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Punjab

Posted at: Aug 23, 2019, 7:05 AM; last updated: Aug 23, 2019, 7:05 AM (IST)FENCED IN

Stuck between border fence, Sutlej, farmers losing hope

Floods or not, villagers lack access to basic amenities
Stuck between border fence, Sutlej, farmers losing hope
Farmers take stock of their crop at Kaluwala village, Ferozepur.

Anirudh Gupta
Ferozepur, August 22

With hostile neighbour (Pakistan) on one side and the ravaging Sutlej on the other, farmers residing in villages along the India-Pakistan border here are seemingly caught between the proverbial “devil and the deep sea”.

Not only the hostilities between the two countries have a direct bearing on their well-being, the Sutlej too plays havoc with their lives almost every year. Scores of villages, including Tindiwala, Kaluwala, Chandiwala, Kassoke, Kamalewala, Khunder Gatti, situated between the zero line and right flank of dhussi “bundh” face this nightmare of floods almost every year. In 1988 and 2006 these villages were totally submerged.

Even during normal days, the only mode of transportation available for some of these villages is wooden “bera” (indigenously built boat), which ferries them to the mainland. However, when the river is in spate, they remain trapped inside their “kutcha” houses as even the “bera” no longer remains safe.

“Almost every second year, the river water inundates our dwellings,” Mangal Singh of Chinniwala village said, adding that his fields had been wrecked by the Sutlej thrice in the past five years.

Echoing similar sentiment, Darshan Singh said: “Every year, the same story is repeated but nothing has changed on ground.” Shingar Singh said: “What to talk of floods, we otherwise also don’t have access to basic amenities such as education, healthcare, potable water, sewerage or proper roads. We have got used to even floods now.”

Kulwinder Singh said: “Even the claim of compensation is a farce. After running from pillar to post, we got meagre compensation for the damage caused to our crops. But even those cheques bounced when deposited in banks.”

Chanan Singh said: “Even when it comes to personal matters like getting the right matrimonial alliance for prospective brides and grooms, we are the suffering lot. People from other parts of the state are never willing to get their sons or daughters married in our villages due to the fear of either floods or war.”

“Now, we have started losing hope. Frequent flooding of our fields has shattered our financial condition,” said Maggar, adding: “Working in fields under hawk’s eye of gun-totting BSF sleuths, we do not have enough resources or skills to go and settle elsewhere but do not want our children to settle here now.”

“The government had promised to transfer the land in our name but nothing has been done yet,” said Desha Singh.

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