, some farmers are facing difficulties in cultivating their land,” he said.
Bangala further said, “The stray animals on the Pakistani side such as pigs destroy 70% crops of both seasons. To prevent this loss, a 3-meter barbed wire should be installed to prevent pigs from entering India. Similarly, a certain area of Fazilka is not suitable for growing wheat and rice and the farmers there should be allowed to grow mustard.”
Vice President Bora said, “Currently the farmers are engaged in farming as per the orders of the respective company commanders/platoon commanders. A central rule for farming outside the fence should be implemented in the whole of Punjab. Similarly, there are 4-5 BSF gates at each fence crossing point for farmers. We demand that all gates be opened and that no farmer has to travel more than 1 km to cross the fence to reach the fields.”
He said, “Farmers have to visit their fields daily to tend to the crop and the BSF closes their gates sometimes for two or more days in a week. The gates have to be opened every day at a certain time.
“During the grain harvest, if a fire accidentally breaks out, there is no arrangement for extinguishing it. At least one fire fighting unit should be organized for each BSF battalion.”
He further said, “The policy of the central government was to place the wire at least 50 meters and maximum 150 meters behind the zero line, but in many villages barbed wire has been installed at a distance of 2 km. We asked the government to place this wire not more than 150 meters from the zero line. This will not only reduce the burden on the BSF but also the hardship of the farmers in agriculture.” Meanwhile, Bangala said the BSF DIG has given them time to meet on Monday. About 21,600 hectares of land from 220 villages are located through the fence.